2020 Book Tour Banner PNG Instagram & Facebook

Dear Readers,


I am getting ready to travel!  I am looking forward to continuing the wonderful and powerful conversations that I have been having about The Emancipation of Evan Walls. Below you will find a listing of events, locations and registration links as they become available.  I’m looking forward to seeing you all.

Happy Reading,



Wednesday, January 22
6:30 PM
In Conversation at First Presbyterian Church
540 William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

Thursday, January 30
12:00 PM
Live interview WHRO Radio (NPR Affiliate)
Norfolk, VA

Monday, February 3
10:00 AM
The Foundation Performing Arts and Conference Center
Isothermal Community College
286 I C C Loop Rd, Spindale, NC 28160

Tuesday, February 4
12:00 PM
Meet the Author Series
Gaston County Public Library
1555 E Garrison Blvd, Gastonia, NC 28054

 Wednesday, February 5
6:00 PM
South Bound Lecture Series
Southern Lit Alliance
Bessie Smith Cultural Center
200 E ML King Blvd, Chattanooga, TN 37403

Thursday, February 6
Black History Author Presentation
Drs. Bruce & Lee Foundation Library
509 S. Dargan Street, Florence, SC 29501

Saturday, February 8
Meet the Author
Cuyahoga County Public Library – Garfield Heights Branch
5409 Turney Road, Garfield Heights, OH 44125

Sunday, February 9
Visiting Author Series
Carmel Clay Public Library Foundation
55 4th Ave SE, Carmel, IN 46032

Tuesday, February 11
Jeffrey Blount in honor of African American History Month
A Likely Story Bookstore – Eldersburg Branch
6400 Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg, MD 21784

Wednesday, February 26
Time TBA
Black History Month – Keynote Address
 Florida State University Panama City
4570 Collegiate Drive, Panama City, FL 32405

Thursday, February 27
Midtown Reader Bookstore
1123 Thomasville Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32303

Friday, February 28
Lead Coalition
Panama City, FL

Sunday, March
1001 Lawrenceville Highway, Lawrenceville, GA 30046

Tuesday, March 3
Page Turner Luncheon benefiting Newspapers In Education Program
Also features Kimmery Martin and Cassandra Conroy
Orangeburg Country Club
Orangeburg, SC

Thursday, March 5
2020 AWP Conference & Bookfair – Panel Discussion
Family, Race, and Freedom in the Old and New South
Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room  206A
900 E Market St, San Antonio, TX 78205

Thursday, April 23 – Sunday, April 26
Different times and multiple venues
17th Annual Six Bridges Book Festival
Central Arkansas Library System

Saturday, May 9
Time TBA
Riverside Book Club Address & Discussion
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Dr, New York, NY 10027




Julia Power in Full Bloom



I wrote this essay in 2008 for Julia’s school’s (Georgetown Day School) magazine, Georgetown Days.

“A child is born with a heart of gold.  The way of the world makes his heart grow cold.” 

As a teenager, this notion from the seventies super group Earth, Wind & Fire brought so much of the world around me into perspective.  Hearing those words sung answered a visceral need to understand how and why horrible things happened.  It told me how young people my age could steal, shoot and kill.  It accounted for the resentment and the slow burn I felt in my community.  I associated it always as a way to understand the negative things in life.   Thirty years after I first heard those words, my daughter Julia Blount, taught me differently.

As a sophomore at Georgetown Day School, Julia was busy fulfilling her community service commitments as a participant in the Monday Night Tutoring program.  She, along with many other GDS students, acted as reading tutors and role models to kids from inner city DC public schools.   Julia had been tutoring the same young man, less than a year her junior, for a year and a half when it happened.  It was closing in on Martin Luther King Day and she was working with her student.  As they worked and discussed the significance of the day, it became increasingly clear to Julia that much that should be was not.  For instance, her student had heard of Martin Luther King, Jr., but he had never heard of The March on Washington.  He had never heard the I Have a Dream speech.  Julia was stunned.  So she took him to a computer, called up the speech and played it for him. The look on his face saddened her.  It told her that he hadn’t been aware that black people could be capable of such deeds.

He had been a child and the way of the world had left him ignorant, even about himself.  But Julia would not accept the fact that ignorance would cause his heart to grow cold and she promised herself that she would not be a part of The Way of the World as I saw it.  Julia intervened.  In her mind, the song lyrics wouldn’t just be an explanation of the root of so much frustration.  To Julia, the words would also serve as a wake-up call.  A sort of this is how the future will be unless we choose to change the present.  She identified two areas of concern – reading and civics.   She began to plan a strategy to bring the two together.

At the end of her sophomore year, Julia visited GDS Community Service Director, Elsa Newmyer.  She asked for permission to create a curriculum within the Monday Night Tutoring program that would create more interest in reading and serve as a vehicle to help students understand their civil rights, their constitution, and their place within our democracy.  Elsa gave her the green light.

By now, her mom and I knew what was in the works and we watched from afar as Julia became more and more passionate about her challenge.  She took a summer job at Tree Top Kids where she sold books and she began collecting suitable works to compliment her curriculum.  She paid for them with her own money.  We passed her room on warm summer nights when she would have otherwise been out and about, only to find her hard at work at her computer like it was a school night.  By summer’s end she had a plan.

