Everybody has a story. I've carried bits and pieces of mine around in my head for decades - always convinced that I would commit at least some portion of it to paper one day. Return of the African Diaspora is probably the closest I will ever come to writing my story. I have intertwined my protagonist's characterization with some of my own experiences, although snippets came from candid conversations I had with strangers on late-night flights as well, mixed in with tales and exploits of people I have known over the years. It's all bundled together in such a way that only my closest friends and relatives are likely to recognize the parts that are truly from my own life's journey.
Safe Haven in a Small College Town
Coming of age in Tuskegee during the tumultuous '60s was an experience like none other, and the town provided a natural backdrop for portions of my novel. Back in the day, it was a shining example for black America; we had numerous role models who had empowered themselves and taken full control of their destiny. As violence ran rampant in the southern United States, our Alabama college town of less that 12,000 provided safe haven for its predominantly black citizens. Our sanctuary was courtesy of a former slave who convinced white politicians to fund and establish the "Negro Normal School in Tuskegee," in exchange for voter support in their re-election bids. Life for blacks there became a sharp contrast to the realm of terror that was the norm for blacks living in many other areas of the South, once federal troops were recalled from protecting them thirteen years after the Civil War ended. It was nearly a hundred years before Tuskegee's serenity was finally penetrated by the post-war violence. In 1966, as students of all colors and religions began to play central roles in the fight for equal protection under the laws of the U.S., we tearfully mourned the loss of our own "fallen son." Ironically, the town's reputation for "firsts" continued even in our loss, as his death bore the dubious distinction of being the nation's first college student death in the Civil Rights Movement. Even at that, we remained surprisingly unaffected by the perpetual violence that surrounded our small community.
The majority of us made the expected progression from high school into the college, only a few blocks away, and our ranks swelled as we were joined by promising black students from all over the nation. We never felt intimidated by discrimination since we had college professors who made successful appeals before the U.S. Supreme Court, and thwarted attempts by white lawmakers to dilute the black vote. We had friends whose fathers were fighter pilots during World War II, and we shared the birthplace of the civil rights icon whose brave action became the catalyst for ending discrimination of all kind around the world. The Skegee Spirit of accomplishment for my generation upped the ante significantly for the generations to follow. We contributed internationally renown rock stars and songwriters (country music no less); nationally acclaimed radio personalities and philanthropists; award winning comedians; Olympic level athletes and coaches; a creative inventor of toys that have literally 'soaked' millions; nationally recognized sex therapists; and the list goes on and on.
Hooked on Politics
Politics has played an important role in Tuskegee since the college was founded in 1881. I inherited my love of politics from my father and spent many days of my childhood glued in front of the television set with him, watching as the democrat and republican parties nominated their candidates for U.S. President. Armed with a B.S. degree in Political Science, I marched courageously to the nation's capital after graduation, to help manage the U.S. House of Representative's Legislative Information Office on Capitol Hill. Okay, I really caught a ride to D.C. in a comfortable van, but I'm sure you get my point. As a safeguard to the health of one of my two children, I made my way back to the South again. I had the honor of assisting constituents in the Atlanta district office of Congressman John Lewis, another giant of the Civil Rights Movement, through a maze of federal issues relating to the "tired and the poor."
Later still, I landed a position assisting the Ghanaian executive whose pioneering and creative genius brought integrated state-of-the-art wireless telecommunications to sub-Saharan Africa. Once again, my desire to connect with the Motherland was stirred, and I finally made my pilgrimage to Ghana in 2002. Like my protagonist, my life changed dramatically during my visit to slave castles on the Gulf of Guinea, and I was inspired to take up my pen as Return of the African Diaspora – Part I of a two part series - began to evolve in my head.
As I listened to President Obama's address before the Ghanaian Parliament during his historic visit in 2009, I became convinced more than ever that my protagonist's vision, for healing the relationship between the Diaspora in America and Mother Africa, may yet become a reality. That vision echoes my true purpose for writing this book.