I attended the Harlem Book Fair yesterday to promote my books Isis and The Cassandra Cookbook. It was the biggest mistake of my writing career. Five months of planning and organizing for this event, Four Hundred Dollars spent on supplies and books and I only sold one book. Am I disappointed about the sales? Yeah I am. But I’m more disappointed about what the black community is calling literature now.
There was a Street lit table right next to mine. Those guys writing about gangstas, pimps, drug dealers hoes, hood rats and any other racist stereotype did brisk business with people snapping books up all day. I was deeply saddened; At the fair, it looks like black readers have come back to embrace the racist stereotypes so many fought and died for over a century to dispel with open arms. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Paul Robeson, Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, Lorriane Hanesberry, Dorothy Dandridge, Thurgood Marshall and Michael Jackson are probably all looking down at the Black Masses in disgust and disappointment.
I spent six hours in the hot sun practically ignored by the black reading audience I’ve been wanting to write for since I was 16. My mission back then was to write positive stories about the Black experience. Stories about overcoming the odds, facing adversity and growing into a better person who improved the quality of life for their community. It seems no one wants to read those kinds of stories anymore. In the aftermath of the Harlem Book Fair I have to wonder if the community is committed to change or if its scared of it.
In the aftermath of Electing the First African-American President I wonder if there is any hope for the African-American reader. Instead of taking that step forward with Obama, most young brorhers and sisters on the streets are taking ten steps back when it comes to what they read. I have to wonder: Is the self-image of Black men so poor that all most think they can aspire to is drug dealing, pot smoking, pimping, and being a thug? When did Black women look in the mirror and start seeing a prostitute or a madam? Is the Black Community’s self-esteem so low that it doesn’t see itself as capable of anything but being a criminal?
A long time ago I came to the understanding that what one feeds the mind comes out of the body. As a person thinks, they will act. If the popular black literature is about drugs, crime and all sorts of debauchery today then I shudder to think what will come out of the Black Community in the next 20 years.