Sunday, May 29, 2005

Traveler's High. NYC Journal.

They say visiting a place gives you a false sense of what it would be like to actually LIVE there.

So glad my friend Eric has grounded me... because I've fallen in love with NYC so far. The musicals. The cuties. The shopping. The clubs. Even the weather is sunny. So at least a bit of L.A. has come with me.

The only thing I'm not really feeling -- which everyone laughs at me for -- is the walking. L.A. people don't walk. Eeewwwwwww. So weird. And you all know I love the gym, I love cardio, but these long, long walks are just crazy.

So Saturday's journal. Found my publisher's building on 3rd Avenue. Just so I'm on time for our meetings next week. Then explored SoHo, Meat Packing, Chelsea, Greenwich, Times Square (TS is WAY too touristy, will not be there again)... all before checking into my hotel. Caught Brooklyn the musical.

Then my friend Eric caught up with me for a night of bar hopping. XL, Christoph street, G, then to Brooklyn for a black club that had no one there because of the festivities in Miami, Puerto Rico, and DC. Oh well.

Today... meeting Michael for a black arts fest in Brooklyn. Meeting Eric for a little night school, Escuelita, and my buddy Matt from Long Island will be in Monday.

It's Fleet Week too. Carrie Bradshaw action, anyone? lol.

Anyway, I know once my work begins I'll be over this traveler's high. And ready for the sunshine and palms of L.A.

But for the time being, it's great feeling like the new kid on the block. Don't wanna come down.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Every Vote Counts!

Posted by Hello
Especially in the United States, where we get our elections and selections right... ALL the time. Look at these happy voters above!

They're happy because they know their votes will always be counted. None stolen or missing. No chads. No voter intimidation. No long lines. And definitely no looking for ways to keep black and brown people from voting. Not in the U.S. No way. Every vote counts...

Well, especially if it's American Idol. Where over 500 million votes are cast this season alone (more than the last presidential election), and where if there's even a hint of voter fraud, or something not being right, a recount is called for immediately. Hmmm... any accounting firms wanna manage our next local, state, or national elections just to get it right?

Congratulations Carrie Underwood. Simon says America got it right. Maybe in 2008... we can only hope America gets it right.

Maybe we can follow AI's lead in our local and national elections... in terms of voter accuracy... and in terms of getting young people interested in voting... and in terms of following up on ANY implied voter fraud. If AI can do it, our politicians can do it. Heck, they've got WAY fewer votes to count :-)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


Posted by Hello
I love musicals. And live theatre. Acting in general, especially live and on stage, because it's so much more immediate. You get the immediate reaction from the audience to your performance. You see right away how an actor interprets the role, uses the space, projects and dips into subtleties of the character. So cool. Stage actors work so hard. So do soap actors (despite what people say about soaps). Can you imagine memorizing hundreds of pages of dialogue a day-- and getting one or two shots to get it right? I digress...

I acted in one theatre production while in college. A supporting role in the show, Reckless. It was fun and taught me a lot. Did some TV journalism -- Today Show cut ins at 6:25, 7:25, and 8:25 am for a local station and usually a story for noon or 6 pm newscast -- some say that's acting. Well, when you look at how stories are fed to reporters from the government, it's totally acting, no true journalism today. I digress... as usual, again.

There are shows I'd like to see while in NYC. Good luck, huh, on such short notice.

But... I post the BKLYN musical poster because I have a strong affinity toward Brooklyn. And I don't even live there. A couple of my childhood friends (Detroit era) live there, so does my literary agent, and my editor. And the few letters or e-mails I get -- the majority are from Brooklyn. And they all tell me the best, most progressive and open-minded folks live in Brooklyn.

Hmmm... could I live there? Who knows? But in this stage production of life, we get one shot of getting it right before the audience. In this case, I'm my own audience. Couldn't imagine moving cross country (I hate moving), but might audition and test the waters next week.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Prepping for New York

So the journey to New York continues. Today, got some great calls and correspondences from/with my editor at Kensington, John, and my agent, Nicholas. Talked about my schedule for Book Expo America... and I'll be signing on all three days of the conference, attending various receptions, and meeting all sorts of booksellers. I'm nervous and excited since this is my first time dealing with "the business" of publishing.

