Extraordinary Expressions Publishing

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Extraordinary Expressions Publishing
2500 McDermott Rd Suite 200-232
Plano, TX 75025


True Crime Story By Twin Sisters of Punishment & Redemption

Takes Publishing World By Storm

Picture this. †Identical twin sisters, two young mothers whose lives seem like the scenes from a crime drama—complete with money-making schemes, prison, guns, sex, dangerous men, abusive relationships, hard partying, family estrangements, deals with the feds, low-self esteem, homelessness, ill-gotten material wealth. It's all within the pages of Where Does Peace Come In? Breaking Through The Bars, the compelling true-life story of Marisa and Alisha Readus, twin sisters from Texas. This page-turner reveals their journey through incarceration before,†during, and after.

A Time To Commit A Crime

Two struggling young mothers, eager to improve their condition. Unfortunately, Marisa and Alisha thought there was a quick solution to their dilemma. Tired of being homeless, turning to demanding jobs such as topless dancing, the pair embarked on a short-lived life of crime and found themselves behind bars. "We knew what we had done was wrong, and we had to face the consequences," says Marisa. "It was time for us to grow up," adds Alisha. Now they are telling their ripe-for-the-big-screen story—and they don't paint a pretty picture. "We wanted to tell it how it was. We've been through it all—we are going to tell it all," says Marisa.

Time For Deliverance:

Where Does Peace Come In? Breaking Through The Bars, published by Extraordinary Expressions Publishing. The two sisters, now both successful entrepreneurs, wanted to do more than merely write about their dramatic tale. "We wanted to use this book to help people break through the bars in their life, whether it be past bad decisions, fear of trying something new, and learning to let go of the past to walk into the future with expectancy and excitement, says Alisha, mother of seven, including one son who was once diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, but has been healed. She is profiled in the 2008-2009 Who's Who Among Cambridge Business Women in Frisco, Texas for her current business accomplishments.

New Beginning

While Where Does Peace Come In? Breaking Through The Bars is graphic in its detail about the hard life the Readus sisters led. It is also the story of how they made it through. How they called on their spirituality in the final hour and culled strength from their faiths. "God was telling us something all the time, we just weren't listening," says Marisa. "Now, we have achieved so much—the right way. The good life was there all the time, we just didn't believe."

The two, who have shared it all, are now sharing their life story not only in their autobiography, they also do speaking engagements. "We want to inspire other people. If we can get through all the things we went through and still be here standing and doing positive things, others can too," says Alisha. "We talk to mothers, to the incarcerated, to parents, and teens. We want to show you can break the cycle. You don't have to stay in your situation; you can breakthrough whatever it is holding you back. Break through the bars. Break through and live."† The pair, who is embarking on a book signing tour, are also discussing the possibility of turning Where Does Peace Come In? Breaking Through The Bars into a feature film.

Where Does Peace Come In? Breaking Through The Bars

can be purchased at and winter 2008, but can be purchased now at Please contact Alisha and Marisa Readus for speaking engagements and reserve a copy of the soon to be bestseller at:

Extraordinary Expressions Publishing
2500 McDermott Rd
Suite 200-232
Plano, TX 75025

Upcoming speaking engagements and book signings will be provided on


Reply to Letter to My Daugther by Dr. Maya Angelou

Letter to My Daugther by Dr. Maya Angelou

Here is a very heart felt reply to Dr. Maya Angelou's new book Letter to My Daughter.

Listen to the interview that inspired this poem.
Ella Curry has an Intimate Conversation with Dr. Maya Angelou

A Reply From A Daughter

This is a daughter in search of her mother
Whom she never had the pleasure to greet
But longing to erase that void in her life
On the day when their paths meet

I inherited a gift of poetry
But have no-one or where to turn
And it's my sincere prayer
That one day I may sit with you and learn

I saw you on TV
And heard your voice on a radio
But still I was left
With no direction on where to go

Although we are like strangers
Only connected by a gift
I need wisdom spoken into my life
So that this gift can be shifted

Shifted to another level
So that It may grow
And to what height
Only God knows

I hope to one day meet you
Maybe even to hold a pen, you wrote with
That carries your touch
I know that may seem like nothing
But to this daughter- it's much

I write this with pureness
Not asking for material or monetary things
Just asking a mother to help
Her daughter spread her poetic wings

Love your daughter, 9/25/08
Written by Lue Renae Jackson
Email the poet:

Coming Up on "Write The Vision". . . LaSHELL GRIFFIN

Tune in anytime to the Write The Vision Podcast:

Coming Up in the New Season of Write The Vision

New season line-up beginning Monday, October 6, 2008. . .

LaShell Griffin of "Dreams Are Possible"

LaShell was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She grew up on the eastside in the projects and had a tough time growing up. Church was always a highlight for her and she knew music was her mission. From the time she was 9, LaShell longed to sing in the choir. When she was old enough to join at 13, LaShell was given solos on a regular basis. By the time she was in her late teens, LaShell started to gain her confidence. “I started off holding my head down when I sang,” LaShell says. “Then I started looking at the ceiling, then the clock in front of me. Finally, I just started singing with my eyes closed, so I could tune out everything and everyone and just deliver.” It’s a method that has stayed with her ever since.
When LaShell was 17, she got pregnant and married Lee when she was 18. (Today they have 5 children and have been married for 20 years.) “When I got married, I put my personal ambitions on the shelf and focused on my family,” says LaShell. She continued to sing at church and at weddings. Her performances became sought after and soon LaShell was juggling several weddings per weekend in addition to her responsibilities at church and at home.


In November 2003, LaShell broke her foot and her schedule slowed down as a result. While watching Oprah, LaShell heard them promote a singing contest. I told my husband, and he said, “This is it.” They recorded her singing “Amazing Grace” at church and sent in a tape. A few weeks after they sent the tape, LaShell was pulling in her driveway after picking up her husband from work. “The phone was ringing and I just assumed it was another bill collector,” says LaShell. “But it was a producer from Oprah’s show!”

The competition was designed to help mature people (age 28 or older) to find the opportunity to fulfill their dream of becoming a professional recording artist. Over 15,000 people sent in their tapes to Harpo Studios. Only 8 semi-finalists were handpicked by the producers and LaShell was one of them! She performed before a television audience of millions and was judged by celebrities like Alicia Keys, Toni Braxton, Cyndi Lauper, American Idol’s Simon Cowell and Oprah. She seized the moment by singing “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?,” “The Greatest Love of All,” and “One Moment in Time.” Her amazing renditions caused tears to flow and even Oprah could not keep her composure.

LaShell, 37, says her success was not overnight. “So many people want the same success, but they have to understand that it took time, prayer, submission and obedience to the Holy Spirit,” says LaShell. She loves to share her faith especially to underprivileged children. LaShell says she put her dreams on the backburner when she got married. She looked after the children and provided a stable home. Her husband also sang in a Gospel male group band and in their church choir. He was also a shoe salesman and owned a commercial cleaning business. LaShell stayed faithful and knew her time would come. About two years ago, she wanted to audition for “Star Search,” and while she was ready and willing, Lee felt it was not the right timing for their family.

In the past, LaShell’s family had their utilities cut off despite her husband working two jobs. Now she’s able to make more on stage in a night than her husband could in a month and a half. Lee is now her full-time manager. LaShell faced a real struggle when her strong religious beliefs clashed with what the music industry would ask of her. She didn’t want to wear anything too sexy nor sing songs that didn’t celebrate love and Christianity. Record sales didn’t translate into another deal for LaShell, and she got discouraged. “Lee helped me a lot,” she says. “He said, “Whatever is in your heart, you can fulfill them. You’re not supposed to let people hold you down.” So LaShell dried her tears, got off the couch and got back on track again. Lee and LaShell started their own record label and her music is now sold in Wal-mart stores everywhere.

For Booking / Publicity
DAP Music Management

Radio Servicing
Lee Griffin
Keyword: LaShell


Breaking the Silence of Child Molestation


Stephanie L. Jones LLC, Publisher
Phone: 313.493.0001

The Enemy Between My Legs: Breaking the Silence of Child Molestation

Sexual abuse survivor and advocate, Stephanie L. Jones, joins BET Women’s Health Symposium in Savannah, GA

Detroit, MI – Calling all parents, teenagers, sexual abuse victims, and advocacy groups – Stephanie L. Jones, author of ESSENCE Magazine and best-selling book, The Enemy Between My Legs, joins the BET Foundation at their 2008 Women’s Health Symposium in Savannah, Georgia. On Saturday, October 18th, noon – 2:00 p.m. at Savannah State University’s Tiger Arena, Jones will share her personal testimony of enduring and overcoming almost 8 years of child molestation. The discussion will be followed by a Q&A session where Jones will provide prevention tips for parents and caretakers.

“I’m excited about this opportunity. It is time to break the silence about child molestation. I’m not talking about what’s happening at schools or with internet predators and priests. I’m talking about what’s happening right at home between fathers, daughters, mothers, siblings, uncles, aunts, and other family members. We need to address what’s happening in our very own families,” says Jones.

In her bold and compelling book readers are uninhibitedly allowed into the heart and soul of a sexual abuse survivor. Jones shares how several years of child molestation, which began at age five, haunted her and continuously resurfaced in her teenage and adult life in the forms of promiscuity, substance abuse, and difficulties in maintaining interpersonal relationships. A free audio clip of the first three pages can be heard online at

“Five years old. That’s how old I was when I had my first sexual experience. By the age of 13, I wanted to have sex. It was all that I knew! All of the touching, kissing, rubbing, and fondling – I didn’t want that to stop,” says Jones.

