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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Healing the racial divide



I've always been the type of person that could see the best in people.  Sometimes, I couldn't help but see the worse in them...especially when they make it easy to see.  I don't know where or when I adopted the ideology that all people were created equal and that there was no need for racial hatred or bigotry.  A part of me believes that this was taught to me by my mother.  Another part of me believes that this was something that I just adopted into my persona because the idea simply worked for me.
Every few years, like clockwork, you can anticipate that a situation will come to light that will have many people standing beside water coolers across the country talking; perhaps taking a stance on how they feel as either African American or European American people.  And the one thing that I come away with each and every time is that the racial divide is at times so deep and entrenched in American culture, I seriously doubt if it can ever be truly eradicated.

Perhaps one thing that can lead towards healing the divide that runs so deep in our society is to understand what it's like to be a part of the race that you don't understand.  Of course, it may help if you have the desire to truly want to understand what it really feels like to be black or white in America today as well as what it was like to exist in either race years ago.  There's a saying that in order to know where you are going, you have to understand where you came from.  It's knowing your history inside and out that will keep you from making the same mistakes that others before you have made.

Many people understand the history of blacks and whites without comprehending the emotional aspect of how it is for anyone that falls outside of their scope of living.  Being black didn't just mean that you used to live in the ghetto or was regarded as a second class citizen just like being white didn't translate to being regarded as a part of an affluent group of people, although it really depends on who you speak to.

The history of Black America as we see it is steeped in repression, subjugation and discrimination.  This is not distorting reality; it is a fact.  As a result, you have many African Americans that have been directly or indirectly impacted by these realities that still occur within our society although not as overt as it did just 30 years ago.  Some people would want to put the ugliness of that history in the past and leave it there with the reasoning that we can't heal or move forward until that very thing has been done.  But the problem with that thought process is that the history has not been addressed.  Dismissing it doesn't erase the pain that is still present in the hearts of many African Americans.  We feel that pain in everything that we do...from finding a job, to finding suitable housing to having equal opportunities to excel in the workplace.

On the other side of the coin are the liberal Americans who did not go through the darker sections of the history of this country.  They believe that everything is great and don't understand why blacks are holding onto past injustices.  After all, strides have been made.  Attitudes have changed.  There are more African Americans appearing in boardrooms across the country and there is no lack of black images flooding our televisions, magazines and newspapers.  To those liberal people, we may appear ungrateful for the opportunities that are afforded us now that wasn't available to our mothers and fathers.  And those same liberals may be tired of hearing about the injustices that have been inflicted on African Americans in the past.

Read this article in its entirety on CNN iREPORTS:

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1011827?fb_action_ids=10200392983214318&fb_action_types=cnn-social%3Aupload&fb_ref=og_ireport&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In my opinion...







I am not going to regurgitate the emotions of a considerable portion of this country on what some of us believe should have happened to George Zimmerman.  In my opinion, many of us formed our opinion long before the jury came back with their verdict.

I do believe that Mr. Zimmerman was in fear of his life.  But he was in fear of his life because a young man felt threatened...threatened enough to put his hands up and defend himself.  Unfortunately, it cost him his life.  I believe that Mr. Zimmerman didn't expect for this young man to get the best of him and I also believe that he thought he had the situation in control because he was armed...something that he technically shouldn't have been given the circumstance.

We can say that this is about race, but after letting my emotions calm down just a bit, I realize that this isn't as much about race as it is about someone who took the law into his own hands.  He exercised poor judgement...very poor judgement.  Enough poor judgement that exacerbates the fact that he had no business carrying a gun in the first place.

Right now, I just want to send up prayers for the Martin family.  I also want to send up prayers for George Zimmerman.  You see, only he knows why he acted the way he did.  We don't despite what we want to believe.  And only he will have to live with that...not us.

He will remember that fateful night for the rest of his life.  I also pray that we find peace around this.  I pray that we teach our sons how the world really is and how we have to carry ourselves...and that is with pride and dignity.  Arrogance isn't desired nor required.

Hatred has never spawned anything except more hatred, and at some point, it has to end.

That's my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Writer's Megaphone shouts out author Lee Wilson

Introducing author Lee Wilson

Recently, I made the cognizant decision to step outside of my comfort zone when it comes to books that I review.  As a result, I've opened myself up to reading books that I wouldn't ordinarily pick up as my personal choice of reading material.  I can read a book objectively and ask some pertinent questions of the author that would help me make a good decision on how I review the work.  Who did the author write the book for?  Who was his/her intended audience and did they capture that audience?  Just because an author writes in a genre that you don't personally subscribe to doesn't mean that you can't be objective.

