What is the first thing you do in the morning? Before I eat anything in the morning, I write. Before I brush my teeth in the morning, I write. Before I shower in the morning, I write. Every day I build upon this habit of beginning my day with writing, which is why I was surprised to hear a friend of my wife’s say, “Vernon, wants to be a writer?”
Not many people outside of my closest friends and family are aware of my desire to make a living from writing. My wife’s friend and others are familiar with my social media profiles and assume that a big part of my life’s passion includes health and fitness.
As a practitioner of the African Brazilian martial art of capoeira for the past 11 years, physical fitness and martial arts play a significant role in my life. I have thousands of videos and pictures of me training and attending events from the United States to Mexico, England, Ethiopia, and Brazil on my social media profiles. In 2016, I created 365 YouTube videos to document my growth in capoeira. Although capoeira is a big passion of my life, writing has always played a central role in keeping me sane, and I have several journals full of my life’s experiences, poetry, class notes, and research observations.
For the last eighteen months, I have dedicated countless hours to writing my first book! It is entitled Yellow Monkey: A Critical Race Autobiography for Educators of Black males and is pending publication. The book is a series of narratives based on my experiences in school and offers advice for teachers in their efforts to create inclusive learning environments. I have spent the past year and a half writing this book and it reflects a passion of mine that I have had for quite some time.
My journey with writing began when I was in the fifth-grade, and a teacher said to me, “Vernon, you’re a good writer.” It was one of the few compliments thrown at me from my teachers at the time, and my ears caught her words. From that point, I believed that I was a good writer. While I didn’t always do my best in school and frequently was called out for my behavior, I knew that writing was part of my skill set.
In high school, I decided to begin writing poetry. Did I start writing poetry to impress a girl? Yes, like many things in my life during high school, they were motivated by the desire to attract girls! Nonetheless, it forced me to remember the seeds as mentioned above planted by a fifth-grade teacher. In high school, I wrote poem after poem and began to share them on the local Chicago open mic scene. The writing was a form of expression that allowed me to get in tune with my inner self. A pen and a notebook served as invaluable tools to help explore the depths of my creativity to extract my deepest emotions.
When I was in college, I maintained a schedule that allowed me to attend weekly poetry sets. On several occasions, I should have stayed at home to study, but there I was sitting in a café and listening to someone read a piece from their journal. Sometimes, I would attend a set with the intention to share a poem. Frequently, I would attend just to listen and gain inspiration for my writing. There was something about being in the presence of other writers that provided comfort.
Yes, I want to be a writer, and simultaneously I am a writer. The art of writing has weaved itself in and out the various aspects of my life. It may not have possessed a strong presence on my website or social media profiles, but writing is what I do, and this is the start of me sharing more!