Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Hey folks, just checking in with you. I haven't posted anything in a while and I didn't want to write just anything on this blog but because the month's almost over, I'd like to let you know that I'm back writing again after taking some time off. I felt inspired after visiting a bookstore this past weekend, even more so after looking at my reflection from a Chromebook at work wondering why I haven't returned to my favorite hobby and write?
This is the fortieth year I've picked up a pen, sat behind a desk or watching a screen and just taking a moment to write works on a blank page. At first, it was easy. All I had to do was sit back, listen to some music and create a play, a story idea, a poem. The older I am, I find myself adhering to some unwritten law of what a writer should or should not be, or write. I'm guilty of imposing the same to anyone who's read this blog and assumed I'm a guru because I published a book or two. Folks, I'm not. I'm just someone who took a chance to see my words in print that is enjoyed by many. That I'm proud of. While it has been years since a book is printed with my name on it (which will happen soon, I promise), ran a book expo that gave me exposure not for my writing abilities but for running a literary event. I've had my ups and downs from the first day in junior high (middle school now) and enjoyed my little world full of imagination. The one thing social media can't provide.
Honestly, shouldn't the world of imagination be the place where you can express yourself? Isn't it the realm where it doesn't matter what political party you're from, your sexual orientation, what race or nationality you belong to? My creative world before social media and by extension, the internet, I spent many a day writing novellas, poems about issues of the world that concerned me and still do. These days of the twenty-first century, we feel it's important to express our views as if they are the only valuable ones in the world. When I research the great writers, they would frame their social or political argument in the form of a fable or tale we all can learn from, which I too have learned and hope everyone who reads my works can decide for themselves whether or not my point was made.
Each one of us who wear the name 'writer' must go our own way. It's not right for me to tell anyone who they should be, what style they should imitate, what genre to seek fame and riches. The authors and writers who came before me and after me deserve what measure of success they achieve. My success is from the joy I receive in my own creative world, hoping the public will enjoy what is produced on my end.
This fall marks a special occasion for the writer of this piece. This is the fortieth year I can proudly say that I'm a writer. While I have been a 'professional' for seventeen years, the twenty three before my published first book were spent on a hobby that turned into a dream.
I could remind you one day in junior high (before it was called middle school), I simply picked up a pen and paper and began writing down my thoughts. I developed my own plays, short stories and poems when I had free time. My objective in college was to learn from the greats; Shakespeare, Hughes, Faulkner, Hemingway and others. After all this, watching the joy of publishing my two books while hitting a crippling dry spell at the present time, I still enjoy the literary art that I've devoted four decades to.
In this present day, I see the art of reading among fiction is declining, people are not into the literary arts as they used to. Once you could pick up a Marvel Comics book with a box in the lower left hand corner that read, 'Give the gift of literacy'. Now that they have a movie studio (via Disney) to promote their superheroes and different projects, along with the takeover of technology in our daily lives, it is a challenge to be a writer in this generation. Not impossible, but it's a feat to overcome and gain a readership. Rather than pretend what a writer should or should not do or be or become as I've expressed in the past, let me as one lone scribe share my feelings moving forward. Humans are in love with their streaming services, their social media even to the point of sacrificing their identities and personal information. When I open up my journal and write down my thoughts and ideas, I do so without the threat of constant surveillance by a government or nefarious boogeyman. The ideas I write down belong to me alone, which that should always be the case. I insist on the same freedom now as I had way back when in junior high avoiding a fellow student who wanted to know what I was writing about.
Literacy means more readers invested in a poem or story that took time to create and produce. It means a supportive audience who will be on hand to buy a book filled with positive messages and thought provoking advice. It also means a much better, well informed, functional society. When I started writing, I didn't have these goals in mind. All I wanted to do was to have an outlet where I could use my imagination and express myself. The world didn't try as hard to impose or dictate its philosophies in the late 1970's as it desperately tries to do now in the second decade of a new century and millennium. Back then way back when in South Los Angeles, I was a shy quiet kid who began to write and eventually used it to find his voice and go into his imagination to create beautiful words of romance and social consciousness. After forty years, I continue to enjoy the art of writing even as if today's world shuns it.
Last week, there was a community gathering in my neighborhood. The Community Coalition every summer hosts a Power Fest for South L.A. residents. Out of curiosity, I attended the street music festival. Twenty minutes later I walked out. Here is my reason why.
For months, the residents of the Vermont Knolls district has urged our city and county leaders to hold a town hall over an issue raised before on this blog: the Vermont/Manchester property. For twenty-six years it has sat vacant, the result of a people who were angry over the Latasha Harlins murder a year before the Unrest, finding a solution in burning down storefronts the Koreans in this area owned. The land belonged to a developer from Beverly Hills, (?) Eli Sasson. The rest you can Google for yourself.(vermont manchester los angeles) The city along with the county decided to use eminent domain as a means of acquiring the land away from the developer.
At the same time of a community forum hosted by Congresswoman Maxine Waters in South L.A. in February, the city and county could not comment on the case because in the word of our local councilman, it would be 'on the record'.(the judge had yet to decide) Fast forward to May after the county (which filed for eminent domain) won its case, why did it take one of the local heads of another community organization to send this councilman emails, leave phone messages without a response? Why did it take a meeting at the same time the councilman had another meeting in a constituent center for him to speak to this group? Why hasn't a town hall been scheduled so that the same explanations he told us can be addressed in a community forum the same as Miss Waters a few months prior? Why to this date the county is holding 'site activation' events rather than addressing the public in a meeting so we understand their plan? We agree something had to be done on those lots. We are in vast disagreement in the lack of communication the city and county has showed thus far of their plan to build a boarding school no one wants here, affordable housing and barely room for retail (50,000 for grocery store, restaurant and more retail). I wrote about this a long time ago about the lack of retail for Vermont Knolls. In the past twenty-six years, the politicians who claim to be 'for us' have often chosen to be against us here in the Knolls. That is sad.
