Dunbar on Black Books
January 2000    


and the African American
Online Writers Guild

Tia Shabazz, a Los Angeles native and former Houston legal assistant, has over the last two years become a major figure in organizing and professionalizing the opportunity for the in-service education of African-American writers in all genres. In June 1997 she founded the Houston African American Writers Society to support African-American writers. On June 10, 1998, this dynamic and creative 30-year-old wife and mother took the organization into cyberspace by reorganizing it on the Internet as the African American Online Writers Guild. In speaking of her objectives in organizing the Guild, Ms. Shabazz said, "It's about our community and how we can increase the amount of quality African American literature in print. It's about helping each other to succeed as writers, editors and publishers. It's about enabling our children to have a wider selection of African-American literature from which to choose than past generations."

With a team of dedicated volunteers she has forged the African American Online Writers Guild into the first nonprofit 501(c)(3) literary arts association utilizing the power of the online medium to educate, inform, support, and empower aspiring and published African-American writers. The guild now claims to be the largest community of black writers on the Internet. Its membership includes writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, technical documentation, corporate communications, public relations and marketing materials, news articles, columns, essays, lyrics, and others.

Tia Shabazz is a leader in the writing community. She serves as the director of information technology and secretary of the board of directors of the Houston Council of Writers. She is a member of the Detroit Black Writers Guild, of the Association of Authors and Publishers, and of Brentwood Baptist Church. In her spare time, Tia writes mainstream fiction and enjoys reading books by members of the Guild, horror/suspense novels, African-American literature, and reference books related to writing, publishing, and Internet programming. She is executive director and webmistress of the AAOWG. The caliber of the persons who surround her as members of her board and as advisers tells us something of her acumen as executive director. The AAOWG website of which she is webmistress testifies to her position on the cutting edge of the technology.

Board of Directors
and Advisory Board

The board of directors of the AAOWG includes Anita Richmond Bunkley, whose most recent book Balancing Act (Signet, ISBN 0451184831) has received critical acclaim; Jewell Parker Rhodes, whose Free within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors (New York: Main Street Books/Doubleday) is of particular interest to guild members in that genre; and Carol Taylor, who collaborated with Max Rodriguez, Angeli R. Rasbury, and Charles Johnson in compiling and editing the well-received Sacred Fire: the QBR 100 Essential Black Books (New York: John Wiley, 1999). Jerry Hicks, a sports and entertainment attorney, Sue Rosenthal, an attorney and former editor, Adrienne Shabazz, executive director of a north Texas nonprofit organization, and Margie Walker, coauthor of Something to Celebrate (Bet Books, ISBN 158314045X), round out the membership of the board. The leadership provided by this board is a significant factor in the development of the strong AAOWG in-service program.

The advisory board of the AAOWG is constituted of persons accomplished in writing, publishing, and marketing books. Evelyn Palfrey, a graduate of Southern Methodist University and of the University of Texas Law School has three books in print. Dangerous Dilemmas (Moon Child Books, ISBN 0965419029) is the most recent. Palfrey is active with the Austin Writers League, the Travis County Bar Association, and the Links.

Marita Golden has written a memoir entitled Migrations of the Heart (Ballantine Books, ISBN 0345346696) and several novels. Further, she is co-editor (with Susan Richards Shreve) of Skin Deep: Black Women and White Women Write about Race (New York: Nan A. Talese, 1995). Her latest book is A Miracle Every Day: Triumph and Transformation in the Lives of Single Mothers (Anchor Books. ISBN: 0385483155). She was a co-founder, with Clyde McElevene in 1983, of the African American Writers Guild in Washington, D.C. She is president of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation, which presents a summer workshop for black writers and awards the nation's only national award for college fiction writers of African descent.

Emma Rodgers, co-founder of Black Images Book Bazaar, the oldest black-owned bookstore in Texas, located in the Oak Cliff region of Dallas, is a rich source of informaton about the publishing industry, marketing, and African American literature.

Michelle Petitte Young has written for multicultural publications since 1988. She is co-author (with Paul D. Christiansen) of Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: Meeting the Challenge of Our Multicultural America & Beyond (Caddo Gap Press, 1996). She is the former assistant manager of the Binghamton Symphony Orchestra. She has been editor-in-chief of Dry Heat USA, a magazine billed as "the first co-ed, bilingual multicultural publication for teens and young adults." She also served as editor of "Champion," a newsletter for parents of gifted children. Born and raised in Binghamton, New York, Ms. Young currently lives in New York State with her four sons.

Evelyn Coleman, author of Cymbals (Macmillan, 1995, ASIN 0027228177), which is now out of print, Gilbert Hines, the principal of HineSite, a Philadelphia based public relations firm, and Indera Murphy, also serve on the advisory board.

