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The Hue-Man Experience Bookstore - Case Study

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This is a really interesting read http://aalbc.it/hue-man

I talks about the Hue-man Experience Bookstore, perhaps, at the time, the nation's largest Black owned independent Bookstore. The case study address the specifics of the Hue-man bookstore, including financials as well as a snap shot of the publishing industry in the early 1990's.

"I started out with a marketing plan but there were many flaws because it was based on Anglo book purchasing behavior. We were unable to anticipate the difficulty in getting African American people to buy books. I had to go back and reevaluate my marketing strategies. We thought people would come because the idea was unique. It was an upscale store with ambiance, patterned similar to Tattered Cover, which really has a national presence. And we thought that people would come--particularly middle class people with disposable incomes and a higher education level, because that was the popula­tion that I was close to. But it took a lot more marketing to get people in. The variable we didn't count on is that the store sold not just books, but culture. The customers we attracted have to be cultur­ally connected."

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Hue-Man had gotten a bad reputation of shunning the Urban/Street Fiction community over the years unless the authors had a brand name

They were also accused of being "bougey" according to the conscious community

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Nah'Sun's, impression of the Harlem, Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe, store is supported by many stories that I've heard as well.

However, this case study actually examines the original Hue-Man Experience bookstore which opened in Denver well before the popularity Urban/Street Fiction craze. This story ends in 2002 after Clara sold the Denver store and opened up the Harlem store.

The next 10 years would be a fascinating study. Unfortunately the ending includes the closing of both stores but so many lessons could be learned.

Nah'Sun interestingly, Clara's quote that I posted would seem to support your It would be interesting to see what the next owners of the Denver store would have to say.

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See, Troy

This case study goes back to my claim that Black people won't support each other UNLESS we market our products with such grandiose in order to draw them in

Clara had to say her store was the LARGEST Black owned store in order to draw a crowd

We have a bad habit with equating success with branding instead of helping each out on general principle of buying because you LIKE what you see

Our motivations have to be spring boarded by the perception of success

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Nah'Sun probably the biggest benefit Clara Villarosa derived from saying her store was "the largest" was how it raised her profile during a period when Black books were growing in popularity. She was the go to person for Black books during this period.

But, as I'm sure you know, it takes more than simply saying you are "the largest" to keep a store open.

Also check out Emlyn DeGannes owner of MeJah Bookstore as she makes a plea to the community to help save the bookstore that has served the community for 15 years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuvA9bH5XQU

It is interesting the store owner says her store simply would not have survived were it not for urban books.

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I wasn't saying her exaggeration was the only factor

It just played a part with understanding the pyscho-demographics (mentality of the target audience) of buyers she wanted to serve

There's no coincidence that authors come up with gimmicks and street teams to draw readers in, especially since we're living in a microwave society where people unofficially got ADD...it's hard to keep up their attention

It takes A LOT for our people to buy books...especially the casual reader

You got authors selling their books damn near half naked at vendors just to get a sale

As far as Mejah, that bookstore is located at a Mall is that is "dead"...the movie theatre that was once there is boarded up, and hardly anyone goes there...the location is in the middle of nowhere

Urban/Street Fiction is keeping A LOT of businesses open...I normally don't read them...however, I can't deny their economical power

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...and now you know the rest of the story.

Assuming you are right, it sounds like Mejah, would benefit, a great deal, by relocating to a location where there was more opportunity for foot traffic. Admittedly this is easier said than done. This important factor was never mentioned in this video (or part 1 which I did not post).

Honestly the closing of bookstores have reached epidemic proportions. I suspect however if you looked under the cover you would identify factors under the control of the store owners that might have prevented many, if not most, of the stores from closing.

Here is a database of Black Owned, Independent Bookstores Also here is a related article Death of the Black Owned, Independent, Bookstore.

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Aaaaaah yes

Thanks for the links

I think we need another Renaissance to get people back reading

Yes, Urban Fiction is economically empowering, but we need more writers (and readers who financially support them) to write books in other genres

I think they're scared because they won't sell...and the perception is that it's hard for Black authors to appeal to other persuasions of readers outside of the Urban Fiction market

The lack of balance in the Black publishing industry is killing the game

I don't read fiction anymore...I read non-fiction...and I make it a POINT to support Black owned business

Black and Nobel in North Philly added a gift and arts section in their store...smart move

That's my favorite book store...not to mention Max's Cheesesteak lampin across the street :)

http://blackandnobel.com/

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Yeah Black and Nobel is doing their thing. I visited last year -- just spotted it in my periphery while driving up Broad Street.

black-and-nobel.JPG

The lack of balance is not just killing Black publishing it is killing our culture -- but that is another conversation.

You and I might make a point of supporting Black bookstores, but MOST people do not -- it took me 10 seconds to learn that lesson online. People want the cheapest one -- they don't make the "conscious purchase".

We have to compete in an environment when money rules. For many reasons, authors of urban literature are much more successful at this than literary authors -- this is why there is little balance and the trend shows a worsening. This is not to put down Urban Lit., it is just that market forces in our system support Urban lit most efficiently.

I think a world with physical bookstores, and a diverse selection of literature is possible. It is just harder and not likely to make you a multimillionaire. But you can make a decent living a fulling life and contribute something of value to the community. But we have to share information, learn from each others mistakes and support each other (minimally).

Right now we all reinvent the wheel and learn the hard way -- that is what i liked about the Hue-man study. There were a lot of holes in it but it was the best (only) documentation of a Black owned independent that I've ever seen.

I'm a Pagano's man myself -- Triple Cheese Steak Hoagie -- accept no substitutes ;)

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To be honest with you, I think literary novels only sell if they have a kick ass co-sign from someone of influence

A lot of classic American novels would've lived in obscurity if it wasn't for college and university English departments

Popular Fiction (I'll place Urban Fiction under that umbrella) sells more because of escapism

I would like to know what "holes" in the case study did you see?

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The "holes" in the the study include included a variety of things, but most could be grouped into a the category of statements not vetted or missing information. Now I know this was not a piece of investigative journalist, but a case study written by students.

  • The income statement end in 1993 it would have been nice to see the data out to 2002 when the store was taken over.
  • The statements provided show that the store was not in the black as of 1993, was it ever profitable? I suspect the new owners were doomed from jump
  • Why not check to see if in fact Hue-man was the largest independent. This would have been relatively easy to do and worth validating
  • It would have been useful to know, specifically, what was done for marketing and promotion. The figures show in 1992 and 1993 show less than $5K was spent. Not a very big budget (much less than even their telephone expense)
  • Statements like "Anglo Book Purchasing Behavior" needed to be explained. I have no idea what that means and how Hue-man countered the problem

This is mostly off the top of my head if I re-read the document I could come with with more.

At any rate, I found the study very interesting.

