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Video: Bay View Hunters Point – San Francisco’s Last Black Neighborhood? ?

A young man by the name of Dante Higgins (andantehiggins@yahoo.com) wrote, reported and produced this excellent piece back in 2015 on Bay View Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. This presentation covers the history, challenges and changes in the community. Something to look at moving forward here in California (spoiler alert: it’s happening now)

Submitted for your (dis)approval, enjoy……….

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Posted by on November 15, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

A Conversation with Charles Chatmon Jr. by Dee Alston

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Note: this interview was posted December 10, 2017 on Poetry International Online.(poetryinternationalonline.com) The following has been taken down from their website, but we’re reposting it here on the blog. The interviewer is Dee Alston who was gracious enough to speak with Charles about his poetic & written works.

1.) In one word how would you describe your work?

Fulfillment. (I love what I do.)

  1. What persons and what books influenced you both as a writer and human?

As a writer = Shakespeare, Langston Hughes. I’ve read most of Shakespeare’s plays from taking courses on him in college and on Hughes from my Afro-African Literature class. As a human? I would say my father, Charles L. Chatmon Sr. There were times I wish I were him as I grew up extremely shy and quiet. He would always laugh and joke at family outings, being the life of the party. He also is fighting a disease that is the reason why I decided to come back home and be a caretaker for him. He has intelligence, strength and people always say a good word about him that I’ve learned so much from watching him over the years. I’m glad I share his name as his son.

  1. Could you tell me about the experience writing your first book?

Sixteen years yesterday Dee, I never felt so happy (at that time). I finally became a published author with my first book, ‘The Depths of My Soul: poems from the heart of a man’ and held a book signing at my publisher’s bookstore. The process was worth it. I’ve always read poetry to an audience until I decided in June 2000 that I would tell anyone that I’m looking for a publisher for my poetry. I was invited to go to a poetry reading held by a book club in Los Angeles and I announced my desire to be published in front of that audience. A gentleman named Lewis Sanders introduced me to Dr. Rosie Milligan who is a well known publisher of Black authors (Milligan Books). I went to her writers workshop inside her store later that month, handed my maniscript to her and the rest is history as they say. The entire process from checking with her editors, rewriting my work, sending it back to Dr. Milligan was a back and forth that I needed to learn since I’ve never written a book before. Her team formatted the book, worked on the front and back cover, etc. I felt good being involved in the decision making as far as what cover to use and to edit the information on the back cover. It was an eye opener for me as a first time author, but now that I know what it takes for a book to become published, I’m more patient about my work now.

Before that time, I would write my poems in a notepad, edit them from time to time and read them in front of audiences in coffeehouses, college poetry readings, Leimert Park and other places. I was bascially an unknown until the printing of my first book, The Depths. The experience I had of finally reaching that goal felt good! It meant I could show friends, family, etc. my copies of The Depths then The Voices of South Central, even showing them at work which felt awkward to me, lol. It still feels good to be known as a published author because it’s a status that’s not quite a celebrity, but people know you’ve done something right by writing a book.

  1. How is your third book different from your first two books?

Storm Over South Central is an anthology where The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central were mainly poetry except on the last pages of The Voices, an article I wrote back in college in the late 1980’s called ‘Life Goes On in South Central’ is found. It’s basically my opinions of what the community used to be and could be again. In Storm, I have poems that express the way I feel about life based on what I’ve seen and heard in my life and the community around me. For example, ‘The Story of Shantell’ is a poem about the choices a young girl has made and now has to live with those choices. ‘Role Reversal’ is the voice of a young brother telling anyone who will listen if they don’t want to be stereotyped, why should he be? There’s more ‘conscious’ poetry that I’m afraid I can’t remember right now but as far as the short stories, I’d like to share those with you.

‘Father’s Day’ is from the point of view of a young man, maybe around five or six that is excited to see his daddy except it’s not what he never expected. ‘Don’t Judge a Bum By’. This is a funny, lighthearted tale that is about a young Black man who is so hurt by Black women that he has a plan to ‘get them back’, but when he meets an old man on the way home, his plan is in jeopardy. The title story of the book, ‘Storm Over South Central’ is about a strange rainfall that begins to impact the lives of so many in the community. (Spoiler alert (to you only) it’s an anthology) As the story unfolds, many are curious where the rain comes from and if it will ever stop. ‘The Albatross’ is a favorite of mine about a widower dealing with the loss of his lovely wife. Why does a certain painting hurt him so?

So that is what I’ve been working with most of this time. I had to update the short stories with subjects relevant to the community like gentrification, male-female relationships, the threat of gang violence and the absence of a father in the home. A lot has changed from when I wrote these short stories back in the mid to late 1980’s, but I hope the messages still resonate for the future readers of Storm.