But I'll be okay. Editor and agent say just be myself, and catch the flies with honey and not vinegar.

With the agent, so exciting to continue our journey together as we prep the second novel for "the process" -- revision, shopping it around, etc... He's so feeling book number two and every time I think about this, I realize how important it is to work with an agent who really feels you and your work. So important.

Got a billion things on my to-do list. Geez Louise. Not enough time between now and Friday. And I'm still taking suggestions for New York to-do, to-see, to-attend events...

ps... my vote is for Carrie Underwood :-)
(though it really should have been a Mario, Anwar, Carrie three-way final)

Bookstore Events... The Must Do Thing

Going to author readings and signings is a fun thing to do. You get to hear authors describe their books in their own words, understand more about the meaning behind what you're reading, and learn the correct pronounciation of names in the book.

Monday night at Esowon Books on LaBrea in L.A. I got to see Tayari Jones read from and talk about her newest novel, The Untelling, which was released in April. It was a great event. A nice audience of a "Who's Who" among black writers, teachers, social workers, and other citified professionals.

Among them: Dana Johnson, author of the short story collection Break Any Woman Down, who won the Flannery O'Connor Award for short fiction; and Chris Abani, whose novel Graceland was a Today Show pick and won just about every other fiction award in 2005. I haven't read Chris' book yet, but Dana's short story collection is one that I revisit and read often... and I am not a big short story person usually. You will love the stories in her collection. Trust. And then of course another great group of people to meet was the Esowon Books staff.

Anyway, it was a treat getting to meet so many legends and legends in the making. Tayari is chock full of jokes and quips. And at one point she had all the writers in the store introduce themselves and blurb a bit about their projects. Very cool. Most importantly, I walked away with more appreciation for The Untelling and now have to re-read it because of things I missed or didn't get the first time I read. Her novel, Leaving Atlanta, is now very relevant with the re-opening of the Atlanta Child Murders case. Go get that novel too.

The thing about going to bookstore events is this... you get to meet authors, they're inexpensive, you meet cool people with similar interests, and you walk away with an autograph, cool new books, and can impress your date with your knowledge of things literary. Or even if you don't know things literary, you can impress each other trying to learn.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Secrets are a key to good fiction.

If you're keeping a doozie, or just want to read others' secrets, take a look at the Post Secret blog. Some of these lines could be a great opening line for fiction you're working on.

In my novel, Down For Whatever, each of the four main characters has secrets. Keith Hemmings is a preacher's kid keeping his whole life a secret from others. Marco Antonio Vega is keeping his love for a "regular" guy from his family who loves his "Hollywood" guy. Tommie Jordan keeps his insecurities about not being good enough for his boursghie (spelling?) college boy a secret... for a while. And Rafael Dominguez has secret relationships with pretty much EVERYONE in L.A., East L.A., and the San Gabriel Valley.

We've all got secrets. Things we don't want others to know. Some, we want to be found out. To free us. To make good publicity. To be talked about.

Lots of secrets... but overall a lot of fun at Long Beach Pride event this weekend. Met hundreds of people. Oskar, Daniel, and I handed out thousands of Down For Whatever postcards. Mostly at the Hip Hop and Latin stages, but all over the festival grounds. The funny thing is when you tell people you're a writer, they want to open up about their secrets. They want to know if you'll base a character or story on their live or story. Interesting how that happens.

Unfortunately, while all the stories I heard yesterday were interesting and fascinating, half of them I don't remember. Well, I do... but thanks to one too many adult beverages, I've forgotten most of the secrets people shared with me.

Maybe it's a good thing I'm holding so many secrets.

Tayari Jones at Esowon Books, L.A.

If you're in L.A., check out Tayari Jones today (Monday, May 23) at 7 pm at Esowon Books. 3655 S. LaBrea.

She'll be reading and signing her book, The Untelling. It should be a great event. Bring a friend or two.