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What got me was the extremely low profit margin. Looks like a different business model was needed. As Nah'sun stated, Urban lit is contributing greatly to the revenue stream of black book stores. This book stores also should carry mainstream books as well. As a black person I just don't only read black books, especially when it comes to non-fiction. And as you know, me and my colleagues are working on building a black speculative fiction market. Overall, I think black book stores can survive, they just need to develop a new strategy based on the opportunities and challenges of today's fluctuating market.

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I stumbled across this conversation looking for something else.  I have a long conversation with Clara Vilarosa recently (in 2014).  The Hue-man story would make a fascinating documentary.  The rise and fall of Hue-man is almost a perfect mirror of Black folks relationship with books and publishing.

 

Ultimately Clara left Hue-man and Marva Allen took over Hue-man Bookstore's operations.  Here is her side of the Hue-man bookstore, in Harlem story.

 

 

Our most profound problem in publishing is lack of ownership.  We own almost nothing -- not even the stores to sell our own books! 

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Here is a 2005 article from Black Enterprise about Hue-man Bookstore.

 

Hue-Man came to life in August 2002, when Rita Ewing, 39, Celeste Johnson, 35, and Clara Villarosa decided to open a bookstore dedicated to African American authors. Ewing, ex-wife of former New York Knick Patrick Ewing, established a partnership with Johnson, wife of NBA star Larry Johnson. Armed with an M.B.A. and 22 years of experience running a computer firm, Allen became a full partner in 2004 and today handles Hue-Man’s day-to-day operations. In 2004, the company brought in $1.2 million in revenues, and expects the same amount for 2005.

 

Little did they know at the time that they were building what would become one of the largest African American bookstores in the country, in one of the largest African American communities nationwide. At the grand opening on Aug. 1, 2002, rapper Jay-Z, singer Stevie Wonder, and actor Wesley Snipes attended, with poet Maya Angelou providing a special dedication.

 

Interestingly, I was not invited to attend the opening celebration.  I lived walking distance from the store, and was prominent in the Black book community.  Still, I was excited about the opening. I planned to do a lot of collaborating with store.  That collaboration never happened.  It was a lost opportunity not just for the store but for the Harlem community.  Others I knew simply ignored the store, feeling, understandably, slighted.

 

The store's opening attended by celebrities to the exclusion of many local community book people rubbed me the wrong way, and was reflective of the attitude of the store and explains why so many felt as Nah'Sun described, ""

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This is what I've observed from my recent experiences.   I started self-publishing back in the 90s when desk top publishing was coming into its own.  Back then, I'd type up my manuscript on a Canon word processor then save it on a floppy disk.  I'd run off a copy of it on my ink jet printer and send it off in its camera-ready format to a high-speed printing company. After galleys were received, and  editing completed, I'd submit the final version and what ever number of soft cover perfect bound  books I had ordered would be shipped to me. 

 

Like my fellow aspirants, I'd then show up at book fairs and out door markets and set up my litttle display amidst a slew of other aspiring self-published authors vying for the attention of browsers who inspected our book covers and usually moved on. In between this, I'd hit the local black-owned  book stores, and schmooz with the owners in the process of getting a few of my books on their shelves. Making a profit from these pursuits was rare. Equally sobering was how your friends and family humored you, never seeming to take your book writing as seriously as curious strangers did. 

 

Fast forward to today's technology of Word documents and PDF files, online domains and web sites for selling  e-books and print- on-demand hard copies. You convince yourself that FaceBook will be a good source for sales. After all, look at the glut of traffic it attracts.  Post a blurb here, and you're good to go.

 

While waiting for the order of my latest novel to be filled, I went this route, and started  plugging and promoting it on FaceBook.  In response to my "Coming Soon" announcements, I received all kinds of "likes" and posts from "friends"  expressing their interest in purchasing  this book as soon as it was available. But once I had copies for sale, I found out this was all hype. When I decided to make the small supply of "The Only One"  copies available by mail order until I could complete the process of getting it on Amazon, I realized that unless you make the purchase of books extremely convenient (and low-priced), you will not have much success with cyber customers carrying through on their promises. None of the FaceBookers gushing and congratulating and promising to purchase the book could be bothered with puying a stamp, writing a check and sending off their addresses in order to receive a copy of this book via snail mail. Poor old me, I was stuck in the 90s. Moreover, there's no guarantee that getting on Amazon will produce any better results. People really aren't that interested in reading books, especially the ones hangin out on FaceBook. Fortunately I knew better than to order more units than I could unload. Most of my sales  have been one-on-one with acquaintances with whom I personally interact.

 

Interesting enough the people most motivated to purchase my book are the ones I discourage by suggesting that it is not the kind of book they could relate to or that it is too racy.  This seems to challenge them, and occasionally insult their intelligence.  Now I use this as a ploy.  ;)

 

Just some thoughts...

 

One of these days on this site, I will provide a link to Amazon for anyone who is interested in purchasing my novel as an e-book or a hard copy one.  But I won't hold my breath.  Alas, writing is a lonely profession.  :(  

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It seems like overall from the comments made about Hue-Man, they suffered from problems related to attitude and how the the business was run. Although I have no personal knowledge about how they operated, the problems mentioned are things that I've encountered while trying to promote my books to the Black literary community in Atlanta and beyond. 

 

When I attempted to get a prominent Black bookstore in Atlanta to stock my first novel, The Corrupting of the Redeemer, the manager was extremely negative and critical of the length of my book, and refused to stock it. At 430 pages, it wasn't too much to me. But I grew up in the 'hood in L.A. where I got criticized by Negroes for reading books, so maybe I shouldn't have expected too much from people with low attention spans. I've read Tom Clancy books of more than 1,000 pages. To me, the length of a book shouldn't matter as long as the book is engaging and interesting. And everyone who has read it has liked it, and said nothing about its length. As can be expected, the lady chose not to stock my book. It appears that her establishment has since gone out of business, and based on her lack of professionalism and negativity, I consider the failure of her store as being the result of how she ran things, just as had probably occurred with Hue-Man.

 

I also encountered another Black woman who wanted me to allow her to promote my book. However, she too was negative. She criticized the length, told me how the book should be broken up and rewritten, and had the mentality of an insecure control-freak who believes that they should tear someone down so they can rebuild them in the way they want them to be. Artists shouldn't be constrained and guided. I refuse to allow anyone to dictate how my work and stories of Black life should be told, so of course I didn't work with her.

 

When I recently contacted Black bookstores around the country about stocking my latest novel, The Making of a Gangster, I only received one response from an owner who kindly said that she did not stock fiction books. I find that problematic for bookstores that want to cater to the Black community. Shouldn't they seek to stock a variety of Black literature, both fiction and non-fiction, if their goal is to provide a service to the Black community? Mainstream stores provide a variety of genres and types, so why don't all Black bookstores do that too? Ironically, people in her area have contacted me about wanting to purchase my book from a brick and mortar store, even though it's available on Amazon.com. It appears that her store is missing out on sales revenue because of her refusal to stock fiction.

