The Chicago Police Have Failed Us, and So Will Lori Lightfoot

While watching Lori Lightfoot hold a press conference about gun offenders and weekend violence, I cringed. Part of the reason I cringed was because of the creature standing behind her, the failed Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the same man who did nothing to punish the officer who shot Rekia Boyd in the head and lied about a suspect having a gun. The other reason I cringed was because, in this country, people are innocent until proven guilty, but Lori Lightfoot and Johnson stood at the podium arguing that those allegedly caught with guns should be incarcerated and not out on bond. What happened to due process?

For far too long, the Chicago Police have been a corrupt organization of unruly cops having their way with minorities. Take for instance the SOS Chicago officers who beat and framed suspects as recently as 2010 or the Jon Burge reign in which dozens of Black men were tortured and framed. People say that all cops are not bad. Sure. But have those people ever heard of complicity or accessory? 

In the LaQuan McDonald case, several officers lied in their reports to protect their fellow guilty officer Jason Van Dyke. There is a known code of silence amongst cops. They don’t snitch on each other. Doesn’t a cop covering up for a dirty cop make the other cop just as dirty? 

Back to the damaged credibility of the Chicago Police Department, who’s to say that everyone these cops arrest for gun crimes actually committed those crimes? You know who is to say that? A judge or jury, not the mayor. Lori Lightfoot is mayor of Chicago, and it is her duty to protect the City’s citizens. Part of being able to do this is by acknowledging the crookedness of the CPD. Not all the CPD is bad, but in this case, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. 

To Lightfoot, make it your business not to jump to conclusions about who’s guilty and who’s not, lest you end up like Rahm Emanuel and be made a fool of as he was by the very department he tried to protect. 

#laquan #laquanmcdonald #chicago #police #chicagopolice #lorilightfoot

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America’s Trash: The Average Black Man

As the commander-in-chief douses with gasoline the racial fire that has consumed America and led to two recent mass shootings by at least one known white supremacist, this country’s judicial system continues to be tone deaf when it comes to the plight of Black men. This is obvious in the case of Gaston Tucker, a 32-year-old Chicago man who was on parole and allegedly caught with a pistol during a traffic stop. After reviewing his phone calls, prosecutors used what he said against him to argue for a no bond. 

According to a Chicago Tribune piece by Jason Meisner, Gaston was recorded by phone call reflecting on the stop that led to his subsequent arrest. Gaston supposedly said over the phone, “Everything happens for a reason man…what I was  doing this summertime, man, I would have gotten caught shooting that [firearm]…that would have been life in prison…Boy, I quit. I ain’t carrying [a gun] no more.”

Tucker didn’t know this phone call would be used against him. So, this is as genuine as it can get. For all intents and purposes, this sounds like a man resigned to his fate, a man who knows where he went wrong and knows what he needs to do to get better. This is a man who is beyond the denial stage. At this point, he is in the stage where a helping hand is all he needs. Gaston has been punished his whole life  by the streets of  Chicago, by the judicial system, by society. He understands he has made bad decisions that could have been worse. Now, he wants to do better. This is what a compassionate person would get from the phone call he allegedly made. 

However, the judge , U.S. Magistrate Maria Valdez said, “[Gaston Tucker] feels that he is stuck between the crosshairs of Chicago” and used Gaston’s supposed phone call against him as a reason to instate a no-bond order for the man. Instead of feeling compassion for a man who wants to do right and knows he did wrong, this judge punished him for feeling stuck. Haven’t we all felt stuck before in our lives? 

Gaston’s situation is not unique. His story is one told every day dozens of times across this country where Black boys and Black men pay a price heavier than what their white counterparts pay. This is a country where a judge argues that a white man convicted of rape deserves a light sentence because he could have a potentially bright future and comes from a wealthy family or where a judge can sentence a white man to probation after that white man kills four and paralyzes two while drunk driving and flees the scene and the judge agrees that the man was too rich to know right from wrong. While the Black man or boy is punished for being poor and doing wrong, the white man or white boy is slapped on the hand and given a light sentence if any at all. 

