Pacific NW author inspired by own life uses Portland as backdrop for the Diary of Tippy Ellis

As an African-American growing up in Oregon, I believe I offer a perspective that may be different from being raised in a  predominately African-American community. My family was stationed here in the late 60s – Astoria and Salem – where my father was a Captain in the Air Force reserves.  Here we were isolated from the larger black experience.  The community was small in comparison to larger cities due to the less than 2 percent black population which remains that way today. Despite that, we had parents with southern roots, so as kids we spent our summers in Alabama and Georgia. As an adult, I have traveled and lived around the country including Great Britain.

I consider myself an international woman due to my diverse experiences which inspired me to write and publish the Diary of Tippy Ellis series, using Portland as one of the geographic locations for Tippy’s story.  The city offers a unique backdrop for this young adult fiction novel, featuring a black teenage heroine born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia only to be uprooted and moved to Portland in her senior year of high school.

In contrast to my experience, Tippy Ellis comes from a city which is predominately African-American. Therefore, her perspective  about Portland offers a unique insight on how many blacks may feel once they relocate here. Readers should know I use the geographic location and community perspective as merely a backstory amid the scandals, intense plot and numerous twists in the Diary of Tippy Ellis. Part One “Mama’s Daughter” leaves readers craving for part two which is slated for release in 2014.

Below is an excerpt from The Diary of Tippy Ellis, giving credence to Portland’s rap music scene which features a large number of white male hip hop artists. Currently this novel is on sale at Barnes and Noble.com, Amazon.com and Createspace.com.

Chapter  29  “Wigga Got Swag”

I watch Julie disappear into the house. Shit. Maybe I should leave. I’m pretty outgoing, but I don’t know how to make friends with these white folks. I start to head back in when someone grabs my arm. Out of instinct I pull my arm away, turn around and prepare to give the person who touched me without permission a “Got your damn nerve,” look.

“What up girl. Ain’t it past your bedtime?” What! It’s the white boy rapper AJ DaMenace.

“Hey,” I say smiling and give him a hug. I wanna say thanks for rescuing me but instead say, “What you doing hanging?”

“Dis my crib,” AJ says. “I’m letting my little brother host his gathering here. Good thing I’m the only house at the end of the block. Police would have a field day. But then our dad works for the Portland PD.”

“Your daddy’s the Po Po?” I say, leaning my neck back lookin’ at him.

“Ha! I’m lying,” he says.

“You must be the one playin’ the rap music,” I say.

“Girl you’d be surprised how many white kids love hip hop,” AJ says. “I’m sure you’ve already been schooled about Portland.”

For the first time I notice his diction. Hm. A white boy trying to sound ghetto. A wigga we call ‘em back in Atlanta.

“Wanna dance?” says AJ.

The song playing is unfamiliar but good dancing music. “I can dance to that,” I say. “Who’s flowing?

He pulls me over to the side near one of the tents. He’s still grinning, “I hear some rap artist named DaMenace. Pretty swank huh.”

“Ooo bangin’” I say, leaning my head back.

AJ DaMenace starts dancing. I guess that’s my cue. There’s not much room so we’re standing pretty close; close enough so we don’t have to shout. This feels funny. I’ve never been this close to a white boy before. He smells good and he’s not bad to look at.

He keeps his blonde hair cropped close to his head and he’s damn cute when he smiles. His whole face widens, creating laugh lines around his smile which shows off his pretty white straight teeth. He has diamond earrings in his kinda large ears but the rest of his finess overshadows them.

AJ’s telling me about his career like why he took on the stage name DaMenace, he pulled from the ol’ school Dennis the Menace show.

“Like Dennis the Menace I’m innocently sneaky but don’t mean no harm,” says DaMenace.

“So I need to watch you,” I say teasingly.

“Girl you can watch me all you want,” he says. Um. Wigga trying to flirt.

DaMenace graduated from Grant High School last year. His parents wanted him to go to college but stayed in the music business.

