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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Conversations Spotlight: Bestselling author JIHAD

My conversation with Jihad makes me wonder how I have gotten as far as I have without his words of wisdom. He is a man that has endured a great deal and come out a real warrior in the literary world. With three books under his belt and more in the works, Jihad has a message that will educate some and empower all. Look for him to be visiting Mississippi in July 2007 in connection with Conversations Book Club READ MY LIPS Literacy Project.

Jihad, I have read some of the reviews about your work and even some things about your life. Why don't you tell our CONVERSATIONS readers a little about yourself and how you discovered the craft of writing?
I’m a very socio-conscious individual. I love my people of color with an unheralded passion, but I also can’t stand them at times. I fell in love with Black People while serving a 7-plus year sentence in Federal Prison. It was there that I met the most intelligent articulate men whom happened to be Black that I’ve ever known. These brotha’s inspired and tricked me into reading. Before prison I’d never read anything outside of a jet or ebony magazine, so when I finally read the likes of Na’im Akbar, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Dr. Yosef Ben Jochannon, Rudolph Windsor and countless others it opened my eyes for the first time in my life. I started to understand why and how Oppressive factors work. I began to understand how and why the collective population of Hispanic and Blacks in America did and thought the way they do. And as my understanding grew answers to our plight became evident. And I developed a passion for speaking to the inmates and bringing them together by their likenesses instead of their differences. I did this thru short 4-6 page essays. It was because of my words and my actions to elevate the thinking of third world peoples especially Blacks that got me close to two years in solitary confinement, and shipped around to 6 different prisons.

Anyway once I understood I wanted everyone else to understand so they would be on there way to mental emancipation. So I learned that Black folk wanted to be entertained instead of educated so as KRS-1 coined the word years ago I came to the conclusion that I would edutain our people. As our oppressors have done for Thousands of years, especially the 400 + years in America I decided I could trick our people into learning how to think again. Since I can’t take back the poison that I sold to my sistas and brothas in hoods all over the southeast and Midwestern US, I dedicated my life to writing edutaining stories, so hopefully I could save a few, that’s all I want and then I want those few to save a few and soon we will have a revolution, in that I mean CHANGE. Thank you..

Books became a part of your life when you were going through a transition in our life. Do you think you would have developed that love for words otherwise?
Not at all. If it weren’t for the inspiration I got from the self-taught Malcolm X’s, Marcus Garvey’s, and Martin Luther Kings, I met on the prison slave plantations I would surely be still walking dead destroying others with Crack or worst, or I would be in a box six-feet under

Kenneth Meeks, the managing editor of Black Enterprise Magazine, said that she admires your writing because of its raw energy. Tell us about the writing process for you. What do you pull from?
I pull from the ancestors that put it down way before me, I pull from every day experiences, from sistahs, brothas, current and past events. I have a treasure chest of knowledge at my disposal I pull from. And I can only write what I am passionate about, and all my books have several messages and they always will.

Hiphop fiction has found a very desirable niche in the literary world. Do you think the emergence of hiphop in literature will pull in a new crop of readers?
It already has our youth are reading like never before. I am just trying to change the image of Hip Hop Fiction as Kanye West, NAS, COMMON, JADA KISS, and so many more are trying to do with Hip-Hop music. I like to call what I do Inspirational Hip-Hop fiction. I would even go as far to say that I write THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE books for the young Urban American.

We interviewed Carl Weber in our debut issue of CONVERSATIONS. We talked about his publishing company Urban Books, which you are a product of and he referred to you all as his literary family. Do you find yourself counseling with him about book ideas or how to express and develop your own ideas?
Yes, definitely. Carl has given me an opportunity that no one else would. Yes I definitely brainstorm ideas and ask for his advice because he is where I want to be and who better to learn from than a person that is achieving the success that you want.

Another bestselling author that has spoke highly of you is Travis Hunter, who we also interviewed in the debut issue. He, like you, is a single father. Tell our readers how that shapes the work that you seek to publish? How do you see your role as a father figure for some of your readers?
Yeah, Travis is the man and a very close friend of mine. We share the same views about our writing and the publishing industry. Being a single father and dad reminds me constantly of my responsibility to keeping it real and write what I would not be ashamed for my son to one day read. It is an honor to be deemed as a father figure or a big brother cause I ain’t that old, but it’s a heavy weight that I love to carry, I got a strong back and I will carry young and old if they are willing to ride.