There is no love or compassion for Black people in this criminal justice system. The same burdens that were put upon Black people by the system are the same burdens the system continues to punish Black people for. Gaston Tucker is a prime example that when the system has the chance to help a Black person at his lowest, the system instead kicks and spits on him for being so lowly. 

#ethancouch #gastontucker #chicagotribune #chicago #chicagonews

Inspiration Comes from Everywhere

As you’ll find if you read my blog thoroughly enough, I grew up in the Robert Taylor Projects on the Southside of Chicago. If you do any research, you’ll find it was not the ideal place to grow up, being overwhelmed with drugs and gang activity. But it is where I am from, and I am not ashamed of it.

My uncle Milton lived there as well but for over thirty years. When I was younger, he made a painting on my mom’s wall of the cartoon Tom cutting off Jerry’s head. Blood was everywhere in the painting. My mom was pissed to say the least. I was delighted, until she made him paint over it.

Milton is a very sarcastic person who you’ll either love or hate with hate seeming to be the winner in most cases. Yet he is comfortable with whom he is. On Monday, June 4, 2018, the Chicago Sun Times did a spread on him concerning his upbringing, painting and one of his pieces currently on display at an art gallery. This inspires me.

My family is condensed with people in the arts. I’m a writer, my uncle is an artist and some of my family makes music. Most of us came from those dilapidated buildings, but we have success, college degrees and each other.

Someone once asked me why I never failed to mention that I am from the projects. This person has a painful history, having grown up extremely poor to the point of having no running water in the house. Her childhood was traumatic. She is doing well for herself now, but she shies away from her past. She will not discuss with anyone how she grew up. It is this denial that leads her to question me. How can I, having grown up in the most notorious part of the city, be able and willing to speak openly about it?

I am not ashamed of where I come from. It has made me who I am, good or bad. It showed me that the world can be harsh, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference. It is what inspires me to do better for my children so that they don’t have to experience what I did. The point is, embrace your past to know your future as the Sankofa bird of West Africa tells you.

 

Increasing Book Sales With KDP Rocket

Today, I’m talking about increasing book sales with KDP Rocket. It is a program that is not a subscription that allows you to get inside knowledge on keywords so that you can have a greater chance of your books being found on Amazon by readers. You’re probably wondering why this is so important.

OK. Keywords are important if you want to maximize your ability to sell books. For instance, if you’re writing a book about a warring kingdom, it would be great to know that 1 million people a month through Amazon search the keywords “bloody kings killing.” Would you ever have thought to make that phrase part of your keywords? Maybe not.

On top of this, KDP Rocket tells you who your competition is, how many books they sold and how much money your keywords generate in relation to book sales. You’re wondering now, does it work? Many authors have said it does. Personally, I do not know, but this why I brought it yesterday for $97. There was a hiccup and I never received my pass key (license), but I emailed Dave Chesson, the creator who is a very accessible guy and who apologized, and he sent me my key.

So, I am doing an experiment. I know that shorter ebooks tend to do better than longer ebooks. I also have gathered data from KDP Rocket concerning book sales and competition within a certain genre. I am writing a 20,000-word novella using this information to see if it outperforms my other books. However, there are other variables to consider:

  1. Whether the story is appealing to the market
  2. Whether the book cover is intriguing
  3. Whether the marketing was sufficient
  4. And other things I can’t think of

I am very confident in my writing and storytelling capabilities. I have written some great pieces. If KDP Rocket is all it is cracked up to be, I should see a tremendous jump in sales. I know what the market wants, I know my competition and I know my keywords. Stay tuned, Loyal Reeders, and see what happens.

What It Means to Be a Self-Published, Indie Author in 2018

A lot of writers who do not have book deals classify themselves as self-published or indie authors. They take on that title and expect instant success. Most of the time, if their first book does not do well, these “authors” drop out of the race to being America’s next great writer.

