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It Never Stops

Yes, June is Pride Month, in commemoration of the Stonewall riots that took place on June 27, 1969 and lasted three days. It was a time when LGBT folks said, “Enough,” and fought back against the police harassment that was a common practice for far too long. And leading the pack of social resistance were transwomen of color such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

With June also comes Father’s Day. I have no doubt that among my readers are brothas who stand at the intersection of being LGBT/SGL and a parent. There are those of you who became fathers via a wife or girlfriend, as well as those who did so via adoption or surrogacy.

The dynamics were different between my father, who had me at the age of 19, and myself, who became a father at 47. There is one common thread: being a parent never stops. My father passed away nine years ago, and I look at my mother, who is now 91. Yep—no matter how old she is, she has never stopped being a mother.

I remember well when my son was a baby, those days of discovery and “firsts.” I found out fast that I could no longer just get up and go anywhere, not when I had to pack a bag of Pampers, formula, pacifiers, wipes, a toy, and a change of clothes for him before I stepped out the door. I remember the sound advice I was given about sleeping when he slept. During paternity leave, I realized how exhausting caring for a newborn can be when I found myself too tired to pick up the remote. And then there were the trips to the pediatrician to treat his ear infections.

At the same time, I remember our bonding times, when I read him a story every night at bedtime, his first word being “Daddy,” or that special beaming smile just for me, and seeing the world through his eyes.

Of course, as they do, he grew up. He was a little kid with a big personality, and I was committed to being a father that was there for his successes in school and not just when he faced discipline there. I enjoyed the activities we did together, and I looked forward to seeing him walking home from the bus stop after school. Being a father meant coming out to support him, whether it was a school concert or a basketball game. The fact that he remembers all the time we spent together now makes me realize the importance of being present as a father.

And then we blinked, and he was a (gasp!) teenager. By this time I had a husband (thanks to my little matchmaking son), and with our respective parenting skills we were navigating this new phase. Interestingly enough, though we certainly had our make-us-pray moments with him, he regarded having two dads as another fact of life, and he had no problem inviting his friends over, and occasionally a girlfriend.

We blinked again. Now he is 21. It’s certainly been a learning experience for both of us. In him, I see facets of my personality as well my husband’s, and yet he is his own person. His taste in music is eclectic; as much as he listens to rap and hip-hop, my Millennial son also has a taste for Old School music, disco, and Pachelbel. His cell phone is essentially another body part. When it comes to his friends, the close friends he has he’s loyal to. I have no doubt that he picked up the travel bug from my father, my brother, and myself. He has big dreams, and he’s not afraid of hard work. Therefore, I wish him good luck and good success.

Now that he is a young adult, I am no longer in an active role as a father. I’ve been learning to step back into an advisory role, the trick being to give advice only if and when he asks for it. I applaud his choice to wait until he’s older and established before he has kids. I must take that step back and allow him to take responsibility for his own life and the rewards and consequences that go with it.

I was once told that being a parent is the toughest job on the planet, but it can also be the most rewarding, even when the rewards come some years down the road. I’ve learned the importance of living my life authentically as a Black LGBT/SGL man, for trust and believe, our children are taking their cues from us. My son and I have had our share of deep and lively discussions as well as differences of opinion, but whenever he goes out, he says, “I love you.” As a father, that touches my heart.

I may be an Old School New Kid, but being a dad never stops.

Allan Beckley Christopher, Then and Now

As you may know from my previous blog post, the sixth novel in my Christopher Family Novel series has been launched: The Right to Be, my first LGBT-centered romance novel. However, The Right to Be could only have been made possible through Mark My Words and the character nearest and dearest to my heart: Allan Beckley Christopher, African American billionaire mogul, the linchpin character to my series, a man who succeeded against the odds.

From his humble beginnings in Kansas City, Missouri, to his current status as billionaire and Chairman of the Board of Christopher Electronics, Allan Beckley Christopher, now at the age of 93, is a work in progress. However, as inquiring minds want to know, what was my inspiration for creating this character?

