Category Archives: Literature, Poetry, Urban Lit

NEW E-BOOKS BY KENNETH WEST!

Check out my latest e-books, “Tagger” and “The Gift”, available at amazon.com. They will also be published as e-books shortly – so keep yourself updated!

Tagger

Tagger Cover

Tagger is an urban novel centered around the graffiti culture of East LA. When a beef between rival graffiti artist Ricco and Adul turns ugly and Ricco is murdered, the streets finger Adul as the killer. But going to jail is the least of his worries, as the dead man just happens to be the baby brother of one of the biggest drug dealers in Los Angeles.

The Gift

The Gift cover final

Some people have it all and never realize it. Darren King was like that and it wasn’t until he got everything he thought he wanted and it nearly cost him everything that he realized how truly blessed he really was.

The Lion of Judah

Lion of Judah red jan 23

Immanuel Johnson is a young, frustrated, black man with a sense of destiny. On top of this he has a Messiah Complex, and after serving five years in a maximum security prison where he immerses himself in black nationalist and radical religious literature, he comes to believe that he is a reincarnation of Christ and that he must sacrifice his life for the salvation of Black America. But not before writing a scorching diatribe to explain his actions to the world.

Click here for paperback edition

Free download:

The Young African-American Survival Guide – for Ages 8-18

Cover Young African-American Survival Guide

Sex, drugs, violence, education, hustling, gangbanging are some of the challenges our youth are facing. But all too often, they face these life or death challenges without a clue and must embark upon a painful learning process involving trial and error. This book/workbook provides updated, factual information to youth about what’s going on and how to overcome it.

Available for free at www.aasurvivalguide.org

©Kenneth West

A Gordon Spirit

The man in this 1863 picture is an escaped slave from the Mississippi Delta, named Gordon, whom I like to think of as a distant relative. Even if the connection we share isn’t of the molecular one composed of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon combined in the double helix better known as DNA that CSI NY has so many of us assuming we are familiar with, even if we failed high-school chemistry.

However, the connection that me and Prince Gordon share is a soulish one as we’ve both been victimized in the country of our Birth .

When you see the flesh of Gordon’s back cut open into a thousand pieces, what’s the first thing that jumps into your mind?

One person may wonder aloud, “what did he do to possibly deserve such vicious, inhumane treatment?” While another would protest vehemently that there was no offense that a man could commit that would warrant such treatment. Another person might bemoan the injustice of the entire American slave system and its aftermath that declared some men as masters and the others as beast of burden with absolutely no say so over their lives based solely on the color of their skin. Each would have a hold on a small fiber of the truth.

When I encountered the portrait of Gordon eight years ago, I was immediately drawn to the regal grace and kingliness of the man. And I saw the welts on his back representing not a source of shame but pride. A crown of splendid glory carved into his flesh as majestic as any that was ever worn by the Kings and Queens of Europe. For Gordon’s crown is emblematic of his quest to be a man, in a unjust soul-crushing system that refused to acknowledge him as such.

The more I studied the photo, the more mesmerized I became with who this man was and what he had endured in the name of manhood. It was then that I realized me and Gordon were kindred spirits and that the scars on his back represented the wounds of my very own soul.

Like a ghost from beyond the grave Gordon’s spirit was a light onto my feet. Showing me the way. The way of all those who refuse to turn back, lay down, let up, shut up, or give up come what may even the hated twin foes of bodily injury and death.

In essence, Gordon was telling me and all the world that yes, he was beaten, but he was UNBROKEN. That his head was bloodied, but UNBOWED.

From the seeds of Gordon’s courage came the inspiration for my publishing company UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS, with Gordon as the company’s figure head for his life represents the highest aspirations that UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS seeks to embody.

A publishing company for all the kindred souls who refuse to take no for an answer, who refuse to turn back in the face of adversity – for the outcast, social lepers, misfits, convicts, and all the men and women which a Gordon Spirit who retain their dignity, pride, hope, courage and grace even in the face of unimaginable hardships and adversity. UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS is for them and all the Gordons of the world.

At UNBROKEN UNBOWED PRESS, we agree with the eminent late black scholar Manning Marble who said, “KNOWLEDGE FROM THE VANTAGE POINT OF THE OPPRESSED, MUST NOT ONLY INFORM, BUT TRANSFORM THE REAL CONDITIONS OF DAILY LIFE IN WHICH PEOPLE LIVE.”

