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Saturday, November 27, 2010

9/11 And Its Long-Term Impact On The Black Male Unemployment Crisis

Some African Americans believe that the tragedy of 9/11 had no impact on the black community. However, as I correlate the events transpiring out of that tragedy I see it as the starting point of the unemployment crisis among Black men in America.

Before the tragedy, many African-American men were able to make a livable wage in support and service positions. Brothers had positions working as clerks in the mailrooms, copy centers, fax rooms, and maintenance positions. Others found steady work as bike messengers and dispatchers, some even had their own messenger services. Some found work as supervisors and managers. Most of these jobs only required a high school diploma or less, but paid comparable to some senior management and executive positions when overtime was factored in.

With the economic boom from the dot-com craze there was a shortage of workers and suddenly black men educated and uneducated found themselves in demand. Any job a brotha wanted he could get easily.

Then came the tragedy of 9/11.

In its aftermath came a recession that had not only a devastating impact on America’s spirit, but a more devastating impact on the African-American community nationwide. Millions of Black men across the country were laid off from their stable jobs. Worse, due to the need for increased security, Wall Street and corporate America were changing the way they did business. This change in business practices led to a seismic shift in the job market that created an unemployment crisis among African-American men.

After the tragedy, E-mail systems that were the secondary line of communication for many firms became the primary way of getting business done. As business owners adapted to a new reality of closed streets and heavy security in and around their office buildings in New York and other business districts across the country, they realized that since E-mail enabled them to communicate with employees and clients quickly and get business done faster. In addition, E-mail systems and e-commerce were saving them a ton of money, so they no longer needed fax clerks (e-mail rendered this device obsolete), a full reprographics department or a heavily staffed mailroom to sort correspondence and documents that was no longer was being produced. So a lot of brothas lost their jobs as a result of technology increasing business productivity.

Due to the increased need for security and confidentiality after 9/11, many firms began using FedEx and UPS instead of local messenger services to deliver documents. Since Fed Ex and UPS guarantees and insures packages it ships, and provides tracking of packages many business owners began reconsidering the use of local messenger services for day-to-day deliveries of documents. With streets closed and security in most office towers so tight that one needed ID to enter and leave a building, local messengers found themselves unable to gain access to deliver packages the way they used to. As a result of this shift in corporate America’s business practices, many black men who worked as bike and foot messengers found themselves out of work as entire messenger services were put out of business.

Another industry where many African-Americans found work, the temp agency was devastated after 9/11. Due to the changing security policies, temp agencies could no longer assign workers to jobs. Because companies required background checks on all workers before employment, close to sixty percent of Temp agencies went out of business after 9/11.

As a cost cutting measure in some buildings due to the recession, some maintenance positions were phased out and replaced with cleaning crews run by independent contractors. Who were on these independent contractors’ crews? Hispanic and Eastern European men who often work for lower wages than African-American men. Building owners preferred hiring men from these groups because they didn’t have to pay for expensive benefits like unemployment insurance, pensions and health care. Since these men were independent subcontractors of the independent contractor, they weren’t working directly for the building owner like the African-American men who worked for unions and weren’t entitled to benefits guaranteed to black men under federal employment law. Worse, Many White managers and executives felt they were more “comfortable” around Hispanic and Eastern European Men and decided it was more beneficial to their business to hire them instead of black men.

Other back-office clerical positions once held by black men like office assistant and file clerk were consolidated with the Administrative Assistant position or the Customer Service/Sales position. Unlike the older jobs, these new consolidated positions often required higher education such as an Associate’s Degree, something many black men do not have. In addition to the higher education requirements most of these new positions often required public interaction and heavy phone work. Because of this public interaction component, most employers preferred filling them with Black women, Hispanic women, Hispanic men or Eastern Europeans, a double whammy for black males. A third strike against black men is that it’s often more beneficial for business owners to hire females of color because it allows them to show how diverse they are by filling two minority slots with one person.