Jones is not alone. Shockingly, one in three females and one in five males are sexually abused. According to the organizations Darkness to Light and, the effects of sexual abuse extend far beyond the years in which it actually takes place and ends. What’s even more shocking is that studies also reveal that 90% of sexual abuse cases occur at the hands of a family member, close family friend, or trusted leader.

66% of teen pregnancies and abortions are preceded by sexual assault.
96% of teen prostitutes were sexual abuse victims.
75% of rapists were sexual abuse victims.
60% of children who experience abuse and neglect are more likely to be arrested.
Sexual abuse victims often suffer self-esteem, health, financial and weight problems.

The symposium will also include panel discussions on diet, nutrition, fitness, and mental health issues, as well as a performance by award-winning singer, Kelly Price. Free health screenings and lunch will be provided. This event is free and open to the public.

For more information visit and listen to an audio clip of the first three pages of The Enemy Between My Legs for free at

Stephanie L. Jones is a highly sought-after speaker for schools, churches, and organizations. Having suffered over years of sexual abuse, she knows the effects that it can have on a victim’s life. For book reviews or to schedule an interview, please contact 313.493.0001, , or visit


Re: Building Sasha by Renee Bess

Can Sasha Lewis, an executive with a Philadelphia home construction company, overcome the vindictiveness of her partner and find the woman who will heal her heart? Category: Entertainment

[Straight From The Maverick] Don't Let Pastor Guilt-Trip You!

It is my opinion that Sen. Barack Obama, barring some unforeseen blunder within the next five-plus weeks, should and will be elected as this country's next president. My only admonition to my fellow black voters is not to let your pastor, who may ascribe to the conservative and Republican Party's core ideology, guilt-trip you should you vote for him.

The Republican Party knows historically the Civil Rights movement was born out of the black church, but it caught on to something leading up to the 2000 and 2004 elections when the George Bush campaign managed to steer away about 10 percent of the black vote. My desire is to see blacks make informed decisions and not those derived by means of spiritual manipulation.

For example, sixteen years ago while I lived in Richmond, Va., a prominent pastor and his assistant at the church I once attended took opportunity during the service to speak critically of those of us who supported and voted for Bill Clinton. The assistant pastor said that we had sinned for backing a candidate who would defend abortion rights, and he went as far as to say he questioned some of us who professed to be Christians. I remember there was silence and uneasiness that permeated throughout the sanctuary.

I would venture to say that there were members who did feel guilty after the assistant pastor's comment; I for one was enraged by it, and it was not long after I stopped attending that church. That occurred when the pastor reiterated in a later service that he believed members of his church sinned if they voted for Clinton, and he went on to make accusation that Clinton was a pedophile.

During the Clinton presidency, I also took issue with another pastor who made derisive comments from behind his pulpit about Clinton and the media (which I was a part of at the time). He backed down from that rhetoric only after I became quite vocal about it, proving in the latter argument that there are members of the media who are saved yet also have a sense of responsibility and commitment to Christ.

Now it's 2008. I've seen more and more black pastors who have presumably found a political and dare I say economic sanctuary by pledging their allegiance to the Republican Party. They may not come outright and say they're Republicans, but they've flaunted their allegiance by pontificating to their church members that they don't care who is elected in office, that God is sovereign, but that they will vote as God leads them to vote. They'll say they cannot, in clear conscience, vote for a candidate who supports abortion, gay rights or gay marriage, and then openly question those who support affirmative action. Then they'll dare their members to make bold stands for God in a similar way, or be seen as a coward for the faith.

Recently, a notable pastor spoke in that same tenor in an interview with the Washington Post. T. D. Jakes said he supported Obama, but would not go as far as to say he endorsed Obama, claiming that he does not endorse candidates. (That's a tax and constitutional issue all to itself.)

He said he understood why some people in his crowd would not support Obama altogether, adding, "I'm very definitely pro-life. I understand why [Obama's] pro-choice . . . but I really do believe life begins at conception.

"And while it's not the only issue that I'm concerned about; and because this is what gets me some ridicule, because some people vote purely on that one issue alone; I do have a tendency to look at a wider range of issues . . . and balance that against other concerns like global warming, like health care, like feeding the babies . . . I don't think in a box like that."

Jakes went on to say that he has to listen to candidates talk about a plethora of policy issues, and he maintained that his vote is a very private decision. He said he was not sure who he would be voting for in next month's election.

When he was asked to elaborate, he said it's a stellar moment for Obama that he's gotten this far in the process. He also mentioned that it was also a stellar moment for Sen. John McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, because she's risen to this level of prominence in history. He went on to say, "I think you can congratulate that without being conflicted in your personal interests."

Because I've been in the company of pastors of visibility like a Jakes, I interpret his comments on Obama and Palin as a way of not alienating his pastor colleagues "black and white" who may be more vigorously outspoken in their support of a socially conservative Republican candidate.

While it may be honorable for them to make such declarations, I maintain black church members must make voting decisions that best represent their interests.

The black church, despite its historically conservative inclinations, is also historically guilty for what I call brain washing its members. And one of the ways pastors have gotten by with it is heaping guilt on its members. Hint: When was the last time your pastor took a second and dare I say a third offering?

It is my opinion that these pastors " many of whom you see on television or may be members of their church " are sellouts of the worst kind. They use their position to influence people in a way that has continued to be our peril. Many of these same pastors were bought off by the current administration in exchange for their vote with their form of welfare called faith-based initiatives.

Some pastors have seen thousands, and in some cases millions of dollars, channeled into their revenue stream -- all in the name of God. I cringe when I see these well-dressed and sometimes eloquent, so-called men of integrity and godliness profess the gospel, yet they follow another gospel.

I hope the next time when you hear these people try to intimidate you into a voting decision that goes against your very essence that you'll also cringe, but stand up for yourself.

Posted By Sam B. Redd to Straight From The Maverick at 9/26/2008 05:41:00 PM

[Straight From The Maverick] It's Still the Economy, Stupid!

I'm sure there will be people who support John McCain that say that he did a fine job representing himself in tonight's presidential debate in Oxford, Mississippi, against Barack Obama. The same thing will also be said by those who support Obama.

I think what tonight's debate did was firmly establish the distinct contrast in the two of them: McCain has a very narrow and near-sighted approach to dealing with this nation's problems both domestically and abroad; Obama is willing to have a much wider perspective on dealing with the same problems that confront us, making emphasis that the problems of this world requires a 21st century solution to 21st century problems.

For that reason, Obama may have kept his challenge from his Democratic Party convention speech that if McCain wants to talk about who has the disposition and judgment to serve as commander in chief of this country, that would be a debate he's ready to have.

Point well taken, point well served. The question is whether the rest of the country saw the same thing that I did?

I will not get into many specifics on the topics that were discussed, but one thing that I did notice throughout the debate was that McCain never looked in Obama's direction when making any points or rebuttals the entire 90 minutes.

By his actions, Obama did take the debate as he needed to by not only making eye contact with the moderator, Jim Lehrer, but also looking in McCain's direction when articulating his points. The fact that McCain would not look his rival's direction was an obvious sign to me that he's intimidated by Obama. If this country is to elect a new leader, it needs somebody who is willing to confront his rivals and enemies.

It was clearly obvious that McCain tried to paint Obama by being inexperienced and naïve when it comes to all facets of being a leader, particularly on foreign policy. He advocated experience meant something. He freely dropped names of political leaders abroad and the cities. He reached back into his vast knowledge of history of specific world affairs.

The one thing, however, that bothered me was the fact he held fast that Iraq is linchpin to dealing with many of the problems in the Middle East, this country's fight against Osama bin Laden and his Al-Queda operatives in Afghanistan, even when it has long since been proven that the Iraq was never the place that harbored weapons of mass destruction, and it never should have been the focal point of this country's military efforts for much of this decade.

Obama managed to hold ground by making assertions about judgment and proper strategy for entering into the military situations the United States is now fighting. He noted this country's spent $600 billion over in Iraq and what has it produced? That more than 4,000 Americans are dead. That more than 30,000 soldiers have been wounded. A world standing that is not the same as it was a decade ago. Bin Laden's yet caught. Al-Queda has re-tooled itself. And this country is now dealing with its own economic issues. The only thing that he didn't mention was this country operating in a $500 billion deficit; he did mention that this country is probably indebted to China by borrowing at least $600 billion and soon approaching $1 trillion.

I think because of the immediacy of media news cycles we'll probably forget about this debate in a matter of days. I think what remains on the minds of people across this country is the economy.

Posted By Sam B. Redd to Straight From The Maverick at 9/26/2008 11:10:00 PM



Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC

P.O. Box 1615
Upper Marlboro , Maryland 20773
Contact: Erica Hart, Public Relations
Phone: (301) 390-3645
Web Site:



Upper Marlboro, Maryland, September 26, 2008 — Xpress Yourself Publishing, LLC received the Independent Publishing House of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show, the most comprehensive awards show ever to recognize, honor, celebrate and promote the outstanding achievements and contributions of the publishing, arts and entertainment industries. The ceremony was held at the HarlemStage Gatehouse in Harlem , New York on September 25, 2008.

Xpress Yourself Publishing is an English-language publisher headquartered in Upper Marlboro, Maryland . The house of ESSENCE® national best-selling authors Bill Holmes, author of One Love and Kenda Bell, author of For Every Love There Is A Reason was founded in 2001 by Jessica Tilles, who launched the company as a self-publishing venture, publishing her national best-selling titles: Anything Goes, In My Sisters' Corner, Apple Tree, Sweet Revenge, Fatal Desire, Unfinished Business, Erogenous Zone: A Sexual Voyage. Xpress Yourself Publishing publishes 10 to 15 titles per year.