If you are anyone you knows has a Gordon Spirit check us out at http://www.wix.com/unbrokenunbowedpress/home as well as Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Unbroken-Unbowed-Press/365012860183016

“Suspect Arrested in White House Shooting Case”

The headline above is real it comes from a November 11, newspaper article about Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernande  who allegedly fired nine rounds from a high-powered AK-47 assault rifle at the White House.

Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernande, Alleged White House Shooter

On a clear sunny April morning, a lone gunman was perched in a makeshift snipers’ nest on top of the Colonial Coffee building on NW 15th st. One block from McPherson Square, two blocks from the seat of American government. The White House.

He had been camped out for three days.

Patient.

Waiting .

To recreate American history.

At a quarter past ten/he got his opportunity.

“Pst”, was the only sound. The AR-15 sniper rifle fitted with a titanium silencer, laser guided scope and custom barrel barely buckled as it delivered its deadly payload with lethal precision.

Fraction of a second later, the .223 mercury dipped lead missile found its fleshly target. The bullet entered the man’s right anterior lobe, opening up a dime sized hole in its wake. Traveled downward through his medulla oblongata and exited out the base of his neck. Killing him instantly.

Like that.

Before anyone could blink, or think to respond.

The man who made nations tremble.

The leader of the free world.

Commander and Chief of a two trillion dollar war machine.

The President of The United States was dead. With blood splattering out of the hole in his forehead like a misaligned water fountain.

His body slumped. Felled by a sniper’s bullet. Murdered by an invisible, faceless, nameless enemy.

A defiant act of human will.

The unfortunates close to him, the ones who ended up with fragments of his three pounds of knowledge on them would later describe the day as surreal. Like a bad dream.

But it was no dream. It was an American nightmare.

Conceived and birthed inside of an American torture Chamber.

Nurtured inside one of the nation’s peculiar institutions.

A day that would live on in infamy.

A day no American would ever forget.

Exactly as the gunman wanted it.

The excerpt following the news headline is a passage from my new assassination, black nationalist novel (The Lion of Judah, Createspace/Movastone, 240 pp (December 2011) $14.99 paperback).

It tells the story of 23 year old Immanuel Johnson who was born and raised in the ghettos of West Baltimore. Long before he entered the harsh reality of the Maryland Department of Corrections as a young impressionable 18 year old with a 5 year bid to serve, he was a young man with an overriding sense of destiny. A nagging feeling  that he was born for a purpose.

But like a lot of young black men, it was in the crucible of prison that he first encountered the plethora of subversive philosophies that grow unchecked like desert weeds in the fertile cesspool of human misery that is the American prison system.

It was here that this young, intellectually gifted black man would be reborn as Black Jesus, a member of the 5 Percenter Nation of Gods and Earths and discover his true purpose as well as his mission in life.

A mission so profound that it would forever alter the course of American History.

After his five year baptism in hell on earth he emerged from the womb of darkness a new being. A man and God. A self-appointed prophet to the black race in Americana man so dedicated to his fanatical vision of what he believed had to be done to right the wrongs in the land of his birth that he was willing to sacrifice his life to see his vision come to pass. But not before writing a scorching diatribe to explain his actions to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

“A deep, dark novel that devolves into the madness that lurks in the human soul, madness often brought to the surface by political ideology.”

Jeremy Busby

 

“The Lion of Judah”, novel by Kenneth West, available at Amazon.com

Immanuel Johnson is a young, frustrated, black man with a sense of destiny. On top of this he has a Messiah Complex, and after serving five years in a maximum security prison where he immerses himself in black nationalist and radical religious literature, he comes to believe that he is a reincarnation of Christ and that he must sacrifice his life for the salvation of Black America. But not before writing a scorching diatribe to explain his actions to the world.

Now available at Amazon.com for $14.99

RU-842: What Would You Do To Save The World?

Regina watched the white Ford cargo van disappear around the bend. The last one was finally gone. For two years they had been out there—like the neighbors from hell. Now just like that they were gone. Off to the latest scandal, affair, murder, or whatever else viewers were willing to stomach in the name of news.

Finally, after two years they were old news. Her husband Michael’s face would no longer be plastered on the nightly news show while his fellow doctors and researchers commented on the questionableness of his ethics, while debating if his medical license should be permanently revoked.

The cameras came months before the criminal trial got on the way, a trial strangely reminiscent of the Scope’s Monkey trial, the O.J Simpson murder trial, Michael Jackson’s molestation trial, or any other trial that was more about show than substance.

But through it all she remained the dutiful wife, cooking, cleaning, and looking after their two kids who thanked God for small blessing-were at an age where they could understand what was going on. She also maintained a full load teaching Sociology at the University of Georgia where she was a tenured professor.

Talk about stressed, but somehow she made it. And every step of the way she smiled at the media personalities who hounded her mercilessly.

“Mrs. Hamlet, how do you feel about your husband’s medical license being revoked?”

“No comment.”

Because they got paid to be persistent inevitably another would shoot, “Mrs. Hamlet, do you feel it’s right for your husband to play God and determine who lives and dies?”

Inwardly she smiled at the sound bite, “play God” but only offered her usual, “No comment.”

“Mrs. Hamlet, now that your husband Michael has been charged with a criminal offense, how has it affected you and your family?”

That’s right hit below the belt try to use her motherly instincts against her. Nice try, she thought, while giving her the same, “No comment.”

“Please Mrs. Hamlet, one more question. Is it true your husband is considering giving up his American citizenship?”

Question like those came on a good day. At other times they were so vicious she would make it into the safety of her home or office bolt the door and cry. Yes, yes thank God it was all finally over the trial and the media circus it caused.

Yet even as she stood in the window watching the last media van leave she did so with a pain of regret. For there had been one unintended causality of the entire ordeal. Something broken without the possibility of being fixed. Her twenty-five year marriage to the love of her life.

Don’t cry, not again she told herself turning from the window. She surveyed the pastel colored living room, looked at walls she had painted herself, at wallpaper she installed. Now the room was filled with brown packing boxes. Boxes filled with twenty-five years of love. Twenty-five years worth of precious irreplaceable memories. Overwhelmed she could no longer fight the tears. How had they gotten so far off track?

In the eighties, they were just another cute couple, voted most likely to succeed. Two college kids in love. Of course even back then her dreams were a lot more modest than his she wanted to be a social worker, but he wanted to save the world literally. This translated into a teaching position for her while he went on to become a genetic scientist.

His specialty was infectious diseases, a field near and dear to his heart. As he was still in middle school when his favorite uncle Buck succumbed to the AIDS virus. Then and there he vowed to find a cure.

It was a vow that would eventually lead him to Princeton where he earned his Ph.d. at the top of his class, and to a decade later being generally recognized as one of the top three pathologists in the country.

While Michael became more and more recognized in his field earning awards and writing books about the different workings of the immune system, Regina was more than content with the quiet drama free life they had built that included a four bedroom home in a peaceful upper, middle class subdivision, two kids, and a black cocker spaniel named Hillary. For years her biggest gripe was that Michael’s career frequently kept him away from home, especially when he worked for the CDC.

Things were a little better now that he was at Merck, but he still crisscrossed the country several time a month.

Then came the 21st Annual Infectious Disease conference which was held in Singapore that particular year. Michael had just finished giving a well received presentation about a new cell engineering process that Merck had recently perfected when Borris Yelkstein, the eccentric Russian oil barren and multi-billionaire approached him out in the lobby. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Mr.Yelkstein had just recently finished serving a three year prison sentence for tax evasion and had fallen out of favor with the Kremlin. A very bad position to be in, in Russia’s dictator-democracy –

Nevertheless, Yelkstein was as bull-headed as ever and had recently acquired a controlling stake in InLiv, a small Russian vaccine maker that was making waves on the Russian stock market.

Ever the salesman, according to Yelkstein, his scientist had discovered the “drug of all drugs”, a miracle drug tentatively called RU-842 that could render the AIDS virus completely harmless. The drug was still in its infant stage and Yelkstein was looking for a pathologist to take over the program and help him market the drug. Was he interested?

Interested was an understatement. He was completely fascinated . If what he was being told was true, it would be the biggest medical breakthrough of the twentieth century, even bigger than Jonas Salk invention of the Polio vaccine.

Once the conference was over, Michael was consumed with thoughts of RU-842. He told Regina, “Baby, not only is he offering me a million dollar a year salary, but a five percent equity stake in the company. If we can successfully bring this vaccine to the market that could be worth millions, maybe even billions. I mean think about it… This is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

She wasn’t convinced, “I don’t like it. If it was a respectable research hospital or even a reputable drug company if there is such a thing … maybe. But who is this Yelkstein character? So what he has lots of money? The man has zero experience in the drug business and a reputation that puts him a few notches above Al Capone. And what if his miracle drug doesn’t win FDA approval? Huh, Michael? Then what?”

He respected his wife’s opinions and listened carefully to what she said. Everything she said had merit, in fact they were the same concerns he had spoken out loud.

“I mean, you’re right and of course it’s much too early to say what’s what. I haven’t even reviewed the data yet. But if what Yelkstein says is true…My God think of the implications just for Africa alone?” He shook his head. “Regina, do you remember what I told you when we first met?”

She turned her head, of course she remembered. He had told her he believed it was his destiny to find the cure for HIV, AIDS. But what young college student at an Ivy League university didn’t have big dreams?

Regina told him, “What I want to know is why he chose you? Out of all the other professors, doctors, scientist, and researchers at the conference, some with bigger names than yours? What made him approach you with this golden opportunity?”

Michael looked at his wife and smiled its funny at how two people who have been together for so long begin to think alike. He said, “I asked Yelkstein the same thing. His reply was that he had been reading my papers and keeping up with my research that he supposedly found fascinating. He also said that since Africans and African Americans are the two groups hit hardest by the virus, an African American doctor was first on his list.”

Not convinced she shook her head. The tad bit she had read about Yelkstein on the internet didn’t go a long way toward convincing her that he was the type of man that gave a rat’s ass about affirmative action, much less cultural diversity. Borris Yelkstein would put his own mother in front of a firing squad as long as the executioners used bullets produced at one of his factories. She wanted to slap some sense back into her adorable, brainy husband and say, “Get for real, the man is permanently banned from 13 countries.”

Reading her expression Michael raised his hands, “Now, I’m not naive. We both know American scientists are generally held in higher regards than their Russian counterparts. Having an American scientist as the lead researcher will help give Borris the credibility he no doubts craves…”

Regina didn’t let him finish. She was tired of talking about it. He had just made it home, and Borris had taken up enough of their time.

“You mad,” he asked. She told him that she wasn’t and to prove it she grabbed his hand and lead him to their bedroom.

Exactly six months from the date Regina was in the kitchen cooking a roast while grading mid-term exams when Michael returned from his first fact finding trip to Russia.

After giving her a quick peck on the cheek, he leaned against the cabinets with his hands deep in pockets of his blue dockers. The fact that something was wrong was written all over his face, but still she waited for him to tell her. Call it woman’s intuition if you like, but the way she felt about Yelkstein and InLiv had finally sunken in. Humming to herself, it took an inordinate amount of self control to keep her from blurting out “I told you so.”

When the silence became crippling she said, “What’s wrong? InLiv not on the level?” At the time she said it, she had no idea and had assumed that InLiv was at worst some type of cover for one of Yelkstein shading business deals.

Without answering, he kept staring at the same spot on the floor like a Gypsy studying the Tarot cards. Slowly he looked up, “They’re on the level. If the data I examined can be validated and reproduced in a controlled blind study, I believe they have did it. Found a cure for the deadliest killer of our times.”

Obviously she was missing something, “So, what’s wrong?” Something was wrong, of that much she was certain.

He stepped out of the kitchen and glanced at the stairs. Listened. Heard Michael Orchard at work saving the world on his Play station 3, he dropped his voice, “The problem is the vaccine itself,”. He was barely whispering now and she had to strain to hear him. “It has to has to be cultivated in two stages before it will produce the antibodies necessary to neutralize the virus. Healthy stem cells fused with anodes of the drug along with a carbon copy of the virus have to introduced into an unaffected immune system. Then the new immune cells can be extracted and transferred to an infected person, which causes the immune cells to attack the infected ones, render the virus harmless.”

The confusion showed on her face; her area of expertise was cultures and poverty and couldn’t tell bacteria from a nuclei. “I still don’t see the problem.”

“There’s two: For starters, due to the size of the nanos, they can only coated with enough of the drug to produce a small amount, perhaps enough to cure a hundred people, give or take a few.”

That didn’t seem like much of a problem to her; a hundred people a batch was better than no people and a limited supply would drive the price of the drug sky high which she was sure Borris would love. No, that wasn’t it, there had to be something else?

She asked, “What’s the other.”

He sighed, “Live samples of the virus have to be introduced into healthy immune system, i.e. host for the incubation process to work, but only those who receive the stage 3 drug will derive any type of benefit. The host will be immune to the drug, totally resistant.”

Regina’s mouth fell open, “So what happens to the host?”

“The same thing that happens to any other person with the AIDS virus.”

He had to be kidding! She said, “you mean they die, don’t you? Michael, you’re talking about infecting healthy people with a deadly disease? Listen to me, Michael. You can’t do that, it’s unethical! They’ll revoke your license,” she was practically screaming

“They would be selected from Third World countries where people generally have a lower life expectancy to begin with, and compensated for participating.”

“Participating. Compensated. We’re talking about murder,” she shook her head. “Michael, you can’t do this.”

Irritated he fired back, “I didn’t say I was going to do anything… I’m just telling you how the drug works, for Pete’s sakes.”

After that there just was no use talking to him about it. He was convinced he could find a way to do good without doing evil and became obsessed with RU-482-Making monthly trips to Russia to observe the various clinical trials that were already taking place, he was certain there had to be a way to harness the power of the drug without the human casualty factor.

Then the scandal broke. News reports said he was participating in unlawful drug studies in violation of the Marin Act. Newsweek labeled him a “Mad Scientist,” a man so obsessed with saving life he was willing to play God to do it.

The media onslaught was followed by a 31 count federal indictment. And like that in the blink of an eye their wonderful life was gone. They had to mortage the house and raid their retirement accounts to cover his legal expenses. And with every household dollar being dedicated to keeping him out of prison, they could no longer afford their oldest daughter Lisa’s MIT tuition, forcing her to transfer to a instate college.

With options slim to none, he turned to Yelkstein for help. Yelkstein agreed to pay him the million dollar salary in advance, provided he come aboard as a full fledge member of InLiv once his legal troubles were over with.

That day had finally arrived.

In the morning, Michael was leaving America, perhaps for good.

And Regina was leaving her 25 year marriage.

If My Mind Was A Weapon

If my mind was a weapon

What type of killing instrument

would it be?

Would it be a weapon of mass destruction?

Or a tool of genocide?

Would the victim only be me

A spectacle for all to see

Maybe my mind would be a

silent weapon, Like the Texas

Death Chamber

A sterile place for man’s

blood lust, revenge, and anger

Perhaps my mind would be a piece of forged metal

molded into the barrel of a gun

Locked and Loaded

Made in the good ole USA

Available at your local Sporting goods store

Better still, a scientific experiment

Something capable of wiping out a

Continent

A colleague invented AIDS

But was fired, Because his invention was to slow.

They were hoping for something/more quick and lethal.

Even better, if my mind was a weapon, I would open a book

make a sword from a pen

To mock Caesar and curse Bush, Write an article on Rwanda

An obituary for lil Yolanda, a prescription of antiviro drugs

for Charlene, and a fat check to ACLU

If my mind was a weapon, this is what I would do

But what would you do?

Reprinted from “Beauty In Chains: Poems by African American Prisoners On Black Love, Racism, Politics, Religion and Progress” (CreateSpace Press)

Why Urban Lit?

Street fiction, Gangsta lit, Urban books, Hip-Hop fiction are some of the names frequently used to describe and deride a popular form of African American literature that has exploded in popularity over the last decade. Often these books describe the more gritter side of street life in graphic detail and go by names such as “Dirty Red”, “Scandalous”, “Hoodwinked” etc.

And many of the genre’s top selling authors, Walida Clark, Paul Johnson, Shannon Holmes, Kiki Swanison, Vickie Stringer, are either current or former inmates. Current reigning queen of the genre Vickie Stringer wrote her first book “Let That Be The Reason” while serving 7 years in Federal prison for dealing drugs. The name of her multi-million dollar publishing company, “Triple Crown Publishing” – with a roster of 27 authors, many of whom are still currently incarcerated – is a twist on the Ohio drug crew she used to run with in her hustling days, known as “The Triple Crown Posse”.