  1. As a writer at work in a racist society, how would you describe yourself?

I would describe myself as a writer who points out what’s wrong with our society (including racism) and tries to find solutions on how we can all improve. I think it’s the duty of a writer regardless of his or her ethnicity to express their joy, anger, frustration and disappointment with the direction our world is taking and to let people know how displeased you are. You can also as a writer describe the beauty of life itself, even the positive side of love which I use in my poetry. One of my best friends in high school (I was bused from South Los Angeles to a school in the San Fernando Valley) tell me as the sports reporter and editor of my high school paper, that administration tried to ‘handcuff’ me. He believed because as a young Black man who would talk about subjects such as strikes in professional sports, the way I speak, write, and the subjects I touch on, that they (the administration) felt it best to limit my availability to write or manage my sports page. Even today, I find that as a Black writer, I’m constantly on the lookout for other writers, ‘experts’, so forth to ‘handcuff’ me or to shoot down anything I write about because it doesn’t jive with a particular philosophical mindset or ideology. The way I see it, I’m a writer who focuses on the moral aspect of our lives than the political, which a lot of writers, artists have directed their energies toward these days instead of it being about the work, the more important things in life such as what’s happening in my community.

I write in a perpetual state of what DuBois mentioned as ‘double consciousness’ with the understanding I will be looked on either as Black or an American while feeling I have to prove myself as both in my written works and in life.

  1. What are some of the misconceptions in black communities, especially in S. Central that you want to get across to readers?

Dee, glad you asked this question. What my purpose in writing about South (Central) Los Angeles is to let everyone outside of this community understand not all of us are gang bangers, cold-hearted pimps, directioness peeps who don’t know any better. The Voices of South Central was written in response to national news such as ABC, NBC, and CBS with so-called ‘experts’ telling their audiences what goes on here in South L.A. I felt as a lifelong resident (except for five years in Northern California) of this area with this ability to write, I believed it is my right to describe what does go on here and perhaps why. I also write about South Central for your classmates who may have seen ‘Boyz N The Hood’, ‘Menace 2 Society’ and feel that’s all there is down here. It helps that I spent fifteen years as a teacher’s aide and teacher in the same areas where I write and have met, spoken with, and helped to guide young people who see this insanity constantly. I never try to sugarcoat what takes place here as ‘The Party’ in Storm Over South Central will show. As a writer, I try my best to balance out the good from the bad, to be objective in how I present the community but at the same time, extol the positive things in South Central L.A. rather than what people have been brainwashed to believe or have heard through negative hip-hop lyrics.

  1. I know what your favorite sport is football, how do you equate that into your writings?

LOL 🙂 I played football in high school so I use my experience in my written works. The Party in the upcoming Storm Over South Central is the tragic tale of a all-city high school football player, his girlfriend and three other people gunned down by a drive-by. I felt it is important to look into the mind of a young man who like me, wants to see his neighborhood improve and as he had hoped, the scholarship he received to play out of state would help him meet that goal, that is until his tragic end 🙁  The ‘experts’ always say “write what you know”. I take their advice and write from the eyes of a football player, a clerk, etc. As a writer, I envision myself into any role I desire so I want to write a tale of a teacher, I can do that because of my experience but what if I was a secret agent who happens to be a teacher? Imagination is fun to use when writing poems or short stories, but as I may have mentioned before, I do use a bit of reality in my projects no matter what the subject matter is.

  1. What advice do you have for new writers?

In my writers workshops, I tell them to have a notebook and pen with them at all times. You never know where the inspiration of that next masterpiece will come from. Most of the time at work, I carry one with me or a notebook so I can write what’s on my mind. Most of the poems in both The Depths and The Voices were written in a notebook. This would be the first piece of advice I would tell them. I will also tell them to not expect success too fast. When you publish a book, there is a thought that as a new writer, you’ll get invited to Oprah, Steve Harvey, any celebrity with a platform for you to share your work with. It’s important to build your audience first before any of this becomes true, if ever. My appearances prior to 2006 were mostly on small cable channels like Cablevision, internet websites, and podcasts. It wasn’t until my future wife started podcasts on her website that I began to interview authors and publishers. When I took over as executive director of the L.A. Black Book Expo, those appearances in media started to spread. It wasn’t because of my books, but the expo. Long story short, new authors should build their audience with mailing lists, online newsletters, and social media. All of these platforms are very important if you want to grow your audience. The last piece of advice I would like to share is for new authors to write what’s in their hearts, not because everyone’s doing it. For example, when Sistah Soldja wrote ‘The Coldest Winter’, writing Urban Literature was the trend. When Zane first broke out (on the AOL message boards before that) with her first novel, everyone wanted to write Erotic Lit. If you plan to be a writer in the long term, think of what hasn’t been written and work from there or write your version of something already out there but have a spin on it. There is a bookstore owner in Northern California who told me one day who features a lot of Urban Lit authors in his shop as ‘one hit wonders’. I was floored by that remark but he was right: just about every Black writer either focused on Urban or Erotic Lit and in turn, flooded the market. When you have too many books in those genres to choose from and you’re a new author, it’s best to write a new idea from your heart.