The Website

The AAOWG website is a powerful feature of its strong in-service program for black writers. It is a direct reflection of the skill and creativity of Tia Shabazz. Under her hands-on direction, it features hundreds of the most useful and well-organized resources and links of interest to writers. "Cultured Writer," the monthly newsletter, includes guild news, site updates, announcements of online and offline literary events, authors' news, tips, tidbits, and a bulletin board with calls for submissions and more. Listings of black agents, publicists, editors, publishing companies, publishing consultants, newspapers, magazines, bookstores, job opportunities, grants, fellowships, scholarships, awards, writing career information, research tools, and more are all found here. In the spring of 1999, in an interview with Memphis Vaughan, Jr., editor and publisher at TimBookTu, Shabazz responded to a question regarding her objective for the guild. She pointed out that the mission that she envisioned for the guild was to educate its members on the craft of writing and the methodologies of the business and the industry. "I do expect," she said, "to be taken very seriously when we submit our work to agents and editors." From this point of vantage it would appear that the prospects are very good that this will happen.


    0858 The Cornel West Reader. by Cornel West. Basic. ISBN 0-465-09109-1.
    In this book, according to Publishers Weekly, the Harvard professor and grandson of a Baptist minister has "adeptly combined the introspective strengths of the academic philosopher-theologian with the activist and humanist element of the African-American religious tradition and black nationalist thought." [Source: PW, 10/25/99]

    0859 Hating Whitey: And Other Progressive Causes. by David Horowitz. Spence. ISBN 1-890626-21-X.
    Horowitz, the transformed radical, now conservative, and editor of Heterodoxy, the "intentionally provocative conservative journal," takes on U.S. race relations in this one. Louis Farrakhan, Toni Morrison, and Prof. Derrick Bell come under Horowitz's scrutiny in this book. [Source: PW 10/25/99]

    0860 Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. eds. Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Basic/Civitas. ISBN 0-465-0071-1.
    This encyclopedia fulfills, with aplomb, Du Bois' dream of editing such a book filled with all that scholars knew of the history, literature, and art of the great continent and its diaspora. The two Harvard professors commissioned and condensed more than 3000 articles by more than 400 scholars in preparing this work, the bulk of which is devoted to the African continent and its descendant cultures in Latin America, the Caribbean, and North America. It does address the African presence in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world. [Source: PW 10/25/99]

    0861 Black Planet: Facing Race during the NBA Season. by David Shields. Crown. ISBN 0-609-60452-X.
    Shields, a white professor of English on sabbatical to cover the Sonics, has written a provocative book often articulating his perception that the subtext of everything said in or about the National Basketball Association is about race, which topic is never faced head on in public. Written in diary form, the book recounts Shields' year attending games, listening to radio call-in shows, and reading Internet chat discussions." Although Shields executes this obsessive dissection with aplomb, it's hard to match his zeal and a little exhausting, in the end, to read every daily interaction as code." [Source: PW 10/25/99]

    0862 Risks of Faith: The Emergence of a Black Theology of Liberation, 1968-1999. by James H. Cone. Beacon. ISBN 0-8070-0950-4.
    Cone, a young black seminary professor in 1969, drew attention with his ground-breaking book on black theology and black power. His career has been a long effort to articulate what it means to be Christian and black. This collection of his most influential essays is an outstanding introduction to his thought. This book "provides stunning and vital insights into American realities and the possibilities for American theology." [Source PW 10/25/99]

    0863 Workin' On the Chain Gang: Shaking Off the Dead Hand of History. by Walter Mosely. Ballantine/Library of Contemporary Thought. ISBN 0-345-43069-7. The author of the Easy Rawlins mystery series and other novels is into nonfiction here, addressing "chains that define our range of motion and our ability to reach for the higher goals." These chains "might be more recognizable in the black experience, but they restrain us all." "Less a rigorous political proposal than a 'cri de coeur' against the stifling of the human spriit, Mosley's short book is a bracing and provocative declaration of intellectual and political independence." [Source: PW, 11/15/99]

    0864 The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. by Randall Robinson. Dutton. ISBN 0-525-94524-5.
    Robinson is the founder and president of TransAfrica, which aims to influence U.S. policies toward Africa and the Caribbean. In this book he calls upon America to deal with what he considers to be its financial obligation to blacks for centuries of slavery and continued subjugation. He demonstrates that the legacy of slavery is not only on our social and political lives, but on the psyche of America. His suggestion of a trust to assist in the educational and economic empowerment of African Americans is "a definitive step in presenting these controversial and still unresolved issues," according to Publishers Weekly. [Source: PW, 11/22/99]

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.
--Mark Twain     

Copyright © 2000 by Harry B. Dunbar. All rights reserved.
Dunbar on Black Books