Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
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!
I want you to look at this video. Listen closely to the topic of Chicago and then hear the reactions of the athletes sitting around the table.
Did you hear that? Jim Brown, a hall of fame football legend and more importantly community activist, is inviting Steve Smith, Grant Hill and Charles Barkley to get involved in ending the violence in Chicago and in other areas of trouble across the nation. Judging from experience living here in South Los Angeles, I have a feeling they won’t. I don’t know what these former NBA players are doing now, but don’t be surprised if you don’t see a news item about Chicago in the near future. For these gentlemen, there’s too much at stake for them and their corporate masters if they join up with Mr. Brown. It would be in their interests not to call up the gang members Mr. Brown suggests they reach out to.
I can remember plenty of times and I mean plenty of times during the Unrest where celebrities spoke in front of a microphone and literally pledged to help the people of South Central Los Angeles. Help which has been invisible for decades. I recognize these celebrities are in a business where image is everything, the almighty dollar is the bottom line. The outer communities would frown if suddenly a superstar they revere is assisting – gasp! – poor people. It’s easy to speak into an open microphone and pledge your help, your presence to a community in need, but as we’ve have seen, nothing comes out of it if there’s no commitment to assist.
To date, Magic Johnson and Keshawn Johnson have been the only athletes who have invested their time and resources to uplift South Los Angeles. Magic has done his part by adding a movie theater, partnering with Friday’s restaurant, and several other businesses in the community. Keshawn who grew up in this city, is an investor of Chesterfield Square, “a 23-acre project at the southwest corner of Western Avenue and Slauson Boulevard, would be one of the largest retail developments built in the area in more than a decade.” (L.A. Times, July 20, 1999). Chesterfield Square opened in the early 2000’s which added a Magic Johnson Starbucks in the retail center. Just two athletes (and possibly a few more) contributing to a community’s financial (and social) well-being. Imagine what would happen if even more joined in? That would be special.
The iconic picture above has circulated online in the past week. It’s taken inside Jim Brown’s office in Cleveland, Ohio in 1967 during the ‘Ali Summit where the late, great Muhammad Ali decided he would not participate in the Vietnam War. The three athletes besides Mr. Ali; Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, Jim Brown and Lew Alcindor (before he changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), were all well-known and revered, but they took a stand with Mr. Ali risking the cheers of the public, money they would receive from their endeavors, fame that they achieve over time turning against them in the blink of an eye. Jim Brown said this best: (from Ali Summit link)
“I'm glad you asked that question because most people don't realize that the United States government was what we were fighting. And that's a very powerful force and they did want Ali to make an example out of them and that was one of the reasons that I called for the meeting because he was basically alone and this great force was going to try and bring him down and I conjured up this idea of bringing top athletes who were like-minded athletes. Certain athletes did not get invited. (Bold print: the author of this piece)
"Everybody had taken a great risk at losing everything by meeting with him but what was so real was that we met for about five hours and he was asked every question that you could ask a person and he came through as totally sincere and it was his sincerity that made us become a group of one and we decided we would back him all the way and do anything we could do to bring attention to his situation and to let everybody know he was actually genuine about his position on the war based upon his religion."
Who among today’s great athletes is willing to take that stand? You look around and see they are too closely tied to their brand, their endorsements, their fans. They need to realize they have other fans who are involved with violent activities but if these men only took that effort to meet with the young men and women who are involved in the violence, perhaps it would change a few hearts and minds. It would also possibly help them consider a new path.
The reason hip hop artists have reached the young people first is because they know where they came from.They never left. They see them constantly; they live in the same neighborhoods where they grew up. In other words; they’re real. Athletes to this point have yet to prove they’re just as real, although there may be one or two who do help out their communities.
Jim Brown extended an invitation to these athletes who were in awe of what he, Mr. Ali and others have done to ‘pave their way’. Now it’s up to them to follow along the same social activist path. Just don’t hold your breath.
Via a friend’s Facebook post, I happened to peek at an article called ‘Fandom is Broken’. Written by a movie critic named Devin Faraci (thank you sir!), he mentions Anne Wilkes from Stephen King’s Misery, who forced author Paul Sheldon to bring her favorite character back to life by writing a manuscript which appealed to her needs of reviving Misery Chastain back to the land of the living.
More importantly, Mr. Faraci in detail reveals the challenges for writers and other creatives to deal with an overwhelming horde of fans who insist the character(s) they love should always have a happy ending, no matter what. I will agree with the author of the piece that real drama does not operate like that, nor does good, solid storytelling. In the 21st Century, fandom is built like a fast food restaurant where you ‘have it your way’. Last time I checked, good stories are not Burger King.
In today’s ever connected social media world, writers are indeed walking blindfolded on a very narrow tightrope in building and nurturing a fan base. It’s important for writers to communicate with them, but their fans should not dictate what the next creative project should be. Hard as this may sound, fans become fans because they like a writer’s work or simply like the writer. Fans also become invested in a character like Misery Chastain, like Anne Wilkes. If something happens to change the reader’s perception of their favorite character like Captain America, fans will take up internet arms to display their displeasure, outrage, total disgust of where the author is taking the storyline. I would suspect a decade ago, fans didn’t have a feeling of ‘entitlement’, that they were just as content to see how a story would play out amid the twists and turns along the way. Fans used to have more faith in their favorite writer to ‘stick the landing’ and make the story count. Today, even bestselling authors on their own blogs complain about the immature treatment they receive from a group of people who claim to love a certain writer’s work, but raise cane about it.