Over the last two years, I have complete several writing projects, including my upcoming novella “Operation Soul Cast” and my collection of short stories “The Book of All Things Beautiful.” And, let me tell you something: being an indie author is not easy. You effectively become:

  1. Writer
  2. Publicist
  3. Editor
  4. Promoter
  5. Finance Guy
  6. And so on and so forth

There is a lot that goes into releasing a book. First you have to write the book. Then you have to edit and proofread it and revise it yourself if you don’t have money to pay a professional. You have to format it for different versions, like audio, hardcopy and ebook. You have to constantly promote yourself. At times, it will seem overwhelming. It is not impossible.

Although I have been writing for years, I am still a novice in many aspects. I do not want to be an indie author forever. I want to be traditionally published, even though I would probably get to keep a lesser percentage of my royalties. So, why am I self-publishing at all?

Big publishing houses want novels, meaning greater than 60,000 words, but usually in the 90,000-word range. So, I self-publish my novellas, very short books, just to get my name out there.  But I have written novels and I am trying to get them published by a big publishing company. I’m not saying you should do the same.

What I am saying is, keep writing. No matter what. Put words on the page. Plan out your steps to write and release your books.

I hope this helps you pen the next great American novel.

Becoming Writer: Formal Education as an Author Versus None as a Writer

Yesterday, a fellow blogger asked me a good question about formal education as a writer versus no formal education as a writer. A lot of writers struggle with this. Some see education as the end all, be all that will make them a best-seller. Others who don’t have this education sometimes feel inadequate.

It took me four and a half years to get my bachelor’s degree which is in the field of Professional Technical Writing. Unlike beginning authors without training, I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and the technical parts of writing. I learned much of this in high school though and a small amount of it in college.

You don’t have to go to school to be a writer. Writing is a craft. Reading and writing will undoubtedly make you better. You just have to read books on the craft of writing and study hard on your own. Don’t just throw something together and think it will sell. You must edit and proofread meticulously.

Being in the Creative Writing MFA has put me in contact with some great influential writers. You can build similar contacts by going to writing workshops or joining groups.

Publishing houses and literary agents tend to take formally educated writers more seriously. If you can get some of your work published in magazines or anthologies, this will open doors for you.

You don’t need a degree or two like I have. You just need to write good stories, and send them to publishing houses and agents who will read them. If your work is good, the book deals will come.

The Pressures of Being a Struggling Writer

Your manuscript should be at least 80,000 words. 

Hearing that may be overwhelming. It’s similar to that part in I, Robot where Sunny tells Will Smith’s character the vast amount of stairs they have to climb. You may think, how the hell do I come up with 80,000 words? Then, you may think, I’ll just write 60,000 and someone will publish it. You should not think that way. 

Writing a novel is a great task. It can be overwhelming. But deviating from the standards of word-count will only tarnish your efforts and limit the number of editors or agents who will take your work seriously. 

Knowing how much work is involved, you may wonder, What of no one publishes it? So what. What if you constantly doubt yourself? What if you never finish a manuscript? Surely, you will never get published because you won’t have anything to publish. 

As a beginning creative writer, I now understand why so many authors fail. They underestimate the amount of work involved. No one magically writes about. The words do not just appear on the page. Someone has to put them there. That someone is you. 

The Cop Who Nothing Except Everything

About two weeks ago, I had the unfortunate opportunity of being pulled over by a twenty-something cop who thought he knew it all about traffic law. It was nearly 11 pm on a busy street when a girl on her cellphone zipped into the street. I pressed my brakes so hard, the tires squealed. As she landed across the street, I heard sirens and saw blue and white lights.

The officer asked for my insurance card which I provided.

“This is not valid for presentation,” said the cop, pushing his glasses over the bridge of his nose.

“It is,” I said, pointing to the card.

“It isn’t. And you failed to yield to a pedestrian and you improperly used your horn.”

“She ran into traffic.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

When he came back to the car, he handed me a ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. Of course, my blood boiled, but there was nothing I could do.

