Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Dear Reader, The following video shows you more of the 1992 Unrest than I can uncover (and tried to) in this blog. Please hear the concerns of the people interviewed.
I’m starting what I like to call ‘Retro Week”, digging up interviews and other items from the past to let folks know more about me aside from the abundance of posts here on the blog. First up: an interview I had with the founder of The Literary World website, Ms. Lauretta Pierce.
Charles L. Chatmon
"The Depths of my Soul"
Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
March 15, 2006
Q. Who is Charles Chatmon, Jr.?
A. I'm a native from Los Angeles, California and I still live in the city. I'm a former educator, volunteer youth basketball and flag football coach, but most of all I'm an author/poet who's trying to make a name for himself in the literary world. I've been writing since junior high and I started my writing career officially my school paper during high school days, contributed in college and community newspapers, and working on new projects.
Q. What inspired you to write “The Depths of My Soul: Poems from the heart of a man"?
A. I've always enjoy writing love poetry but what I try to show is the experiences of love; the ups and downs, the joys and difficulties of what we all go through in relationships, plus seeing it from a man's perspective I'm sure will help both sexes understand it's okay for a man to express his feelings, to say what he really means although the male gender hasn't been taught to do just that. In The Depths of My Soul, I just don't write about the many issues of love, but I try to lend a voice to what's going on in our society today and bring to light topics that will cause the reader to think, which is my goal.
Q. How did you come about the title “The Depths of My Soul?”
A. When I was thinking of a title for the first book, I had in mind an old photograph when I was three years old running in the park. I was going to use that for the proposed 'Baby Steps' title I had in my head. However, during one writers' workshop, Maxine Thompson who is a good friend of mine, suggested I use The Depths of My Soul because I have a poem of the same name in the book. I agreed, since that was my second choice anyway and went with it.
Q. How long have you been writing poetry?
A. I began I began writing poetry around the age of 14. I started out writing just short stories and a play for my junior high English class, but I wanted to expand as a writer, so I decided to concentrate on poetry while at the same time, work on my short stories. I wanted to be diverse in my work, and poetry has been a great tool for me to speak my mind while I try to do the same using the storytelling technique in my prose works (which I'm working on right now)
Q. Will you give the readers some insight of the significant for your following poems: “How Can I Please You”, “This Is How It Hurts”, “The Observers” and “Circus of Life?”
A. "How Can I Please You?" is just the tale of a man trying to woo a woman through romantic gestures such as rubbing her feet when she's tired from a long day at work, buying her flowers, things that will win her heart. "This Is How It Hurts" talks about a man's pain after losing a woman to someone else, "The Observer" is a poem that closely matches my personality and The Observerhimself is featured in the introduction and closing of The Depths. I consider him as an old soul who has seen a lot, and uses pen and paper to record all that he's witnessed, and "Circus Of Life" reflects under the huge big top of this circus that we call life, and the many attractions that it presents.
Q. Do you write in other genres?
A. So far, I'm working on a lot of short stories and novellas that I had stored away for a long time, but have never been published. I have a set just ready to go which are very short, but speak on the human condition; then I have quite a few detective stories that I love to release right now with the explosion in urban fiction going on, I write a series of essays on my blog (found on my webpage) that I discuss my thoughts on a certain topic of the day or my philsophy of life, and in the future I would love to write plays again. At the present time, I do freelance writing (which is how I started out) and contribute to a couple of new magazines, such as Conscioussness located in Illnois and a local magazine, the Sounds of Sisters here in Los Angeles.
Q. How many books have you written?
A. Up to this point, I've written two, The Depths of My Soul and The Voices of South Central.
Q. Are you currently working on another book of poetry?
A. Yes. "A Question of Truth: Poems from a man's heart" should be out later this year.
Q. What type of atmosphere do you require to write?
A. I usually enjoy a quiet atmosphere such as a library or coffee shop. I tend to find in places like that, I have a lot more creativity flowing.
