Robert L. Vann and the heroic face of Black journalism

The recent slippage in standards of The New York Times brings to mind the hero of my upcoming release, A Most Precious Pearl. Asa Caldwell, the hero of my story,  is a journalist and is heroic because he was relentless in bringing across a story from a diverse point of view–something we are sorely in need of today.

Asa is based on the many intrepid reporters who sought to get a story to publish a differing point of view in his newspaper. I situated Asa at  a real newspaper, The Pittsburgh Courier.   In the first decades of the twentieth century, The Pittsburgh Courier and The Chicago Defender were not just local–they became national newspapers.  Pullman porters on the railroad disseminated them to towns all across the South so that people would stay informed know that there were struggles going on everywhere and not just in their small towns.

Editor Robert L. Vann (pictured here), who helmed The Pittsburgh Courier for many years, who sought to let Black people in the south know of other working opportunities elsewhere and sowed the seeds for The Great Migration.  In Robert L. Vann of The Pittsburgh Courier: Politics and Black Journalism,  Andew Bunie puts forward a Robert Vann who wanted journalists like Asa Caldwell, to go to the front lines of World War I and cover the story of the poor and demeaning treatment of the Black soldiers who were sent there.  W.E.B. DuBois expressed the same point of view in The Crisis as well. Telling this story directly lead to the soldiers understanding they deserved better treatment when they returned to the United States.  Too many people think the seeds of the Civil Rights movement were sown in the 1950’s, but the insistence on better treatment started a long time before that–just after World War I. Journalists played a key  role in conveying this story–heroic indeed.

The insistence of Vann and his fellow editors that reporters “go out and get” the story makes me think that too many journalists are now too content to sit behind a computer screen.  Without diverse points of view the “danger of one story,” as Chimamanda Adichie discussed, increases. Without more diversity, esteemed newspapers like The New York Times will continue to slip in their standards and will continue to write half-hearted apologies and explanations for how they messed up.  I have many students who are still interested in entering journalism as a profession, despite the many changes in the field.  I hope to expose them to editors like Vann, who would surely encourage them to keep telling their stories and to get out from behind the computer to see the world for themselves–to confirm the necessity for multiple points of view.

Updates and Ruby’s at a discount– today only!

Cheesing it up at the signing.

Cheesing it up at the signing.

This past month has been a whirlwind!  I finished my summer class, went to New York to RWA, went to North Carolina for an event and attended the NBCC (National Book Club Conference) in Atlanta. In this past month, the long-awaited publication of A Virtuous Ruby, happened too! It’s been quite a summer. So I’ve complied a links post.  Don’t worry.  I’ll get back to the history in my next post.

While I was at RWA, I was interviewed by NPR about Beverly Jenkins. It was heady stuff to hear my name (and goofy voice) on NPR!

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/29/427416512/beverly-jenkins-wraps-bitter-history-in-sweet-romance?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=books&utm_medium=social&utm_term=artsculture

I did an interview with Lorrie Irby Jackson for Dallas Morning News.  Here is the article on her blog:

http://www.motherofcolor.com/piper-huguley-expanding-expectations-in-historical-romance/

Here is an article discussing the event at the Cape Fear Historical Complex that I attended with two of my Brightest Day co-authors: Lena Hart and Kianna Alexander

http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/authors-to-discuss-history-of-juneteenth-at-museum-of-the/article_726b94e9-8d0e-56c8-a195-6d68f97f4537.html

I signed books with the fabulous and gracious Beverly Jenkins (that’s where the pic is from)!

And Ruby is here!  For today only, August 9, Samhain is having a 40% of sale, so if you haven’t had the opportunity to ready this unusual love story before, you can get the e-book now a reduced price! It is only on the samhainpublishing.com website.

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5500/a-virtuous-ruby

The sale also includes pre-orders for A Most Precious Pearl which will be out on September 8. Here are the links for that:

https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/5565/a-most-precious-pearl

Thank you all so much for all of your support!

