Humble Bear Production…coming soon!

Get ready for the birth of Humble Bear Production, a video production company that produces book trailers and provides services for nonprofits and businesses including video storytelling, welcome videos, commercials, campaign videos and mini docs.

Check out the new videos on the Humble Bear Production page.

Humble Bear Production

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Posted by on April 14, 2015 in Announcements


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Cherry Castle Publishing’s THE OVERGROUND RAILROAD

Overground RR cover_v1-front

I just read The Overground Railroad, an anthology soon to hit the streets from Cherry Castle Publishing.

(The book drops this month, but you can pre-order it for $10.00 – half of the proceeds will go to The Gwendolyn Brooks Center).

And – LAWD! – I’m still reeling from these poems produced in a workshop that poets Truth Thomas and Derrick Weston Brown conducted at Chicago State University last year.

It’s been a longtime since a poetry collection knocked me upside my head and made me listen.

Reading these poems reminded me that I’ve been in a literary winter.

And “Spring has returned,” Rainier Maria Rilke once put it. “The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”

The Earth would be even giddy to know that these poets – some experienced and others new to poetry – bring a fire I haven’t felt in a while. In fact, these poems are so charged that they put exclamations in my pulse.

And there’s also tenderness in this collection, where “commitment/keeps us warm” and where “jealous pens and pencils/spend eons” looking for “metaphors and similes” to woo the fine poem “pranc[ing] through line/breaks.”

The Overground in the collection’s title is an apt description. There’s nothing underground about these voices on their way to freedom, calling “to all hues/of brown” and “calling all bullets and other non-intellectual/weapons to cease.”

For the Rudy Guilianies and other propagandists wondering, where is the outrage against black on black crime, well it’s in these pages.

It’s in the wishbone of an alley “connecting Ludden to Preston,” where a basketball rim “graduate[s] from crate, to hoop with chains, to one with nylon.”

Pre-order The Overground Railroad from Cherry Castle Publishing. You need that in your life!

note: the quoted lines came from the poems in this anthology

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Posted by on April 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


My Car Commercial

I know I’ve been off the grid for a while, and hope to get my writing mojo back. But here’s a brief update: I’ve been taking a Videography 1 class, and my final assignment was to do a car commercial. Well, here it is!


Posted by on March 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Posted by on December 29, 2014 in Uncategorized


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“Striptease,” a poem for #BlackPoetsSpeakOut

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Posted by on December 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


A Grandfamily’s Unexpected Strengths

Barbara Wells is a case manager at the Program for Recovery & Community Health in Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wrote this article for Generations United‘s Together Blog. It appears here with the organization’s permission. 

Barbara Wells knows a thing or two about adversity – how it can either break you or tap unexpected strengths.

As someone who succeeds at challenges, the biggest one came for the single grandmother in 2006, when her grandson, Jay’son, moved in with her after his parents’ incarceration.

Until that moment, Wells, whose grown daughters had their own children, enjoyed her life in Newport News, VA., where she lived for 17 years and worked as a crane operator at a shipyard.

The freedom to travel allowed her to take off for New Haven, CT., after her mom’s heart attack in 1992.

And, while boarding a bus back to Newport News, Wells’s right foot went through a snow-covered pothole before she lost her grip and and her left foot slipped on the ice.

She broke her right leg in five places.

When doctors told her she would never work a crane again, she decided to stay in New Haven and go back to school.

Her life before Jay’son looked like this: finish school, move back to Newport News and work as a social worker.

Nowhere in those plans included a second parenthood raising a grandchild. “Since I had to get him, I said, ‘I’m going to raise him now. I’m not going to let him go into the system,’” she recalled. “‘I’m going to put my life on hold for right now.”

That was eight years ago. “Now,” the grandmother said, “there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Wells is among 2.7 million older Americans raising one or more grandchildren under age 18, according to 2012 census data.  “Of these caregivers,” data reports, “1.7 million were grandmothers and 1.0 million were grandfathers.”

bwellspullquoteThis grandfamily’s new light includes Jay’son, 14, starting high school at New Haven’s Metropolitan Business Academy. “I’m very proud of him,” Wells said. “Most children who are not living with their parents have some type of behavioral problems.”