Q. What message would you like readers to receive from reading your poetries?
A. I would hope that they will enjoy not only the poems themselves but the messages that I try to convey through them. All I want to do is to provoke thought, even if they disagree with what I'm saying. I don't claim to have all the answers in The Depths, but I write from what I've seen from my elders and individuals a lot wiser than I am. I would also hope it will encourage them to pick up The Voices of South Central and A Question of Truth when it comes out, so they can enjoy reading and will continue to support this poet! The reader is always welcome to view my website at http://charleslchatmon.com and share their opinions with me.
Note: as you know, A Question of Truth was never published. The new book will come in a different name but it is on the way! Please email me at email@example.com.
I’m sure you’ve read, heard and seen what’s been happening in Ferguson, Missouri these past few days: a young man unarmed and holding up his hands shot down by a ‘celebrated’ police officer, protests, a militarized police force (sure glad LAPD didn’t go this route in ‘92), a governor with higher political aspirations ruined, and a response from the White House.
Man, can’t you tell after reading this blog in the past, that this is all TOO familiar?
There are no words, besides absolute digust over the actions of law enforcement of St. Louis County, just like law enforcement in Los Angeles, or the deep South in the 1960’s. Even on the date of the Watts Unrest, forty nine years and counting, did we see Man at his worst in the town of Ferguson (displaying the militarized heavy artillery for show).
Welcome to America 2014, a much different country than what we experienced here in South Los Angeles in 1992. Only then, Rodney King survived.
“Can’t we all get along?” He said it at the time to help ‘calm’ people down, but in 2014, we should change that to “Can’t we all just LIVE?” It's not a joke.
As I wrote in my poem “The Fire Still Burns”, this country is still under verdict. The world is watching. It’s hard to advocate for justice in Iraq when our young men are targeted by police (Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Oscar Grant) and ‘watchmen” (Trayvon Martin in Florida)
It’s always someone who looks like me and of the same gender who meet our end ‘tragically’ either by our own kind which any Fox News watcher likes to remind folks, or by police who overstep their pledge to ‘protect and serve’.
Is this the reason why Christopher Dorner was 'taken out'? Perhaps we’ll never know. The actions and thoughts of law enforcement officials and their attitude towards a race of people needs to change or else the fire next time will truly become The Fire Next Time.
Dear New Media:
Polished speakers with distinguished degrees have appeared quite often in recent years proclaiming their “leadership” role with us who are a part of Black America. It should be noted that most of them look the same as I. However, I would like to make a request in that when they speak of a community constantly under siege by corrupt law enforcement, economic disparity, gang violence, profitable drug use to those who sell it, could you please cancel their blogs, their postings on a certain ‘website’ and please let those without an Ivy League degree or business pedigree speak to the people who want to see what regular people who actually live, work and have stayed in those communities have to say?
I know the internet structure is set up to generate clicks for these websites which give a platform for a professor from a prestigious college who has not been seen in the communities they champion, to speak about the problems and issues a person such as I who has been a part of my neighborhood, born, raised and has been the best and worst of both. Please don’t give in to the temptation of having a “Doctor This’ or “Pastor That’ speak for me if they have not made a visit to the area where the next police beating or drive-by shooting occurs. Please have bloggers with a PhD touch on solutions rather than go on ill-advised rants from time to time. It can make even a wise man hit his head against the wall.
It has been over forty years since we’ve had a leader telling us what to do, and many of these armchair activists on the internet have become so fed up with our current president of these not so United States who instead of standing behind a podium and leading us to the promised land, looks and acts like….a president. Please refrain from taking the title of “Black Leader of the year” and writing posts on blogs, social media and other places on the internet in an effort to ‘save us’. When the internet was in its infancy, a few of my race have acted online as if they were the next in line to stand on a balcony in a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee or in a masque in Harlem, New York. While it’s commendable to remind our people of our struggles, the correct forum to do so is not on a medium that will simply record your arguments and then reserved in some deep, unforeseen corner on the World Wide Web. If anything new media, please encourage the armchair activists to take some time and actually visit the communities they talk about, perhaps volunteer in a program for youth, and maybe then type out their accomplishments online.
