Diversity awards, online conventions, and authors incarcerated in the neo-slavery system

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HWA Diversity Grant recipient Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki

Writing while Black: Spring 2021 edition

by Sumiko Saulson

Many of you have probably noticed by now that I have stepped back on the number of columns I write per year. Due to the global pandemic, conventions have taken place online for almost a year now. 

While I am very happy that we now have a vaccine, at the present time only high-risk people like seniors, nursing home residents, and healthcare workers are receiving it. With a 95 percent efficacy in infection preventionunknowns regarding new strains of COVID-19 and a still undetermined general public roll out rate, it is highly unlikely that large footprint venues such as convention centers will become open to the public in the first half of this year.

So, for now, and until further notice, I will be putting out “Writing While Black” quarterly. There will be a winter, spring, summer and fall edition while the nation and our friends abroad, in and out of the African Diaspora, work our way out of this global pandemic. 

AfroComicCon’s amazing online archive

One of the great things about so much programming taking place online is the sheer volume of amazing Black-centered content being created. This broader electronic footprint for the African American community and African Diaspora means that many events that used to only be available to local audiences can be seen around the world. One such event is the Bay Area’s very own AfroComicCon.

Panel on Why Afrofuturism Matters at the Bay Area’s livestreamed 2021 AfroComicCon.

If you missed AfroComicCon 2020 in October, or AfroComicCon Reloaded in December, you can still check them out online at https://www.afrocomiccon.org/ or on their YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1HBR3iSZOzaf43TWyODRQg

HWA Diversity Award winners

I am very proud to report that I am one of the six diverse horror authors who received the 2020 Horror Writers Association Diversity Grant. The other winners were Jacqueline Dyre, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Gabino Iglesias, Tejaswi Priyadarshi and Nicole Givens Kurtz. 

Nicole Givenz Kurtz is also the editor of the amazing “Slay: Tales of the Vampire Noire,” which is currently on the preliminary ballot for the 2021 Stoker Award. I have a story in the anthology, “Asi’s Horror and Delight.”

Jacqueline Dyre (they/them) is the editor and publisher of “Novel Noctule.”

Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki (he/him) is a Nigerian speculative fiction writer, slush reader and editor. He has twice been awarded an honorable mention in the L Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest and won the Nommo Award for Best Short Story by an African with his short story “The Witching Hour.”

Now, you can experience the full satisfaction of pain and pleasure without guilt, leaving you to thank the Divine for your sinful ways.

Gabino Iglesias (he/him) is a writer, editor, professor, and book critic living in Austin, Texas. He is the author of “Zero Saints” and “Coyote Songs” and the editor of “Both Sides.” His work has been nominated to the Bram Stoker and Locus Awards and won the Wonderland Book Award for Best Novel. His nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

Nicole Givens Kurtz (she/her) is an author, editor, and educator. She’s a member of Horror Writers Association, Sisters in Crime and Science Fiction Writers of America. She’s the editor of the groundbreaking “Slay: Stories of the Vampire Noire.” She’s written for White Wolf, the “Bram Stoker Finalist in Horror Anthology: Sycorax’s Daughters” and Serial Box’s “The Vela: Salvation” series. 

Tejaswi Priyadarshi (he/him) is a dreamer in the horror/thriller genre. He derives inspiration from Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Dean Koontz, Takashi Miike, Alexandre Aja, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino and the Ramsay Brothers. His first book, “The Psychopath, The Cannibal, The Lover,” was India’s first splatterpunk novel. It was released in July 2020 and has since remained on multiple bestselling charts, scaling its way up to be Amazon India’s highest-rated horror thriller with 175+ ratings.

See this list of the 2020 HWA Diversity Grant Recipients

Books by authors incarcerated in the neo-slavery system

I receive many letters from writers who are incarcerated seeking advice, the majority of whom are African American or Latino due to the racial profiling in this country and the outreach the Bay View does to our brethren behind bars. 

As you probably know, the San Francisco Bay View is an award-winning, national Black newspaper and many inmates receive subscriptions to the paper and write to us. 

Although I have fallen behind in my correspondence and have been unable to personally respond to everyone who has written to me, I would like to send a shoutout to Ricky Coston, Alfred Lee Stone, Artez McCallum, Johnnie Kemp Jr., Julius Kimya Humphrey Sr., Donald Reynolds and any other prisoners who have written in the past who I had forgotten to mention. 

A special shoutout to the artist James P. Anderson, who was a longtime friend and correspondent of my mother, Carolyn Saulson, and has sent me so many kind remembrances of her since her passing in January 2019. You can read about James P. Anderson’s artwork and his case here: http://www.save-innocents.com/save-james-anderson.html

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“Guarneri” by James P. Anderson.

I am excited to report to those of you who have written from prison expressing your desire to seek publication independently through self-publishing or through a traditional publisher that in today’s issue we will be discussing at length two self-published incarcerated authors who achieved that goal: science fiction author Julius Kimya Humphrey Sr. and urban fiction author Donald Reynolds. 