I must share this with you: at the age of seventeen, I was a CIT, a Counselor In Training for my local YMCA. We were up in the San Bernardino mountains for summer camp when I was writing poems on my break. One of the directors saw me writing and invited me to read a poem during campfire. When I read my first poem, the kids loved it, including the counseling staff. That led to more poems for the next week with the same response. They loved what I had to say about life, the world we live in, my own thoughts and more on the subjects I mentioned. That was my first taste of reading to an audience and seeing they liked my works, it made me feel good to know how much I was ‘accepted’. I even went as far as announcing before camp ended if anyone has a favorite poem, they should send me a note to let me know. Did you know I had more than enough notes before I left? There was no way I could send copies of the campers’ favorite poems so I took that as a learning experience knowing the power of poetry is very deep, but also the power of words. That year (1983) I knew a young man like myself could make it as a poet and writer if I just spent time practicing my art.

Note: Storm Over South Central is delayed indefinitely. Please continue to check back with us for updates on its release.

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Easily Replaced (poem)

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Note: This poem is an original written by the user of this blog. Because it is posted here for the first time, it is a digital copyright.
Keep in mind any reproduction of this original work may find a challenge legal or otherwise, coming from the writer of this piece. Thank you for your time.

I’m a Black man
And you hate me
I’m judged very carefully
So you rate me
I’m measured by
All of your past experiences
With us men
So we’re regarded
In such a way
You vow never to date us again.

You prefer a pale face
Or another rib
Seeking peace
And all that is glib
I’m to you, a bogeyman
That you abhor
With a mixture
Of disgust and fright
Accused of crimes
I did not commit
Unjust
But you believe is right.

I can’t call you
A queen
If you can’t accept me
As a king
So royalty has no place
All I am to you
Is only a human being
One who is easily replaced.

Charles L. Chatmon

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

This One Word: Author

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I had a discussion with someone I know quite well, which persuaded me to write this piece.

From 2005 to 2013 I taught writers workshops in L.A. and Oakland. I’€™ve seen my share of ‘€˜aspiring’€™ and new writers who dreamed of publishing their first book. In these workshops, I shared my notes on what is required to write a manuscript, publishing and marketing. Most of the attendees were inspired to finish their books, while those who heard the information and took notes, I never saw again. All I know is that from my two workshops, I know several people who have gone on to become published authors which makes me proud to have contributed to their success.

It’€™s been five years since my last workshop and all I can say now is that the word ‘€˜author’€™ doesn’€™t hold the same prestige that it once had. Most of you know from reading this blog I’€™ve been an author for seventeen years. The writing business has changed over time tremendously. Once upon a time, there would be a number of individuals who their books printed by traditional, subsidy publishers or printed them themselves. Thanks to the advances in technology, print on demand publishing and Amazon have been a boon to the aspiring author who realizes their dream in writing and publishing their books. Because there are more people taking advantage of this technology, there are more authors than before.

There’€™s no way I could have foreseen (as much research as I do) of the video streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu capturing the attention of our potential audiences. No doubt these platforms shorten the free time available for reading a book. The question I have to ask is: with these platforms, who has time for reading anymore? The hours spent for binge watching a favorite television show could be used to read a favorite book -€“ if anyone has a favorite book. Even with our advanced technology, what use is there for an author in the 21st Century? There have been times at a community festival someone walks up to my table and tells me, ‘€œI’€™m not a book reader.’€ As if those words would make me feel better. They didn’€™t and still don’€™t.

Looking at the present world around me with a generation that isn’€™t much into book reading and comfortable watching their video platforms, I have to wonder how much longer do I have before all of this becomes for naught? How much longer can all of these new authors who attend writers’€™ workshops with the intention of publishing a book discover the support isn’€™t there? It’€™s great we have authors such as J.K. Rowling, John Green and the rest whose works are getting the acclaim they deserve. For these individuals, the word Author has weight. For the rest of us struggling to finish our first or fifth book, our projects stalled without much to share on social media, this word doesn’€™t mean a whole lot -€“ and it should.