“Xpress Yourself Publishing continues to mold the literary careers of 35 talented authors, which includes two ESSENCE® Best Sellers, award-winning authors, several award nominees, and a finalist for the 2008 NAACP Image Award nomination in the Best Debut Novel category,” said Jessica Tilles, CEO and Publisher. “I sincerely wish to thank the Xpress Yourself Publishing authors, for without them, this award would not have been possible. One person cannot build a publishing house alone. It takes a team, and I do indeed have a great team!”

Company Overview:

Today, Xpress Yourself Publishing, with 40 titles in print, is a broad-based publisher dedicated to publishing thought-provoking literature and commercial fiction, business books, mystery, romance, erotica, spiritual, and contemporary. In fiscal year 2007, Xpress Yourself Publishing had ESSENCE® Best Sellers including One Love by Bill Holmes and For Every Love There Is A Reason by Kenda Bell, and D.L. Sparks, author of All That Glitters, made the master list for to be nominated for the 2008 NAACP Image Awards. The 2007 Alternative Soul Award was awarded to Bill Holmes, author of One Love and ESSENCE best-selling author.


[Straight From The Maverick] A Presidental Case for Affirmative Action

It's too bad that Sen. Barack Obama, when he is elected as this country's next president, cannot remove Clarence Thomas from the Supreme Court bench. But Obama's election as president will serve as an effective counterargument why affirmative action remains necessary.

Affirmative action, if used correctly by the intended beneficiary, justifies the spirit of its intent: when given the opportunity to enter into an arena, a person can author his or her own destiny and not allow someone else to dictate what that destiny may behold.

Whether Thomas, or any of those who espouse his ideology, is willing to acknowledge it or not, is a man scorned by his failure to successfully launch his legal aspirations following his graduation from Yale University. His own arguments and legal opinions are nothing more than vitriol against the very legal landmark that made possible for him to pursue higher education more than three decades ago.

Thomas has articulated in speaking engagements and in his published memoir that he felt belittled and inferior when he went on job interviews. It's apparent to me that Thomas' assumption was that his degree from Yale was all that was needed to get him a job a many of the law firms that he applied to. I suspect that Thomas simply did not convince his interviewers that he was worthy of employment; that's a problem that still haunts him to this day as a sitting Justice.

Conversely, while Obama's admission to Harvard's law school may be construed as being a beneficiary of affirmative action, his success is marked by being elected as president of the school's prestigious Law Review. His academic success merited internship opportunities at prestigious law firms. And upon graduation, he had his choice to work at any law firm that he applied for, but he turned them down in favor of pursuing community organizer work in Chicago.

My life experience has taught me that no matter what the preconceived opinion might have been against me, it's my responsibility as a black man to prove that I am more superior to those opinions. There may be those who may who have reacted to my exuding confidence as arrogant, and thereby they did not hire me. But there were those who embraced it as an attribute and appreciated it. Hence, in my own small way, I also believe the successes that I've attained in my professional endeavors only confirm Martin Luther King's hope that I've ultimately been judged by the content of my character and not by the color of my skin.

Obama's election as president would be an argument that also confirms King's dream. It also would confirm the legal victories achieved by Thurgood Marshall and the legislative victory of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that signed into law by Lyndon Johnson. It also is a reminder that affirmative action still serves a necessary instrument to keep in check those individuals who hold fast to discrimination on the basis or race and gender.

It is clearly obvious that Thomas has proven to be a man void of character and content. His career is an example for those who decry why affirmative action should not exist. Thomas has rejected affirmative action out of his own failure to prove his superiority when given the opportunity; and when given the opportunity, he's sought every legal argument possible to reverse it.

In turn, Thomas' actions imply that he rejects being black, the dreams and struggles of King, Marshall, and those before him, just as every other black person who shares in his opinion.

Posted By Sam B. Redd to Straight From The Maverick at 9/28/2008 04:06:00 PM

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Intimate Conversations Showcase with Linda Mayfield-Hayes

SLS Intimate Conversations Showcase with author Linda Mayfield-Hayes

Recently Ella Curry, CEO of EDC Creations ( and founder of the Sankofa Literary Society ( had the opportunity to talk with the author of book Afroetry, Linda Mayfield-Hayes.

SLS Intimate Conversations Interview Questions

Tell us your latest news?
I haven't been very active lately, but this past summer, I was invited to be the featured guest at a poetry event held in Greenville, South Carolina. After the event, the church pastor asked me to read a few of my poems at his church, and set up a table and chair for me to sell a few books. Not only did I sell all 50 copies I had carried with me, but I received several more orders through the mail. This was very exciting experience, and I met so many wonderful people.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My father died of a brain tumor when I was 14 years old. Shortly after, I retreated into my own little world. There, the only thing that comforted me was writing poetry. I found it to be very therapeutic.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I haven't written a novel yet, but I have published three books of poetry. I was inspired by a group of co-workers. My place of employment was celebrating Black History Month, and various employees were being asked to participate by reading the poems of famous black poets. When I was asked, I said that I would rather write a poem of my own for the occassion. That's when I wrote a poem entitled, "Freedom Torch". After reading this poem for the group, they encouraged be to continue writing and I eventually was encouraged me to publish my poems in the form of a chapbook. That's when I wrote my first book, "Life is a Roller Coaster".

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
I used to love listening to the poetry of Nikki Giovanni on the radio years ago, but my writing style is my own. I enjoy wrting acrostics and rhyming poems. I especially like the challenge of writing acrostics that rhyme.

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Well, my first book. "Life is a Roller Coaster" is about various situations that I have personally lived through in one way or another. My last book, "Afroetry" is basically about the black experience.

What are your current projects?
I'm not working on any new projects at the moment, but I have been knocking around the idea of publishing a children's book.

Do you feel that the explosion in African-AmerDo you feel that the explosion in African-American writers is a fad or another renaissance?

No. The African-American writer is here to stay!

Do you feel more African-Americans are reading? If not, how can we help increase this?
I think African-Americans have always been reading, only now more African-Americans are writing thanks to the internet and self-publishing.

Linda Mayfield-Hayes (Salter)
Afrocentric Poetry that Educates & Motivates

Intimate Conversations with Agnes B. Levine

SLS Intimate Conversations Showcase with Agnes B. Levine

Recently Ella Curry, CEO of EDC Creations ( and founder of the Sankofa Literary Society ( had the opportunity to talk with the author of the book Cooling Well Water, Agnes B. Levine.

SLS Intimate Conversations Interview Questions

Tell us your latest news?
My highly anticipated book, "Cooling Well Water: A Collection of Work By An African-American Bi-Polar Woman" ("Cooling Water or Collection") is in the final stages of publishing. I am truly excited and over-whelmed with joy that this Collection will be released this year. Of course, I am staying busy with seeing this Collection to the final stages of publishing by tending to fine details and praying to stay under God's guidance.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have always considered myself a writer and writing has always considered me. However, it was not until the aftermath of my father's death when I vigorously sought God's presence in my life, then writing for me became a full-time priority. In learning to manage my mental illness, writing became a therapeutic means for me to cope. Cooling Well Water reflects my conversations with God during a difficult period in my life when only God could have delivered me. Of course, my writing had to undergo development both spiritually and technically and to be honest, some of those conversations I had with God that re reflected in the book left me scared, embarassed, and ashamed. For instance, I literally laid my heart before God and asked Him to examine it and fill those dark corners with His light of healing power. What God found surprised even me! The first writing of mine ever published was in 2004 and titled: "I Write Because..." by Do-It-Yourself E-zine founder Judine Slaughter.

I write for many, many reasons when I do actually write—lol.
I write because I’m bored. Because it is fun. Because I’m hurting. Because I’m happy. Because the paper is blank. Because the screen is blank. Because ideas are racing in my head. Because the Lord is speaking to me and I need to capture His words. Because I’m sad. Because I need to remember what I need to do. Because I want to forget what I have done or said or thought of doing or saying, or forget what others have done or said to me. I write because my pen has fantastic, majestic powers and I can change the world while I am waiting for the doctor to see me and there is one more blank page in my two-year planner.

I write because my daughter still doesn’t know I love her and my sons have the prettiest eyes, and sometimes I write because I think God doesn’t believe I appreciate where He has delivered me from or just knows I’m still waiting to be delivered. I write because that bestseller is still in my heart waiting to be born or at my fingertips waiting to be released or in my mind waiting for the perfect song to unchain it. I write because I am stupid and words make me smart. I write because I’m fat and words make me small. I write because I’m small and words make me huge. When I’m a “n—,” I can write and be white, and when I’m white, I can be black. I’m superwoman when I write and my pen is my golden lasso. I’m the lion king when I write. I’m silly when I write. I’m serious when I write. I cry when I write. I laugh when I write. I pray when I write. I die when I write. I live when I write. I have so much love to give when I write. Every single thing around me in my environment I write on and every single thing in my environment has a word on it that I have written on it that tells my story. That’s why I write and will always write. So that my story will always be told.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
The Holy Spirit. I had to unleash the words, the story, or I was going to burst. Seriously, I have always loved to read and I have always loved to write. By the time I received the Holy Spirit, I felt like if I did not begin seriously writing, I was going to literally burst wide open. That is primarily because there is always one person who will be touched by your words. When you withhold those words as a writer, you deny or block that one person from freedom from their pain, destruction, courage, self-determination, self-motivation, staying power, etc., because by telling your story, you give permission to at least one person to say, "I can do it too!" That is what happened to me through reading. I constantly told myself, "You can do this!"

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?