To the chagrin of many African-American critics – including reigning Diva of black women lit Terry McMillian, who went on record bashing the genre in Vibe Magazine, along with owner of Los Angeles black book store Eso Won Books James Fugate who said: “The ghetto lit being written today is mostly mindless garbage about murder, killing, and thuggery” – it appears the multi-million dollar street lit market is not only well entrenched but here to stay. Evident by the corporate powerhouses who have hopped on the bandwagon including Simons & Schuster who signed Stringer to a mega bucks deal, along with St. Martin Press who has a long roster of Urban Lit authors, including Relentless Aaron who is himself an ex-con.

Many people trace the rise in popularity of the urban fiction market to the 1999 publication of Sister Souljah’s bestselling novel “The Coldest Winter Ever” which went on to sell an amazing 3 million copies. But while Sister Souljah’s book may have helped to get corporate America’s attention to the genre’s potential, the market for this form of fiction is actually much older, as is the phenomenon of inmate turned author.

In 1969, after serving ten months in the Chicago county jail, Robert Beck, writing under the pen name of Iceberg Slim, published “Pimp: The Story of my life” about his life as a Chicago area pimp. The book has since been translated into at least five different languages: Italian, Dutch, Spanish, French, and Greek. At the time of his death in 1992, “Pimp” had sold over 6 million copies and counting.

Inspired by Beck’s success in the late 70’s, another young black man from the gritty drug infested streets of Detroit set out to put the reality of his existence along with those around him on paper in bone chilling stomach churning graphic detail. The man was Donald Goines, a lifelong heroin addict, occasional pimp and sometimes robber wrote his first novel “Dope fiend” while incarcerated in state prison. Goines went on to write a total of 16 books in 5 years before his life was tragically cut short along with that of his wife’s Shirley by an assassin’s bullet as he sat at his typewriter while the couple’s two kids hid under the sofa.

What the lives of Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines illustrate is that the tradition of African-American authors, without formal training and with criminal records, writing about the bitter realities of their existence in the inner city ghettos of America was well established long before the current crop of Hip-Hop authors. Who are often derided and lambasted by their more educated and successful brethren for the alleged poor quality of their writing and less than stellar content, as there are some individuals who believe that there is a difference between what takes place between a corporate executive in a Four Seasons downtown suite with a paid female escort and what happens between a blue collar worker and prostitute behind a dumpster in an impoverished neighborhood. I’m not one of them.

Yet I must admit that although I’m steeped in both hip-hop and street culture when I first began to write, I stoically resisted the herald call to write hardcore urban fiction. I don’t personally have a problem with people telling the stories which they are familiar with, as one of writing’s sacred cows is to “write what you know.”

For me, it was the view that it was too easy or not challenging enough that made me want to go beyond the norms. In my sight, writing was a way to go beyond that which I was already familiar with or that I already knew and to instead explore new worlds, attitudes, emotions, and people and to live vicariously through my stories.

But in the last twelve months, I finally succumbed to the nagging desire to jump feet first into the street lit market and I wrote my first hardcore urban novel, doing so with co-author K.B. Webb who was my cellie at the time. With us both being native Houstonians, we collaborated on a Houston based hood novel entitled “Clutch City Concierge”, which ended up being about as gritty as gritty can get. Yet even as I exchanged the politically correct names for body parts and sex acts for their less savory equivalents, I still had the desire for some form of elevation. It was that desire that led to the “Concierge” concept being merged into the original vision for the novel. For me, this was a merger of the “street” and “boardroom”.

While it’s doubtful that the book will ever win a NAACP Image Award, I believe we succeeded in writing a entertaining urban story without glorifying the worst while still “keeping it real”. And unlike my previous four novels, which have been set in Beverly Hills, New York, East LA, and Washington D.C., places I’ve only visited in my mind, a part of me longed to return to the city of my birth and the reality of the existence that I knew so well.

