As we begin another Black History Month, I am both saddened and encouraged. I am saddened because as I look back over the years, I find that so much of our history has been hijacked and distorted by white writers who often did more damage than good when interpreting who we are as a race. A great example was William Styron’s 1967 novel, Confessions of Nat Turner. I am encouraged because now I begin to see more Blacks taking the reign and writing our history from our point of view. We have taken heed of the admonition expressed as far back as 1928 by Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois, when he warned that if we failed to take control of the manner in which our culture and history are portrayed, then only the sordid and negative aspects would rule. Thirty years later, the great writer Ralph Ellison wrote that, “It is our job as writers to portray our people and culture. A people must define itself and Blacks have the responsibility of having their ideals and images recognized as part of the composite image, which is that of the American people.”
I am extremely proud of the quality of writers we have in San Antonio, and the fact that they are writing about our history in both non-fiction and fiction genres. These brothers are serious about their craft and the manner they write about their culture and people. Through their writings, they have captured the grace, beauty, dignity and the struggle of Black Americans in this country. Allow me to share them with you in this blog.
Caleb Alexander, a freelance writer and owner of Golden Ink Publishing Company in San Antonio, is one of the finest writers in this country, and his skill has been proven through his works. He has ghost written in the Urban Literature Genre, stories for the two giants in that field, Vickie Stringer and Teri Woods. Some of his more successful works include, True to the Game II, True to the Game III, Deadly Reigns I, II and III, for Woods, and Dirtier Than Ever, The Reason Why, Red’s Revenge, The Boss and Forever for Stringer. Caleb soon grew frustrated with this kind of writing and decided to concentrate on stories with a great social value to the Black community. Having grown up in the inner-city of San Antonio during the crack epidemic, his novel, Eastside, provides the reader with a first-hand close-up view to just how devastating and destructive that period was, in what had been a very stable community. He is presently completing his novel, When Lions Dance, a historical fiction work that chronicles a young woman’s life from pre-civil rights up to the election of Barack Obama. As a superb writer, who decided that it is important that he concentrate his skills to stories of a greater value to the community than what urban literature fiction offered, Caleb is an excellent role model for young Black Americans and why he is included with this groups of excellent writers.
For seven years, Cary Clack wrote about the major events and struggles that the Black community confronted daily, as a Columnist for the San Antonio Express News. I was a dedicated follower of Cary and made sure I had my copy of the newspaper on Tuesday and Sunday. Cary worked as a Scholar-Intern at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, where he wrote commentaries for Coretta Scott King. Some of his memorable columns for the Express News was compiled and published under the title Clowns and Rats Scare Me, in 2011. In 2008 he was awarded the Dallas Press Club’s “Katie Award” for Best General Column. He was given the Friends of the San Antonio Public Library’s “Arts and Letters Award for Writing,” in 2012, and was also selected “Best Columnist,” three years in a row in the San Antonio Magazine’s Editors and Readers Poll. He is presently writing a book titled, Dreaming US: Where Did We Go From There? Cary is an excellent role model for young Black Americans and is why he is included with this group of excellent writers.
Dr. Mateen Diop is an educator, author, publisher, and activist for the future of young men of color. As an educator, Dr. Diop has served in nearly every role and capacity for children and young adults from K1 through 12. He is currently serving as the Principal at Sam Houston High School in San Antonio. He is passionately dedicated to serving the needs of inner-city children from the cradle to college. He has authored his seminal book, Inner City Public Schools Still Work: How One Principal’s Life is Living Proof, in 2012. Dr. Diop is a product of inner-city schools and believes that we can direct our youth in such a powerful way, but we must be willing to lead boldly and embrace change, so that we can direct their thoughts toward positive ends. Dr. Mateen Diop serves as an excellent role model for our young Black Americans and is why he is included with this group of excellent writers.
D.L. Grant is the Branch Manager for the Carver Library of the San Antonio Public Library system. He received his Master’s Degree from North Texas University and will be awarded his Doctorate Degree this year. D. L. has made the Carver Library the focal point for the expression, through literature and art, of the beauty of the African American Culture. Every Saturday there is a program at the library, by different cultural groups in the city. He has taken his lead from the past and recognizes the importance that the 35th Street Library in Harlem, New York (now the Schomburg Center) played during the great literary period, known as the Harlem Renaissance. He is a member of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. D. L. has recently published his historical novel, Hundred Dollar Bet, with a plot that incorporates the history of Black Colleges during the 1950’s and 60’s, as well as the Black fraternities and sororities.
Attorney Chris Pittard is a former Airborne Ranger Infantry Officer. After a thirteen-year military career, Chris graduated cum laude from St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio and is a practicing employment law attorney. He is also a past legal writing professor. No stranger to writing, Chris has written an outstanding creative non-fiction book, Transmanaut Chronicles: A Coming of Age Story from 1977. His book is currently under contract with a production company to be adapted to a screen play. Not to rest on his laurels, Chris is working on a second book chronicling his experiences in the 1960’s and 70’s, dealing with the racism and bullying as only a young Black boy can experience, in his journey to become a United States Army Ranger. Chris has also written and will release soon the first in his series of Children’s books, The Puppies, The Continuing Adventures of the Carrot-Top Kids. Chris serves as an excellent role model for our young Black Americans and is why he is included with this group of excellent writers.
These outstanding writers adhere to the dictum, “The Past is Prologue to the Future,” and if a people do not know their past, then they have only to look forward to a very empty and dismal future. Because of their commitment to quality writing that helps create a new and positive image of our race, I am sure that past great writers like Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Richard Wright, James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison would tip their hats to them, and feel that our literary future is in excellent hands.
JAED Publications LLC and Golden Ink LLC, two Black owned publishing houses, will host these five fine writers of the African American experience in a forum, “Telling Our Story Our Way,” at the Carver Public Library, in San Antonio, Texas on February 17, 2018.