When I began to write way back when, I had no idea where this hobby would take me. I wrote as a way to keep me busy when no one wanted to talk with me or even participate in a game with me. Then again, I was a teenager growing up in the late 1970’s years away from social media and the advanced technology we have now. There were a few legends in literature who made appearances on talk shows discussing their latest novel or biography. The authors I watched on the small screen appeared down to earth, easygoing gentlemen and ladies in love with their craft.
Jump forward some thirty-forty years and the thrill of producing a story or play is gone. As everyone has discovered, even comic book legends who produce legendary tales taken from literature is mocked, blamed for present day social ills we as a populace were warned about not only from Stan Lee, but Rod Serling and even Ray Bradbury. Our present day generation can mock these individuals all they want, but they only prove the point of these authors who warn us of our errors in this society; we either rise or fall by using our intellect and critical thinking of the issues surrounding this planet.
Writers of the past wrote tales that served as inspiration or escape for their readers. There was no fantasy shaming by anyone in media because the populace understood what role books played in our society. Before the internet, they were a window to a world hidden from us – a world where we wished we participate in. In this 21st Century, there’s too much reality, too much political messaging in a work that simply doesn’t allow a story to be told that could help us think about what’s going on in the world around us, and in places we rarely visit. This author’s intention of writing a poetry book centered in a community mentioned by the media in a negative light was to show different perspectives of what life is like in this area not dictated by the news media and even now, social media hawks who continue to stereotype the community merely because they choose not to learn or read or speak with residents who endure the struggles daily.
Readers today find it digestible to read about wizards rather than a family in South Los Angeles struggling to make ends meet in the midst of gentrification. Readers anxiously pour through an unfinished series of thrones rather than explore the games politicians play in real life in an urban community. The word ‘diversity’ in literature is a lie. For what does this so-called diversity benefit? The annual Book Expo America has a chosen few Black authors, but their tales minutely touch on the challenges of inner city life here in America. Perhaps the movies of the 1990’s traumatized the readership, present and future with no clear cut happy endings. Maybe ‘Boyz N The Hood’ and ‘Menace 2 Society’ were too grim for the suburban crowd to accept. Could it be that the raw Urban Lit novels and books which were abundant in the early to mid 2000’s were too much for folks to handle? Is that the reason why today’s ‘urban’ tales focus squarely on the dominant society’s focus on Black and Brown America? Police brutality, gender issues, yet devoid of stories of the struggles living in a community frowned upon such as South Los Angeles? Maybe the readership and dominant society grew tired of our message.
My focus has been and always will be on South (Central) Los Angeles and the people who live here. There are many tales that have to be written, many poems created to ‘set the record’ straight. Yet, with each passing day there is a fight against the ‘Trojan Horses’ in our community in the form of organizations who preach social justice but fail to address economic justice. They will rewind the tragedy of a Black Wall Street, but won’t fight against a politician’s agenda for Main Street which doesn’t include the financial advantage those in affluent areas enjoy, and prosper. As a writer, these are the intellectual battles that must be fought, and won. As a Black author, I’m merely heeding the call Hughes once made to someone like me to proudly proclaim my Blackness through my art, letting the world know what I write and stand for.
Owner, Chatmon’s Books