At the dinner table, where lots of things are revealed, Julia explained her plan to her mother, her brother and me.  She said that most of the reading they had been doing didn’t reflect the environment of the kids who were being tutored.  She had her book list to help fix that problem.  She’d also come up with a twenty-one-lesson civics guide.  It consisted of moderate sized explanatory paragraphs and questions to answer that shored up the lessons learned.  Elsa Newmyer would later tell us that Julia’s guidebook had become “the backbone of our program.”

Julia had one more need.  More help. So, as student head of Monday Night Tutoring, she recruited the largest number of GDS students ever to help her implement her new program.  It was a successful junior year.

However, it would not stop there.  Over the summer, even on vacation in Maine, Julia could be found holed up in a quiet space working on curriculum revisions for the upcoming school year.  This time, though, she would have help.  We would meet her    co-heads, Zach Groff and Lilly Jay.  An old family friend, Nicole Ross, appeared on the scene.  There was a long meeting around our dining room table.  Phone calls, email and attachments were exchanged.  By the beginning of Julia’s senior year, something very special had been accomplished.

I didn’t see how she could have done it much better than the previous summer, but with her friends at her side, she did.  They created what is, in my estimation, a full-fledged textbook for Monday Night Tutoring.  A bound and printed curriculum entitled Kids in United States History…Kids in Current Events.  Full of maps, charts, diagrams, photos and text, it covers our nation’s beginning and takes on modern day controversies like the battle over school prayer.  It puts the reader on the ground in the aftermath of Katrina and in the troubled land of Darfur. There are first person histories as told to Julia, Zach, Lilly and Nicole.  They help to personalize history and to provide more dramatic reading material.  When I hold it in my hands, I recognize the fruition of an incredibly significant undertaking. An undertaking that they performed twice, writing it at two different reading levels in order to service a wider range of students.

MNT Textbook

To say that we are proud of Julia just doesn’t quite do it.  It is simply one of those situations in which words are not enough.  For us, it has been a bit like watching from the stands as she plays volleyball.  We let her know that we were there and we cheered her on, but we knew that being a part of executing the game plan was her mission alone.  And she and her teammates served up nothing but aces.  In the process, she taught me a lesson.

Julia reminded me that The Way of the World did not have to be a fait accompli.  She reminded me that we could alter our paths and make things better for ourselves and everyone around us if we only cared enough to try.  She stepped outside the box and displayed an amazing concern for her fellow man, which in turn, reminded me that there was more to that song I had heard so long ago. I looked up a complete copy of the song lyrics, which included these words in the final stanza…

“That’s the Way of the World.  Plant your flower and you grow a pearl.”



























The US Flag Must Earn The Respect Of Those It Disrespected


This essay was first published on Huffington Post.com – October 10, 2017

“The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”

I wish that I had penned those words, but they belong to the Nobel Laureate, William Faulkner. I will, however, use them to administer proper weight to the notion that we are the sum of all that has come before us. From this, we cannot hide. Although sometimes, when it serves our purpose, we try with all our might.

When Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the first time during the national anthem, he did so to bring attention to, in his mind, an epidemic of police brutality. I believe he knew that although it was a peaceful attempt at protest, it was indeed a quiet riot destined to be met by a legion of misunderstanding. A hurricane of hatred and bigotry. A history driven need not to see the forest for the trees.

Now, “the knee” seems to have nothing to do with the death of Philando Castile and others. Now, much of white America is screaming that Kaepernick and those who have followed his lead are unpatriotic. That they are spoiled, rich, black men who are disrespectful of an anthem, which if read in its entirety, spins a sinister rhyme scheme of black slavery, black death and white supremacy.

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave, from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave. And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave…”

Now, much of white America is demanding that a wave of African-American bended knees recant and stand for the flag that has provided them with the care free lives that they now enjoy. Demanding that they stand in recognition of the men and women of the American military who have sacrificed for them. On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Rich Lowry of The National Review, lectured African-American journalist Stephen Henderson. “People have died under that flag,” he said before adding. “You can have opinions about policing and what not, but don’t disrespect the flag.”

Yet, I wonder. Will Lowry and his like muster an iota of respect for the lives of black men who have died under the flag, choked and shot to death on camera. Lives that should not be reduced to what nots. How can he and others stand in front of African-Americans and demand anything from them with regard to the flag of the United States of America? Black Americans who have sacrificed as much as any other race in this nation, including a legacy of doing so for centuries while laboring in brutal bondage. Can you not recognize this sacrifice?

Lest it be forgotten, let us remember who sacrificed first. Crispus Attucks, a black man was the first to die as the American Revolution began. The first martyr to American freedom. And African-Americans have fought and died in every war since. Because there are movies to prove it, maybe you will remember the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment which suffered a casualty rate of forty percent, wounded, missing or killed as they assaulted Fort Wagner during the Civil War. Or the Tuskegee Airmen, who had to vigorously lobby to assume their right to fly in defense of their own country. They knew sacrifice.