I noticed that you are the founder of the Jihad Uhuru Wake Up Everybody Foundation. Why did you start it and what do you hope to accomplish with it?
I started it because I absolutely HATE what is not taught in history class, or better yet the watered down version of American History. I hoped and still hope to obtain funds so I can go into the schools which I currently do on a small scale and hold Vibe Sessions speaking to our young brothas and sistas about Hispanic and African-American Heritage, and how knowing your History affects every move you make. I also started the Foundation to go into Juveniles, and schools, and colleges to introduce students to scholars, like Dr. Malena Karenga, Mariambi ANI, Claude Anderson, and more by giving these scholars books to groups of young folks and coming back to the school in 60 days time to let the groups give a 5 minute or less oration on what the book was about and how it could change society for the good. Each member of the winning group would receive a 200.00 shopping spree.

When talking about your own style, you have referred to is as "Wake Up Fiction." What do you mean by that?
In your face real, no cut. The language and the things we do today with real consequences behind our positive and negative actions in a realistic entertaining way.

Jihad, I have to tell you that I already had respect for you because of your second book. But I gained more appreciation for you when I saw that you used your status as a published author to encourage visitors of your website to shop locally, especially with minority-owned bookstores. Why do you think black people seem to have such a problem with supporting other black or minority businesses?
There is an old saying. The White Man’s ice is colder than the Black man’s. Sub-consciously we don’t even know it, but we believe if it is validated by White society than it is Grade A. If we walk into a Black establishment we want to bargain and get the hook up. When we go into Macy’s we don’t ask for the manager and see if we can get the hook up. Also convenience, glamour and Glitz. The other man’s store is bigger nicer and has bells and whistles that the Black man’s store doesn’t so we want to shop in luxury and oft times the other mans store is 1 cent cheaper so we want to save that penny so we can go to the club on Friday, so we but our club outfit from the other man instead of the brotha man. It’s rooted in tradition and self-hate. Self-hate has been passed down for generations, and greed and envy has become the order of the day so we will walk right past our establishment to see the bells and whistles and possibly get a 1 cent discount. We as a people have no conceptualization of self. We see self as me, my, mine instead of US. OUR DOLLARS. OUR COMMUNITY.

If you were asked to describe a career achievement for you thus far, what would it be?
What has meant the most from me is The young women and men that have gone to my website, e-mailed me, and posted a review on Amazon.com telling me how much of a difference my books have made in their lives. One particular 17 year old female explained in a very lengthy e-mail that she was contemplating suicide and had tried and failed once before, but after reading Baby Girl she was inspired to want to live. At first I thought it was going to be the money, but it is definitely the Baby Girl’s and Little and big brotha’s out there that have inspired me and have given me the deepest heartfelt gratification.

What has been the lowest point you've found yourself in after the first book came out?
My book sells, and the category that I have been cast in. Most people won’t pick up my books because of the negative image that Street Lit has obtained.

I have to ask you about seeing your name in print and having your work discussed, like in this interview. Do you find yourself saying "Did I really do that" or "Are they talking about me?"
All the time. When I first saw my name it was a weird feeling. You know I had grandiose dreams about changing the world through my books. I approach everything with a very aggressive attitude and I can be really impatient if things don’t happen when I think they should. Now that I’m in print I feel like I can make a difference. I feel as though I have to be the voice of the thousands of self-taught positive prison inmates that will never be heard.

Can you tell us about your next project?
I’m working on adapting Baby Girl into a movie screen play, at the request of a very well known Hollywood producer.
And my book RIDING RHYTHM is by far my best and most controversial. It’s a revolutionary love story like no other. Moses King the Robin Hood, Black Panther like founder of the notorious Disciples Chicago street gang is framed for the rape/murder of a popular Black Chicago Congressman and his wife, he is sentenced to life without parole. Rhythm Azure a young freedom fighting law student at Howard University takes interest in the case and as she grows closer to Moses and closer to uncovering a conspiracy involving government officials she attempts to bring the church and the street together to help her fight for the freedom of the man she grows to love. The closer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to her own demise and the demise of everyone who threatens to side with her including the incarcerated Moses King. Her only hope lies in uniting the two largest rival street gangs of Chicago along with the Church to topple the biggest conspiracy and cover up the nation has ever known.

We appreciate your time, Jihad. How can our readers find out more information about you and your organization?
Go to www.jihadwrites.com or www.amazon.com Thank you for your eyes and your hearts people.
Love and Life.

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