All too often, in reading fictional stories about African American men (especially when I was a young adult), they were portrayed in the following categories:

  1. Down and out.
  2. Broke, busted, and disgusted.
  3. Deadbeat dads.
  4. Unemployed.
  5. On drugs.
  6. Incarcerated or on their way there.
  7. Dead.

If they were considered successful, the images were relegated to the narrow range of sports, entertainment, or illegal gain, and I knew that wasn’t the whole truth.

African American men have made countless contributions to this country as inventors such as Garrett Morgan and entrepreneurs like John H. Johnson. These proud, hardworking, highly successful men with strong values, integrity, and ethics have always been a part of our history–they just weren’t getting the attention or the energy.

In my own family, my father had a distinguished career in the Air Force. He taught himself how to program computers, and implemented the system at his Air National Guard base they they use today. One of my uncles was the first African American executive for the Dayton-Hudson Corporation (later Target), and trained future Minnesota governor Mark Dayton. Another uncle built and designed computers for Honeywell. Another had a career as a vice-principal and educator. Family friends owned their own businesses.

At the time, when creating what was then this self-made, African American multimillionaire (he did it in the 1960s), two outcomes came up: he would either do everything possible to forget his roots or reach back and avidly support the community that nurtured him. In the case of Allan Beckley Christopher, he chose the latter.

When I added in the African American men in Black History I read about to those I knew personally, the character of Allan Beckley Christopher took shape as a composite of all of them. The ultimate test, of course, came when my father read Mark My Words from cover to cover. Did this character represent Black men of his generation? I am pleased to say that his answer was a resounding yes.

As such, Allan is included in every book in this series of stories about his large, extended, wealthy, and powerful family. They are designed to be read in sequence, so you can start with Mark My Words and learn about him, what made him who he is today, through the people who were there for him from the beginning. In order, the series consists of Mark My Words (Books 1, 2, and 3), You Never Know, Never Give Up, and The Right to Be.

At the end of the day, the character of Allan Beckley Christopher is a man who believed in dreams and never gave up. He is waiting to share his story with you at your Amazon or Barnes & Noble library. If you reside in Minnesota or Des Moines, check out the Christopher Family Novel series at your public library.

Yaassss! The Right to Be is live!

Yes, there is a new resident in Romancelandia: The Right to Be: A Christopher Family Novel, the sixth in my series, is live. In previous posts, I have given you excerpts of this work-in-progress. Now, the dream of writing a LGBT-centered romance novel featuring a Black male couple has become the reality I’m holding in my hands for the first time. As an author, the feeling of it is indescribable, something I never get tired of.

In the words of Toni Morrison, “If there is a book you wish to read, and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must be the one to write it.” My favorite recreational reading? Romance novels, hands down. A friend of mine gave me my first romance novel some 30 years ago, and the rest is history. Between the public library and later Kindle Unlimited, I have had at least one romance novel on hand to read at all times. I’ve read some wonderful stories, but at some point, I did wonder, “Where are the characters who look like me? Where are the couples who look like me?”

In the realm of Black Love in male/female romance, I must thank such authors as Brenda Jackson, Niobia Bryant, Cheryl Barton, and Rochelle Alers. For lesbian romance, I tip my hat to Alyssa Cole and Fiona Zedde. Male/male romance, like lesbian romance, has but few Black residents in Romancelandia, but it’s good to know that such authors as Jayce Ellis, Kevin E. Taylor, Wyatt O’Brian Evans, James Earl Hardy, Stanley Bennett Clay, and Frederick Smith are with us, as well as the late E. Lynn Harris.

Although I had romance elements in the previous novels in my series, The Right to Be marks the first one that is full-on romance. If you have been following the Christopher Family Novel series, expect to see some familiar family members. That being said, get ready to follow Allan Christopher Davis’ journey to true love and happiness.

I have no doubt that there are many of my brothas and sistahs out there who have a romance novel or more in you that needs to be told and shared. I encourage you to write it. Publish it yourself, and allow nothing to stop you from achieving your dream. It’s never too late. You’re not too young or too old. Your representation is valuable and it matters.