Saturday, May 21, 2005


Posted by Hello
Hey you. It's me. Fred. Writer. Social justice advocate. Community activist. Church boy. Private Dancer (uh, just kidding on that part, but not the next...) E! True Hollywood Story candidate. Uh... is my family reading this? Hehehehe.

One week 'til New York City and NCORE and BEA. Thanks for the suggestions of the must dos, must don't, must sees, and must avoids while there. I hope to do so much, and to meet my blog brothas and sistas, and have such a blast... that I'll come back to L.A. with a mess of stories.

It's hot in L.A. this weekend. Like 90-degree hot. L.A. people complain about everything. It's too cold, it's too hot, too windy. I'm not complaining, after living through 45 below zero winters in Detroit and Chicago. Anyway, lots going on, especially in Long Beach, CA. on Saturday and Sunday. Can't wait to hit the beach and can't wait to not remember a darn thing I do. lol.

So picture this. Saturday morning. On a recovery mission from two Bacardi and diet Cokes. Check my e-mail and guess what? A LOVE-FILLED note from my literary agent, Nicholas. He loves my second novel manuscript a lot. "That's so freaking cool," as one of the main characters in the second novel would say. I'm sure you'll love it too, but let's just get through DOWN FOR WHATEVER first. Hehehehe. But that's good news. Because you want your agent to like your work and to be critical and to think you're growing in your skills. Props to Nicholas, from the BK.

Heading to a "street team" marketing meeting this morning with Oskar and Daniel, who along with Maliko, will be marketing themselves, err..., Down For Whatever, in Miami next weekend. Then going to a couple stores to find a pair of shoes. Then starting my "Remember Nothing, Remind Me What I Did Later" weekend. (Uh, if I've been "hanging out" with you, or you're judging like Judy, you can ignore what I just wrote... it's a dream... kinda like Dallas/Bobby Ewing/blah blah blah)

Hence, the E! True Hollywood Story comment at the top of the blog. Next time someone gives you grief for something you did, that THEY think is a mistake in judgment, just tell them this: "I'm gathering material for my E! True Hollywood Story!" That's my line, but you can use it freely. Actually, I think one of my characters uses that line. So now it's yours. Hehehehe.

Hope you get some great material going for your E! True Hollywood Story! Tell us all about it... well, at least what you can remember :-)

Blissfully yours,

Thursday, May 19, 2005


I love sushi. I just don't know how to order it. Love the texture, the taste, the total experience of authentically prepared sushi. Yummmmmm.....

Got to taste a bit tonight. With a good new friend. Hadn't had sushi in a while. Hope to have some more real soon. If the good new friend asks and has time.

Don't ask what I ate tonight. Just know it was yummy. Tokio. Hollywood. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Kylie Minogue

Posted by Hello
Kylie Minogue is one of my favorite performers.

Who wasn't into 2001's most addictive hook: "la-la-la, la-la, la-la-la" in "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" from the Fever CD? Most of us are, or have been, closet or open Kylie fans.

Her fans and family are now praying for a fast and healthy recovery for Kylie as she has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She's 36. Undergoing treatment. Expecting a full recovery in time.

Thousands are affected each year by different forms of cancer. Early detection and treatment are so important.

Cancer has affected many in my family to different degrees. I hope you will take an oppportunity to encourage others and yourself to visit your doctor soon and on a regular basis for checkups. No matter what age you are. No matter how active and health conscious you are. Your health matters.

Making A Difference

This morning when I got to my office, a young man was sitting outside on a sofa... waiting for me to open up. Our space is a community space, where people can come in and use computers, the microwave, talk cultural and community issues, find resources and information, learn about progressive politics, and relax throughout the day.

I started off the day as usual... de-alarming the space, turning on all lights and equipment, put my lunch away, and got my office space prepared (which is set apart from the community space.)

Saw the young man just sorta looking around. Not like he was looking for trouble. I could see that he was probably facing trouble, or some dilemma, that he wanted to get off his chest. He knew my name, Fred, though I had never met or seen him around the space before.