There are a few African-American authors who have strong influence on me as a person and a writer. First, I do not want to just write. I want to leave a legacy of African-American literature. There is a difference and to me that difference is what will help the next generation over-come the struggle? What will help my little sistah keep the African-American community moving forward positively? What will my grandchildren need to know about God and His omnipotence that will keep the world successful so that the ills of racism, prejudice, violence, etc. will not destroy them? I find those teachings strong in the works of Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Phyllis Wheatley, Toni Morrison, Langston Hughes, and many newer authors, too, such as Maya Angelou and countless others. Also, African-American history has been a tremendous influence because our story must always be told in order that it never repeats itself. Therefore, my biggest influences rest in the slave writings.

How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
My environment has colored me yellow--the color of divine intelligence. That is not to say I am the most intelligent human being, but I am wiser because of my environment and upbringing. I am wiser because I now that God must be first in my life and then I will be able to see His purpose for me. I then understand that I must be a beacon of light, hope, for the woman or man suffering from a mental illness who has the internal strength to live a productive life. I must reach back to my African-American community and help them defeat illiteracy because if we or our children do not understand how to defeat illiteracy or even that illiteracy must be defeated, we cannot possibly be a part of the global world and living on handouts is no assurance for the future. In order to counter racism and stand for whose we really are, we must be able to understand the power of words and knowledge.

Lastly, I often share with friends that when you have a mental illness and understand the active darkness of living with one, you better appreciate living on the other side of the mental illness. Therefore, the mental illness must not be allowed to take over your life. Cooling Well Water allows the reader to see that freedom from oppression comes in many ways with many blessings. Faith. Being imprisoned by the mental illness forces you to be a victim to darkness, pain, abuse, etc. The mere fact that this book was written in testimonial form, is inspiration in and of itself to persons with or without a mental illness. The book frees readers from the stigma that to me is like the cement vault a casket is laid in.

What are your current projects?
Currently, I am working on a project about my life, a short film script, continuing to write articles, and I continue to publish the writings of Swaggie Coleman. Swaggie Coleman has written her first novel and so I will be very busy between the two. I also have big dreams for my publishing company going to the next level in 2008. I am very excited and I have been blessed to have absolutely wonderful people placed in my life to help me grow and realize my dream. I look especially forward to helping a special friend of mine bring forth his writing talents.

What is a favorite book from your childhood?
Mary Todd Lincoln, A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.

What do you hope readers will learn/discover from reading your book?
That God is real. That only through God can anything and everything be accomplished. That trusting God will help you to be what He purposed for you to be and only then can true peace and happiness be accomplished. That each of us has the innate ability to over-come trials and tribulations despite what obstacles are in front of us. That we are not meant to be blessed for a day or a minute, we are blessed for a lifetime. I also hope readers will discover that the mind is capable of surpassing the limits that a broken society gives us.

What distinguishes your book from others on the subject?
It is not simply a tell-all book, it is a show-all book. Cooling Water walks the reader through my deliverance without the fluff. The average person will be able to relate to it as well as the above-average and the below-average. Because the book speaks of prophecy and was written a few years ago, it will also leave the reader in awe. It is transcending of time, race, sex, ethnicity, and religion because God is universal.

Do you feel more African-Americans are reading?
If not, how can we help increase this. I believe more African-Americans are reading today, but not merely as much as we need to. I am especially disturbed that not many African-American children are reading. What I see is more folks reading stories and not literature. The difference to me is that while stories are certainly a good thing, the mind must be challenged through literature in order to move our community forward. When an individual reads a good piece of literature they become enlightened about the world and his or her mind is seeking ways to make a better difference and do it better. When individuals are restricted to stories about gangs, violence, sex, etc., that is all they will see in their world.

A child should know about all the great things our people are doing all over the world and not be limited to where a racist society says we should stay. The more a child reads about success and the more literature takes the mind higher, the more the child will be committed to achieve greatness beyond the bling, bling. Thus, we need to be reading more good, quality literature and use the mind the way it was intended to be used. There will be plenty of time for fun reading, but we have a lot of work to do with our children and ourselves in order to fully appreciate the fun, peace, and happiness that we deserve.

Who has been your mentor or most inspiring supporter?

I am my Father's legacy.

What should a new writer know about the publishing business?
Study it. Decide what your uniqueness is and how you can compete with yourself.

What have you learned about the process of writing, marketing, and now promoting your book?
After you study the publishing industry for yourself, map out a strategy. No matter what, stick to your own strategy and trust in God. As far as writing, not all of us are meant to be writers. Not all of us are meant to be lawyers, doctors, etc. You can take courses and work hard at it, but if it is not what God has ordained for you to do, it won't happen successfully. Recognize if it is not what God has ordained for you to do and move on to your true calling.

What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love to write and read other works and apply the 'then' to the 'now' through writing. I hate to wait for the muse and I hate waiting for an opportunity to share my work, but I have gotten a lot better with patience because I stay involved helping others with their works.

How do you feel about critique groups?

Absolutely necessary! I highly recommend the DeGriotSpace Online Writers Workshop. Just like we all need a "best" friend or a special friend who keeps it real for us, a writer needs a best "critique" friend to keep it real for him or her. I have one and I cannot imagine my writing life without that person. A writer must trust the critique group or person. The writer must not be afraid to share anything and everything and then trust the critique.

Many times I have cried and went to bed angry because my work was not as great as I thought in somebody else's opinion. However, I can honestly say that after I got over the emotional injury to my ego (I am human) I could then say---"What the heck was I thinking when I wrote that!" Also, when I write, I ask myself what do I want the reader to walk away with that will help them and before the day is over, I ask myself, "Would God be proud of how I used His gift?" Amen? Amen!

Do you feel that the explosion in African-American writers is a fad or another renaissance?

Uh-hm. I hope a fad. After this Black History Month Event, I hope a renaissance.

Do you feel more African-American youths are reading?

If not, how can we help increase this. Yes, but trash and not enough of them read. Parents and caretakers are responsible for the lack of young readers. In addition, so are teachers. Collectively, we must encourage children to read by giving them material to read. Reading has and should be introduced to children early and the word "fun," "enjoyable," "educational," "relaxing," and "helpful" must be associated with making children read. Notice I said "making" children read. I am bothered by a parent who spends so much money on gadgets and designer clothes for their child and tells me, "He just don't like to read." To me, that is like saying, "he calls his own shots."

If we are gong to let children wrongly prioritize their role as a child, then we cannot be surprised when they make the wrong choices. If we read to our children and engage them in the storytelling, they will pick up on reading is fun, etc. When I first read my first book, there were no real stories for black children to read about ourselves. However, I wanted to go to the White House.

I became curious about the life of a girl living in the White House. I paid more attention to how I did my homework trying to spell better because that's what little white girls did in the White House...y'all feel me.

Lord, the day I read a book about an African Queen I was an adult. I felt irritated that I never knew that information as a child. When I am in the presence of children as a part-time teacher (did I forget to mention that?) I always, always tell them about our ancestors being Queens and Kings and how we must carry on the legacy of valuing education. Their eyes always pop open with amazement because they did not know of the great inheritance of our people. That blame falls right smack on the shoulders of parents and caretakers who are neglecting to do their job.

Having said that, I have to add that when parents and caretakers read stories about gangs, sex, bling-bling, that is what children are exposed to and what they expect their world to be. So they do not aspire better and settle for just wanting the bling-bling. When a child sees his or her mother or big sister curled up with a book with voluptuous breasts, thongs, etc., a visual impression is being made. "Never judge a book by its cover!" does not, not apply to children. They do and will judge and be influenced by what they SEE!!!

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.


Do you see writing as a long- or short-term career?


If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything?
Yes. I would have kept every book I ever purchased, smile. It is so expensive trying to replace them now that I have decided I want them ALL back.

Contact the author:

Agnes B. Levine
Levine-Oliver Publisher
3515 Meadowside Road
1st Floor
Gwynn Oak, MD 21207

Exclusive Publisher of Swaggie Coleman-

Unexpected Interruptions by Trice Hickman

Unexpected Interruptions by Trice Hickman

Synopsis: Take an unforgettable journey with Victoria Small, a smart, savvy sister who's fresh off a year-long, self-imposed hiatus--from men! Now that she's ready to start dating again, she gets more than she bargained for when Ted Thornton, a powerful blue-eyed CEO, and Parker Brightwood, a talented, ambitious young surgeon, enter her life. As Victoria's relationship heats up with both men, she resurrects a painful secret she thought she'd buried long ago, and finds herself doing things she never thought she'd do! Along the way she's joined by a colorful cast of friends and foes as she tests the boundaries of love, race, class and where she fits in.

Distributors: Baker & Taylor (available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million)

Author Bio-- Prior to writing, Trice Hickman's diverse professional career included work in both corporate and non-profit organizations. She holds a B.A. from Winston-Salem State University and an M.A. from Wake Forest University. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on her second novel, and a third book is already underway. She resides in Washington, D.C., with her husband.

Book Review

"The story is about love and the fears involved when attempting to take the plunge and give up your heart. Hickman tackled issues of racism, even within the African-American community, as well as, those regarding interracial dating. Well-written and a definite page-turner, which kept me up all-night, I really enjoyed the book. This is one I recommended for fans of a good love story."
The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers, 4.5 out of 5 Stars

SLS Author's Interview: Trice Hickman

Tell us a little something about your publishing journey. Did you have a manuscript that was submitted to several publishers?
Initially, I sought to go the traditional route and submitted my manuscript to several agents and publishers for consideration of a publishing contract. After many, many tries they all turned me down. Finally, I decided that I wasn't going to let agents or publishers determine the fate of my work. I decided to let readers make that determination, so I formed my own publishing company, Platinum Books, published Unexpected Interruptions myself, and never looked back! I'm so glad I did!
In what way did these characters reveal themselves to you? Do you sketch them or do just flow with the text? I create a biography for each character as they come to me, that way I know them very well and can tell their stories more clearly.