“They don’t like hip hop. They’re ultra conservative, big time Republicans who hate Obama,” he says. “We sure don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things.”

AJ tells me his parents tolerated his friendship with Jerome.

“We were thick as thieves, inseparable,” he explains. “Later they began to like him. He turned on the Jerome charm. Anyway what’s not to like, right?”

I nod and lower my head for a moment.

“So what about you, girl?”

“Huh would you believe, I got staunch Republicans on my mama’s side?”

“Naw for real?”

“Yeah but my daddy’s as liberal as they come. So I get my ideals from him since he’s my only parent now.”

“Oh? Your parents not together?”

“Mama died when I was 7.”

“Sorry ‘bout dat. You lucky ta have a liberal daddy doe.”

The music is slowing down to a song called Emergency by Tank. AJ pulls me close without asking and begins swaying back and forth. Jeremy is the only boy I’ve slow danced with and it makes me nervous. But AJ is being cool wit’ me.

I’d forgotten about Julie. She shows up out of nowhere, tapping me on my shoulder. I turn my head toward her. Her face is right up close to mine. Hm. Hope her breath don’t stink.

“I see you’re in good hands. Sorry I left you,” she says, lowering her head a little.

Hm. A little late for sorry, I’m thinking. Anyway, I guess I’m in good hands.  I got my arms around AJ’s neck and he’s got his around my waist. Looks like Julie’s been in good hands too. Her hair is messy, make-up is almost gone and she and her boo are cheesing. They must’ve found some place to do-the-do. Ooo nasty. Doing it in someone else’s house without permission.

Julie and Jason are going to another party and asked if I wanted to go. At least they asked this time.

“I’ll make sure she gets home safely,” says AJ. There he goes again not asking. But I don’t wanna hang with Julie and Jason. I might get left again and not be as lucky.

Julie pooches her lips out, giving me, “Ooo girl.” In return I give her the “cutesy-girl” wave using my right four fingers. Then she hugs me around the neck.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” she says in my ear. For a minute she sounded like my BFF.

Once they’re gone…

 AJ says, “Hungry?”

“Naw,” I say.

“Wanna go for a walk den beautiful?”

“Okay,” I say blushing.

AJ takes my hand and we walk back into the house. On the way to the front door, he grabs his brother and makes him walk out with us. Barry looks like the guy Shonny almost ran over at school and flipped-off. Poor guy. Who’d name their kid Barry? My white math teacher back home name’s Barry. He’s got a corny sense of humor and laughs at his own jokes.

“Hey no fuck ups,” says AJ.

“Yeah, yeah,” says Barry.

“I’m leaving my boys in charge to keep the peace. Hey and watch the drinkin’!”

“Yeah yeah,” says Barry, walking away waving his brother off.

“I ain’t playin’. They’ll kick all y’all out if you start any shit!” says AJ. His brother has made it back to the front door. He waves again like saying “Whatever.”

Me and AJ walk down to the park. It’s clean and well-maintained with a few park benches, tables and playground equipment like a big slide, swings, monkey bars and a seesaw. The park also has several tall iron lamp polls with lights  bright enough to see in either direction. The dozen houses way in the distance all have their lights on, adding to the parks serene ambiance.

AJ says the houses were built within the past 2 years. This use to be an industrial area. There are still some vacant buildings developers plan to take down next year.

We sit close to each other on one of the park benches and AJ puts his arm around my shoulders. “Cold?” he says.

“Naw,” I say.  Hm. DaMenace is bold. He don’t know me like that. But I better be cool. He’s my ride home.

“My house use to belong to the owners of an auto repair shop,” says AJ. “I worked for the owner from the time I was 13 up to last year. Me and the owner’s son are cool. That’s how I learned to be a mechanic. I got my mechanic’s certificate last year.”

“Oh yeah?” I say. “Jack of all trades I see.”

