A journalist’s life

What if most journalists are fiction writers who stopped dreaming too early?

This question has been on my mind a lot lately, mostly because it applies to me more than I want to admit. When I was younger I wanted to write children’s books and young adult fiction. I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of Seventeen magazine. I wanted to start my own magazine called Soul Teen that featured black, Latina, and Asian girls on its pages, so that we could be cover girls, too. Then, somewhere in all that dreaming, I decided that being a journalist was the way to make money before the fiction thing took off. Just before I was a New York Times best-selling author, I would fill my time writing for The New Yorker. Gotta love a 14-year-old’s conception of how work works.

Now, 12 years later, I’m questioning more and more whether I was too practical in my dreaming. I recently started taking a creative writing workshop because it occurred to me that since my day job isn’t writing fiction, it will never be my passion. I’ve been asking myself whether I can stand making my money at something that isn’t my passion. It’s been a real buzz kill to have to ask myself the tough questions, but it has also been necessary.

I work at a magazine and what has become increasingly clear to me is that a career in publishing, particularly in mass media, never gets any easier. Whether you are 20 or 50, you have to hustle just as hard to get the story, to sell the advertising, to close the deal. Do I want to have to pound the pavement for the next 30 years for something that does not fulfill me? The answer is no, so now what? I don’t have the answer today, but I’m hoping by this time next year, I will have had a stroke of genius and a shower of clarity.

Here’s to the New Year!


Worth reading


  • This is a shallow examination of “the chickens coming home to roost,” but I like where the writer was trying to go with it. The “demon” within black men in regard to domestic violence and child abuse is no different from the demon within other men. I imagine domestic abuse in the U.S. is lower than in other countries where women have fewer rights. Irregardless, it’s wrong. But I think what she was trying to get at here is the age old question of “Can we separate the person from the product? Can we separate the artist from the art?” I don’t think we will ever all agree on an answer to that question. As a writer, and therefore artist, I have always believed that the artist and the art are inseparable, because the artist creates the art. Everything we put into the universe is a manifestation of some part of who we are, whether we want it to be, or not. Even when your art is your income, you can’t separate the two, because everything is coming from some level of consciousness or unconsciousness. That’s just my two cents… http://www.forharriet.com/2014/12/the-demon-within-black-men-brilliance.html

Review: “Dear White People”

It’s rare that I go to see a movie based on title alone, only having watched the trailer once. It is also rare that I see a movie that portrays my experience in such a way that I feel as if I am watching a documentary, and not a feature film. Dear White People is revolutionary, and even though this is a movie, it drives home the sentiment that the revolution will not be televised.

The premise of the film is that Ivy League Winchester University has recently placed a sanction in order to diversify its residence halls, but this sanction only seems to affect Armstrong/Parker Hall, aka the residence hall where the black people live. One of the Black Student Union’s most vocal students, Sam White (Tessa Thompson), has taken to the airwaves on her campus radio show “Dear White People” to express her opinion about the issue. However, not all of the students– black or white–share her “separate but equal is better” sentiment.

There’s privileged Troy (Brandon P. Bell) who wants to appease his father, who is the Dean of Students; Coco (Teyonah Parris) who wants to be famous, even if it means overdrafting her bank account for a weave; and Lionel (Tyler James Williams) who is searching for his place somewhere between afros, Mumford & Sons, and his Man Crush Monday editor at the student paper.

This is not a movie to expect Tarantino or Scorsese type cinematography, or even Judd Apatow or Diablo Cody’s level of finesse in their wicked, humorous screenwriting. However, Dear White People gets its message across and is entertaining. There is humor coming from Justin Simien’s pulpit, that clearly shows he either lived the events in the film or did a lot of research. I won’t compare him to Spike Lee, as I’m sure many have and will, but he is on to something Spike Lee a la School Daze-ish. He challenges many of the predominant millennial views of racism (we’re post-racial), activism (I’ll tweet using #Ferguson), social change (let’s rally!), sexuality (I just love people; I don’t like labels), and communication (text, sext, whatever).