I have not served in the military, but military service is well represented on both sides of my family, including my father. My family members served with distinction and returned home, suffering from wounds of the body and mind. Wounds acquired as members of the United States Army, the United States Marines, the Coast Guard and the United States Navy.

“No one was more at risk of experiencing violence and targeted racial terror than black veterans who had proven their valor and courage as soldiers during the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Because of their military service, black veterans were seen as a particular threat to Jim Crow and racial subordination. Thousands of black veterans were assaulted, threatened, abused, or lynched following military service.”

Sacrifice that earned the charred, chained and mutilated bodies of black civilians as well.

Sacrifice that earned a society represented by the United States flag, under which those men who served their country bravely, were not allowed to march alongside white soldiers in victory parades. Those men who came home to states and towns where they couldn’t vote, where they had to use colored only bathrooms and sit in the back of the bus. Where they suffered from discrimination in housing and from universities. Where their children received a separate but unequal education.

Remember, when it served your purpose, you refused African-Americans the honor of being respected by or showing respect for the flag. Now, when it serves your purpose, you demand we stand up and without acknowledging our history, pay homage to a flag that took its time recognizing that we were even Americans. Sorry to disappoint.

Even today, Colin Kaepernick wants you to know that African-Americans lag behind in income, home ownership and quality healthcare. African-American school children perform at substantially lower levels than the national average. And 12-year old black boys, like Tamir Rice, playing with toys are shot dead by police officers even as we remember a murdered 14-year-old named Emmett Till, about whom, Mr. Faulkner had this to say.

“If we in America have reached the point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, then we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t.”

When I was young, I saw a picture. In it, hundreds of Ku Klux Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC without shame, their faces exposed. Almost every Klansman carried The Stars and Stripes, Red, White and Blue, Old Glory, The American Flag, The Star-Spangled Banner. In the background, the grand dome of the United States Capitol, rose into the sky. Years later, when I first heard the phrase “state sponsored terrorism”, this is the picture that filled my mind.

This is my perspective and that of many other African-Americans. Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest cannot be sincerely, thoughtfully or open-mindedly considered without the benefit of said perspective. It is my hope that, in due time, those raging against the knee, those who see a completely different flag than I do, will recognize all that Mr. Kaepernick has sacrificed by attempting to move us all toward a more perfect union.


Dear Gov. McAuliffe: Racism And Bigotry Are Indeed Virginia Natives

Confederate Monuments Protest


This essay was first published on Huffington Post.com – August 15, 2017

In the aftermath of the Charlottesville tragedy, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe did what our president would not. He named the beast. For that I am truly thankful. He called it a white supremacist. He called it a Nazi. He called it hate and bigotry. With great passion, he delivered his directive. “Go home. You are not wanted in this commonwealth.”

I should have been happy with everything I heard from the governor, Charlottesville’s mayor and the city manager who said, “Hate came to our town today.” Sadly, I was not. Because even as they called for unity, they refused to come clean, pulling a veil of misdirection over our eyes and pointing sharply to reasons why, as a nation, we have not overcome the evil of racism. Too many white Americans refuse to see the entire, gritty truth, and the many painful microaggressions pay an unfortunate tribute to that blindness. As Ralph Ellison wrote, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

Governor McAuliffe, Mayor Signer and City Manager Jones would have us believe that Charlottesville is an oasis in the desert of racism. It is not. I am Virginian, born and raised. And I know better. This commonwealth is home to racism which, of course, includes Charlottesville. Ask Martese Johnson, an African-American student leader at the University of Virginia. He was beaten bloody by law enforcement for trying to peacefully enter a bar. He’d done nothing illegal. Nothing different from white students who were also present. Does the mayor remember the days of protests that followed? Should all three men remember that Charlottesville created this problem in the first place? They erected a statue to a man who committed treason against our nation. They erected a statue to bigotry in the likeness of a man who fought to maintain the evil of slavery. You must own your wrongdoings if you are going to call out others and do not belittle the intelligence of African-Americans who have suffered and continue to suffer in the commonwealth by asking us to join you in pretending.

The governor admonished the beast. “You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You want to talk about patriots, talk about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.” As he stood asking us to come together across the racial divide, he holds up before black people two men who enslaved their ancestors as the perfect ideal. The African-American deputy mayor, standing behind the governor, wearing a T-shirt proclaiming himself to be a Menace II Supremacy, stops nodding in agreement at this point. He understands. I am not sorry if my characterizations of our former presidents anger you. If you want to truly bridge the divide, you must hear and bear witness to facts. To the truth and all of its complicated heritage. If White America won’t acknowledge these facts and share in the pain, there can be no healing.

The governor called us a nation of immigrants. I understand the strict definition of the word, but somehow people chained together in the hold of a ship, lying in the filth of each other’s excrement and vomit, raped and killed along the tortured journey to this country, don’t fit the spirit of the word immigrant. See us, Mr. McAuliffe. See us.