As a result of these shifts in the American job market a large majority of black men have found themselves long-term unemployed. Many brothers couldn’t find jobs similar to the ones they had before because technology rendered them obsolete or because the jobs they had no longer existed. Others couldn’t find similar positions due to new consolidated positions in the job market requiring higher education and more advanced skills. (Many black men do not have college degrees, 7 in 10 black men do not have a high school diploma) Other positions black men used to find employment in were filled at a lower wage by black women Hispanics, or men of other ethnicities.

Almost a decade after 9/11 there’s a crisis in the black community. 80 percent of Black men are unemployed, in some urban areas, this number is close to ninety percent. Seven in ten Black men who are unemployed do not have a high school diploma; many more have no idea have no idea how to use a computer. If educated brothers and sisters don’t step up and help black men work their way out of this employment crisis, it could cripple the overall economy of the black community for decades to come.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Black Friday Ebay Auction -Autographed Copies Of My Books To The Highest Bidder!

Here's the information on the Black Friday Ebay Auction.

I'll autograph all three copies of my books with a message of the winner's choice  and gift box the books in an attractive package for Holiday giving.

Here's what the lucky winner will recieve in the gift box:

 ISBN: 978-1589392366

In the aftermath of a horrible tragedy, Isis the long-lost daughter of Osiris, has committed a heinous crime. Because she didn't receive guidance from her father, the elder gods show mercy on the young goddess by stripping her of her powers and imprisoning her on an uncharted island in the South Pacific.

Osiris and Isis reunite with his long-lost child to begin the difficult process of establishing a familial relationship. Hoping to guide Isis towards the greater destiny she's supposed to fulfill, her parents begin teaching her the ways of the gods. However, Seth's herald E'steem lurks in the shadows offering the young goddess freedom for a price. Caught in the middle of a never-ending war between the gods, Isis must choose to either return to the troubled world she knows all too well, or take a journey down an unknown path where faith is her only guide.

 The Cassandra Cookbook
 ISBN 978-1-60264-229-4

Cassandra Lee’s lifelong dream is to take over the Downtown Brooklyn bakery with her name on it when her parents retired. Her dream turns into a nightmare near the eve of her wedding when she learns corporate giant ITC Foods has plans for the store and her low down down low fiancĂ© Gerald is caught in the arms of another man.

Cassandra perseveres, acting as her parents’ agent working with ITC rep Simon James to complete the deal. As their professional relationship gets personal, Simon reveals a secret that devastates Cassandra. Sending Cassandra over the edge, Simon must come up with a plan to heal her broken heart and make her dreams come true.

All About Marilyn
 ISBN: 978-0-615-34258-0

Marilyn Marie is desperate to break away from Nikki Desmond, the rich spoiled rotten character she played on the hit 1990's teen sitcom All About Nikki. Scraping by for years on work in two-bit made-for-video productions and handouts from friends, the 34-year-old actress anxiously waits for the big break that will jump start her stalled career. Tragically it comes on the set of the movie SELL OUT when she's attacked by Hollywood's current it girl Tabatha Strong.

While recovering in the hospital, Marilyn prepares for the greatest role of her life: Being herself. However, the ghost of Nikki Desmond continues to haunt her as she travels to New York City with a new face and a new lease on life. Eager to move on, Marilyn realizes she must reconcile with her troubled television past if she wants to have a future in the real world.

This is a rare opportunity for a lucky reader to get a complete set of titles from me personalized with my autograph and a personalized message. Surprise a friend or loved one with a very unique gift from an obscure, self-published author that may become a rare collector's item one day. Hey, it's better than giving someone a sweater! Each copy will be brand new, unread and crisp as it came off the printing press. Each of these books retail from $12.95-$14.95 at online retailers unsingned. You can get the whole set in this auction for a song!

Shipping will be $4.00 for the set. I only accept payments via PayPal and  payment is due three days after the end of the auction. Good luck!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shawn's Experience in New York City Public Schools

I am a survivior of the New York City Public School System.

It took me five years to finish high school. Yes, Shawn is a super-senior.

And I almost dropped out of school twice. At the end of 1989 and again towards the Summer of 1991.

But my struggles in the classroom started in Junior High.

Before Junior High I was reading above grade level and on grade level in math.