Where Dear White People is at its best is in its portrayal of intraracial and interracial conflict on predominantly white college campuses. As someone who graduated from a PWI where white sororities and fraternities held “pimps & hoes” and “plantation” parties where they hired local black homeless people to dress up as slaves and pick cotton and serve drinks (for real), the events in Dear White People deeply resonated with me. It also succeeds in portraying the students’ resistance to acknowledge the privilege they inherently have by attending a university, but in doing this it does not take a side. This is not a white people are wrong and everyone else is right, or vice versa, film. It is also not a  movie that makes the college educated seem better than everyone else. This is a thought provoking film that challenges perceptions of what it means to be white or other– and it’s funny as hell.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Dear White People, knowing all of the lyrics to Lil Wayne’s songs doesn’t make you down. It just reminds me of how many times you say the N word when there are no black people around.”

“Did you have the Cosby dream again?”

“I woke up in a really big sweater with straight hair”

“Dear White People, dating a black person to piss off your parents is a form of racism.”

“They want to be like us. I’m not going to go protest over a party.” 

“Can I touch your hair?”

“The only people concerned about racism are Mexicans, maybe.”

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), I saw the film in Atlanta in a theatre filled with all black people. Dear White People is a movie that I fear will be total insider baseball– only seen by those whose experience it depicts, and not by those who need to see it most. I hope that every college and university in this country brings this movie to its campus, and has deep discussions among students and faculty about how we view race in this country, the ways in which people within a race view themselves on an individual level and the ways in which racism is perpetuated on college campuses.

Another NBA team owner eats his words…

My mother always used to tell me not to let my mouth write a check that my ass can’t cash…

Read the e-mail first. Click here to read the e-mail.



A Twitter storm emerged over the weekend after a two-year-old racist e-mail from Hawks owner Bruce Levenson came out. In the e-mail the owner is expressing his concerns about dwindling season ticket and food & beverage sales at Philips Arena. Some of the reasons he attributed to low sales in both areas is that audiences at Hawks games were predominantly black, which is an anomaly within the NBA. Most NBA patrons are professional white men ages 35-55, and Mr. Levenson believed that by playing too much hip hop music at games, giving away tickets in the surrounding black communities, and having too many events at the arena that cater to “black” tastes, the organization was isolating a key audience for the organization’s fiscal health.

Never mind the fact that the Hawks have not been Atlanta’s darling team since the late 90s, so getting rid of the reputation that the Hawks suck is a major barrier to getting an increase in season ticket sales. People support the Falcons and the Braves more because they win more. Or let’s talk about the fact that Atlanta is unlike other cities: all of the black people here are not poor. They have the hot-shot, power suit jobs Monday through Friday, and they might sag their pants on Saturday. But, in a post-Donald Sterling NBA an e-mail like this one was less than welcome, no matter whether it was written two years ago or not.

However, I’d like to just keep it real for a moment, which in Mr. Levenson’s misguided racism, he actually did. In my work as Public Relations and/or Marketing Manager at a few different arts venues in a couple of different states, I have heard conversations and sat through meetings where discussions about getting black people to become season ticket holders sounded just like this e-mail. I have also sat through meetings where there was discussion about whether doing too much urban/ethnic/minority/choose your code word for non-white programming alienates and isolates white patrons, which in turn causes organizations to lose money.

The harsh bit of truth written in this e-mail that no one wants to acknowledge is this paragraph written by Mr. Levenson: “I think southern whites simply were not comfortable being in an arena or at a bar where they were in the minority. On fan sites I would read comments about how dangerous it is around Philips yet in our 9 years, I don’t know of a mugging or even a pick pocket incident. This was just racist garbage. When I hear some people saying the arena is in the wrong place I think it is code for there are too many blacks at the games.”