A cover reveal and updates on the Migrations of the Heart series

On Tuesday, A Virtuous Ruby will be published.  I started this blog about two and a half years ago to discuss Ruby’s story and those of her sisters.  It’s hard to believe that the moment has come, but here it is! I appreciate any support you can give to bring this historical story to light.  In the meantime, because of my grandmother’s death, I have been behind.  So I would like to give you an update on Mags’s story, and officially reveal the cover for Nettie’s story.

A Most Precious Pearl is available for pre-order on all platforms: Amazon, Nook, Google Play, Kobo and iTunes.  The blurb:

Mags will be released on September 8, 2015

Mags will be released on September 8, 2015

Asa Caldwell returned from the Great War with nothing to show for it—as in nothing below his left knee. Forget about the journalism career he loved. His story is over. Done.

Yet he finds the strength to journey to Winslow, Georgia, to get Ruby Bledsoe Morson’s sister out of trouble. Before he can bring Mags Bledsoe home, though, a spate of mysterious attacks reawakens his investigative instincts.

During the war, Mags did her duty to God and country by stepping into a management role at the textile mill. Now she’s been shuffled back to the rank and file—and Asa has her hard-earned job. Not only is the infernal man doing everything wrong, her plan for revenge against the mill owner who lynched her childhood sweetheart is farther out of reach than ever.

As they clash over almost everything, Mags begins to set fire to Asa’s soul, bright enough to dim the memory of the killing fields of France. Enough to give him a new mission in life—to make her feel the same way.

 

 

And now for Nettie, the middle sister.  A Treasure of Gold, Nettie’s story, will release in November.  Her is her cover and the blurb:

Nettie will be out in November.

Nettie will be out in November.

 

Trusting in the One who orders her steps, Nettie Bledsoe is determined not to deviate from her route to the charity kitchen. Don’t stop for anything, her sisters say. Pittsburgh isn’t like Georgia, they warn.

Yet when low moans of unholy suffering drift from an alley, she can’t help but investigate. It’s a man. The most beautiful man she’s ever seen. Despite his scandalous reputation, something within her responds to his sinfully rich voice.

Jay Evans is trying hard to stay on the straight and narrow, and doesn’t want help from any church do-gooder. But until his wound heals, he needs help caring for his young daughter, Goldie. Especially since Nettie saw fit to fire Goldie’s barely competent nanny.

Despite their mismatched backgrounds, Nettie and Jay fight a losing battle against their growing attraction. But it’s only when Nettie is kidnapped that Jay realizes that if he doesn’t get her back safe and sound, his heart will shatter into uncountable pieces.

 

No links for Nettie yet.  I will keep you posted. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for following this blog and for your support!  I appreciate each and every one of you!

A Virtuous Ruby, Rachel Dolezal and the value of blackness

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

Ruby will be available on all platforms and in print exactly one month from today!

In the flurry of discussion about the Rachel Dolezal story, people have overlooked one big issue. I haven’t though. This issue has made me think of how much, in one hundred years time when I set A Virtuous Ruby, how little has changed. Dolezal is clearly a pathological liar, but the reception of her deception is what interests me. Many have gone out of their way to treat blackness with complete and utter contempt.

Media figures have postured that the blackness that Dolezal sought to appropriate could not possibly be something that a sane person would want to take on as worthwhile. I witnessed this treatment in the quizzical voices of journalists as they interviewed her parents. Their treatment reminded me of how my light-skinned character, Ruby Bledsoe chose to work and live as a black person in 1915 and of how she convinced her man, Adam Morson, to do the same.

When Ruby was on the contest circuit about three years ago, I would get comments saying things like, “Why shouldn’t she choose to be white?,” and “She should be proud she can pass.” And whenever I would express my surprise at these comments to other African Americans, sometimes they would say things like, “Yeah, Ruby had to be a little crazy.” Or “Why not pass as white if you can get away with it?”

So the overall narrative we are supposed to swallow from the Dolezal case seems to be, when in doubt, choose white. Never, ever choose black. That’s the losing team. Except Ruby knew a few things. She knew that the world she lived in would punish for choosing to be something she wasn’t. She knew that choosing white would mean distance from the family that she loved and was raised in. Ruby also knew that choosing whiteness would not help at all in her desire to stop lynchings from happening in the south. As a Christian, most importantly, she also knew that choosing the path that God put before her in the way she was perfectly knitted from Him , was the best way to accomplish those goals.

