A New Leaf for a New Year

African American Art Calendar - Walking By Faith 2015 - Black Business Women Online
African American Art Calendar – Walking By Faith 2015 – Black Business Women Online

Beginning right away in 2015, I am going to turn over a new leaf for a new year. This newness will be manifested in the form of a New Year’s Resolution. I recognize that many of you will chuckle and think that it will last, maybe, through the month of January and like most other resolutions be forgotten. And I must admit that is usually what has happened in the past. In previous years when I pledged to lose a few pounds I never did, or when I swore off ice cream or some other tempting delicacy, that always failed. But this resolution is much different; it is a commitment to dedicate more of my time and effort to teaching young Black boys, girls, and sometimes adults, the craft for writing good stories. This might be in the form of fiction or creative non-fiction.

My commitment begins in earnest on January 30, 2015 at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, in Eatonville, Florida. I, along with New York writer Petra Lewis and Chicago author Tony Lindsay, with assistance from D. L. Grant and kYmberly Keeton, will conduct a two-day writing workshop for boys and girls in grades 8 through 11. We have young writers coming from Brooklyn, Chicago, Silver Spring, Maryland, Dallas, Atlanta, Houston and San Antonio who will participate in this first of its kind workshop. Not only will these young folks get some of the best training in creative writing from some real professionals, they will also have the opportunity to visit the Zora Neale Hurston Museum, walk down the main street of the oldest Black incorporated city in the country, and visit with the artists who will be displaying their art work along a four block corridor of booths. The stories that they write will be edited and published in an anthology by Prosperity Publications at the end of the year.

My commitment will continue in earnest in April, when I do a brief two-hour writing seminar at the Dr. Rosie Milligan’s Black Writers on Tour in Los Angeles, California. Instead of children, however, I will be working with adults who have the creative ability, but lack the skills that come from studying the craft. Obviously in two hours I cannot conduct a comprehensive study, but can only stimulate their interest to learn the craft before they publish a book.

Throughout the summer of 2015, I will conduct a number of writing workshops with the young people here in San Antonio, Texas at the Carver Public Library.  D. L. Grant, Branch Manager at the Carver, and I are dedicated to the proposition that states: “Reach One and Teach One.” However, we plan to extend that one to twenty.

With my New Year’s Resolution still intact, it is my goal to work closely with the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and conduct a writing workshop for the young in the St. Louis, Missouri area, during the organizations national convention in August.

I make these commitments because I firmly believe that our youth must begin to master the art of writing, because with writing comes reading, and with reading comes a better understanding one’s heritage; and with a better understanding of one’s heritage comes a more productive person, who will ultimately become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, teacher and numerous other professions, instead of a victim of this system, which this past year has proven it can be very dangerous and destructive to our young.


Willie Mae Williams, at home in Bastrop, Texas.
Willie Mae Williams at home, in Bastrop, Texas. 

Willa Mae Williams just had a hip replacement on this past Monday and by Friday she was up and walking. What makes this worth writing about is that Willa Mae is 94 years old, and she has no plans of slowing down once she completes her rehabilitation.

Born in 1920 in a small southern town in Arkansas, Willa Mae was part of that great migration of Black Americans who left the South during the early part of the Twentieth Century and moved North, seeking better opportunities and escaping from the ugliest aspect of American racism. She arrived in Saginaw, Michigan in 1933 and by 1937 had married Bill Williams, who was five years older. Their union was a synthesis of the traditional southern culture with the emerging northern culture. She was 17 when she married her husband and 76 when he passed away. Willa Mae dedicated her entire life to her husband and to raising her family.

Willa Mae’s mother, Lucy Perry, at the age of 39 lost her husband to tuberculosis one month before giving birth to her youngest son. At the time she had two teenage boys, one teenage daughter and a baby still at home. Despite the tremendous hardship she confronted, Ms. Lucy raised her sons and daughter by herself. Nina Williams, Willa Mae’s mother-in-law, married George Williams in 1912 and stayed married to him until his death in 1962. She gave birth to five boys and three girls and dedicated her life to raising her family, also.