Before1992, Vermont Knolls was a shopping district, comparable to the Crenshaw district and Huntington Park to name a few. Since then:
1990's: affordable housing and tiny storefronts on Vermont Avenue, no retail.
2006: A county social services building with two fast food storefronts. A vacant storefront that has not been used since the county building opened.
2020: Metro plans to build their boarding school, more affordable housing, scant retail space the citizens want and need here.
By this time, present and future residents of Vermont Knolls will be faced taking their dollars to shop out of this area - again - because or local politicians either don't listen or do not care about the constituents they claim to represent, but they work hard pandering for our votes.
So one could imagine after twenty minutes standing in the same lot Metro plans to build their school for a future generation of students who may or may not choose to live here at the Knolls let alone shop in the small retail space the county offers, and after hearing the chants of irony in the middle of Metro's Lot ( irony: it was called The People's Lot), how could I stay? Our local councilman found time from his busy schedule of not planning a town hall after all is said and done and Metro held their groundbreaking, that one of the chants that was the final straw for me was This is what community looks like. Sadly, as in the case in South Los Angeles, there are empty lots not used for the people, but for the developers who line our mayor's pockets in a possible presidential run. That day at the festival, it wasn't about the people. If true, the residents of Vermont Knolls could have finally had the retail they asked and prayed for. It's unfortunate those who claim to be for us, are always against us. Always.
P.S.This is what L.A. County plans to build by 2020. The boarding school (left) and affordable housing (right) is noticeable,but the retail (bottom right) is not. Of course they will spin this as a victory, but this is a tremendous loss for us in the Knolls once this is built.
Growing up in the 1970's, it was easy to hear the soulful voice of one Ms. Aretha Franklin. Whether I heard her on the AM radio dial, a vinyl album, cassette or eight track tape, it didn't matter. What did matter is that I stayed and listened to the songs even if I failed to understand the words. Today she left this earth physically but artistically she'll always be with us. When I heard the news this morning, I immediately had one of her classic tunes 'Until You Come Back to Me' on repeat for at least half an hour. One of the local radio stations played her hits all day along with segments recalling her long and legendary career along with interviews with those who knew her best, and the billions of fans who heard her music and although sad they were grateful to witness the greatness she possessed.
When I worked at corporate, I played 'Until You Come Back to Me' over and over again along with other classic songs from the '70's. By now you should know I love, just loooovve old school music. Ms. Franklin was no exception. There's something in her music that causes you to sit back and listen to what a woman has to say of the state of the world, holding on to a good man, and asking for, you guessed it - RESPECT. I feel almost completely sorry the Millennials who demand good music as the Baby Boomers and Generation X'ers like I once had. At least they are comforted listening and watching Ms. Franklin's many appearances and performances online.
In a conversation today, I mentioned that Ms. Franklin's passing is a huge loss for the genre of Soul music, the same genre that thrived on our highs and lows as Black people in America circa late 1960's - early 1970's. Soul music was meant for a young man looking like me to enjoy while promoting positive messages of unity and understanding among each other. Ms. Franklin's songs embodied that, and more.
These are my thoughts. I wish I could say more but for now, let's all remember Ms. Franklin's great artistic contributions in music by listening to these songs I chose. If you have a favorite song or even a memory, I invite you to share along with us in the comment section below.
I have been asked many times if Iâm still writing. The answer is yes, as a reporter for the California Crusader Newspaper. Now if you're asking me if I'm still writing another book, my answer might not be as conclusive. Let's just say after all the months of planning Storm Over South Central and plenty of revisions, it's ready to go..or not. My life's in flux right now as I'm struggling over my direction in life after the passing of my father. Most of you who have prayed, offered condolences, said a kind word here or there, thank you (again). The past three and a half months have been difficult as I'm trying to figure things out.
Although I'm in the middle of this challenge, I haven't lost my faith in God, the talent He has entrusted me with, and my sanity. I imagine living this writer life there will come times when you have to ask questions of why you haven't progressed further than you would like, wondering why Author X is much more known than you and why your sales haven't picked up. Outside of tragedy, those questions will come forth.
Seventeen years since the publication of my first book, Iâm still trying to figure this all out. At first it was fun sharing my written works to my family and friends. Then as I moved further in my career, it was not as fun anymore. I found myself competing with other authors who had published their own books and had a lot to say about them. They created brands,''cartels', built a following, everything needed to establish success in this business. I don't have any malice towards the authors who have gained a measure of success. They earned it. It's just the way things were back then.
In this present day, I'm facing a dilemma as a writer. Not too many people bother to stop by my table if I set one up at a festival and no one is interested in the genre I write (poetry). Before technology set writers back, it was a struggle to get readers interested in buying my books. Somehow I made it happen with my first book, the second......not so much. Perhaps a new book will solve those problems, make me feel 'relevant' again in the eyes of readers, the same family and friends and the world at large. Technology's role in today's readership has changed the purpose of writing 'on its head'. There's so much material posted on the web, social media and in print by writers who wish to establish their own voice, it's a challenge to stand out on your own as a writer, even if your goal is to make readers 'think'. It's not enough today.
I'm convinced that even the 1300 plus blog entries written on this blog in the past mean anything to just one person, than it was all worth it. I guess for that reason alone that's why I keep writing and even believe Storm Over South Central will change a few hearts and minds. I still believe that, even when all seems hopeless on my end. Maybe my father's death has given me a new perspective, or maybe it has finally shown me in this 21st Century how futile my purpose of writing has become.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's still all worth it to someone, anyone, you.