But in Junior high I started to fall apart. IS 148, the Juinior High I attended was an anarchistic environment with no rules, structure, or support systems; a place where children are tossed into the wild with minimal supervision. It was a place where indifference and apathy were the norm from faculty and fights and violence between students were almost an everyday thing. Instead of finding an environment where I’d be encouraged to pursue my education and actualize my potential, I spent every day there struggling to survive.

As I fell through the academic cracks at IS 148, I didn’t get the preparation I needed for High School. Even though I got good grades in Junior High, the curriculum used by the Board of Education at the time wasn’t comprehensive enough. The coursework at the time didn’t teach pre-algebra or introduce me to the novel and literary concepts such as irony, foreshadowing contrast and symbolism, essentials for any student seriously planning on finishing high School or preparing for college.

After I managed to survive to graduation of IS 148 in 1987, I ran into a wall starting my first semester at Park West High School. During that semester of High School I felt overwhelmed because the coursework was far more complicated than what I was used to. In the first semester I failed Math and English classes and struggled with Science and Global Studies classes. Over the course of that freshman year I was absent over 27 days and cut classes regularly to avoid fights and rumored violence from the Decepticons, a gang that terrorized Manhattan public schools.

I spent my sophomore year at Park West in the SOAR (Students On Absentee Roster) program. In that program with support services and a team environment, I did manage to get my grades back up and earned most of my credits. However, while I was making some academic progress in the first semester and my grades rebounded I had a hard time in the second semester of the program. Many of the supportive teachers and counselors left the program and were replaced by new staff who practiced the apathetic practices of Resentment, Resistance, and Racism.

In addition to academic struggles in that second semester, I was still having a hard time because it just wasn’t safe to go to school. During that time the crack epidemic was in full swing, and many of the hoods who roamed the halls were either drug dealers or connected to drug dealers. Any small beef with a hood working with a drug dealer or drug posse could cost a young brother his life. It was hard to for me to concentrate on classwork because I worried about someone wanting to start some beef over something silly like not having a girlfriend, not standing right, not wearing the right clothes,or wearing the right clothes and worrying about someone wanting to jump you afterschool, speaking articulately, or trying to get good grades. In my best attempts to survive in that hostile territory I tried to appease my peers by conforming to their standards. Unfortunately, in my attempts to fit in, my grades slipped again.

After I left the SOAR program in June 1989, I spent so much time worrying about my safety at Park West the following fall I was having anxiety attacks. In November of 1989 after was assaulted on a subway ride home by a gang of teens, my grades which were strong at the start of the semester fell off and I became depressed. I started skipping school for days and sometimes weeks. By December 1989 I had been written off by my indifferent guidance counselor at Park West and was about to give up on myself.

Because of problems I was having with other black males (and some females) at Park West, I had to transfer to Taft High school in 1990. Developing a war strategy to deal with the extreme environment of public high school I took my own education in my own hands. I cut off all social contact with my classmates and focused on my classswork. I didn’t trust my guidance counselor and kept track of my credits, and state exams. I got my grade point average up to 80-90 level at Taft from the 65-75 average it was in Park West. I even made the Honor roll a couple of times. Thankfully by June 1992 I passed all the classes I needed to graduate and marched with the class of 1992. I still can’t do algebra for crap, but I have my diploma.

Now that I’m older, I’m not ashamed to admit that it took me an extra year to get my High School diploma. With the support of my family I was encouraged to stay in school that fifth year at Taft and get my diploma instead of a GED. While I managed to survive high school, I understand that many other young brothers in the black community today aren’t as blessed.

I wanted to share my story with those brothers so they’d be encouraged to continue working towards their diplomas. I want them to understand it’s okay if they have to take an extra year or even two or three years in high school. I want them to understand it’s okay if they’re struggling with subjects or with social stuff in school and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. I want them to understand that others faced the problems they’re facing in school right now and they aren’t alone.