Part of A Virtuous Ruby was inspired by the soul-killing struggle of the main protagonist in James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Johnson’s point, way back in 1912 allowed his protagonist to suffer throughout that novel to find a meaning and a purpose in life. When he thinks he’s found it at the end, by melting into the white world, he’s done. Johnson’s point was that blackness was not the bad, evil punishment from Ham that the larger world claimed for it to be.

Rachel Dolezal, bless her heart, knew the value of blackness, but she’s going to be made to pay for choosing the unpopular team. She could have done all of the work she wanted in her God-fashioned form. But I have a feeling she’ll be alright.

For real black women, this way that blackness is treated in the larger society is the reason why, at my institution, students have to take a year long class. The class prepares them, and indeed, arms them for with all of the good, positive, wonderful things that blackness is about, so that today’s young black women don’t have to waste one more moment wishing or hoping to be someone else. There are some who would say that my school is crazy for teaching such a class, but for those of us who teach the class, we hope that the students spread the word. That they talk to their parents about it. That they teach their little cousins and nieces, nephews and future children about it. From such a class, they can walk into the world as fully-armed Rubys—ready for anything and proud to be who they are.

Last night, I won the 2015 Breakout Author of the Year award from the AAMBC Literary Awards. Thank you all for your incredible support. I appreciate it so very much!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while!  Thank you for your support!

The nerd has to clean up every once in a while! Thank you for your support!

My turn in The Brightest Day–“A Sweet Way to Freedom”

The esteemed Beverly Jenkins wrote the forward and she tells you all about Juneteenth!

The esteemed Beverly Jenkins wrote the forward and she tells you all about Juneteenth!

So excited to bring you a sneak peek of my story in The Brightest Day anthology, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” This anthology, featuring novellas centered the Juneteenth holiday, allowed for writers of African American historical romance come together to commemorate the occasion when the word of emancipation reached the last group of the formerly enslaved in Texas.  My story, “A Sweet Way to Freedom” introduces readers to Winslow, Georgia, the setting of my Migrations of the Heart series.  The romance is between Arlo Tucker, the town’s musician and bad boy, and the school teacher (who went to school at Milford College), Missouri Baxter.  Here’s a blurb and excerpt:

Blurb:

When Arlo Tucker stepped foot into the holier-than-thou Georgia hamlet of Winslow, all he wanted to do was profit from those who might want to have a drink in his good-time place. He did not imagine that, in their mutual loneliness, he would get all tied up with the new schoolteacher Missouri Baxter. He had a run of bad luck with women. They had some fun, but he surely didn’t mean to get her caught up in the family way.

In 1910, schoolteacher Missouri Baxter will not go back to her home town with a big belly all by herself. Arlo needs to come with her– as her husband. With God on her side, she’s got nine months to teach a most reluctant student an important lesson about what marriage meant to their people and show him “A Sweet Way to Freedom.”

Excerpt:

Arlo ran as fast as he could to the school house after Ruby and her sister came to his place in the woods to tell him what their mother had done. His vision of two women with big bellies fighting did not come to fruition though. He panted with relief when he reached the door of the schoolhouse and saw them in civil conversation with one another. Whew. But then Missy called him a nasty name.

Not like her at all, but not entirely unexpected. He had been down this pathway before, and always managed to negotiate his way away. Only this time, he didn’t want to be away. What could he do to help her to see that he was here now, even if he had been away for a while before?

Arlo moved to her side, to be right there for her but she backed off from him as if he were made of fire. Made sense now that he had burned her. That’s what happened to his women, no matter what his intentions. But he couldn’t stay away from her. He wouldn’t. “Missy, there’s no need for name calling. Ruby and them told me what was happening and I came to see what I could do.”

“Oh, Arlo.” The words of disappointment came from his big sister, filling the space between him and Missy.

Why were the two women he loved most in the world coming together? “Sissy. You should be at home resting. Really. Why are you here?”

“I got up from my bed of affliction to tell Miss Baxter of the board’s decision. We, we have to let her go when this school year is done.” His heart lurched in his chest at this news.

