Monday, August 16, 2010

The Other Writing Process

The other writing process is when a young Nigerian illustrator who's part of your latest book project reminds you about some deadlines, so he can get started on the drawings while still studying for his exams. I say exams and day jobs can kill your creativity if you're not careful. And so we're careful balancing fiction from non-fiction; plays from moving pictures as the plot keeps unfolding, twisting at times, but it's never writers' block or blank canvas cos the words and lines have been saved just for us. So we start talking colors or black n white; smiling or Black boys don't smile...

Like I was saying before on the challenges of writing a male counterpart to Before You Fly Off, writing for and about male teens has provoked an unexpected opportunity for me to look at my own boyhood, all that I had and all that I should've had. Fro so high n loud, it served as a kind of alien distraction from the rage in my eyes. I was a complex child; way too serious for my age. I learned early that life and people have their contradictions. That as humbling as they are, those great advances we made in this country both as a collective and as individuals, Black people still have no power. And this is the core of the problem for so many young Black males today. They look around and see the same double standards, the same formulas, same system; and more suppressing, more demonizing, more attacks on Rap music when it should be obvious to the grown-ups that when leaders actually do something about poor living conditions and unemployment, we give Black and Brown boys something good to rap about .

Almost all the males I either advise or talk to in my hood have some form of resentment towards their parents for having bought into the fallacy of the American dream. They see how those who love them unconditionally spent their entire lives chasing letters and titles only to end up disconnected from their children and themselves. They see the price of success and are not impressed. So turned off and frustrated, they've begun to come up with their own version of what it means to be socially appropriate. Just as they've managed to redefine the N word for themselves, no matter what our beliefs. While our generation (and the ones before) saw education, a good job, marriage, the purchasing of a home and then retirement as the ideal blueprint, they want to skip the formalities and fast forward to plain entrepreneurship. And not necessarily a life of crime, but a life of living out loud without fear of repercussions for not conforming. Problem is they don't have the kinds of avenues available to them to move out the box. They can think out the box, but it stops there. Just great ideas. Reality reminds them that education works against them, that employers despise them and that Black leaders aren't leaders but just elaborate puppets. You and I know of several politicians who are doing their best to bring attention to our community struggles. But that's just a teardrop in a bucket to an angry teenager cos he has to tolerate everyday menacing looks and police harassment. He has to somehow create an invisible shield around him to help him keep his head up while the rest of the world marginalizes him. There was a time when fathers and uncles would teach him these things, about surviving racism and dodging prison; what hygiene means from a male perspective and how to control your sex. But with no good men to offer solutions or alternatives, an exhausted, often times bitter mother ends up being the point guard.

So I decided to start the book parent to parent. I might change my mind later, but for now it seems appropriate to begin the discussion of What's wrong with our sons? by looking at what might be possibly wrong with our approach to parenting, leading and modeling. That it's not just about behavior and attitude, but how our thoughts dictate our choices. We don't have to get all psychological about it. Let's leave that to the scientists who are only interested in proving to us what we already know. And let's admit that the help books we see on popular bookshelves speak to the conforming of our sons, but not their deliverance. I'm talking transformation. Take whatever type of wheels or wings that work for you-- religion, therapy, a good cry, an overdue roar. But what we want is clarity and then acceptance. Cos it's only when we're clear about our intentions as parents that we begin to fuflfill our purpose as caregivers. This is what artist, Nchewu Akpoke wants to convey. This is what I want to offer you this next time around.

Stay tuned...

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