For those of you just tuning in….
2018 has already started to be a year of hard choices and challenges. I should act as if I should care, but I really don’t. Whatever is going to happen will and whatever doesn’t, nothing to get excited about. It is all about the Storm, though…….
Let’s get to the main event; The Story of Shontell. This is a poem that is part of Storm over South Central, the anthology coming out this year. I’d like to share more of Shontell’s story and why it’s important for her tale to come out. You may state a Black man has no business writing about a young Black girl, but as a teacher who has met many Shontells over the years; this is very much my business.
As a ‘conscious’ writer or as someone who writes about South (Central) Los Angeles, I must be honest and present the positive as well as the negative of what goes on in the neighborhood. In 2003 when The Voices of South Central was published, much of the poems I wrote about were a reflection of what I’ve seen, heard and experienced as a teacher, a volunteer counselor for my local YMCA, a resident of the community. So I know of what I write about here.
There is a Shontell in each of our lives. She’s faced so-called ‘directionless dudes’ who left her nothing but a bloated belly and a newborn in their wake. The reality of writing ‘conscious’ poetry is to touch on the subjects we’d rather not discuss or talk about. To keep them private as we celebrate Black Girls Rock and Black Girl Magic. Shontell may eventually have her day in the sun but as the poem will show, that day is a far off. We men have to be more disciplined when approaching a young woman like Shontell and display our gentleman-like qualities to them or better yet, practice before you approach.
Women want a real man, and when they say that from their lips, they want a man young or old, to have a depth of knowledge, able to speak clearly and concisely about what’s on our minds, to prove our passions aren’t restricted in our pants but rather what do we have to advance ourselves and hopefully a woman who takes a chance to build a life with us. It’s no mistake Black women are in the media doing big things now. It’s not because we Black men have failed, but there haven’t been many of us who tried and succeeded past the street-like attitude we’re content to remain in, our social quicksand, so to speak.
Of course, we Black men have heard this before along with the criticisms that devalue our worth in this society. This isn’t to place the blame squarely on those directionless dudes, but to acknowledge Shontell is in the predicament she’s in merely on her choices with the men she’s fooled around with. You and I make choices that affect our lives believe it or not. Whether or not we stand our ground or run away from those decisions depends on each of us. Shontell made her decision in the poem as you will find out. It is a life choice many of us rich or poor, Black, brown or white either has made or will make. The Story of Shontell is a poem that I hope book clubs, schools, libraries and readers will give great pause and consideration for discussion. It’s time we deal with the Shontells in our lives. Not to learn or criticize their example, but to take the time out and show them how much we love them without prejudice, to be by their side if help is needed.
Charles L. Chatmon
President, Chatmon’s Books
Author, Storm over South Central (2018)