“Is there no end of foolishness in this town? You all are going to fire her for something that’s my fault?”

“I was there too, Arlo.” He loved that she gave him a slight smile. Not all her memories of him were bad. That was quite a change. For him.

“Really. This is just disgraceful. What’re you going to do about this?” Lona made it clear she didn’t care for their exchange just now. But Arlo wasn’t sure. Maybe the thing to do would be to take Missy somewhere away from this backwater gossipy town and set up his place somewhere else where folks weren’t so full of judgment.

“Do?” Missy shifted from one foot to another. “I don’t know if there is anything for him to do, Mrs. Bledsoe. You just fired me from my job.”

Ahh. He had to give Missy that. She was not only the most beautiful woman he had ever met; she could use her mind quick enough as a counterpoint. The feeling of her curves responding to him made him want to go back to those passionate times. She confirmed everything he thought about her when he first laid eyes on the schoolteacher last year. She was something amazing, like a bright star in the heavens.

“You paining me, Miss Baxter.”

“I don’t know what you mean, Mr. Tucker.”

“Anything? Nothing?”

She folded her arms, making her burden much more apparent. “For you to do.”

Yes, the women always got like that. Eyes narrowed, arms folded, mouth all twisted up in disarray. They always started one way with him, with willing smiles and stolen kisses. Only later did they have narrowed eyes when things got too rough …and complicated. “I don’t know about that, now. I may have a say or two in these things.”

“Oh, Arlo,” Lona said, a familiar refrain he had been hearing since he was knee high, “are you going to stand by this woman? Please say yes. I don’t want her to lose her only source of employment.”

“Stand by her? As I am now?”

“No, Arlo.” Lona stamped a thick ankle on the ground. She really should be at home, not here getting up into affairs that were no concern of hers. “You know what I mean. I mean marry her.”

“Marry her?” he echoed. He stood next to Missy, as his sister requested, not even realizing how tall she was next to him. Yes, something about her schoolteacher veneer made him want to take her by her thickened waist and…marry her. Right now.

Except her eyes, those dark eyes in her sweet, smooth brown skin—those eyes had already skewered him for a roast.

“I’m not looking to marry anybody.”

Wait. Had he said the words or had she said them? The words in his mind came out from between her lusciously pink, teasing lips. The lips of a Nubian goddess.

“What did you say?” His sister’s attention turned to the teacher now. Yes, Missy had spoken the words in his mind. Out loud. For his sister to hear.

What wounded more, that she knew what was in his mind already—even before he could think it—or that she didn’t want to marry him? Was it possible for one thing to wound more than another?

The  Brightest Day will be available on June 1 in as an e-book on Kindle, Nook and itunes.

The Brightest Day will be available in print in late summer 2015.

We need diverse romance

Last year, a few insightful authors of young adult fiction used the hash tag “We Need Diverse Books” to call attention to the small numbers of diverse characters in the realm of children and young adult books.  Their innovation in starting the hash tag only served to bring light to the fact that all of publishing needs to pay closer attention to being more inclusive of the stories that feature people of all colors, religions, abilities and sexual orientation.  In honor of her recently deceased grandmother, Nana (a.k.a. Josephine Minatee), author Kwana Jackson started her own hash tag (#WeNeedDiverseRomance) to call attention to these issues in the romance genre. Kwana has declared July 23 to be #WeNeedDiverseRomance day. We who have purchaed tee shirts will wear them at the national Romance Writers of America conference in New York. I have mine all ready to go.

The part that I’ve played in this endeavor is pretty obvious. Additionally, I’ve had the honor of being on a panel at RWA in New York to discuss this issue.  I just participated in one in Dallas at the RT convention to discuss how writers can write more diversity into their stories.  Jezebel has just published a very thorough, thoughtful article about the subject and I’m sharing it here.  Yes, I am in the article and they very kindly featured the cover of The Preacher’s Promise in it. However, I’m also sharing it in honor of Kwana’s Nana and all of the readers who have been waiting to read more stories that reflect them as well.

http://jezebel.com/inside-the-push-for-a-more-diverse-romance-genre-1705907470