So I talked with him. Or rather, listened. All he needed was 30 minutes, some referrals to community resources and agencies for his specific dilemma, and someone to listen to him. I could tell he was just an ordinary person facing what he thought was an extraordinary dilemma or experience. After, he said just getting it out was cathartic and made the dilemma seem not so significant in the grand scheme of things.

Everyday we are faced with choices. To be helpers. To be blockers. To be the one person who might make a difference, make someone's life a bit easier. To be the one personable and helpful person in the midst of a bureaucracy and difficult system (for those of you who work customer service... or in a government office 9 to 5 setting).

Not saying I'm totally innocent, or even close to being a saint (I'm far from it, believe me), but one thing I have learned from my years of family and church upbringing is that WE (collectively) may be the only "higher powerly" touch a person may get in a day. And we never know when we're the role model someone is looking at. Or the person someone may consider going to just to share a burden. Or the person who a young person wants to know or be mentored by. You never know.

I hope you're making a difference in whatever way you can (and most of you are already, and not knowing it) today and everyday.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Writers... Write

Posted by Hello
OK writers. You say you don't have time to write?
Try this. It'll only take 5 mintutes.

Look at the picture.
What comes to mind?

Start your pens or keyboards now.
5 minutes... go 10 if you dare...

What did you come up with?
This may be a regular feature... since so many of you e-mail me about your writing dreams and goals. I want to see your dreams come true.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My Neck, My Back

I need a chiropracter. Or at least a good massage tonight.

Went to see the musical Into The Woods tonight at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Well, I saw about 50% of it. The woman sitting in front of me had big hair. I mean BIG hair. Like this.

I couldn't see above, around, beyond it most of the time. Had my neck tilted up toward the ceiling most of the time trying to see the stage. Luckily, the music was great and I could at least hear the show.

But right now... my neck, my back... now all I need is Khia on soundtrack right now.

Hmmm... can you get a refund for a show or movie you never got to watch because of the big hair in front of you?

Saturday, May 14, 2005


When you're young, innocent, and naive about the world in college or high school, you have all these fantasies about what life will be like at 30. (Why is the bar set so low at 30 anyway??? 30s are the new 20s... and the 20s are about exploring, experimenting, traveling, adventuring, living like it's golden after college, right??? So why not lump 'em all together???)

  • Spouse or partner.
  • 2.5 kids.
  • House with picket fence and nice backyard.
  • Tons of money to spare.
  • Able to take care of parents and younger cousins in college.
  • One major and two minor vacations a year.
  • Credit cards with high limits, low balances.
  • Making a difference in the lives of others.
  • A career that you're in love with, and co-workers you love being around.
  • That mysterious place/feeling called HAPPY.
  • Lots of LOVE.

Something happens along the way. Life. Hmmm... Easy for some. Hard for most. Every test makes us stronger.

Just reflecting. Been doing that a lot lately, as I get closer to the publication date of Down For Whatever. What's going to change? What will remain the same? Am I grounded enough to handle everything that comes my way... or doesn't? Am I courageous and faithful enough to Say Something Else when obstacles come my way?

Will my fantasies come true?

Enough midnight philosophy. Bedtime. I got a hot date with a stairmaster and some weights in the morning. Oooh. So freaking hot. Then watching this show on Saturday night -- Kate Rigg's Chink-O-Rama. After that??? Fantasyland...

Say Something Else: Choir Concert

The gospel choir concert was well worth my time. An evening of praise and worship, singing and dancing, meeting and greeting.

CSULA and CSUN Gospel Choirs rocked the house. CSULA mini-group, CBS (Curtis, Brittany, Sharifa), rocked a gospel rap: Say Something Else. Words can't describe. Just tell the haters, the devil, the repetitive people, the naysayers: Say Something Else!

Quella, Alex, and Shaquita -- the Porters rocked!

Alright. Bed time. Or is it?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Errbody... Errwhere... Errtime

Posted by Hello
Nelly. Tonight. Universal City.
That's L.A. for the East Coast and international readers.

My tickets?
Oh. My bad.

I volunteered to help with and attend a gospel choir concert tonight.
That's why I'm missing J's birthday party (entry below...) That's why I'm missing Nelly.