I would also like to mention Johnnie Kemp Jr.’s book “Goldfinger: The Autobiography of an O/G Original LA Street Hustler.” 

From the book back: “Goldfinger is a book based on the perils of Johnnie Kemp Jr.’s juvenile delinquency and of M.P., his sidekick, as they grew up in the hood, a known historic landmark for the notorious Compton Crip gang. 

“Besides loving the smell of money and the taste of sexy Tender Ronis, he learns the trade of hustling, and later faces off with a legendary dangerous mind; one who still couldn’t match his craftiness at tumbling the dice. He becomes acquainted with angel dust, thus experiencing psychotropic twists and turns. This story is genuine; it leaves you breathless and yearning for more.”

Previously self-published in 2006, it is currently available exclusively through Pencil and Paper Publishing, P.O. Box 18062, Bixby Knolls, CA 90807 for $12.99 plus $2.50 for shipping. 

‘The Chocolate Man’ by Julius Kimya Humphrey Sr. 

“The Chocolate Man” by Julius Kimya Humphrey Sr. is a science-fiction fantasy novel set in the near future. 

“Earth has descended into chaos, the outlook grim – but from an unexpected source comes hope. Uncle Q, a wise, careworn man whose people have been entrapped and brutally victimized for the color of their skin, discovers that he possesses a miraculous gift, a gift that can change the path of all human existence. 

“The Chocolate Man is an insightful, fast paced and exciting tale of conflict: the ultimate battle for control of the known universe – and the struggle of humankind to reshape their true humanity.”

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Author Julius Kimya Humphrey Sr. was born in 1957 in Stockton, Calif., and raised in Del Paso Heights, a rough area of Sacramento known to its residents as the deepest part of hell. Half Miwok Indian and half African American, Kimya found it difficult to adjust to the two cultures, while simultaneously being frowned upon by White America. 

Writing, for Kimya, became his way to walk people through his experiences, letting those outside of urban communities feel the adversities taking place in prison – where he is currently serving 30-years-to-life for a non-violent offense. He enjoys implementing profound meanings into his writings so people will think about others and not just themselves. His goal is to provide a deeper appreciation for prisoners’ writings.

In his letter, Mr. Humphrey Sr. writes of his novel: “The drug problem that disrupts so many Black families, adding to the mass incarceration in this country, inspired the narrative. What will become of the Black race if we as a people fall into the same trap? When will we recognize our condition as designed for our failure? I only want to provoke a conversation where we all can speak our silent truths.”

You can find Book One of “The Chocolate Man” on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08CD47MXW/

‘Ghetto Lust’ by Donald Reynolds

If any of you out there are filmmakers, Donald Reynolds is looking to hire someone to turn his 19-page speculative fiction script, adapted from a short story in his Ghetto Lust II series, into a short film. If you are interested, please write him at: Donald Reynolds, 12695-021 FCI-Beckley, P.O. Box 30, Pinellas Park, FL 33781.

Donald Reynolds, a native son of Chicago’s Southside, is the author of the “Greed, Lust and Vengeance” series, as well as his most recent anthologies: “Ghetto Lust I & II.” Not one to be silenced by chains, bars or shackles, he has taken the products of his past and present environment and created a platform of success and prosperity. 

Donald-Reynolds, Diversity awards, online conventions, and authors incarcerated in the neo-slavery system, Culture Currents
Incarcerated writer Donald Reynolds is the author of “Ghetto Lust II.”

Donald Reynolds knows a thing or two about the dark. He is a brother of the night, a man of the shadows. And in his world, there is a bump on every road, a death awaiting around every corner and promises that not only break – they shatter. 

He lives in the mist between dreams and nightmares where the wild things are. And now he has broken their silence and uncaged the minds of the most dangerous spirits known to man. 

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“Ghetto Lust II” is the most recent of his short story collections. “From the sweet taboo of Dulce to the poetic Jones of M. Ramsey-El, “Ghetto Lust II” gives you the raw, un-cut version of your fantasies. 

Now, you can experience the full satisfaction of pain and pleasure without guilt, leaving you to thank the Divine for your sinful ways. For this collection dares to tell the tale of the cold, gritty mean streets that lie behind a perfect world where love is seldom found. However, by the morning, you won’t know the difference.”

You can find his titles online at https://www.amazon.com/Donald-Reynolds/e/B07NHM2FDX.

Bestselling author Sumiko Saulson writes award-winning multicultural sci-fi, fantasy, horror and Afrosurrealism. Winner of the 2017 Afrosurrealist Writer’s Award, 2016 HWA Scholarship from Hell, and 2016 BCC Voice Reframing the Other Award, their monthly series Writing While Black follows the struggles of Black writers in the literary arts and other segments of arts and entertainment. Ze is gender non-binary. Support them on Patreon and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.