Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
What people call nerds these days, they used to call them ‘squares’. A term used negatively towards those individuals who didn’t show any excitement, any sense of life to their friends, family and associates. Sure, squares were focused scholars who never showed up for the dance parties, had a group of young ladies around and weren’t popular with the crowd at all. Speaking from experience, I can say growing up as one of these squares especially in the days when I was extremely quiet and shy, didn’t help much in junior high, high school and in college.
Funny how those days are long gone as if they never existed. My closest friends and family still say although I’m not as shy as I used to be, I’m still quiet to the point I can be in the same room and no one will even know I’m there. One would even argue once a square, always a square but that’s simply not true. I’ve seen young men over the course of the school year break out of their shyness, express their mature thoughts to me determined to prove there’s more to them than what others see.
I would wager the students who maintain good grades, keep their minds on their goals and continue to study by reading, learning new ideas and following their own goals are the ones who will own a business or earn an executive position for a corporation. It’s easy to laugh at a square because of the stigma of not being ‘cool’ in our social circles. As the years pass for these young people, if they’ve become focused enough to achieve all of the goals they’ve set for school and life, then it’s no doubt they’re the ones who are most likely to succeed, not a popular student voted in by their peers.
For example, I was teased, made fun of, and laughed at a lot growing up in the harsh grade schools of South Los Angeles. It was only when my homeroom teacher took a risk and took an interest in my writing ability, did I felt I had someone in my corner. That’s all a square needs, someone who will take the time and mentor them throughout the school year and perhaps show them what their future may be if they keep moving forward. I see a lot of young people with untapped potential just wasting it because of the many distractions confusing their minds. On the other hand, I’ve met a few students who show a lot of promise by just wanting to learn and do more. Yes, they may be called squares, but I prefer a correct term for them; leaders.
Something to think about the next time we dare to call anyone who we feel doesn’t fit our social circle. There is more to them, if we just give them the chance to show us why.
In a few hours, my life will reach a major milestone. One described as a ‘golden year’. Not only will I non-officially pass middle age, I’ll start a brand new chapter in my life, one that has taken half a century in the making. Looking back on the years of my existence so far, I feel I’ve accomplished what I’ve wanted to do and that is to write. Two books, a number of poems and articles, the list just keeps going on and on. There’s more I plan to do and on the next day, I plan to make those changes to produce more works.
I read a book by Les Brown who is a motivational speaker and author called Live Your Dreams. Published in the 1990’s, there is an excerpt in which Mr. Brown laments the loss of one aspiring author who had an idea for publication – only to see their life end and manuscript unfinished. It reminded me of Prince who planned to write his memoir and unfortunately, it will never be completed. All of the stories that could have been introduced by potential new and outstanding writers will never see the light of day, for they are hidden deep in the grave. This is the reason why I needed to publish a book so that readers can see what thoughts I had on my mind, what’s on my heart to share.
The years pass by so quickly. I remember celebrating the release of The Depths of My Soul fifteen years ago, happy that I finally achieved a goal of publishing a book. It wasn’t on the top of my list when I made the conscious decision to become a writer, it was a goal that eventually entered my mind. With the release of another book on the way, I am determined to share my artistic gifts before it’s my turn to rest in the grave.
I encourage all aspiring authors to follow your heart, take that leap, write and then work to get your book published. There is no greater feeling in the world but to see your name, your completed manuscript in print. I’ve ran into many authors who have a story to tell, hard at work on their project only to see life get in the way of their dream. You shouldn’t let this happen to you, make whatever plans you have to see your dream come true.
Distractions can be a nuisance. My rants against social media are a reminder I need to take the time and work on my own stuff. It’s far too easy to be seduced to the call of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or any other service that takes up too much of your time. You’re a writer, so it makes sense for you to….write. Forget about who’s following you or unfollowing you, who’s on your friend’s list and which elementary, junior or senior high school friend (and crush?) is on your search list, if you want to make your dream come true as an author, you have to write. Time is much too short.
In a few hours, my life will come to a point where the number of days I have left may or may not be as long as I hoped. Each moment is precious, the seconds and minutes that tick away should be cherished. For those of you who are ‘aspiring’ to write that first book, please make the conscious decision to do it right now, RIGHT NOW! Don’t wait until you lay on your deathbed lamenting the time you could have used to reach your dream. When I started AOL nineteen years ago, there was an woman who posted her works on a message board. Now she’s become a well-known bestselling author with two movies based on her literary works. That can be you so-called aspiring author if you decide to focus working on your project. The decision is yours. I can say no more but I wish you well. It’s up to you to make your dream a reality.
Fifty years ago when I entered this world, the race described for me on my birth certificate read “Negro”. Over the years it has been linked with another derogatory word beginning with the same letter, but is it fair to call this word that has historical roots, off limits? To illustrate how deep the madness reaches, here is an example from the American Heritage Dictionary of how this word is framed:
NEGRO – (pl. –groes) Often Offensive. A Black person. See usage Note at Black [negro, black < Lat. Niger]
You see that? The Latin displays that word which is missing one important letter that has triggered passions among human beings, no matter the culture or race. The word Negro has origins as far back as the 16th Century used by the Spanish, the Portuguese and to repeat, the Latin uses the word niger which bigoted people over the centuries have used their limited brain capacity by adding an extra ‘g’ to spew their hatred, their venom and lack of intelligence towards the ethnicity of the author of this piece and scores like him.