My characters definitely reveal things to me when I'm writing about them. For instance, the story that I ended up with is not the story I set out to write. Initially, I wanted to write a story that we seldom see in contemporary fiction--the best friend/platonic relationship between a young black woman and a young black man. But very quickly the characters started taking on a life of their own, so I listened to them and followed their lead. The result is a thought-provoking, complex novel that many readers have told me they enjoy.

In your opinion, what is the absolute best thing about being a writer?
The freedom and creativity. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, but in those quiet moments when it's just you and your characters, they can take you down interesting paths you'd never travel's an awesome feeling.

What’s the biggest compliment you’ve been getting on this book?

The biggest compliment I've been receiving from readers about Unexpected Interruptions, is that once they started reading the book, they couldn't put it down because the story and the characters drew them in.

As a writer, what are some of the most important things you try to get across through your books?
That life wonderfully imperfect. That we are all flawed, but those flaws make us who we are, and who we are is good enough (I learned that from the great Mary B. Morrison...thanks Mary!). I want readers to know that there is struggle, but there is also happiness, and if you look beyond conventional norms, that's when you usually stumble upon greatness.

What is your definition of success?
Being happy and having peace in my life!



by Swaggie

If you missed featured Author, Pat G'Orge-Walker on the evening of Sunday, February 10, 2008, you didn't miss a thing. That's because she swept the nation off its feet and I was there to witness the whole thing. Now your blessed because I'm going to fill you in. Ain't God good, amen? Amen!

Alright, let's get the pleasantries out of the way. I draped myself in a black kaftan with gold satin trim (hey, it was a 2 for 1 deal, ok...). In addition to another cup of mango rooibus tea from South Africa, I had some butter wafer cookies with almonds (umm-hm). Now, I was also still a little shakey from all that supernatural stuff from the night before and the winds had been gusting all day. Therefore, I had my bible out next to the never know, right?

Anyway, let me tell y'all that Ms. G'Orge-Walker, better known as Sister Betty, is a force not to be reckoned with! It became abundantly clear early on why she is in a class -- top of the class -- all by herself! I know it is cliche-est to say that her reputation supercedes her, but....

Ok, first of all, I have to mention that Sister Betty was feeling a bit under the weather. What immediately impressed me was that despite that, and despite Royal Host Ella asking Sister Betty to answer just one little ole question, Sister Betty spent the entire evening with us. That is what I call commitment and dedication to our African-American community. Sister Betty was far from arrogant and selfishness and I admired that quality in her.

So what makes this Author so unique? Well, for starters, Sister Betty has a powerfully inspiring testimony about how God definitely had a purpose for her life. As her story unfolds, it all makes sense. See, Sister Betty's life was saved when she was three years old. She was trapped inside a burning house, but was rescued by Fireman Marshall. Sister Betty recalled that she still remembers that very night in New York with wires exposed over her head and being tucked inside the fireman's coat before being whisked out into the falling snow. In fact, Sister Betty remarked that she always believed she was older when that traumatic night ocurred because she could indeed remember it so vividly. The fire. The wires. The falling snow. The fireman's coat. The baby changing table in the room.

Now, we believers would be moved by that "miracle" and agree that God destined this woman to do His will. Well, sometimes God emphasizes His point in ways that surpass carnal understanding. So when Sister Betty described how she survived a horrific car accident as an adult, including running from the wreck mangled with glass sticking out of her body fearing that the car was going to explode, you begin to understand why God has her in that class all by herself - to give Him all the Glory...her way! Amen? Amen!

Sister Betty came from a musical family in the entertainment business. She has worked with famous singers such as the Chantels, the Heavenly Two's and world-reknown record companies such as Def Jam and Columbia Records, and the list goes on. After spending many years in the record promotions and marketing industry, Sister Betty found herself out of work. At the urging of a friend, she relied on her past as a preacher's kid (uh-hm) when she began writing. "I skipped therapy and began writing." Sister Betty recounts.

Sister Betty explained to listeners that she was motivated to create the character after sitting through church service and then by the time service was over, "somebody would say or do something stupid" going out the church door. Based on that alone, I think we can expect Sister Betty to be around a long, long time. Amen? Amen!

So are these characters based on any relatives of Sister Betty? You bet. We learn that somewhere down in Williamston, South Carolina, cousin Myra, aka Sister Imahellraiser, really exists. While Cousin Myra is a stunningly beautiful, honey-complexioned woman with green eyes, dear Cousin Myra had a mouth that knew no boundaries. She was known to say what she meant and she meant what she said. Although the real life Regina -- oops, I mean Myra -- is saved now, Sister Imahellraiser ain't found Jesus yet.

Another spot-light character, "Miss Lena," is based on a real woman down South with magical herbal healing powers. Sister Betty describes this particular real-life woman as a short, slight, kindly old woman complete with white handkerchief. "Miss Lena" would be "summoned" when Sister Betty was ill as a child. "Miss Lena would arrive and chew on some herb and then rub you down with it. You would be healed!" However, Sister Betty admits that as with most other people, she was "scared to death" of Miss Lena even though Miss Lena could cure you. Umm-hm!

You can "read" that this woman truly has an interesting life and if you did not know it, there is a biography about Sister Betty. I will let you know the link at the end because I know you are enjoying yourself. As we become and more and more knowledgeable about the characters by Sister Betty, we learn that another book will be released in March. That book, "Somewhat Saved" promises to be just as entertaining as the other books by this talented Author. This upcoming release can be pre-ordered at today so let's rush to support Sister Betty!

There were so many interesting things revealed about this Author during the chat. For instance, Sister Betty is obviously blessed with tremendous staying power. Throughout her career, she states that even though she was often challenged, she held on to her integrity. That certainly contributes to longevity in my opinion and remember I "blogged" earlier that as her story unfolds, you will be able to glean why God meant for her to be alive! Her contribution to the literary community is invaluable. Like sharing briefly her horrific experience with an Agent because she ignored the signs.

ADVICE: Make sure the people you deal with have a physical office and check out their references!

When Sister Betty walked away from the recording industry, she did so with a wealth of knowledge and mature understanding about being successful, living, and committing herself to producing quality material. This allows her to deliver God's message universally. Amen? Amen! She practices what she preaches about uplifting the black community. That includes nurturing strong and positive relationships in an industry where competition can lead to hostility. I especially enjoyed getting to know the person behind the persona.

Here is an Author who took the initiative to reach out and uplift. For example, Sister Betty disclosed that on one occasion she was in the presence of a young black man who kept talking and using the "N--" word. She recalls, "He said 'my n--' this and 'my n--' that to the point that I got up from where I sat and went over to him. I put my arm around his shoulder and said, 'We have a brother running for the highest office in the land and you want to be disrespectful by using the 'n--' word.'" Sister Betty said that immediately the young man began apologizing over and over again. Is that love? Is that (sister)hood? Is that humanity? That is the type of role modeling we need today, everyday. Just an act of kindess and guidance to our youth.

What about some of today's rappers and hip-hop artists? Are they really stupid, gang-bang fools that they portray in videos, etc.? In most cases, absolutely not explains Sister Betty. She shares that she was fortunate to get to know a lot of today's artists on a personal level. Take Flava Flav (NOTE: don't laugh if I don't know how to spell these artists' name--just excuse me...), he is a very smart young man and he smells so good (uh-hm--he can really wear cologne...hey, I'm just blogging, ok?).

According to Sister Betty, he is also very mannerable. As far as Russell Simmons, he is not a 'people person,' but Sister Betty acknowledges that she learned a whole lot from him. Then there is Tupac. Tupac is described by her as having a dual personality. She further explains that Tupac had been very hurt and damaged and so he was quite on the defense.

Sister Betty discusses that what the public needs to understand is that when these artists go on stage, shoot videos, etc., they are performing. When they go into board rooms and negotiate contracts, it is a totally different story as these young men are very intelligent. Of particular note, is that when these performers target an audience, they have to adapt to that audience in order to sell their product. So when artists like Fifty Cent (I know how to spell that one) start out, they are not thinking about when they are ten years older and they are known by the name they chose earlier. (uh-oh, does swaggie sound stupid if I'm 90?...anyway...).

Another interesting point Sister Betty discusses, is that when artists (and Authors) are signed on with a company (publishing house), it is realized that they need food, shelter, transportation. Therefore, they are given an 'advance.' This advance buys them the fancy car or house. However, the 'advance' is really just a 'LOAN' that MUST be paid back.

Thus, an artist or Author has to hustle their butts off to pay it back through sales of their product. Sister Betty emphasizes that this is why many artists have other means of income such as clothing lines, etc. This makes perfectly good sense to me, how about y'all? (Now for you cut-throat artists/authors, you are rushing to get a loan...ummmm-hm).

Now, if you have been keeping up thus far, consider yourself blessed as a reader or as an Author. If you are a reader, then you now know how important it is to support your favorite Authors, artists, etc. If you are an Author, you now know Basics 101 and as Sister Betty later advised, there is enough of the pie for everyone so please, please stop the negative competition tactics (Umm, that sounds like what Simba advised last week. Could it be that two people are brilliant African-Americans?).

Alright, Sister Betty really is in a league of her own. We learned that a genre category had to be created just for her! In addition to being an accomplished Author and performer, she is the recipient of the BWA 2000 Golden Pen Award. I wanted to know from her the significance of the many, many awards being given out today. She explained that while awards do not define her, and she has many understandably so, they lead to publishing contracts, etc. Sister Betty further explained that book clubs also have power with publishing houses and book retailers. This clarification was especially helpful to me as I dream of Swaggie's Image of God Award being a very distinguished Award in the future. Amen? Amen!

