Monday, June 30, 2008


It never fails. Whenever I find myself on the verge of crossing my arms, frowning, shaking my head and muttering, "To hell with it all" some tiny spark appears along my path and shines a bit of much needed light my way.

Sometimes these sparks appear in the form of fan letters from folks I've never met before. One kind reader wrote, "Hi Lori, I just finished reading your book After The Dance and wanted to let you know how much I truly loved it. I don't know if Carl was really a beggin brother or if he was just a man who had no problem showing his feelings. I need me a brother like that . . . Thanks again, I think I'm gonna read this for a 3rd time." Oh yeah, you best believe I grinned behind that for days (LOL).

Other times the spark will appear in the form of comments from friends. Recently, a dear old friend shared with me how much his father enjoyed After The Dance. For the record, my friend's father is 76 years old and he's experienced a number of health issues of late. But according to my friend, not only was my novel the first book his father had picked up in years, but it appears to have aroused within him a desire to read other things. Wow! I'm telling ya, for a debut author, it doesn't get much better than that (smile).

In the early part of last week, a trip to the mail box revealed that one of my sisters-in-law had sent me a couple of my books and a request to sign them and send them back to her. Similarly, just this past Friday, one of my father's retired miltary buddies shot me an email in which he informed me he was having three more copies (over and beyond the three he'd already purchased) of After The Dance sent to my PO Box and he wanted me to sign them and send them back to him.

And truly, for me, one of the coolest things about this whole experience has been being able to visit various library websites and get a glimpse of just how many folks are interested in my book. At one point last week, 27 of the 28 copies of After The Dance owned by the Memphis Public Library had been checked out. Even better, upon browsing my title at the public library here in Charlotte, I discovered that not only were all 15 copies of my book in circulation, but there were 7 requests currently on file which meant that 7 additional individuals were eagerily awaiting a copy.

I said all of that, not to brag, but to remind myself and any other newbie author out there that this is a journey, one that will be full of ups and downs and more than a few confusing round and arounds. Rather than get bogged down, side-tracked or deterred by any of the numerous insults and disappointments (oh yes, there have been plenty, I'm just not gonna give voice to any of them here . . . well, at least, not yet anyway *smile*) my/our primary task is to learn what we can from it all while staying humble, remembering always to give thanks and keep moving forward, one small step at a time.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

THE HISTORY LESSON . . . (More On Name-Calling) . . .

Back in high school, I had a favorite teacher, who, with his big grin, jerky movements and small, wiry frame, reminded me of a cricket--Jiminy Cricket to be precise. He was a older fellow whose wisdom and intellect I'd accepted without question until the day he opened his mouth and spat out the words, "Those dirty Japs!"

The first time I heard him say it, I was stunned. I thought to myself, Surely, I must had misheard him. I didn't want to believe that my favorite teacher, a man whom I'd admired for his quick wit and keen sense of humor, not to mention his command of American history, had actually made such an offense comment.

But it was true. Again and again, while covering the U.S. involvement in WWII, one of my high school teachers used the terms "Japs" and "dirty Japs" in reference to the Japanese. And each time he uttered the words, I squirmed in my seat, made uncomfortable not only by his use of the ethnic slur, but by my own hesitancy when it came to voicing my objections.

Some memories stay with one always.

No, I'm not Japanese. I'm not even Asian. (Well, as far as I know *smile* According to the hubby, I do sorta kinda look Asian when I'm asleep). By self-definition, I am an African American of the female persuasion. But if it matters, and in this instance it did, there was a young woman of obvious Asian ancestry in that particular high school history class. I don't recall her name. She and I weren't friends or even acquaintances. The possibility exists that she was no more Japanese that was I, as does the possibility that she took no offense to our teacher's comments. But the fact remains that we were both young women of color, bound together in one sense by our vulnerable status as the only two visible minorities in a classroom full of young, White students, and bound together in another sense by our silence.

I can't help but think we should have said something, if only to one another. Why didn't we? Was it youth? Shyness? Fear? Ambivalence? Embarrasment? Or was it simply too far an emotional distance for either of us to cross. Twenty-plus years later, I still don't know.

Looking back on the incident, I now find it both unnerving and somewhat ironic that the teacher in questin reminded me of a cricket. The truth is, I have a fear of crickets, a fear that involves my not knowing where the little critters are bound to jump next.

