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The Real Answer on #LABBX


Here it is; the $64,000 question:

“Mr. Chatmon, did you enjoy your time as executive director of the L.A. Black Book Expo?”

There is no one answer, right or wrong on this subject. I will say that my first year was probably the best. I enjoyed holding it at the Expo Center which to me was the perfect place to hold it. After that year, that’s when it became a challenge. If you reader, seen my comments on #LABBX before, rest assured I do not regret my decision of assuming control of the Expo from the late, great Dr. Itibari M. Zulu who passed away last year. He sent an email to me in 2006 after the LABBX for that year was cancelled. He accepted a job out of state and because of my work with the California Writers Collective, I accepted his request and began right to work on the event.

If one were to ask me what did #LABBX do to my writing career? I will have to say it suffered a setback. Truth be told, #LABBX basically steered me away from writing more books at that time. The Voices of South Central was already in its third year plus I have attended all of the local literary events I could, but felt #LABBX was needed to help promote my fellow authors in L.A. There weren’t too many literary festivals outside the Black Writers Festival at the Howard Hughes Center and the Black Writers on Tour. As far as my creativity in writing more books, I feel now #LABBX took me away from my primary goal of becoming a writer/author. I should have stuck with my dream and just said, “Thanks, but not interested.” If I had done that, I don’t know how much farther along I would be in my writing career right now. Perhaps I may have published another book or two.

Like I said I don’t regret my time as #LABBX executive director at all. I have met lots of interesting authors who are actresses, businesswomen, entrepreneurs, fellow visionaries, and just plain writing for the joy of selling a book and selling it. It was the sales part at the expo that often caused the most trouble (smile). I am a writer. I love it, enjoyed this ‘hobby’ since elementary school and with all my shortcomings, I love this literary artistry the most. I look back at this now and wonder what I would have done differently. What should I have said, what could I have done to make #LABBX a positive experience for everybody? Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to too many people who offered suggestions on the venue, how to increase the size of the crowd, what programs to add. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that and just kept it simple as when Dr. Zulu ran his portions of #LABBX. Perhaps I was too ambitious, maybe I wasn’t ambitious enough.

I know to this day I will be criticized, praised, however folks who were past exhibitors, attendees, or associates feel about their time at #LABBX. It doesn’t really matter anymore. I don’t plan on running another literary event, ever. The growth of digital platforms and our changing city of Los Angeles are taking care of that. It’s becoming a city now where someone who looks like me isn’t welcome. So that’s it. I guess in the final analysis, my answer now might be, I enjoyed my time at #LABBX. I can’t regret that. I only regret that it took away my momentum on the writing I was involved with. I’m glad Itibari chose me, definitely glad. I just wish it wasn’t at the cost of my writing career.

Charles L. Chatmon
Former Executive Director
Los Angeles Black Book Expo

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Poetry Night, Part Two

Here’s part two of Poetry Night. I’m going to force you folks to listen to my poems darn it! (smile). I hope you enjoy what you hear and if you do, please let me know. Thanks!







 
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Posted by on May 13, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Poetry Night

Most of you know our owner is an accomplished writer and poet. Here he is sharing his written works with you. Please enjoy the following selections at your leisure. Thank you.







 
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Posted by on May 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

A Dream Interrupted

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When you either watch your television sets or on the internet at home readers, you’ll witness the spotlight on the more successful best-selling authors. The veterans who made a name for themselves by the novels they wrote, or the sudden emergence of a newcomer (newcomer to the general public) with a story to tell for this current generation. Among them are the millions of lesser known writers who produce works but aren’t noticed by the public eye. The only avenues in which to gain an audience are book festivals, interviews with digital or print media, readings, everything else the famous authors don’t need to do; their fans are the ones with long lines in bookstores waiting for the release of their latest works.

As you may have guessed reader, the author of this essay is far from a famous author. Now when I began writing at an early age, it was for the love of writing a poem or short story. The idea of becoming as famous as Ray Bradbury, Langston Hughes or Isaac Asimov never occurred to me until much later in life. My goal was to be like Shakespeare, a writer whose works could be discussed for years and years. Based on my own experiences so far, I had no idea I would be in front of a camera discussing my work or opening a mobile bookstore, let alone be in charge of a Black Book Expo but I’m not as close to the eventual goal I aimed for nearly two decades ago. I’m still one of the millions of lesser known authors who keep writing in the hopes one day I will become a “famous author”.