 

In essence, I believe that in addition to superstores running small stores out of business, Black bookstores are limiting their own chances for survival by being ignorant of how to successfully operate a business, and by lacking professionalism. Although that fortunately doesn't apply to all Black-owned bookstores, it seems to be the problem with some.

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Hi Jeron, you are right the complaints leveled here do not apply to all bookstores.  If you run a bookstore it is really hard not to piss off some at least a few indie authors. 

 

Why don't you post an excerpt of your book here?

 

Also here is a short link you can use to send readers to Amazon: http://aalbc.it/jeronm

 

To learn more about why links like this are important read an article I wrote last year about things writers should do to survive online: http://aalbc.it/writersmustdo

 

Welcome to the discussion forum :-)

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Troy, thanks for the invitation to post excerpts here. I will gladly do that for both of my books.  :)  The excerpts will hopefully show that they are not just good stories, but deal with greater issues that need to be dealt with in the Black community.

 

 

The following is chapter 39 from The Corrupting of the Redeemer:

 

the-corrupting-of-the-redeemer.JPG

 

 

“The Devil’s always trying to trip us up,” Damian said. He was standing at the podium in front of the congregation of Church of the Redeemer.

            “Amen,” the congregation agreed.

            “It seems like every step forward we take, Satan tries to pull us back two steps.”

            “Hmmm. Hmmm.”

            “But we can’t ever let him get us down. We can never let him keep us down, because that isn’t what our Father wants for us.”

            “Amen.”

            “In Matthew chapter 11, verses 28 through 30, the Lord said: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn more of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Are you with me so far?” Damian asked.

            “Amen.”

            Damian then began to discuss his recent problems. But he intentionally distorted the truth in order to benefit himself. Yet, the things that he said were harmful to others. “I know some of you have been doing a little talking about me lately.”

            After Damian had spoken, silence descended upon the sanctuary. Some members of the congregation began to feel as if he was speaking directly to them; they felt guilty for having participated in gossiping about his life. Those who had dismissed the accusations against Damian nodded their heads in disagreement. They wanted Damian to see that many of his congregants had remained loyal to him.

            “That’s alright. Anytime a man leads people – especially when he’s a God-fearing man – people are gonna try and bring him down.”

            “Praise God.”

            “And I must admit, the things that are being talked about are lies, and it hurts.” Damian then looked down at Jehyra from the podium. He noticed that his wife’s face was expressionless. “I love my wife, I love my kids, and that’s that!” The preacher then looked up and scanned the audience with his eyes as he continued to speak. “But I’m not special, so I guess gossip – bearing false witness - is just something I’ll have to deal with. Greater men than me have dealt with the same things, and the Bible talks about these things. The Bible also says a lot about the people who speak lies against others.”

            Although Rachael Ward was not widely known within the church, a fair number of the church’s members knew who she was. She was not trusted by many of the people who did know her because they believed that she was self-centered. They felt that she was someone who would willingly betray others, including friends, if she could benefit from her treachery. Knowing that, Damian began to talk about Rachael in his sermon, but without naming her. Regardless, it was obvious to knowledgeable church members about whom he was speaking.

            “Our young ones today talk about ‘playa hatas,’ or just ‘hatas.’”

            Damian’s invoking of Black slang elicited giggles from his congregation.

            “And you know who the hatas are, right?”

            “Yep!”

            “People that just can’t stand to see you doing good. For whatever reason, they feel badly about themselves, bless their hearts. But instead of trying to build themselves up, they try to tear you down.”

            “Hmmm. Hmmm.”

            “They have no self-confidence, so when they see you have confidence, they’re intimidated by it. They take your confidence as an assault on them, even though you ain’t thinking about them. You’re not competing with them, but they’re competing against you. And why, you ask? It’s because you have what they want – self-confidence, and belief in self – they want that, and they don’t wanna see you shine.”

            “Praise God.”

            “Their hearts have turned away from God, and towards Satan. They’ve become evil, and want to spread evil into your lives.”

            “Hallelujah.”

            “Some of you know the source of the lies being spread about me. And the source, who I won’t name, you and I know is an evil soul.” Damian then paused and scanned the congregation. As he looked at the audience from the podium, he saw that many of the congregants nodded their head in agreement with what he had said. That showed him that they were either aware of Rachael’s character, or agreed with him because he was their pastor. “The Bible talks about the types of people who spread evil. Turn your Bibles to Luke 6:45.” Damian waited several seconds for his audience to reach the correct page, before he continued speaking. “‘A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.’ What the Lord is saying is that the people that try to bring us down are not working for him. Faith in God is not in their heart, no matter what they say, or how much they go to church.”

            “Amen!” The congregation shouted. Some members stood and began to shout and clap loudly.

            “They can scream, shout, and praise God all they want. But their heart shows that they aren’t with us, and don’t serve our God!”

            “Hallelujah!”

            “And because they serve Satan, they wanna spread evil among us by lying, and getting us to turn against each other. But we won’t let that happen, will we?”

            “No sir.”

            “Turning to Isaiah 48:17, the Lord says: ‘…I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.’ What does that tell you? Don’t worry – I’ll let you know. Our Father’s telling us that he’s in charge! He’s guiding us through our lives, directing us towards where we should go. So if someone goes astray and they don’t like how their life turned out, they should make peace with God, and not cause trouble. They need to get back on track instead of spreading their misery!”

            “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

            “Amen.”

            “Hmmm. Hmmm.”

            “In Matthew 12:36, the Lord says: ‘But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.’

            “Now, let’s think for a minute.” Damian pressed his hand against his face, with his pointer finger resting against his temple for dramatic effect. "I can live with their lies, but can they?”

            “Nope!”

            “It’s God whose judgment they have to worry about. I’ll go on living my life, but they will answer to the Lord for what they’ve done.”

            “Praise ’em.”

            “Personally, I think it’s a despicable act to spread lies about someone.”

            “Alright, Brother.”

            The congregation’s agreeing with his sermon convinced Damian that he was being effective. He felt that he had made it obvious that Rachael was a liar, and that she was behaving wickedly because she was unhappy with herself. In his opinion, he had proven that Rachael possessed low self-esteem, and that she wanted others to be as miserable as she was. She attempted to do that by creating dysfunction within his life.

            As a continuation of his defense, Damian decided that he would refute the specific allegations that Rachael had levied against him. He did that by talking about infidelity, which he knew might make some of the many conservative members of his congregation uncomfortable. But he felt that it was necessary. His credibility had been questioned, and he did not want to lose the respect of his supporters.

            “Moving on, you all know that God made woman for man.”

            “Yes sir.”

            “And when he said, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ he intended for man and woman to be joined as one before him, and to have no other partners. Period!”

