Vallejo Poetry



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


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


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


Should The World Recognize Aspiring Authors?


Question: should the world recognize aspiring authors?

For the sake of conversation, I say no. Take for example if someone states they’€™re an aspiring singer, the obvious question would be when will their song be made public? If the aspiring singer doesn’€™t know or they’€™re not sure only floating out the indefinite date of ‘someday’€™, then in the world’€™s eyes, this person is not ‘€˜legitimate’€™ in their eyes. This future musical artist has to produce a song in the present in order for us to recognize their published work. Personally, twenty years ago, I talked about publishing a book but I didn’€™t produce one at that time. I guess I was an aspiring author myself. I had friends who advised me on writing a book for public consumption, but in 1999 I had nothing to speak of outside of one column in community newspapers. I didn’€™t fool myself into believing I was an author of a book because I wasn’€™t published.

The words ‘€˜aspiring author’€™ trigger many a scribe today. There is on one hand the accomplished writer who remembers the days before their manuscripts turned into actual printed works. Perhaps they don’€™t want to refer to these future authors because of the experience of waiting for their literary dreams to come true after days and nights behind a desk, typing who knows what for agents, publishers and eventually a reading audience. If anyone told me twenty years ago the truth that I’€™m not a recognized author even though I planned to publish a book, I would have accepted it. It also would have made me work harder to see that dream come true. In modern times, authors will warn you in strong language on social media “€œI hate the term aspiring author! What are you aspiring to? Are there aspiring teachers or aspiring customer service reps? Why the hell should one call themselves an aspiring author for? Dumb….”€ Now although the above quote was paraphrased, it has been known to use the words aspiring author means certain vitriol to whoever says it.

In the example I offered above, a person who aspires to sing is an aspiring singer. Anyone who wants to enter the customer service field is an aspiring customer service representative. Let’€™s look at the root word Aspire to see if there’s any harm in using the term aspiring:


: desiring and working to achieve a particular goal : having aspirations to attain a specified profession, position, etc. an aspiring actor [=a person who aspires to be and is trying to become an actor] an aspiring novelist (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

This harmless adjective only tells the truth. This world will not recognize an aspiring author but the person who aspires to become one is working toward that goal. It is important to understand that this world will not recognize the aspiring author’€™s work until they are a published author. Until that moment happens, all of the news and posts about progress won’t matter if the work isn’t made reality.

What upsets other literary artists with this term is that the word aspiring conflates with the word unknown. Until the publication of my first book, all I could do was perform in poetry readings across the city. I didn’€™t have a published book to my name. To the audience who heard my words and read my poems, I was an unknown author. Established and non-established authors remember the struggle in achieving the accolades or acclaim they’€™ve worked hard to achieve and it hurts. It’€™s a pain no one wants a future author to experience for fear they possibly will be discouraged and give up on their dream. For reasons of their own, they take offense of the term aspiring even if it is the truth for future authors.

Hopefully, aspiring authors understand this piece does not come from an ‘elite’€™ point of view but a realistic look at how readers and the world in general view them in the present. Look at the aspiring singer example above. Singing a few bars on social media doesn’€™t mean you’€™re an established singer, it means you are working towards scoring that first recorded song or album. Aspiring (and other) authors should be offended if they’€™re called by that name. That individual author is taking steps from moving to the aspiring to published stage. If the drive is there, we the reading audience will see their literary works in a timely manner. For in the present, the reality is that they are not recognized by the world yet. As these authors continue in pursuit of their goal, they will be.

Charles L. Chatmon
Chatmon’s Books

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Posted by on May 25, 2019 in Uncategorized


The Drug of Racism (poem)

Note: Here’s a poem written a long, long time ago but still applies today. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and please let me know what you think!
-The Management

Here in America, we have a number of addictions
Throw in drugs, greed, and include racism
Prejudice is a drug dangerously sweeping the nation
Serious as a world threat or superpower invasion.

Blacks mistrusting whites, whites mistrusting blacks
Sources of communication is what both sides lack
Other cultures and races tossed in the hate game
Freebasing on hate, burning up in flames.

History records uncover this substance abuse
Morals were misguided and social codes unloose
Armies slaughtered races, creations of God
The dead paying a price for blood they trod.

Little children aren’t affected, they’re colorblind
For they are pure in heart, cleansed in the mind
Only when society bombards them in condition
They accept and absorb its racist traditions.

If this is America and her states are united
Then why are its citizens painfully divided?
To stop racist addictions, there must be a start
To ban this drug and treat many hearts.

Charles L. Chatmon
Author & Poet
President, Chatmon’s Books

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Posted by on April 11, 2019 in Uncategorized


Have You Ever Considered? (poem)

Charles L. Chatmon

Charles L. Chatmon, Poet & Author

Note: this is an old poem I’ve kept out of the public for years. It’s a poem of consideration and reflection of the things life brings us. Please, enjoy!
-The Management

Have you ever considered the sun that always shines?
Beaming precious rays, which creep behind
On harsh cold days when you’re about to freeze
The beloved sun sets us at ease.

Ever consider the falling of the rain?
It comes once around and back again
Filling up the soil, feeding our plants
Rain is most valuable, so the heavens do grant.

Have you ever noticed the mountains and trees?
The coolness of a gentle gusty breeze
Calm air passing by cleaning out your soul
Purging out demons nestled deep below.

Do you ever think about your loved ones?
Who care so much of what you’ve done
The affection they show, you must take to strive
For the charity they give can make you feel alive.

Did you ever listen to your conscience inside?
It knows your ups and downs, nothing to hide
Encased within your soul, it holds your potential
To help make your life meaningful and essential.

I hope you will adhere what you’ve just read
Taking nothing for granted but enjoying it instead
Consideration in life still holds its due
The world can be better if you believe it’s true.

Charles L. Chatmon
President, Chatmon’s Books

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Posted by on April 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

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