But through therapy, she said, “he’s doing such a remarkable job.”

And so is Wells, who recently graduated from Southern Connecticut State University with her Masters in Social Work.

The grandmother, who’s a case manager in Yale University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, is even thinking of relocating with her grandson to Maryland, North Carolina or Florida for full-time work and a fresh start.

Jay’son’s got his eyes set on Virginia, which piqued his interest during a recent trip to Newport News. When asked how he felt about moving, he told her, “I will just have to meet new friends.”

While their days are brighter, Wells recalls those dark times that nearly broke them. “When he was younger, it was a little tough,” the grandmother said.

She recalled 6-year-old Jay’son often worrying about his future. “Grandma, how am I going to be able to take care of myself?” he asked her. “I’m afraid.”

The anger came when he got older. “He didn’t want to go to school,” the grandmother said.

About 7.8 million children, like Jay’son, across the country live in Grandfamilies, or households headed by grandparents or other relatives.

Just when she and Jay’son thought they reached their breaking point, they tapped unexpected strengths.

Wells found hers in New Haven’s services for grandparents raising grandchildren, her friends and family, and even her grandson.

Through the Consultation Center of New Haven’s Elder Programs, the grandmother’s resources included support groups, parenting skills training, respite opportunities and legislative advocacy through the Center’s Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.

The Kinship Fund, which the Connecticut Children’s Trust Fund runs, helped Wells make the financial adjustments to care for Jay’son.

When the social worker, an undergrad student at the time, had to make her 7 a.m. classes, her family and friends – especially Jay’son’s paternal grandparents – took care of him.

“Grandpa Johnnie was close to the only positive male role model in his life,” she said, crediting Grandpa Johnnie and his wife for helping her reach her goals.

“It is alright to co-grandparent,” said Wells, adding that she and Jay’son’s other grandparents call each other “grandparents-in-law.” “They have been right there by my side.”

When school nearly broke her, Jay’son was another unexpected strength. “He’s a very intelligent young man despite his diagnosis of ADHD,” Wells said, remembering an undergrad video project her class partner sat on until the last minute.

Barbara Wells (center), posing with her daughters and Jay’son, holds a grandson who lives with his mom in Dubai.

When Wells’s classmate lost their recording on her way home, “Jay’son and I were up at 3 o’clock in the morning,” she recalled. “He recorded the video and made sure I had it ready for class the next day.”

During grad school, he helped Wells with her PowerPoint presentations.

As for Jay’son’s unexpected strength, it came from his grandmother.

During those undergrad days, when Wells couldn’t find a sitter, she took her grandson to school with her. Watching his grandmother study hard inspired Jay’son to take his education seriously.

“It’s nice to show children what college is about,” she said.

Now, he won’t stop talking about it. “He understands that you can pick your classes on the days you want, if they’re available,” the social worker said. “He loved it.”

Wells’s classmates also loved having him around.

Now, it’s hard for the social worker to imagine her days without Jay’son, even as she recalls how her life changed that night in 2006.

“When I first got Jay’son,” Wells recalled, “I had to seek services for him.”

A stranger at a center surprised Wells with her reaction. “Are you going to take  your grandkid?” the woman said. “Oh, I would never do that.”

Despite those concerns, Wells has no regrets. “It was tough,” she said, “but the joy I get out of watching him grow into a nice, respectable young man was worth it.”

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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Art Appreciation Month!

Everyone’s got their list of favorites – favorite movies, books, restaurants, etc. Inevitably, someone gets left off those lists.

This is an on-going list I’m building. In honor of this wonderful commemorative month, I’m highlighting these eight artists I’ve profiled here on this blog, and who I think people should know. Click the collage below to visit my new “Memes” page, where you can learn about each of these talented artists and people I’m proud to call my friends.

artist collage

Again, the list is on-going. I’m still creating memes for other folks I’ve profiled. So please check the “Memes” page often for new faces.

Happy Art Appreciation Month! Since I like dialogue, please list your favorite artists with links to their pages in the comments.


Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Hustle vs. Heartache (UPDATE)

(STILL: Courtesy) Giovanni Adams in his role as Hustle.

