Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Xmas Everyone!

Just wanted to take time to say Merry Xmas to everyone. For 2009, I have a few specific things I need to get accomplished:

1. My agent is now shopping my next non fiction book. We'll know if it sells after New Years. If it does, I'll be spending the next nine months or so researching and writing it.

2. I'm in the middle of my latest rewrite of THE BESTSELLERS. Hopefully, it will be done before the end of January.

3. I'm also in the middle of writing my next novel. I've put SLAVERYLAND on the backburner, even though it's more than half done. Instead, I started writing my former script, DAISY SUNSHINE, as a novel. It works wonderfully. That's something I hope will be done by mid February.

4. And I don't know if I've mentioned this in the past, but I'd been searching for an artist to collaborate with on a comic strip I'd worked on during film school. I finally found a great one and my strip should debut in January.

5. Lastly, I'm going to pitch a couple of shows to TV One and the Food Network.

That's it. My mission for 2009 is to not get distracted and concentrate on my writing goals. They're pretty easy to accomplish, if I keep my mind organized and focused.

Again, Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Blank Page...

There's something beautiful about a blank Final Draft page. Before you type, you think about the story you're going to tell, obviously, but there's more. You think about how your script is going to sell for thousands, get made by the best people in the biz, and then win every award known to the human race.

But I've got to resist the urge to start typing on that blank page. For the latest rewrite of The Bestsellers, I'm doing a long and detailed sketch of every aspect of my characters and their motivations throughout the script. If there's one thing UCLA taught me was that I can write a damn solid structual script. My characters hit their marks, just like an actor hits their marks. But what I need work on is knowing why my characters are doing what they're doing. For this script to work and the ICM agent to like it 100%, I better have characters that not only walk along the plot, but have a reason for going on the walk. Think the Wizard of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road. We all know the way to the Wizard, but that's not important. What is important is the motivation each has for GOING to the Wizard. Everything else are just obstacles. Maybe when I'm rich and famous, my book on scripts will be called The Yellow Brick Road? Nice. Then again, it's 4am and I'm rambling. I should sleep.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Nice news...

As I said before, I'm taking my time on both my rewrite of The Bestsellers and my book proposal. I sent my agent the book proposal overview and he really liked the tone. So far, so good. I'm going to continue to work on it and make sure that it sounds as fascinating as I think it is.

On The Bestsellers, I had to really just let it go for a second. Then I started rethinking about the story I wanted to tell. Basically, I want a discovery story between a young woman and an older woman. But while I had the structure down pat, my characters were basically flat and unemotional. This happened because I hadn't taken the time to flesh them out so I knew what their motivations were. Your plot can be a great map, but if you don't communicate to your audience (or coverage readers) why your characters are going on that road, they simply won't care. So I thought about who my characters are and about their motivations. It's script 101, but it's easy to miss. So I'm working on this background info before I start the rewrite.

Also, I watched The Bank Job and loved it. I particularly loved the tight script and it taught be a number of things about giving the back story briefly and then getting straight to the present. I'm looking for that script because I want to analyze it for my next script.

Still writing the overview...

I'm still writing the overview to my book proposal. I told you that I'm using all deliberate speed on this. No more rushing.

Friday, November 07, 2008

This Weekend...

I'm taking meticulous care on this book proposal and I'm doing it in stages. This weekend, I'm working on a very captivating overview that WOWS, rather than just gets the story out. I have a nice topic that hasn't been done, and there's enough controversy with this book to have editors raise their eyebrows. So I'll do the overview and then send it to my agent and have him vet it. Once that's perfect, then I'll move on.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dropped off literary listserves...

For some reason, I've been a member of a ton of black literary listserves. For the most part, all they did was either a. suck up to bestselling authors on the list b. act as an endless promotion for books I'll never read. In other words, it was a constant clicking of the delete button on my laptop. In reality, it was a waste of time and resources and I haven't missed them in the least.

Book Proposal...

Right now, I'm taking a more relaxed process toward writing this next book proposal. Hate to say, but I can't say what it's about. But coming from a writer who wrote a book about porn, let's say this is controversial too. One thing I can say is that this next book will break me out of the black book genre. Writing about African American topics is both interesting and rewarding, but it's also a bit of a prison. Your boundaries are set so rigidly that it makes it difficult for an author to expand into pop culture. This next book is a book aimed straight at pop culture.

Gotta prep for a trip to Boston as I'm speaking on the 6th. Also, I'm about to start booking lecture dates for my busiest month, February.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


It looks like I will be organizing another book proposal. My hip-hop book proposal didn't sell, mainly because hip-hop books aren't really moving that many units, and there was a competing book that came out that touched on my topic. Not good. So it's back to the drawing board. I have a good idea, my agent likes it, and I think I'll take my time on it. No rushing it. I'm going to spend this month researching the topic, and THEN writing the book proposal. It's quirky and interesting, but I need to find the stories that will captivate editors.

SLAVERYLAND is still being written. I'm a bit closer to finishing and I want it done by the end of the month.

THE BESTSELLERS is one step closer. Surprise, but I need to do yet another rewrite. I'm going to have a UCLA prof I trust to take a look at it. One note was that my characters weren't very likable. I don't really like likable characters, but I better learn to create them if I want to sell a script.

More later...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Project #2...

