Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Note: As of July 22, 2016, I’m taking a break from Twitter, so any posts on this blog automatically are posted there. It doesn’t mean I’m active tweeting. Sorry for the confusion.
This post is from my other blog, Chatmon’s Books. I have a page for Storm Over South Central if you want to follow me there. See you in a week Twitter fans!
UPDATE - July 22, 2016
Hello and welcome. This is the first of what I hope to be many updates on the progress of my latest book, Storm Over South Central. As of now, the planned release date of this anthology is March 2017, although I hope to have it out sooner than that.
Yes, it is an anthology of original poems and short stories that paint a picture of the world outside our windows. Topics and subjects in the book relate to the challenges we face in our present day while touching on the lives of the characters in the short stories that I’ll reveal as Storm moves forward. I can’t wait to tell you about “The Story of Shontel” or “Bang, Bang”, a poem that hits close to home. Short stories I’m just as excited to share with you are “The Albatross” in which a widowed husband is faced with a difficult choice; “Father’s Day”, a short tale of a young boy wondering where his father may be, and the title of the book, “Storm Over South Central” and it’s not what you may think, but it will be food for thought.
So here we go as we begin this journey together. Please feel free to visit my website, http://charleslchatmon.com and click on the Books section to take a look at my other books The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central if you’re interested in conscious, thought provoking poetry. Until then, I wish you all the best and take care.
Charles L. Chatmon
Author, Storm Over South Central
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:44-45 (New American Standard)
Love your enemies. Three important words that in the world of social media, make no sense. Today’s social justice warrior, online activist and keyboard panther bristle at the commands given by Jesus Christ when he spoke in the above scriptures. However, it is a command that we should adhere to, although it doesn’t satisfy our emotions, our insatiable need for payback against those we feel have wronged us, or an entire race for generations.
The recent murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile set off a heart-wrenching week of protests decrying the violence initiated by law enforcement, officers who acted too swiftly in their actions in taking the lives of these young men. This is to be expected when an American court system in Florida, California and other places across these rapidly Divided States give carte blanche to police officers (and those who wish to ‘Stand Their Ground’ or a fraction of that law thereof) to locate, find and kill civilians. Whether it’s a case of (un)mistaken identity, racial profiling, or just plain malice, the trust between citizen and “peace” officers has never been so torn as it is now, this in a country where prejudice is the guiding force for the dominant society to inflict its will upon people of color under the pretense of law.
Despite all this, what does the Son of God command us to do? What does He demand of us? Love our enemies, plain and simple. Yes, we can be critical and ask questions of the dominant society’s rule of law, but it also doesn’t mean we seek retribution because we feel as non-white people, it will show we mean ‘business. A former army veteran, Micah Johnson felt it was his right to take the lives of five Dallas police officers at a Black Lives Matter protest. (Disclaimer: members and organizers in that one particular group are not terrorists, just Americans with the right to express their displeasure) As a result of his action as we’re seeing, more emphasis is placed on the officers he killed rather than on Sterling and Castile, who should have received the proper attention focusing on their deaths and the reasons thereof. “An eye for an eye” in our 21st Century society led by social media seems as if it is the proper response to the growing cases of police brutality in recent times. It feels right to show ‘the pigs’ people are not playing, pump up our pseudo Panther fists and act revolutionary online and off. When we as mortals seek to follow what Jesus Christ who died for all of us, commanded us to do, we shake our heads empathically, mutter a few curse words of defiance and continue our online-fueled rage towards police.
Love your enemies. In a world that is rapidly rejecting the personage of the Creator, it is no wonder our society is rejecting His son too? Matthew 5:38- 39 sheds more light on Christ’s view on how to deal with an ‘eye for an eye’ situation though in our social justice warrior mentality, it doesn’t provide the answer we seek. We want vengeance, we want a microwaveable solution, we want President Obama to do something about this. Therein lies the argument, what could he do? I mentioned in a response to a social media post that as long as police unions in this country continue – and they’ve done this way before the Rodney King beating trial – to close ranks and protect their brethren, these sad instances of police ‘shooting first and asking questions later’ will go on, and on, and on until they develop the courage needed to say ‘no, you’re not above the law because you carry a badge. You’re going to jail.” Once they do that, only will the tensions abate and the protests will become fewer. Until this happens, expect more and more of these same sad occurrences between police and citizens.
Consider Reginald Denny who will be infamously remembered as the truck driver who passed through the intersection of Florence and Normandie Avenues in South Central Los Angeles in the beginning stages of the Unrest (initiated in that section by very questionable actions of L.A.P.D officers). Denny was yanked out of his truck, thrown to the ground and beaten up by angry residents who an hour before heard the ‘not guilty’ verdicts of the four officers who beat Rodney King. Had it not been for the ‘good Samaritans’ on the scene, Mr. Denny would not be among the land of the living today. A year later on the Phil Donahue show, Denny along with his attorney Johnnie Cochran who would be reviled for his part in the O.J. Simpson case two years later, told the mostly white audience he forgave his attackers. The reaction shocked everyone in studio! The responses were just as shocking!