By the end of the day, a bevy of state and national leaders joined the governor, speaking out about the evil of neo-Nazism. I grew weary of them asking us to come together. To get along. We are all one people, they said. If the beast is unequivocally evil, as so many politicians have tweeted, why should I have to get along with it? Shouldn’t we eliminate the beast? In Germany, Criminal Code 86a makes it illegal to “use of symbols of unconstitutional organizations,” aka the Nazis. If what Orrin Hatch, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio say is true – that the KKK, white supremacists and Nazis are truly evil and a danger to our society, then we should outlaw them. If free speech is limited by the notion of inciting violence or threats of violence, then the beast should not be allowed a voice in the great and thoughtful society they claim we live in.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I am woeful and emotionally spent. If this country and its leaders believe that Dr. King was correct in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, when he wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly,” then they must understand that as long as the beast is allowed to freely roam our lands, we all will continue to suffer. People of color and white people alike. Tragically, this is why my patriot, Heather Heyer, is dead.

Slavery is the straw in the American brick. This unfortunate union cannot be undone and its legacy of brutality and inequality is and forever will be a part of us. If we want to get past the empty platitudes and make a sincere attempt to curtail this evil, then we must be bold, take a bold stand and make bold, nation altering changes. Otherwise, my fellow Americans, we’re just whistling Dixie.

Dysfunction-merica! Not A DC problem.



This essay was first published on Huffington Post.com – March 23, 2017

February 28, 2017. For the first time as President, Mr. Trump stood before a joint session of Congress. The networks’ TV pool director brought us grand, sweeping shots of the House Chamber. Shots that laid bare the stubborn divide that leaves so many Americans brimming with anger and confusion.

The Republicans stood. The Democrats sat.

The democratic women wore suffragette white and turned down their thumbs. Vice-President Pence and Speaker Ryan sat behind the leader of the free world, with the righteous smirks of victory stapled upon their faces.

America was not surprised by the imagery of gridlock. It’s what they say they’ve come to expect from those who populate the swamp, the Hill, the DC bubble, inside the beltway. After President Obama took office, Senate Majority Leader McConnell vowed obstruction at all cost. Representative Joe Wilson called him a liar from the House floor. Now we have a new President and Senator Schumer says Dump Trump. New DNC Chairman Perez called for a resistance to make sure that Mr. Trump becomes a one term president.

And America is still angry.

Why can’t our politicians sit down together and work things out? Who planted these seeds of dysfunction in DC? What is wrong with our capital city? Why are they talking past each other on health care, the national budget and so many other issues? Why are they leaving parts of the country where real people live in the lurch? I have the answer, but first I have to get something off my chest.

As a resident of DC, I am tired of it being said that Washington is the problem. Some people take it too far and decide that just because we populate the swamp, we suffer from, support and help create the maladjusted communication that permeates the Capitol and the White House. Some people think that there is some kind of airborne pathogen that only exists within the beltway that causes those who come here to forget the real world from which they came. Neither is true.

First of all, without a senator or representatives, DC citizens have little power to influence what happens on the hill. Or in our own city for that matter. In fact, 600,000 plus of us can vote and agree on an issue like the right to die only to have our collective agreement placed in jeopardy at the hands of some would-be kings from Capitol Hill like Sen. James Langford of Oklahoma and Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio. Extra emphasis on the fact that they don’t even live here. Which leads me nicely to my point.

The dysfunction is not Washington based. It’s not home grown or learned in my city. It travels here, like the bubonic plague, from other cities and states around the country. The crisis in communication going on in the nation’s capital belongs to those beyond the mythical DC swamp. When we read in articles about the Tea Party extremist who won’t negotiate, or see headlines like Republicans and Democrats Won’t Negotiate to Stop Shutdown, we aren’t reading about folks from DC. The rest of the country voted for and sent these people here. Voters knew they didn’t have a compromising bone in their bodies, yet they voted them into office, sent them to Washington and then cried foul when they did exactly what they said they would do.

You want the dysfunction to end? Vote for reasonable people who might be inclined to listen to another point of view because the fate of the people is at stake. Send them to DC instead of the ideologues who besmirch our good city and our name. Own your problems and fix them. Good manners begin at home.


The Hatemongers Call For Unity, And Why I Cannot…

This essay was first published on Huffington Post.com – November 14, 2016


Recently I was asked to recall the moment that I first encountered racism. How about this answer? The moment I was born. It has to be so, because I know that before I learned to keep my bike upright, I knew to stay away from white people. Because by the time that I began to lose my baby teeth, I knew who I shouldn’t stare at and where I could not walk. Because by the time I could remember having a substantive thought in my head, I already knew that the color of my skin could get me badly hurt or killed. So it must have been hereditary. In the blood. Because I never remember being without the affliction of race in my life.

However, it was different for my daughter and my son. My wife, Jeanne, who is white, and I purposely kept race out of the conversation because their lives didn’t depend on their being aware at such an early age. They spent their early years looking at a black father and white mother, running from one to the other without ever considering the difference. Without understanding the negatives that accompanied our marriage and their existence. It wasn’t until our daughter was in first grade that the specter of race entered her life. Jeanne and I met her on the school playground one day and a white classmate looked at her and at us and then said to her, “Oh, so that’s why you’re that color.” When our daughter seemed confused by what her friend meant, Jeanne gave her the first lesson in understanding her race. “You see,” she said. “If you take a cup of coffee like Daddy and cream like me and mix them together, you get you.”

