Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Something strange but exciting happened today; one of the students of a high school I frequent bought a used copy of my book (The Depths of My Soul) and asked me to sign it for him. After signing an encouraging note to him, one of his classmates said he had filmed me signing the book and asked my permission to show it on YouTube. I have one rule when I substitute for a class. One, I focus on the task of the day and to make sure students understand and work on their assignment. Two, and this is a new approach I’ve taken in the past year or so….treat it like a training session. My experience in corporate has shown me how to approach a classroom full of students and to deal with them.
Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, one of the students approached me by asking a simple question: “Mr. Chatmon, do you write books?” I had to answer. I was busted. Students with way too much time on their hands (lol) thought enough of me to look me up online and in one class, pulled up my Goodreads profile. So now the students know my first name (not that I volunteered it before) and the books that I wrote. This past Friday, I felt a bit awkward having a signed copy of my book in one of my favorite classes while at the same time fulfill my professional duties as an educator.
Now it may not seem awkward to the outside world since as an author, I should expect my books to appear in all types of places; public transportation, libraries and office cubicles. Never did I expect a few ‘nosey’ students (smile) would take time to look up this weird substitute teacher online and discover he’s an author. I’m happy that they did that and only time will tell what the rest of the student body and staff feels about this ‘author’ stepping on campus substituting for one of their favorite teachers. In the past month, yours truly has received the following responses:
(as soon as the students see me on the parking lot)
“MISTER CHATMON! MISTER CHATMON!”
“DO YOU WRITE BOOKS?”
“DID YOU SIGN (STUDENT)’S BOOK?”
Maybe not the ‘actual’ responses, but the few students know which mean the entire school will be ‘on my case’……and there’s only three weeks left before the end of the school year. If any students are reading this right now, there is my website and this blog if you like to ‘keep up’.
Still, I can't shake the feeling after three years on this job I feel like a Scooby Doo villain after being 'unmasked' by the students prompted to say, "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those nosey kids!"
Submitted for your (dis)approval, here is the copy of the book I signed today in a high school in the city of Lawndale, California. If I have the video from the other student, I will be the first to show it to you, the readers of this blog.
Note: This was written back in 1999. I'm not sure whether or not I've posted this before, but this is submitted for your (dis)approval..........
When you mention Disney, you think of fairy tales and fantasy. You also think of Disneyland and all of the different lands in the park. Tomorrowland, Adventureland, just to name a couple. Disney is also a corporation which has its hands from major networks to professional sports teams. Therefore, it’s no big surprise that a media monolith such as Disney in control of so many outlets of the media cannot be held responsible for all its employees. However, in light of recent thoughtless comments spoken by different radio hosts of two local Los Angeles stations that Disney owns, they should erect an new attraction to their theme park: Cluelessland. The individual radio hosts have no idea what they’re talking about.
Example #1: During an interview with L.A. councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, John of John and Ken of KABC 790 commented about the area which Ridley-Thomas represents. “I wouldn’t want to live there, it’s a bad neighborhood.” When told most people don’t have a choice, the jovial John said, “Well they should get out.” Very easy statement for him to make, don’t you think? Considering the price of California homes is high, people just can’t ‘pack up and go’. No way. This isn’t the case of ‘Black Flight’ which happened in the late 1980’s when scores of African-Americans left the city due to the rise of street violence caused by gang drive-bys. The civil unrest of 1992 didn’t help matters either. However, we are living in prosperous times (so to speak). The residents who’ve stuck it out such as yours truly want to see a better community, not leave it behind and make it worse.
Back to the interview. This ‘wise’ comment was also made about the clientele who attend outings in the area. “The only type of people who go to sporting events down there are gangbanging thugs.” Unless he is talking about Raider fans who are wanna be hardcore gangstas, I have no idea what he’s talking about. It’s like listening to the teacher in a Charlie Brown cartoon. The last time I checked, I had a good job, never been in prison, hadn’t taken drugs and has always been a good citizen. And contrary to rumor, I’m not the only one. Men and women of all ages who live in the community want the same things anybody else desires in a different place: a better quality of life. The irony here in the interview is this was part of a show with Ridley-Thomas about the possibility of the NFL granting a team to Los Angeles and placing it in the Coliseum which is in South Los Angeles.