Allow me to introduce you to author Lee Wilson.  His genre is seems to be the paranormal which is a subject that I've come to know intimately.  His brief bio is as follows:

"Lee Wilson authored the best-selling novel, "The Last Hybrid: Bloodline of Angels" which was based on a dream he had as a teenager about a man who was half angel and half human. Lee is also an actor from films and television shows in addition to having spoken at the Pepperdine University Lectureships in Malibu, California.  Lee has also ghost written for celebrities and authors in magazines and books. If you would've told him in high school that he'd grow up to be an author, he probably would've laughed at you."

Author Lee Wilson
 Rather than do the traditional Q&A, I allowed Mr. Wilson to tell me about himself; and this is what he had to say:

"I wanted to play in the NBA when I was a kid. That was my dream. To this day, it hurts me to watch a basketball game. When it was clear that I wouldn't be NBA material because I wasn't six foot eight, I transitioned into my old standby, which has now become my love in the sports world, golf.
I'm fascinated by space and "alternative history." If you're not familiar with alternative history, what I mean by that is that with the pyramids of Egypt for example, a lot of archaeologists no longer believe the Egyptians built them. To do the things that the pyramids do, such as point directly to the stars in Orion's Belt and pointing true north, an advanced GPS system would have been required. There are many other details that suggest there was an advanced society and that most of those people were wiped out leading the world to begin again with technology. That stuff fascinates me!

"I smell a book before I decide if I want to read it. Each book seems to have its own smell. 

"When I'm writing I listen to music and enjoy a cup of coffee or glass of wine (the drink needs to be dark and have lots of character). I love dogs...when they're bathed regularly. LOL. 

"I believe that writing for novels should be smooth and natural and shouldn't explain too much. The characters should reveal themselves by their actions and not by the writer sharing too many of their thoughts because that's now how real life works. I'm an obsessive self-editor. Seriously, I need help!"


I've never cared about race, genre or gender.  To me, it's about a writers talent.  I hope one day to read Mr. Lee's work and provide constructive feedback.
 
To learn more about author Lee Wilson, check out  his Amazon page at the web address below:




~ J.L. Whitehead

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Writer's Megaphone shouts out author Richard Charlton Pharris Jones

One of the reasons why I created The Writer's Megaphone was to shine a light on talent where a light may not readily be made to shine.  One of the things that I've come to know about this industry is that there are so many talented people out there and each one deserves a shot at having their work recognized by their peers.  Everyone wants to have their time in the sun; or more succinctly put, their fifteen minutes of fame.  I try to give it to you in the only way I know how.  This is something that I enjoy doing...almost as much as I like to write reviews.  It especially does my heart good to give a well-deserved good one.  Now admittedly, I'm putting myself out there.  I want my own fifteen minutes of fame.  And I know that it will come.  In fact, it's already coming to me in more ways than I can imagine.

So with all of that being said, I want to shine a light on an author who has allowed me the privilege of showcasing his work on this site.  Richard Charlton Pharris Jones writes about mystery with characters that are not considered mainstream.  Gay or bi-sexuality isn't the norm even though it is in the real world, but his subject matter from what I can see gives credence to characters that can be mainstream if indeed society is ready for that.  I have not read his books...at least not yet, but I look forward to the day when I will.

Author Richard Charlton Pharris Jones
I gave him a brief Q&A and from what I can tell, he was completely honest in his responses.  See for yourself:

JLW:  What have been some of the greatest struggles that you've encountered since you've entered the literary industry?

RCPJ:   One particular struggle that I've encountered since entering the literary industry is that most publishers want street fiction or urban lit. I wouldn't say that it's the greatest struggle because it's not how I want my work viewed. I think my books thus far, Two of Hearts and TRI, have more emotional depth, the stories are certainly one-of-a-kind love triangles (Two of hearts explores polyamory) and TRI involves brother / sister fraternal twins who become romantically / sexually involved with the same man), and my characters are not drug dealers / users, pimps, or vengeful women. I suppose there is a fan base for street lit / urban fiction, but I don't think many realize that the stories are basically the same premise and the publishers are churning them out with little to no editing. Admittedly, I am not a fan of ghetto fiction or street literature. I think with the advent of rap videos, you basically see the same thing ad nauseum, and from the few books of either genre, I read the same the over and over, and basically, some people did it better, where others have failed miserably. I guess if it gets people to reading, fine, but I think it limits them to that one genre instead of introducing them to Chester Himes, August Wilson, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe. I think readers ought to expand their libraries. They are missing so much.

JLW:   What motivates you and why?