Friday the 13th.
Gets me errtime...

Happy Birthday J.

Posted by Hello
Happy Birthday J.
Aaah. To be 23 again.

Buddy. Pal. Creative inspiration.
Spontaneous. Fun loving. Cool.
Street credibility. 4.0 intelligence. Hip hop sensibilities.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

NYC Bound

Posted by Hello
Heading to NYC. First time. Two weeks from now. May 28 - June 5.

Going for two different conferences:
National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
Book Expo America

Presentations. Book Signings. Receptions. Meeting & Greeting.

I know a bunch of you are from NYC. So what's the deal? Where to go? What to do? How to spend (limited) free time? Gimme some must-sees, must-dos, and must-stay-aways, por favor :-)

And if you've been to BEA before, I definitely need your words of wisdom and advice... What's a new author to do?

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Posted by Hello
Me... on the left. Looking kinda short, huh?

Thanks to the magic of Hollywood, and creative shooting, my normally average 5'9 self looks like I'm 4'9. Or is it that my friends Joseph (in the middle) and Johnny (on the right) are like in their 6's and I'm standing about two feet behind them.

Anyway, just one more pic from the Vanessa Williams night a couple weeks ago. Joseph's about to graduate, do some post-bac work before heading off to med school on the East Coast (fingers crossed). Johnny's a grad student and filmmaker looking for a dream internship/job with a major studio in L.A. (fingers crossed).

I've got more pics coming up soon... Frederick Smith, the Down For Whatever author at work, at play, on the town in L.A.

Have a nice day!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

If You Are Late, You Are A No-Show

That means go home and have a nice day.

I once worked at a place where that sign was on the door. Once the door closed, and you were late, you were a no-show. Don't come back. Don't get paid. Enjoy your day off. Hope you find another job. Especially if you didn't call in advance... and that calling in advance was a RARE thing (like basically never!!!) At the time, as a teenager, you hate that. But then you realize it's teaching you to be a responsible global citizen. That your actions have consequences and affect others.


I work in a day job where deadlines are important. Especially for big events. Especially when dealing with hundreds of people relying on you. Especially when one mistake or delay can throw off a process for everyone else.

Where paying attention to your e-mail correspondences on a daily basis is important. Because with a large number of people we communicate with, it is impossible to do one-on-one calls with everyone.

You'd think graduation and registering for graduation would be a priority if you're a senior... and if you really care about participating in a ceremony... and if you know this is an important day for your family. You'd think...

But people don't think. People think because 1) They couldn't find your office; 2) They live 50 miles away and only commute in once a week; 3) They never "knew" about a deadline... that it means we can make individual exceptions for their irresponsibility.

It is an excuse.

And unfortunately, it's fellow people of color, in this case, black people, who are making my job difficult with sob stories.

I hate this.

Now, I'm not one to talk about how I was raised. But I will in this case... My family taught us to honor time -- our own and other people's. Getting to work, to a meeting, to church, to whatever... is important. It's a sign of respect, courtesy, honor, and integrity. The same for deadlines. We were taught a deadline is the latest day, so why not be the earliest when turning in forms, payments, papers requested. I don't know about you, but our family didn't/doesn't operate on "CP" time. Most of the time, "CP" time is another word for an excuse for not taking responsibility.

So what am I to do? I am hearing a million sob stories about why I couldn't, why this isn't fair, why can't you make an exception, I never knew... and it's driving me batty.

Why can't people take responsibility, read through materials, get informed, and be on time? Geez... it's not that difficult.

Gym Tales

So good morning everyone. Feeling good. Did the 5:30 am gym thing. Enjoying my stairmaster and weights date. When all of a sudden he appeared. Braided Ponytail Psycho Man. I've told you about him before. He stalks his ex-girlfriend and I guess he was looking for her this morning. Scary. Eyes aglaze. Looking all around. Ponytail swinging. She wasn't there. Lucky her.

Diet and gym stories are so much fun. My buddy, fellow writer of the upcoming novel, Conversations With The Fat Girl, keeps a very fun blog on the perils and joys of losing weight, the gym, and food. So fun... check it out! She's a good friend.