“It pays the bills for now,” says AJ. “I can afford the payments on my house, I got on a lease option.”

I’m smiling. AJ’s braggin’, trying to impress me.

“Ya know I’ve never told anyone else this but you,” he says, hesitantly.

Now I’m thinking he’s gonna say something swank like girl you fine and I wanna get wit’ you. Hm, not sure about a white boy though. But ooo this wigga’s fine, making me get those feelings again – like with Jeremy and with Jerome – all the way down to my twot-twot. Okay, girl. Get a grip!

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The CRAZIES lost the election now they’re talking impeachment

The crazies: the GOP, the birthers and the “I hate that black guy” racists are at it again. They couldn’t out vote President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, so now they want to impeach him and destroy his legacy.  With the mere speculation of Hillary Clinton running in 2016, the crazies have escalated their attacks on the President using the “no Benghazi issue” as an impeachment weapon despite the fact that this administration’s snafus look like nursery school rhymes compared to the war crimes committed under Bush/Cheney.

I wrote my recent novel the Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s Daughter” in real time with much of it happening during the 2012 presidential election. The heroine LaTonya Ellis is surrounded by both Republican and Democratic family members. Within her immediate family her father Robert Ellis is a diehard Democrat who hates conservatives except for General Collin Powell. In Chapter 50 “Almost Home,” a conversation takes place between LaTonya and her father about the crazies and Obama’s legacy. See excerpt below.

The Diary of Tippy Ellis

Chapter 50/Almost Home

  11/7/2012  Early evening in Council Crest

I’m certainly glad the election is over. We got President Obama for another 4 years thanks to the Big G. Glad he’s doing something right for a change. Daddy is happy too. I thought last night he was gonna bust waiting for the results.  When it was over, he tears-up but mans-up quick.

“Now you see, that’s what them damn Republicans get,” daddy says. “They played dirty; tried to keep black folks from voting; talked about women like a dog; told the Latinos to self-deport; the Muslims to kill themselves; gays to go to hell and now they’re blaming their boy Romney. Huh, they threw away $400 million to buy people’s votes and got nothing. Could have put the money to good use but noooo, greed took over! But we the people told ‘em to shove it up there asses! And go to hell Fox News! I’m surprised those billionaires didn’t beat the shit out of Karl Rove for stealing their money.”

Daddy can barely breathe he’s so excited. “We have to protect the president’s legacy. These racists aren’t gonna sleep until they succeed in destroying him and his family. Huh. Now some of them racist states, including this one wants to succeed from the union. What bullshit! We gotta be ready to fight back when the time comes.”

Daddy also doesn’t like black folks being ignored. Now the Republicans are harping about how to appeal to Latinos but say nothing about black people – they know we ain’t stupid. We had a greater turn out than in 2008 despite trying to keep us down. Few news stations except for MSNBC are talking about it. Most everyone else is ignoring black people – again. As if we don’t count. As if we are invisible.

Daddy says he hopes the Latinos don’t get fooled by those damn Republicans. All they care about is building a power structure to turn us into slave labor. What daddy says reminds me of the movie the Hunger Games. I hope it never happens. If so, I’ll be one of the ones, along with daddy, getting thrown into those concentrations camps they keep talking about on the internet. Like daddy I ain’t bending.

#  #  #

The Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s Daughter” is on sale at Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle) and Createspace.com.

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Found alive! Missing Cleveland girls bring to light continued violence against young girls, women

Across the nation today many of us shared in the good news about Cleveland’s 3 missing teens who were found ALIVE and after beingmissing-women-4 (3) held captive for 10 years by a pedophile and rapist! We applaud Charles Ramsey the neighbor who rescued one of the girls from the house after hearing her screams for help.

This horrific incident sheds light on the serious problem of gender-based violence and sexual assault. National Organization of Women reports that women ages 24 and under suffer from the highest rates of rape.  The Justice Department estimates that one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported.  Moreover, women of color, especially African-American women are disproportionately victims of sexual assault that go underreported and receive limited media attention. Now add the growing human trafficking crisis, targeting young girls.