And indeed, it is a small jump from Jap to nigger/from faggot to coon/ from spic to jigaboo/

If I, as an African American, wait until the slur turns from slanty-eye bastard to big-lipped baboon, then have I not, in fact, waited too late? Of course, I have. I think even way back then, I somehow sensed it was so.

"In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't Communists. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I didn't speak up because I was Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up for me."
(Rev. Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984)

"If they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night."
(James Baldwin, 1924-1987)

And for those who still don't get it, the "History Lesson" here is--just as there is no safety in silence, there is no safety in drawing the lines of intervention around our own ethnic, racial, sexual or religious identities.

(Written while listening to Erykah Badu's "Honey," "The Healer" and "Master Teacher" from the CD entitled New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War). Check the refrain from "Master Teacher":
"What if there was no niggas only master teachers?
I stay woke . . ."

Monday, June 23, 2008


What's up with the recent rash of racist, sexist and just plain ole idiotic name-calling? Wait, did I say idiotic? I guess that makes me guilty too, huh? Nah, I hardly think so.

I'm talking about all of the truly foul and low-brow utterances that have recently been captured on tape and spouting forth from the twisted lips of folks like Duane Chapman (aka The Bouty Hunter), Amy Winehouse and Charlie Sheen. To be honest, the antics of Winehouse and Chapman don't surprise me. Besides looking like they could both stand a dunk or two in a big tub of scalding hot water and a good old fashioned scrub-down with some of Granny's lye soap, as of late, neither one of them acts or appears as if they're wrapped too tight.

But Sheen's profanity-laced rant, really shocked and disappointed me. Yeah, I know about his past problems with substance abuse, but still, this was a guy who purportedly had one of his African American buddies serve as the best man in his wedding. In the transcript I read of the call, not only does Sheen call his ex-wife (Denise Richards) an "f---ing c---" (you fill in the blanks), he also tells her in one breath, apparently, "You're a coward and a liar and a f---ing nig---." Wow! Isn't it fascinating and incredibly telling how Sheen juxtaposed the words coward and liar with one of the most offensive racial epithets for Black folks?

Pardon me if I don't come off as particularly sympathetic or forgiving when it comes to instances like these, but I JUST DON'T GET IT. I have a number of friends whose race, religion, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation differ from mine. I can't think of an instance, whether in jest or in anger when I'd ever refer to anyone of them by a slur specifically aimed at their race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

Hell, I don't even malign my enemies in that manner. Seriously, if I feel the need to call someone something worse than the non-discriminatory "f--ing idiot" or the all purpose "dumb-a$$ or "a$$-hole," I'm not liable to waste my breath in his/her direction. I'm saying, what's the point?

Monday, June 16, 2008

MY RADIO DEBUT . . . Lori Johnson (author of After The Dance) on WYPL FM89.3 . . .

The following is a link to a 30 minute interview featuring yours truly. The interview took place on April 11th of this year at WYPL FM89.3, a radio station that operates out of the Central Branch of the Memphis Public Library. The show, which is one of the station's regularly occuring features, is called Book Talk.

The podcast is a pretty decent one, thanks to Stephen Usery, the program director, who did an excellent job on the editing and Lynette "Teddi" Williams who interviewed me. If you take the time to listen, even if only for a couple of minutes, please feel free to share your comments. Thanks!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

My Daddy
Lori & Father
From Lori's Picture Collection

My Granddaddy

Granddaddy & Baby Boy
From Lori's Picture Collection

And My Baby's Daddy
From Lori's Picture Collection From Lori's Picture Collection
From Lori's Picture Collection
I Love You All!!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Any book lovers in the house? The following is a list of places where I've acquired books. Where do you aquire most of your books? Where are you least likely to acquire a book?

1) A Chain Bookstore (s) (Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.)


3) Borrow from Library

4) Street Corner Vendor

5) Small Independent Bookstore

6) Yard Sale / Garage Sale

7) Used Bookstore

8) Library Used Book Sale

9) Friend and/or Family Member

10) Drug Store

11) Grocery Store

12) Book Club Membership

13) Dumpster / Trash / Discard Bin

If you'd like to suggest a few other places, be my guest . . .