“You must have brain damage!”
“How dare you forgive those savages? I wouldn’t!”
Those are close to the actual responses from the shocked and outraged audience members who took issue with Denny’s stance. In some ways, that audience resembles the same responses from the online Panthers, social justice warriors and continuously outraged users who mimic the actions of their elders. I will share with you a better example; Jesus Christ who said to love our enemies crucified at the hands of the Jewish High Priests who falsely accused him and the Roman Empire under Pilate’s orders, requested this of The Father in Luke 23:34:
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
His plea to God to ‘forgive them’ is the model what Reginald Denny followed and faced a public crucifixion of his own. So does anyone who follows the path of peace. As humans, we all desire an emotional hit like a junkie needs a ‘hit’ to get high. We need our ‘hits’ to get hyped, take it out on whoever we consider an enemy. When an individual soul has made a conscious decision to take another route, the name-calling and jeers should be expected. This may sound strange to you, but I stand with Christ on loving your enemies. To love your enemies is to condone the actions, the hidden, unsavory thoughts reserved to enact violence on another, but to love them in spite of themselves. It takes a spiritually mature heart to forgive those who have hurt or wronged us, no matter what their racial or social makeup is. I have forgiven the young man who shot and killed a friend not too far from my home here in South Los Angeles walking his date home on a Valentine’s night. I couldn’t understand why his life had to be taken, but for the young man who committed that crime and was never found, I put my faith and trust in God that one day he will consider his actions in taking a son away from a loving mother, a brother away from his siblings, never with the chance to graduate with a diploma in his hand, nor contribute to our world. One bullet took all that away, but as a friend, I have forgiven the person who didn’t think of that when he pulled the trigger.
Police officers all around this country need to understand wearing the badge does not put you above the law. The Unrest became reality due in part of four men who went outside their boundaries, nearly beating a motorist senseless. Yet, they must be forgiven although it would be hard for most of us to accept. It’s easy for us to continue our grudges for a quarter of a century but while justice is never administered, we hold our grudges. While we should take note of the fine work our local police force does, we should admonish without question when they do wrong, demanding justice……or fairness in justice to be applied. Loving your enemies does not mean paying them back with an eye for an eye; it means we have to desire the spiritual maturity to not let the madness of social media dominate our thinking, no matter how emotionally good it looks to us.
Editor’s Note: as always, if you happen to disagree with anything said in this article, or if you approve, be sure to make your constructive criticism known in the comments section below.
Eight years ago, we embarked on a journey to provide literature to a city without a bookstore at that time. It was a move that was worth it; the supporters we’ve met, the connections made with other published and aspiring authors, and fun times setting up our mobile bookstore inside the Vallejo Farmers Market.
We got questions of how and why we did it, setting up a “mobile bookstore” in the middle of a farmer’s market every Saturday. First, as a transplanted author via Southern California, I met and established a partnership with Vallejo’s art director who allowed me to sell my then fiancée’s novel and my own books at the Artist’s Square, a small public park reserved for artisans who sold their wares. When I began to sell my books at the square, it was a regular four foot table with my works, a mailing list, nothing fancy or elaborate, just a normal set up. We heard from local residents of the lack of a bookstore, explaining the times the city had shops in the past only to see them fail. Reasons included high overhead, ridiculous demands by politicians, and so on. For us to be successful, we had to create a presence where potential readers could access. As we continued to sell our books in the square, more books were added from book sales in the area and posting Craigslist ads online. Our assertive actions paid off as we gathered the attention of book lovers, literary enthusiasts, even bloggers who worked for publishing houses in the Bay.
We believed that our solitary four foot table wouldn’t be enough. Visibility was key in order to stand out from the many vendors who occupied the farmers market. Fortunately, we had a canopy that we used selling our books at different gatherings in the North Bay. Once the canopy was rolled out that first Saturday, created signage to alert the passers-by of our presence, our mobile bookstore was up and ready to go. Commitments back home and inclement weather caused us not to set up often in the first two years, but we stuck with our dream of becoming an impromptu local bookstore that was well known by city leaders, activists and the media.
Four months after we established our business we were interviewed by a reporter who worked for the city’s newspaper and covered our efforts. This same reporter would frequent our mobile bookstore often and bought a book or two. The interview was what we needed to let this city know Chatmon’s Books was on the map. Now the folks of Vallejo felt with our mobile bookstore, they would finally get what they deserved; a bookstore to call their own. Offers began pouring in. We spoke to people who advised us to rent space for at least six months at one of the vacant storefronts in the downtown area. Keep in mind, we set up shop at the exact time Vallejo declared bankruptcy, so while creating and maintaining a mobile bookstore was fun at first, the depressing sight of businesses moving in and moving out was a challenge to us.
