Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
When I began to write way back when, I had no idea where this hobby would take me. I wrote as a way to keep me busy when no one wanted to talk with me or even participate in a game with me. Then again, I was a teenager growing up in the late 1970's years away from social media and the advanced technology we have now. There were a few legends in literature who made appearances on talk shows discussing their latest novel or biography. The authors I watched on the small screen appeared down to earth, easygoing gentlemen and ladies in love with their craft.
Jump forward some thirty-forty years and the thrill of producing a story or play is gone. As everyone has discovered, even comic book legends who produce legendary tales taken from literature is mocked, blamed for present day social ills we as a populace were warned about not only from Stan Lee, but Rod Serling and even Ray Bradbury. Our present day generation can mock these individuals all they want, but they only prove the point of these authors who warn us of our errors in this society; we either rise or fall by using our intellect and critical thinking of the issues surrounding this planet.
Writers of the past wrote tales that served as inspiration or escape for their readers. There was no fantasy shaming by anyone in media because the populace understood what role books played in our society. Before the internet, they were a window to a world hidden from us - a world where we wished we participate in. In this 21st Century, there's too much reality, too much political messaging in a work that simply doesn't allow a story to be told that could help us think about what's going on in the world around us, and in places we rarely visit. This author's intention of writing a poetry book centered in a community mentioned by the media in a negative light was to show different perspectives of what life is like in this area not dictated by the news media and even now, social media hawks who continue to stereotype the community merely because they choose not to learn or read or speak with residents who endure the struggles daily.
Readers today find it digestible to read about wizards rather than a family in South Los Angeles struggling to make ends meet in the midst of gentrification. Readers anxiously pour through an unfinished series of thrones rather than explore the games politicians play in real life in an urban community. The word 'diversity' in literature is a lie. For what does this so-called diversity benefit? The annual Book Expo America has a chosen few Black authors, but their tales minutely touch on the challenges of inner city life here in America. Perhaps the movies of the 1990's traumatized the readership, present and future with no clear cut happy endings. Maybe 'Boyz N The Hood' and 'Menace 2 Society' were too grim for the suburban crowd to accept. Could it be that the raw Urban Lit novels and books which were abundant in the early to mid 2000's were too much for folks to handle? Is that the reason why today's 'urban' tales focus squarely on the dominant society's focus on Black and Brown America? Police brutality, gender issues, yet devoid of stories of the struggles living in a community frowned upon such as South Los Angeles? Maybe the readership and dominant society grew tired of our message.
My focus has been and always will be on South (Central) Los Angeles and the people who live here. There are many tales that have to be written, many poems created to 'set the record' straight. Yet, with each passing day there is a fight against the 'Trojan Horses' in our community in the form of organizations who preach social justice but fail to address economic justice. They will rewind the tragedy of a Black Wall Street, but won't fight against a politician's agenda for Main Street which doesn't include the financial advantage those in affluent areas enjoy, and prosper. As a writer, these are the intellectual battles that must be fought, and won. As a Black author, I'm merely heeding the call Hughes once made to someone like me to proudly proclaim my Blackness through my art, letting the world know what I write and stand for.
Submitted for your (dis)approval:
Point of Pride: The People's View of Bayview/Hunter's Point. (Produced in 2014)
From their YouTube description:
Point of Pride: The People's View of Bayview/Hunter's Point, a documentary film about the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Point of Pride combines archival footage from the 1950's 60's and 70's with present-day viewpoints and reactions to these images from the past to create a compelling portrait of a community marked by struggle and fueled by hope. Point of Pride is the culmination of a year long grant, Remembering and Restoring the Multimedia History of Bayview Hunter's Point. Community partners included the San Francisco Public Library, BAVC and San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive at San Francisco State University.
Executive Produced by Bay Area Video Coalition Produced by DWM Producing In association with San Francisco Public Library & San Francisco State University Funded by Institute of Museum and Library Services & California State Library
Remember the good old days when you could talk to someone who didn't share your political beliefs in a SANE manner? Yes, you scored some points, the other person scored points of their own, but the two of you felt respected and respectful of each other. Not today. Not as of 2008 or even before that. Now political debates are at a fever pitch. The moderate is on life support. The extremists have the floor and probably run the joint if you let âem - which one party has and as far as the other party, all they have are a bunch of kids screaming for ice cream and candy and when they don't get it, they throw a tantrum and cry some more.
At one time, I thoroughly respected news in general growing up in the days of Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw. I grew up watching 60 Minutes, 20/20 before it went semi-tabloid, but the standard for journalism that I have always respected was Nightline, the original with Ted Koppel and PBS's the McNeil/Lehrer News Hour. They didn't have to sensation to attract attention, it was the stories of everyday people trying to make a difference in this country that mattered. Once upon a time, news presented information that allowed the viewer to make up their own minds about a particular tale of interest or subject matter. While news allowed a broad scope of the world we live in, there was another wave of television that caught my attention, at times very amusing but as we see now, should have seen coming.
