Monday, October 03, 2005

A Great Time at the Great Read

I have to dig up my Joy Journal. That's a hardcover journal that I bought several years ago to capture those little but meaningful events or memories that bring me a great deal of joy. Not the obvious things like family holidays and special occassions -- those are for my latest hobby -- scrapbooking -- thanks to my dear friend and Only in New York" panel at the New York Times Great Read in the Park. Moderated by New York Times Metro columnist and fellow Bronxite Clyde Haberman (who did a great job), I joined authors Pete Hamill, Frank McCourt, Byron Harmon, Edward Conlon, and New York Times editor Connie Rosenblum. The crowd lined up for this panel an hour before it started, and event staff had to raise the flaps of the Great Discussion tents so that folks who didn't make inside could still watch and hear the discussion.

I felt the stakes were high for this event. For my publishing house Penguin to nominate me to particpate in this event was already a major vote of confidence. For the NY Times to extend the invitation -- to sit on a panel with literary heavyweights no less -- was no small thing. I didn't get it twisted -- the majority of audience members lined outside that tent were there to hear Pete Hamill and Frank McCourt (who were very gracious and quite funny.) I took that as an acknowledgement that hip hop is much more than the narrow and often problematic rap music played on commercial radio, and I knew I had to take that opportunity given to reinforce that. If I had to go by the response of the crowd after the panel, I'd like to think I rose to the occasion, but y'all can check out the program on C-Span, and judge for yourselves. :)

After the panel, an older man approached me and asked me if I had read Pete Hamill's novel Forever, the story of a man who can live forever so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan. According the gentlemen, the man falls in love with a Dominican girl he spots on 14th Street. He says to me, "And she's you!" So, of course, I'm dying to read this book, LOL! I mean, it certainly sounded like a compliment to me.

The best part of any event like this, as always, is the opportunity to speak to readers. Some of the people who came to my signing were existing fans and even a friend publicist extradordinaire Charles Rice-Gonzalez of the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (bka BAAD!) And some were some were new readers who became interested in my work either through attending the panel and maybe even overhearing my conversation with a reader. I met a wonderful sister named Jean, and we had a great conversation about Tupac's iconic status. I also had the pleasure to make the acquaintance of two righetous brothers named Arnold and Hannibal who are behind the Black Sit-Com Institute which is trying to reach youth and keep them on a positive path through the creation of comedic art. During the panel, Connie Rosenblum said that one of the things she loved most about New York was the constant serendipity, and I wish she could've witnessed this. Arnold said that they were walking west on 42nd Street when Hannibal said,"Let's go through the park." I definitely feel what these brothers are trying to accomplish -- it's a parallel mission with my organization Chica Luna -- and hope we stay in touch and build together.

You heard it here first. A movie's in the works about hip hop pioneer T La Rock written by Antwone Fisher, who chronicled his triumph over childhood abuse in his memoir Finding Fish which later become a film (and Denzel Washington directorial debut.) This was told to me by Bonnie Timmerman, the casting director of such favorites as "The Insider," "Carlito's Way," "Midnight Run," "Heat," and one of my top movies of all-time "Bull Durham" (that's right, I'm a sucker for a good baseball flick. Every once in a while I've been known to steal a quote from Tim Robbin's pitching phenom Crash Davis: "I gotta throw the heat, establish my authority."

Hopefully, I did that on the "Only in New York" panel. Not to establish my own authority, but to get hip hop some respect. A French philospher once said that if you want to understand the U.S., you have to know baseball. Well, I believe that to truly understand New York City, you gotta know hip hop.


jazztheo said...

Black Artemis,

I saw on your website your response to your being black. Did you know Jesus was black in the same sense that you are?

Forgive me for inviting you to my blog, I can't stand it when people do that...but at the risk of doing what I hate, I just did a series of posts on a jazz approach to Jesus blackness.


Anonymous said...

I just caught your NYT panel appearance on C-SPAN and was completely blown away. Your ability to communicate the enthusiasm and love you have for the city and hip hop was refreshing to take in. I look forward to reading your books.

What you are doing is so important and inspirational... I can't even begin. Keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

I liked what you said about hip-hop on that panel. Hopefully more folks will start to take it seriously. I'm just beginning to understand it's beauty myself.

I've read both of your novels and I'm eagerly awaiting your third. I wish you the best of luck. I really admire what your doing. It was by pure luck that I picked up your book. I'm thankful that I've found your work.

Toronto, Ontario