            “Yes, lawd,” many of the female congregants shouted. The decadence that was prevalent in American society did not escape the church. A lot of the female members had been victimized by dishonest lovers. Their desire was to find a man who would be committed to them, and to nobody else. Additionally, there were married women within the church who rightfully suspected that their Christian husbands were being unfaithful to them. But they were not vocal with their feelings – they chose to weep in silence.

            “Men who cheat are dogs, and the women are no better!”

            “Amen.” Some women shouted as they began to rise and clap their hands.

            The words that Damian spoke created an irony. They were hypocritical when considering the fact that he was guilty of doing that which he was condemning. But he knew that Black Christians tended to be naïve, and were willing to follow their minister unquestionably. That arrogance gave him confidence as he risked exposure by criticizing women who engaged in affairs with married men.

            “Women who do their thing with married men should be ashamed of themselves!”

            “Hmmm. Hmmm.”

            “Home-wreckers, house-breakers, destroyers of the covenant that God made between man and woman. And when the man has kids, then she should feel especially bad for what she’s done, because the kids get caught in the middle of what’s going on.”

            “That’s right!”

            “We shouldn’t tolerate that behavior, because women like that are sinners. And if they don’t repent, they should be cast out from among us.”

            The congregation nodded and grunted in agreement with what Damian had said.

            “Mark 8:33 says: ‘Get thee behind me, Satan: for though savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.’ We can’t associate with sinners because they are charlatans; fake Christians who mix with us to spread the will of Satan.”

            “Hallelujah!”

            Unbeknownst to the congregation of Church of the Redeemer, Damian was intentionally being harsh with his criticism. The reason for that was because he wanted to end the suspicion that had been cast upon him. To accomplish that, he felt that he needed to be critical of people who engaged in adulterous acts, even though he had willingly participated in those unchristian practices. He did not want to hurt his family, nor endure his wife leaving him. But he knew that would be a possibility if the truth about his relationship with Ashley became known. And because of that, he was willing to be a hypocrite, and destroy a bond that his religion had deemed immoral.

 

*******

 

            Ashley and Kimberly did not like what they were hearing as they sat in the sanctuary of the church, listening to Damian speak. Their pastor was exposing himself as a hypocrite. But his true nature was apparent only to them, and not to the other worshipers.

            It was obvious that Damian was attempting to end his relationship with Ashley. Ashley’s feelings were deeply hurt by her lover’s overly critical comments about women who had sex with married men. He was speaking as if the men who were involved in extramarital affairs bore no responsibility for their actions. “I can’t believe he’s doing this,” Ashley whispered to Kimberly. Her face possessed a look of shock, and she was on the verge of crying.

            Although Kimberly remained silent, it was obvious to her younger cousin that she was angry. Her lips tightened, and a scowl formed on her face as she seethed with rage. She had predicted that Ashley’s affair with Damian would end badly, because she correctly presumed that Damian was unlikely to leave his wife. She knew that those dynamics would mean that Damian would consider Ashley expendable. If her cousin had taken heed of her advice, then Ashley’s heartache could have been avoided.

            Ashley had moved to Charlotte with a saddened heart, hoping to alleviate the pain that she possessed because of her failed relationship in New York. She was pleased when Damian befriended her, welcomed her into his church, introduced her to people, and provided her with physical affection. And because she was emotionally fragile – as most women were – she had fallen in love with him. Her emotions had prevented her from thinking rationally, which resulted in her being placed in her current predicament.

            “I just can’t believe this.” Ashley was no longer able to control her emotions. She bent forward, placed her hands over her face, and began to cry softly.

            “Don’t let this nigga get to you,” Kimberly said. She placed her hand on her cousin’s shoulder, in an attempt to comfort her. “This nigga ain’t shit!” Her anger hindered her ability to be discreet about her feelings, and her words were heard by several people who were seated nearby. One of them, who was an older woman, looked at Kimberly with a look of judgmental anger. She ignored the elderly lady. Kimberly watched Damian as he continued to berate women who engaged in sexual relations with married men – a class of which Ashley was a member.

            “I can’t take this anymore,” Ashley said. She then rose from her seat as she grabbed her purse, and exited the pew in which she and Kimberly were seated. Kimberly also grabbed her belongings, and began to follow her distraught cousin.

 

*******

 

            “Only a very troubled soul would seek companionship from a married man.”

            “Amen.”

            “They do it because they don’t feel confident that they can find a man of their own. Maybe they’ve had a little trouble in past relationships, and they try boosting their self-esteem by claiming someone else’s man,” Damian said as many of his congregants nodded in agreement. “You know that woman that doesn’t even bother with the single men – just goes after the Brother with a woman on his arm, or a ring on his finger.”

            “You know what you talkin’ ’bout!”

            “She’s only interested in the man that’s not available.” Damian continued. “And you wanna know why?”

            “Why?”

            “For the same reason that the spreader of lies does what they do. Low self-esteem drives what they do. Since they can’t get what they want on their own, they take it – the man – from someone else. And stealing from another woman helps them feel better about themselves.” Damian paused momentarily before continuing. “You know how women get.”

            “Hmmm. Hmmm.”

            “Get a group of women in a room, and they start sizing each other up for no reason. They just don’t feel good about themselves, so they start trying to tear each other down, because if they succeed, they feel better about themselves by placing someone else beneath them.”

            “Yep.”

            “So the woman who steals someone else’s man feels better about herself after doing wrong, because she caused another woman to feel the heartache and pain that she feels. That’s just evil, and she is evil!”

            As the congregation showed their agreement with what he had said, Damian noticed that the actions of two people in the sanctuary were the opposite of what everyone else was doing. Ashley appeared distraught; she was leaving her seat, and walking towards the exit. Upon seeing her, Damian realized that his sermon was the cause of her unhappiness. He began to experience slight feelings of guilt.

            His intent had been to remove any suspicion from him, while making it clear to Ashley that their relationship was thereby terminated. But he knew that Ashley was undeserving of the scorn that he had just indirectly levied upon her. He realized that he had been overly harsh. Regardless, he knew that what he had said was necessary in order for him to preserve his family. The significance of that outweighed any sense of guilt that he experienced.

            Damian’s undisciplined behavior was the result of his having become accustomed to lacking self-control. That resulted in him not exercising the appropriate amount of discretion as he spoke. Despite the essence of his lecture being true, he should not have allowed himself to hurt another person, while hiding the fact that he was a hypocrite. And he was not prepared for what happened next.

            “Nigga, you ain’t shit!” Kimberly shouted angrily from the sanctuary. She had stopped following Ashley, turned towards Damian, and began to defend her cousin’s honor.

            Upon realizing what Kimberly had said, sighs of shock spread throughout the congregation. The members of Church of the Redeemer were mortified that someone had the audacity to disrespect what they considered to be ‘God’s house.’ They were sure that their God would immediately punish Kimberly for it. But nothing occurred, and Damian addressed her.

