Why I choose to be a Freelance writer

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” A Muslim man who goes out day after day to earn lawfully for his family is rewarded for every step that he takes in this act of obedience to Allah (subhana wa ta’ala). Whether he earns or returns home empty handed, he is rewarded by Allah with an eternal reward.” – Prophet Muhammed (pbuh)

Choosing to work as a Freelance writer wasn’t a decision that I jumped right into, thinking back to my decision to pursue it as a career I can honestly say I lost some sleep over it. I’ve gotten a lot of criticism from people when asked what I do for a living, most often positive, but at times pessimistic. “Why waste your time doing something that doesn’t guarantee a sufficient living wage?”, or ” Why not just find a real job?” is what I’m most often asked.

Simple answer, I love what I do. Prior to pursuing a career as a writer I had been out of work for over a year. I was becoming frustrated that each application, each interview brought very few results in landing a job. I finally realized that I was looking at the situation in a way that was holding me back, I was approaching it from the wrong perspective. It wasn’t so much find a job, any job to pay the bills; rather finding an occupation that I’m passionate about and through that developing a means to generate income.

It takes more than just a love of reading and writing that makes a successful freelance writer, as with any freelance specialty it takes creativity, drive and a passion to keep moving forward in the face of rejection. This is a lesson I learned in pursuing something I honestly love doing. It’s not so much being my own boss as people may often think of freelancing, but rather getting up every morning ecstatic to fulfill a purpose using the God given talents and abilities I’m blessed with.

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The influence of Br’er Rabbit in African American History

 

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By Ahmad Jenkins

 “ It’s trouble that makes the monkey chew hot peppers” – African proverb

  My first introduction with the character Br’er Rabbit was in the 5th grade when I read ‘Granny cutta the cord’. I loved the way Br’er Rabbit escaped getting eaten, but also saved his granny. These stories were always filled with impossible situations where Br’er Rabbit always managed to find a means of escape.

From that point I fell in love with these tales as I’m sure many other African Americans did in their childhood. What I loved about those tales was the unique way Br’er Rabbit over came his foes, and that was through tricking them in humorous ways.As entertaining as these tales were, they also have a historical significance within the development of African American literature.

 Br’er Rabbit and American Slavery

 What is interesting is that during the time the Br’er Rabbit tales were being told by slave storytellers, they were much more than just tales to entertain children. It turns out these stories were actually serious criticisms of the society in which slaves lived in. Forced to endure illiteracy, harsh working conditions, and treatment. Slaves had very few resources to preserve any form of culture outside of slavery.

If they protested it brought on harsh penalties, so in telling these tales slaves were able to preserve a part of their culture; as well as seriously critique the human injustice they faced. We find in the character of Br’er Rabbit a quintessential trickster who by using wits over brawn, fooling of authority figures, and his bending of social norms in a way reflected the over all behavior of slaves towards those that ‘owned’ them. According to Lawrence W. Levine:

The records left by nineteenth century observers of slavery and by slave owners themselves indicate that a significant number of slaves lied, cheated, stole, feigned illness, pretended to misunderstand orders given to them, placed rocks in their cotton basket to meet quota. They also broke their tools, destroyed property, mutilated themselves; and mistreated livestock so that the slave owners had to use the less efficient mule, rather than horses because the latter could withstand harsh treatment of the slaves.”.

We can see a very sharp similarity between the trickery of Br’er Rabbit, and the arrogance of slaves during the American slave era.

 The Emergence of African American Literature

 During the 1880’s American Folklore society collectors found a series of tales that did not disguise the actions between black slaves and those that held them in bondage. They discovered what is called John and Old master tales.

In these tales ‘John’, representative of enslaved blacks manages to get the best of ‘Old Master’ in almost every situation in which they are pitted against each other. It is a world where the weak, and the witty always triumph over the powerful, and  the presumed intellectually superior. Robert Roosevelt, the uncle of Theodore Roosevelt, collected the tales of Br’er Rabbit. The stories at that time did not become popular amongst people outside of the black community. It wasn’t until authors, such as Joel Chandler Harris, Alcee Fortier, and Enid Blyton in the late 19th century compiled these stories independently popularizing them for the mainstream audience.

In 1899, Charles Waddell Chesnut wrote and published “ The Conjure Woman” based upon Harris’s Uncle Remus tales. Contemporary with Chestnut was Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the poet who wrote “An Ante Bellum Sermon”, and “ Accountability”. Both Dunbar and Chestnut wrote at a time when creativity amongst blacks was strictly prohibited, they found an outlet using trickster paradigms. From there, we see African American authors such as John Oliver Killen “The Cotillion or One Good Bull is Half the Herd”, and Langston Hughes’s, “ Who’s Passing for Who?”

 The Uncle Remus tales of Br’er Rabbit sparked a unique way for African Americans to develop our own literary culture that not only entertained us, but also allowed our self-expression to overcome censure, and continues to inspire modern day African American writers and authors to carry on that tradition.

Encouraging the budding Author

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By Ahmad Jenkins

It was in the 6th grade I had my most inspiring teacher who helped place in my heart a love for reading and writing, Mrs. Stanton. I loved the way she encouraged, not only myself, but all of my fellow classmates to make reading into more than just an exercise; but the opportunity to use our imaginations to their highest possible extent. What sticks  out most for me is one particular project we had reading ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’.

Each one of us took a turn reading a portion of the book everyday until it was done. We discussed it, and gave our ideas of what might happen next. When we had finished the book, Mrs. Stanton encouraged us to write a story of our own. Using our imaginations much the same way as C. S. Lewis did to come up with our own adventure set down on paper. I enjoyed every moment of it, and when it came time to read it in front of the class … I was too shy. Sure, I put everything I had into the story I created, even drew a picture. Yet, fear kept me from presenting it to my new found audience.

Mrs. Stanton being understanding, read it for me and when she was done she said something that has always been a part of me: “That was great, you could be a great  Author one day!”. No matter what job I’ve ever had, or type of career I’ve ever pursued. The passion to write, to express myself by using words we take for granted everyday; and inspire, entertain and inform; started with someone’s acknowledgement that I could do something with my interests when I put my mind to it.

So I guess in a way this is for every writer, parent, educator … You may know a child who has the same interest that brought you to your career field. When they accomplish something they worked hard at. Encourage them by saying: ‘That was a great job you’d make a great author one day.’, (or what have you…)  it could be the advise that helps them achieve their dream.

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