This has actually been a great exercise. Before adding to the Slaveryland novel, I've been reading it and adding and subtracting. I really like what I've written. By the middle of next week, I hope to be done with the editing and I can start finishing it. I think I can be done by the end of the month. It was never about knowing where to go with the book, but clearing space from all of the other projects. This should be a lock to get done. Plus I'm getting itchy. I usually write a book every two years and I don't have anything coming out in 2009 yet. So I need to get to writing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Treatment done...Now on to Project #2

I sent in the treatment for the Sundance grant, and it's a pretty nice one. Too bad I didn't have time to write a script, but hopefully the treatment will impress. Now on to Project #2. Now is time to finish SLAVERYLAND, the novel I began three years ago. It's half way done, but now is the time to finish it and send it to my agent. I almost lost it because in an effort to clean up my computer, I think I mistakenly trashed my folder that had projects in progress. After a thirty second panic mode, I remembered that I'd back everything up on a portable hard drive. Crisis handled. So I'm going to concentrate on SLAVERYLAND for the next few weeks. If I can get it done by the end of October, I'll be happy.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Project #1

In an effort to become more focused, I'm eschewing the big plans and conquering them one at a time. First up: I've been informed that my pitch to the Sundance/Sloan Grant has made it to the next round. This script is called ROUND BRAIN/SQUARE WORLD and is a fictional account dealing with the futurist Buckminster Fuller. They need an eight to twelve page treatment by Wednesday, so that's what I'm writing right now. From there, they will evaluate it and then make a decision in December to see if I get the $25,000 grant. This prize is a version of the Sloan contest I entered as a grad student. I was a finalist for that contest, but didn't win. I've been intrigued by Bucky since my senior year in high school when the last class I took was an architecture class. See geodesic domes got me thinking and I've always wanted to write about him. Now here's my chance. After I write the treatment, I'll continue the research for the script.

As for The Bestsellers, I still haven't heard back from the ICM agent. I'll email her later this week. My book proposal still hasn't gained traction, which is disappointing. This is a tough market and tough economy for non fiction, so I'll just have to trust my agent to work it through the New York publishing houses.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Back blogging...

It's been a packed two weeks. I went on a week long lecture tour and then we moved, so I didn't get internet at our new place until last Thursday. But I'll be back blogging this week.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On Tour...

Hey all,

I've been on tour all week, so I haven't had time to write much. Plus, we move when I get back. I'll be starting again on Monday.

Sunday, September 07, 2008


We're in the process of moving and you never know how much crap you've bought until you have to pack it up. The same goes for writing. A few weeks ago, I started cleaning up old projects, while trying to prioritize the ones I want to concentrate on. One thing has been tripping me out. After film school, I have become LESS efficient with my writing. My brain is geared to ideas and I always have a bunch of them. But for some reason, nothing is getting done in the way I'm used to. I did concentrate on The Bestsellers from March 07 until a few weeks ago, so I have that. But I haven't been grinding like I used to. I'm going to have to think of new strategies. Now that I'm not at Icono anymore, or in grad school, I really don't have any excuses. I think some of this will be solved if my agent eventually sells my non fiction proposal. Writing non fiction is my joy. But I have a number of scripts that I want to finish or rewrite, but I need to know how The Bestsellers comes out first. I don't write as a hobby. I write to express myself and make money. So my writing priorities are put in a very distinct order. We'll see.

I'm about to head out to Virginia and North Carolina for a week long Divine Nine lecture tour. I really miss talking to students, so this will be fun. Plus, I love lecturing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Palin works both ways...

Sarah Palin has pissed me off. Okay, now it's on. This is a non shooting cultural civil war between the cynical Republicans and the party of the future, the Democrats. There's no way we can elect these destructive warmongers to another four years.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Still cleaning out and working on Harlem Treatment...

I should have a treatment that should have been done months ago, finished by the end of the day tomorrow. I'm cleaning out my old writing projects that I started and didn't finish. It's a huge job.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I've been wondering why my interest in each writing project has been somewhat muddled, meaning that I'll write a bit on this, and write a bit on that, but not really get into the weeds with anything. I think I have my solution. For the next thirty days, I'm going to do a spring cleaning. I'm going to toss the things I've stopped and started, but never finished. Next, I'm going to list out the projects that I do want to write and go back over their stories. Strengthen them. Next, I'm going to really work on the beat sheets for all of my projects, scripts and novels. By doing all of this, I think I'll be much more productive.

Further Schools for September...

Right now, I have a number of schools that may book for September: Chapman University, Michigan State, Florida A&M, Northeastern and Hampton. I'll know more in the next week or so. The one thing I do know is that I'll be traveling a lot this year.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So what's next...

With THE BESTSELLERS done, I resolved that this is going to be the final non paid version. I've been working on it since March 07, so if it's not right now, then I'll put it in the pile of "coulda been a contendas".

I'm going to start working on DAISY SUNSHINE. I have the story all worked out, mainly because it's a remake of a forty year old film. But before I do that, I think I need to clean up all of the old fits and starts. For my scripts, I need to get on a concrete ten week schedule, replicating what I did in film school.

But before I do that, I'm going to finish SLAVERYLAND, a novel I began in 2005. It's time to finish it and send to my agent. Let's see if it's any good.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Script finished...

The latest version of The Bestsellers is done. I'm going to spend all day tomorrow going through it, and then send it to a friend to get an impression. She's going to read it over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Bestsellers script...