Last night's entry... ancient history. I'm cool. Just enjoying the movie about Sylvia Plath's life. I understand a number of writers have than artist's angst... about life, their creative process, how their work is being perceived. The whole subject is interesting to me. Artist angst. I don't think I have angst. Who knows? Maybe I do.

Have a fabulous day!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Enjoying Wine, Watching Sylvia, Questions

Tipsy. Not really. It's Monday. Kind of my day of rest. No gym. No late night at the office. Just taking care of writer correspondences and watching a very interesting movie about the life and mind of a writer.


Starring Gwyneth Paltrow. As the Lady Lazarus.

Interesting combination drinking wine, seeing the torment and heartache of a fellow writer, and thinking about how crazy fun mad it can be getting ready to be an official member of the writing life. Published life. It's a great movie so far, though the drama and angst of her life... are writers destined to have drama-filled life? Does drama fuel the creative process? Can you have a drama-free life and still create compelling stories?

Met some cool people this weekend. Designers. Baseball and softball players. Attorneys. Writers. Regular workers without cool titles. Nothing wrong with being a regular worker without cool titles. Can be the source of a lot of fun and good times, oh yeah. Can working class and professional class combinations work? The whole college/no college thing? If they live thousands of miles away from you? What are the rules about meeting someone who's got someone? What if it's bad? What if there's a crack in the foundation? What if... Just curious about what you think... I think about the saying: If they cheated to get with you, they'll cheat to leave you.

Sylvia's just recited one of several great one-liners in the film: "I'm thinking of trying something new. I'm thinking of taking on a lover."

Back to Sylvia. Back to finishing up a glass of wine. Funny how one glass can buzz you when your day's meal has been lunch... salmon, vegetables, diet soda, apple slices. No time for breakfast today except coffee. Dinner... veggie sandwich and glass of wine. Veggie sandwiches are good and practically 0 points and filling -- lettuce, tomato, onion, mustard, cilantro, pickle, mushrooms, whole grain bread-- and kicked off the successful WW plan for me. More on that later...

I'm cool. Sylvia... is another story. Probably need to study her life more to understand her angst. Most writers I don't think are as... hmmm.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cydney Rax and Book Remarks

If you're into books written by and about black authors, one website you need to check out is Book Remarks.

Created and maintained by Cydney Rax, Book Remarks keeps you updated on current and upcoming books of interest. Primarily fiction, but some non-fiction too.

Cydney is an author herself. Her first novel, My Daughter's Boyfriend, debuted last summer in hardback. From the title, you can tell it's a steamy rollercoaster ride of passion, heat, and drama. It will be released in paperback this summer, and Cydney is at work on her second novel, My Husband's Girlfriend, which will debut shortly.

In addition to her duties maintaining Book Remarks and writing, Cydney helps to create and nurture new authors and those with aspirations in publishing. She's been a big help and cyber-shoulder to lean on during these months leading up to the publication of my novel, Down For Whatever. She was one of the first to link to my website, feature information about my book on her site, and allow me to ask her questions about the first-book process since she had just gone through the process.

Take a look and send Cydney some cyber hits and some love from those who like books by and about black people. Check out her blog too!

Erica Kane-Martin...Montgomery

Posted by Hello
Erica Kane is at it again. The resident diva of All My Children is walking down the aisle this month for her 10th marriage. That would make her, OK, this is a mouthful:

Erica Kane-Martin-Brent-Cudahy-Chandler-Montgomery-Montgomery-Chandler-Marick-Marick- (Montgomery is forthcoming again!)

That's exciting.

Only in soaps can someone endure 10 husbands in 30 years. Oh, I forgot about Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky. Dreams can come true.

Sometimes, when drinks have been consumed, my friends and I have played the Erica/Elizabeth last name game, reminiscing on the last names we could have taken on of former dates. But, since no drinks are being consumed at the time of this writing, I can't remember/reveal mine (as if... there are that many.)

But, if you dare... what is your Erica/Elizabeth last name?

Happy strolling down memory lane... and enjoy the 10th husband, Erica Kane!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Meeting Vanessa Williams, part 1.