I also wanted to share my story so other brothers and sisters can understand the numerous obstacles young black males face on their journey through the educational system. Many older brothers and sisters are insensitive to the problems young black males currently face in school with peer pressure and academic struggles. They think because their sons are teenagers that they’re grown men when it’s not the case. From the ages of eleven to eighteen black males are extremely vulnerable to the influences of their peers and the media. It’s during this period when young brothers need even more guidance and support to navigate the dangerous courses of High School and Adolescence.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who Pays When Black Males Drop Out of School

Who Pays When Black Males Drop Out Of School?

When young Black males drop out of school, they either they wind up in the prison system, unemployed, or they’re underemployed in low-wage jobs. Who pays the cost for supporting these brothers when they can’t function in society? We all do.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $60,000-$300,000 for the court costs to process a young black male through the legal system and take him to trial.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of high school and wind up in the legal system taxpayers have to fund the costs to book and process them through the judicial system and the cost of a jury trial. In most cases taxpayers have to pay for their defense because they can’t afford an attorney.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $280,000 to house and feed an inmate in a prison facility for four years.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of high school and wind up in prison it costs taxpayers $70,000 a year to house and feed them as inmates in the prison system.

It costs $120,000 for the college education for a black male. It costs taxpayers $360,000 to take care of a black father’s children on welfare for five years. It costs taxpayers another $360,000 to pay for them if they have a welfare case as well.

When seven of ten black males drop out of high school and they have kids, they can’t pay child support. Taxpayers wind up taking care of their children when they get a welfare case. Moreover, taxpayers wind up taking care of them when they wind up a welfare case.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $12,000 a year for the Federal Government to take care of a black male who winds up on SSI due to drug abuse, mental illness or alcoholism. It also costs an additional $25,000-$35,000 a year to pay for their aftercare such as drug rehabilition, Mental health counseling, and medication to deal with their various disorders.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of school and wind up addicted to illegal drugs and alcohol, Taxpayers wind up taking care of them with Supplementary Security Income payments because they’re disabled and unable to work. Taxpayers also pay for medical care for these brothers such as drug rehab and mental health counseling with Medicaid.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $60,000 a year to house a black male in section 8 housing for five years.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of school and are unable to find jobs that pay a living wage it’s up to taxpayers to cover the costs of their Section 8 Vouchers so they can have a place to stay.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $5,000-$10,000 a year to pay for a single black male on Food Stamps.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of school and are unable to find jobs that pay a living wage it’s up to taxpayers to cover the costs of Food Stamps so they can have food to eat.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $10,000 a year to pay for the basic health care costs of a black male on Medicaid.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of school and are unable to receive health care at a place of employment, it’s up to taxpayers to fund their health insurance through Medicaid or other government funded programs.

It costs $120,000 for the college education of a black male. It costs taxpayers $70,000 a person to take care of a black male in need of homeless services.

When seven out of ten black males drop out of school and fall into extreme poverty, it’s up to taxpayers churches, and the community to help support them until they get back on their feet.

Some brothers get a few of these benefits. Many get all of them. Add up the costs of black males who drop out of school receiving a combination of government benefits over the course of five, ten or fifteen years and the loss to society is astronomical. Instead of these brothers paying taxes into the system, they’re taking money out of it. Instead of them bringing money into the black community’s economy, revenues are stagnant in communities of color. The poverty black male dropouts remain in cost all of America billions of dollars a year.

Imagine if those seven brothers who dropped out of school finished college and got jobs or started small businesses. They’d be bringing billions of dollars in revenue into the black community. They’d be improving the quality of life for all brothers and sisters and helping to rebuild the economic base for the entire black community.

Long-term the entire black community suffers as brothers, fathers, and sons don’t discover their talents and actualize their potential. When black males don’t graduate, the community loses potential doctors, lawyers, police officers, scientists, and other professionals who could contribute to improving the quality of life in Black America.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Why So Many Black Males Drop Out Of School

In the age of Barack Obama, the first African-American President, the dropout rate among black males is 70 percent in cities like New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia and over fifty percent nationwide. While each brother who drops out has his own reason for leaving school, I’m gonna break down some of the reasons why so many brothers feel like they have to leave school before they get their diplomas.