            “Excuse me?” Damian asked with a look of surprised anger on his face.

            Jehyra rose from her seat in the first pew. She turned to face Kimberly so that she could confront the angry woman, and defend her husband. But she decided against it. The things that Kimberly said were worthy of her attention.

            “Don’t look at me like that, Mrs. First Lady,” Kimberly said. “Your husband ain’t nuttin but a hoe!”

            After hearing Kimberly call her husband a whore, the expression on Jehyra’s face contorted into a look of anger. Yet, before she could formulate the words to respond, Damian spoke.

            “If you have a problem with me, then we can talk about this afterwards. There’s no need for you to disrespect God’s house, nor my wife.”

            “Fuck that!” Kimberly’s uncensored words had caused the members of the congregation, along with the millions of people who were viewing and listening to the broadcast versions of the service, to condemn her to hell. They were shocked by the audacious nature of her behavior. And because of her colorful rhetoric, the people who were in the control room ceased broadcasting the service. That was done in order to prevent the distribution of any inappropriate material.

            Ushers began to surround Kimberly in an attempt to escort her out of the sanctuary. But she had more to say before she exited. “You standin’ up there like you all high and mighty, talkin’ bad about my cousin, when she didn’t do nuttin to you.”

            Despite being upset, Ashley remained in the sanctuary, standing near the exit. She refused to leave without her older cousin. The distraught woman appreciated Kimberly’s willingness to place herself in jeopardy in order to defend her.

            “I was speaking about people in general, not anyone in particular,” Damian said calmly. He then raised his hand and motioned towards Ashley. “I would certainly not want to hurt your cousin.”

            “Bullshit! You know what you were doing.” Several ushers then grabbed Kimberly and began to pull her towards the exit. Despite that, she continued to speak. “Don’t touch me,” she said as she pulled away from them. “You know damn well what you were doing. You just trying to save face because of all that gossip goin’ on about you. But didn’t nobody tell you to come to my house and fuck my cousin.”

            “You all will have to pray for this Sister because Satan has taken control of her, and is using her to try to destroy God’s house.”

            “Amen,” the congregation said. Some members of the church had begun to raise their hands towards Kimberly as they prayed for her.

            “Look at this. These fools will do whatever you say. You should be ashamed of yourself, takin’ all these poor peoples money because they’ll do anything you say, and believe all of your bullshit.” Kimberly then scanned the congregation with her eyes and addressed them. “You’re all fools for giving that Devil all your money.”

            Damian was offended that Kimberly had not only interrupted his sermon, but was also questioning his integrity. He then recited the Bible in an attempt to defend himself. “Leviticus 19:16 – ‘Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord.’”

            “Don’t give me that. Nigga, you ain’t nuttin but a pulpit pimp!”

            “You’ve got to go now,” an usher told Kimberly. He and several other ushers then forcefully walked Kimberly to the nearest exit, where they pushed her out of the sanctuary. She then joined Ashley, and together they left Church of the Redeemer. They did not plan to ever return to that church.

            After Kimberly and Ashley had exited, the congregation began to recover from what had just occurred. Mumbling could be heard throughout the sanctuary, as church members expressed their surprise at what they had just witnessed. Damian began to pace across the stage, shaking his head as he tried to ignore feelings of embarrassment.

            “Ecclesiastes 10:13 says: ‘The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness.’”

            “Praise God.”

            “Sometimes the Holy Ghost effects people in a good way, and sometimes it gets them in a bad way. You just saw the bad way, as someone possessed by the Devil showed how Satan tries to destroy the children of the Lord. Spreadin’ more lies, and all.”

            “Amen.”

            “But the Psalms talks about how we, God’s people, will be persecuted from time to time. Chapter 109, verse 2, says: ‘For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue.’”

            “You don’t hafta explain yoself to us,” someone shouted.

            “Amen,” others offered in agreement. Several members of the church then began to clap. Shortly thereafter, applause spread throughout the sanctuary.

            Damian stood at the podium and basked in the revelry. He was pleased that his congregation believed him unquestionably, despite his dishonesty. The wayward preacher was glad that it appeared he would not suffer any negative repercussions because of Rachael’s gossip, or Kimberly’s outburst.

            Despite receiving the support of his congregation, someone else felt differently than they did. As Damian happily looked at his wife, his eyes were met with a menacing look of scorn. Although the look of happiness continued to prevail upon his face, he knew that Jehyra was aware of his dishonesty, and that nothing he could say would convince her otherwise. He did not look forward to being confronted by her again, which he knew was inevitable.

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The following is chapter 16 from The Making of a Gangster

 

the-making-of-a-gangster.JPG

 

In the world of gangbanging, whenever an act of violence befell a gangbanger, revenge needed to be swift. That was because the reputation of gangs and their individual members were in jeopardy if they did not quickly avenge violence with violence. Since respect given to gangbangers in Los Angeles was based upon their willingness to commit acts of violence – mainly against people of their own race – they were likely to become perpetual targets if they did not strike back at those who attacked them.

            Loner and Little Lost began plotting revenge immediately after the shooting as they waited in Loner’s backyard. Little Lost had rejoined Loner after showing Little Playboy how to return home with minimal detection. They were angered over what had occurred, and wanted to immediately drive to the Holly Park area of Hawthorne and kill any Black males who looked in any way as if they could be affiliated with a gang. But because of the police presence on Lemoli Avenue, along with the fact that the gang unit of the Hawthorne Police Department knew who was regularly present on the street – and were likely the victims of the shooting – retaliation would be expected. The police might quickly deduce a connection between two shootings in separate areas of Hawthorne if they occurred on the same day. Knowing that, Loner and Little Lost decided to postpone retribution, but not for long.

            The day following the shooting, Loner and Little Lost decided to act upon their desire for vengeance. They elected to go looking for Holly Park Neighborhood Crip Gang members in the evening after the sun had set. But they would not go alone. While walking together from 24-7, they noticed Little Playboy standing on the balcony of his apartment building. They summoned him to come talk to them, which Little Playboy did despite his grandmother’s stated desire to keep him in the house. He knew that he still needed to prove to them that he was worthy of being a 135th Street Gangster Crip. And based upon his knowledge of how his grandmother operated, he knew there would be few if any repercussions for disobeying her.

            “What’s up little homie?” Little Lost asked as he extended his hand to Little Playboy, and shook his younger associate’s hand.

            “Just chillin’,” Little Playboy responded.

            Loner began speaking. “So, are you calmed down now? Has your heart stopped beating fast from yesterday?” He asked jokingly.

            “I wasn’t scared of that shit,” Little Playboy responded. He was confused by the question because he did not believe that he had displayed any fear.

            “I know, I’m just fuckin’ with you,” Loner said before shaking Little Playboy’s hand. He then decided to invite Little Playboy to go with them that evening. “What you gonna do tonight?”