Sister Betty was very relaxed about sharing her opinions on matters such as should an African-American section in a book store make a difference? She feels that her words should be shared by everyone and not pigeon-holed to one racial group. She views herself as a creative person, writer, and able to benefit others outside of the African-American race. Therefore, when a book retailer restricts her access to the whole reading public, she is insulted. To drive her point home, Sister Betty compares this racially biased practice to white authors. "There is no White-American Section." Therefore, while there are occasions to support or promote just us, African-American authors should always be mainstreamed. Amen? Amen!

As we are coming to the end of this incredible evening with Mrs. Pat G'Orge-Walker (Sister Betty), we get a glimpse of how this Author feels about what our children are exposed to. In short, Sister Betty compares children to sponges. "We must be careful what we inform them with because they will absorb it. If you give them dirty water, they will absorb dirty water. If you you fuss and cuss in front of children, then expect them to fuss and cuss." Just in case somebody missed her point, remember that she vividly remembered being rescued from a fire at age 3. Amen? Amen! (One more time) Amen? Amen!

On the matter of teen literature, Sister Betty recommends several teen Authors: Jackie Thomas (Divine Series), Stephanie Perry Moore, Rashanda Tate Billingsley, Mashawn Nichols. A few more teen Authors were recommended by Ella: Paula Chase Hyman, Carla Serek, and Isabus Inside. Mrs. Paula Hyman Chase is one of the teen Authors on Swaggie's Exclusive 'Thumbs Up' Reading List as well.

The state of literary promotions are ever changing. The trend these days seems to be promoting with trailers. It is becoming so popular that Ella revealed that EDC will begin offering such promotional trailers beginning February 15, 2008! What the heck are promotional trailers? These are the mini film clips and are very visual. Trailers capture your attention and they can have actors, photo stocks, or music stocks. Both Ella and Sister Betty agree that this is a good promotional tool and if you contact Ella, her team is ready to go!

Sister Betty left some profound words of wisdom, advice, and suggestions for today's Authors. We need to support each other understanding that competition - especially negative - is not, not necessary. There is enough of the literary market for everybody, ok? AND, if something is not your cup of tea, then don't drink it, but do not go around leaving negative messages about an Author or their work on websites! (I drink only mango rooibus tea...uh-hm). Sister Betty encourages Authors to share resources and she reminds us that the spirit in which you participate, creates your success or failure. She suggests returning to the old ways of cross-exposure and bartering. For instance, team up with various authors and create a poster-board collage. When one Author is at an event, they can put up the posterboard to promote other Authors out-of-state. That is a very cost-efficient way of promoting and supporting.

Finally (don't cry, you can read this as many times as you please), there is the tried and true literary night out. This is where a book club or Author can plan with a Ma and Pa restaurant and eat and greet readers. Basically, everything you do should be a catalyst or springboard to something else. Readers can be the best event planners, too. The possibilities are endless! Did I mention that Catholics will enjoy Sister Betty, too?

WARNING: Do not miss work so you can sleep all day and hang out with me and featured Authors at night. Go on to work, and read all about it while you enjoy your dinner! 2008© All Rights Reserved by Swaggie.

To purchase all of the Sister Betty books, please visit:; to contact Sister Betty, please e-mail: Thank you for blogging with me - any comments.----Swaggie

Meet Author Deanna Michelle Smith

Reign Storm by Deanna Michelle Smith

REIGN STORM by Deanna Michelle Smith is the story of Storm, a beautiful high school student who thinks the world revolves around her. Not only is she beautiful but she drives a nice car, wears expensive clothes, attends the best school, has the perfect boyfriend and gets everything she wants because her parents spoil her abundantly. Storm believes her beauty is the key to success, and even though her best friend tries to tell her beauty is only skin deep, it falls on deaf ears. She is so caught up in glamour and materialism she ends up in a situation that is not only detrimental to her well-being, but is sure to affect those she loves in a disastrous way.

Author Bio:
Deanna Michelle Smith was born and raised on the south side of Chicago , IL .
She attended Northern Illinois University majoring in Business Administration and maintained a position on the Dean's List. She began writing at an early age in order to vent frustrations without getting in trouble. She hopes her fictional words will encourage our youth to take the straight and narro w route in opposed to the easy one. She has been a featured author on Motown Writer's Network, Real Sista Writers online writing group and the Metro Detroit Literary Collective Group.
Her debut novel, entitled Reign Storm was released in February 2007 and her second novel entitled Out Law City was released in April 2007. Her short story, Plateau of Pleasure has been published by Literary Wonders in the Crimes of Passion: The Anthology. She is currently working on another an thology entitled, The Shattered Glass Effect, which includes her two short stories entitled, Lady Judas and Scarlet's Blood.

Book Review

REIGN STORM is a wonderfully written book that touches on innocence, heartbreak and revenge. It teaches young girls a lesson that there is more to life than looks and money. There is also a lesson for parents to not spoil their children with whatever their heart desires, or the person they become in their adult life will be unhappy, selfish and shallow. The characters were very well-developed so much so that you could not only visualize Storm, but also her parents. I could almost contemplate their moves. Smith did an excellent job writing a novel that not only kept my attention, but had a surprise twist at the end. Smith's debut novel is sure to be a winner among both young girls and older women.

Reviewed by Eraina B. Tinnin
of The RAWSISTAZ-- Reviewers

SLS Intimate Conversations Showcase
Recently Ella Curry, CEO of EDC Creations ( and founder of the Sankofa Literary Society ( had the opportunity to talk with the author of the book REIGN STORM, Deanna Michelle Smith.

SLS Intimate Conversations Interview Questions

Tell us something about the story that we can't read on the cover:
Ugly comes in all different forms ... it can even come in a form of beauty. The main character, Storm was fooled by her love interest Mr. R & B and his attractive looks, fame, and mega millions.

As a new author, what would you say was your most difficult challenge in completing your novel?
The most difficult part would be the editing. Just when you think you've got a masterpiece ... here comes your professional editor with more corrections. However, this is a good sign of having a great editor so don't be discouraged.
In your opinion, what is the absolute best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is being able to release tons of thoughts onto paper and enjoy the reaction of the reader.

Who are your writing influences?
I can honestly say that Sistah Soulja and Zane had the most impact on my decision to write a novel. Once Reign Storm was completed and published, I became a bit discouraged due to the difficulty of marketing my work. Then my fellow associate/author, L. J. Wilson gave me back my mojo so to speak. Her influence helped me to complete my second novel, Outlaw City. She's my writing partner and one of my closest friends. Her writing technique is my inspiration. Our writing is totally different because I write in the Urban Fiction genre and she's more African American Contemporary Fiction but her critiques and advice continuously thrusts me forward.

What is your definition of success?

Accomplishing a goal that you thought was unrealistic.


Deanna Michelle Smith
Author of Reign Storm
and Outlaw City
Purchase a copy on today!



It seems like every day now, I hear on the news or read in a newspaper, the tale of the rape of a young girl, be she 3 years old or 16 years old, or as old as eighty decades or more. And at times, the rapist, in his vile, demonic quest for sexual gratification, goes as far as to rape and destroy the tender body of a baby girl, as young as nine months old, who has not yet learned to crawl.

Each time I hear these tales, I am appalled, I am disgusted, I am angered that such an horrific deed continues to infest and infect our society. I must admit, I am terrified that one day it might be my child, my neighbor, or even my own body that is so viciously violated. I am told that rape is not about love, not about sex, not about enjoyment. I am told that rape is about power, about control, about dominance. Is this so, is this true, is that what rape is about?

Then tell me, please, why must a rapist humiliate, desecrate, even terminate the life of a woman in order to feel all powerful? Why is a female, no matter her age, no matter her position, no matter her ethnicity, viewed as a threat to a being who calls himself a man? Surely, a nine-month old baby girl is not a threat to anyone. Surely, a nine-month old baby girl has said nothing to denigrate any man. And most definitely, surely, a nine-month old baby girl has deceived no one.

So, is rape about power? Is rape about dominance? Is rape about control? I think not. I think rape is about self-gratification, about self-indulgence, about selfishness. Rape is about lack of control, about lack of morals, about lack of respect, about lack of discipline, and about lack of godliness. When a man can rape an innocent baby, when a man can rape his own mother, when a man can rape anyone; he is evil in his soul, he is evil in his mind, he is evil in his spirit, he is the Devil’s own, and he should go back to hell from whence his ungodly spirit came.

We, as women, must protect ourselves and we must protect our daughters. It doesn’t matter whose daughter a girl is, all girls are ours to protect. This is not to say that men as fathers, as brothers, as sons, as human beings, are exempt. They, too, must protect the mothers, the daughters, the sisters, the friends of man from the rapists of the world.

In 2004, I wrote a book called The Honey Well. The Honey Well was about a woman, a mother, who prostituted her own daughter in order to keep a roof over their heads. The Honey Well was based loosely on the true story of a woman who, indeed, prostituted all six of her own daughters in order to survive during the Great Depression in America.

After writing The Honey Well, I was lead to write a poem, Baby Girl, which speaks to my message of protecting our daughters.


Baby girl, baby girl, you’re born into a world in which you are
a pearl. You’re precious, you’re pure, you’re lovely to behold,
yet you’re ignorant to the world of troubles that shadow you.

If you are not protected, you will be used, abused, stolen
and misused, maybe your life taken to render you voiceless.
For you, baby girl, are born with something more precious
than the golden sweet honey made by the honey bees.

Kings have abdicated, battles have been fought once eyes
have set upon your beauty and man has tasted of your honey.
Some men will not wait to be worthy, some men will
seize what is yours by right of birth.