Three years ago, I did a story on Jason Tyler and his film crew’s project, Hustle vs. Heartache  — a story about up-and-coming rapper, Hustle, fresh out of prison with a dream of making it big as a hip hop artist, forging a relationship with his young son and finishing old business with his soul-singer dad, Heartache.

Back in 2011, Jason was a grad student at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

When I interviewed him and his crew, they already raised $30,000 with a goal of reaching $100,000 for what started as a thesis film and became a feature.

Jason’s team has since graduated, exceeded their fundraising goal and are now in post-production. They’re an edit away from picture lock, a stage in film editing before the changes are complete and approved.

Afterwards, Jason’s crew kicks their film into the next stage that includes additional edits and audio mixing.

They’ve also secured an impressive cast that includes Blu Mankuma, of Smallville fame, and Vanessa Bell Calloway, who old school heads will remember from Coming to America. Learn more about the cast.


Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Blog Tour!

Meet Alan King!

Meet Alan King!

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
-Albert Schweitzer

I want to thank Lisa Panepinto, who first tagged me last month for the blog tour (sorry it’s taken me a minute), and Bianca Spriggs for rekindling my inner spirit when the fire went out.

Each writer of the blog tour is asked the following questions. Here’s what I had to say: 

1) What am I working on? 

Right now, I’m trying to get my manuscript, Point Blank, published. Some of the poems were written before I started the Stonecoast MFA program. Once I started grad school, Point Blank took on a life of its own —  exploring race through various Black male archetypes.

The characters that populate these narrative poems exist between urban and suburban areas. The imagery in Point Blank is influenced by natural landscapes, hip hop, and the urban scene. It’s my hope that Point Blank also speaks to injustices committed by or against people left in the margins as a result of racism, classism, and related economic disparities, while showing their humanity in a way that invites the reader to reconsider what s/he thought s/he knew.

I was honored that my mentors, Joy Harjo and Tim Seibles, helped me shape this manuscript. Tim showed me how sensory and psychological details intensified a reader’s experience of each poem. I added details to earlier drafts that not only make the reader feel like they’re inside the poem and experience, but also takes them inside the head of the speaker.

When I struggled during my first semester with how detailed I wanted to be in my poems, Tim offered this bit of advice: “We love soloists for what they give us, not what they hold back.” That’s become my mantra whenever I approach the page.

I owe just as much to Joy Harjo, who, with my title poem “Point Blank”, had me consider the age of my speaker and his friend, both 12-year-olds, which Harjo noted was the age most guys are at the edge of puberty. Adding those extra details helped make the poem richer. Harjo also had me consider alternate time (what’s happening in another time that connects to the moment in the poem).

“A poem is an energetic system,” she once told me. Because of her suggestions, I now consider various levels on which my poems work. Because of Joy and Tim, I’d like to think the poems in Point Blank pose like bodybuilders, showing off their new muscles. Seibles and Harjo forced my poems to do extra bench presses despite them being tired and wanting to relax.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work differs the same way we’re all different. I can only bring my point of view, which is shaped by personal experiences, to a subject. While I’m not the only writer to explore certain issues through persona — Peter Parker, an earth-bound angel, Hulk and others — I do bring my own insights, which are going to be unique to other writers the same way their insights differ from mine.

3) Why do I write what I do? 

The late John Wooden, basketball player and coach, once said: “Be true to yourself…make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books…”

With that said, being true to myself requires me to write what I’m passionate about, what inspires me after drinking deeply from life.

Most of my work is autobiographical because I pull from my own experiences. Being true to myself requires me to bear witness to my life while I hope my experiences speak to someone else’s. Tim Seibles said it best during my interview with him for BOMB magazine:

What I’m trying to do, as a poet, is to bear witness to my life because I believe my life is like other lives. What I mean is that my problems, my anxieties, my passions, my loves, my disappointments link up pretty readily with those of other people.

…[I]f I talk explicitly about sexual desire, I’m not the first man in the world to look at a woman and feel that burn in the gut…

With my poems, whether they be explicitly erotic or explicitly political, I hope I am simply putting language to something that many people feel.

That’s what I strive to do in all of my poems: speak truth to power.

4) How does my writing process work?

I am not productive away from people. I need the sounds of life as my backdrop — overheard conversations in a restaurant or coffee house, the squealing bus brakes, car horns, the loud scrape of a chair leg sliding across floor tile, etc. I need something happening in the background while I write.