            “Shit. Probably just watch TV. My grandma’s kinda nervous about me being out after yesterday.”

            “Yeah, I know,” Loner said in a sympathetic tone. “But um, we need you to come with us later on.”

            “Ok,” Little Playboy responded without asking questions. Although he wanted to know where they would be going, he did not inquire. That was because he did not want to give his older associates the impression that he was unwilling to fulfill the duties of being a representative of their neighborhood.

            “It won’t take long. Meet us right here at six o’clock.”

            “Alright.”

            “Alright then, little homie,” Little Lost said as he gave Little Playboy ‘dap’ by bumping his fist against Little Playboy’s fist.

            Little Playboy then returned to his apartment, went inside, and sat on the couch beside his mother who was watching television. Although he had not been told where they were going or what they would be doing, he presumed that they go to exact revenge against the Holly Park Neighborhood Crips. That made him nervous and anxious because he had never shot or killed anyone before. But he knew that he had to contain his emotions. Refusing to participate would subject him to scorn and ridicule from his new associates.

 

*******

 

            As six o’clock neared, Little Playboy’s anxiety grew. But he managed to control his emotions because he knew that he could not withdraw from his appointment. Therefore, at 5:50 p.m., he began sliding his feet into his shoes and tied his shoe strings.

            “You goin’ somewhere?” Jasmine asked.

            “Yeah, I’ma go to my friend Tyrone’s house.”

            “That’s that smart boy, ain’t it?” Jasmine had seen Little Playboy playing with Tyrone in the past, and knew that they attended school together. She was aware of Tyrone’s studious nature. And when thinking about Bertha being concerned with Little Playboy’s behavior, Jasmine felt that Tyrone could be a good influence on her son.

            “Yeah,” Little Playboy responded with a chuckle.

            “Ok. Be careful.” Bertha was attending a Sunday evening church service, and was therefore unable to voice her opinion about Little Playboy leaving the apartment.

            “Alright.” Little Playboy then exited the apartment and walked downstairs. He stopped and stood at near the entrance to apartment building to wait for his older associates.

            “You waitin’ for somebody?” Loner asked before chuckling. He was seated at the curb across the street from Little Playboy in an early 1990s Honda Accord. Little Lost was in the passenger seat.

            “Oh shit, I didn’t even see you,” Little Playboy replied as he walked to the car.

            “Hop in.”

            Little Playboy sat in the back seat of the car. He knew that Loner did not own a car, and he had never seen the Honda Accord before. That led Little Playboy to presume that the car was stolen, which was proven correct when he noticed a screw driver stuck in the ignition. Other observations Little Playboy made included seeing a shotgun resting between Little Lost’s legs, along with a black handgun on his lap. The presence of the guns, along with the fact that they were in a stolen car, confirmed for Little Playboy that he would soon be participating in a murder.

            “You ready for some action little homie?” Little Lost asked.

            “Yep,” Little Playboy responded softly.

            Loner turned the screw driver, and drove the car away from the curb. Upon reaching 135th Street he turned the car turned right, proceeded towards Crenshaw Boulevard, then turned left to head towards Holly Park.

            Although it could be a sign of good relations for a parent to trust their child, a parent still needed to check on their children to ensure that the child was not being dishonest when that child’s behavior was questionable. Little Playboy was a child that needed such supervision. If Jasmine had been prudent by walking onto the balcony of their apartment, or if she had looked out of the window after Little Playboy left the apartment, she would have been able to see that Little Playboy did not walk to Tyrone’s house; Tyrone’s house could be seen from their apartment. But because she did not ensure that Little Playboy was telling the truth, her parental negligence would facilitate her son leaving home as a 12-year-old child who had never severely harmed anyone physically, and retuning as a murderer.

 

*******

 

            “Take this,” Little Lost told Little Playboy as he handed him the handgun that had been in his lap. It was a .380 caliber weapon. “It’s already cocked. All you gotta do is pull the trigger.”

            “Ok,” Little Playboy responded softly.

            “Is this your first time in a g-ride?” Loner asked as he looked in the rear-view mirror at Little Playboy. ‘G-ride’ was a slang term used to refer to a stolen car.

            “Yeah,” Little Playboy replied.

            “You know why you should always get one when you go on a mission, right?” Loner believed that if Little Playboy wanted to be a gangster and participate in the criminal activities that accompanied the lifestyle, he needed to be educated on how to do things properly.

            “Ummm, so the car cain’t get traced to you, I guess.”

            “That’s right.” Loner chuckled then gave Little Lost dap. “Little nigga’s smart!”

            “He gotta be if he wanna be from the big one-trey-five,” Little Lost added.

            They continued traveling in the stolen car down Crenshaw Boulevard. Once the car crossed 120th Street and passed under the overpass of I-105, Little Playboy noticed Little Lost begin to change his appearance. Little Lost put brownies on his hands, and pulled a blue Georgetown Hoya’s beanie that he was wearing – with a large ‘G’ on the front – lower onto his head.

            Little Playboy was wearing a black hooded jacket. As he saw Little Lost preparing himself, he instinctively pulled the hood of his jacket over his head so that he would be partially disguised.

            Upon reaching 116th Street, Loner made a right turn into the territory of the Holly Park Neighborhood Crip Gang. He continued past a section of small apartment buildings facing west  between 116th and 119th Streets. As he continued and turned down each street that he encountered, he saw several young Black males outside. But when he slowed the car, many of them looked to be regular teenagers going about their business, and they did not appear to be gang-affiliated. Despite the widespread media attention that was generated when an innocent victim was hit by gang-related gunfire, many gangbangers made an effort to only target their enemies. That was because they would receive no respect or adulation for harming anyone who was not involved in their lifestyle.

            “Damn, where these mutha fuckas at?” Loner mumbled impatiently.

            “Shit, they probably at the park,” Little Lost responded.

            After turning onto Casimir Avenue, the 135th Street Gangsters found what they were looking for.

            “There some of them go,” Little Lost said.

Two Black males were standing in a driveway that was a few houses away from the corner of 119th Street and Casimir Avenue. Based upon their attire, it was doubtful that they were not gangbangers. Both appeared to be in their 20s. One was wearing a black zipped jacket with gray Dickie pants, and black Converse All Star Shoes. The other man wore a sky blue University of North Carolina sweatshirt, and black jeans. The University of North Carolina sweatshirt was a clear indicator that its wearer was a Neighborhood Crip affiliate, and likely a Holly Park Neighborhood Crip Gang member.

            “Be cool and don’t stare,” Loner said. “I’m gonna roll past, then go back around the block and let ya’ll out.”

            “Alright,” Little Lost acknowledged.