Now I’m certain John and Ken’s listening audience, mostly conservative, agrees with their unfortunate statements about South L.A. I respect their right to free speech as hopefully they will mine, yet whenever a ridiculous comment lacking fact are spoken in public, I have a right to disagree in this medium taking them to task for what is said. Whether John and Ken are around in the future, South L.A. will still be there and hopefully a situation comes up where they have to live in this area. But hey, if they do, I’d be welcome to offer them free room and board......in my doghouse.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s move on to example #2:
KLOS 95.5 FM had a promotion. The two hosts Mark and Brian were handing out.....black hoes. Small replicas of garden tools. It seemed cute at first, but then it went too far. Employees of African-American decent were called out as Black Hoes and other employees made inflammatory remarks. It’s one thing to make dumb jokes about garden tools but applying the same shameful terminology certain entertainers use to open up deep seating feelings about race, that’s just stupid. Nuff Said.
There you have it. Two separate incidents at two media outlets owned by a corporate monolith. Let’s be honest, Disney is not the only corporation where intolerable actions or comments were spoken. However, I am reminded when Michael Eisner of Disney and owner of the Anaheim Angels let one of his players Tony Phillips go because he refused a drug test, Eisner said it was important because the company had an image to uphold. If that was the case then, why not reprimand your employees who hurt the image of Disney across the board? Consider: Disneyland has a ride ‘It’s a Small World’, (you know it, you’ve seen it and taken a ride) it promotes the message that we’re all of one world and should try to live together. I don’t mean to silence free speech. But to pass out items which are insensitive, that’s where punishment should be handed out.
When comments are made that are divisive and lack conscious, then something should be said about Disney as a company and its reputation. It allows the public how hypocritical the monolith is when presenting an image to children that is contrary to what adults see in them. Again, they’re not the only ones, unfortunately. However, this only enforces and proves one thing.............
It is a small minded world after all.
Despite what the critics said, my wife and I decided to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and decide for ourselves whether or not it’s worth seeing. While the action is lacking in this sequel, and the story seemed a bit rushed in the beginning, it had a good plot involving Peter Quill, aka Star Lord and a not-so-classic Marvel character invented in the days of Lee-Kirby (or is that Kirby-Lee?). I did find a bit of an inconsistency from the first Guardians movie, specifically Peter’s timeline yet it is a minor quibble that isn’t a deal breaker at all. There could be a few more minor quibbles that I could mention, but I don’t want my opinion (as if it matters on the internet) be the reason you passed on the film, or not. Besides, there are more ‘pointed’ opinions on the net you readers can find to satisfy your likes or dislikes.
I suggest Guardians for all of you old time Marvel Zombies who will be quite surprised at least a couple of the post-credit spoilers which according to the rumors, has more Easter Eggs than a bunny rabbit.
So that’s my honest-to-goodness up to the minute Guardians of the Galaxy review. It’s late and I’ve been on my feet all day. Time to pack it in until the next time.
In this present day, it seems as if I woke up to an alternate universe. The places I used to frequent are no longer there, replaced by construction and new buildings. Slowly but surely, my neighborhood is being taken over by outside forces who neither respect nor acknowledge what has gone on before. Although different, younger faces have displaced the long time residents, most remain even if their departure is imminent.
Welcome to South Los Angeles 2017. It’s not what I expected then again according to the statistics, as a young black man I’m supposed to not be here on earth to enjoy it. The same analysis claims I should be dead or in a prison cell by now. So excuse me while I venture around the neighborhood and discover a new shoe store opening up down the street which has clientele in major local malls and the South Bay, or walk to University Village by USC and notice a brand new shopping center for students and the community set to open soon with shops and stores not common in this part of town, or travel to Leimert Park and see once a vibrant Afrocentric culture erode under the influences of gentrification. In fact, all I have to do is look all around me and see how much South Los Angeles has changed. The differences are startling.
