Intimate Conversation with Florence M. Howard
Florence M. Howard is an accomplished, dynamic and compassionate visionary. She obtained her first library card at the then-recently integrated Main Library on Peabody in Memphis . Director of Community Affairs for WREG-TV, she established and ran the Knowledge Bowl quiz show and Emmy-winning Kids Count campaign for 12 years. She obtained degrees in Journalism from the University of Memphis. Today, she is an author, publicist, event coordinator, and inspirational speaker. She opened her company, Secret Shop Communicators (http://www.sscommpr.com) in 1999.
BPM: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of your family.
Throughout my life, I have been supported by good people – trusted teachers, church members and friends. Apparently, they saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself. I am always amazed by the good things that people tell me about myself. Thanks Goodness, I choose to believe them and not my own fears or misgivings. I was also inspired by things that I read. Books have helped me develop my thinking, my attitudes, my hopes and my dreams. They have helped me correct self-defeating behavior and to grow in ways beyond what I knew growing up.
BPM: What does “growth” mean to you?
Growth means changing for the better, personal improvement. I am not the same person that I was two years ago, five years ago and certainly not 20 years ago –emotionally, spiritually, physically or professionally. I once heard a man who was being interviewed on a talk show and applauded for his accomplishments as a scientist, inventor, writer, etc. He answered, “All that is true but I didn’t do it all at the same time.” That said to me that we don’t have to do everything at once to become the person that God has called us to be but we should be working on some aspect of the plan daily.
BPM: Introduce us to your book, From Sagging to Success and the primary message.
My book, “From Sagging to Success” is a message to urban youth to inspire them to be much more than what people say they are and for the people that want to help them become extraordinary. The primary message of the book is that sagging pants might indicate a sagging mindset and how we think about ourselves influences how we act. Urban youth are often viewed unfairly and stereotyped based on their appearance. They are misjudged due to cultural misconceptions.
Young people need to be aware of the repercussions of sagging. The book addresses these issues through the fictionalized account of the life of a youth named Derrick and the illustrations of Emery Franklin. The book is beautifully illustrated and the paintings were created first as a library gallery exhibit.
This book will change the way you look at young people and, perhaps, inspire you to make your own dreams come true. It also gives you talking points and tools to help other people. Read “From Sagging to Success” and become better informed about Black history, inspired to grow and be more successful.
BPM: What drew you to tackle the questions or topics in your book?
I was inspired to turn pictures from a Black History month art exhibit into words and motivate young people, about the world, about life in general and about Black life in particular. The first painting in the book is timed after the Emancipation Proclamation, the second painting looks at the Reconstruction Period, another focuses on the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike. That strike is part of my history because my mother and stepfather participated in those marches in 1968. I ran News Channel 3’s Knowledge Bowl competition from 1987-1998 and I saw firsthand how little of our history young African American know. I have seen them drop their heads when slavery is mentioned instead of realizing that they are the descendents of survivors.
From 2002- 2008, I worked with the local NAACP running the Voter Empowerment Campaign and the Get-Out-To-Vote effort. It is sad to say that our children do not know our history and what they know is not in the context of our experiences. As the author, I gave history and background information to put the paintings, their time and place or subject they illustrated into context from an African American perspective.
I bring my perspective to the topics in the book – low self-esteem, the after-affects of mistreatment, voting in local, state and federal elections, changing the way your think, educating yourself, recognizing your own genius, committing yourself to being successful – all of it.
BPM: What are the most important responsibilities of parent or guardian?
I believe the most important responsibilities of a parent or guardian is to love, respect, nurture, correct and train a child. Whether a parent is present or away from the home, children need to know that you care and in the absence of something being said or done to indicate otherwise, children grow to believe they are forgotten and unimportant.
BPM: Does your faith or education inspire your writing?
I am an experienced writer with two degrees in journalism and whatever I write is guided by my faith. I pray over every sentence. I recently meet a fellow author at a mutual book signing that asked me unexpectedly if I believed the Bible is the word of God. I said, “Yes, without a doubt, I believe the Bible is word of God and that it was written by men who were inspired by God in what they wrote.” He laughed at me and said “how do you know?” I answered that my book was written by me and inspired by God. That ended that part of the discussion. My writing is inspired by my faith. Otherwise, it would not be as clear, as insightful or as real.