I turned off my phone today and got a lot of work done on the latest version of The Bestsellers. More than likely, I'll get mighty close to finishing either late tomorrow or early Thursday. After that, I'll do a once over and shoot it to a friend to evaluate. This draft took my eight weeks to finish and it was mainly because I wanted to think about how to make it better and closer to what the ICM agent wanted. I'll work on editing, the dialogue and any scenes that need redoing. After that, I'll send it to the ICM agent to see if she likes it.

After writing the same script over and over for more than a year, I'd definitely interested in working on something different. I have various scripts in states of completion, but I'm going to do a rejiggering of where I place my priorities.

Now that I'm away from Iconoculture, I can pretty much start thinking about my script career without being distracted. I had let that slip as the job took up my time, but I need to get back tied into the mindset I had at the UCLA film school. One step in that direction is my application for the Sloan/Sundance Foundation grant. Yeah, I know I'd said I'd never enter another contest, but this one gives a stipend and access to really good screenwriters who can help with your Sloan script. I could use that in 2009.

As for books, my current book proposal is still out there. My agent emailed me to say that things look positive. The summer is a slow period for editors, but one editor called Manie to say positive things about the proposal. More than likely, we won't know if the proposal sells until September.

At long last, I'm planning the first show from my development deal with TV One. The show will go on their websites first, to see if it gains traction. After that, we're looking to put it on their network schedule.

As for their competitor, BET, I have to check on a show that I pitched them. The person I pitched, SR. VP of Development, let BET, but they told me that they're considering it. We'll see.

Still booking more dates for my Divine Nine lectures. During September, I just might be on the road for two straight weeks.

Anyway, it's 2:30am and I need some rest. I'm going to plow ahead and finish this script tomorrow, so time to go to sleep.

Friday, August 08, 2008

My Raiders...

Is this the year that I can dream? I'm not asking a lot. Just the playoffs. That's all. Just win, baby so we can go to the playoff. We're young, talented, and Al can't move fast enough to mess us up. Come on boys.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

TV One...

I'm prepping to shoot my book show for TV One. I want to start shooting in September, so I've been gathering crew and everything else needed to get this done. More later.

Monday, July 28, 2008

In Orlando...

Hey all,

I'm in Orlando right now at the Delta convention. I'm having a blast signing books, but I'm tired as heck. I pretty much stayed up last night writing and by the time I got tired, it was time to get up in the morning. I finished signing books at 6pm, got to the hotel and went to sleep. It's about midnight now and I figure I'll be out in an hour.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No News from the book front...

My agent tells me this is the summer, so the process will be more protracted than normal. So no word yet about my latest book proposal.

On The Bestsellers, the idea is to write about ten pages today. I gave it a rest the past two days, not looking at it. I'm going to go back through and do a little editing and check the dialogue. But I feel pretty confident about the second act, which in most scripts is the flabby act. It's the most important act because it's where the movie actually is, but most folks don't know how to write it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Big Week...

So, my book proposal is out there and I think my agent will be sending it to more publishers. This weekend, he attended the Harlem Book Fair, so hopefully we got a few bites there.

I'm hoping to finish my latest version of The Bestsellers and then work on honing it next week. I'm going to the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority convention in Orlando this week, and I'll be signing books left and right. I haven't been able to do that in a while and although your feet throb and your hand goes numb, it'll be fun.

In the off hours, I'm going to work on the script. This weekend, I worked on the treatment for the Sloan/Sundance competition. That is due at the beginning of September, but before then, I'm going to see if I can pitch it. If the pitch goes nowhere, then I'll go for the $25,000 prize and write a script.

Next, I'm re-reading the various fiction projects I've stopped and started over the past two years. I'm a little torn between finishing a few of them, like SLAVERYLAND, and starting new and writing a series like I want. I think I'll finish SLAVERYLAND, which has been a three year ordeal to write.

On the lecture front, I need to finish scheduling schools. My goal is to schedule at least fifteen for the fall and then book fifteen for Black History Month. Right now, starting late, I have booked four schools. So I have a way to go.

On the brandGREEK front, I have a meeting with McDonalds on Tuesday. The head of US marketing is cool AKA sorority members, so she was more than happy to get me the meeting. Now that I'm not working at Iconoculture, I'm free to pull out my contacts.

Had a few meetings last week, nothing that really groundbreaking. I do keep getting meeting with people wanting to work with brandGREEK. I'll evaluate each out as they come.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The proposal is now out...

My agent has sent my proposal out today and early responses are VERY, VERY good. More later.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fast turnaround...

My agent likes the proposal. I have some minor edits to take care of, which I'll probably do tonight or tomorrow. I might get some sleep tonight and pass on writing on and on until the break of dawn.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sloan Award...

In film school, I was a finalist for a screenplay competition called the Sloan Award. This competition is unique in that it wants scripts with science as an integral part of the story. For a person who is as unscientific as myself, I'm still intrigued by movies like A Beautiful Mind.

On the UCLA film school list serve, I just read that there's another Sloan/Sundance competition dealing with science/script competition open to everyone and I'm going to enter. I'd previously said that I wouldn't enter anymore competitions. But this is going to be an exception. I've had an idea for a scientific script and I'm going to write a treatment for it.

Finished Book Proposal...

