My Harlem Renaissance


On June 23rd, I received an email from Max Rodriguez, founder of the Harlem Book Fair, which, in 2015, celebrated its 17th year of operation.  He advised that my debut novel, Adinkrahene: Fear of a Black Planet, had been selected as one of three finalists for a Phillis Wheatley Book Award.

To say I was elated would be an understatement.  I was overjoyed, unashamedly floating above, and well beyond, the stratosphere.  But now that this news had been shared with me, I found myself sitting on pins and needles in anticipation of being named the First Fiction Book Award winner at the July 17th awards ceremony, which was held on the campus of Columbia University.

20150717_205819I didn’t win that day.  Neither did the other finalist, Amaka Lily, for Shifting Allegiances: A Nigerian’s Story of Nigeria, America and Culture Shock.  The award went to Nigeria Lockley for her debut novel Born at Dawn.

I think my 11-year-old son took this news the hardest. When New York Times bestselling author Omar Tyree announced the winner, my son exclaimed, “Aw, man! I wanted you to win!”

20150717_211503All I could do was peer over and down at him, a smirk masking my disappointment.  “It’s okay, buddy,” I told him.  “I’m honored from just being named a finalist.”  Then, without skipping a beat, I added, “Maybe next year, we can both enter something.”

He smiled at that.

20150717_140128What my son didn’t know was our NYC weekend would be special not because I was being considered for a prestigious award – even though it would have been nice to have won it.  It would be special because I was spending it with him.  Even before we boarded the Metro train on 72nd Street for the short ride Uptown to Columbia University, we had spent the early afternoon sightseeing in Times Square and eating lunch at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.

While walking the streets in and around Times Square, I received a peace blessing from a Chinese monk.

20150717_141903My son marveled at the sight of a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty (standing completely still for several, long minutes), and the Naked Cowboy playing his guitar, curbside, for his adoring female fans.

And I fought, to no avail, to avert his eyes as we walked past two women clad in body paint, high heel shoes and shiny shorts that left little to the imagination.

The next day, Saturday, we walked from the Hotel Beacon to the Starbucks across the street for breakfast.  After we received our breakfast orders, I explained the game plan to him. We would catch the Metro on 72nd Street for the short ride Uptown to 135th.  Once there, we would locate our vendor booth along a street next to the Countee Cullen Library for the daylong Harlem Book Fair.  From there, we would proceed to sell our books to the hordes of readers that would be swarming around our booth.

He nodded, letting me know he was game.  But then it happened.  It started raining, cats and dogs really.  All I could do was nod my head as my heart sank.  We had flown from Dallas to New York City to sell our books, and now we were going to be forced to contend with the rain.

The two previous times I had attended the fair, rain had never been in the forecast, only sunny skies and the accompanying heat.  Lucky for us, the rain went from a torrential downpour to a sprinkle.  And by the time we emerged from the 135th Street subway station, it had stopped completely.

20150718_112620_001Selling books at the Harlem Book Fair was a transformative experience for my son and me.  As people stepped to our table to inquire about our titles, we had to dig deep to give them good reasons to purchase them.  I told them that the first book in the Adinkrahene series is all about introducing readers to a new reality, one in which a select group of Black men and women (100 total) are lower-case gods, and they mainly use their supernatural abilities to establish peace and prosperity for all, not exact vengeance upon their enemies, the Anglo-controlled (but Satarian-possessed) Corporate Cabal.

20150718_170258My son told his readers that the Leaf Knight (from his The Leaf Knight Chronicles: The Knightly Origins) is an 11-year-old boy destined to fulfill a prophecy.  And when he added that the story and illustrations were all penned and drawn by him, these same readers didn’t hesitate to reach for their wallets (and purses) and pay him for autographed copies of his book.  All this proud poppa could do was smile, because it became crystal clear to me that, on this day at least, he would be the most popular author working under the Culturally Coded Content banner.

20150718_194015We celebrated that night by going Downtown to see the Broadway play Wicked. Seeing this play had been on my to-do list since my days as Director of the Bruce Wells Scholars TRIO Upward Bound Program (2001-2005).  That was more than 10 years ago.  But as I sat there, with my son, watching actors bring novelist Gregory Maguire’s words to life, I daydreamed about what life would be like to have stage and screen actors do the same for my novels, short stories and screenplays.

Only time will tell.  My son and I just have to keep doing what is necessary to grow as writers.

When I first started this journey, my goal was not to become a hack, kicking out book projects that didn’t add value to readers’ lives.  My goal has always been to produce creative works that speak to the relationships that we humans share, both individually and collectively.  Having my debut novel selected as a finalist for the 2015 Phillis Wheatley First Fiction Book Award lets me know I’m a good writer.  I must now be about the business of becoming a great one.


Django Unchained, Or The Spark That Moved Me

ImageBy now, many of you have seen the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained.  I have watched it several times, and my admiration for the story, and the actors that brought it to life, continues to grow.  But what you need to know about Django Unchained is it is the spark that moved me to write ADINKRAHENE: Fear of a Black Planet.

You see, Django Unchained is a story that casts a black man as the protagonist (I know, I know, Marc H.  Django the hero didn’t kill Candy the villain, but he did get his woman back.).  In an era where black men are rarely the ones saving the day, we have to tip our hats to Tarantino.  He ran against the grain because he seemingly knows that we contemporary African Americans are still salty about the way our ancestors were treated.  You could even argue that our ire is intensified even more when we see and hear Republican politicians and Conservative thought leaders attacking the gains that this country made during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. For some strange reason, these unenlightened Americans want their White American brethren to think something was taken away from them when this piece of legislation was passed.  They’re wrong.

For this reason alone, I will be using this series of books to skewer the Republican Party.  I assert that the Republican Party has been co-opted by the Corporate Cabal (i.e., White ruling class), and members of the Corporate Cabal have sold their souls to the demonic Satarian Empire. How else would you explain the GOP ‘s insensitivity to African-American challenges and concerns?  The Devil must be making them do it.  I just hope the unenlightened become enlightened through the reading of my words.

There has been talk that racism and discrimination are things of the past just because America elected its first, black president.  Yes, electing Barack Hussein Obama as the leader of the free world is, and always will be, a good thing, but that doesn’t mean we’re now judging people by the content of their characters.  If anything, the cracks in our unity are becoming more evident, and they are becoming more pronounced because GOP leaders don’t want to relinquish control of the plantation. But they have to relinquish control because we African Americans, like Django Freeman, will never again pick cotton…without compensation.

I still remember seeing an elderly, white woman dragging her husband out of the theater during Django Unchained’s opening weekend.  This was done within the film’s first hour.  She obviously was taken aback by the level of violence that Django, a black man, exacted against the bigoted, white slave owners.  I readily agree that Tarantino’s brand of violence left little to the imagination.  But why should it?  We African Americans know that slave owners and Jim Crow criminals exacted a similar kind of violence against our ancestors.

Adinkrahene T-ShirtIn ADINKRAHENE: Fear of a Black Planet, I give you a cast of altruistic black characters that have been chosen by the one, true God to rebuild what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Beloved Community.  But I counter their altruism with Black-Out, a black militia group that is committed to avenging the deaths of our fallen African and African-American ancestors by any means necessary. By pitting the Adinkrahene Reparations Management Syndicate (ARMS) against Black-Out, I hope you, the reader, will be able to see why all of us – red, brown, yellow, black and white – have been called to become Progressive agents of non-violent change.