Fridays in the Motor City can be the stuff of legend. Even with temperatures falling like the many orange hued leaves, Detroiters find a multitude of things to do. Downtown undergoes a metamorphosis from business to pleasure once the sun goes down. The success of our sports teams have turbo charged the atmosphere considerably. The Lions are winning. The Tigers went deep into the playoffs. The Red Wings season is just starting but they’re already playing like contenders. The fact that all 3 teams play within blocks of each other has made Downtown the hotbed for excitement! A welcome distraction from harsh economic times.
One Friday in particular came with an unexpected guest! Nationally renowned author and playwright Vincent Alexandria. He was in town for the Motown Book Club hosted by Sylvia Hubbard; to promote is new book Black Rain. Lucky for yours truly, he was able to spare a few hours. I was hoping to get his thoughts on our city. It is always interesting get an opinion of Detroit from someone who lives out-of-state. There is no better person to ask than an author. They are great at capturing the human spirit. That translates into excellent characters for their books.
So, I had the opportunity to talk to one of the top African-American authors with multiple books and plays to his credit. He was featured on BET and is the founder of one of the first African-American stage troupes to perform at the Folley Theater in Kansas City; where he grew up until moving to Houston. I didn’t expect for him to wear a Tigers hat and matching Tigers shirt. I appreciated the love; especially since the Texas Rangers were our opponents in the playoffs.
He was as down to earth and genuine. Not at all different from some of my own southern relatives. He gave me as much advice as possible for my journey as a writer. Stressing the importance of family. It’s easy for a writer to get swept up in their work. Joe Johnson, the main character in his new book, is named after a deceased brother. He recalls with a smile “I promised him that I was going to make him famous”. Then I got to the question that I’d waited hours to ask: What was his impression of our city?
His answer lead back to a subject I wish we could move on from…. Kwame Kilpatrick! I was tired of everybody, everywhere talking about Kwame. It took Vincent to explain to me why Kwame is so significant to us from the outside looking in. Vincent had been here before on several occasions even meeting Kwame himself. Vincent saw how much Kwame meant to us at the time. Kwame was young like us. Grew up in the inner city like us. Kwame had the future of an entire city on his shoulders. A young Mayor coupled with an equally young and strong workforce. The future was looking very bright for our city. From his observation, Kwame had become selfish and lost sight of his impact on the community. Kwame’s fall took all of the Motor City’s hope down with him. If Kwame remained unblemished and focused, his leadership could have been instumental in stabilizing a struggling Detroit economy, Kwame’s fall left Detroit’s hopes deprived. You can see it everywhere. That’s why we can’t just ignore him. That’s why the media concentrates on him. When we lose hope we dwell on the search for why as if every ounce of hope has to be accounted for. Especially when it’s the hope of an entire city. This is Vincent’s take on our city and I couldn’t deny it.
What started as a simple interview, ended with two writers exchanging ideas for the road ahead. Neither of us knew each other before hand but quickly found a kindred spirit in restoring hope and literacy to our individual communities. We agreed that a lot of our black men wind up in prison because of illiteracy and a lack of hope. Literacy makes you powerful. It’s the reason slaves were not permitted to read. Education helps to keep you employed and out of jail. Prison is just another form of slavery and our legal system is steadily enslaving African-American men daily. The decreased number of schools and teachers are also a contributing factor. Like the Marvin Gaye song, “Makes Me Wanna Holla”!
Vincent Alexandria and I met as strangers and parted as friends. We shared ideas and humor like we had known each other for years. Thank You for your time.
As I made my way home, I saw alot of the hope-deprived faces he was talking about. But, I looked in the rearview mirror at my own face and there, I saw hope! I am strengthened and committed to my future and in the years to come, my goal is to infuse as much hope into the city as I can through my writing. Holla if you hear me!
P.S. Thank You Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalist (DC- NABJ) for welcoming me as a member!!!