I just finished my book proposal. It's the third draft, so I hope it passes my agent's muster. This bad boy came out to 47 pages, with a 25 page sample chapter. I have to admit, I haven't written anything that felt like a book in a long time. At Icono, we wrote a ton of smaller articles. They had their own look and feel, and admittedly I'm not sure I ever got it, but there's nothing like writing a book. So that's done.

Tomorrow, I'm getting on the horn to try to fill up my lecture schedule. I'm off to a good start with three done and two more on the way. But now, it's about filling up weeks. Tomorrow, I'll start at 6am and call schools in North Carolina and New York. September is the month to fill first. I'm looking to book between twenty to thirty schools for the fall, and then fully book Black History Month. I really do have fun lecturing to college students. They reaffirm my regard for black youth.

On the writing front, I have two projects. One is a treatment about Harlem and the other is my script, The Bestsellers. I'll be writing each this week.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Back to lecturing...

Hey all,

I'm now back lecturing on the Divine Nine. On the right, you'll see my schedule for 2008-09. If I'm in your town, feel free to check me out.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Back Writing at 3:30 AM

And it feels so good! I've got Morning Joe on, even though they get on my nerve, and the words are just flowing. BTW, can gas get more expensive? Okay, more later.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book proposal...

So earlier this year, I wrote a book proposal that didn't sell. It was a book about anti social sports fan behavior and like my agent thought, it landed like a thud on the desks of editors all over New York City. All in all, that proposal was a waste of time and it was a big mistake. There's a reason why you have an agent. Listen to what the hell they're saying. So...

I'm working on another proposal. This proposal deals with hip-hop and has been a topic that my agent has been urging me to write for the past two years. I resisted, mainly because after having been a managing editor of a hip-hop magazine, I was a bit burned out on the topic. But for some reason, the topic began to make sense. I could "see" the book. And as a result, I'm listening to my agent. We've gone through two different versions of the book proposal and I'm almost done with the third. Hopefully, this will satisfy my agent and he'll shop it next week.

Next...The endless saga of The Bestsellers.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Blog check...

Alright, just want to see who's still checking in or using RSS to keep up with the blog. I may start posting more, but I need to know who's out there. So holla at me if you still care about what I'm doing with my writing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What's been up...

I just got back from a business trip to St.Louis, where I had a great presentation with one of my colleagues. But I'm tired as hell and need to catch up with the rest of my Icono work. I'm going to see how much I can knock out tomorrow.

On the writing front, I'm about to send my agent another book proposal. Been working on it on Saturday nights, don't ask me why, but it's a pretty good one. Can't really say the topic, but it's sort of a history book.

Working on scripts, blah, blah, blah. Nothing really new on that front.

More later...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I think I've gotten a second wind. For the past six months, I've been pretty much spinning my wheels. For some reason, screenwriting had stopped me from concentrating on my bread and butter, which is writing books. I had one book proposal that my agent sent out, but it didn't sell, which is a bummer. I've been working on Slaveryland for two years and I still haven't finished it. I've been rewriting The Bestseller script for over a year now. For the first time in a long while, I'd been stuck in the mud. But there's light at the end of the tunnel.

One, I'm getting rid of most everything that's distracting. Took down, mainly because it was more of a hassle than anything. I sold to a really cool guy. Now I feel a bit liberated.

On the book side, I've finally taken the advice of my agent and I'm writing a book I should have written two years ago. That book proposal will get floated soon and should sell. An agent likes The Bestsellers, but wants me to make adjustments, which I started this weekend. If I write like I did in the old days, I should have a ready script in about a week. And I'm writing a treatment for a Harlem Renaissance drama a friend of mine wants to shop.

It's time to get back to working on my writing. My evenings and weekends are pretty much open and I need to take advantage of them.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Reducing posts...

Hey all,

I'm probably going to only post once a week or even less than that. Just don't have time anymore.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why we as black folks can't prosper...

I'm starting to understand why our community is in the sad shape it's in. We have people with no understanding of true power, but would rather revel in being against power. I give you the keys to the realm and you'd rather shout from outside the walls. We have people who cannot understand critical thinking, nuance, the art of politics, strategy and long term benefit, and would rather hold a masturbation session about what feels good in the short term. They'd rather lose the war so they can feel secure in their current position, rather than understanding that at some point in time, the revolutionary has to govern. And with governance comes responsibility. It's almost as though our brains have been locked into a a self imposed Peter Principle, where the level of our own incompetence is not imposed from the outside, but from within ourselves. We don't see the possibilities of horizons. No, we see the limitation of the tools we have in our hands. Instead of analyzing history, we make history into a fetish. We toss around the names of Malcolm X, MLK, Paul Robeson as though we've done a critical analysis of who they are, but of what they were intending to accomplish. And when the table has been set, we've been invited to dine and move the movement forward, we shrink. We raise a toast to the past because it relieves us of the responsibility of having to come up with our own philosophy. Our own path. Our own revolution. In short, I see a certain segment of our people who are not only scared of change, but eager to wrap themselves around any excuse to not make change. Because to change would mean to confront their own limitations. And it's much easier to turn ones eyes backward than to look forward. And that's a formula for self sabotage if there ever was one.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Back to writing...

Still have a lot of projects for work to do. But I'm finally getting started on some other writing. Close to finishing the latest version of THE BESTSELLERS.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Burnt out...

