Creative Writing – Week 11 – The Extra Mile

In her book, “The Word: Black Writers Talk About the Transformative Power of Reading and Writing,” I enjoyed her interviews with many authors, including Wil Haygood, who writes his ass off! I’d been loving his Washington Post articles for years, and when I read his biography of Sammy Davis Jr., for a literary contest I was judging, I fell in love with the jazzy rhythms of his writing.

 

M.G.: What has your writing career given you?

 

WH: Writing has been my attempt to unravel some of the hardships of my past life. My mother was an alcoholic, my father was separated from my mother a month after I was born, divorced, you know, family members in prison, family members who were on and off drugs, all my life, you know? So, I came with a whole lot of turmoil in my stomach, a lot of pain, because there was always a lot of drama around. A writer can be a kind of inward-looking psychiatrist, almost, trying to go back, trying to assess the damage, trying to look for the light at the end of the tunnel.

 

Explore your reasons for writing. In 10 minutes – or more – finish this sentence, “I write…”

Malcolm X, Manning Marable, and Me

The excerpts, for starters, proved uplifting for me. Reading excerpts from Manning Marable’s new controversial biography of Malcolm X, I was reminded of some of the “lessons” we learned inside Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam Schools, Muhammad’s Universities of Islam.  We were drilled, for instance, on Muhammad’s “Lesson #10: Why does Muhammad and any Muslim murder the devil? What is the duty of each Muslim in regards to four devils? What reward does a Muslim receive by presenting the four devils at one time?”

We were called on at our desk to stand and answer these questions. One of us young charges, dressed sharp in a long dress and head scarf, would stand and respond, soldier-like, “Because he is one hundred percent wicked and will not keep and obey the laws of Islam. His ways and actions are like that of a snake of the grafted type. So Muhammad learned that he could not reform the devil. So they had to be murdered. All Muslims will murder the devil because they know he is a snake and also if he be allowed to live he would sting someone else. Each Muslim is required to bring four devils, and by presenting four at one time his reward is a button to wear on the lapel of his coat, also free transportation to the Holy city Mecca.”

Marable’s book, particularly the interviews with some of the former members, will add historical context and overview to what was my personal experience in the NOI. I will pen a review of the book as soon as I have read and digested it completely. My experience in the NOI is shared in my memoir, LITTLE X: GROWING UP IN THE NATION OF ISLAM, and some of the bitter fall-out from the experience is detailed in my book, DO ME TWICE: MY LIFE AFTER ISLAM. But my years of reflection to finally make peace with that experience is something I will share as I reflect on Marable’s book.