In life there are twists and turns, highs and lows, and joy and pain. Usually, the good outweighs the bad, but when it rains, it pours. I know from experience just how true that saying is now. However, the sun shines on us all.
Rainbows are so beautiful and represent the divine. The eighth written draft is always better than the first. Through the ups and downs, I’ve learned that it’s not what one faces in life that counts, but how one deals with change.
We Survive Time and Time Again
Twenty-odd years ago, I was laid off twice. My mother Hazel and my uncle Claudell encouraged me to put my thoughts into words. I used my energy to write my supervisors a simple letter. I popped my collar and proceeded to highlight my assets with words. The pretty words did not help me keep my job, but time proved what doesn’t kill me made me stronger.
Soon afterward, I told my former co-worker Myra Bryant that I wanted to be self-employed again. She suggested I start a typing, résumé and writing service. I opened my business Typing Solutions Résumés & Etc on Jan. 3, 2003. I celebrated 21 years of service on January 3, 2024. I survived the bumps in the business road and again, popped my collar. Today, I am a skilled résumé and professional writer.
In 1923, while in the seventh grade, the Southern Register, a Black newspaper located in the Farish Street Historic District in Jackson, Miss., published one of Richard Wright’s articles titled, “The Voodoo of Hell’s Half Acre.” A year later, Wright graduated as valedictorian from his eighth-grade class at the Smith Robertson School on Bloom Street. Richard was the son of a Black maid and cook. He and his brother used to stand in the kitchen of white families while experiencing hunger pains, waiting for their mother to retrieve chucks of meat and leftovers from the dining room plates for their meal. This experience is what he wrote about, and he soon became a bestselling author.
The famous Black historian Lerone Bennett Jr. started writing for the Jackson Advocate and the Mississippi Enterprise in the Farish Street Historic District, too. He graduated from Lanier High School. By his early 20s, he was the editor of Jet and Ebony magazines.
Like my oldest brother and my two younger sisters, I started writing poetry in high school. I have so many vivid memories of Farish Street. When I was a child in the 1970s, Farish Street was the center of Black life. Blacks traveled from nearby towns to Jackson every Saturday to shop. People strolled up and down the street dressed to impress.
I started writing professionally in December 1993 at the Jackson Advocate, when the office was on the corner of Griffith Street in Jackson, Miss., in the Farish Street Historic District before the Klan bombed it a second time. I am proud of that fact. The late Charles Tisdale told me not to bring him a one-sided story. I’m so grateful to him for such a lesson. He taught me that there are two sides to every story.
In 2011, at age 48, I reinvented myself thanks to the urging of Darlene Dantzler Collier, and we decided to co-found Mose Dantzler Press. We co-authored and published “Married to Sin,” a memoir about her. By January 2013, our business visions collided. I envisioned helping other writers get into this industry, and she did not. I started Meredith Etc, a small press, in February of 2013, and I took two manuscripts with me. I’ve produced the works of 22 authors and published 38 books to date. People tell me I am very accomplished. I learned how to execute my ideas and how to complete each task at hand.
Grief and Healing: Positivity Is Key
On June 2, 2021, I lost the love of my life, my late husband William Earl McGee Jr. I was traumatized. He was 55. I was 57. I took the time to reflect on the gifts I gained from loving a man for decades who adored me. And I adored him. I started with writing a chapter outline. Then, I wrote 10,000 words per week over the next four weeks. I had never written so much so fast. The result was the memoir, “Every Inch Love Will,” which is my bestselling book out of the 12 books I have penned in the past decade.
Let me tell you: Now I understand how pain fuels art. Losing my husband left a void in my life. So I decided to channel my energy into writing and became better. In the two years and seven months since Will’s passing, I wrote a memoir, a novel, two children’s books and a biography of Billie Holiday was recently published January 14, 2024.
I am a new woman. I am fresh, and I am working.
I was a caregiver for my husband and my father. My father Robert passed on June 30, 2023. Grief comes and grief goes. Healing is a process, so we must find positive ways to channel our energy. I’ve come to find that remaining positive is the key.
In 1969, the year after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, James Brown released, “Say it Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” One lyric noted: “We’ve been buked…” Another lyric said, “Brother, we can’t quit.” James Brown’s message to his people who were traumatized from the loss of another Black leader was for us, encouraging Black people to survive and move forward.
Today, I am a Black author and book publisher and both titles come with challenges. Black people make up only 5% of book publishers in this nation. But what do we do? We cannot allow the obstacles of exclusion, systemic racism or book bans to deter us.
If writers cannot walk through the door, we can walk around it. If we cannot sell in the marketplace, we can create one. I am a proud Black intellectual. My parents made sure we had books at home. I tell young people all the time, If I can write, then you can, too. Intellectual ideas are in newspaper articles, poems, lyrics and books. Readers are learners, so I encourage happy reading!
After all of the pain, disappointments, grief and setbacks, I am still poppin my collar. And you should, too.
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