I am a professor, former newspaper journalist, and author of the memoir, Girlz ‘N the Hood: A Memoir of Mama in South Central Los Angeles, to be released by Pact Press in 2021.
I would say that my love of writing comes from my early passion for reading. As a child, I would get away from the tumult of my mother’s house by climbing a tree in our backyard and reading until the light began to fade. My family called the tree Mary’s Library. In a family of eleven children with seven separate fathers, peace was at a premium. Books were my refuge. Some of my favorites included those by Charles Dickens, Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, Stephen King, and Maya Angelou. I devoured books by Daniel Defoe, H.G. Wells and Jack London. Whether it was old or new, I wanted to read it. This was the time of my awakening. My seventh grade geometry teacher was a Shakespeare fan. He promised that we would not have quizzes on Fridays, if we memorized and recited the Bard, instead. I gladly obliged. I was transformed. I decided that I wanted to write. I wanted to see MY world reflected in books. And like many bookish individuals before me, I decided that becoming a journalist would be the best way to write for a living. But first, I needed an education.
After I graduated as valedictorian of Compton High School, I attended the University of Southern California, where I received a degree in print journalism. Later, I received a M.A. in mass communication from Ohio State University in Columbus. Then, I earned a PhD in mass communication from the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill.
Later, I taught journalism at Shaw University, Humboldt State University, the University of Southern California, North Carolina Central University, Ohio State University, Iowa State University and others. My journalism career included stints as a reporter at the Simi Valley Enterprise (now defunct), the Anaheim Bulletin (also defunct), the Las Vegas SUN (not defunct but on the ropes), the Chicago Tribune (losing circulation daily) and the Des Moines Register (also losing readership).
The print news business was drying up but my thirst for writing was not. Through it all, I listened to author Toni Morrison who said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but hasn’t been written yet, then YOU must write it.” That’s why I decided to write Girlz ‘N the Hood. I wanted to read about the women and girls that I grew up with in South Central Los Angeles. Women like my mother are the backbone of urban communities. Nowhere did I see this reflected in literature. So I wrote the story of my mother, who raised eleven children and weathered the seven different fathers of those children. She did this by living by the essential tenets of love hard and protect the weak.
I hear my mother’s voice in my writing and I’ve incorporated advice from great writers too; like Lorraine Hansberry, who encouraged: “Write! Work hard at it, care about it.” Today, I’ve traded the frenzy of my mother’s house for the more traditional challenges of a husband, three dogs, and the writing life. We make our home in the Inland Empire in California.