We did not have our heads in the sand. We understood that sooner or later the monster would come from under the bed. We began to do what we could. We enrolled them in a school created specifically to teach black and white kids together. A school that was dedicated to the discussion of race and its impact on our society. Between school and home, we began the conversation in earnest. We taught them the worth of every human life. We used our love as an example of how the bridge to understanding could be crossed. We attempted to fill their lives with people who loved them for them, but we did not shelter them from the real world and the unfortunate curse of being brown.

And I am glad that we opened their eyes, because our son was prepared when after Trayvon Martin and Ferguson, he was accosted by an older white male and asked why he was in the neighborhood. Our neighborhood, that is. The one that my son had called home for all of his life. My son explained that he was in search of Skittles and iced tea. His would-be intimidator grunted and left him alone. And so what had been up until then micro-aggressions of racism had become bigotry – fully developed.

Our children marched and shouted in the streets of our cities and on campus after Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. They published their hurt and confusion about the inequities of race in America. And although they battled, they didn’t do so in vain. Or so it seemed. It looked like better times were on the horizon. A black man was still president. The nation seemed to be moving, though not without pain, toward freedom to marry whomever you chose, toward women being free to make their own choices regarding their bodies, and for families like ours to be represented throughout our media, becoming something less… different.

But then we elected Donald Trump.

For 18 months, he filled our lives with a kind of public bigotry that I hadn’t experienced since I was born into it. He became ground zero, the host for a sudden epidemic of bullying and racial vitriol that people seemed to take as funny until it was too late. Now, he is the president of the United States of America. And now that he is president, he and his surrogates are telling us that we have to come together with him. That we have to, I guess, forgive and forget. That we have to provide unity.

But my daughter is newly engaged and I think about her and any children that may come along. As people are attacked in the streets of our country for their religious beliefs, for being gay, for having a vagina and for being black, I now believe that it is quite possible that my grandchildren, like me, will be born infected by the plague of racial hatred. I don’t want this to happen. And so President-elect Trump, I cannot help you unify the country if it means the new normal is to be like the campaign environment that you created in your own image.

I cannot.

I will not join you in your racism.

I will not join you in your homophobia.

I will not join you in your misogyny.

I will not join you in your ethnic intolerance.

I will not join you in your anti-Semitism.

I will not join you in your mass deportation of people.

I cannot all of a sudden give approval to ideals that go against everything that I am and that I have taught my children. I will not change my soul for your unity. I cannot pretend that those who voted for you did so without the “-isms” in mind. I will not meet you in the hate-mongering world of Trumpland.

I will, however, join with any who believe in the strength of our nation’s diversity. I will join with those who believe in acts of kindness rather than mountains of hostility, degradation and self-glorification. I will meet with like minds at the phrase, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.


Here At Last, Here At Last. Thank God Almighty, It’s Here At Last. Visiting The New Home For Black History On The National Mall

This essay was first published on Huffington Post.com – November 1, 2016


I am standing on the National Mall where the ancestry of my people has built a home. The National Museum of African American History and Culture rises, gracious and majestic before me. As I move toward the doors, I can’t help reflecting upon the fact I am in the land of the free and the brave which is at the moment burdened by and shrouded in the specter of unadulterated bigotry, hatred and intolerance. Even so, and strangely enough to some, I find my safe zone and I smile. As an African American son of the south, I am practiced at living the best I can amid such contempt.

But it is finally here. After all the years of raising two children in this city, trying to help them find themselves in the treasured museums of the Smithsonian, it is here. Not a museum about Africa or piecemeal exhibits about us. But something full, real and as complete as a good Sunday supper. Once inside, I am stunned by this building and all that it holds. It’s like someone laid out the strands of my DNA all around me. I think about what this building would have meant to me as a child.

I follow along with my wife, Jeanne, and our friends Dabney and Joe. Joe’s company has created several of the films on display and many of the interactive exhibits. He knows his way around and we follow our personal docent. And there is so much to see. Some pleasing. Much of it painful. Somewhere between Chuck Berry’s red Cadillac and Emmett Till’s coffin, I get filled up. Somewhere between the shackles of shameful bondage and a display celebrating our first family, I get proud. At the end of one hallway, Muhammad Ali is shouting, “I shook up the world!”

At one point, we pass a group of people standing by a window, pointing outside toward the stage and grounds where the opening ceremonies took place. For a moment, I think that would have been nice, but then I change my mind. After decades in the journalism business, I have learned to look beyond the obvious. I think that while the celebrities and the president helped to bring appropriate attention to the creation and opening of this museum, the real story was unveiling itself before me in the eyes of the regular folk making their way through the exhibits.

There, on the ramp, an old man in a wheel chair is being pushed by a loved one. The ramp is crowded but he doesn’t notice. He has on a ball cap with what looks to be some kind of faded military emblem on it. He stares up at the training plane once flown by Tuskegee Airmen, hanging high above him. Maybe the look on his face is full of memories. Maybe just full of being so close to the men who fought for the chance to fly and fight for their country. A country that did not welcome them home. As he’s pushed closer to me, I have the urge to reach out and touch his hand. I want to just smile at him and share the moment, but in the end, I decide not to disturb him. Somehow, I don’t feel worthy.

