Young Writers on the Move

zora1Over the past five months, since the Mike Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, most of our news has been rather depressing and quite negative. Some of my most recent posts have been of that nature because of what has been happening in the real world. But let me share with you a positive story that will occur this weekend at the Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities, in historic Eatonville, Florida. This small but quaint city, just north of Orlando, is the oldest chartered Black city in the country, and is where the great cultural icon wrote her most recognized work, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Over the past six months, I have worked closely with N.Y. Nathiri, Executive Director of the Festival, to organize a two-day creative writing workshop for youth from across the country. For three years I have conducted a brief introduction to creative writing for the local high school students, attending the Friday Education Day at the Festival. However, this year we decided to expand the workshop and make it a two-day writing seminar, for young people not confined to the Orlando area. Initially, I wasn’t sure I would be able to pull it off but recognizing the power of the name Zora Neale Hurston, and the opportunity for youth to participate in the festival, not only as writers but also as visitors to the entire event, I thought I had a shot. Now as we prepare to meet in Eatonville on Thursday evening and begin our workshop Friday morning, I can honestly write mission accomplished.

I have a total of fourteen young future writers coming from different parts of the country. They are as follows:

Michael A. Davis, Plainfield Central High School, Plainfield, Illinois (Chicago suburb)

Rashana Jackman, Boys and Girls High School, Brooklyn, New York

T’Kyah Hayes, Academy of Young Writers, Brooklyn, New York

Shafarisi Bonner, St. Joseph High School, Brooklyn, New York

Cameron Browning, Our Lady of Mercy Catholic High School, Fayetteville, Georgia (Atlanta suburb)

Cecilia Browning, St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, Hapeville, Georgia (Atlanta suburb)

Nina Howard, St. John the Evangelist Catholic School, Hapeville, Georgia (Atlanta suburb)

Amari Harrison, Hapeville Charter Career Academy, Hapeville, Georgia (Atlanta suburb)

Danielle Eatmon, Desoto High School, Desoto, Texas (Dallas suburb)

Johnnie Banks, Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Dallas, Texas

Cindy Avila, George Gervin Academy, San Antonio, Texas

Cynthia Wright, George Gervin Academy, San Antonio, Texas

Kyana Alcazar, George Gervin Academy, San Antonio, Texas

Najel Franklin, My assistant and great niece, Alexandria, Virginia

I am thoroughly proud of these young people and of the sponsors who will attend the festival and workshop with them. I am proud of my fellow associates who will assist in teaching the workshop. Petra Lewis from New York, Tony Lindsay from Chicago, D. L. Grant, Branch Manager of the Carver Library in San Antonio, and kYmberly Keeton, Academic Librarian/Assistant Professor at Lincoln University’s Inman E. Page Library in Jefferson City, Missouri (kYmberly will not actually attend the workshop, but is preparing a reference guide on all the works written by Zora Neale Hurston as a research tool).

Once these writers return home, they will continue to work on the short story they conceptualized and began at the workshop. We will periodically meet through electronic media, and it is my goal for all of them to finish their stories by June 2015. Prosperity Publications will edit the stories and publish them as an anthology in the fall. Next year we plan to expand the number of cities and young people who participate, and in the years after, many more until we begin to make an impact in the literary community of this country.

You have to know that I have this crazy notion, that my Black brothers and sisters are not happy with the direction of our culture and want to turn it around. We now have identified parents and the chaperones, as well as the schools and organizations supporting this effort. This will work because those of us involved are driven by the passion for the written word, and a commitment to save our children from the ever-increasing negative influences they face, on a daily basis in their lives. We believe they deserve better and we plan to make that happen.

We invite you to join us on this trip with our young writers, who are now on the move for a positive experience about being young and gifted

BOYZ N DA HOOD? NOT HARDLY!

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?