I want to take this moment to thank three special people who were there for me from the beginning of this work–my husband, the love of my life, who has had my back, and my son, who gave me pointers for my 20-something main characters, since he is part of their generation. And then there’s Dad, who was my Number One fan and supporter. May he rest in peace and power.

With a guaranteed HEA, The Right to Be now graces the Amazon and Barnes & Noble Library shelves beside its siblings. I wish you happy reading.

Believe in dreams and never give up.

The Right to Be: Black Love is in the air

“If there is a book you want to read, and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must be the one to write it.”–Toni Morrison

It has long been a dream of mine to not only write the books I wished to read, but to write a male/male romance novel. The previous five novels in my Christopher Family Novel series have had LGBT romance elements in them as they pertained to the characters. This upcoming novel in the series, The Right to Be, is the first that is firmly planted in Romancelandia.

I have loved romance novels as recreational reading, from historical Regency romance to contemporary Black Love. When it came to male/male romance, I found it interesting that only 17% of the published books were written by LGBT men. I have enjoyed reading and appreciate authors such as Jayce Ellis, Adriana Herrera, and Christa Tomlinson. At the same time, as a Black gay man, I am happy to bring my unique literary voice to this subgenre. After all, from seeing images of Black male couples in love online, representation matters.

With spring and Black Love in the air, I am excited to announce the launch of The Right to Be: A Christopher Family Novel, in April of this year. In a quote from Dhar Mann, “You are never too old to follow your dream”; I can certainly testify to that. That being said, my brothas and sistahs, the following is an excerpt from this coming-of-age love story:

 

The very next day, after work, Allan was on his cell phone with Ramsey Arrington, wishing him official birthday greetings. Ronnell and Jermaine, of course, teased him, but he didn’t care. There was something about this guy. The hell with the two-day wait before calling—in Allan’s mind, Ramsey had all the early signs of a keeper, especially if Ronnell’s inside intel was accurate. Besides, before he even made the call, Mickey had walked past him with his own phone, already engaged in deep conversation with Roslyn Arrington.

He had no idea where the time went as they talked and shared, but he could have listened to that baritone voice forever from the moment he heard Ramsey say, “Hey.”

“Allan! Mickey! All y’all! Time for dinner!” Cousin Wayne called out.

“That’s Cousin Wayne, and he holds dinner for no one. Can I call you back later?”

“Sure. I will definitely be looking forward to your call,” Ramsey confirmed.

Allan’s body grew warm and tingly. “Cool. Talk to you later.”

All those years spent on the islands had developed Allan’s love and appreciation for the outdoors, so it was a treat when Ramsey suggested a nature outing. They had only been seeing each other for a couple of weeks; their first date was at Baskin Robbins, where they dared each other to eat a LollaPalooza sundae. For this date, they were walking hand in hand along the nature trails and dunes on the Mississippi River, not far from the east bank campus of the U of M.

“Leave it to you to find a way to combine a date and a workout,” Allan noted, thinking of the steep inclined sidewalk and the wooden steps they took to reach the river. “This is beautiful.”

“I thought you’d like it.” Ramsey squeezed his hand. “It may not be the sea or the ocean, but it has its charms.”

“Do you mind if I tell you that you’re part of the charm?” Allan’s voice was flirtatious.

“Hey, boo. You can tell me that any time.”

“Say that again. I like it.”

“Like what?”

“The way you call me ‘boo.’” Allan’s “Beckley eyes” twinkled.

“Well, boo, there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a bit.”

“Really? And what’s that?”

Ramsey gave him a sensuous smile. “Why don’t we go sit by the water and you can find out?”

“I see a spot right now.” Allan led Ramsey to a comfortable area just in front of the dunes. “I can hardly wait.”  

The brightness of the sun on that July afternoon only served to reflect the glow within Allan when Ramsey held him for that first kiss. It was gentle at first, feather kisses planted on Allan’s lips. As Ramsey steadily pressed his lips against his, Allan knew he only wanted more. He wrapped his arms around Ramsey’s neck, relaxing into the deepening kiss and the sensation of Ramsey’s tongue meeting his. This was the kind of kiss that could go on forever as far as he was concerned. Even with guys older than he, Allan was usually the one to dominate in these situations. With Ramsey, he knew in that moment that he could enjoy being dominated as well.

