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Monday, December 20, 2010

Why I Won't Give Up

Last week was rough for me.
It was one of those weeks where I really pondered why I was writing and if I really wanted to continue writing and publishing my titles. I was discouraged for a couple of days but by the end of the week I was more dedicated to my mission than ever.

As a novelist and a screenwriter my mission is to create positive stories about the African-American experience. I want to create stories that inspire and uplift my brothers and sisters and show them all the experiences of black people. There’s more than one shade of brown and the ghetto isn’t the only place where black people live. What about the stories of black people who grew up middle class? What about the stories of black people who grew up wealthy? Stories about black owned businesses? black movie stars? A story about brothers and sisters going to college? A story of an All-Black Suburb? These are stories we rarely read about in mainstream media and I feel they need to be told. Moreover, I believe there’s an audience for them. There are a million different black worlds outside of the inner-city, and I want to give those stories a marketplace.

As a publisher my goal is to expand and diversify the genres African-American section at the local bookstore, vendor tables, and online at and Barnes& Noble. My dream is to see an African-American Fiction section where black readers can find books in genres like Fantasy, Science Fiction and Screenplays featuring characters that look like them.

Working towards that mission I’ve learned people are resistant to change. And black people are terrified of it. At the Harlem Book Fair I had to persevere as people ignored the books on my table and hurried over to buy Street Lit two years in a row.

Moreover, those same masses are resentful to those who seek to show them the truth. I learned that at the message boards and the imdb boards this week.

But I realize I can’t get discouraged and I can’t give up. So many of our brothers and sisters are lost, confused and have no idea who they are. The blind are leading the blind and driving the black community into a ditch. I have to keep speaking even if the audience doesn’t hear me or appreciate what I have to say. I have to continue offering an alternative to the nonsense that’s damaging the fabric of the African-American community.

I grew up in a period of tremendous Black Pride. At CES 132 I was taught about all the great African-American achievers and all about African-American history. As A child I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a black person in a prominent position or black people in a positive light. On TV I watched, Benson, The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Sister, Sister, Smart Guy and countless other shows featuring African-Americans living a variety of different experiences. Robert Townsend, Spike Lee and other black filmmakers were making great movies with black people in lead roles. Alice Walker and Toni Morrison were writing Award-winning literature, and Terry McMillan showed publishers there was a huge market for African-American fiction. There were a dozen genres in Hip-Hop and black people were free to express themselves. I didn’t know how blessed I was growing up nor did I understand the impact all that media had on my life until I was an adult.

African-Americans growing up today aren’t blessed to see all those positive images in the media like I did. A generation later brothers and sisters don’t see prominent African-Americans in media and they aren’t being taught about their history or their heritage in school. And this is in an age with the first African-American President.

From birth young black males are bombarded with images in the media of black male entertainers who promote drug use and crime as what’s “real” and that education is “acting white”. They’re taught profanities like “NIGGER” and “FUCK” are a noun, pronoun, adjective verb, adverb and prepositional phrase prefix suffix, and that this is the way black people are supposed to Speak English in street Lit. That going to jail is more important than graduating High School and going to college and aspiring to be a gangsta, hustler, or a drug dealer is a career path instead of aspiring to be a doctor, lawyer, fireman or police officer.

That same media teaches little Black girls they have no value as human beings. In music videos they’re taught that they’re sex objects by scantily clad booty shaking video vixens. In those same videos they learn that it’s okay to be called a bitch and ho instead of their name. Moreover they learn black girls are not worthy of the love of anyone, and that living in dysfunction is a normal way of life. In movies like Monster’s Ball, Precious, and Tyler Perry films they see black women as victims who are routinely being abused and degraded. They see young sistas with options in their real life like Montana Fishburne choosing to star in pornographic films, and they read about prostitution as a career path in Street Lit novels.

A few years back Don Imus called The Rutgers Women’s basketball team “nappy headed hoes”. Want to know where he and his producer got that idea from?

The same place your children are getting it from.

Some may see this media as entertainment but I see the bigger picture behind those pictures. I understand how imbibing these images, words, and ideas over a decade or so shapes the way black people see the world and how the world sees black people. More importantly, it shapes the way we see ourselves.

And I’m seeing the damage all this media is doing to the black community almost two decades later. A nationwide 50% dropout rate, a 70% incarceration rate, and an 80% unemployment rate. Brothers and sisters who are illiterate, ignorant and unable to function in a society that’s becoming more technologically advanced. A black community that’s falling apart at the seams.

Which is why I have to stay the course and keep writing.

I understand what’s at stake, and I can’t take the shots taken at me personally. Many brothers and sisters may not want the books I write right now. They may not like the books I write right now. They may not even understand why I’m taking my little money to self-publish. Someone has to offer brothers and sisters a choice even if they don’t choose to take it. Long-term I know my work will have an impact on the black community, which is why I have to stay committed to my mission and sharpen my resolve in the face of so much Resentment, Resistance and Racism.

This isn’t about me. It’s about the people around me.


  1. Good for you! I hope you never quit, Shawn. This is a great article!!

  2. Love this one especially, Shawn. You have to wonder and no, you and I and others like us cannot give up. We readily see from what's going on around us that there is more than one way to destroy people. It's safer to help them destroy themselves and we are the lemmings of the world.

    No, you cannot give up writing on this. It is your God-led calling and you have to pursue it with the passion, the expertise and courage that you pour into it.

    God has blessed you, is blessing you and will bless you further.

    As Savannah said: "This is a great article."

  3. Savannah, Francine, thanks so much for your support and your kind words. This is my gift and I feel I have to share it with people. I feel my stories and my articles can have an impact on those around me. Many are resistant to change and resentful to those who bring it, but if change is to come I have to persevere in the face of adversity.