You can choose, baby girl, you can decide.
You have a will, you have a voice, let no one take it from you.

Baby girl, baby girl, grow in mind, grow in body,
grow in spirit, and nurture your soul.
Protect yourself, respect yourself, and know that only you
can lose yourself

I am not naive. I know that since the dawn of time, women and men both have put price tags on a woman’s body, and that is unfortunate, but we as human beings have done many things in order to survive. And even then, most women who would prostitute their bodies in order to feed their children are oftentimes filled with shame.

Rape is not about survival. Rape is not about choice. Rape is about evilness.


Have You Ever Been Sexually Abused?

One in 3 females and 1 in 5 males are sexually abused as children and 90% of the time it’s at the hands of a family member, close family friend, or trusted leader. It’s not a stranger on the street, but it’s someone the victim loves and trust. Some of the results of sexual abuse include low self-esteem, health problem, sexual promiscuity, teenage pregnancy, abortion, excessive spending habits, and problems forming and maintaining relationships.

66% of teen pregnancies and abortions are preceded by sexual abuse.
96% of prostitutes were sexual abuse victims.
75% of rapists were sexual abuse victims.
60% of children who experience abuse and neglect are more likely to be arrested at some point in their lives.
I know what it feels like to endure years of sexual abuse and suffer in silence. I was sexually abused for over seven years, beginning at age five. However, it wasn’t until I was almost 30 years old that I told someone about it and addressed how it affected my teenage and young adult life.

Through prayer and spending time with God, I realized that what happened to me as a child didn’t just go away. God showed me how it led to one bad decision after the next. But, most importantly, I learned the steps to heal from it!

What are some steps abuse victims can take to begin the healing process?
First, the person should pray and ask God to show them how they’re still being affected by it. There are side effects that seem to exist amongst all victims, but they do vary by person. Secondly, talk to someone! Keeping silent doesn’t make it go away or stop the pain. Sexual abuse is a heavy burden to bear alone. Last, forgive the offender. Forgiveness is a decision and something that a person purposes in their heart to do. It doesn’t make the abuse right nor does it mean they must have a relationship with the offender. It means letting go of the anger and resentment in one’s own heart. There may be other necessary steps. It depends on where the victim/survivor is at in life. But this is a great place to start!

Only 15% of abuse cases are ever revealed. Why don’t victims tell?
There’s no one reason, but usually as a child, the victim is not aware of the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes they feel like participants and are afraid of getting in trouble. Oftentimes it’s an issue of fear. Ninety-percent of the time the offender is a family member or close family friend. No one wants someone they love or another family member to serve 10-25 years in prison for child molestation.

What can other people do to help remedy this problem?
Be more selective about where and with whom they allow their children to spend their time, including with family members, friends, and leaders. Pay attention to children’s actions and conversations. Stop making sexual abuse the family secret! Keeping quiet only allows for it to go on generation after generation. Also, get children help when child-on-child sexual abuse takes place. This will prevent them from becoming teenage and adult child molesters.

Stephanie L. Jones, author of The Enemy Between My Legs, is a highly sought after speaker for schools, organizations, and churches. A sexual abuse survivor, she knows and understands the effects that it has on a victim’s life. She is committed to helping others, especially teenage girls and young women, find healing from the pain of their past. Purchase the book or connect with Stephanie confidentially at

CNN’s Black in America: My Version of That Story

CNN’s Black in America: My Version of That Story

by Andrea Blackstone

Last night, I met with some friends in a cozy spot, chatting about business and life. To the right of our booth, a flat screen commanded our attention. In my between laughs and brainstorming, the majority of patrons paused when the segment began. In fact, nearly everything ceased. Forks rested on plates, and robust chatter quieted. Most of the patrons of the quaint spot in DC, were people of color who stopped by to unwind after a long day at work. If someone is speaking about a group to which he or she belongs, most people instinctually take interest in wanting to know exactly what will be said about them. In this case, "them" was "us." You know, black folk.

My eyes followed a few scenes that included a glimpse of a neighborhood, then a shot of black hands clenching steel prison bars. I can't speak to the entire show, since I couldn't manage to stomach the entire presentation, but when large images of the stereotypical black inner life city met my eyes, I sighed with sheer disappointment. I expected something else that could make me feel like someone with the power to bring issues to the public would tell more about us...this time. Initially, my heart was filled with hope, but my attention span soon waned in a familiar way. I also observed several other patrons resume conversations and continue eating. My neighborhood doesn't look like that, nor the one where I grew up. I don't know anyone in jail, although I'm not saying that I've never known anyone who hasn't been incarcerated. With that said, I wasn't the only one who couldn't truly say that I couldn't relate to those images.

I was sitting in the presence of a young woman who has been a business owner since 18, and a former DEA agent who is highly respected, not just in The District, but all around the world. Both are females--African-American females. I consider the stories that my father told me of wearing under clothes passed down from white troops, when he was a young man in the military. They were patched up to inspire a second life. He also explained that worn out shoes were repaired and given to black troops to use.

These examples are only the beginning of the discourse that dovetails with equality. There were countless substandard conditions, before integration. Nevertheless, many African-Americans persevered, and proudly served and made great contributions to the United States. I also consider someone else who came to sit at our booth--a witty black surgeon who worked at Howard University Hospital. He wasn't stuffy or arrogant. He greeted me like any other person would. When his friend revealed who he was, and what he'd done, he waved her off, as if his accomplishments were nothing special. Always “the smart kid,” it turned out that he broke some sort of age record, but I won't spend all of my time name dropping here.

In the midst of that conversation, the series continued to play. An avid people watcher, I felt dizzy with mixed images. One played on TV, while others continued to unfold in real time. The ironic thing was that CNN's story of being black in America was nothing like the story that had been written in the place where I was seated. I soon noticed a small business owner slumped over, feeling tired. He sat down on a padded stool to take a break from standing on his feet all day. He obviously put in a hard day's work, where people stop in to unwind and enjoy home cooked victuals. His wife continued serving customers as he wiped his face. I watched him drift off, until someone said goodbye. When he heard his name called, he perked up and answered, lively and warm.

My imagination ran wild in that little dive. Everyone there had a story. The kind of story each patron owned probably won't ever make it TV, yet they too are black people living in America. And for the record, affirmative action was not relevant to any story that I heard that evening. Each individual worked hard to qualify, and press forward, just like any other American. We have a history of overcoming obstacles, yet all too often, the ills of a certain segment of our population becomes the focus of what gets dissected and discussed at length. Here we go again, but do most of "us" expect anything other than the status quo? When one person makes a mistake or commits a crime, does society hold it against our entire race?

I learned to have faith in more than what the media tells me, during my formative years. I read so much news online, and listen to so much talk radio, I often forget to power on the bube tube. My father raised me to value news and business programming like CNN. He always told me that watching certain programming, and listening to certain types of discourse, provides insight regarding how to prepare for tomorrow. As a result, I quickly grew eager to find out what was going on all around the world. By age nine, I was addicted to The Diane Rehm Show on 88.5. I soon learned that Rush Linmbal's views could make me heated in a hurry. Nevertheless, my father, who was a single parent, taught me a lesson in something far bigger. The media is a powerful force. Within the structure of it, viewers or listeners will enjoy the manner in which a given topic was explored, while others will leave segments feeling the sting of the power to inform. Opinions are just that, yet interpretations of social ills, and how various people rise and fall, are a part of the grand presentation. How we deal with life, and how we interact with others in this world, gets jammed into segments, which will also undergo editing. Every angle can't be covered.

In fairness, that's just an impossible task. Although most of us are well aware of the aforementioned, the final product is at the heart of the matter. Thus, my version of CNN's Black in America Series connects with the issue of responsible journalism. Do journalists have a moral obligation to explore both sides of any issue? That premise can’t be enforced, but lately, I've been questioning what I feel "good" journalism entails. I've grown weary of recycled issues with stale presentations. Some conclude that the lack of diversity in presenting stories is an intentional endeavor, while others chalk it up to the way media works, because it's just too hard to change their game. You choose; I'm just here to give you yet one more version of my feelings of being black in America. I too can't cover it all in one opinion piece. What I can do is offer food for thought, based on my experiences living as a black citizen in America.

After my time with my friends came to a close, with a sheet of plastic over my head, I ran toward my door, my mind twisted with introspection. I wondered how I'm going to get to the next level in my life, and what the world could assume about me, just because I'm black. All I can do is put in time and effort, hoping that a substantial door will open some day. To date, much of my life has been spent in school, or trying to find one solid job where I can put my skills to use. With that said, something is better than nothing. Life is not a perfect experience, whether you're black, white, or other. I thought of the story I'll soon be penning about my father's relatives. It doesn't involve gossip, sex, scandal or drugs. It's just a human interest story that speaks to humanity--to people of all colors-- as well as the reality of an ultimate sacrifice. I also consider role models like every black man who goes to work wearing a suit and tie, or blue jeans and a crisp T-shirt. All of them are gainfully employed. Professional or blue collar, they are not sitting in jail, or taking advantage of sisters or the system. Would someone please remind us of the number of black men who do hold degrees, own a business, or did fight for custody of their children? If the goal is to educate others about black people, these stories exist too, so why do producers often neglect to include more of their stories?