The literary world has changed quite a lot since my days of reading books in my local library. There are new forms of entertainment, other venues to snatch the eyeballs off the written page. The advances in technology relating to home entertainment make my goal a lot harder these days. Even before the days of social media, I faced a challenge by the same target audience I sold my books to. You put in all the hard work to write a piece of literature that hopefully gains a new reader only to find the readers themselves don’t finish the entire book and critique your works without even finishing it! There’s no greater frustration than to endure piecemeal criticism from a reader. This is what it’s come to in our modern day and time.

I see this in my writer’s workshops. When I continued the workshops from a group of authors whom I associated with, there would be a roomful of ambitious first-time authors ready to learn the steps of publishing a book. Two years ago, there were only a handful of potential writers in the conference room. Most of the attendees were from another class. After close to forty years, I will say the art of writing has changed dramatically. The nature of reading a book has changed from print to where you may be reading this essay from, on your phone or from your computer or tablet. The aim of storytelling has changed from basically telling a good tale to which everyone can learn from to a select target audience with tales of representation and other new genres you may have seen listed here on the blog before. There’s nothing wrong with that; every generation undergoes a change in the literary world. It’s no surprise the stories I used to read back then have little to no relevance now.

The literary scene has changed so much that most of the same authors I used to meet in our local literary events have stopped writing. Lack of profits, lack of support, whatever the reasons, these authors who put in the hard work of publishing a book, are now back to maintaining a living for themselves. They did not reach the status they hoped for when they wrote their books and in a way, that’€™s sad. It’s also part of the writer’s life. Rather than ‘give up the ghost’, I am still one of the few who continue this dream. Perhaps it will be here on the blog I will inspire a new author to write their book or an idea they can grow and help them with their literary vision. If I can do that, then I’ll accept it. Until that time, all I can do is write….and dream.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Masque of The Red Death (video)

Because it appears we’re in the middle of those Doomsday movies, let me share with you a tale from a legendary literary giant, Edgar Allen Poe. His Masque of The Red Death has been adapted in movie form several times. I would like to suggest the 1964 film with Vincent Price as the best adaptation of this story, although what I would like to show you is a shorter version of Masque for your viewing pleasure. You might see some similarities or not, but either way I hope you enjoy the effort from the YouTube user who posted this. A very timely tale for this year indeed.

Bonus: a trailer for that 1964 version I mentioned above. Take care and be safe!

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Goodie Goudeau

 

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From the pen of our days in V-town, here’s another entry from Sweet Home Vallejo…….(2009)

Recently, I sold copies of my book The Voices of South Central at the McCree-Goudeau Gallery in the Vallejo art district. I had a chance to sit down and listen to the experiences of Mr. Cleven ‘Goodie’ Goudeau. What I learned about this gentlemen I hope and pray our young people continue to emulate as he quietly recounted his journey from cartoonist to greeting card designer and producer of his own company, to the gallery he shares with his wife Jeanette. If you lived back in the 1960’s and 70’s, you may remember reading one of Mr. Goudeau’s greeting cards, very distinguishable from the Hallmarks or other brand name greeting cards in stores.

As I listened to Mr. Goudeau’s accounts of one Bay area newspaper refusing to hire him based on his skin color, to his first attempts of creating his cards without experience in the field and yet wound up a success because he fulfilled a need, to his travels around the world and the accolades he accomplished over time. I had a feeling of awe listening to him and another gentleman near Goodie’s age share stories about their challenges of racial prejudice, discrimination, and indifference.

The conservative phrase when it comes to people such as Goodie is to ‘raise yourself by your bootstraps’. For Goodie and those like him who overcome the odds and achieved a level of success, I appreciate all they’ve done and as I listened, I knew that with all our elders faced back then, I should have nothing, nothing to complain about. Our generation compared to those past, should pay attention and realize the struggle…will always be a struggle but never to give up regardless.

What we in this generation and those in the future must learn is to realize we do have the power to change our course in life, to manufacture products and services based on need rather than wanting things for ourselves. Goodie had no experience, no background in designing greeting cards, but he tried and from those few efforts built a line my older relatives recognize. We shouldn’t have to be pigeonholed into music or sports. That’s society’s game plan. What we can do is create more inventors, doctors, lawyers…even presidents. But this you have read before.

I salute men like Goodie for used his talents to create something positive for our elders and generations down the line. Reading his cards I was reminded that Black is Beautiful and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s about pride; it’s about feeling good for one another when the world condemns you for who and what you are. It’s those messages we need to constantly keep on our minds and on our children’s minds. Let the world insist we create entertainers and athletes and nothing else. Then, let’s push ahead and defy those same voices by daring to dream, daring to live, daring to make a difference one for another.