Last week, I heard the ticket. I thought I would catch a break when the officers in the other defendants’ cases failed to show and so they were dismissed. Nope. Glasses Cop showed up in a White Sox hoodie.

“If you plead guilty,” said the judge to me, “You’ll have to pay just $214 in court fees, no traffic fine and this will not be reported on your driving record.”

“What if I want a trial?” I asked.

“If you lose, the conviction will go on your driving record, you will have to pay court fees and I could fine you an additional $500.”

I contemplated pleading out. But my ego would not let me. I felt I was right.

“I will take the trial,” I said.

After Glasses Cop gave his side, I gave mine. I argued that the girl abruptly entered the street, endangering not just her life and mine but others as well.

“And Illinois traffic law section b says no pedestrian shall suddenly run or walk into oncoming traffic,” I ended.

The judge was stern-faced. I could not tell what she was thinking.

“After hearing both sides, I find the officer to be credible. I find the defendant credible as well. Since the State has failed to meet its burden of proof, I find the defendant not guilty,” said the judge.

As she read her verdict, I was a plethora of emotions from anxious to nervous. Then, I was elated. As I left the courtroom, I thanked the judge and the officer. But Glasses Cop was highly upset. If looks could turn people to stone, I would have been one.

Someone once told me, “You can’t beat the system, but you can trick it.” I agree.

Millennium Park Seduction

Quetta and I became acquainted rather oddly. Before she was my high school sweetheart, we lived our lives parallel, our paths never really crossing even though we had many of the same classes. 

Back then, I was just a scrawny kid with gaps between every one of my teeth. Everyone knew me as “smart,” but I didn’t live up to my potential. I just got by. 

Quetta saw something in me she liked. This urged her to give me a note with three pictures of her and her sister and her phone number. I never used the number. I remember her sliding me these things and how weird I felt. She was pretty, but what was her point with me?

So, months passed and she eventually took my number and called me. The first time we had sex, it was amazing and confusing. She cried. 

“Why are you crying.” I said, stopping mid-stroke. 

“Because I feel like a whore. I’m seventeen and I’ve had sex with three different boys already,” she said.

This year, one of those men she had sex with was killed, taken before his time. But back then, I assured her she wasn’t a whore. She loved me for this. 

Months later, we went to the movies. In light of her jerking me off, I have forgotten what we went to see. She couldn’t keep her hands off me, and then things escalated. 

“I want to have sex,” she said, rubbing my manhood. 

“We will when we get home,” I said. 

“I want sex in Millennium Park. Now.” 

I was taken aback, but I kept me composure. In Millenium Park, while people tossed frisbees and drank beer, Quetta and I had sex behind a bush. She rode me until she came. 

She put back on all her clothes. By now, the wind had picked up. She told me how much she had enjoyed it. I didn’t cum. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it. I felt uncomfortable. It would be years before moments like these actually turned me on. 

I Am a Drug Dealer, Not So Much

One of my most vivid memories of my life in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Projects is my friend Travis and me walking through a grassy field and finding a huge ZipLoc bag of crack cocaine. There had to be at least 300 rocks in there. 

Up until this point, I had seen plenty of crack transactions. I was only nine or ten, but this was a way of life where I lived. But still, seeing crack without a dealer sent a raw fear through me. I felt like I would go to jail just from being around it. If the cops came, they would charge Travis and me with having it. 

“Damn,” said Travis, picking up the bag. “We’re rich.”

“We need to leave that alone,” I said, stepping away. 

“What? You scared? You a punk?”

After a brief argument, we decided to take it to my uncle. I knew he smoked crack and I thought he would know what to do with it. In his bedroom, my uncle interviewed us.

“Did you still this from your brother?” he asked Travis, since his brother was a well-known dealer. 

“No,” Travis said. 

“And don’t nobody know y’all got this?” he asked us.

After my uncle confirmed our story, he promised to sell it and give us some of the profit. Needless to say, we never saw a dime. Travis was mad. I wasn’t. We should have known not to give crack to a crack head. But I did not want anything to do with it anyhow. I realized then that I was not a drug dealer.