It only seems appropriate to kick off this month blogging about amazing individuals who have sojourned the publishing trek, laying roadmaps worth a beat to introduce in my own voice.
While I rarely, if ever, follow authors in what I'd consider a typical fan type way…you know… reading every work he or she writes, or showing up at every one of their public appearances, there are some authors who have come into view, who I respect a whole lot.
In the same way that someone might look at President Barack Obama for inspiration to pursue a political career, was the same way I saw Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Phillis Wheatley, James Weldon Johnson, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ralph Ellison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and likely many others whose names escape me. These men and women told me navigating the path to have my work published might be difficult, but it wasn't impossible.
And then I met, not personally, Maya Angelou. After reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, I closed that book very sure, and I'm speaking 100% positively sure, so long as I was above ground of course, I would be published. This was during a time when manuscript rejections, across the board, was guaranteed at least once, if not forever, for most writers. Now, I don't want to get into who has, and doesn't have a story 'worth' telling, because after closing Maya's book I was sure there were those who felt, and still feel the same about her story, except this was a moment that told me some stories are bigger than us… or rather, the author. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was that story.
Next thing I know, there was Alice Walker, who's Color Purple was made into a movie, and Toni Morrison with that Bluest Eye voice of hers, and Iyanla Vanzant with the pocketsize 'Acts of Faith' books I started collecting. Honestly, often looking back, I used to think of these authors as being very lucky, publishing during a time when it seemed easier (for readers) to find strong voices.
J. California Cooper, Zane, and then Brandon Massey, followed a little later by Van Whitfield and Edwidge Danticat, according to how I came across them, are my best examples of the first strong modern voices that not only inspired me, but opened doors for other modern voices just as strong and compelling.
And of course I realize there are far more authors who have trail-blazed some of the same paths as those I've mentioned, except as already stated, these were my first encounters; writers who came before me with great voices, inspiring voices, who built on my courage, giving me that beacon of light as a guide.
This is a great post to lead off with moving towards February, Black History Month. There are many reasons (and ways) to celebrate the nuances and hurdles some of my favorite beacons, and many more, have hurdled trailblazing paths I often thought of as being very lucky paths to be on.
"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."
– Maya Angelou