Just like Goodie.

Note: to the family of Goodie and Jeanette, our condolences to their family. They are missed as they provided much needed help and advice to our endeavors.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Vallejo Poetry

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From the pen of our days in the city of V-Town, here’s another tale of Sweet Home Vallejo…….(2009)

This is Charles, owner of the mobile bookstore which sets up in front of the Art Department during the Farmers Market on Saturdays when I’m not traveling out of town for business. I would like to thank Chandra for allowing me to submit the following which I’ll share with you right now.

When I moved to Vallejo a while back, one of the first places I wanted to visit was the Listen and Be Heard café, a famous hot spot for spoken word artists in the North Bay. Unfortunately, the café closed down before I had a chance to share pieces from both of my books, The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central. Without a venue for self-expression, I felt lost as I’m sure the lyrical artists felt when news of the café’s closure was announced.

Despite the loss of Listen and Be Heard’s physical presence, previous owners Tony and Martha Cinader Mims have maintained a strong online presence for their legion of supporters. One click to their website is an indication poetry is alive and well on their end. Although the Mims have moved away from the city, there are places and individuals who won’t allow the gift of the spoken word to fade away.

Slam artist GO is one of the leading names when it comes to spoken word poetry in the North Bay, especially Vallejo. He also participates in a monthly program in nearby Fairfield entitled Life Sentence produced by 3rd Eye Collective, for which GO is a member of. I had the privilege of meeting this dynamic spoken word artist and he was one of the first Bay area residents who greeted me with open arms when I started my new life in this part of the state. When you listen to him speak from his heart, you feel the energy and visualize his feelings about life, which are very powerful indeed.

Next up, is Profet’s Poetry by the Bay. Held every second and fourth Thursday inside Panama Red coffeehouse inside the Vallejo Ferry Terminal, local poets get a chance to share their self expression on the mic. Since Profet started the venue and kept the poetry flow going in Vallejo, this talented artist recently released a CD of his own works called Profetic Lyrics. He isn’t one to toot his own horn and is just happy to give a first run program beginning with the music of Khe Note, a band originating from the North Bay headlined by lead vocalist Khela. There are other bands who perform before the artists go on stage, so if you’re in the North Bay or waiting for a ride back to the City, I urge you to stop by and check out Profet’s show.

Finally, there are a group of poets who deserve mention. The next generation of spoken word artists go on stage every month inside the JFK Library for their Teen Poetry Slam. For all the negative talk about our young people, here is an event which is positive, encourages them to share their voices with the rest of the world and gives them an outlet to use that energy rather than the types of activities often mentioned on the printed pages of a newspaper. Prizes are handed out to middle and high school students who participate and I’ve even helped out by lending two of my own books for the winners of one slam. Our young people can do a lot to turn this city around, if we’re willing to listen to what they have to say without prejudice while understanding the challenges they’re facing in these troublesome times. That is not to say every young person is striving to be better than we were, but for those that are, they need our support without a doubt.

Vallejo is a city that is rich in talent..There may not be a Listen and Be Heard café anymore, but it doesn’t mean the spoken word has gone away. The gift of poetry always flourishes in times of distress, and for the venues mentioned above, a much needed relief for a city which sorely needs it.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Funky Art Town

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From the pen of our days in V-town, a old entry from Sweet Home Vallejo……(2009)

This is Charles with a new round of thoughts.

Vallejo has a strong arts tradition. Painters, graphic designers, muralists, etc. Before I moved here, I never knew the wealth of talent the city had art wise, but if you’ve had a chance to actually know them as I’ve had the great fortune of doing, you’ll find out they’re excellent people as well. Now Vallejo used to have an Artists Guild, which no longer exists. However, it hasn’t stopped individuals from producing masterpieces in Vallejo.

Because this city has always encouraged its artists, you see their amazing works in several galleries downtown, exhibited in banks and on the waterfront. The galleries such as Pieced on Earth, McCree-Goudeau, and Pacific Rim showcases local talent and provides them with the platform and support of their creations. On our local cable station, VCAT, Shaaron Fox-Bent presents Arts In Action, a program that promotes these same artists in the city. The director of the art department, Harold Beaulieu has been tireless in bringing up the up and coming artists and the many mural projects seen in certain areas of Vallejo.

One suggestion that I hope is taken into consideration in the future is on a recent PBS News Hour covering the transformation of Philadelphia’s downtown; murals by local artists covered the blight of the area, making it attractive for outside businesses to invest in the city. If you don’t believe me, just google this title up and read the story that follows on the website: “Philadelphia’s ‘Love Letter’ Murals Spark Neighborhood Revival”. Think of what that could do for Vallejo and improve the quality of life downtown if we put our artists, young and old to create what Philadelphia has done. Something to think about.