Hey all,

Sorry for not posting recently, but I've been pretty burnt out. My computer died on me, so I had to get another one. And my work schedule has been pretty hectic. As a result, I haven't been that productive over the past month.

When that happens, you need to stop and get things back in order from every aspect of life. My clothes had been piling up, so I needed to take care of that. Signed up for 24 hour fitness, so I need to schedule a regular time for that.

As for writing projects, I need to finish the ones I've started. My non fiction joint is making the NYC circles. I'm about fifteen pages from finishing my script, THE BESTSELLERS, so I hope to end this long process. I've been writing on it for a year and that's too long for any script. I need to finish my next novel, which I've been working on for two years. And I need to refresh and start another script before everything I learned at UCLA goes down the drain.

So it's clean up and refresh day, and hopefully this week becomes more productive.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech

"A More Perfect Union"
Remarks of Senator Barack Obama
Constitution Center
Tuesday, March 18th, 2008
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

As Prepared for Delivery

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters.And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories tha t we didn't need to feel shame aboutmemories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committ ed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so na├»ve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

I See Scary Black People...

So Reverend Jeremiah Wright preaches from the pulpit that 9/11 happens because American foreign policy has blowback and the American media has a fit. Funny, but none of them had the introspection to note that this is the same message Malcolm X said over forty years ago, when he made his famous "chickens coming home to roost" statement after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That got Malcolm X a suspension from the Nation of Islam and lead to his ultimate death.

But instead, the media focused on how Reverend Wright "scared" white people. Well maybe if white people went to African American churches, they'd know how black people truly feel about this country and the policies that affect our community. It's so much easier to talk about crack cocaine laws in the abstract, but when you go into the black community, you get raw anger. When you talk to African Americans and see who gets bombed via American missiles, you can't help to notice that people with melanin get bombed on. And when you talk to African Americans about who in this world are expendable, and who get ignored, you can't help but notice that Darfur and Rwanda are on that list. But Kosovo isn't. Northern Ireland, isn't.

Barack Obama has to do what he has to do in order to remain a viable candidate. Bill and Hillary Clinton have done everything they can to make him the "black candidate" and we all know that if Americans wake up and recognize that this qualified, right and impressive man is just as black as the people they try to avoid, then they won't vote for him. And that's why I'll never, ever, in any kind of weather, vote for Hillary if she happens to backroom this nomination. In fact, I'll be in the front of the line of those who decide to abstain from this election. Yes, I would much rather have a McCain election win than have my vote taken for granted. I don't believe in the whole bigger picture being a Dem is better than a Repub. The bigger picture is that my vote and constituency must be valued. If you don't value it, then I don't value you. So yes, sometimes you cut off your nose to spite both your face and body. And if you think black folks were scary before, watch when nine out of ten Democratic voting black folks stay home in November.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Saturday Night Live...

Why am I not surprised that a show which doesn't have an African American actor who can portray Barack Obama (and didn't look for one during the strike)would suddenly take Hillary Clinton's side? Saturday Night Live hasn't mattered in years, but it does annoy me.

What I'm working on:

Halfway through a rewrite of The Bestsellers.

That's it. For those who've lost count, this is rewrite number 12 since March 2007. I wrote this originally in my boy Tim Albaugh's 434 class. We'll see if this version is better. I'm about tired of it and want to move on after it's done.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Back from the dead...

Finally, the flu has left my body. I'm still taking it easy, but for the most part I feel fine. I lost six pounds in five days. Wow.

Anyway, I'll get back to writing in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Flu..

Is kicking my ass. I mean, realy kicking my ass. I feel like I'm bleeding from my eyes. I ache from head to toe and my head is stuffed up. This is definitely the worst flu I've had in years. GRRRR

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I feel crappy...

It's official, Langston has given me the flu. My head feels like a little man is banging a mallet in it.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chuck E. Cheese...

My son had a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese, but we think that he's coming down with the flu. He was sluggish and then hot when we got home, so I hope we weren't Typhoid Mary for the kids who came. I still can't believe that my son is nine years old. Where did the time go?

My book proposal is in the mail to my agent. That feels good because it's been more than a year and months since my last book proposal, so it feels pretty good to get back on that horse. Next up, I complete my novel SLAVERYLAND. I'm more than halfway there and this story is more plotted out than any other novel I've written. Completely different and unique. And my editor is intrigued by it. So I'm going to knock this out, if I can stop playing Facebook poker during my writing hours. I'm finding myself looking at three Kings at midnight instead of my manuscript. Gotta change that.

So that's on my plate. Also, I meet with my boys about my script tomorrow morning. I'm ready to get all of these writing projects done so I can move on to others.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Finally, my next book proposal is done. I absolutely hate doing book proposals, but they make you really think about what your book is going to be about. What makes them difficult for me is that I tend to come up with the general idea for the book, but proposal makes you sit down and get into the weeds in terms of details. You're constantly proving and disproving to yourself that there's a book in your idea or just a really long magazine article.

For this book proposal, I realized after almost finishing a few months ago, that my proposal was much too narrow for a book. It took some serious contemplation about what the book was ultimately about and whether or not it was important enough to be a book. I finally reached that point. Now, I'm going to get some really nice paper, print it out and then send it to my agent. He'll look at it and tell me he gets it or not. If he does get it, he'll point out the strengths and weaknesses. I'll probably have to do some adjusting, but after that, it gets shopped. But for now, I'm just happy to be done.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Ah, I'm almost finished with my latest book proposal. I've changed the title from JACKBOOTS & MONKEY CALLS to THE UNWASHED MASSES. The main bulk is finished and all I need to do is finish all of the table of contents, the marketing etc. I'm determined to finish that today and then send it off the first thing on Monday to my agent.