New Media, I know when incidents happen in Ferguson, Missouri occur when a policeman shoots a young Black man for simply raising up his hands, tempers flare and every blogger, every website presents forth doctors, lawyers, those with a Ph. D to post on what they perceive as the breakdown and elimination of the Black community. Please do not go to these people when a local community activist, volunteer in a local program or regular resident will do. Chances are they may not be as eloquent as Doctor Revolutionary, and it may cost a few clicks for a so-called ‘news website’ but at least people will read what these folks have to say and learn it’s the truth. I believe more regular people should have a voice, not just reserved for the folks in a magical ivory tower.
New Media, you have so much to offer since you were created. You can share with us what someone is saying in South Los Angeles and transmit that across the entire world where someone in Afghanistan can read what’s going on in another part of the world. However, as you are free in terms of posing any subject we choose, you also allow individuals who may not always get the story right, or accurate, even to promote an agenda. Please allow us the chance to digest and reflect upon what was read with a clear mind, and no more Kardashian updates of any kind. Why should I waste my time reading about a person who could care less of what’s going on in my world?
Please honor my request New Media, it’s not too much to ask and all I want is for everyone to stop over analyzing of issues that’s been widely known in certain communities for decades.
Title taken from this song: Tubthumping
This might be the last entry you’ll get from me for a while. I’m working on the L.A. Black Book Expo right now and may not have a chance to write as often as I’d like. It’s fitting that on a day in which the great comedian Robin Williams allegedly took his own life, depression or more importantly, how to deal with it, has been the subject of the day.
This world and everything around it has a lot to cause depression. The endless stories of violence on the news, the inequality of financial mobility between classes in our society, clashes between races, it’s all too much to take sometimes and living in an endless stream of information or misinformation leaves a person feeling empty, lost, without hope. No one knows the exact reason why Mr. Williams took his life, except to say people like myself who enjoyed his work feels even now, he had nothing to argue about. He was a great and talented actor, comedian, and genius.
Personally, I’ve had my own bouts with depression and a touch of loneliness in my past. I imagine for all creative types when you’re feeling down, it’s hard to look outside of the bubble that surrounds you with nothing but negative emotions, thoughts. You’re not sure if anyone truly likes or loves you or whether or not you feel accepted in this world. It’s hard to feel anything but low and self-esteem takes a big hit, even despite what I’ve done. At times, it’s hard not to feel bitter after you’ve been ‘used’ by who you thought were your friends, to see them turn their backs on you and laugh. Growing up, I had that experience much too often. I could have said enough and taken the same unfortunate route, ending it all.
Depression is an affliction that we shouldn’t identify as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. There are many challenges in life to make a person turn sad and despondent. It doesn’t mean these people are bad or unfaithful. If anything, they’re human. It’s that side of us which once we were born into this world, we had to accept. Somehow, we’ve identified individuals who are depressed in a negative light, when all they need is a smile, a word of encouragement and a bit of time from sincere people who honestly care about them. One of my best friends in college shook me out of a depression in my first year and I’ll never forget him for that. It takes a lot for someone who does not know you to take the time and build a friendship with you. These days with the internet and social media, it’s easier to put on that mask and pretend all is right with you and the world only to find out how much you’re hurting inside.
We salute those who have persevered, overcoming their doubts and fears with a devil may care attitude. For the depressed, it’s not as celebrated or romantic when they are in the middle of their mental affliction. Again, it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s humanity. We’re born with all of these emotions inside without knowing how to handle them. I certainly had trouble growing up managing mine until I found the outlet of writing. Just as I began writing this, I read a quote on social media that deflated my spirits, but I realized as much crap as I’ve absorbed, I am still here. I have been knocked down, but I still get back up. Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment or I have found perseverance, who can say? I'll say that it doesn't matter who doesn't like me, who could care less about me, hates what I write, hates what I do, it doesn't matter neither should the person I spend wasteful energy on.
When depression robs us of a great talent like Mr. Williams, we can’t help to be sad and mourn his and his family’s loss. It leaves us with no alternative outside of ourselves once an individual is in the grip of it, stuck in the middle. What helps me break out of my personal ruts is praying and just accept the present day as it is. I hold out hope for a better day ahead, even if it’s not promised.