As a brother who struggled through Middle School and High School, I can tell readers attending classes from Middle School onward in the inner-city is a game of survival. It’s hard for brothers to concentrate on studies when they have to navigate a war zone of thugs, gangstas, pedophiles, and drug dealers. In this hostile environment black males receive no support from apathetic faculty who practice a policy of Resentment, Resistance and Racism towards them. Nor do they receive support at home from indifferent parents and family members who see no value in an education in their son’s lives.

The main reason many black males quit school is because they don’t feel safe. Even with metal detectors and an army of security guards, most middle and high schools are still a danger zone full of predators. Drug dealers and street hoods prowl the streets around the school grounds terrorizing young brothers trying to get an education. Gangs like the Crips, and Bloods intimidate and harass young brothers in their recruitment efforts in and out of school. Sometimes these criminals work with school security to sneak weapons and drugs into school buildings through side doors and windows. Vulnerable brothers targeted by these thugs suffer silently and feel powerless because they can’t get any help from indifferent counselors, deans, and angry parents who enforce rules on them for defending themselves but do nothing to discipline predators who harass them. Feeling trapped in a hostile environment most young black males either join the gangs who bully them for protection or drop out to avoid being confronted by them.

As they navigate the dangerous hallways to get to class black males receive no support or encouragement in the classroom. On the achievement side of the grading scale, Brothers who do well in school are under constant pressure from their peers to conform to false stereotypes about their black identity by acting ignorant. Mocked by their lost and confused classmates for “Acting White” many young brothers don’t push as hard for academic excellence like their sisters do. Unaware of the historical roots of the impact of education on Black America, many young overachieving brothers follow a false path of “reality” made up of propaganda from the streets and forsake the road to success taken by our Slave ancestors. As brothers try to conform to the false “real” identity of being “Black”, they cut classes, and skip classwork. While they “keep it real” by hanging out with the fellas in the street and the girls on the corners, many wind up so far behind at school that they become frustrated and drop put.

On the other end of the grading spectrum brothers who need extra help to get on grade level are met with cold indifference or hostility from teachers in the classroom. Some teachers have no idea that many black males with poor grades often struggle with learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD and literacy issues. As they become more resentful towards black males who have a hard time with their classwork they often respond with resistance by ignoring failing black males, dismissing them, or writing them off. As brothers react to being mistreated by teachers they express their anger by cutting school and being absent for months at a time. Eventually, these brothers become so far behind in their classwork they become discouraged and stop coming to school.

When black males need help navigating their courseloads for the semester, they often run into more resistance and resentment from apathetic guidance counselors who have low expectations of them. Instead of working with young brothers so they’ll take subjects that challenge them academically, indifferent guidance counselors schedule them for classes that meet the minimum requirements for graduation. Usually this limited schedule doesn’t have enough depth to allow black males to see the value of a good education or the fun of learning. Instead of helping brothers plan a course for college, they help them plan a course towards a GED. By expecting so little of black males, these indifferent counselors create a self-fulfilling prophecy where black males give up on working towards their diplomas and give up on themselves.

At home and in the neighborhood the lack of support black males receive at school is compounded by parents, siblings, friends and relatives who also practice Resentment, Resistance and Racism. Some brothers and sisters in the black community who didn’t graduate are resentful of a young black male’s opportunity to get an education. Using passive-aggressive behaviors, these jealous individuals sabotage young black males attending school with resistant tactics. These include ridiculing and mocking black males for doing well in school, questioning their “black” identity and sexuality, dismissing important school events, “forgetting” to sign permissions slips for class trips or not showing up for important meetings with teachers or counselors about grades or college. Combined with the lack of support brothers receive at school, this malicious treatment at home discourages many brothers from persevering about pursuing their education when crises arise.

In addition to the mistreatment brothers face on the streets, some parents are so afraid of being embarrassed about their son’s learning disabilities that they don’t go out and get help for them. Because of this shame, a lot of brothers suffer in silence as they struggle with dyslexia, ADHD and reading comprehension issues. This situation becomes more exacerbated in Middle school as black males run into more complex classwork and reaches a tragic climax in high school when young black males fall completely apart in the face of complicated subjects like algebra and interpreting novels. As they fail and get further behind they get frustrated and drop out.