After that, I will knock out the final chapters of SLAVERYLAND. Kensington Books hired a new director of marketing and I'm absolutely ecstatic. She GETS it and after nearly ten years at the publishing house, I think this is going to be a new era. For the first time, I actually have confidence in my next books not needing a giant push from me to get them into the right hands. She's going to be particularly valuable for my DREADED BEAUTICIAN series.

The Hollywood writers strike is almost over and not a minute too soon. Every writer I know, including those of us who just graduated from film school, are chomping at the bit because no one has been able to do anything. It's not that we're going to go out there and immediately sell a script, but you want that possibility to be open and not closed.

I've put down my scripts for the minute as I finished my unfinished novels/book proposals. For some reason, I was pretty blocked in terms of focusing on them. My evenings were being spent actually reading (!) instead of writing. Hopefully, my main writing projects will be done by the end of the month and then I'll turn back to scripts.

BTW, something is happening to Money Shot. I don't know what because I haven't done any marketing, but my Amazon numbers have been really spiking. That's good because I've only had one out of five books not make back its advance (THE WAYS OF BLACK FOLKS) and the sooner you make back your advance, the fatter your bi-annual royalty checks. I like fatter royalty checks.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Just back from the Midwest...

Well, I just got back from the Midwest. I had to do a presentation for Iconoculture in Chicago, and then I headed out to Minneapolis. Chicago turned out to be pretty warm compared to the previous week. It was about twenty degrees. I got in about midnight and then decided to save the company a few dollars by taking the EL. That took an hour, so I didn't get to bed until around two in the morning, with a ten thirty appointment. But no worries, the presentation went off without a hitch.

Our company meeting in Minneapolis was pretty good. With the wind chill, it was forty below zero, but it was a dry cold. It was good seeing everyone and I did a mean version of the Commodores "Brick House" during our karaoke night.

Back to the crib. I still have some work to do for the company, so I will be doing some tonight.

No change on the rest of my writing. I know, it's nine o'clock right now, so I should be writing, but I think I'll just rewatch the Obama/Clinton debate. Obama's going to win this Super Tuesday deal, they just don't even know.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Part of the change up...

Instead of my normal 9pm to 1am writing period, I decided to get an early start and got up at 6am this morning and wrote about two thousand words on Slaveryland. And that was by noon. Not bad. I think I'll run some errands, got take my suit coat to the cleaners to get pressed, and then write some more. Feels pretty good.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Catching up...

Okay, been concentrating very much on the 9-5. We have our company meeting in Minneapolis coming next week and I have a presentation to give in Chicago. Plus, I'm in training to take over more responsibility at work. So busy, busy, busy.

Since the New Year, I've been decidedly unproductive when it comes to my writing. That probably explains why I have lagged on the blog. But I'm about to knuckle down and get somethings done.

I've always bragged that I wrote five books lying on the couch, and I think it's time to change up. My three white boards containing my writing objectives haven't been looked at in three weeks. It just ain't working, Esther, rock and roll.

I know I used to drone on about getting in shape, but I'm convinced that as I've gotten out of shape, my writing has gotten less sharp. Don't know if I can prove it, but I know I need to get in shape this year. A lot of things are happening and I need to be at my peak performance.

Okay, on to my writing. Writing the umpteenth draft of The Bestsellers. My boys Ben and Aram from UCLA are giving notes and they're good. Problem is that I'm writing it one line at a time. Right now, I'm on page 63 of the latest version and I think I want to get to page 75 by the end of the night. I'm going to stop grinding as much as I used to. Terrible on the sleep patterns, and basically makes me feel crappy.

Next on the docket is Slaveryland, my next novel. I did a bit more work on it, so I'm in around 42,000 words. I think I'm going to go for about five thousand words per week. A nice steady rate. This means I should be done with Slaveryland around the middle of March. More or less.

My Jackboots and Monkey Calls proposal needs to be sent to Manie. He'll vet it and I kind of expect that he'll see problems with it. It's pretty much written, but it still seems to be vague. And I know it. But I'll take a look at it this weekend and read it again. Boy do I hate book proposals. They're a pain in the ass.

Lastly, I'm pecking out The Dreaded Beautician. Not too bad. So far, I've got a lot of dreaded, but not too much beautician. I need to do a bit more research on the lives of black beauticians before I feel comfortable with my character. It's crucial that her profession influence her violent actions.

That's pretty much it. The writers strike looks like it'll be settled in a month or so. So this town will be back in business, which is good for everyone.

My son needed to learn a poem, so I taught him Langston Hughes' A Dream Deferred. He learned it in about an hour. Memorized. Last year, I taught him Invictus and he learned it in a snap. Just a smart kid.

So that's it. Look for fairly regular blog entries.

Will get back to regular posting soon...

Don't despair. I'll be posting regularly very soon.

Monday, January 14, 2008

BET Bob smears Obama...

Obama attacked by 'Big Bobcat'

by Frank James

The Big Bobcat tried to get his claws into Sen. Barack Obama today. The question is, did he draw blood?