The feel of Ramsey’s tongue working his mouth, his hands running through his dreadlocks, was exquisitely passionate for Allan. For the first time, he was experiencing being wanted, desired, on an electrifying level. On an instinctual level, their connection held out a promise of more; for now, this was enough. The kiss was arousing in a way Allan hadn’t experienced with previous boyfriends. Even before the kiss broke, his full-on erection strained at his shorts. Not that Ramsey was unaffected by the passion. Taking a glance downward, there was no mistaking the prominent outline of Ramsey’s throbbing dick in his shorts. Man, he’s big. Allan tasted Ramsey again, fighting the urge to just reach down and cup said dick. I can work with that. But for now, I need to find out more of what’s under the hood. Even as those thoughts ran through his head, the gleam in Ramsey’s eyes as they went in for more kisses told Allan that from now on, July would be his favorite month.

Believe in dreams and never give up.

Nellie Francis: A woman of justice, service, and equality

Black History Month is coming to a close, and Women’s History Month is about to begin. As a book review editor, it is only fitting that this post covers someone who stood at the intersection of both. In light of recent events, people may look at Minnesota in a certain way. However, despite the small minority population, African Americans made history here, when that population was even smaller.

That being said, I am indeed honored to share my review of Dr. William Green’s biography, Nellie Francis: Fighting for Racial Justice and Women’s Equality in Minnesota:

Indeed, there are many stories and history that need to be heard and shared. Growing up in the Twin Cities as a child in the 1950s and 1960s in school, I never would have heard of the contributions African Americans made in Minnesota’s history. Fortunately, authors such as Dr. William Green have given us a gift with his biography of Nellie Griswold Francis.

Born in 1874 in the Reconstruction world of Nashville, Tennessee, Nellie and her sister Lula were children of parents that strongly believed in public service, such as the establishment of the first African American high school in Nashville, the drive for equitable opportunities for Black schoolchildren, and a cemetery for the Black soldiers and the community at a time when racism’s ugly head roared. That spirit of service and desire of a better life for her community was instilled in Nellie and Lula at a young age by their father, Thomas Griswold.

The family relocated to St. Paul in 1883. At her commencement ceremony from St. Paul Central High School in 1891, Nellie gave a stirring speech, a portent of what this 17-year-old girl would become. A light-skinned woman who could pass for white but identified as Black, Nellie’s future would be one of public service and complexity despite the conventions placed upon a woman of her time.

In 1893, she married William “Billy” Francis. Their union brought the couple interacting with notables such as Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Mary Church Terrell, and Hallie Q. Brown. Billy was an ardent follower of Washington’s accommodationist policies, never speaking out against the overt racism occurring in other parts of the country; he would change his position years later, after Washington’s death in 1915. Ambitious, Billy would become a lawyer and run for public office, with Nellie by his side. In the course of time, they would become the power couple in St. Paul’s Black community and part of the history of Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Though they were profiled by the Black press of the time (The Appeal and the Twin City Star), people who saw her “privilege” never saw her heartache when she and her husband were at odds over their respective views on racial justice, or her pain over their childless marriage and her mother Maggie’s poor health.

For Nellie, her work so often did not garner the recognition it richly deserved as an officer of the Minnesota Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs and the Everywoman Suffrage Club, nor that many speeches Billy gave were written by Nellie. Her particular skill set was invaluable during her audience with President William H. Taft. When it came to securing the funds for Pilgrim Baptist Church’s pipe organ, it was she who obtained the balance through an audience with philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. And with the Rondo community being small as it was, jealousies from within it were frustrating.

And yet, she was active in women’s suffrage and addressing the duplicity of white suffragists as it pertained to race, not only leading to the passing of the 19th Amendment, but her crowning achievement in public service: being the author of Minnesota’s anti-lynching law, a law that has yet to reach the federal level to date.

Thank you, Dr. Green, for your intense, in-depth study of this complex woman, her accomplishments, and the milieu of African Americans in Minnesota during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If we don’t share these stories, who will?