My professional life began in youth services, where one of my first jobs was at the King County Juvenile Court. I was assigned to the maximum security cell block known as the Special Programs Unit (detention staff called it "SPU"), and it is these from experiences that David's character in We Are the Love Gods is drawn. Within a year, I landed program development positions working with inner-city youth at Camp Fire Boys & Girls and King County Boys & Girls Clubs.
I went on to organize community programs for women transitioning off public assistance, people with disabilities, teen parents, and battered women. My work took me to the Metropolitan Seattle Urban League, the Minority Executive Directors Coalition, United Way, and the Northwest Women's Law Center, among other organizations. I also served as a speaker for the Lifelong AIDS Alliance and People of Color Against AIDS Network. (For a complete list of my community work, click here.)
These experiences informed my rite of passage as an African American woman and provided rich inspiration for my future novel.
African American males
I wish I could say the predicament for youth of color has improved, but the statistics tell a different, alarming story. A third of African American males between the ages of 20 and 29 are in the criminal justice system. Forty percent of the U.S. prison population is African American. Black males between the ages of 30 and 34 have the highest incarceration rates of any race or ethnicity, and are four times more likely to be murdered than any other demographic in the U.S. Four out of five black victims are killed by guns. Whole generations of black youth are being lost to gang violence.
Something is fundamentally wrong. "But who in the hell cares?" cries Tupac Shakur on 2Pacalypse Now.
What can we do to save our brothers, sons, nephews and fathers from the tortured legacy that annihilates them? I look forward to exploring in my fiction the cultural, institutional, and interpersonal themes that contribute to the assault on African American males, and the efforts underway, such as President Obama's "My Brothers Keeper" program, to halt the death spiral and make our men whole.