I grew up in Watts and Compton neighborhoods in Los Angeles. At 14, I was scared shitless by the 1965 Watts Riots, and in April 1992, at 41, I tried to explain to my three preadolescent children why cops beat Rodney King as we watched their favorite Jack in the Box burn to the ground on television. In 2009 I wrote Compton4COPS, a plan to improve policing in my city and, for my children, to help make sense of that which made none. They read it, but not a lot of others did. Policing in Compton, although somewhat improved, has a long, long, long, way to go.
In search of a bold publisher, my short story collection Crooked Out of Compton is a semi-finalist for the Chestnut Review Stubborn Artists Contest and a finalist for the Black Lawrence Press 2020 Big Moose Prize. I connect gritty stories showing how people find hope and even joy in lives where basic needs are hard to meet.
My mother blessed our public housing projects childhood household with Compton’s Encyclopedia, DC comics, and MAD Magazines, and the literary world doesn’t often come to Compton. Still, as Bob Marley said, when one door is closed, another is open. I had more to say after COPS and discovered short story fiction writing as that open door.
Somewhere in the ‘70s, I lost track of Octavia Butler, Frantz Kafka, and James Baldwin, opting instead for rationality, reality-oriented academic pursuits on several college campuses. I settled for the joy of reading economic, accounting, and statistic textbooks under the delusion that if I only stuffed my left brain with that shit, I’d feed my family. I fed them, and my adult children do fine. But something was missing. I wanted to write. Luckily, I stumbled across the UCLA Extension Writing Program, where, around 2012, I first heard of Emerging Voices through a classmate who was then a Fellow. Later I met Fellows in other courses that encouraged me to apply. As an old black guy, I wasn’t optimistic about my chances, but I needed something to keep me writing.