I also don’t do good carrying a pen and pad. The expectation of writing turns off my creativity. That’s why I love my EVERNOTE app, which I’ve installed on my android phone and my laptop. So when I’m hit with an image or a few lines, I whip out my phone and start typing in that app. When I get to my laptop, I can flesh out the ideas and keep going.

I’m often inspired by people-watching. The conversation of things unsaid between strangers. I’m big on body language and the narrative therein.

Let’s keep the blog tour rolling with these next two bloggers:

Robert Hookey is an author and a bellman at a hotel on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. He grew from a “stereotypical shy, retiring kid” to a wonderful storyteller, who’s days as a bellman aren’t short of funny and awkward adventures. He’s the personality behind the blog, You’ve Been HookedThe funniest story he told me was the situation with him and Min. Louis Farrakhan. You have to read his profile here to find out the rest.

Meet Ned Hickson.

Next up is Ned Hickson, an editor and humor columnist for the Siuslaw News, a small Oregon newspaper where the motto is: Your dependable source for local news. Twice weekly. Unless we lose count. He’s the personality behind the blog, Ned’s Blog: Humor at the Speed of Life.



Posted by on June 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The Proper Yardstick


Stock Image

Today, I started — then stopped reading — the article, “The Top 10 Worst College Majors, Definitively Ranked.”

I saw it this morning on Facebook and, despite the red flags it, and other titles like it (“top ten” this or that), usually raised, my curiosity told me to click the link and skim the list.

It didn’t take an educated guess, however,  to know where the article was going.

Of course, the fine arts was among those listed with anthropology and archeology as well as film/video & photographic arts.

The only point of those articles is to reaffirm this hierarchy of personal pursuits and professions, as if success, whatever that is, could only be measured by the same yard stick.

And why are we measuring against one another anyway? The Canadian author Ann Voskamp said it best: “Pick up a yardstick to measure your life against anyone else’s, and you’ve just picked up a stick and beaten up your own soul.”

These soul-beating articles, like “The Top 10 Worst College Majors…,” aren’t only pointless, but do more harm than good.


They discourage people from pursuing what they’re passionate about and, instead, encourage them  to major in what they think will get them good jobs that, while paying generously and offering great benefits, will ultimately make them miserable.

My father didn’t understand that then (study something that’s going to make you some good money, he usually said), so I majored in computer science — convincing myself that it made sense because I loved video games.

Nevermind that I didn’t have any coding experience.

After graduation, I could make $90,000 starting pay. That’s what I kept telling myself until I flunked my major and ended up on academic probation.

It took an advisor, running off a list of other possible majors, to help me rethink things.  When I asked her how much money I’d make after graduation, she frowned.

“What do you enjoy doing?”  she asked me. “What gives you the most fulfillment?”

That’s when I remembered the poems my classmates and I studied from Elementary through High School. That’s when I remembered the short stories I wrote to get the characters out of my head. That’s when I remembered how fulfilling it was to — having sweated out each line and stanza of my own poems — to see a draft that got closer to what I wanted to express.

That’s when I decided to study journalism.


Yes, the publisher paid pennies for work that always followed me home. Yes, that same publisher laid me off and I went unemployed for a while.

But doing what I thought was fulfilling allowed me to explore other careers in writing. I worked a handful of gigs — from a contract consultant on a book project, to teaching middle and high school students creative writing, to touring D.C. Public Schools as a visiting writer for a prestigious literary organization.

During that time, I went to grad school and published DRIFT, which continues to open opportunities for me.

After graduating with my MFA in Creative Writing, my pay jumped by $15,000 when I landed a full-time position as a communications specialists for a national nonprofit.

If there’s anything I learned during those days of uncertainty, it was this: diversify your income streams; never just have one source of income.

Right now, I have four — three in addition to my full-time job.  And guess what? I wouldn’t trade my experience for another.

To paraphrase Vince Lombardi: fulfillment of all we hold dear is that moment when we work our hearts out in a good cause and lie exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.

And that, not the “Top Ten” articles, should be the yardstick with which we measure  both our personal and professional successes.


Posted by on June 7, 2014 in Uncategorized


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