Ten years ago, I took my cat Diddy to get neutered, which was a very interesting experience. I went to the Lurie Spray/Neuter Clinic and it is located in the Little Village, a predominantly Mexican neighborhood I had never visited before, and for me, it is always cool when I discover new places, people, and things. It was early in the morning when Diddy and I arrived, so everything was quiet but when I returned to pick him up, this unassuming looking neighborhood had turned into a bustle of activity.
Carts selling Mexican corn, tacos, tamales, burritos and stews were on every corner and stores selling colorful areas rugs were on every block. People of all ages walked about their business briskly and I did not see any men loitering on corners shouting out “Loose Squares, loose squares”. It was so vibrant to my eyes and it was beautiful to behold. However, on my drive home, I couldn’t help but notice the drabness of the predominantly African American neighborhoods I am familiar with and couldn’t help but compare them to the neighborhood I had just left behind. Like a light blub, it clicked in: the vast majority of the stores in Little Village were Mexican owned and only a pitiful few in my neighborhood and other Black neighborhoods are Black owned. We as a people have gotten far away from our collective roots and it is destroying our communities.
I remember the stories my mother used to tell me about coming to Chicago during the 1940s to attend high school and the various Black owned businesses that were abundant on the South Side. I used to marvel at her because by the time I had arrived, only a fraction of those stores were still open and by the time I had arrived at teen hood, those stores were relics of the past, boarded up in shame.
These days, instead of opening businesses, some Black folks, not all would rather invest their monies in over-priced clothing that will soon be out of vogue, chintzy jewelry that is also over-priced, and cars that are wrecked quickly due to drunkenness. These statements I am espousing are not stereotypical prater but actual real life experiences of people I know personally who wasted several thousands of dollars, inherited and earned on stuff that cannot make more money.
In a time when the African American unemployment rate is still high as compared to other races in this country, it is time to invest our monies into businesses that will sustain our communities. We can not depend on the largess of others but need to depend on ourselves. If I can manage to save some money, I would like to start a bookstore that caters to needs of Africans and African Americans since most bookstores only have a minuscule section dedicated to books of Africans and African Americans. I would not only sell books but CDs, coffee, pastries and African art. This bookstore will eventually be located in every city throughout urban America and would become renowned as centers for the African and African American Diaspora and if Borders can do it, so can I. Our communities are missing that sense of vibrancy that I noticed in Little Village. Our neighborhoods have lost its flavor and we need it back if we are to succeed in today’s society. Collective Roots is coming to America as soon as I find a job, save some money and get my credit score up. Watch out.
I’ve been reading books since I was a little girl. Before I was born, my mother had purchased a set of encyclopedias for my brothers that they never touched according to her. So they sat, unused and collecting dust until I was born.
Now I wasn’t born a genius and started reading at five months old but I was totally fascinated by those books. I would draw and scribble scrabble in the encyclopedias but when I finally learned how to read and comprehend, they became my friends,
My favorite two encyclopedias were the letter C and F. C because of the article on the cat species and F because of the article on the First Ladies. I love cats and I will always remember the first words of the article on cats: “cats remember those who were good to them and they remember those who were not.” Or something like that because it’s been over 30 years since I actually saw this passage and I’m not a spring chicken at all.
The article on the First Ladies was intriguing to me too because the set my mother owned was published when Lyndon B. Johnson was president so the article only discussed the ladies up until his presidency and she was the last one. Miss Lady Bird was her nickname and I thought that was so cool.
That set of encyclopedias purchased by my mother for my older brothers set off a thirst for knowledge that I’ve been trying to appease for almost 40 years and I’ve come to the realization that I will be always be searching for answers. Which is not a problem in a culture where the vast majority of people are dumb as a box of hair.
But I’m digressing as usual and let’s talk about my favorite books. Realistically, it’s too many to list because I will be writing until Juvember but what I’m going to do is list some of my favorite authors along with the books that they wrote that touched my soul.
These authors and their books aren’t going to be listed categorically but from memory because my mind is like a noodle these days and I will periodically update this blog when I think of more authors who impacted my life.
Margaret Mitchell and her novel Gone With the Wind. I read this book for the first time back in 1981 when I was almost 11 years old and it changed my life and taught me a lot about the Southern states. They ain’t going to change y’all.
Jackie Collins and all her books about the lives of the rich and famous. One of her most infamous characters is Lucky Santangelo, the daughter of a gangster and a bad ass chick in her own right.
Bertrice Small and all her romance novels, especially the World of Hetar series which is foreshadowing of what’s going to happen in this country if women don’t get off their asses and rebel.
All the celebrity biographies written by Kitty Kelley except the one about the Bush family because it’s dull as hell. But the books about Elizabeth Taylor, Jacqueline Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Reagan, Oprah and House of Windsor?? Fire!!!
And lastly for now, all the books written by Candace Bushnell, including Sex and the City which was turned into a television series on HBO and became a cultural phenomenon. Any writer who can come up with a character name “Lord Skanky-Poo” is alright with me.