When you take the time to produce a written work, you should have a sense of pride that your words are for all to see. Don’€™t let this world put you down just because you are an author and there’€™s a lack of support. You have to move forward to let folks know about your website, your next book signings, poetry readings, etc. Be proud of your accomplishments and let no one take that away from you, even if you’€™re not as ‘€˜well known’€™.

For most, the word ‘€˜author’€™ is just another space on someone’€™s social resume before they direct their energies towards their next endeavor in business, entertainment, public speaking, whatever avenue they choose. In today’€™s modern climate, authors no longer have longevity their predecessors once had. Unless you’€™re a King, Rowling (again), and Atwood, I’€™ve personally seen new authors €˜give up€™ because the sales weren’€™t moving in a direction they wanted to go. They, like me, had heard enough from the non book reading crowd or the non supportive legion of folks who don’€™t place literature as a priority. There are too many media platforms fighting for their attention today.

Lastly, to be an author means to me is to love the art associated with the craft. I wonder how many literary artists love to write presently? When we can become easily distracted by social media, that time could be well spent to create our own stories, helpful non-fictional content, series, anything we want. I would wager that writing opens up a well of possibilities creatively, an untapped well social media doesn’€™t allow. Whether you’€™re seeking to write a book or if you’€™re continuing to write because you love what you’€™re doing, be proud of that word. Be proud of dreaming to be called one and be proud because you are one. The word may not matter much on a ‘€˜lower level’€™ but it means so much for those of us who’€™ve earned the right to be called that special, important word.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Crispus Attucks (A Tommy Tomorrow comic)

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This Tommy Tomorrow comic book is taken from The Negro Heritage Library: Negro Heritage Reader for Young People (1965)

(Edited by Alfred E. Cain)

More details on Crispus Attucks and Tommy Tomorrow by artist Tom Feelings at the end.

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Posted by on February 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

#Hashtag Fever

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In the social media world, the most effective weapon to draw attention to a movement or issue is by way of the #hashtag. How many of us seen it in our timelines, our feeds only to wonder what this is doing in my mentions? Perhaps you reader, have used a hashtag once or twice to advocate a cause. Up until a week ago, I had used it to promote my upcoming book, Storm Over South Central. You remember when I posted #StormOverSC in my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts? Well no more! The #StormOverSC is in indefinite hiatus for the time being. All I can say is that it didn’t get the results I wanted and I have better ways to advertise Storm until the release date. To be honest, I’ve given up on posting hashtags altogether.

Maybe for the Social Justice Warrior types, hashtags are essential to their message, but what it’s done in my humble opinion is the overreliance of creating and posting a hashtag to the masses using social media. My thought is what if peeps are unaware of The Cause of The Week or important social alert? What if they don’t use social media at all? Hashtag Fever can burn a user out if all they see on their screen is a bunch of #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter all day long (then again, that speaks to the user staying on screen all day long too). It’s understandable hashtags are a new form of communication like-minded users will get and pass along when done right. My attempts in the past were a bit successful when I ran the book expo. Now that I’m an author, I don’t see a great need to overindulge myself online by posting #StormOverSC in posts where it doesn’t belong, like a story from a news site which has nothing to do with South Central L.A. or the subjects in the book.

The internet being what it is, hashtags have become an important tool to broadcast what regular traditional media could or will not say. They can also clutter our minds by the rate they’re posted. They’re mental candy and just like physical candy, if you eat too much….you will get sick. I don’t know about everyone else, but for the time being, I have decided to stop posting hashtags on my posts. I’d rather post a link to a story or subject that I feel needs to be shared and let you, the readers, decide whether or not it’s worth your time. Beginning now, I’m on a hashtag diet.

Charles L. Chatmon
Owner, Chatmon’s Books

Links:

Hashtag Overload: Why Your Customers Think You’re Annoying
Why I Don’t Use Tons Of Instagram Hashtags And Why It’s Not Helping Your Biz Either
Instagram #Hashtags: Use Them, Don’t Abuse Them

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

The Black Panther Discussion

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It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my friend ‘James’. On another blog we discussed M.A.N.T.I.S., a television program back in the 1990’s about a paralyzed Black scientist who puts on an exoskeleton to fight crime. It didn’t last long, of course. Don’t worry, because Marvel Studios has caused ‘woke’ Black bruthas and sistahs to dust off their dashikis, pump their fists and scream……oh, it’s not that kind of movie? So I found James after thirteen years and we’re talking about the next great Black superhero movie.