Joe stops before one of the films he’s made. It’s a massive work projected on a wall across from the landing on which we stand. The video is impacted by the graininess of the cement wall. Like wrinkles on a face, adding depth and texture to the heroes on display. As pictures dissolve from one to another I overhear two women standing close to me, loudly and proudly identifying the people represented. I think they are together until one leaves and the other stays behind, speaking aloud to herself the names of people like James Baldwin, Fredrick Douglass, and more. Finally, she gets to Sojourner Truth. And when she says the name her voice cracks. I can’t look at her. It’s enough to feel what’s in the sound of her voice. Sista to Sista. Across time.

Finally, we end up in a room looking at a film in 360 degrees. All around me black people are huge and living their lives amid the contempt. And it isn’t just famous people but everyday people doing everyday things. People who look amazing and exceptionally powerful. They just look bold, confident and free. Finally, I am overcome. I say, “I have never seen us – black people – on a scale like this. I don’t know how to put it, except to say it’s like our Mt. Rushmore.” I try to explain it better by asking them to imagine people, from another planet even, who didn’t know our country or its history. I imagine that after seeing this museum and this film they would walk outside and see a rich and proud people and point at us in awe. They would never expect a people like that could be shot down unarmed in a city street.

I look at Dabney, who is white, to see if she understands. She puts her hand on my arm and tells me that she understands slavery and its legacy. She understands the unfairness of systemic racism. She knows it wrong. She feels like she understands the importance of the museum. Still she says, “Jeffrey, I could never see or feel what you are explaining to me now. I couldn’t have reached what you are feeling right now. That’s why I’m glad I’m here with you today.”

In the cab, I’m still thinking about the visit. I’m thinking about the absolute sea of black faces which makes me smile. I’m thinking about the black woman who collided with Dabney in the movement of the crowd. They both reached out, holding onto each other’s arms, steadying each other, laughing and chatting for a quick moment. A vision of hope in the company of slavery’s pain. And exactly the image I want to carry in my heart to remember the day that I entered my people’s home on the National Mall.

Hey, WNBA! What’s a guy gotta do to get a Diana Taurasi jersey?

This essay was first published on Medium.com – September 4, 2016


I discovered Diana Taurasi in her second season at the University of Connecticut. I am not a person who believes that an athlete should be labeled a hero or proclaimed a role model simply because she has mastered the craft of her sport. However, I wholeheartedly appreciate the fierce competitiveness, the smarts, the power, and the grace of a world class athlete. I became a dedicated Taurasi fan after just one game.

My daughter, Julia, was eleven years old and looking for a sport to fulfill her middle school athletic requirement. So I invited her to watch a UConn game and, like me, she was hooked. Although she would go on to play volleyball through high school, we remained fans of Taurasi. When DT turned pro, Julia quickly requested and received her very own Taurasi Phoenix Mercury jersey which she wore proudly. When the Mercury flew into DC to play the Mystics, we went to see Taurasi play. Watching this amazing athlete made for some wonderful father-daughter moments.

During the first week of the Rio Olympics, I got a text from Julia, who is now 26 and living on her own. She asked if I was watching the US women’s basketball team. I was and we shared some thoughts about the game. She then asked if I had any pictures of “little Julia” in her Taurasi jersey. “I would totally tweet it at her.” I promised to look.

In the meantime, I began to think about all of the time I’d spent being a fan. It might be pretty cool if I got my own Taurasi jersey. Julia and I could get a shot of the two of us in our jerseys to tweet. But that’s when the problem began.

I went to the WNBA website, credit card in hand, to buy my jersey. But I couldn’t. There were no jerseys available for men. This couldn’t be. I went directly to the Mercury site which led me back to the WNBA. Could it be that the WNBA didn’t believe their sport and players were credible enough to be worthy of marketing them to a male audience? To be fair, there were hoodies and t-shirts but they have to know that none of those items rise to the level of wearing the jersey of your favorite player.

For comparison’s sake, I went to NBA.com. There I found an entire section where women could buy the jerseys of many male stars.

I tried a different sport. At DallasCowboys.com I found merchandise for women. Not only did they have jerseys for the women, they had them especially cut for the female figure.

I found this all incredibly disappointing, but I had one more avenue to try.

The US women’s basketball team, led by Taurasi, was handling its competition with relative ease. They were a team of superstars and surely TeamUSA.org would have their jerseys on sale — even for men. But I am sad to say that they didn’t.

But the more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that this was in the category of more of the same. The same sexism. The same minimizing of the female athlete and her accomplishments. My jersey issue is surely the bottom rung of a skyscraper height ladder of disrespect. Maybe this is why NBA players sign contracts that take our breath away while Taurasi and her teammate Brittney Griner end up in Russia during the WNBA offseason playing for real money. Maybe this is why NBA star Derrick Rose’s wearing of a t-shirt with the words “I can’t breathe”, in support of African-American Eric Garner who died in police custody, brought a mild refresher about the dress code, but also respect from the commissioner. However, when WNBA players wore plain black shirts during the warm up period to raise awareness about rising tensions between some African-Americans and police, they were quickly fined. The players publicly questioned the discrepancy and stood their ground. Said fines were eventually withdrawn, but wait…not until after NBA star Carmelo Anthony joined the chorus of protests, publicly stating his support for the women.