Willa Mae Williams, Lucy Perry and Nina Williams are no different than millions of beautiful Black women who, over the decades, have dedicated their lives to the family. They have been the glue that has held our culture together. These three Black women are the ones that took time to raise my brother, two sisters and me. I am sure that all my readers have similar mothers and grandmothers that assisted them in the navigation through this life. Oftentimes their biggest fears would be that their children would face a hostile environment and respond to it in a negative way. And that negativity could get them locked up or killed.

The burden of mediating with their children to keep them out of harm’s way, has weighed heavily on the Black mother from slavery to the present day. Often times slave mothers would prefer to whip their children than to have the overseer or oppressor do it. Leon Litwack in his historical work, Trouble In Mind, writes that, “During slavery parents were helpless to protect their children from a whipping and they were sometimes compelled to inflict the punishment themselves in the presence of whites to teach the disobedient child a lesson—and to avert even harsher punishment if meted out by the overseer or owner.” (Leon Litwack, Trouble In Mind, Vintage Books, New York, 1999, pg. 25)

After Emancipation, the problems increased because a generation of young Blacks born into freedom never accepted the rules of segregation and often rebelled against them. Black mothers again took on the burden of explaining to their young why they could not talk back to a white person or fight with a white boy, even if they were attacked. This often caused a great deal of conflict between the mothers and their children.

But through it all, the Black mother never lost her grace and dignity. She brought us up the rough side of the mountain and made it possible for her children to prosper and succeed in life, despite all the inequalities of this society. For that reason, I suggest that during this season of giving, we all give the greatest gift possible to our mothers, grandmothers and in some cases great grandmothers, and that is the gift of love. That would mean so much to them, who have given so much for us. Despite all the hardships, suffering and pain, if they can only hear four ingratiating words from their children, it will make all of it worth while and those words are, “I LOVE YOU, MOTHER.’”

O’Reilly, Hannity and Rivera: Stay Out of Our Business

No-Fox_4c998I enjoy writing a great deal. My passion is to write on Black literary culture, both historical and contemporary. But I felt the need to deviate because that very culture is under siege by right wing talk show hosts emanating from FOX television. It is getting totally out of control and it is now time for Black men to stand up and speak out. I say men because the attacks over there have been coming from arrogant white men like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. Last week Geraldo Rivera (I’m not sure what he is, Puerto Rican, Jewish or what) decided to add his two-cents and that is why I am deviating from my favorite writing subjects and addressing this issue. For some reason these men and many others of their ilk feel that they know what is best for my culture and my people. Regardless of the fact that I have been Black for a very long time, they still feel compelled to force their un-welcomed opinions on me as well as my fellow Black Americans, by telling us what is wrong at home.

Now let me assure you, I have no intentions of making suggestions or even commenting on what is happening within the Irish community, Italian Community, or whatever community these folks belong to. It is not that I have no interest in what is happening over there. It is just that I respect them enough to allow them to take care of their problems. But for some reason these outsiders feel they have to get involved in our business. Rivera went over the top (O’Reilly has been over the top for a very long time and Hannity fell off the top) when he decided to tell the Black ballplayers what kind of warm-up shirts they should wear. He advised LeBron James to wear a warm-up shirt that reads, “Be a Better Father to Your Son,” or “Raise Your Children.” And that is why I suggested that all Black men should stand up and speak out. We do not need the likes of Rivera lecturing us on how to be fathers or telling us how to raise our sons. Here in San Antonio we have a number of organizations comprised of Black men who are working with our young, and are not seeking any help from a man who has not been a pillar of stability in his own life.

Rivera went on to suggest that, “A victimization mentality exists in our communities…it goes in keeping with everything that’s happened in the Black community and the generations preceding.” This man is delusional. I believe I can honestly say I know more Black men than he does and none of them feel they are victims. They do not teach their children they are victims and they certainly were not taught such dribble by their parents.