The image of South Los Angeles when it was once known as 'South Central' may be what sticks in the minds of most of the residents, outsiders and even you readers, but it's never always about the violence. It was also a time where you could remember a Santa Barbara Plaza, a Crenshaw Strip, Vermont Square, and all the local neighborhood shops in South Los Angeles you spent your money. I am old enough to remember a time where my parents could walk down the street to a Newberry’s and buy clothes, kitchen items, sewing materials, anything we needed. We could shop at a Boys or ABC market and purchase groceries. We grew up in a community where we didn’t have to travel far to buy the items we needed, we had everything in the neighborhood. Then the malls appeared outside the community and with that, our dollars.
Gentrification is a cold slap in the face to the longtime residents of this community because what it implies is that “you people aren’t good enough to have these nice new stores, schools, anything we bring in.” If that were the case, Vermont Village would have been built a long time ago. (note: as of this date, it still remains a vacant lot). Before the Unrest, before the Koreans took over the Newberry’s, the Thrifty drug stores (which sold good ice cream by the way), they also took over the Lerner’s that remained in name only. What the remains of the Unrest reveal are ghosts of a store that used to be in operation before the many demographic changes took over. Gentrification seeks to replace the history of a neighborhood; its physical storefronts, atmosphere, demographics all in one fell swoop. Residents have asked for retail outlets for years and each time, denied. Yet gentrification answers those requests but at the same time seeks to replace and displace those who made them. A cold slap in the face indeed.
This is what South Los Angeles is and will become in a few short years. I’m skeptical of those who will move in the neighborhood that everything I’ve written about this neighborhood will be pushed to the side, erased as it’s not deemed ‘relevant’. In a previous post about the so-called ‘future’ of South Los Angeles, I expressed concern that the past history of this vast wide community will not be an issue to be discussed. It will be a forgotten footnote to the ‘Trojan Horse’ community organizations and politicians on the side of the progressive dominant society. I pray I haven’t woken up to a nightmare, one in which I’ll never wake up from. I’m afraid that moment is already here.
I am not going to fool anyone into believing I know what makes a great writer or awesome creative artist. All I know and understand is individuals who are supremely focused on what they do and love, they are the ones who are successful and in the forefront of our consciousness. For example, many of the creative artists (musicians, T.V. show producers, directors, other authors) who we mention in our social media posts have something in common. Not only do they love what they do and enjoy it, but their focus isn’t spent on social media most of the day and evening commenting on what another creative artist has done. They work to become the ones you and I talk about.
So it is true as in most cases, the only way as a writer or creative artist can succeed and eventually become ‘great’, is to spend the majority of your days creating, writing, coming up with innovative and original ideas that will be on people’s lips and internet posts. I often find folks online who spoil and remark on every episode a creative artist produces. There are times I find myself repeating a saying whenever I walk out of a movie theatre, “I think I can write something better.” That’s not arrogance or a stuck-up comment. It’s a thought that whatever someone has produced, there’s a feeling as a writer I can make that project better adding my own thoughts to it.
Something exciting and ‘out of the box’. Something new and fresh. This is what the present reading audience wants. It’s important to stay focused and simply create what I feel will be the ‘next big thing’ an audience will clamor over, post and tweet to their friends, loved ones, etc. If I spend my time admiring what another creative artist is doing without spending time to develop my own ideas, it won’t do me any good to sit in the background while my ideas fade away. Instead of sitting at home commenting on that television show or movie, it’s best to tell yourself “I can do this better”.
Perhaps that is where greatness lies in the belief you can make a project better. Maybe it’s not best to sit in front of your computer screen scrolling through your social media feeds looking for anything, something to stroke the ego. It may be time well spent developing an idea taking space in your head and put it to work. I’m not sure what defines greatness, but I have an idea on what defines focus. The ‘great’ ones have it, which is why the accolades they’ve obtained is well deserved.