The rise of Wally George and Morton Downey Jr.
Yes, good ole Wally George. For those of you not aware, Mr. George had a talk show called Hot Seat which aired on KDOC, Channel 56 for nearly ten years. Mr. George's program was 'conservative' in nature (though most real conservatives felt his show was an act) inviting guests who were preferably liberal in nature. He would have arguments with these guests and if they didn't share his patriotic passion, a loyalty to the Reagan administration, or anything that contradicted his point of view, he would first shout at his guests, appeal to a bloodthirsty crowd, and then had the guy booted out with the crowd almost at a frenzy. Entertainment Tonight, other media outlets covered Mr. George and for most of the 1980âs, Hot Seat enjoyed considerable success.
Until Morton Downey Jr came along. Mr. Downey's program apply named, The Morton Downey Jr Show enjoyed success on its own when it premiered back in 1988. Many of the right wing politicos you're watching now appeared on his program, google it for yourself. While Mr. George sat behind his desk and had his security guard (always standing behind co-host David Kennedy) throw someone off stage, Mr. Downey would just cuss you out and threaten to beat you up. Yes, he would. Google or YouTube it. The irony is, both George and Downey were at odds with each other. I can't tell to this day whether it was a stunt or not, but listening to Mr. George's radio program on a local L.A. radio station, it seemed no love lost between the two. Both have left us unfortunately, but it is the opinion of the author that their contributions to our society over twenty years ago has left us with the lack of political discourse now.
It's easy to point the finger at FOX News and say it's because of their programming and/or lack of actual news that has caused the problem of not showing discourse and respect with each other, but where did they get this from? Were it not for Hot Seat and the Morton Downey Jr. Show, I doubt you would see half of the hosts and half the talk shows on the network now. These shout fests made money for the hosts, producers and advertisers. The folks at News Corp may be in trouble now, but they're no fools when it comes to business. They would still run copycats of A Current Affair for all we know. Mr. George's and Mr. Downey's programs may have been fun and as one friend told me in college as a participant in the audience for Hot Seat 'a way to blow off steam', but watching these programs when they were on, I can see a young college kid like myself emulate the same no nonsense, no compromising positions both host took. I could see someone adopt their philosophies as their own.
I could care less now about what political party one belongs to because it's healthy and educational to see things from another point of view. As a writer, I enjoy that because it gives me the opportunity to debate and relate what they have to say. In the days of old, I could speak to someone, have a passionate conversation, switch the topic to how the Dodgers were doing and all would be well. Not...today. Too much at stake for ratings for the networks. News and commentary hosts are too busy trying to make us see their perspective. Too many analysts trying to decipher the next political speech or strategy like we're not aware of what this side or that side is trying to do. Too many preachers, not enough pews. It doesn't matter who's driving the bus.
I had a post in mind called The Angry Blue Planet and who knows? I might just put it up one of these days. However, there is a cause and effect to all this. The cause of years and years of 'tough talk' from the red party (we all know if the blue side found a shadow, they might run away from it) manifested itself just a night before this post. During the Republican Debate held at the Reagan Library, Rick Perry, the current Governor of Texas was applauded for not creating 234 jobs as in many in these days and times desperately need one, but for executing 234 prisoners. Some in doubt because they may be innocent. While time and good reporting outside of corporate influence will bore that out, the fact the crowd cheered the loudest at that announcement should convince you of one thing. We the American People have become zombies in the sense nothing else matters but the taste of one's own blood. Those executed may have deserved it but to rank that as importance to an economy that is in need of repair......says a lot.
We have become the Romans. Our empire may be crumbling, but the Christians must be thrown into the lion's pit no matter what. Nero may fiddle as Rome burns, but as long as the Christians or any other opposed to Rome's rule faces the consequences......zombie thinking in action. We don't think on our own anymore. We're devoid of feeling. We simply don't care.
Welcome to the Wild West.
It happened so fast. I sat on a cement block close to the apartment my grandmother used to live in holding something in my hand. The contents inside held my interest. The attraction of the cover prompted me to open to the illustrated pages inside. What I was reading back in the 19-, well it was a long time ago, was a Marvel comic book. Its well known writer of tales wasn''t the author found on the credit of the comic book I was reading (Hulk #157) but sure enough, it was and forever more will be a Stan Lee Production.
