So, I was a varsity boys’ basketball coach in Detroit a few years back. We were at an out-of-town tournament and were having a healthy lunch at Mickey Dees. I was all excited about the final installment (well, I thought it was the final installment) of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith coming out and expressed my giddiness to my guys to which one replied, “Don’t nobody wanna see that junk.” The rest of the team concurred, and I was devastated. After further inquiry, I realized that my guys had not seen any of the Sci-fi movies I had grown up on and were not the least bit interested in the genre, citing, “it wasn’t real.” Where was their imagination? I began to see this lack of imagination, not just on the court, but in their life goals and aspirations.
A few years later, when I became a teacher, I began to observe the books my students, students of color, were reading. The vast majority were about the streets, drugs, gangs, violence, and teen pregnancy, and this literature was celebrated as being “real” and “relatable” to kids growing up in the city. I took issue with this because I was one of those kids that grew up in the city and although I witnessed some of those things, my life was richer than that. I also knew that in order to rise higher, my imagination had to be even richer. So I write to that end. I write for the boys I used to coach and the ones that came after.
I write for Antonio Drew Van who told me “I had been hoping to find a “Harry Potter” type book and series where the main character is African American and I believe IA: Initiate fills that. Additionally, I look for “Super Hero” type books where the superhero is also African American. My grandson delights in these characters on TV with European features, white skin, and flowing blond hair who don’t look like them. I have to interrupt that.”
I write for Dianna Scowera, reviewer for Readers’ Favorite who said, “If today’s kids have a need for a superhero their own age, Winston has more than succeeded in supplying it with his IA series. I don’t think there are enough African American superheroes in the comic book world and Naz could surely take the lead to fill that large gap. I’ll wait for the day I’m at another comic con to see the kids running by my table dressed up like Naz and think of you ;)”
I write for the boys in my “boys read” program who say the books out there just don’t interest them. I write for the students I teach every day who need role models to aspire to. I write for all the people out there who say there aren’t enough people of color as protagonist in mainstream stories. But most of all I write for me because at one time or another, I have been all of those people.