RCPJ:  I'm motivated every day to learn and write and read. That's what sets me apart from other writers or authors. I'm constantly reading everything from the LA Times to Soap Opera Digest to the local weekly magazines to biographies and true crime fiction. I had an English teacher once tell me to read everything that interests you and then read everything that doesn't. It will make you a better writer. I've never been motivated by money, so I'm strictly an artist in the sense who is motivated by what my readers' enjoy. I'm motivated to bring up those behind me as a mentor because I've had some people in my life who've taught me what I know and I'll always be appreciative for what they've taught me. I'm motivated every day to be the person God created me to be...loving, creative, and as uncensored as I can be without hurting anyone's feelings!




JLW:  Name three things that no one knows about you that you don't mind revealing in this forum.

RCPJ:  Three things that no one knows about me that I don't mind revealing: I'm pretty much an open book with those whom I allow close to me. I love collecting black male super hero action figures, that I love to read and travel and that I'm opinionated. I suppose one thing I could reveal is that I'm a voyeur. Standing in the background and not intruding, you can learn so much by examining the dynamics between people. I like to look at how they physically, as well as verbally, communicate with one another. The second thing I will reveal is that I am really a hopeful romantic, despite my dismal relationship track record. Before I become too set in my ways, I think it would be great to enter into a long-term relationship that's encouraging, supportive, creative, and passionate. My last significant relationship was in 1997, and that lasted all of six months, I just turned 46 so I'm way over due for some good lovin'! Thirdly, anyone will tell you I'm attracted to intelligence first and foremost, as well as a sense of humor. It doesn't take much to impress, not that anyone should go out their way, but put some effort into being who God created you to be. 

JLW:  Why did you select the genre that you write in?

RCPJ:  Without preaching to the choir, I just may add some depth to a character who may be bi-sexual, or may be infected with HIV or Aids. It's not the sum total of who they are, but it certainly helps the reader to understand why these characters do what they do. I give them shades of gray so as not to surprise the reader at the end with a plot twist. I try to lay the groundwork either emotionally or physically. I also look at sibling and parental relationships and how they inform a character's present state of mind. There may be some unresolved issues that can drive plenty of story. The type of stories and characters I write are organically created. I see a situation and think to myself, romantic triangles have been done to death in film, television, and books, always two guys and a girl, two women and a dude, but never have seen a brother and sister act involved with the same guy as I wrote about in my 2nd novel TRI! I thought it was an interesting twist on an old formula. With Inanna, I reached back to the Greek tragedies. She was essentially a victim of her own hubris, and consequently, that leads to an unspeakable tragedy. Unfortunately, it causes turmoil with her fraternal twin brother and the man they both share! Also, I don't think I went out of my way to choose this particular genre, as I incorporate some heightened drama (soap opera-ish), true crime elements, as well as erotica into my novels. Most of the books I've reviewed over the years has this 'woe is me' feel to it and I'm quite sure most people cannot relate. They can relate to an all-consuming passion, they can relate to loving someone they know is totally wrong for them, they can relate to feeling unworthy to someone who is deemed too beautiful to approach, and they can relate to those demons (drugs / alcohol / low self-esteem) that drives even the most sane individuals into doing the most insane things in the name of love.



JLW:  What is next for Richard Charlton Pharris Jones?

RCPJ:  Grad is certainly next on Richard Charlton Pharris Jones' agenda, as well as editing his third novel, King of Hearts, a sequel to his first novel, Two of Hearts, which is told from the obsessive stalker's point-of-view, and writing his fourth novel, Pretty Boyz, which involves a clique of male erotic dancers who garners the unwanted attention of a possible serial killer in Los Angeles, and expanding his travel roster to Spain and Switzerland. 




So there you have it.  Here is an author that isn't afraid to push the envelope and give you something different.  I hope to have the opportunity to review his work.

Best of luck to you Mr. Pharris Jones.  Although I believe that luck will have nothing to do with your success!




~ J.L. Whitehead

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Family" by J.L. Whitehead







Family





She taught me about love...first your God, then yourself, then your people.
She instilled in us wisdom, hope and pride.
Lessons to be learned, both in class and out.
How the world can be as well as how it really is.

Each of you, different from the other as air is to water,
and yet one cannot exist without the other.
Isn't that how they determine where life resides?

I used to listen to you playing,
and then you were joking,
and then you were laughing.

And in a time too short, you grew up on me.
You grew up so fast in fact, that I never got the chance to tell you,
how proud I am of you.
How you've been more than brother to me.

How through the laughter,
...and anger
...and fighting
...and tears,
we were one...forever and always.

And here's the funny part,
what we have supersedes religion,race and ethnicity.
In fact, it even outshines our blackness.

But it doesn't supersede who we are, where we came from or where we're going.
Because its very existence...what makes us who we are,
begins and ends with family
...and there's nothing like it.

~ J.L. Whitehead