It is fitting I should write my first post of 2017 in February. After a January month of quiet reflection and solitude, analysis of the year past and new ways forward, Black History Month is one of my favorite times of the year. Some cynics believe it is a discriminatory partition which demeans African-American contributions as separate from the whole. I do not. I think it is wonderful my people of strong melanin and spirits are at the forefront of educational lessons, cultural programming, media advertising and renewed interest.
The year has already started off quite nicely, with a new essay publication in a volume celebrating Gwendolyn Brooks as well as news I would be published again in NYU’s Black Renaissance Noire edited by Quincy Troupe. I was able to reunite with one of my novel’s strongest champions, our First Lady of Literature Terry McMillan, in a special Harlem Arts Salon organized by Margaret Porter-Troupe to benefit The Gloster Project. Writer and scholar Hakim Hasan moderated our talk into some deep territory: family relations, intergenerational trauma, Black female psyches, racism in business and much more.
The publication of Ms. McMillan’s ninth novel I Almost Forgot About You (Crown, 2016) reinforced her as living American history, and Black History all Americans can celebrate. Just some of the many Black heroes in attendance included my past boss and mentor Harriette Cole, legendary Black editor and literary activist Malaika Adero, Harlem Writers Guild members, revolutionary drummer Will Calhoun and poet/musician Quincy Troupe, who co-organizes these Harlem Renaissance-style salons. Author Eartha Watts Hicks wrote a nice piece on the day for HarlemWorld.
I am looking quite forward to 2017 being my year of phenomenal personal growth, as 2016 saw the comeback of my book publishing career I began at the tender age of 26. It was nice to actually enjoy the publication of Solemn with wisdom, perspective and a proper handle on its place in my overall life biography. Gone were the stresses and pressures of my last books, where I thought they were the ooooooonly things I would ever do in literature. I appreciated each moment, event, review, reader and ally who celebrated my third novel.
Now, I eagerly transition from young adulthood to the exciting maturity and depth of full-fledged adulthood. Fortifying growths in creativity, business, family and love are in my cards. At the top of the list is my health. I am blessed when the only thing a doctor has to say about your latest tests and physical is “You’re overweight.” It could be so much worse.
But alas, obesity is one of the number one killers in America today, at the core of all sorts of health conditions. I intend not to let my weight get away from me. I was a lifelong exerciser and gym rat until a public career, PhD studies and business life pushed me off track. No more! I am proud of my vegetarian lifestyle, but exercise has to come back. I look forward to sharing my journey to a more fit body, less-sedentary lifestyle and sexy bod.
I also want to do more for the many charities and ministries I am aware of and adore. They bravely look out for our children and most vulnerable members of society in a time when too many are being programmed to believe such efforts are not necessary. Take some time to learn about The Gloster Project, RockWealth Ministries, The Literary Freedom Project, No Kid Hungry, or whatever children’s, cultural and animal rights organization you have a little to donate to.
We can all magnify our voices this year, to make some serious contributions and change some lives. I hope you take your ideas and visions- a new business, more love in your relationships, superior health, more education- to new heights. Know that many people will be touched by your dreams and efforts. I hope I can do a little of that for you this year.
What’s Coming Up in 2017…
I am going to be on a little hibernation break to get ready for my birthday, but back in full effect this Spring! In the meantime, I will still be sharing my interests on Tumblr and Pinterest for my love of animals, meat-free living, culture and human rights. Also, get inspired at my Eckleburg Workshops “Spirit of Writing” co-authored course. It’s free!
If you missed me in 2016 and are in the Chicago, Illinois, area, I will next be at Waubonsee Community College in Aurora, Illinois, as a special guest of Professor Dan Portincaso. Find out more about the March 1 event Here.
Looking for something to read? Start with Revise the Psalm, a commemoration of Gwendolyn Brooks’ life. This handsome book collects an astounding number of Black writers, poets and artists to share her influence on our lives. My essay “She Was My First” recounts the time my young black women’s collective hosted Mrs. Brooks at University of Chicago.
Stay tuned for more information on my next novel Speaking of Summer, which I am eagerly pruning and shaping with the outstanding help of my writers group Chicago Literary Writers. An excerpt is coming in the Spring 2017 issue of Black Renaissance Noire.
Also, I am looking forward to reading:
- Marita Golden’s newest novel The Wide Circumference of Love,
- My cousin Marlowe Whitlow’s weight loss journey book Half the Man I Was,
- Achy Obejas’s new story collection, The Tower of Antilles,
- a new season of Issa Rae’s INSECURE with my my cousin Dayna Lynne North as a writer/producer,
- The Academy Awards…I am so proud of the versatile, complex stories of African-American life we saw onscreen last year. I’m relieved that Hollywood turned its #OscarsSoWhite around. That simply could not keep going on. But, as Fences has been one of my favorite plays for a long time, I must favor the film and the cast.
Wishing you blessings, love and prosperity in 2017…