In my recently released “Diary of Tippy Ellis,” this crisis plagues many of the novel’s female characters. There are at least five different cases: a date rape, a human trafficking/kidnapping, gang rape, sexual assault of two underage victims by known adult assailants. If you haven’t read my novel you may be wondering why I chose to include so many events, depicting violence against women.

In my biography, I mention that my personal life inspired me to write this story although fictional. And writing it was healing in many ways. Mostly, my hope is to keep the light on this epidemic through continued awareness, giving our girls and women the tools to protect themselves and for everyone to have the courage – like Charles Ramsey and countless others – to act.  Stomp out violence against our girls and women now!

In truth,

Boss Amanishakhete

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Will African American fiction authors get the credit they deserve?

This is a blog I wrote a few years ago; however, it is still relevant. Things have changed since then like I now live in Atlanta, GA. And this series so far has three parts under the series title “The Tippy Ellis Story.”  You can find her on Amazon.com and a host of other bookstore retailers. 

As a new author to the fiction world, I am amazed at the wide range of talented black writers in this industry. Many authors we’ve heard of Carl Weber, Terry McMillian, Alice Monroe, Tony Morrison, Walter Mosley but numerous authors have yet to be acknowleged or celebrated.  For example, if you search for African American authors on-line at Barnes and Noble the results will come back with over 3,000 titles. Amazing huh?  Yep, black folks have passion for much more than basketball, singing and hip hop.

From what I’ve seen, even the most popular black authors rarely grace the front pages of major magazines or mainstream news. Seemingly, we have to fight our way to the forefront – to be seen – hoping to be heard and applauded for our works.

We have passion for what we do. Our individuality inspires great writers with great stories, offering ideals from a variety of black experiences beyond your typical street and hip hop literature, which appears to be growing in popularity – this is of no surprise.

Perhaps me being synical comes from living in a city called Portland, Oregon where blacks are 2 percent of the population if that. We usually get recognized if we commit a crime or if we belong to a closed niche group of black folks who the major news outlets recycle, making it sound like only a handful of black folks are doing good deeds, doing  great things.  I guess we can be grateful for our black media. But in my experience the geographical reach of black media, depending on where it is, is smaller. Further, the welcome mat doesn’t come easy and often expect to go unnoticed unless, of course, you already have the word celebrity attached to your name, or you know so and so at the corner store or church. There are exceptions.

So what advice is there for new black authors on the scene or for those interested in joining the long list of names already in the industry?

I’ve spent the past almost year writing my first novel, the first in a series, Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s Daughter” and opted to self publish after having a focus group of early readers review the final draft. Inspired by my own life surrounded by often tragic circumstances, the Diary received raving reviews. I’m also a marketing and branding professional by trade so I am fortunate to have skills to self promote. Yet, I’ve found that introducing myself to the fiction world isn’t easy.  So far, I’ve been met with resistance and the money train is nearing empty.

To get the credit we deserve? I guess I have to rethink what that means. Change my blueprint and adhere to my mission for this series, which is to “Give young black women a voice” and to keep the spotlight on violence against women.  Both are crucial causes worth fighting for. Hence, I don’t need credit for that but the drive to continue the movement. Onward to part two.

In truth,

Boss Amanishakhete, author and Word-Soul artist

Trailer:  Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s Daughter” by Boss Amanishakhete

Atlanta and Portland provide backdrops for a dynamic story about Latonya “Tippy” Ellis – 17 and black – who battles the pressures of drugs, alcohol and sex, while coming to grips with past family secrets. Through dealing with the trauma of murder and violence, Tippy learns to navigate the gauntlet of close friendships, love and life.

Diary of Tippy Ellis “Mama’s” Daughter” is currently on-line at Createspace.com and Amazon.com (paperback and kindle)

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