This is movie related, but there’s no better example of fandom running amok than what happened to director (and writer) Joss Wheldon because of a curious scene in Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. He wrote a scene in which Natasha Romanoff, AKA the Black Widow (through flashbacks) was subject to a variety of procedures that left her unable to have children. This left an emotional toll and in one fateful statement, she mentions to Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk), “You know what my final test was in the Red Room? They sterilized me, said it was one less thing to worry about. You think you’re the only monster on the team?”
The internet went bananas, especially on Twitter. Social Justice Scribes were outraged! The headlines from various sites prove that!
Io9: Black Widow: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
The Daily Beast: Avengers: Age of Ultron’s’ Black Widow Disgrace
The reaction to the Black Widow’s admittance of her sterilization set off a firestorm heavily criticizing Wheldon to the point he was forced off Twitter. Submitted for your (dis)approval, here is the screenshot from disgruntled fans who had plenty to say: (watch how Wheldon handles the responses with class)
In one fell swoop, Natasha Romanoff became Misery Chastain. A sterilized, ‘monstrous’ Misery Chastain who became a talented superspy who could kill when needed, but not bare children. Paul Sheldon had it so lucky! He only had to deal with a psychotic, mentally disturbed Anne Wilkes who under different circumstances, could have created a profile on a Fanfic website and continued her own adventures of Misery. The 21st Century ‘fans’ are looking for symbolism, not story. They’re looking for ‘representation’, not plot. They are unwilling to be less excited to delve into the challenges a certain character must go through in order to overcome, and more excited that Misery needs a girlfriend because it would be a huge boost for the lesbian community that Misery has……..
This is madness. Enough, seriously!
Writers of fiction are not social activists because we the public feel they should be. They have a choice to present deeper issues (not just social) that are a part of their world, not because we feel they should represent ours. Keep in mind in fiction these are characters, protagonists who we root for and feel we have much in common with as readers. An antagonist is a character we cannot wait to see their comeuppance. In the world of ‘real life’, berserk fans who send nasty tweets to their favorite writers because of a scene in a movie or passage in a book they despise like, need to slow down and understand it is fiction you’re reading or seeing, nothing else. The author’s job is to make readers actually read a book and/or create engaging characters that we have empathy for and want to succeed. Opinion pieces that focus on anything not relating to the character, such as representation, image, etc, is a huge waste of time. Sorry to state the obvious. Not that it’s any less important, but it’s not the writer’s job to push for a doll of Black Widow or to promote her in other departments he or she has no control over. The best they can do is write a story and hope you enjoy it. That’s all.
I invite you to read the Fandom article linked on the bottom of this entry so you can see and judge for yourself whether or not you’re one of the fans guilty of contacting your favorite author on social media for the sole purpose of complaining and not constructively criticizing their work. I feel authors appreciate constructive feedback that will help them become better storytellers in the future. In today’s uncompromising fandom, criticism borders on outright insanity which authors definitely don’t need or deserve.
It’s official; I’ve reached an age where society is even shocked I’ve made it this far; fifty. While that is a big deal to most, it’s a sign that if I want to leave my literary legacy and be remembered for my written works, I’d better start concentrating on my creativity again. For you lurkers reading this, it means I’ll spend less time on social media and more time with my own ‘universe’ of stories, non-fiction, you name it. I plan to cover it.
There may be a delay in publishing Storm Over South Central that could move back the project to 2017. Don’t worry; it’s my hope to have it out by December but there are issues that I have to deal with personally that will affect the release date. You fans, lurkers and the rest will begin to learn more about the poems and short stories in the anthology soon enough.
So what’s happened this weekend so far? Let me tell ya……….
I enjoyed a nice dinner with my wife in Ruth’s Chris in Marina Del Rey. You long time fans know my father used to be a head chief (cook) for the defunct Stockyard Steak House near Downtown Los Angeles (Koreatown now), so it had been a while since I had the taste of a nice T-Bone steak. Man, did Ruth’s Chris not disappoint! The steak was meaty, tasty and although the menu was a bit on the pricey side, how many times will a guy have a day like the one I had? So in every sense of the word, it was worth it. A nice walk to a nearby park capped off my special day, one I will never see again but definitely a day to remember.
The next day, Friday, I took a walk to Exposition Park where I spent so much time in my youth and formative years there. The pictures below show you how my day went walking through the Rose Garden, checking out the California Science Center, saying goodbye to the Sports Arena where I saw many L.A. City Section and CIF high school basketball championship games, a few Clippers games (tickets were dirt cheap, lol) and USC basketball. Any excuse to watch a game in the building although in my younger years, I was treated to watching live shows like Peter Pan at the venue which will become a Soccer field for the new L.A. Football Club in a year or two.
My walk through Exposition Park made me reminisce on the good times I’ve spent there; the unfortunate moments when a good time had by all (The Black Family Reunion for example) was spoiled by a selfish person with a gun who caused the crowd to scatter by firing a few shots; and as seen by Et-94, the Space shuttle fuel tank that now sits outside the California Science Center, proves the park is the center for memories capped by the return of the L.A. Rams, a team I grew up as a fan until the move to Saint Louis. I’m glad they’re back (smile).
Furthermore, I’m glad to be back in Los Angeles. This city is my heart, although not the home I wish to live in eternally. I enjoy the changes being made, the extension of the new Expo Line from Downtown L.A. to Santa Monica, the new Crenshaw/LAX line and with it; transformations of a local plaza nearby. Yes, there’s a lot you can criticize L.A. for and I won’t blame you if you do, but you have to realize in a big city such as this and surrounding municipalities, there’s a lot to see and experience. What a beginning to a big year for me personally. I pray to the Creator that it is just that, the beginning of something great.
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.