Since I didn’t have Carmelo to run interference for me, I decided to call the WNBA and raise the issue. On August 18, I spoke with a press officer who seemed genuinely taken aback by my question of why there were no jerseys available for men. She responded by stating that I was raising “a valid question.” She promised to get back to me with an answer.

Three days later, the website had been changed. The label “women’s jersey” had been removed. Now there was no label, leading one to think that what was a women’s jersey three days ago was supposed to be, I guess, unisex. There was even a men’s section in which the same unisex jerseys were copied and pasted, but they don’t look like any jersey I’ve ever seen a male wearing. That section has since been removed. I suppose there’s some progress here and I should be satisfied, but I’m not. This was a hasty and not very smooth or permanent fix to a problem that is deeper than the jerseys and they know it. The WNBA should believe that its players are worthy of being marketed to both men and women. It seems a gross failure to ignore the huge male sports market. Maybe they don’t think any self-respecting guy would lower himself enough to put a female athlete’s name on his back. Maybe they’re wrong. I want to support the WNBA and its amazing players and I want my Diana Taurasi jersey.

A Common Man

Daddy & Me

Many years ago, I asked my father to save my life, though at the time I didn’t understand what I was asking or what his response would mean for the rest of my life. I still dream about it today. I am very young. I stand in the kitchen and the sunlight streaming through the screen door is so bright that it hurts my eyes. But before I can turn away, the door opens and a figure begins to fill the doorway without introduction or a knock on the door. I know where everyone in my family is at this moment, and even in a less safety conscious, early 60’s Smithfield, I know something very wrong is happening. I run. I run for my father. In my dreams, I hear myself call out in a voice trembling with fear. “Daddy,” I yell. “Somebody is coming in the house.”

He was reading the paper on his bed. He never asked me what I saw. I guess he could just see the fear in my eyes. He rose from the bed, the paper falling next to my mother as he moved with purpose and speed. I saw that his face showed no hesitation…no fear. He brushed by me, his hand landing softly on my shoulder, as he passed by me to meet the unknown.

These days, I often wake up after that dream. I think about the meaning of that moment in time. How basically, I challenged my father. I asked him to show me how much I meant to him. I asked him if he would endanger his life to save mine. I asked him to show me how much he loved me. I asked him to save my life. Even though the threat was not to be a real one, he proved everything to me that day. Even if I was too young to really understand it.

Now that I’ve lived a few years and witnessed life on my own, I realize that not everyone is as lucky as my brothers and me. Not every father steps up to the plate like mine did.

When he would come home from a hard day of tending the farm and I would want him to help me fix my bike, I asked him to show me how much I meant to him. Don’t you know as tired as he was, he helped me fix the bike? Every time we asked him to do homework with us, when we knew there were a thousand other things that needed to be done, we wanted to know how much we meant to him. Don’t you know he always did the homework? When he had worked hard all year long and he had his three weeks of vacation coming and we asked him to take it all with us – to drive us here and there and do what we wanted, we asked him to show that he loved us. Don’t you know that he always took his vacation to be with us? When he didn’t have to, he added working/surviving in the meat packing plant to his life as a farmer to give us a better life and prepare to send us to college. We asked him to go to this place where I would later find out, people regularly were injured and lost body parts, got strange sicknesses like hog fever and over time, simply broke down mentally and physically. We asked him if he would endanger his life for our future. Don’t you know he went to work there every day and saw all three of us through college? He stretched himself physically, emotionally and financially for his sons. But in the end it wasn’t the things he did with us or for us that made the biggest difference. His greatest influence on our lives was a quiet one. It was just in how he lived. It was about strength of character, dedication, work ethic, treatment of your fellow man, common decency and finally and most importantly, it was about the ability to dream that even in the shadow of Jim Crow we could all be something special in this life. By the time I reached my teens, I knew the dream was possible because he had already achieved it. On an overnight at my grandparents, in a room he slept in as a child, I lay in the dark talking to two of my cousins. One of them talked at length about his life and at some point got around to his father…or the lack thereof. He said to me, “Man, you’re lucky. You’ve got Uncle Ed. I wish he was my father.” Or when I would be introduced to someone and they would say with a certain tone, “This is one of Edward Blount’s sons.”

I would be so proud and I knew how special you had become in your own life. How could the three of us lose with your example, with other people wishing you were theirs to tuck them in at night?

A common man – of uncommon grace.
A common man – of uncommon dignity.
A common man – of uncommon strength.
A common man – with an uncommon ability to love.
A common man – of uncommon faith.
A common man – of uncommon devotion to family.

I have found myself in many places that a farm boy should rightly never expect to be. And I have met many men that I would have never expected to meet. Powerful and famous with worldly influence. Role models to many. But in my life, I have had only one role model as a man, a husband and a father. He is, in my opinion, the greatest man I have ever known. And my brothers and I are lucky because we get to call him….Daddy.

Happy 90th Birthday, Daddy from the 7 year-old you saved so long ago and the 56 year-old who is proudly walking the road you have already paved.

With love.

“We are only as blind as we want to be.”