The New York Times's political blog, The Caucus, is reporting that Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television, or BET, and owner of the National Basketball Association's Charlotte Bobcats, was campaigning with Sen. Hillary Clinton in South Carolina when he criticized Obama.

It was there that, as Katharine Seelye reports, Johnson made what appeared to be an allusion to Obama's use of illegal drugs as a young man.

It was Johnson's way of defending the New York senator and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, from accusations from the Obama camp and beyond that some recent Clinton comments were dismissive of both Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Obama.

At a rally here for Mrs. Clinton at Columbia College, Mr. Johnson was defending recent comments that Mrs. Clinton made regarding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She did not mean to take any credit away from him, Mr. Johnson said, when she said that it took President Johnson to sign the civil rights legislation he fought for.

Dr. King had led a "moral crusade," Mr. Johnson said, but such crusades have to be "written into law."

"That is the way the legislative process works in this nation and that takes political leadership," he said. "That's all Hillary was saying."

He then added: "And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood - and I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in the book - when they have been involved."

Moments later, he added: "That kind of campaign behavior does not resonate with me, for a guy who says, 'I want to be a reasonable, likable, Sidney Poitier 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.' And I'm thinking, I'm thinking to myself, this ain't a movie, Sidney. This is real life.

Johnson has since tried to make his comments seem more benign, saying he was talking merely of Obama's time as a community organizer and that anyone who thinks he was alluding to anything else (read drug use) is "irresponsible and incorrect."

So he wants us to believe the invidious comparison he was making contrasting the Clintons to Obama was to say that Obama was a community organizer when the Clintons were advancing civil-rights? To borrow a phrase from Obama, that really does seem like the audacity of hope on Johnson's part.

Johnson certainly has a right to issue a "clarifying" statement. But the public also has a right to be dubious, to believe that Johnson was indeed making an allusion to Obama's self-admitted use of pot and cocaine as a young man.

Assuming that that's what Johnson, a lawyer by training who knows how to use language, meant to do is interesting on a few levels.

Johnson made his fortune through a cable channel known in black America for showing so many rump-shaking music videos (videos with scantily clad women shaking their derrieres in the camera) that many people over the years have come to apply the term "bootylicious" to the genre of videos his channel showed.

Furthermore, many of those bootylicious hip-hop videos shown by his channel featured young male rappers whose subjects tended to run the very narrow gamut of guns, drugs, cars and women. (Did I mention drugs?)

Watch long enough and you'd likely see a "gangsta" light up a blunt, a marijuana stogie. This was the fare many black kids across America grew up on as they watched Mr. Johnson's channel.

For that reason, even though Johnson became that rarest of rare creatures, a black billionaire after he sold his channel to Viacom, there's ambivalence about him among many black Americans who viewed much of the programming on his channel as adding to many of black America's problems.

So casting even veiled aspersions on Obama over his youthful use of drugs will no doubt make many people who know Johnson's story and BET say "Now, wait one cotton-picking, bootylicious minute."

As far as Sidney Poitier is concerned, how many young people in a college audience would get that reference to a 1967 movie?

Not only that; did Obama really ever say he wanted to be Poitier? Don't remember that one.

Wonder what Rep. James Clyburn's going to make of Johnson's comments? As many people know by now the lawmaker, the highest ranking African-American in the House leadership and a very influential man in South Carolina, didn't take kindly to the Clinton comments and now he's got a whole set of new ones to ponder, along with whether he should remain neutral or show his unhappiness with the Clinton's by endorsing Obama.

One thing that makes Johnson's comments more interesting in connection with Clyburn is that Johnson, the chief executive officer of RLJ Cos.,. has generously contributed to Clyburn, as he has to other members of the Congressional Black Caucus. For that reason, it would be a stunning thing indeed if Clyburn rebuked Johnson the way he has the Clintons.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

As Obama Rises, Old Guard Civil Rights Leaders Scowl

As Obama Rises, Old Guard Civil Rights Leaders Scowl

By William Jelani Cobb
Sunday, January 13, 2008; B01

There was a time in the not-too-distant past when "black president" was synonymous with "president of black America." That was the office to which Jesse Jackson appointed himself in the 1970s -- resigned to the fact that the actual presidency was out of reach. In 2003, Chris Rock wrote and directed "Head of State," a film about the first black man to win the presidency. (It was a comedy.) And in the ultimate concession, some African Americans have attempted to bestow the title of black president upon Bill Clinton -- a white man.

In the wake of his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, Sen. Barack Obama has already permanently changed the meaning of that term. It is no longer an oxymoron or a quixotic in-joke. And this, perhaps more than anything else, explains his tortured relationship with black civil rights


The most amazing thing about the 2008 presidential race is not that a black man is a bona fide contender, but the lukewarm response he has received from the luminaries whose sacrifices made this run possible. With the notable exception of Joseph Lowry, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference veteran who gave a stirring invocation at Obama's Atlanta campaign rally in June and subsequently endorsed him, Obama has been running without much support from many of the most recognizable black figures in the political landscape.

That's because, positioned as he is between the black boomers and the hip-hop generation, Obama is indebted, but not beholden, to the civil rights gerontocracy. A successful Obama candidacy would simultaneously represent a huge leap forward for black America and the death knell for the reign of the civil rights-era leadership -- or at least the illusion of their influence.