The following year, the art director allowed us to move on the corner in front of his store. This was a shot in the arm as far as visibility and sales. We developed regular customers and made sure to purchase the books they were looking for. Our bookstore focused on buying used books because the process of obtaining new books by bestselling authors involved using money which we did not have to buy the new titles out on the market. Used books are easier to buy for a mobile bookstore because someone has already read the book and either decided to keep it in their garage or just give it away. This is where we made most of our purchases to build our inventory.
The year 2008 was significant for a number of ways. Not only is it the year we opened our mobile bookstore or the year Vallejo declared bankruptcy, it was also the year a major threat to not only our bookstore but other brick-and-mortar shops emerged; Amazon unleashed the Kindle. Booksellers had to figure out a way to beat the convenience of books anyone could read on a battery-operated device with as many titles as they wanted. It was a paradise for readers; an inferno to most of us who deal in selling books. It wasn’t long before the questions for our bookstore’s existence were asked, or the folks who approached our canopy proclaimed within earshot, “I get my books for free!” Although we fluctuated on prices when we started, settling on a nice range that would motivate the Saturday crowds to buy from us, there was no way we could ever beat ‘free’. Even the Kindle users would stop by our table, peeking at our selection before telling us, “I have nine-hundred books in my Kindle!” Those words were a sure sign this reader would not buy from us. It was a statement heard often.
If the weather was sunny and perfect, it was a good day to operate the mobile bookstore. Sales were great during those times and conversations with readers and local folk were interesting and informative. On days when the weather was cloudy or terrible, we decided to stay home to protect the books from damages caused by rain or harsh temperatures. We would still receive “advice” on where our bookstore should go. Our supporters would tell us to use an old house away from downtown, far from our usual space in front of the Art Department and other suggestions were made as well, none of them would have made sense to open a bookstore. Our presence at the farmers market would have drawbacks too. Our host from the Art Department would have other artists to occupy the space we were in which made our days difficult to make sales. We would be in competition with a jewelry dealer with a canopy bigger than ours, along with painters, craft makers, all on the same corner. The host would even ask us to move away from our spot around the corner to make room for these other artists which would have been a challenge had we not hung banners inside our canopy. Although we had no idea at the time, the shine, the excitement of a mobile bookstore in a city without one started to fade.
As time passed, we spent Saturdays without one single sale. We had a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter, created a mailing list alerting folks of our presence or ‘special sales’ but the crowds never showed up. It reached a point of frustration when a group of dancers in the middle of one street (all the streets in the farmers market were blocked off) in front of our A-frame sign, bumped into it without any regard of the reason it was placed there. I was angry, upset, felt bitter for our all times we had set up on that corner, it was apparent we had become invisible. Even our appearance on a local public access channel advertising our bookstore felt wasted. Even though times were rough, we would not give up. We continued spending our time looking for books that we felt might sell, we created an online bookstore via connections with authors I knew from the literary event I ran in L.A. We had come too far to give up. We would not stop until we decided it was enough.
Whether it was Juneteenth, the Wednesday Night Celebration or other festivals taking place in Vallejo, we were there selling books while establishing our presence in the community. Through our rough times of not making too many sales, we were fortunate for the few who supported us along the way. It wasn’t just hard on our bookstore; it was hard on the artisans too. The failing national economy hit all of us hard, not just the folks in Vallejo. Along with the bankruptcy on one end, the rise of Kindle on the other, there were days we wondered if the bookstore was worth setting up on most Saturdays while facing disappointment week after week. Besides my other commitments back in Los Angeles in teaching writers workshops and running a book expo, the bookstore turned from a labor of love into a nightmare.
With an uncertain future facing us, it was time to make a decision to move out of town and head towards Southern California. The present situation of living in Vallejo became unbearable as storefronts closed and potential businesses stayed away. Even the citizens began to lose faith in their own city. Therefore, these factors made our decision easier to leave Sweet Home Vallejo. Personally, I was frustrated by the declining readers who moved out of the city to find ‘greener pastures’, activists who wouldn’t even bother to approach our table or turn their heads at the first sight of us, and the endless conversations with folks who had something to say but nothing to buy. It became too much and in April 13, 2013 after five challenging years of running our mobile bookstore, we decided to leave that chapter preparing ourselves for the new one.
