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Black Writer Fredrick Foote 

Mark Heckey, Planner, Writer, Art Docent. is a retired city planner with a passion for writing.

"Close your eyes. Breath in. Relax. I want you to experience something." Frederick Foote, our speaker for the July 18 Sacramento California Writer's Club is taking twenty writers on an inner exploration, leading us towards a better understanding of the intersection of race and writing.

"Now slowly open your eyes. What do you see? You are attending a meeting of the Black Writers Association of Sacramento. There are 100 writers in the room and you are the only white person. How does that feel? Think about that." Mr. Foote has set a scene and invited us to enter a situation faced by many black writers. He has asked to open ourselves up to the life of a minority, to the world view of a black writer.

Frederick Foote has been a community organizer, an advocate for racial justice, a poet, and an author of short stories. He is addressing the meeting on the topics of race, the impact of race on critical review of art, the exploitation of black writers and artists, the nature of the unique language and rhythm of black writing, and a call to racial understanding.

"Who is Bigger Thomas?" he asks the group. "Does anyone know that character?" He scans the Zoom screen. "I see a couple of hands." He tells us of a controversial character from Native Son, a novel by Richard Wright.

The telling of Bigger's story embodies the great dilemma faced by the black writer. Frederick described for us the conflict of telling the black experience in visceral terms, unfiltered by the typical standards of accepted literary frameworks. According to Foote, the black writer can face criticism by two worlds—the established publishing world under the control of whites and the reactionary response of the black community.

Neither world is satisfied with open declarations about racism, inequality, or the harsh realities of the plight of black oppression and suppression. According to Mr. Foote, the black writer is expected to dampen the anger and frustration of the black experience.



Frederick asked us to consider the challenges to the black writer, "Who will tell the real story of black history in America? It has never been taken up by the white writer. Only black writers have taken up the burden of telling these truths."

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of his talk related to language in black writing. The language of black writing does not fit typical literary expectations or technical standards. The reason for this, Foote explains, is the roots of black writing in oral story telling. It is a language much like musical expression—full of rhythms, sounds, and rhyme.

We can look at the impact of hip hop throughout the world, an outstanding success and major influence in the music world. The beat and the pattern matter in this linguistic style. Black writing reflects the tones and patterns of black music. Just as jazz is free form and endlessly recreates itself, so black writing can be expressed without the constraining structures of "classical" literature.

Mr. Foote's presentation made me think about many things—the struggle for justice by black Americans, tolerance for different styles of cultural expression, and my personal struggle to be more involved in changing our country. He ended his talk with a statement of encouragement for all writers, "Be daring. Do something novel, different or unusual."

He inspired me to learn more about black writing and open myself to a form that, for me, is a new literary experience.

Foote has published two short story collections, For the Sake of the Soul and Crossroad Encounters. He has published over 300 stories and poems.

See his work at https://fkfoote.wordpress.com.

~ Mark Heckey










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