The most recent example of the old guard's apparent aversion to Obama was Andrew Young's febrile YouTube ramblings about Bill Clinton being "every bit as black as Barack Obama" and his armchair speculation that Clinton had probably bedded more black women during his lifetime than the senator from Illinois -- as if racial identity could be transmitted like an STD. This could be dismissed as a random instance of a politician speaking out of turn were it not part of an ongoing pattern.

Last spring, Al Sharpton cautioned Obama "not to take the black vote for granted." Presumably he meant that the senator had not won over the supposed gatekeepers of the black electorate. Asked why he had not endorsed Obama, Sharpton replied that he would "not be cajoled or intimidated by any candidate." More recently Sharpton claimed on his radio show that the candidates' recent attention to issues of civil rights was a product of pressure from him.

Although Jackson is not entirely unfamiliar with the kind of thing that's happening to Obama -- Coretta Scott King endorsed Walter Mondale over him in 1984 -- he also got into the act. He criticized Obama for not championing the " Jena Six" cause -- the case of six young black men in Louisiana charged with beating a white classmate -- vigorously enough. After Obama's Iowa victory, Jackson demanded that the senator bolster "hope with substance."

Taken as a conglomerate, Jackson, Young, Sharpton and Georgia Rep. John Lewis represent a sort of civil rights old boy network -- a black boy network -- that has parlayed its dated activist credentials into cash and jobs. Jackson, a two-time presidential candidate, has become a CNN host; Young was mayor of Atlanta and sits on numerous corporate boards; and Lewis is essentially representative-for-life of the 5th Congressional District in Georgia. Sharpton is younger than the others but a peer in spirit.

To the extent that the term "leader" is applicable, these four men likely represent the interests of Democratic Party insiders more than those of the black community. Both Young and Lewis have endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton ; Sharpton and Jackson have acted ambivalent, alternately mouthing niceties about Obama and criticizing his stances on black issues.

It may be that, because they doubt that he can actually win, the civil rights leaders are holding Obama at arm's length in an attempt to build their houses on what looks to be the firmer ground. And there are certainly patronage benefits should Clinton win. She owes black pols, starting with Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), who first suggested that the party endorse her for a New York Senate seat. Rangel has also lined up behind Clinton.

There is far more to politics -- even racial politics -- than skin color. Still it is counterintuitive to think that Lewis, whose political career began when he was bludgeoned in Selma, Ala., fighting for black voting rights, is witnessing the rise of the first viable black presidential candidate and yet opts to support a white machine politician.

One of the most telling aspects of Young's YouTube commentary was his statement that he'd called his political connections in Chicago about Obama and been told "they don't know him." There are certainly reasons not to support Obama, but not having friends in common isn't one of them. Young went on to announce that Obama was too young and should wait until 2016 -- a curious statement considering that Young was apprenticed to Martin Luther King Jr., who was 26 when he launched the Montgomery bus boycotts that eventually toppled segregation.

The cynical braying about Obama's prospects has not been confined to the liberal civil rights quarters of black America. The conservative commentator Shelby Steele argued in his book "A Bound Man" that Obama isn't perceived as "black" enough to win over African American voters.

In fact, Obama strategists have been struggling to convince black voters that Obama can actually win over white voters and be a viable candidate. Many blacks want to support a winner and hope that Obama will become more attractive to white voters, not less.

Part of this disconnect is a generational divide, one that is apparent in Jackson's own household. Following Jackson's criticism of Obama in the Chicago Sun-Times, his son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., wrote a passionate defense of Obama's activist


As polls show increasing black support for Obama, Jackson, Sharpton and Young begin to look like a once-wealthy family that has lost its fortune but has to keep spending to maintain appearances. Obama's tepid early showing among blacks in the polls had more to do with name recognition and concerns about his viability as a candidate than with Jackson or Sharpton withholding their endorsement.

Ignoring Sharpton or Jackson is not the same thing as taking the black vote for granted. It is a reasonable calculation that neither of them can deliver many votes and certainly not enough to offset the number of white votes that their approval could lose Obama. Jackson and Sharpton might be holding out for a better deal in exchange for their support, but with Oprah Winfrey and Chris Rock among Obama's list of supporters, they have little to bargain with.

If Obama makes a strong showing in the South Carolina primary -- the first with a substantial number of black voters -- it will become apparent that the black boy network has begun bouncing checks.

The irony is that for generations of black "firsts," the prerequisite for entering an institution was proving that you were just like the establishment that ran it. (Think of Jackie Robinson's approach to the major leagues, or the host of "articulate Negro" roles in Sidney Poitier's body of work.)

Obama has been vastly successful by doing just the opposite: masterfully positioning himself as an outsider. In the process, he's opened the door even wider for black outsiders. Too bad his predecessors refuse to help push him the rest of the way inside.

William Jelani Cobb is an associate professor of history at Spelman College and the author of "The Devil & Dave Chappelle and Other Essays."

Now Available from NYU Press: To The Break of Dawn: A Freestyle on the Hip Hop Aesthetic

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

In a rut...

For the past week, I've been in a rut. I fleshed out the second act for The Bestsellers, but when I started writing it, I didn't like how it was going. Some of the scenes felt too long, too flabby and I needed to get in even later and leave earlier. So I decided to stop working on it for a week. I don't know if that helped, but I'm aiming to get it done by this weekend.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's on now...

Barack wins Iowa. Historic.