Posted by Hello
Hey... that's me, Frederick Smith, author of DOWN FOR WHATEVER, in the middle. Vanessa Williams on left. Daria on right. More on the evening in a minute. Boy, do I look sleepy, nervous, star struck, all of the above. The next entry and picture are a lot better. This is from a lecture she did at Cal State Los Angeles on Thursday, April 28, 7 pm in the Golden Eagle Building. Fun night for all! (Don't ask me what was going on with my eye... I'm far from having a weird eye... hmmm...)

Vanessa Williams, part 2

Posted by Hello
A bunch of folks from Cal State Los Angeles at the Vanessa Williams lecture. That's Vanessa in the middle of Melrose Place and Soul Food - the Showtime Series - fame. That's me on the far left. Always jumping in someone's picture. Daria, Johnny, Que, and company.

Anyway, let me just say that Vanessa Williams is so down-to-earth, friendly, sista-girl honest, and socially conscious. Where do I begin with what she talked about and how she moved the crowd.

First, she opened up by reading entries from a new chapbook she's written and published. She read a short story about her life growing up in Brooklyn, specifically about a teenage crush on the Puerto Rican bodega boy, Julio. It was steamy hot story. Then, Vanessa read another story about a love triangle involving two women and a man. This story became the basis for a short film she wrote and directed for Showtime called Dense. (Funny remark of the night was when she said all those old relationship dramas make for good storylines for projects you're wanting to work on... of course fictionalized.)

Dense screened at many Pan African film fests and other independent film fests this winter and spring. It also aired on Showtime. Very good film -- the dialogue, the cinematography, the acting. Vanessa did a great job on the film, and this was the basis for the question and answers at the end.

Vanessa dished on everything: the Melrose Place season (a great experience, fun cast... then when the format changed to more of a soap, the staff couldn't exactly see Rhonda sleeping with Jake... thanks for your services!); moving to L.A. (got the Melrose gig within a year of moving to town... probably thanks to the buzz on her New Jack City role); black-and-brown dramas (there is definitely a demand and a future in these projects, thanks to the Soul Food series).

One of the defining moments of the night was when Vanessa talked about ancestry, genes, and the recent developments in DNA testing that can help black people trace their roots. Prior to this, the main way to explore geneology was through the oral tradition, story telling, or maybe through newspapers and public records. This winter, Vanessa participated in a DNA-ancestry search and was able to trace her roots through her maternal side to the African country of Cameroon. (You can research how to do this by checking out any of these sites: African Ancestry, or African Ancestry Inc.)

Vanessa and her husband Andre (a Detroit native like me) are a great creative team. Overall, a good night. A good program. Thanks Cross Cultural Centers at Cal State L.A. (And thanks Vanessa for the encouragement with the novel! Thanks for wanting to read about "my mess"!)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Jamie Washington and Vernon Wall

Last month I had a nice visit to Nashville... as you may recall. While there, I connected with a couple professional colleagues whom I consider legends and great people I always looked up to in terms of their contributions to education, knowledge of diversity, and general friendliness and welcoming personalities. Never really talked with them, but would always see them at annual ACPA Conferences, smile, wave, head back to California. This year, I made an effort to say something to both... and I wanted to give a short shout-out to both.

Dr. Jamie Washington and Dr. Vernon Wall.

I attended a couple presentations they were both involved with this year at ACPA in Nashville. Highly recommended facilitators, speakers, or general diversity consultants for your school, business, or organization.

Book them now before their summer and fall calendars fill up!

Monday, May 02, 2005

The Vanessa Williams (Soul Food) Post Is Coming

The post on the Vanessa Williams (Melrose Place/Soul Food -- the Showtime series) lecture and film screeening is coming. Waiting for pictures so I can post with the entry.

In the meantime... Fred's Top 5 at the moment are:
1. We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
2. Mesmerized by Faith Evans
3. Alone by Heart (yeah, it's like 20 years old... but been in heavy rotation with me since Carrie Underwood did it on American Idol a month or so ago)
4. Slow Down by Bobby Valentino
5. Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani