Observations of life by author and poet Charles L. Chatmon
Note: I wrote the following fifteen years ago to myself, but I want to share this with you, the reader.
The Lord works in mysterious ways. People just don’t understand or comprehend how or why. It just happens when we do pray and ask what’s on our hearts, He does answer. Only be prepared for the eventual answer, chances are you won’t like it but it is for your own good.
Take me for example, for most of the 1990’s all I focused on was being a teacher. In fact, that’s all I talked about. Well in 1999, I am nearing the end of my teaching career. After all the prayers I made for my dream to come true, I finally realized the answer. Although teaching in itself is a profession I can thrive on, it ultimately isn’t the desire of my heart. Writing is. I have always loved to write and still do. Teaching only came about because I love working with kids and I love the job. Yet there comes a time in every person’s life when the profession you work for clashes with the desire of what you truly have a passion for and will carry you to the end of your life. In a way, my desire won out and it wouldn’t have been known if I hadn’t prayed on it.
Sometimes the Lord will make phrases or words spoken by others or through His word and engrave them in your heart. The Lord in his infinite wisdom, allows us to see what is in store if we truly put our faith in Him. For years, the Lord has given me glimpses of what I could be, but I was much too cautious and didn’t take the risks necessary to leap forward.
The Lord forgives us for our wrongdoings and he offers us opportunities as well. I read somewhere that if we have faith, God will always give us His best. I didn’t believe that. I felt I wasn’t worthy enough to believe that. Which is unfortunate because this is the same God who gave his Son to die for us because His love is so immense, the One whose son told us to “ask and it shall be given to you.” Trouble is, we want it in our time when we think we’re ready for it. The reason my Lord didn’t give me the answer was because had I known earlier, I would have been stubborn. (knowing me of course)
Our perception of time isn’t the same as God’s. When He chooses the right time, place for our answers to occur, you best believe He gives his best. I am writing this now in a cafeteria at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, California on September 13, 1999. Days ago over bits and pieces, the Lord held my inner mirror in front of me and made me see the reality that teaching is nice, but my true desire is writing. It’s who I am, it’s what He has blessed me with since I was born. He knows my writing is a gift that can help others. He has also blessed me with the power of thought and imagination to motivate me to write. Yes, God is good.
Right now, I don’t know what the future holds. I have plans but I’m scared. I do know that if I don’t invite the Lord to be part of those plans, then they’ll be useless anyway. Tomorrow is not promised, death can claim us at any time. Yet, as Plato once said, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.” There is a whole other life out there for me. I know this now. It’s just a matter of believing I can succeed. Once I trust the Lord, success is already assured. So I write this in the hope that while cathartic, it can be a source of inspiration for me. Something tells me I’ll need it in the days and months and years ahead as the Lord allows.
I’ll keep this short and sweet since I’ve already ‘said enough’.
People who grew up with me, who have been my true friends, who know my work ethnic in whatever jobs I worked in, who have been there when I helped to develop a sports program in a local YMCA, who have seen me as a role model of sorts in South Los Angeles for young people in my days as a teacher’s aide and schoolteacher, the same hardworking, no nonsense young man I’ve grown up to be, those people, my true friends, and family members know about.
The people who don’t know me, don’t know me, period. It’s just that simple. I would have posted this on a social media site somewhere, but beginning this week as I have planned, I’ve decided to back away from the technological monstrosity and focus on just being me - just me. So far, I’ve regained my sanity back, and it’s a good thing. I know things have not worked out in the past few days. It would be easy for me to sit here, point fingers and demand, demand - justice of some sort. It is also easy for you reader to judge me based on one misstep which was not up to me. As I’ve said before, I’ll take the ‘hit’, when appropriate but now is not the time. Enter stage left, voices who don’t even know me, never sat down and had passionate conversations about literature with me, never shared a day of miniature golf or bowling with me, voices who have never seen my books or any of my works, and definitely voices who have no idea of the man I am. These voices would rather type away on their keyboards and create false narratives about who I am, what I am, and the type of person I am. All this to pump themselves up and make themselves look good while making an erroneous assault on my character.
I can deal with that. We’re all grown people, for the most part anyway.
Keeping it short and sweet, but again, the people who know me, know me. Those who don’t, don’t. It’s just that simple.
I took a walk down the streets of the old neighborhood and thoughts of walking the same sidewalk in front of swap meets entered my mind.
Most of the former drug stores and department stores where I bought shirts, notebooks and pens from clerks who were older but looked like me were converted almost overnight into swap meets run by different faces speaking an unknown language. The change affected each store I used to frequent up and down the block. No longer could I step into a Newberrys and look around the second floor to buy shirts for my basketball team while heading down to the first floor to buy the iron on letters used for the names and numbers for each shirt. Or entering a Thifty’s drug store to buy a scoop or chocolate ice cream. I couldn’t even walk into the National anymore to buy a pair of sunglasses (I was in my ‘cool’ phase as a teen). No, the same shops I walked into were now owned by Koreans selling inexpensive clothes and other items only to state of a ‘no refund’ policy which mattered if the Lakers shirt you bought and washed, shrunk.
I was too young to comprehend the economic impact of this change. Instead of keeping money into the community, it was now going out - and staying out - without anyone who looked the same as I receiving the funds generated by us, the poor merchants who lived in those areas. Never mind these Asian storeowners never set up shop on the Westside or even in the most affluent areas, but they drained the economic lifeblood of us who lived and worked in the Southside. As I walked along the sidewalk next to the empty lots where one of those swap meets now stood, I realize their presence came at a time when South Los Angeles began to lose…and lose a lot. Before the fires came the murders, the publicized random killings of drive-bys and wanton acts of murder among ourselves. Yes, South Central Los Angeles lost, and we could never recover after that.
Walking that sidewalk, I would hear about efforts to ‘rebuild’ the neighborhood only to hear on the radio of construction crews who were not from the community hiring different faces and a different language instead. South Central Los Angeles wasn’t getting a rebuild, but it was being remade in the hearts of many who watched movie after movie of our poor lives there. The acceptance of a disheartening pattern of hopelessness became a constant theme in cinema, even to those of us who worked in the community to become ‘role models’ for our young men, showing them it’s all right to be smart and educated. Our elders would remind us of the benefits of education although our generation didn’t see through the same experienced window our elders looked through.
At night when I stepped off the bus to walk down the sidewalk in front of the swap meets, the fear was there of a car pulling up alongside me with a gun projecting bullets from it. This is the insane tragic method which took the life of a friend of mine who was only walking his girlfriend home on Valentine’s night. A day which was meant for love wound up as an evening of tragedy. I took the loss hard not only because my friend had been over my house many times and we played basketball in my backyard, but he was on the same team I coached so his loss hit me hard. This is why I cannot be patient with anyone who does not even know, or willing to suspect the emotional pain we all went through here living in South Central Los Angeles. This is real, absolutely real.
The swap meets were a constant reminder of living in a place of illusion. We lived in the same houses, played in the same parks, worshipped in the same churches, went to the same fast food places, but where we shopped didn’t belong to us, not anymore. Fire is defined as a cleansing agent, a purifier. Perhaps it is only fitting that the fires of rage (or opportunity if one believes the merchants burned down their own buildings for insurance money) that led to the swap meets coming to an end in various sections of the city. Perhaps as we slowly rebuild, we can learn many things about the past and the hurt and pain that came with it. We should remember and insist the next time these buildings are raised in the same lots, they come with new management but with faces who look just like mine or similar who live and contribute in the neighborhood their store resides in.
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.
The following is 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.