Chas: James, how’ve you been? I haven’t seen you since 2005! Remember when we talked about M.A.N.T.I.S., that Black superhero show that used to be on Fox?

James: Yeah, the one where he had two African assistants in the pilot only to have them taken out of the regular series once it was approved by two white assistants? Yeah, I remember.

Chas: What about how the show ended? Wasn’t that weak?

James: Dude, he was stomped by a dinosaur! I’ll tell you white folks play evil man. He didn’t even get to keep that trench coat he wore in the pilot! They are so wrong!

Chas: Thirteen years later, we have Black Panther from Marvel Studios. Bruthas and sistas are determined to see this movie no matter what! What about you? You plan on going?

James: Does the Black Panther wear a trench coat like my boy M.A.N.T.I.S.?

Chas: Uh nope. He does wear a bullet proof costume though. He could have used that in any issue he appeared in my stack of my 1970’s Avengers comics.

James: If he doesn’t wear a trench coat even for five minutes, I’m out. White folks need to give Black superheroes some class man.

Chas: You know how much social media is going to blow up on February 16, the release date. You wouldn’t watch it because he’s not wearing a trench coat………

James: Think about it. I’ve heard righteous brothers said they don’t plan on seeing the movie because A) he was created by a white man and b) the Panther doesn’t wear a trench coat.

Chas: I can see why folks wouldn’t go to see the film. They have their reasons, but they should let us decide for ourselves whether or not it’s worth it. They do understand that Virgil Tibbs (The Heat of the Night), Shaft and Hawk were all created from the minds of white men right? John Ball, Ernest Tidyman and Robert B. Parker. Even M.A.N.T.I.S. was created by Sam Raimi who directed the Evil Dead and Spider Man movies.

James: That dude? He’s the one who thought up our boy?

Chas: Yep, and I didn’t hear from the righteous crowd from the 1960’s to 1990’s telling us to boycott those television shows and movies. But hey, maybe one day I’ll create my own iconic character so if he or she ever makes it to film, there won’t be an excuse not to come out and support.

James: You know there are going those people who say we shouldn’t watch it. I’m still on the fence because………

Chas: The trench coat thang, yeah I got you on that.

James: Seriously though, I saw on the movie poster that the movie is going to be written and directed by a Black man. I have no problem with that. My problem is that when they change things around after the movie or TV show is out.

Chas: If I see it, I would like to see the changes later writers like Christopher Priest, Reginald Hudlin and the late, great Dwayne McDuffie contributed to T’Challa (the Black Panther’s real name) back in the early 2000’s long before there was a movie. These creative bruthas gave him an upgrade and new motivations to his character. If I plan on seeing the movie, it’s because of those writers. I follow them and they do great work.

James: I second that my brutha, but still…..they should have given him a trench coat! That would have been a sweet upgrade!

Chas: I think Marvel should be careful when trying to sneak in an agenda that not everyone is ready for, if ever. It should be all about the characters, nuff said. If there’s some political strife that threatens to tear Wakanda apart, write about it.

James: Yeah, I caught a snippet that Ta-Nehisi Coates is writing his stories now. For his sake, he better give the Panther a trench coat or I’ll be mad!

Chas: Chill with the trench coat nonsense man! LOL. Whether it’s Don McGregor or Coates, all we ask for is for great character development, challenging plots and action! Lots of it! I can’t get enough action! Marvel left that back in the early 2000’s and that was their bread and butter back in the day!

James: You mean Stan Lee was getting all the bread from the books he wrote and the butter? Anyone not named Stan Lee.

Chas: It’s only a month left, but do you plan on seeing Black Panther?

James: Still on the fence. I know there’s a ton of great actors in it, but there are some things I need to check out for myself before I decide to give the Mouse my money. I hope it’s not another M.A.N.T.I.S. or it’s like Shaft. You know it was twenty-seven years before the so-called ‘powers that be’ filmed another Shaft movie. When they did, it was WEAK!

Chas: Wesley Snipes, the candidate for that role made it plain why. It’s on the internet.

James: At least Carl Lumbly, our boy on M.A.N.T.I.S. found some work.

Chas: Yeah, ‘Alias’ was a good spot for him. That is until we hear some ‘behind the scenes’ commentary on YouTube.

James: Tru that. About that time C, we’ll find out in a month. Black Panther fans, keep calling and email Marvel to insist he wears a trench coat in the movie in memory of M.A.N.T.I.S!

Chas: You’re too much James. Hope it’s not another thirteen years before we have another conversation. Chas out!

Charles L. Chatmon
Who played the part of ‘Chas’
President, Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2018 in Uncategorized

 
 
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