Worse, in some households academic achievement isn’t an expectation for young black males. Instead of encouraging young black males to do well in school some parents have given up on their sons. Instead of helping brothers struggling with subjects or learning disabilities they verbally abuse and belittle their sons. Even more are encouraged to drop out by parents and family members who view education as something foolish, “White”, or irrelevant. Sadly some black parents today actually expect their sons to do prison time at some point in their lives instead of expecting them to finish high school or pursue higher learning.

Due to this lack of support and encouragement regarding academic achievement a majority of black males feel alone in school. With no one in the institutionally racist educational system to see a value in them, they aren’t able to see the value of a good education. With no one in the neighborhood understanding Black history enough to tell young brothers how African-Americans have used education as one of the tools to overcome oppression and achieve financial independence throughout history, many lost and confused brothers have no idea they’re forsaking a historically proven road to success. Unless efforts are made to provide support for brothers to keep them in school, many more lost and confused black males will continue wander in the inner-city wildernesses of the poverty, prison, and poor-paying jobs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Crisis in Education- 7 Out of 10 Black Men Do Not Finish High School

Seven out of ten black men in New York City do not have:

Currently, here in New York City, only 28 percent of African-American males finish high school. This means 72 percent of brothers who start High School don’t graduate.

How does this affect the black community? Do the math:

The prison population is 70 percent African-American Males in the state of New York.

Unemployment is 80 percent among African-American men in New York City.

Most jobs today require an Associate Degree or higher education.

Only 5 percent of black males are enrolled in college nationwide since 2008.

Correlate the numbers in the statistics with what’s going on in the streets and they show a tragic pattern of what’s happening to black men who don’t graduate high school.

What’s more disturbing about these statistics are how the numbers have actually gotten WORSE since when I first started High School back in 1987. Back then, the dropout rate among black males was fifty percent. And that was during one of the worst periods in the history of education.

In that age I dealt with apathetic teachers, indifferent guidance counselors, predatory drug dealing thugs roaming the halls, and a crack pandemic happening outside on the streets. Public school was a war zone most brothers like me struggled to survive in. But somehow back then two more black men finished high school then than today. In this age of education reform and increasing standards, I’m wondering how the graduation numbers actually getting worse among black men than over 21 years ago.

What’s causing brothers to give up on school? Could it be the proliferation of a gangsta culture in the black community that sees fast money and crime as the symbol of success? Could it be the infestation of West Coast gangs like the Crips and Bloods in New York City Public Schools and inner-city neighborhoods? Could it be the propaganda of street/ urban Lit /Scarface glamorizing a life of crime? Could it be the lack of older, educated brothers available to provide role models and mentors for young black males? Could it be the African-American community no longer values education and sees it as “white”? Is it a lack of standards? Is it a lack of expectations or no expectations from black parents regarding black boys? Is it a lack of funding for public schools? Seriously, what’s causing brothers to stop pursuing their educations these days?

Something is clearly wrong with the way schools are teaching African-American males. If 7 of 10 white males were dropping out of high school and winding up in prison or unemployed, there’d be a Federal inquiry into why the education system was failing students and a complete overhaul of the education process across the country.

But when it comes to brothers, apathy has been the course of action over the past 20 years and continues to be the course of action today from black leaders. I don’t hear a word from the NAACP, The Urban League or even black churches regarding the struggles of black males in the educational system in a public forum. The silence of the black community is disturbing in the face of a crisis that could impact brothers and sisters for decades.

As a former student of the public schools in New York City, I can tell readers first hand that instead of being taught Reading Writing and Arithmetic, black males trying to get an education continue to be met with:

Resentment, from teachers who view black males as a threat instead of students in need of support or academic assistance,

Resistance, from guidance counselors and administrators in middle and high schools when they seek to resolve learning issues, conflicts with other students, or plan to pursue higher education,

and Racism, from academic institutions and a community that expects little of black males in terms of achievement.

