Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Black Authors Should Get More Love

I am a black man who loves to read. Im not sure what sparked my interest in reading, however I do remember reading the encyclopedia brotanica series we had as a kid. Reading has had an overwhelmingly positive affect on me. When I was a kid I read the whole 40 page chapter on the civil war in the encylopedia. I learned that Union soldiers were called Billy (yank) and Southern soldiers were called Johny Reb, I learned about Abe lincoln, Robert E Lee and Frederick Douglass. I learned that civil war pitted brother against brother, father against son, cousins, ect. When I was in elementary school I was assigned Duke Ellington as a book report during black history month.I learned that Duke was born in 1899 and had gone to New York as a young hungry musician out of dc. This young piano player would form a band , make the Cotton Club famous and go on to make history. I didnt understand at the time but that book report would resonate 20 years later. The rest of the kids were assigned people like louis armstrong, harriet tubman and all of the other Black History Usual suspects. Dr. Martin Luther King of course was the patron saint as he should be. However thier are countless other heroes, sheroes and ordinary people who found the strenght to stand for what they believed in. It is for this reason that black people can afford to support the talented black authors of the past and present. I specifically remember my 5 grade teacher forcing me to take some books home one summer. Although I whined and said I didnt want to, she insisted that I take them home anyway.

Several weeks later on a rainy day I found myself sitting at home with nothing to do. So out of sheer boredom I began reading one of the books the teacher had giving me. That afternoon became a pleasent one and I soon finished and thoroughly enjoyed the book. Years later in highschool I read my first novel, it was a book called the scream, I do not remember who wrote it and to be honest it does not derseve to be remember. However the second and third novels I read were The Talisman and It by Stephen King. After reading my first two King books I became totally hooked on reading. I personally consider King to be the greatest writer of all time including Shakespear although hes good to. A few years after reading King, I read the Color Purple by Alice Walker which I devoured in a few nights. Alice Walker was probably the first black author I had read. Next came the women of brewster place, Miss Jane Pitman, waiting to exhale (Moma was my favorite McMillan book), and dozens of other novels by black and white authors. Thier were also the autiobiographies of historical figures. Louis Armstrong, Billy Holiday, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, ect. Then theres black history, african history. The history of world war 1and 2, and various other subjects that have peaked my curiosity over the years. But in the niegborhood I lived in I dont know of anyone else who was into reading like I was. I do not no of anyone else who was into reading period. But how can that be. How can something so pleasurable and rewarding be so little appreciated in the black community? I believe that reading is to thinking what rain is to crops. The capacity to think that god gave us is something I consider a privlidge. The capacity to think has got to be one of the greatest privileges god has givin to any of his creations. I believe that black people should make it a habbit to by at least one book by a black author a month. Even if only to support them. They are our chroniclers and our story will never be accurately told unless we support and create a demand for thier work. No one can document our story with accuracy and truth the way we can. Once this happens I believe we will produce a Micheal Jordan of a writing as well as countless other stars. The reason I am saying this is because I have read the black authors from Bebe Moore Campell, to Marcus Major, Diane Whetstone, and countless others and 1 thing is for sure they have something unique and powerful to say. What they have to say has its own unique and pleasant literary flavor. When I later went to bull run (civil war) battle field I was able to appreciate it and extract substance out of the experience. Reading about the civil war years back allowed me contex to understand what had happened there on July 21 1861 at the first battle of Manassa. When I saw the house that Duke Ellington had lived in as a child I had contex to really appreciate it in a spiritual way. This contex has been provided to me thru reading. Black people have a rich and interesting history and we are presently creating more rich and interesting history. I believe we should support the black authors with more fervent zeal. You cant rewind time and we (black people ) should be documenting our history, culture and achievement with the same zeal as all other races. More support of black authors, equals more high quality stories to be turned into films that give black actors a chance to shine while telling the story of black people in dignified ways. The black authors have thier own uniqe voices and deserve our widespread respect and recognition. If you have any comment, remembrances about reading, or ideas on how we can get more black people to read please feel free to comment. Bottom line is this it would not hurt any black person to buy at least one book every 2 months from a black author. This patronage would provide oppurtunities for that undiscovered and underdeveloped talent in the black community. I think its way past due that we show the black authors more love. If you have any ideas on how we could build some momentum on this and make it happen please feel free to express yourself. I will put together a list of the best ideas. Mark Bey


Potential said...

2 of my favorite authors at this point are toni morrison and guy johnson by the way. If you haven't heard of guy johnson read "standing at the scratch line". You will thank me for years i bet:)
I feel you on your distress on how we don't read enough. there is a lot of talent out there. however, what is the main excuse people come up with for not reading? they don't have the time. This is a big problem. unfortunately, i think trying to get people to take the time out and read is a waste of time. i think books on tape is a wonderful thing. just recently i listened to an entire novel just by riding in my car. i love it. i'm listening to 'paradise' by toni morrison now. i think that if more intellectual books by black authors could be put on tape or cd it could get those people enlightened who do at least want to read but say they don't have the time. You can listen while you're cleaning or driving. i'm sure that that idea will be a hard thing to sell as well but people are just not on the reading train and if they are it's just novels. we need to get into some nonfiction materal as well. one thing i'm reading now is "white guilt" by shelby steele.

mark said...

Potential thank you for checkin out my blog. I read standing at the scratch line. By Guy Johnson I absolutely loved it. I tried to read Jazz and Beloved by Toni Morrison. She rights in a wierd dreamy style, It took me one hundred pages of reading beloved to find out that beloved was dead. After I got mad and put the book down. Books on tape are my thing I just wish we could get all books I would like to read on cd. You are right you can listen to a book in the car, riding your bike cleaning up, ect. Love em. I agree we do need to read history, politics, race material ect. Eventually I am going to post some of my short stories on thier own blog. Ill probably cross post. What do you think about a campaign within the black community to support black authors. We could use the social orginizations, the church, phaternities, ect. We could create programs all over the country summer and evening youth employmnent programs. These programs would be a chance for us to teach english, writing, record keeping ect. We would promote the idea for every black person to purchase a black authored book. We would try to get every black person to buy a book once a month. The reason bieng economic and creative stimulus for the black communities and its arts. We hope to train our poet's and chroniclers for the genteration. I got a lot of ideas I am looking for people who are willing to sweat intellectually to come up with ideas to help our condition. I really want to fight dumbed down situation black folk find themselves in. I not casting judgment either I just want us to start doing some of the little things that would make a big difference in coordination. Mark