Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Know Claude Brown, A Manchild In The Promised Land

"[This autobiography] is written with brutal and unvarnished honesty in the plain talk of the people, in language that is fierce, uproarious, obscene and tender, but always sensible and direct. And to its enormous credit, this youthful autobiography gives us its devastating portrait of life without one cry of self-pity, outrage or malice, with no caustic sermons or searing rhetoric. Claude Brown speaks for himself--and the Harlem people to whom his life is bound--with open dignity, and the effect is both shattering and deeply satisfying...[This work] is a mature autobiography of the coming of age of one hidden human being, whose experience and generation are absolutely crucial to any future history of the American people."-- New York Times Book Review

"For where does one run to when he's already in the promised land?"--Claude Brown

Listen up. February 23rd, is the birthday of Claude Brown, one of America's most gifted writers. No, he didn't come from the Iowa writer's workshop or from some fancy school like Princeton in the East. In fact, often he was absent from school. Sometimes he had neither a school or a home to go to and spent many nights riding trains to stay warm.

Claude was born in poverty, in Harlem, New York, in 1937. He was a writer and child advocate. He was also a black male kid who had been a criminal since the age of 8. His success showed that a black kid who was well-known at juvenile detention schools could rescue himself (with the help of a few friends like the great writer Toni Morrison) out of crime and poverty and demonstrate that, like Malcolm X, almost any of us could be redeemed-- could be lifted from the cold concrete of urban, inner-city black America and be somebody: be transformed thug to a worthwhile American citizen, to even a man of letters, if given a little hope and half a chance.

Here's what the African American Registry (Please give them support) said of Brown today:

Claude Brown

From Harlem, Brown's early days frequented breaking the law. His crime run began at the tender age of 8. His father, a dockworker, would frequently beat him and his siblings when they got into trouble, and his mother struggled with the juvenile court to get him into the best state delinquency programs. But nothing seemed to prevent Brown from breaking the law. In spite of his unstable, alcoholic father, and the poverty of his youth, his siblings all grew up to lead normal lives. Brown spent years in and out of juvenile detention centers and juvenile homes as a result of stealing, and selling drugs.

His life of crime took a turn when a local drug addict shot him in the abdomen. This incident and the encouragement of a friend helped Brown leave his life of crime behind him. In 1959, he entered Howard University in Washington, and shortly afterward he began writing. Toni Morrison, one of his teachers, often critiqued Claude's work. Claude wrote about what he knew best his own life experiences. Browns Manchild in the Promised Land, is a best selling autobiography on his youth in Harlem, New York. In 1976, he published The Children of Ham, a story about struggling young blacks in Harlem.

Almost 35 years, and 4 million copies later, Manchild in the Promised Land has become the second best selling book MacMillan Books ever published (the first was Gone with the Wind), and has been published in 14 languages. It launched his career as a writer, giving him a platform to publish in Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look and The New York Times Magazine. Brown, was a freelance writer and frequent lecturer, and started a family. He had two children by two marriages, and a grandson. Though living in Newark, New Jersey, he was still involved in Harlem and helping kids out of the street life.

He works to maintain a program that mentors kids from Harlem, and helps them go to college. Brown also supports a Newark-based program that diverts kids caught up in the court system into an intensive eight-week residential treatment program that tries to turn young people's lives around. Writer Claude Brown died of a lung condition on February 6, 2002; he was age 64.

Know Black history. Know Claude Brown, another manchild in the promised land.


Anonymous said...

What drives me? My kids. I couldn't get to college. Not quit after high school like their daddy and me.

rainywalker said...

Interesting. I was looking at a Youtube video [22 minutes?] the Library of Congress David Kresh put together on the life of Langston Hughes.

MacDaddy said...

Anon: I get it. A lot of our parents couldn't go to college. But they worked jobs-- sometimes two or three jobs-- so we could. They invested in posterity. But that's not to say you still couldn't go today, is it?

Rainy: Claude Brown has me wondering if our (America's) corporate media's disdain for young black males keeps us from looking pass the music, the hair, the dress and seeing the Claude Browns, smart kids, in black inner-cities and other places as well.

nun in the hood said...

This is a poignant piece, and it always amazes me when kids who have difficult family situations still make it.....'Sounds as if Claude Brown was one of those resilient folks who came from a 'dysfunctional family' as in CHAOTIC. I lcame from one such family with 5 siblings, and pretty heavy use of alchohol by my parents. My sister-in-law once said, "How can you all be so normal with the upbringing you had?" She came to the conclusion that regardless of the chaos, there was LOVE in our family. I truly believe that, and can honestly say that I learned more about the God who IS LOVE from my own mom and dad, in spite of their 'dysfunction.' I trust the Claude Brown had some of that LOVE in his family of origin.

Solomon said...

Always like to hear a good story of a brother that turned it around.

Revvy Rev said...

Thanks for this post. I'd never heard of Mr. Brown. Absolutely great story that many more need to know.

MacDaddy said...

Nun:Welcome. You are correct. Many people from dysfunctional family come out on the other side, including our present president. He hails from a broken home and a family that, at one time, was on welfare. He is a guy who lived, among other places, on the south side of Chicago, one of the most violent areas in the nation. Sometimes, growing up in tough places prepare you for tough times in the future.

Solomon: There are many examples of African Americans who had horrific experiences but were able to turn things around. Malcolm X and James Baldwin come to mind. It is part of the reason that I'm so proud to be an African American.

Rev: Thanks for your comments. By the way, I'm still unable to come to your blog. All blogs where the word verification notice on them, I can't get into. Just know I appreciate your blogs and the wisdom contained in it.

rainywalker said...

I to had not heard of Claude Brown or read his two books. You are right there is a disconnect from what we are spoon fed and the streets Claude Brown walked and wrote about.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

MacD, bering a great fan of James Baldwin's personal stories of NYC, I have GOT to get a copy of this one. Never heard of him till now. Thanks.
BTW: I really like the picture of JB you have up. My image of him is one of a well cut man in a nice suit. I don't know if I've ever seen a pict of him without at least a tie.

MountainLaurel said...

THanks, MacDaddy. I got it out of the library yesterday and can't put it down. it's in pretty sad shape, so I think I'll donate a new copy to the library. from what I've seen, it's a book that needs to be read.

MacDaddy said...

Mountain: Enjoy the book. I find it impressive that he continued to support youth programs until he died.

MountainLaurel said...

Just had to let you know that I can't put it down. And I'm seeing lots of parallels between growing up in Harlem and in an isolated holler. Will comment on that later, probably at my blog.

MacDaddy said...

mountain: I would love to read your post on the book and comment on it. Thanks.