Nina Simone’s New World Coming

Every year when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, I do something much different than most people. Right at the dawning of a New Year, “Should all acquaintance be forgot,” resonates at every gathering of New Year revelers. Instead of joining with the crowd, I prefer to listen to Nina Simone’s melodic sounds, “There’s a new world coming and it’s just around the bend. There’s a new world coming, and this one’s coming to an end.” I really do appreciate Ms. Simone’s words because they are filled with hope for our race.

simone

As a novelist, I consider myself to be a dreamer. Most writers who engage in the creation of fiction are dreamers. The great Peruvian writer, Mario Vargas Llosa wrote in his, Letters to a Young Novelists, that the goal of the writer is to create a world that far exceeds the one in which we live. The dreamer or visionary sees beyond the frailties of our world and shares with us his or her vision of a better existence. What the writer does with words, Nina Simone does in song. Her verse continues, “There’s a new voice calling and you can hear it if you try. And it’s growing stronger with every day that passes by…There’s a brand new world coming…The one that we’ve had visions of coming in peace, coming in joy and coming in love.”

As I look back over this past year, I believe Ms. Simone’s words grow in relevance. As a Black man and writer, my concern for our future as a culture increases with every young child killed by the police or the gangs. For far too many Black Americans in this country there is no peace, there is no joy and there is no love. No matter how hard we’ve tried over the decades since emancipation, we often seem to come up short. And our condition continues to worsen. It is almost impossible to find peace in these turbulent times. When a twelve year old Tamir Rice can be killed by the Cleveland Police and when nine year old Tyshawn Lee can be murdered by a punk gang member and they represent only the tip of the iceberg, we have a crisis. The irony of our dilemma is that there is nothing intrinsically bad or evil about our people. To the contrary we have, over the centuries, been the most forgiving and loving race within this multi-cultural nation in which we live.

That is why every first day of the New Year, I concentrate on a new world that is within our reach. A world where, as Nina Simone tells us in song, is filled with peace, joy and love. That is contrary to what we are experiencing in our communities. And that is why I write. It is my niche and where I am anchored for the remainder of my life. My works will not glorify the vulgar, the obscene, the killing, the drugs and the slow extermination of my race.

chestnuttThe great novelist Charles Chestnutt exclaimed in an interview with Crisis Magazine in 1926, “the realm of art is almost the only territory in which the mind is free, and of all the arts that of creative fiction is the freest.” The issue then becomes how do we as artists use the freedom to create. Do we mirror the violence that is drowning out our culture and write about the negative influences on our young, or do we, as Nina Simone suggests, dream of a new world that is about the eradication of hate and destruction.

I know exactly where I stand on these critical issues to our culture, and I believe that all of us in the year 2016 must take a stand. And hopefully, it will be to uphold the new world that our great prophetess told us “is just around the bend.”

 

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.