Stan Lee. Stan 'The Man' Lee passed away today. I feel as a writer I owe a debt of gratitude towards him because he was an influence on me to pick up a pen and follow his footsteps. Back in the 1960's when the Marvel Universe exploded as part of pop culture, it was through the influence of Stan I either picked up a Marvel comic book of The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Captain America and the Falcon, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, the Silver Surfer, Thor, Irving Forbush....well, except for the last entry, it's conceivable to believe Stan helped to create a lot of characters with many of the hang-ups we mere mortals had to face. Peter Parker, Don Blake, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers dealt with the changes in their world much like the readers in their days had to do the same.
I read an interview Stan had enough of the comic book business and wanted to become a playwright or novelist. Funny how it was his wife Joan (who proceeded him in death) encouraged him to write a superhero comic that his publisher wanted him to create. That 'superhero comic' turned into the Fantastic Four. For someone who looked up to writers such as Paddy Chayefsky and Rod Serling, Stan would move on to inspire scribes from every color, creed and nationality to follow his example by the tales he wrote.
To build a universe like Marvel's it takes a team effort which is why I also have to thank Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and all of the other artists who worked with Stan to visually create the stories I read and collected for many years. Along with Stan's stories, it was the artwork that kept me buying my seventy-five cent comics month after month. (yes, once upon a time comic books were affordable)
There will be many well deserved tributes for Stan which as of today have started and possibly will continue until Avengers Four next year. The one thing I've taken away from Stan's passing is that he enjoyed the creative process of using his imagination, creating the next big storyline. As a writer I feel that I should continue to have that same devotion to my own works. I should enjoy the process and have fun with it along the way. In one of Stan's last interviews, there is a quote that as a writer, I should take heed and learn from. Responding to a question from Mark Ebner in his Daily Beast article (link below) he asks Stan if he misses 'the life'. Stan answers:
I don't miss the signings. I miss the creating. And that's the writing I'm waiting to do.
If we profess to be writers and hopefully one day leave a legacy close to Stan's, this should be our goal. Stan, thank you so, so, so much for being a part of my childhood and inspiring me to write stories in my adult life. Take care and sleep well. Excelsior!
Daily Beast link: Stan Lee Breaks His Silence: Those I Trusted Betrayed Me
Maybe I'm too 'old school' but I can't help but notice a trend in journalism that is far removed from the word itself. For example if I were to ask what is a journalist, there would be several different answers to my question. The dictionary describes a journalist as:
JOURNALIST (Merriam-Webster): a person engaged in journalism especially : a writer or editor for a news medium. 2) : a writer who aims at a mass audience. 3) a person who keeps a journal.
So what? You may ask. I propose that a journalist fits the description above for the sake of Journalism which by definition: (American Heritage Dictionary)
The collecting, writing, editing, and presentation of news in print or electronic media.
I can infer that a journalist's job is to collect information, write about it, have an editor verify or refute same info and then present it for public consumption. Yet, I've written half a page to nearly remind everyone the role of a journalist (root word journal) in order to set up this argument against the trend I'm about to reveal.
"News and opinion"
Funny, in the examples I shared, there was no hint of the word opinion at all. What troubles me is that in today's new news landscape, there are media outlets designed to tilt towards a social or political ideology which benefits individuals who adhere to same ideology. We see a flood of so-called journalistic media full of examples on the internet or on television. We no longer need to think for ourselves when a media outlet can do it for us. There is no need to have a rebuttal if today's journalism reflects the will of a certain audience, not all of the people.
Yet here we are in 2018, a far cry from when you could pick up a newspaper or watch cable news with hours and hours of stories from national to domestic detailing all that goes on in our world. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that opinions mattered more than facts, imaginings weighed heavier than reality, personalities better than ordinary human beings doing good work in their community. We are filled to the brim with opinion pieces everywhere which says a lot about us in the twenty-first century. There are science-fiction tales that describe an out of control, dystopian society which here in America, we're accelerating the pace of establishing one. It becomes that way when we fail to think for ourselves, letting social media do that for us. Old fashioned journalism which focuses on informing the masses rather than share one out of a billion opinions helps us to formulate our own opinions, make up our own minds, things like that.
The spam crowd might be clever and say, "but aren't you doing the same thing you're against? Isn't it hypocritical to assume all modern journalism is terrible when you're doing the same thing? Let me say this is my blog which I can express my opinions on whatever subject I choose to write about. When I'm assigned a story by my employer,(#calcrusnews) I leave my personal opinions 'at the door'. I do my research on my subject, ask objective questions, write my article and press 'send'. This is my personal approach as a journalist and quite honestly, the only approach as far as I'm concerned.
The only way I can express my displeasure with today's media is to not be attracted to 'clickbait' stories online, stay out of websites that lean towards an ideology and continue to practice what I preach, write objective stories for the media I work for. We all have that choice not to participate in the madness. All that is required is to simply not support those outlets by not mentioning them at all. Good luck with that.