            The car drove past at a normal speed as the two men watched, but they did not seem alarmed by it. Loner then directed the car to turn left onto 116th Street, and made another left onto Wilkie Avenue. They drove towards 119th Street. As the car approached 119th Street, Loner turned off the car’s headlights. Upon reaching the corner, he turned left and stopped the car at the curb near a stop sign on 119th Street. The car faced the direction of opposing traffic.

            Little Lost raised the shotgun that was between his legs, and cocked it, sending a 12-gauge ammunition round into its chamber.

            “Alright,” Loner began. “Go get them niggas. I’ll be right here.”

            Little Lost opened the passenger door, and looked towards the back seat at Little Playboy. “Let’s go.”

            As he exited the car, Little Playboy was filled with anxiety in the same manner he had been before committing the robbery with Wicked and Playboy. But throughout the ride, he had been preparing himself mentally to commit murder.

Before the advent of civilization, murder among humans occurred naturally. It arose when one person’s aggression was caused by anger, jealousy, or another reason, and it compelled them to seek satisfaction by terminating the life of another human being. But when people began forming societies and creating rules to protect them from that aggression, the natural inclination of someone to kill another human was tamed for most people. However, those who violated rules prohibiting the killing of another were punished. And when religions came into being, their rules and edicts supplemented law, while also generating feelings of guilt that were falsely attributed to an innate sense of morality.

            Since Little Playboy had been born into a society in which murder was outlawed, and raised in a home where he was taught to worship an omnipotent deity who condemned people to eternal damnation for killing someone, he was petrified. He did not want to suffer emotional turmoil or incarceration for killing someone. But he knew that he could not refuse to participate in attempting to kill people associated with those who had shot at him. To do so would invite scorn, ridicule, and possible physical harm. Therefore he controlled his anxiety. He comforted himself by thinking that he would survive the incident, just as had many of his associates who he was certain had killed people in the past.

            Little Playboy followed behind Little Lost as the 135th Street Gangsters moved swiftly across the front lawns of the first two houses, as quietly as they could. As they moved, Little Playboy could see their targets standing in the driveway of the residence. The one with the black jacket stood with his back turned to them as the other faced the street. Without stopping, Little Lost increased his speed and raised the shotgun. He held it elevated until they were within 10 yards of the men.

            “RUN!” Someone shouted just before a loud sound was heard.

            BOOM!

            The body of the man with the black jacket began to contort as the 12-gauge bullet penetrated his back. As the bullet struck him, his arms jerked away from his body as his knees buckled, and his body collapsed as his life ended.

            BOOM!

Little Lost cocked the shotgun, and fired another shot at the other man but missed.

            Milliseconds before Little Lost pulled the trigger on the shotgun, the man who had been wearing the University of North Carolina sweatshirt had seen the 135th Street Gangsters moving quickly towards him and his associate, but it was too late. Immediately after he yelled out “run,” Little Lost fired the shotgun. The sound of the shotgun being fired was immediately followed by a stream of .380 caliber bullets, as Little Playboy shot at the Holly Park Neighborhood Crip Gang member who fled. Bullets whizzed by the gangbanger as he ran for his life by running towards 118th Street. As he ran, he noticed himself slowing after feeling a stinging then burning sensation near the shoulder of his right arm. Despite that, he continued running as the bullets reigned upon him, until he turned onto 118th Street, and hid behind a car.

            “Let’s go,” Little Lost instructed Little Playboy. He was beginning to turn around to rendezvous with Loner.

The 135th Street Gangsters ran back towards 119th Street, where Loner waited at the corner. As soon as he heard the gunshots, he moved closer to await the return of his associates. Little Lost and Little Playboy then quickly reassumed their seats in the stolen car.

 

*******

 

            For what seemed like an eternity, but was actually just two minutes, the man who hid behind the car remained there, hoping that his attackers would not pursue hm. He did not move until he heard the doors of nearby houses open, and saw people exit their homes. At that time, bleeding and in pain because he had been shot, he slowly returned to where he had just been speaking to his friend, who lay mortally wounded with a hole through his torso. Since his attackers had not announced their neighborhood – which was done more so in movies than in reality – he did not know who they were. They could have been from any number of enemy gangs, or their presence could have been the result of a personal grudge that someone had against either him or his associates. As such, when he and his associates retaliated, the entire Black male population between ages 13 and 40 was subject to harm. But until that occurred, he would mourn his friend, and recuperate from his injuries.

 

*******

 

            Once Little Lost and Little Playboy had entered the car, Loner sped down 119th Street, and turned on the headlights upon reaching Van Ness Avenue. He then steered the car right onto Van Ness Avenue, passing Holly Park as he began driving towards Gardena. He could see other possible Holly Park Neighborhood Crips at Holly Park, which was outside of the neighborhood, but he and his associates chose to ignore them. After having shot two of them, their new priority was escaping enemy territory without being caught.

            Upon reaching and crossing El Segundo Boulevard, Loner began to drive within the legal speed limit; he and Little Lost also appeared to relax. But as Little Playboy sat in the back seat, he kept mentally replaying the event he had just participated in. He felt guilty for having participated in a murder. Furthermore, he was sure the man in the Black jacket was dead, but he did not know the status of the man who wore the sky blue sweatshirt.

            Little Playboy felt an extreme sense of guilt as his conscious convinced him that what he had done was wrong. The two men had done nothing to him personally, nor was it likely that they had anything to do with shooting at him and his associates. However, they had the misfortune of representing the same gang as the people who did shoot at him, which made them guilty according to the rules of gangbanging in Los Angeles County.

            The two men likely had mothers and other relatives who loved them, and would experience the anguish that accompanied a loved one being severely hurt. There would also be friends and associates of theirs who would also be affected. Although gangbangers who were intent on vengeance would attack those they felt were culpable, they gave little consideration to the fact that many others were affected. And that ignorance created a lot of misery in the Black community.

            But Little Playboy made a conscious choice to gangbang. Shooting and killing people was a part of that lifestyle. Therefore, he knew that he had to develop a way to control his feelings of guilt. People who had killed before said that killing another human being had changed them. If true, Little Playboy knew that he had been changed forever.

            “Let me get that thang back,” Little Lost said as he reached into the back seat towards Little Playboy. Loner stopped the car in front of Little Playboy’s apartment building upon their safe return to their neighborhood.

            Little Playboy handed the handgun to Little Lost without saying anything.

            “You did good. That’s how we put it down when mutha fuckas fuck with us.”

            “Alright,” Little Playboy responded softly as he nodded his head in agreement.

            “Alright little nigga,” Loner said as Little Playboy opened the door, and began to exit the car.

            “Alright Loner.”

            Little Playboy then walked towards the front door of his apartment building, unlocked it with his key, and ascended the stairs as Loner and Little Lost drove away.

            “You back already,” Jasmine asked as Little Playboy entered the apartment. Her son had been gone for approximately one hour.

            “Yeah,” Little Playboy said calmly.

            “What’s wrong?”