Many young brothers feel there’s no value in a high school diploma because they don’t feel valued in school.

Worse, they don’t see a value in a High school diploma. Twenty years a high school diploma was the ticket to a career or a full-time job. Today it’ll get you into college. For a lot of brothers who struggle in school with resentment, resistance and racism, college not an incentive to finish High School. For them, it’s four more frustrating years of academic struggle, a huge debt load and no promises of middle-class employment. Many are giving up because they don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the face of such a large majority of black males dropping out of high school, the value of a high school diploma has to be redefined in the black community. There has to be more of an incentive for black males earning a high school diploma than college or a job. Black men need to be shown that knowledge is power and how knowledge empowers them to change their lives. If more brothers understood the value of a good education and how it applied to their daily lives, 7 out of 10 brothers would graduate high school instead of dropping out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Monroe College Bookstore Booksigning

Today  I went to the Monroe College Bookstore book sigining to promote my books and talk to students about self-publishing. It was a big event; the bookstore was crowded with students and alumni eager to learn how to publish their own books. I could feel of energy and enthusiasm from everyone, Monroe students are the best!

Kimarah is on the right, the big guy hawking the three books  is me.

I finally got to meet Kimarah Issac, the author of Determination, Hard Work, and Support Equal Success. Very nice woman, very hard working, very passionate. She’s sold 50 copies of her book in just a few months! I see a big future for her as a writer, she is one amazing businesswoman. Man she knows how to sell a crowd!

Me and my books Kimarah, her books and her self-publishing tips poster. A great promotional tool! 

I had a great time hanging out with the students; I wish the event was a little longer so I could have gone in depth about self publishing There's so much to learn; and I only had a hour. Time flew by!  

At the signing we gave books to the first students coming to the bookstore. I signed copies of all three of my titles, (Wish I had time to take pics but a brotha was signing books!) Out of my three titles Isis was the hot pick again; strangely with Cassandra and Marilyn coming in second among the college crowd. I wonder how The Temptation of John Haynes and All About Nikki would have fared if I had them ready for publication.

I’d love to do another signing in the future. Gonna keep working hard behind the scenes to get another signing at another venue. Until then I’m gonna work on my presentation skills. I got tongue tied a couple of times and froze in some spots during the presentation on self-publishing. I’m usually better than that when I’m doing a presentation; I’m sure the more I work on it the better I’ll get at it.

Oh yeah, and I’ll remember to bring someone with me so I can get MORE PICS!

The next promotional event for me is the Black Friday Auction on Ebay where I offer a set of autographed copies of my books. The highest bidder gets to pick the messages that go in all three books!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

100th Blog Extravaganza! (Okay, a progress report, but I'm still celebrating)

Welcome to the 100th post of Shawn James, Black Freelance Writer! I want to thank all the readers who stayed with me since 2006, and thanks to all the new readers who have started reading this blog over the past year for supporting this page.

This blog has grown so much over the past year. Last month had the most readers than in any time of the history of the blog. I actually had over 1,000 hits! One of my goals was to expand my web presence and I met that goal this year. I’m hoping to continue building an audience of readers over the next year and I’m gonna work hard to keep that momentum going.

Thanks to this page, more readers know about my books than in the history of my writing career. I'm hoping everyone continues to help me get the word out about my books and my writing; I have much more material I'd like to share with readers.

I’ve grown so much over the past year as a writer; I’ve gone from publishing with a POD publisher to publishing titles on my own. I can actually put together a page layout form start to finish, and design a cover in Photoshop. I’m releasing articles on a regular schedule. My productivity is finally back to where it was in 2004 when I was writing 1,000+ words a day.

On the promotion side, I’m networking with writers. I’m networking with readers. I’m doing shows like the Harlem Book Fair. Getting the word out about my books. I never thought I’d be doing stuff like this back in 2002 when Isis came out.

Gonna do my first book signing this week at the Monroe College Bookstore. I’m gonna try to have pics of that event for everyone in a future blog.