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Edgar, Mae & Aunt Snooks
From Lori's Picture Collection
The handsome dude you see in the picture above is my grandfather, Edgar Hawkins. If you look closely, you'll notice not only is he standing in-between two nice-looking ladies (my grandmother & and my great aunt), but Ole Boy is holding a bottle of liquor in one hand and several bills in the other. This picture gives me a bit of insight into why another one of my grandmother's sisters tagged my Granddaddy with the nick-name "The Pimp." (LOL)
Today is my Granddaddy's 91st birthday! And I'll have you know, he's still
sound of mind, serves as an usher in his church, drives his own car, goes fishing and hunting, enjoys watching baseball and CNN and is still every bit of the character you see in the black and white picture above.
My grandfather was born in 1917 in Water Valley, Mississippi. He was the third of eight children produced by Alberta and Vernon Hawkins. He dropped out of school somewhere between the fourth and fifth grades and went to work in the saw mills. He served overseas in WWII and I'm mad at myself because I can't find his army picture (I'd fully intended to post it in this piece).
He played baseball in his youth and was decent enough to be scouted by a pro-team, but by the time the Jackie Robinson finally broke the color barrier, my grandfather was deemed too old to play.
After leaving the service, he eventually landed a postion, making crates at the Defense Depot in Memphis, a position he held until he retired in the '80s. Two of the highlights of his career while working at the Depot include, single-handedly filing a civil rights law suit against them in 1968, which he won (I do have the paper-work to prove it) and breaking the jaw of the White co-worker who made the mistake one day of calling Ed Hawkins out of his name (LOL). And for those of you who buy into all of those tv & hollywood sterotypes about murderous Southern White folks and scared Negroes, no my grandfather didn't get fired or run out of town or threatened with lynching for breaking his White co-worker's jaw. What he got when he returned to work the next day was standing ovation from his Black co-workers. Yeah, those are the stories from the Delta, ya'll don't hear . . .
Ed & My Son
From Lori's Picture Collection
Anyway, I think it's safe to say, I inherited a bit of my Granddaddy's hot temper (smile) and don't mess with me disposition. It takes a longer for mine to boil, but once I get there, oh, it's on, like pop-corn (LOL). I lived with my grandparents, off and one while I was a child and again, while intending college in Memphis. I am who I am, the good and the bad, because of them and I wouldn't have it any other way.
When the hubby and I finally settled down and bought a home in Memphis, we lived less than a 7 minute drive from my Granddaddy. As you can see from the picture above and the one below, the old dude proved a very capable baby-sitter. Of course based on the bill I see in my little boy's hand, I think he just might have picked up a little more from his great-grand than I thought or ever intended for him too (smile).
Ed and his great-grandson
From Lori's Picture Collection

So, I just wanted to send out a "Happy Birthday" shout-out to the Old Boy and congratulate him on reaching the grand old age of 91. . . not only because I love him and I want to honor him but because as one of Toni Cade Bambara's character's states in the short story, "My Man Bovanne"--

. . . "you gots to take care of the older folks . . . 'Cause old folks is the nation."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Come on, we all have them right? Fake @$$ friends. You know, the type who . . .

1) is the first to show up at your house when it's time to eat, drink or party, but is no where to be found when you need help with a personal issue or a family crisis

2) smiles in your face while repeatedly dogging you behind your back or stabbing you all up in it

3) never has any money and always expects you to treat when you go out

4) is the last to congratulate you on your good fortune, but the first up in your face inquiring about the details when you have a mishap or misfortune

5) only calls or comes by when they need a favor or wanna borrow some money, your car or a kidney

6) typically gets all self-righteous and pi$$ed off when you don't take their advice

7) only hangs with you because they think you have money, influence or friends in high places and they need a "hook-up"

8) never thinks twice about wasting your time or inconveniencing you

9) routinely solicts your support on their projects and causes, but won't go out of their way to return the favor or even properly thank your a$$

10) consistently tells you what they think you want to hear, rather than the truth

11) will routinely standby in order to laugh, mock and ridicule when you get caught flubbing up or floundering about , rather than offer a hand or a word of encouragement

12) doesn't really know you, but insists on trying to make others think otherwise

13) NEVER apologizes or even feels the least bit guilty about doing any of the aforementioned.

Did I just about cover them all? So, which one of these really gets your goat? Do you have any others to add?

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here! The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others' comments. It’s easy, and fun! Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!