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Black people read science fiction too.

I just found out that the author of my favorite book series has passed. It actually hurt my heart to hear this news. I felt like I knew her personally. L.A Banks wrote the twelve book series “Vampire Huntress.” She wrote in various genres, including African-American literature, romance, women’s fiction, crime suspense, dark fantasy/horror and non-fiction. Sadly she passed August 2, 2011 from late stage adrenal cancer. She was only 51.

I have always been open to reading any genre of books. I enjoy reading sci-fi, paranormal books. Yes, not many black people read sci-fi but I am a fan. So when I was introduced to this series by a friend I fell in love. I read these books like a hungry child devouring every word. I actually started reading the series twice and after each fix I was steadily hooked. I bought each one like it was crack and Barnes & Nobles was my supplier.

The series focuses on a young woman named Damali Richards. She is a spoken word artist but she is also The Neteru, a human who is born every thousand years to fight the Dark Realms. Plus she adorns a crown of locs on her head (maybe why I like it even more). She is gifted with powers that enable her to destroy the supernatural creatures and fight against all forces of evil but vampires are her biggest threat and enemy. L.A Banks once said “To me, the vampire represents a lot of what we see in society. They’re scarier because of that; because the vampire can be anybody. He just blends in and looks perfectly normal. Like your serial killers often look like normal people.”

Thus one of the main reasons that I love this series is because Banks made it relatable to modern life. It’s not just a typical book about killing vampires. She writes on the never-ending struggle between good and evil and how important love is. I found the series engaging and evolving. I will admit that the first book was a little slow but she got better with each book. The characters being described, as young, hip-hop, people-of-color, with culture and proud heritage were believable. They were a mix of musicians, veterans; Ivy League educated and drug dealers. I was glad to read a sci-fi book that had characters of different ethnicities African-American, Native American, Mexican, Laotians.

One theme throughout the story was always “Stay in the Light.” Stay in the light by staying positive, opening your third eye, acknowledging and using your talents and gifts for the betterment of yourself and others. L.A Banks writes of respecting and learning from your ancestors, using their wisdom in our lives. Her story line weaves a mix of conscious thought, holistic medicine and battle strategy. Characters practiced natural healing and laying on of hands while still using holy water grenades and glock nine millimeter, with hallowed earth-packed artillery. Like I said it is not a typical book about vampires.

This series is more than just sci-fi. It is romance, history, religious, spiritual, action packed. It is about a person’s internal struggle and of redemption. There is a passionate bond between Damali and Carlos Rivera, her lover and partner, that creates conflict and purpose in the story. Despite all their pain and faults, they truly believed in each other. That hope served as a beacon in uncertain times. By the end of the series I saw myself as Damali in love with my Carlos. I became a part of the book.

There are some other interesting observations from the book and the view that she writes from but I will reserve those opinions for myself and choose only to speak on the positive that I took away from the series but…

I know a lot of people can’t get into fiction much less science-fiction but reading different genres of creativity inspires my own. My imagination is not one dimensional and sci-fi opens up another side to that imagination. I encourage you to branch out and read outside of your normal genres. Try some sci-fi. Try fiction. Read between the lines you will be surprised at how it may relate to you and your life. Allow your imagination to wander and live out in another world.

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Writing saved my life…

I am a thought sought out by curious minds“…my favorite quote I wrote in 12th grade creative writing class. I always felt like I was born a writer, a poet but until recently I realized my passion and gift started somewhere. I have had this partial memory of being 8 years old alongside my older sister and being introduced to poetry. We were taken out of class to learn about rhyming and haikus not just for poetry sake but because it was counseling. I know now it was grief counseling through a creative outlet to deal with the death of my older brother. I suppressed the counseling part and held on to the poetry. But I was told to remember the good things about him and write that. So I wrote and haven’t stopped since.  I realized that we will never know the complete plans of God and all that he has in store for us and why things happen. I acknowledge that God gave me poetry, adjectives, verbs, prose and monologue, so I could cope. God saw my pain, my loss and gave me new life by breathing creativity into my heart.  Writing became my refuge, my world I lived in. I mourned through my paper and pen and was comforted with my words. I wrote poems, simple sentences and random thoughts. I was told to be a good writer you have to read and write a lot. I read sci-fiction, murder mystery, non-fiction, even trashy romance novels. In middle school I once read a book about how to skin animals.  Clearly I just wanted to read anything.

Growing up and making friends I rarely came across men that enjoyed reading as much as I did. And now I feel that people barely read or even write. Reading helps in mental development and is an activity that involves greater levels of concentration and adds to ones conversational skills.   We write Facebook statutes and tweets. We can’t spell if it wasn’t for spellcheck and I am guilty of depending on that too much myself. In college no one wants to read their class books much less a recreational book. Instead of reading a book people read worldstarhiphop.com. The art of writing letters has even died. I can just expect a bill in the mail. I love to feel a pen to paper versus fingers to keys. I remember the Harlem Renaissance and the passion that was once felt for literature. African-American writers living in Paris and creating rhythm and beats to words are the inspirations that I cling to. The works of Sonia Sanchez, Claude McKay, Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ralph Waldo Ellison, Langston Hughes and many others have fueled my passions and desire for knowledge.

It has famously been said “The best way to hide something from a black man is to put it in a book.” Maybe this quote makes sense to why the black men have the lowest high school graduation rate of any other group and their college enrollment is so low. I find it crazy how slaves risked beatings and death to learn to read and write and now you would have to beat someone to make them read and write. I choose to honor the memory of my brother and my ancestors by writing and reading. I use my words for positive upliftment and read to gain insight and education so that I may never be a slave to anyone nor dead to the world.