After living in Southern California most of my life, I’ve been exposed to various forms of art including theatre. In Vallejo, we have the Community Arts Foundation supporting visual, musical, and theatrical talents as well as developing funding for small Vallejo arts groups and special projects. The newly renovated Empress Theatre in the heart of downtown presents classic movies and on occasion, opens its doors for special events for the public. The Vallejo Music Theatre puts on live shows, musicals, opera and programs for the community. A Friday night supper club is one of their most impressive draws including a contest with prizes.

Despite the city’s financial troubles, this is a great city with a ton of creative individuals here. They’re using every means to promote their works while helping each other out, networking. Whether it’s galleries, parks, etc., these artists continue to display their talent throughout the city. It makes me wonder why am I’m trying to open a bookstore here, but maybe one day we’ll have a strong literary community to match.

It’s gonna take a lot of work, though.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

In Tribute: Itibari M. Zulu

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Tonight I received an email that the founder of the Journal of Pan African Studies and the L.A. Black Book Expo, Itibari M. Zulu has passed away. He asked me back in 2006 to take over the expo and I accepted. If you’ve read this blog, you know my objectives, goals and plans to build LABBX into a solid literary event for the city of Los Angeles. Despite my best intentions and hard work, it wasn’t meant to be.

Itibari and I would spend time on the phone discussing the results of that year’s expo and began planning for the next. He had a wealth of culture knowledge, even when the topic turned to issues within the Black community. Because of a judgement in error, I ended up relinquishing control of the expo back to Itibari but he enjoyed the effort of our volunteer staff to make the expo a reality and an event authors wanted to attend. Although we didn’t achieve the success we hoped for, Dr. Zulu and I were proud LABBX did well.

Now the questions start. Will there be another LABBX? Would I consider taking the executive director position back? Will it return? For now, I’m not interesting in reviving the expo. I’ve dealt with a lot in the years I took control to ever considering bringing it back. If there was someone else who has the vision and the resources to bring it back, I wouldn’t mind playing the role of a consultant. That seems very unlikely now that this city is in the process of change, and not for the better for Black people.

Thank you Itibari for having enough faith in me to take over the expo. I’ll miss the conversations and advice you shared with me to make sure LABBX stayed true to your dream and to offer a cultural, literary event for the people of L.A.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books
Former executive director of
the L.A. Black Book Expo

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

I Wanted To Be Shakespeare

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This is not a poem or a sonnet, but a confession. I wanted to be like ‘The Bard’, William Shakespeare. For a writer or English major as I was back in college, Shakespeare was the man, the top gun of writers, poets, creative literary artists. I would say that early in my college life I had a pretty good path; I enrolled in courses concentrating on his plays and sonnets, started to ‘borrow’ his style in writing a few practice sonnets, even focused my rough drafts as Shakespearean style short stories (not to worry; there were completely different in style and theme). Why am I sharing this in public? I would guess that for a writer with a long term plan like I had at the time, it was ideal to learn from ‘one of the greats’.

At eighteen years of age, writing was a decision I made. The path was clear, the goal set. In order to be a good one, I had to study the great writers who came before me. I learned from Shakespeare, Hemingway, Hughes, Baldwin and the rest. My literary artist contemporaries stress if order to be a writer, you must read. They are so right. By the time I started college, I had already made my local library my second home, reading stories and non-fiction books by authors great and small. They helped me write my plays and short stories. These writers gave me the freedom to imagine anything I chose, putting my thoughts down on paper.

Today, there are multiple spaces in which to share your thoughts online. A blog such as the one you’re looking at now, social media and even a website to post your content and express yourself to the world. Even with all this technology in our hands, it’s easy to look up Shakespeare, his sonnets and plays, to learn and to imitate his style. The internet as you know has opened the door for new or aspiring authors to give their literary dreams a try. While there may not be a King Lear or Romeo & Juliet, there are millions of stories, poems, sonnets, commentaries for anyone to sit down in their quiet space, concentrate and write. Many years ago, I wanted to be Shakespeare but now I’m just happy being Charles L. Chatmon, author.

It’s always good to have a literary great who inspires you, but please make sure to adopt your own writing style and ideas. Who knows where the next great tragedy or classic tale will come from? If you desire to write and willing to take time to develop that dream, the next great writer could be you.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2019 in Uncategorized

 
 
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