            “Nothing, just tired.” The lie that Little Playboy told was betrayed by the emotional trauma that he was experiencing. But he knew that he could not admit to his mother what he had just done.

            “Ok. Just relax and kick it then.”

            “Is grandma home yet?”

            “No, she’s still at church.”

            Little Playboy went to his bedroom, and removed his jacket and shoes. He then sat on the bed and lay on his back, looking up at the ceiling as his eyes began to fill with tears. As he lay there, he acknowledged that one Black man who had awakened that morning full of life, was now dead and his family was left to mourn him. Little Playboy could not stop focusing on that reality. Additionally, he began to question whether he was suited to be a gangbanger who would have to kill others throughout his career. But what he did not yet know, but would learn during private conversations with other gangbangers who would trust him, was that his emotions were common.

            Due to the Christian upbringing of many Black males, some of whom would later became gangbangers in a society in which murder was outlawed, they usually experienced sensations of guilt upon first killing someone. But as they repeated the act and saw that they could evade detection, they became comfortable with it. As a result, their feelings of guilt subsided. Some of Little Playboy’s associates had experienced those emotions, as had many other gangbangers across America.

            Despite how Little Playboy was currently feeling, time and experience would harden his outlook on life.

 

*******

 

            After Little Playboy had left the car and returned to his apartment, Loner backed the stolen car into a driveway across the street from Little Playboy’s apartment building. On the other side of a brick wall that bordered the driveway was the house where Jinx’s mother lived. Although Jinx did not live there, he maintained a room at the location, even though he lived between the homes of various girlfriends.

            “It feels warm,” Jinx said with pride as Loner reached over the brick wall to hand the shotgun to him. Loner had obtained the shotgun from Jinx so that it could be used for their mission. “Did you get them niggas?”

            “Fa sho,” Loner said with a smile. “We laid two of them niggas down.”

            “That’s right cuz.” Jinx then looked at the Honda Accord that Little Lost was waiting in. “But for now, you gotta get that g-ride away from my momma’s house.”

            “Alright big homie.” Loner returned to the car and sat in the driver’s seat.

            “What he say?” Little Lost inquired.

            “He just wanted to make sure we got them niggas.”

            “Yeah, we got ‘em.”

            Loner drove the car out of the driveway. He drove towards 139th Street, turned left, and continued before turning right onto Chadron Avenue and parking the car.

            Using a towel that he had brought with him, Loner began to wipe the interior of the car where he, Little Lost, and Little Playboy might have left fingerprints. Once he and Little Lost were satisfied that no viable fingerprints remained to assist the police in identifying who had stolen the car, they got out of the car and began to walk away. They walked north on Chadron Avenue, crossed 139th Street, and continued midway down the block before taking a shortcut between apartment buildings. It was a quicker way to return to their homes on Lemoli Avenue.

            What began as a calm weekend in which Loner, Little Lost, and their associates expected to do nothing but relax had ended with them being shot at, three additional Black men being shot at, with one injured, and another dead. All of that was the result of misguided young Black males expressing pride in neighborhoods in which they owned nothing. But those facts formed the reality behind many of the ongoing gang wars that existed in Los Angeles County. Their participants were fighting and dying for senseless reasons, completely ingoring the sacrifices made by their ancestors to obtain opportunities for them to succeed.

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As authors it behooves us to keep our egos in check.   We must take care to not fall in love with what we write and remember that we are not doing the public a favor by writing material for them to read.  They are doing us a favor by reading what we write, so self indulgence is luxury we can't afford.  Input from outsiders is important because we are not objective about our work. Friends and like-minded people are not always the best critics of what we write. Being able to take constructive criticism is necessary. 

 

All books can benefit from editing. Someimes "less is more". Unpublished authors should consider that extremly long books can be a deal breaker.  As a reader, long rambling passages or dry expository text don't engross me.  My taste in books runs toward what is concise and tight and - interesting.  

 

Toni Morrison says that reading should not be something that is easy,  implying that it should be something that challenges.  Who's going to dispute Toni?  Easy for her to say because her name is what sells her books. Her audience knows what to expect when picking up one of her books. Fortunately for her fans,  she is good at what she does.    

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The above comments were posted almost simultaneously with the chapters that Jeron provided from his books. My observations were in response to Jeron's posts about his experiences with Hue Man book store and various editors and agents. 

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Cynique, I believe there's a market for everyone's work. The problem is being able to locate one's target audience. As such, just because one person dislikes a particular writer's style or what they write about does not mean that the writer should change how they write and adapt to the desires of critics. While you may have certain preferences, others like myself have preferences that may conflict with yours. I would consider your opinion to have more validity regarding the negativity I encountered if those people who criticized the length of my book had actually read it. However, they hadn't even read one chapter, and offered negative comments based solely on its length. What happened to the old adage about never judging a book by its cover?

 

Although it would be nice to reach critical mass where millions of people read my books, that ultimately is not my goal. I have a story to tell, and I tell it the way that I want it told. You mentioned like-minded people not being good critics. But that is my target audience. By extension, I don't write to please people who lack a certain level of intellect, have short attention spans, and who have no interest in societal affairs. I doubt they would be interested in my writing. My goal is to reach certain types of people, and as long as I succeed in doing that, I can be content with that.

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Jeron I edited your posts to include your book's covers.  I also inked to your excerpts from a page I just created for you: http://aalbc.com/authors/jeron-mccall.html Please let me know when your website is ready and I will link to it from that page.  Also, if you have a video and a head-shot I will post it on a page as well.

 

Cynique is right, when it comes to an author keeping their ego in check.  There are many reasons one would want to keep their books shorter, that have nothing to do with the readers tastes, attention span or intellect.  In the general case shorter is better.

 

Also everyone is not qualified to make a critique.  An opinion, which everyone is entitled to, is not the same thing as a critique. A critic should know more, at lot more than the average person about what they are judging.  Sometimes authors mistake a bookseller's unwillingness to carry a book as a negative critique of that book, when in reality they are making a business decision.

 

It may make perfect sense for a person running a physical store to not invest a lot of time in a very long book, written an unknown author.  Again the business decision of carrying a book is not that same as determine if a book has literary merit.  In an ideal world that might be the case but in the real world it never works out that way.

 

No one familiar with the industry believes that the best books always get published.  Black folks know this more than most, self-published authors know this more than anyone.

 

Sites like mine traditionally could take more time investigating unknown authors.  In the good old days several people would have already read your excerpts and commented on them.  Platforms for this type of exchange have virtually disappeared for Black books (one of many losses in the social media era).  I discovered many excellent books here.  People will discover definitely your books here, and it is possible someone will like them as well :-)

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Troy, 

 

Thanks for adding the covers and creating the page. I appreciate that. I'll let you know when my website goes live again. And I'm sure this website will help me earn some new readers. It's a valuable resource for Black writers and readers.  :)

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