A century ago, the word Negro was common usage to identify Black people. Alain Locke wrote his essay entitled The New Negro and many African American authors such as Langston Hughes, and even Frederick Douglass expressed his disappointment towards what many consider to be ‘Independence Day’ when he penned, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”. I still have copies of The Negro Heritage Library which excerpts and articles from the collection have been shared on this blog from time to time. Since the time of my birth fifty years ago, changes in society and in our general vocabulary forced the meaning of the word Negro into one that is offensive and must be shunned throughout our generation.
I remember driving to my job in Orange County one morning when my favorite radio station (long live The Beat 92.3FM or FM 92 The Beat!) hearing the following story. California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante inadvertently misspoke what many considered to be the other N word to the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists ‘near Oakland’ during a Black History program. In this linked article, Bustamante realizes the mistake he made and even reached out to politicians and leaders who knew him well. In 2016, this would have triggered an outrage and firestorm on social media that has caused others with bolder attitudes using the ‘other word’ to be shamed and disgraced off the internet. In 2001, when this incident happened, although Bustamante wasn’t publicly slammed, the word Negro forever had no meaning other than it was affixed much too close with the more recognizable, offensive word. This word, that had been used to define our racial identity through literature and other mediums, was found guilty by association.
Just today, President Obama signed H.R. 4238 which now“amends two federal acts from the ’70s that define “minorities” with terms that are now insensitive or outdated.” These are the words from the link here. Personally, I’m not offended by the term, never have, although I can see why the multitude of Black people would not agree. There are words in our general vocabulary that have changed over time in which the meaning is lost, morphed into hateful or pleasant descriptions. For example, you have one word for most homosexuals that is utterly offensive today when in the past merely meant, “to exhaust or work to exhaustion’ or it meant ‘a cigarette’. If we’re honest with ourselves, that particular word needs no defense for its usage today. Not one, period. On the other hand, a word that is described as “Cheerful and lighthearted, merry’ is used by that same crowd as a culture of people who believe ‘Love Wins’. Words in our American society have the unique power to be used for the benefit or determent of a race, culture or group. Negro is one of those terms because of one just like it that has no origin in the English or any other language, but used by individuals who shun intelligence and side with foolishness, is the reason why Negro as a word must suffer. One can only wonder what my death certificate will read once my time on this earth reaches its end. I suspect the race used on that document will not read ‘Negro’, it will be vastly different for the convenience of this age. That is a word I shall not want.
Here it is; our cover for Storm over South Central.
After years of planning and praying, it is here and the release date is scheduled for December 2016. If it changes, I’ll let you know but this time, it’s a reality.
God is good, that’s all I have to say about this journey to come this close to getting this done.
As time moves on, I’ll share a few details of the poems and short stories in this anthology, which I hope you’ll enjoy.
Until then, take care and thank you for all the support! Pre-order requests will be announced this summer!
Charles L. Chatmon
This might seem a bit personal, but yesterday I stood at the fifty yard line of a school I worked in as part of a substitute teacher assignment. On that fifty yard line in that huge football field, I stood there, thinking about my life and how many years it stretched out, recounting the number of achievements and special occasions that’s happened in my life. For example, I stood on the thirty five yard line and remember the same age is when my first book was published. At the forty yard line, I smiled thinking back of the nice time out in the North Bay where my future wife treated me to a nice dinner, all the way back to the goal line, where I considered my birth year, looking back towards the fifty yard line and shook my head in amazement of how far my life has been.
Recently, I lost a person who I would consider a friend although we were not that close and even if 2016 is not the year of the death of famous movie and music stars, there have been for the past two years enough transitions to give me pause. I wonder; when will I be next? When will it be my time to face my Lord and Savior? When will be the day or night I will finally meet The Creator face to face and find out how my eternal life be spent? These are heavy questions which will have their equal answers when the time comes.
For now, I am enjoying a great life with my loving wife and my parents are still here on this earth, which makes life worth living. Yet, there are a number of friends and family who are in the midst of life adjustments; graduations from school, marriages, and even moving into new homes or cities. The past decade has also allowed me to experience a new life in a new location and I see the growth, I feel the differences within me. Though it didn’t end the way I had hoped, I had the opportunity to run and manage a community book event for years, putting in the work, planning, involved in the decision making, all that is something I’ve earned and no one or nothing can take that away from me. I’ve grown tremendously and have become much better for the opportunity.
Within a couple of weeks, I will officially reach the age that marks my half-century living on this earth. I have seen the best of my race and city, and also the worst of both. Still, I will continue on feeling fortunate and blessed to keep on living. As I turned to see the other side of the fifty yard line, I counted the numbers up and realized my time here on this planet, this blue ball rotating in space, is short. Like my associate whose time ran out, I realize that my time will also run out, but I plan to make the most of it by writing and sharing my talents with the world. I plan on publishing more books, expressing what’s on my heart and stating my opinions when they need to be said. I do this because I am a proud native of South (Central) Los Angeles. I’ve learned under many elders who shared with me their experience through action. I’m proud to have known them and the examples they set for me. I sincerely pray the young men I’ve met have also learned from my example, and will take it to heart.
Life is short, but it’s wonderful at the same time. Please, don’t squander any of your precious with distractions.