‘To My Unborn Sons and Daughters, I’ll Make You Proud’ author Yakub Bey talks about writing and life

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by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Yakub Bey is a very intelligent young writer from Oakland California. He has already authored one book called “To My Unborn Sons and Daughters, I’ll Make You Proud,” and he has a number of book and movie ideas as well as ways to dispel some of the international stereotypes plaguing the true perception of a lot of young Black people in this country. Check out our brotha in his own words.

Yakub Bey
Yakub Bey

M.O.I. JR: When did you discover your love for literature? What made you want to become a writer?

Yakub Bey: I discovered my love for writing in the fifth grade at Fruitvale Elementary School; however, it wasn’t until the summer before going into the sixth grade that I realized I could write for a living. My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Claire Stoermer, was very encouraging and told me that my writing was more thought provoking than many of my peers.

Being told I was good at it made me like it more. The following summer, I took a creative writing course at Head-Royce School under the teacher, Mr. Willie Adams. It was then that I experimented with storytelling and instantly fell in love.

My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Claire Stoermer, was very encouraging and told me that my writing was more thought provoking than many of my peers. The following summer, I took a creative writing course at Head-Royce School under the teacher, Mr. Willie Adams. 

These two teachers are a big part of why I want to become a writer. It’s funny because they don’t even know it yet. They will soon.

M.O.I. JR: Who were some of the writers that influenced you?

Yakub Bey: The author of the Goosebumps books, R.L. Stine, helped me appreciate reading at a young age. Donald Goines is the author who influenced me to want to write.

I’m not sure exactly what grade I was in – maybe the third or fourth – but it was becoming harder and harder to connect with and relate to assigned readings in school. I just didn’t see how books like “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” could help a young student in Oakland better his community.

Donald Goines’ books are real and relatable. I didn’t grow up surrounded by pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers and drug addicts. However, those stories are more relatable because a lot of my peers in my community view drug dealing and pimping as necessary means to getting out of their neighborhoods.

The author of the Goosebumps books, R.L. Stine, helped me appreciate reading at a young age. Donald Goines is the author who influenced me to want to write.

What I appreciate the most about Donald Goines’ novels is he doesn’t glamorize or glorify a life of crime; he shows it will end quickly and you’ll either lose your freedom or your life – along with the lives of loved ones. That’s powerful! That made me write and share relatable stories while also showing youth we can make money working for ourselves while being legit.

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book? What is it called? What topics do you cover?

Yakub Bey: My debut book is titled “To My Unborn Sons and Daughters, I’ll Make You Proud.” It’s the story of a young father sharing stories with his newborn twins that have shaped him into the young man he’s becoming.

The media puts down just about every member of the Black family. I’ve never been into comparing who has it the worst, because we all have it rough.

However, there are far more positive images around motherhood in the Black community than there are of fatherhood. With my book, I’m painting the image you won’t see coming from Hollywood.

I’m not showing the Black father who isn’t there or who is a rapist and child molester. I’m showing what I see right here in Oakland: young boys still on the road to manhood stepping up as men when they become fathers.

‘To My Unborn Sons and Daughters, I’ll Make You Proud’ by Yakub Bey coverWith this book, I address how important respect is – and how easily it can be lost. I address why name brands matter so much to Black youth.

I address how I and so many young Black males identify our manhood. I address how misogynist we as a society are without knowing it.

I address the importance of families, and how the family is the building block of the community. I address interracial dating and the importance of being a role model.

Each topic could have been a book on its own, but I chose not to get too deep so that I could build on it in future books. My target audience doesn’t read often, so I knew my debut book had to be short.

M.O.I. JR: Why do you feel like young Black America needs to hear what you have to say?

Yakub Bey: Young Black America needs to hear what I have to say because we’re not discussing it and it’s one of the most vital conversations we can have. We need to hear how we can uplift our women. We need to hear and practice how we can strengthen our communities.

Young Black America needs to hear what I have to say because we’re not listening to our elders, so we need young leaders like me to pass on what the older brothers and sisters are sharing with us. Not only that, but young Black America needs to hear what I have to say so that they can pick up reading again.

Our ancestors were killed for learning how to read; now my generation won’t read, even though not reading and not enlightening ourselves is killing us.

M.O.I. JR: How have people responded to it?

Yakub Bey: So far, I’ve been getting great feedback on the book. Most of it has been questions around if I’m really a father (laughs).

People who have read the book have been grateful that someone my age is thinking about these things. I hope I can make my generation proud by defying the stereotype that all we do is think about how to get more likes on Instagram.

M.O.I. JR: How long did it take for you to complete the book?

Yakub Bey: This book took me nine months to finish and be satisfied with. I had to finally tell myself: “This is great. Put it out and move on to the next.”

I often tell people this book is my firstborn because it took nine months. I know that’s corny, but I really view my writing as alive.

I often tell people this book is my firstborn because it took nine months. I know that’s corny, but I really view my writing as alive.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the challenges that you face as a young Black publisher?

Yakub Bey: As a young Black unknown publisher I faced several challenges. Some of these challenges I actually put in my book.

One challenge was getting a publishing company to get my book out there. The publishing companies told me that it would be two to three years minimum before my book would be released because they prioritize famous authors.

Not only that, but the few who were willing to work with me wanted to take out some things that I wanted to leave in the book. It’s definitely not as easy as I thought it would be, but it’s worth it.

I decided to self-publish, so that means I pay for each copy, pocket the profit, choose the cover and I have say so over what I want to write about.

I’m looking for a mentor. Most if not every professional has had or has a mentor.

M.O.I. JR: Where do you see your career as a writer and publisher in the next five years?

Yakub Bey: In the next five years, I see myself having self-published three books, several short films and working on turning my debut book into a movie.

M.O.I. JR: Are you currently working on another book? About what?

Yakub Bey: Yes, sir, I’m currently working on my sophomore book. I’m not sure what the title will be just yet but I know what the book will be about.

My next book will focus on a young man cleaning up the streets. It’ll be more of a gangster novel, but not gangster like Al Capone – gangster like Malcolm X.

Malcolm X was willing to die and kill for his people. The main character, the protagonist, of my next book is a lot like that.

M.O.I. JR: How could people stay connected with you?

Yakub Bey: People can stay connected with me through my Instagram and Twitter. Both are yakub_bey_IMYP. By 2016, my website www.yakubbey.com will be up and running and that will be the most convenient way to reach me.

Thank you for your time and support.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

1 COMMENT

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