Since our move back to Southern California, Chatmon’s Books as a mobile and online bookstore is inactive for the moment. The mobile bookstore made one appearance at a literary event in a local college and a Juneteenth program in 2014 and the result was still the same. Not one sale. I blame it on the shifting winds of the book trade. The creation of e-books has made it harder to sell printed books these days as sales for both have both lowered recently. Still we continue on with our social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and now Instagram. As far as our experience in the city of Vallejo, California, perhaps we were either the ‘little mobile bookstore who could’ or the ‘little mobile bookstore who couldn’t’. Either way, we did our best so we’ll always be proud of that. Outside of our efforts, Vallejo did gain a bookstore by way of Koham Press which now operates as Vallejo Bookstore. Of course, this blog and perhaps one or two websites associated with us are the only ones that mention “Chatmon’s Books” and “Vallejo” in the same sentence. One would say the fact we have not been mentioned at all speaks to our time in the city, “out of sight, out of mind”.
Reader, I think it’s time we had an honest discussion, you and I. I believe it is about time you started to think for yourself. We’re living in a world where social media dominates this culture twenty four hours, seven days a week and no one is speaking out about it. YOU have your own thoughts, YOU have your own mind, YOU should be the one to decide whether anything posted, said on television or on a website (like this) is important to YOU.
For example, when I used to log on to my email from a certain website (starts with a Y), I didn’t receive a trillion pop-culture ‘news’ stories about the latest ‘bromance’ or which super star threw up at a national food chain. Nor did I receive ‘stories’ about “Martians can date whoever they choose, Earthlings. Get used to it”. I didn’t encounter the battle for my mind every single day and you shouldn’t either to become a victim of ‘click bait’. Are these stories disguised as opinionated political statements informative? Do they make you want to know more about a subject or the plotline for the next blockbuster movie this year? Honestly reader, you’re letting the internet think and speak for YOU and that’s not a good sign to use your free will when yours is usurped daily.
If only the internet were the culprit reader, it would make your decision easy. We grew up in an era of the Wally George’s and Morton Downey Jr’s shouting America is perfect; anything or anyone outside of the ideals of this country are evil. To balance that, we’ve had the Phil Donahue’s and Oprah’s of the world present subjects that were more open, more progressive only to be followed a few years later by Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Jerry Springer and others. Along the way we witnessed psychologists as guests expound upon their beliefs why people act the way we do, while we sat back at home and hardly questioned what they were saying. The problem just didn’t start with the internet; mass media played an important part in removing free will from our hearts.
Skip forward to our 21st Century media. There isn’t a medium, an outlet free from the influence of controlling your minds. For every Bill O’Reilly, there is a Jon Stewart; every Glenn Beck, Stephen Colbert; Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher. For every Fox News Channel, there is a Full Frontal or Last Week Tonight to express their thoughts on the issues of the day. Now reader, how many of these pundits can YOU say felt the same way YOU did on a controversial topic? The only different between YOU and they is that YOU do not have a studio or microphone to offer your opinion. Please keep in mind, the opinion business is a money making enterprise. That’s why you see these personalities dominate the culture with their words, their stances on social issues, their social media posts, all of it. The big question remains, what are YOU getting out of this?
There is no doubt we live in an informative society. The World Wide Web has granted access to as many places, many people as possible. Yet, in all this madness, wouldn’t be great if we started to use our free will more in determining which stories or sound bites would we gain from this instead of hearing talking points, day after day? As the owner of this blog, I too am guilty of using my persuasive language to help you see a point that I am making. However, I am truthful when I write about romance, racism, my spiritual devotions, etc. I allow YOU to make up your own mind. YOU do not have to agree with me at all. This is why I encourage you to use the comments section. YOU must decide whether or not this society full of opinions disguised as fact, heavily tilted as political statements or social activism is what you want. If you want to receive unbiased, filtered information, then it’s your choice.
In closing, all human beings crave, desire, request information that will help better their lives. There’s a reason why our print and electronic media presents articles on “Five Ways to Be a Better Lover” or “How to Cook like a Famous Chief”. We need instruction from individuals who know what they’re talking about and can back it up. When it comes to social, political, racial and gender issues, these are subjects best suited for us to decide which side is best to choose. The rise of pop-culture should not be the fall of your intelligence. Reader, you have way too much of it to lend it to a media personality. Your mind belongs to YOU, not a social media sexpot or loud-mouthed entertainer. Please decide today, you want to be informed, not merely entertained.
Note: I posted this on the Chatmon's Book blog nearly an hour ago:
Dear fans and followers,
We regret to inform you the launch of the much anticipated anthology by author and Chatmon’s Book president Charles L. Chatmon’s Storm Over South Central by Adrolite Press has been moved to March 2017 from its previous date of December 2016.
More time is needed to get the anthology right and to make a first impression for new and returning readers of Mr. Chatmon’s works. You still however purchase copies of The Voices of South Central on Charles’s website, http://charleslchatmon.com (Books)
Pre orders planned for this summer will be moved to the fall. When we officially have word, we’ll share that with you.
Thank you for your support and please stay with us for future updates on the new release date!