Black NFL players’ silence is complicit in keeping team’s racist name

 This essay was printed and published first by The Grio.com on April 7, 2016

When the news broke that Robert Griffin III had been drafted by the Washington Reds***s, I was elated. My good humor, however, had nothing to do with how many times he might lead his team to victory on the gridiron. He was a first class athlete, a media star and the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. He signed a four year $21-million-dollar contract, $13 million of that guaranteed. He rolled into DC on a tidal wave of positive PR as the new face of this storied franchise. All of this, I knew, brought him serious clout; great power and respect on and off the field. I hoped he was ready to use it.

Like many African-Americans of my generation and before, I have never been a fan of the team. During my youth, it was well known as the last NFL team to integrate its roster. The owner, George Preston Marshall, famously stated, “We’ll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” The team was so resistant to having blacks on the field that in the end, it took the threat of eviction from D.C Stadium by the Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, to force the much needed change. Mostly because of this history, I carried my dislike of the team into adulthood. Many of my football watching brethren have tried over the years to get me to move past this issue, pointing out the fact that the majority of the team was now made up of African-Americans. Point taken, but my concern was never about how many African-Americans were on the team. It was that racism has always been and still is a major part of this team’s identity. In fact, it was stitched into the very fabric of the burgundy and gold. It was in the logo. It was in the very name. Now, it’s in owner Daniel Snyder’s refusal to change that name. And black players, coaches and staff are, in my opinion, complicit in this legacy of bigotry. They are a part of the willful and malicious denial of the fact that they have been helping to build an organization and making themselves rich/wealthy while ignoring the damage being done to an entire race of people.

This is why I’d put such hope in the idea that when confronted by media about the team’s racist name, Reds***s, RG III, who had very little to lose, would stand up and say that the team’s name, logo and mascot should be changed. But he didn’t. He said, “When it comes to those conversations, it’s just not the time.”

When I heard that answer, I was deeply, deeply disappointed. RG III sounded like many white people in the south during the Civil Rights Movement. The ones who kept saying that black people needed slow down, be patient and understand that these things take time. I wanted to send a letter to RG III, inscribed within, a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

Now, through shameful inaction, a black man with power was a major player in justice delayed. In fact, so were his teammates. In fact, so were all the African-American ticket holders and fans all around the country who constantly found artful ways to deny the fact that the name is demeaning to Native Americans. In fact, so were those who were not friends of the team, yet stood by and watched in silence. That would include me. But this is what I’ve come to learn.

“Native youth experience the highest rates of suicide among young people. With studies showing that negative stereotypes and harmful “Indian” sports mascots are known to play a role in exacerbating racial inequality and perpetuating feelings of inadequacy among Native youth, it is vital that all institutions – including professional sports franchises- re-evaluate their role in capitalizing on these stereotypes.” -Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports…

Dr. King, Jr. wasn’t just talking about African-Americans when he declared that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

But somehow it’s okay not to care about the plight of the First Americans. We say, well some “Indians” don’t mind. Some like it. Well, some black people didn’t like the Civil Rights Movement. But they couldn’t stop the rising tide of what was right. We didn’t allow inhumanity to win then and we shouldn’t allow it to win now.

Some say, “I’m part Native American and it doesn’t bother me”, ignoring the fact that they’ve lived an entire life as another race with no real desire or ability to see and feel life through the prism of Native people.

We are African-Americans. The descendants of 400 hundred years of slavery and injustice in this land. Almost every day, we are reminded of this fact. And every day, somewhere, we fight back individually and through the organization of groups bent upon securing racial equality for our people. This is an honorable and just fight. We know the pain of justice denied and its ramifications. We know the power of caricature and stereotype to wound and diminish. Truthfully, what people knows better than us? So why do we participate in perpetuating the Jim Crow-ism of another people? Are we now the bigots?

In my opinion, Daniel Snyder is on par with former Alabama Governor George Wallace. And like Wallace, he is standing – blocking the doorway to social justice and with a loathsome passion, he is declaring something akin to Wallace’s “…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!”

Let’s not stand with Snyder when he says he will never change the team’s name. Let’s stand for a people trying to say treat us with dignity and respect. To the players, I say listen to those who have come before you.Sure they should have said something when they played, but they are speaking now.

“[If] Native Americans feel like Reds***s or the Chiefs or [another] name is offensive to them, then who are we to say to them, ‘No, it’s not?’” – Art Monk

“It deserves and warrants conversation because somebody is saying, ‘Hey, this offends me,’ and then you have a conversation.” – Darrell Green

Years ago, one of my friends asked me why I wanted black men to take a stand and risk their livelihoods. After all, they fought hard to get to the NFL. They could be throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime. Back then, I guessed that we were fresh out of athletes like Muhammad Ali. If I was having the conversation today, I would point to a group of young men at the University of Missouri. In 2015, when racism, sexism and homophobia raised their ugly heads on campus, the school’s football team refused to take the field. Because it was the right thing to do, they were willing to risk the season and in many cases, their future careers. The men who play for Dan Snyder and the fans of his team should do no less.

Dr. King Jr. also said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I wonder. Do we think he meant that it bends only for us?

The title of this essay is a quote from Maya Angelou