Play It Forward by Frederick Smith

Play It Forward by Frederick Smith

In the spirit of the work of the late E. Lynn Harris comes Play It Forward, a novel that continues the conversation about Black men, relationships, mentoring, community engagement, and encouraging the Black community to accept that all Black Lives Matter in our community dialogues.

Malcolm Campbell is the director of a south Los Angeles organization focused on mentoring Black youth, and his nineteen-year-old nephew, Blake, is being sent to stay with him for the summer. Malcolm has always been a community and family role model everyone looks up to. But he also has a secret he never knew he had... until it pops up on the Internet.

Across town, in the closed and secret world of Black Hollywood celebrity, pro-basketball player Tyrell Kincaid and R&B singer Tommie Jordan are public heroes with a very private relationship, which becomes fodder for speculation by the paparazzi and nationally-known gossip reporter Livonia Birmingham.

Despite living in two different worlds in L.A., Malcolm, Blake, Tommie, and Tyrell find themselves in the same arena, where they'll have to risk it all to protect their hearts and their destiny.

What People Are Saying

"Unapologetically Black, Smith is a great writer akin to the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance and James Baldwin. His wonderfully vivid literary style offers the reader layered, complex portraits of African American men devoid of stereotypes and cliched sentimentalities."
-- Reverend Irene Monroe, religion columnist, The Religion Thang and Huffington Post

"Funny, touching, and intoxicating. Smith has written yet another compulsive read."
-- Maurice Jamal, writer and director of Dirty Laundry and The Ski Trip

Excerpt: Play It Forward by Frederick Smith

Chapter 1

June 2009

Much of the trouble started when that video I made, but didn’t really make, hit the Internet.

I was on my second round of Grey Goose and tonics with my best friend Kyle and his long-time love, Bernard. It was a seventy-degree Sunday evening in June, just before the large rush of younger Black guys made their way into The Abbey in West Hollywood, just before the ambient lounge music transitioned to the current hip-hop songs. Though we enjoyed a good time out, we enjoyed it with the company of other thirty-somethings, and at a time of day when we could actually hear our conversations above the sound of music.

Kyle, Bernard, and I were this close to winding down our time together, as we all worked and had somewhere to be on Monday morning, when Bernard, trouble-maker that he is, brought up the long-gone Clinton-Obama rift of 2008. He knew how to get me started, and thus delay our departure.

“I still can’t believe you voted for that lady, Malcolm,” Bernard said rather loudly, his cocktail swirling but never spilling out of the glass in his left hand. “I am still holding that against you. You lost your Black card with me.”

That’s when I noticed my phone ringing. A call from my sister in Indiana. A downer much like the political debate Bernard was trying to reel me into again. I wasn’t feeling having this political commentary over cocktails, especially for an election competition a year behind us.

Bernard kissed Kyle on the cheek, and they gave each other that look lovers give when they want to do “couples things” later. I felt like quite the third wheel. We’d been doing our Sunday afternoon meetings at The Abbey for years, even before Black people started taking over Sundays there.

The Abbey was known for its pricey mojitos and martinis of all flavors, but most people ignored the prices, as the bar was the best place to be seen in gay and gay-friendly L.A. We were all playing a Hollywood role, even if it wasn’t our reality. I’d exchanged my standard khaki pants and button down for something casual and Abbey-worthy. Hollywood, I could never quite fit the part or find myself paying for those designers and labels that many wore… just because. I’d never been the fit-in-just-because type.

As my friends continued their PDA, out of the corner of my eye I could see a group of young brothas, probably in their early twenties, staring and pointing our way. First, I thought it was the rare surprise of seeing Black-on-Black romance in West Hollywood that caught their curiosity and attention. Black guys were friends only with each other in West Hollywood. I was sure none of them had had any Black romantic couples as role models, but then again I couldn’t assume anything these days. My work with young, Black gay men at the LADS organization opened my eyes that not everyone grew up middle-class with two parents like I did. The job definitely challenged my upbringing and comfort zone. Nothing was a surprise. Anything could happen, and often did.

Much like when one of the twenty-something men, dressed in a black v-neck t-shirt, gray shorts, and Oakland Raiders hat, nodded his head at me -- a directive to walk his way. I excused myself from Kyle and Bernard, and walked across the room toward the massive fireplace near the front of The Abbey where brotha stood.

“Hey,” I said.

Didn’t know much else to say. His presence intimidated me a bit. Young, athletic, cute, masculine brotha. Definitely not the type that would put me in his target demographic. I knew he had to be a good ten years younger than me. But I wasn’t looking for any type of romantic relationship, so shyness and intimidation wasn’t necessary. As I got closer to him, I could tell he loved Hanae Mori cologne. Smelled good on him.

“Whaddup bro? I’m Compton.”

“Not much,” I said. “I’m Malcolm.”

He held out his free hand to fist bump mine.

“What you up to?”

“Just about to head out,” I said, deepening my voice, shortening my phrasing, performing masculinity. “Came in earlier with a couple buddies over there.”

This small talk on looking good was definitely a set-up for a one-nighter, since we hadn’t exchanged much info yet. After a couple drinks, I could have been game, had brotha not looked like some of the clients I served at LADS. I wasn’t going to turn into one of those thirty-something mid-life-crisis cases who got off on picking up guys who could be their younger brother, cousin, or worst yet, son. Back in my twenties and early-thirties, when I was single and desperately looking for anyone, and working at the bank, I would have taken a guy like this home for the night. No questions asked. No background check. Sometimes no names exchanged. That’s how I’d ended up with a string of ex’s whose lives were the social issue of the month. Now, I was happily single and looking for more than a one-night-only kind of arrangement. And I definitely wasn’t looking for drama or to help someone else solve their drama. That was only for work.

My phone rang again. My sister, again, from Indianapolis. Must be urgent. No one calls long distance, over and over, without some kind of emergency. I knew something had to be up.

( Continued... )

© 2015 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Frederick Smith. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

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