In the coolness of the night, I sprawled out on top of my comforter, realizing that my mother's birthday is quickly approaching. What am I going do to this year? Somehow I'll find a way to celebrate. This will be my fourth trip of remembering my best friend for life, the best way I can. I have no husband or kids to soften the blow, but that's okay. Wait a minute--I don't fit the mold either. No kids, no baby daddies? I spent so much time in school, taking note of broken marriages, and kids going through hell, I've walked on eggshells, trying to dodge pointless drama. I could've teetered on the edge of living a good or settled life, but I opted to keep striving for myself, on my own. The road has been difficult, but it is what it is. And as far as mom, I now choose to focus on the good times, not the manner in which I lost her. When life got rough, mom lifted me. "Don't worry about it. Keep trying." That was her mantra.

I had a strong bond with my mother, and I always will. Now a motherless black woman, I didn't lose my mother to drugs or violence. I lost her to cancer. My brother, a black man who holds an advanced degree in divinity, stood by her side, until the very end. Would a story like ours make it to a segment or a show? I doubt it. It probably wouldn't make ratings soar, not even the part about my brother being attacked for recording our mother's last few days of her life. Pardon me, I do know someone who has been to jail. My brother was arrested for doing that. A jury of his peers were all white men from our hometown. Nearly four years later, my brother called to inform me that he lost his lawsuit, thanks to police immunity, and more details that illustrate the other side of black life in America.

His story was brushed under the rug. I was left feeling that any time we look at Mom saying hello to her friends and family on tape, the memory of that experience will resurface. My brother never even had a speeding ticket, but he soon found out what it felt like to be locked up, or go through the trauma of getting his record expunged. A few days after that experience, our mother died. Despite this occurrence, my brother hasn't changed or become a bitter man. He finds strength through his faith in God, just as many African-Americans do in America. Many black people don’t hate white people, nor do a great portion of us judge people we don't even know. Our mother was our best example. She still reminds me how much love can carry you through anything. That's not a black thing; it's a people thing. I suppose that's why people of all colors and races loved her so much. In turn, we too embrace those who embrace us.

I recall a time when my first book was nestled inside of her tote bag. I sat next to her in a treatment room for cancer patients. Some accused me of being a gold digger, not realizing fiction was just that. I have no interest in taking advantage of a man who cracked the code. I want mine by earning it. The reason why I attempted to try my hand at writing urban fiction was rather simple. I couldn't land a job in my field. As a reward to myself, I took matters into my own hands. Whatever people were reading most, I decided that I was going to try to write it. As an English major who attended a historically black college, I wondered if attending another school would've given me more clout in corporate America. I tried the other side, since things seemed to be more about strategy than if you're trainable.

I earned my M.A. in a year and a half, in a rare program, where few blacks rarely enrolled. After I finished graduate school, I recall sitting in interviews, qualified, yet chided for what I'd done. "What made you pick that program?" I've been told by recruiters to remove some of my credentials, just to land a so-so job. I worked hard for them, so why should I? My counterparts are praised for finishing the very same program. I crack open newspapers and magazines, and I never get an inkling that the majority thought it was a bad thing. I hear catty remarks all of the time, and get the brush off from both sides of the fence.

Most recently, one person told me that she was looking to hire someone right away, yet her behavior indicated that I wasn't even in the running to be considered. "Do you have an A.A. degree?" she asked. "Yes I do. I have a Master's and two years of law school," I explained. "Well, I'll take your resume, but I'm still looking." She floated over toward the coffee area, nearly rubbing in her ability to help me pay off my student loans, or keep me in misery. "Oh this coffee is perfect," she crooned with a smile. Her co-worker stood next to her, sipping mocha, as they both indulged in office gossip. By the way, this woman was not white. (Figure it out.) Not to sound like a pessimist, but sitting in the lobby nearly an hour, then experiencing that little dig already told me I shouldn't wait by the phone for her call. Been there, experienced that.

How many years have I been through his? In a who-you-know-town, a degree can justify people being in the loop, while other qualified applicants would never be welcomed there. Deep down, I thought of throwing my hat in the ring to try to earn a PhD. If I did, it wouldn't be for the right reasons. It would only be to gain a little more respect in this world, as well as this town. I want to be the head cheese, primarily because of cheesy people, and the possibility of better job security. Is another student loan bill worth it? Maybe so, maybe not. I've done all of the things I was supposed to do to live a normal life, yet recruiters yawn when I remind them of my degrees or student loan obligations. What they often are willing to pay is no less than insulting. Even so, (repeat after me), something is better than nothing. I've held jobs that didn't require a college degree, and taken trips to South East, shaking as I left work at night, as police escorted staff.

I've also felt the sting of working for years with no benefits. Still, I reminded myself that many people out there had it far worse than I did, and still do. I often let the sun warm my face, crank my easy listening music, then slide up the highway. I had chains on me, and yes, they're still there. I can't find the groove I was groomed to like, so I fake it and hustle hard where my heart is happy. The writing profession is undervalued, and in my opinion, it's much too hard to make a living solely by writing, at least for the average author. I contemplate returning to law school with mixed emotions. All of those things cross my mind, many days. It all comes back to someone who did embrace me with unwavering faith.

I recall sitting next to my mom, trying to ease her worried mind, as she sat in a special recliner. Her veins were filling with bone strengthener, and all I could think was "I've got to sell these books for her." Realizing success is of our own making, completing one little task for "us" would make me feel like I'd done something kind of cool before I die. But along the way, I promised I'd clean up the content and talk about things like this, in a book. I want to weave tales of my grandparents, two modestly paid professors in the South, at a time when mostly anyone didn't have a degree. Mom's wisdom planted that seed, and it has sprouted over the past few years. I'm fighting to officially pen those stories, as well as others that can reach young adults. I'm working hard to earn the right to take that ride, even if landing a book deal of that nature will prove to be extremely difficult. CNN's special reminded me that more stories of the other side of black life should not only be told, but also supported. Our people have suffered various realities that some feel we should forget. How can we forget something if equity is lagging in 2008? That's my biggest question about being black in America.

My first taste of that reality was getting the shaft in law school, simply because I picked the wrong school for the color of my skin. Although I grew up in the suburbs, Cinderella I am not. Now that mom's gone, I have to face something else too. Where is the rest of her family? Some are lightly kissed by the sun, while others have faded into the trenches of white America. Even more complex, some are white, and our relation is very close. And where is the tiny little town in Virginia where my other grandmother grew up? Her mother raised a crew of children alone, so I understand. Native American ties, this time. What does it feel like to be black in America, knowing that blood of other races flow through your veins? Some of us still won't mention it, even if that reality hits close to home, and some people regard mixture as a point of interest or disdain, so you're not supposed to mention it, unless people pry. Most of the time, if people shoot a “high yella” joke your way, you’re supposed to laugh it off. At the other end of my gene pool, I consider my other grandmother who died when I was an infant. She was a maid, faithful church member, and part-time cook in her daughter's popular soul food restaurant. My dad, the cashier in that establishment, from the age of 11, became a graduate from one of the most prestigious institutions around. He completed homework in the backroom, on top of a crate in between breaks or before his shift. Many of his siblings made it too. He also pulled groceries in wagons, and shined shoes to pay for his school clothes, during The Depression. Many other kids from the old neighborhood, who shined shoes, in brick-filled streets of a sleepy town, are now at the top of the heap. Once again, these people are black in America, too. Will someone ever interview more black people like them?

Lastly, my mind shifts toward two young people. One is nine, and was attacked in the inner city, by fellow students. It was a simple case of bullying the kid who was behaving as a normal student--no frills or wild antics in tow. The school did nothing but brush the event under the rug. Hearing that my niece had to endure many stitches, just for being the soul she is, auntie now has to plan a day to be with her, in hopes of doing a little damage control. I don't want her to hate school because of what was done to her. The other is barely 21, battling a heart condition. I root for this young black man who is fighting to make his life better. Last year, he struggled through summer school. "Did you ask your professor for help?" I asked. I was informed that his mathematics professor wasn't too helpful. He repeated the course, and began moving ahead after transferring to another community college with a mixed population. Now his health is failing, due to the stress of simply trying to make his start better than his beginning. Every day he took the bus in the city to get to college in the county, he navigated past gangs where wearing the wrong color shirt could get him killed. He too has been picked on for trying to make something out of himself. Should we not consider why things have spiraled out of control, and how such instances can impact our youth? Some of them want to be saved. Will the world see their plight?

In closing, black life is not perfect, nor are people. Every race has its share of issues to overcome, and all of us are capable of making mistakes. Nevertheless, we should be judged as individuals, not as a group. Considering all that we have endured, I still feel that there's more good to celebrate than bad to emphasize. I encounter so many people of color, struggling to make life better for their families and themselves. Some have been on the bottom of the totem pole, and vowed to sit at the top some day. Others are in mid-stroke, simply trying to stay afloat like most of us. Another segment may fall into the categories of those scenes I initially spoke of, during the beginning of this piece.

Nevertheless, African-American people are diverse. All too often, we've been placed in one box. For those of us who are tired of sitting there, it's time to take ourselves out of it, and expose our eclectic experiences, in this thing called black life. We've been there for too long, and I'm not sure if the average mainstream media outlets will ever give us a chance to set the record straight. To me, the most logical thing that some of us can do is hold hope near, making adequate efforts to distance ourselves from whatever statistics say. Personally, my inspiration comes from something simple and free. It comes from all of the positive black people who I observe doing great things in America!


Andrea Blackstone majored in English and minored in Spanish at Morgan State University. After a two-year stint in law school, she later changed her career path. While recovering from an illness, she earned an M.A. from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland ahead of schedule and with honors. Andrea self-published her first two urban novels, and recently completed her first book deal with Q-Boro Books. Her nonfiction debut can be found in Chicken Soup for the African-American Woman's Soul. A lover of all genres and outrageous characters, Andrea aspires to write a wide array of stories. Her future work will range from inspirational nonfiction to unconventional plots written under one of many pseudonyms. You may contact her at