However, we do teach our children to understand the reality of their existence in this country. It has nothing to do with being a victim but everything to do with the fact that white policemen are gunning down young Black men because of their negative perceptions of our boys. It has to do with what MIT Linguistics Professor Noam Chomsky calls, “A very racist society.” Professor Chomsky’s observation may be extreme, but the point is that this country still suffers from the influence that racism exudes on a regular basis.

Now if white conservatives want to do some good, then they need to teach their young that slavery was abhorrent and that slave owners were not masters but oppressors; Jim Crow was legalized murder and rape, and that FOX News talk show hosts perpetuate an age old myth of Black criminalization that reached its highest pinnacle in the movie, Birth of A Nation, and these conservative spokesmen mirror the Ku Klux Klan, only now in suits and in front of a camera.


18815888Someone once argued with me that leaders are born not made. I had to think about that. And I found myself taking note of our young men who seem lost. Is it simply a case of a lack of opportunity? A poor work ethic? A lack of appropriate role models? Or the age-old oppressor – racism?

In looking back, it seems that the great ones always knew they were special – no matter the odds. They had a certain je’nai se quoi. You can’t buy it and you can’t fake it; it must be deep within. After meeting Chris and Dana Pittard, and their cohorts Tony Nelson and Hector Cooley through the written word, you will be convinced that these four young men knew they were special and destined to make a difference in the lives of the people they would touch later in life.

These young Brothers, three of whom are members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., knew what they wanted in life and set out to accomplish their goals. Dana, in particular, a West Point graduate, has had an influence on events on the world stage. He led the efforts to save thousands of starving Kurdish refugees desperately clinging to the side of a mountain top in Iraq. He turned back the threat of ISIS as the recent overall commander of American forces in Iraq. Major General Dana Pittard is currently the Deputy Commander Army Forces Central Command, and as a lieutenant colonel served in the White House as a senior military aide to President Bill Clinton. Dana’s brother, Chris Pittard, is himself an impressive leader – a former Army Ranger and honors graduate from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. He has repeatedly been named as one of Texas’ Best Attorneys in the field of employment and labor law, and is a partner in the firm of Forté & Pittard, PLLC. Tony, a Texas Tech alum and ROTC scholarship recipient, is a systems engineer with a major defense contractor; and Hector, who went to New Mexico State University on a track scholarship, specializes in internet security programs.

How did their journey begin? “The Transmanaut Chronicles,” is the true coming of age story of four African-American males just out of college and high school. The Chronicles features the two brothers from El Paso, Chris and Dana, who with their two friends, Hector and Tony, embark on an exciting road trip to California to unleash their own brand of Texas bravado in Chris’ college graduation present – a brand new, 1977, black and gold, special edition Trans-Am. The self-named Transmanauts take on all challengers to their manhood, encounter bodacious women, test the envelope at speeds over 120 mph, face off with L.A.’s finest with guns drawn to their heads, encounter gun-toting gang members, and survive dangers of the deep blue sea to return to Texas with incredible – but true – tales of their journey from boys to men!

Flashbacks, jaw-dropping dialogue, unabashed in-your-face attitude, and rolling humor diffuse tense and sometimes heartbreaking episodes. Set against a backdrop of vibrant Disco fashions, heart-thumping R&B funk and synchronized dancing, the story opens in California – surprisingly with one of the Transmanauts chained in jail! And that’s just the beginning!

The story is told after 30 years when these young men have grown into successful professionals – Chris, the attorney; Dana, the general; Hector, the computer expert; and Tony the air defense systems engineer. Learn how their Road Trip, and their unbreakable bond, changed the life of the beautiful Aurianna, the girl they met on the Road Trip – forever. A twist of fate that nobody could have foreseen!

“The Transmanaut Chronicles,” is a great read, full of humor, and drama with important life lessons for the young and old. Check it out on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, or the Prosperity Publishing website at prosperitypublications.com.

Remember, “Life is not a journey, it’s a Road Trip!” Enjoy the ride! And after you finish reading this amazing story, you tell me which side of the argument you believe. Are true leaders born or made?