BPM: How is the book being received by the readers?
The book has been well-received: Readers love the book. It is a must-have for anyone with children and grandchildren and for those who teach or work with them. I am working on some workbooks for students in elementary, middle school and high school.
Here are a couple of quotes from readers:
This book is for all ages. ~ Dr. Yvonne Osborne
I got this book at the NBCC and its an amazing history lesson for our children. From Sagging to Success tells an amazing story and the artwork is gorgeous. If you have young boys in your life BUY THIS BOOK...
5 Stars ~ Debra Owsley, Amazon post
The Book is Great!! And it will be a bestseller, needs to be standard reading for every child in Memphis and through out the United States ...yes seriously. ~ Rhonda T.
This book is for anyone who has children that need to be motivated to be all they can be in spite of the odds. The art is wonderful!! ~ Pearl, Amazon post
BPM: Ultimately, what do you want readers to gain from your book?
I want my readers to recapture the dreams that they laid aside or never attempted and to accomplish them. I want them to go from a sagging self-concept to an empowered experience and feeling of success. I want everyone to realize that how you think is more important that how you dress.
BPM: How does your book relate to your present situation, spiritual practice or other life path?
Thanks to self-publication of “From Sagging to Success,” my life-long dream of being a published book author has come true. Writing the book made me examine my own actions and attitudes toward success and to refocus my understanding of what the Bible says – “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Now I challenge every negative thought and loudly and intentionally practice anticipation and thankfulness. I also think of the outcome that I want to see happen so that when God does it, He gets all the credit and the glory.
BPM: What are your goals as a writer? Do you set out to educate? Entertain? Illuminate? Inspire?
Everything that I write has its own purpose. The purpose of “From Sagging to Success” is to educate about our history and successes, illuminate concepts of success and inspire readers to act on what they learn. Right now, I am finishing up my family’s genealogy book which is designed to educate older and younger family members about our personal heritage and to help locate others who through marriage, distance and circumstances don’t even know they are part of the group.
BPM: A Legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another. Finish this sentence - “My writing offers the following legacy to future readers... ”
My writing offers the following legacy to future readers: the wisdom and tools to become successful and to teach those ideas, concepts and actions to the next generation. Unless we can foster success in the next generation, our legacy is a dead end and not a path that they can follow. Scripture says that “a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children.”
Money is not the only thing that can be inherited. The inheritance can be a lifestyle as well as an attitude of success, responsibility, creativity and the ability, talents and skills to make your way in the world. My mother didn’t leave my brothers and sisters a lot of money. She taught us how to appreciate life, to be kind, hardworking and it paved the way for our successes. Her favorite mantra was: “You don’t know whose hands you will fall in.” When she died at the age of 45, we were blessed to hold each other up and to stay close because we had been trained to help each other and to rejoice over each other’s successes.
FROM SAGGING TO SUCCESS: THE STORY OF EMERY FRANKLIN
Written by Florence M. Howard
Illustrated by Emery Franklin
“From Sagging to Success” is a message to urban youth and the adults who want to help them become extraordinary. Young people are unfairly judged because of their appearance and cultural misconceptions. They need to be made aware of the repercussions of sagging. Sagging pants even might be an indication of a sagging mindset or low self-esteem. A fictionalized character in book illustrations, Derrick goes from sagging to success as he learns about Black history, reads books read and written by successful people and changes the way he thinks.
Derrick shares his new knowledge with his parents who also embrace a positive outlook, productive behaviors and principles of success. At the end of the book, Derrick and his parents have successfully transmitted principles of success to the next generation. The book is beautifully illustrated and the paintings were created first as a library gallery exhibit.
The book educates readers our history and successes, illuminates concepts of success and inspires them to act on what they learn. Readers are motivated to examine their thinking patterns, to recapture the dreams that they laid aside or never attempted and to accomplish them. They gain the wisdom and tools to become successful and are equipped to share those ideas, concepts and actions with others.
Purchase the book for youth centers, libraries, and love ones!
From Sagging to Success: The Story of Emery Franklin by Florence M Howard
Amazon Purchase Link: http://amzn.com/0615597726