Around Black Friday I’ll be offering an autographed set of Isis, The Cassandra Cookbook, and All About Marilyn on Ebay, with a piece of original art by me or an Isis T-shirt thrown in. I’d love to do two sets, one where the proceeds are donated to charity, the other for promotional purposes. If the response is good I’ll do more in the future.

The winner of the auction can have a personal message written in each of the books. So if you want a special one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one or yourself, check out the auction that’ll be coming up on November 27th.

For the next hundred blogs and thereafter, I’m going to continue providing a mix of content about writing, publishing and discussing issues about the African-American community. I’ll also continue promoting my self-published books and art.

Work wise, I’m gonna be busy cleaning up The Temptation of John Haynes for the next two months getting it ready for its January 2011 release. I’m working hard on some great articles; next week will start a series about the high dropout rate among African-American males.

Again everybody, thanks for your support.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Cover Story*

In the past some have complained about the art on my book covers. I’ve been told by this minority of critics my cover art turns them off. As a part of my continuing quest to improve quality control on my books, I commissioned some art for Book #4’s cover by a professional artist.

Unfortunately, the art I commissioned for the cover was unusable. I paid $400 for an illustration that looks like a hybrid of Crispus Attucks from the Golden Legacy comics and the Cream of Wheat Man posing with Clarice “Precious” Jones in a prom photo. Yeah, it was that bad. Worse, it didn’t tell my story or accurately fit the descriptions of the characters in the novel. How the artist got that interpretation from my concept art and my instructions I don’t know.

Because of this screw up, I’m going to have to use my own art for this cover. If anyone doesn’t like it they're just going to have to deal with it.

I’m not a big-time publisher with a $50,000 budget. I’m an unemployed brother doing his best to self-publish books with my limited savings. I pencil, ink and color the covers of my books because it’s the only way I can afford to tell the story I want to tell. Now I know my art skills aren’t top notch, but I put as much heart and craft into these pieces as I do into my stories.

Sure I could use a stock photo for my covers. But I feel that's lazy. Readers who take the time to buy my books deserve something better on the cover than some second-hand picture that’s being used someone’s yard sale flyer or company brochure. To me, stock photos show how much a writer doesn’t care about the audience. Besides, has anyone really tried looking for African-American images at shutterstock, or any other stock photo places? It’s easier to search for a needle in a haystack.

Before readers judge my books by the covers, they need to understand how much work goes into them. It took over 40 drawings before I had a pair that was suitable enough to put on the All About Marilyn cover and 10 drawings before I had one I thought was suitable enough for The Cassandra Cookbook cover. Only on the Isis cover did I knock it out with one drawing. And it wasn’t perfect either.

 With that said, this is the rough art for Book #4:

Yes, I know the art looks like crap. I Did my best to clean it up in Photoshop. I'm still trying to draw something better. And no, this isn't the final cover. Yet.   

Now I’m working on refining this concept. But this may be final art if I can’t do any better. It’s been a pain in the ass mixing those damn browns and peaches to create medium and light African-American skintones. Seriously, I don’t want to deal with that darkskin/lightskin nonsense I ran into with The Cassandra Cookbook cover. I’m not colorstruck and I don’t give a crap what color people are in real life. I’m doing my damndest to translate the words I wrote into images on the paper.

And yeah I’m struggling with anatomy. Yeah, I know E’steem’s hand isn’t proportional to her head size. And her neck is too long. And that arm is…screwed up. But it’s the best I can do right now.

This is my art style. It’s unique to my books. It tells my stories and captures the spirit of my characters. It’s not perfect but it allows my books to stand out. It makes them more competitive than something generic and half-assed like this:

Is it a novel or a Zagat guide? Generic covers like this don't give readers an incentive to buy fiction.
Seriously, this only took me 10 minutes in Photoshop. I'd like to think I can do better than this.

For all those who complain: If you can draw another cover, or are willing to pay for another commission by another artist then talk to me.  If not shut up. If you're not going to be part of the solution, then please don't be part of the problem. I don't need the headaches.
* Note: The planned article about the 70 percent drop-out rate among black men has run into some...delays. It'll be up next week. Still need to do some research and clean up some paragraphs. It's an article that means a lot to me and I want it to be great.