I'm genuinely excited about any opportunity I get to talk about the concepts within my literary fiction books. In truth, that's my primary motivation for writing the stories. By doing so, I can engage the challenges that have confronted me my entire life e.g. how to build organizational strength to combat this enemy system. How to work together through adversity. How to address white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, etc., in healthy and productive ways that contribute to our work to create a better society. My latest book - "The Paradox Principles" is 740 pages of all of that. And in the short time its been released I've been fortunate to have had multiple opportunities in different cities to lead discussions that evolve into talks about what each of us can do to fight injustice. As I move towards 60 years old, this approach is my vision for how I'll primarily engage this work moving forward. I've spent a lot of years intentionally engaging front line, place my body out there, work. And, my body and soul have paid an overwhelming price so as I transition my work to this different realm, I'm truly thankful for every opportunity because when you are African, independent, and have a message that challenges the very core and fabric of this reactionary system, those opportunities are going to be few, far, and very difficult to obtain. That's true because most people, good intentions and all, are not emotionally and materially situated to concretely help carry out a message. So, although its simple enough to create a flyer, Facebook page event, email blast list, etc., to have an event, 98% of the time - because we don't have big money or even medium or small money sponsors - the initial talks about hosting events fall apart before they are ever even started. Or, in other words, if I had a dime for every event that was going to happen, I'd already be retired from my capitalist job and living in Africa. So the word grateful doesn't even capture my enthusiasm at any opportunity, but because this next event is being organized by my daughter, there's a very special joy attached to this upcoming experience.
I say experience because I'm really working hard to train myself to learn and enjoy the experiences of these book events. Its turning out to be very challenging to focus on the experience and not how many people come, how many books I can bring, or how many people even buy books. I've made a lot of progress in this area and I'm happy about that because no matter what happens with this next event in terms of all those variables, I'm going to ensure its a wonderful time.
My daughter, who's 32 now, grew up in movement circles. I was an active member of the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) three full years before she was born so without question, she was a product of the movement. The people she was around the most while she grew up were A-APRP comrades and their children. By the time she was five years old, she was quite familiar with the University of California Davis, Berkeley, and Los Angeles campuses, along with Sacramento State, San Jose, and San Francisco State Universities, Sacramento City College, and other campuses. During those days, we did 100% of our A-APRP work on college campuses as a part of our strategic focus on recruiting the revolutionary intelligentsia. Today, people can say whatever they want about that strategic decision, but I do know is that's how I joined the party and I, and others, have put in a lot of very quality and productive work. So, my daughter was always at events, meetings, etc. I remember May of 1987, just 30 days after she was born. We were organizing African Liberation Day (ALD) in Sacramento and in those days, the University of California at Davis had an annual event they called "Black Family Week" that culminated with "Black Family Day" always exactly one week before ALD. Continued generations of African faculty and students keep those activities alive today, but back in 1987, the day event attracted no less than about 30,000 Africans from the Bay Area, Sacramento, etc., onto the Davis campus for a Saturday of vendors, speakers, etc. I was responsible for organizing a fundraiser for ALD and I had observed in previous years that the people who secured the first food booth at the family day event in Davis would be the most popular and successful because based on where the booths were situated, the first booth represented the shortest walk from the shaded areas of the main quad. In the May heat of the Sacramento Valley, every step matters. So we decided to sell fried fish and that night before we filleted about 100 pounds of fish until about 3:00am Than, at 5:00am, the grill, fish, drink holder, booth materials, A-APRP ALD propaganda, and at least one or two people as a I recall, were loaded up into my Nissan Pickup and we made our way, dropped almost to the ground, out to Davis to claim that prized first spot. Sitting next to me in the cab was my 30 day old daughter. Her mom worked Saturdays so responsibility fell 100% on me. I had to ensure I had all her diapers, her moms milk, containers, ice, and my trusty bottle heater. I had probably about 20 responsibilities that day and that was often how it was, but besides the fact my strategy worked (we sold out by 2pm as I remember), a constant was I had to take care of my little girl and I had to play a significant role in making sure our work was successfully carried out. Those last two things were every time. Those days taught me how to organize and her participation in it made me hope sincerely that one day, when she grew up, it would all rub off on her.
Regardless of my personal feelings, I was always conscious to make sure that while my daughter was growing up, I never placed pressure on her to follow in my or her mom's footsteps. This was true on everything. On religion, I told her what I believed, but also encouraged her, and made it possible, for her to have ample experience around Muslims, Christians, Yoruba, Ife, Santeria, Judaism, etc. Even atheism. As it relates to revolution, it was always made clear to her where I stood and as she got older she certainly came to her own level of understanding about what that meant. There are two times during her teen years that stand out for me. Once, when she was about 13, she told me she wanted to be a millionaire when she grew up. I was greatly disappointed, but I didn't chastise or criticize her thinking. Instead, I tried to explain to her why she should consider taking a different career path. I tried to help her see that socialist thinking was much more humanistic and that seeing people as an end all by themselves, instead of a means to an end as capitalism trains us to see people was an Umi family value, but I didn't push her. Despite my desire to push, I didn't. The other instance was when she was 17 and we had a discussion about demonstrations. She admitted to me that she was afraid of being arrested and/or hurt at a demonstration and I was again disappointed, but I continued in that discussion reminding her that she'd grown up going to various demonstrations, but she still maintained that day that doing so at 17 was not her objective.
The next year she went away to college and of course we continued, and still continue, to talk daily about the issues of the world. Mostly, this dynamic consisted of general discussion, but about five years ago, I realized that I had spent a lot of time explaining to her what the work looks like, but I had never explained to her what the work meant to me. What the hardships of the work are and how those hardships have impacted me over the years. I began to unpack all of that and what started to happen was phenomenal. I started to open up to her about how much I stress about balancing visiting her and traveling other places to do A-APRP work as that is something I struggle with every day. We began to talk about how valuable it is for me to be doing what I'm doing and how not many people are going to do it at this stage and how I needed to continue. In the course of that process, she began asking me pointed questions about the A-APRP's work. Questions she'd never asked before. She began calling herself an open anti-capitalist and where she was telling me 15 years ago that she was afraid of demonstrations, today, she's active in organizing and participating in them herself. Still, when I started churning out the books 10 years ago she never had much to say about it although she was always open to listening to me talk about it. Then, in the last two years, she began to ask me about my writing and much the same way I opened up about my insecurities in the organizing work, I did the same with the writing. Soon, she was my primary support person in hearing about the traumas of the publishing industry and with the publishing of this most recent book, she participated in the steps of the process right along with me.
Now, on July 30th, she will be hosting an event in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S., with me talking about Pan-African fiction, my book, and how we organize to build a better world. For this event I can say truly that if two people attend it will be a resounding success and I'm excited, but with the strong organizing skills my daughter has developed, she of course has great confidence that our turnout that night will be good.
I don't know if my daughter will ever join the A-APRP or not. I know that one of the challenges to this has been her mom and myself will each never be confused as being people with docile personalities. I recognize that my daughter, being the product of us, never wants to operate within our shadows. Besides, our line is join some organization working for justice. Its a line I've always believed in 100%, even as it relates to my daughter. She has an organization and she's doing work (her organization is one of the organizations sponsoring the event on the 30th). That's more than good enough for me. And, no matter what happens going forward, I'll always have this memory of this event she organized to permit her circle of people to hear her dad do his work. If an attorney is excited when their daughter goes to law school, that's the feeling I'm having right now. We've come an awful long way from dreams of becoming a millionaire.