As University of Southern California Professor Dr. Todd Boyd – dubbed the “Hip Hop Professor” – said when asked why so many African Americans read street lit he replied, “the ghetto is drama. The ills of poverty are more dramatic than the angst of middle class life.” If that’s true, then perhaps that’s why “street lit” authors write it, to spice things up a bit. If you too need a little high energy, no holds barred fictionalized drama in your diet, check out “Clutch City Concierge”, available on Amazon.com.

Tamisha and Kamisha

God blessed me with

Not one, but two

Wonderful daughters

Entrusted me with the responsibility

Of being a father

No small task

On my knees, instructions I have to ask

Knowledge of Fatherhood

To help me raise my seed

Provide for their need

With God’s grace, I’m up to the task

Of being more than a donor

But an actual father.

Reprinted from “A Windowless Room” by Kenneth West. Trafford Press 2006

I Am An Artist

At least that is what I tell myself.

Between laughing and crying,

I think I am really trying.

I am my own canvas, painting myself,

Constantly working on myself

At least what’s left.

A constant process of re-creation

A daily transformation.

Descendant of African Royalty,

Now just considered a minority,

Entrusted to the state’s authority,

Re-creation is defiant priority!

Yet, the process begins with me.

No more fathering children out of wedlock,

or dealing crack at the bus stop.

No more lying, stealing and cheating!

No more calling women bitches and hos

Time to elevate my prose.

At least these are the changes I propose.

Yet, I have to confess my pictures sometimes fall

completely apart.

Which puts me back at the start.

An artist,

Recreating himself,

On a daily basis!!!

Reprinted from “Beauty In Chains: Poems by African American Prisoners On Black Love, Racism, Politics, Religion, and Progress”. CreateSpace Press

An Interview with the Educated O.G. narrator of “The Young African American Survival Guide”

Kenneth: Educated O.G, why don’t you tell everyone who you are and what you’re about?

Educated O.G. (takes a bow): Gladly. You see, besides being the greatest thing since sliced bread, my main occupation is being the narrator of “The Young African American Survival Guide” along with my co-characters DeShawn and Ray Ray.

Kenneth: Hmm? “The Young African American Survival Guide”, that sounds interesting. What is it about?

Educated O.G. (looks at me strangely/shakes his head): Man, where you been, on Mars? “The Young African American Survival Guide” is a new book for at-risk black youth. The purpose is to pull some of these youngsters coat to what’s really going on to keep them out the graveyard, jailhouse and a whole bunch of other dead-end places they don’t want to end up. Ya dig?

Kenneth: So the book is a Survival Guide for kids?

Educated O.G. (yells): Calling planet Earth! Man, have you been listening to me? That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.

Kenneth: Okay, I got you but what exactly is the book about?

Educated O.G.: Sex. Drugs. Education. Violence. Hustling. Gangbanging.

Kenneth: What? You talking to kids about gangs?

Educated O.G.: Not like that fool, basically it’s a book of what not to do, along with reasons why they shouldn’t. You see, kids these days real sharp which is why this book goes beyond the old-school, “birds and bees” and “Just Say No” rhetoric and gets into the real nitty-gritty.

Kenneth: Well, how many pages is it?

Educated O.G.: 293 fully illustrated with yours truly and my two co-characters the youngsters on the cover.

Kenneth: So where can I get a copy? I want to pick one up for my nephew?

Educated O.G.: Whoa, whoa, hold your horses. You can’t get it just yet. You see the author got a little legal trouble.

Kenneth: Legal trouble?

Educated O.G.: Man, do I gotta spell everything out to you. He’s locked up. Behind bars. Three hots and a cot. Get it?

Kenneth: Now I do.

Educated O.G.: Good. See, he wanted to partner with a church or a nonprofit youth organization that had the resources to publish the book with the hope that they could make it available free of charge to as many at risk youth as possible. But that didn’t happen. People just didn’t seem to understand the vision,or they doubted the source. Right now he trying to find a regular publisher which may or may not happen. If not then he going to have to self-publish the book himself. What all that means is that you can’t get a copy right now. Comprendez?

Kenneth: Comprende. But what should I do until the book is available?

Educated O.G. (exasperated): Man, how should I know? Get married, go back to school, learn a second language, join a gym and lose 20 pounds. I’m not Dr. Phil.

Kenneth: Okay, just keep me posted.

Educated O.G. (shakes his head and mumbles): They don’t pay me enough for this.