Blaming too many black people for the Hawks financial miscalculations is extreme and misguided, especially considering the race of most of the players, however, Bruce Levenson did not say anything in that e-mail that I have not heard said in meeting-after-meeting at theater after art gallery after magazine after website. We never like the ugly truth, but that does not make it false. The only thing false about his assumptions in that paragraph is that he limited it to the South. I’m not going to burn him at the stake for speaking a partial truth. What I hope happens, is that this can start a conversation about racial and socio-political and socio-economic disparities that prevent people of color from being season ticket holders. Better yet, let’s have a conversation about how American buying habits are changing, and how in 30 years the concept of a season ticket to anything will be extinct.

What are your thoughts?

Food for thought

  • “There is so much emphasis on IQ in organizations, and not enough on leadership. Now we have a bunch of technological geniuses who are socially and emotionally inept.” I wish I could shout this from the rooftops of every building in America. This article on Linked In about micromanagement is amazing.  
  • What was the defining moment that changed your life? I have always thought about writing a book where I interviewed my friends and asked them this very question. I wonder how many people walk around with enough consciousness and wherewithall to be able to identify the moment. Did it happen when you were 7, 17, 27, or 57? Here is a link to the article about one woman’s defining moment. Because of her vulnerability I think I’ll write that book now.
  • “How is it that in a film whose premise rests on the idea of reimagining the past, present and future, we still end up with a blonde white woman with flashing blue eyes as the stand-in for what personifies evolution and supremely fulfilled human potential?” I have not seen Lucy, though I want to, but this was an insightful read.  Lucy: Why I’m tired of seeing white people on the Big Screen 
  • I recently was turned onto a show called Roomieloverfriends, which is created by Black & Sexy TV on YouTube. I appreciate that there are people out there who are using the internet to show different images of people of color. Though they may not have one of the big 5 networks behind them, what they are doing is taking control of their images in a way that resonates with black people (and dare I say millennials). I encourage everyone to look at what they are doing.

Because the internet…

I read some interesting things today, so I am sharing them with you.

  1. Two brilliant young women at Syracuse University (my alma mater) created an app called Tock. This app is designed to make people put down their phones, and engage with each other face-to-face. Here is a link to the article.
  2. I do not share any of this writer’s political sentiments regarding changing one’s last name for marriage, but I decided around the same age that she did that I am not going to change my last name for marriage. My reason: because I don’t want to. I like my name as it is. Here are her reasons: Why I’m not changing my last name for marriage
  3. As long as race is a barrier to achievement I will always support Affirmative Action. We all must acknowledge our tiers of privilege in order to get anywhere. For example, even though I am a black woman, I grew up in an upper middle class suburb and I have a master’s degree. That is privilege. Justice Sotomayor wrote it perfectly. Here’s her 58-page dissent to the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Michigan’s ban on considering race in college admissions.

Black History Month

Since February 1 I have been trying to figure out ways to celebrate Black History Month. Without the context of a school setting and coordinating some obligatory program I have struggled to figure out how to do something during Black History Month other than be black.

I think there’s this feeling obligation tied in with this wanting a reason to claim something as mine. Now I fully acknowledge that I believe that we should celebrate the cultural, social, scientific, intellectual, and other contributions and achievements of all Americans everyday. In many ways that’s what makes the Olympics so great: worldwide athleticism is celebrated despite conflict and politics.

However, I have not done anything to honor or commemorate Black History Month this February, but if it didn’t exist I would feel a sense of loss. Reverend Al Sharpton was on the Wendy Williams show and she asked him whether he thinks Black History Month is still necessary. Watch the video here.

As antiquated as Black History Month may seem, I still think that it is something to hold onto. It is in many ways a recognition of black people’s achievements and a celebration of our humanity. Black History Month says “You count too,” and if it was not marked, even if it is just February, I feel that this would be a step backwards. I think a conversation about getting rid of Black History Month would be more tolerable if Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were not two of the most notorious court cases of the last two years. In one breath we have celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, and in another black men are still treated as Public Enemy #1.

I don’t think that Black History Month is divisive, and truthfully I think students of all races in this country should learn more about it. It’s not just Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. There were a whole lot of men and women before them and there will be many after.

That’s just my two cents…