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Before the hours of insanity and annihilation that changed world history on September 11, 2001, the month of September was noted by members of my family primarily as the birth month for at least a half dozen individuals. It remained, of course, their month after 9/11, but the shadow of that event tends to lessen the glow of birthday candles and soften the volume of songs and laughter. Especially for those born on the actual day.
Two years later, the greater impact of 9/11 was just beginning to unfold as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars upgraded to levels of mega-destruction no one could have fully anticipated. At the same time, Facts On File published my Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance (with Sandra L. West). That the encyclopedia was my first major book published by a major company added–for me personally–greater emotional balance to the month of September.
Several boxes of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance greeted me when I walked through the door on September 5, 2003. They represented years of research, writing, and sustained determination that had been much like training for a literary decathlon. This year, 2008, I feel blessed to have witnessed the encyclopedia’s impact as it went on to win awards, receive a recommendation as one of ESSENCE Magazine’s recommended holiday gift items, and Black Book Reviews’ “Recommended Titles for the Home Library.” Moreover, it became a highly valued resource for students of the era at every level and helped to launch a publishing frenzy on related subjects, thus documenting the great era more thoroughly than ever before.
The sixth anniversary of 9/11 stirred within me a need to generate something that might help to generate a positive counter-balance to the event’s crippling catastrophic malice; and in an effort to do exactly that, I established Creative Thinkers International on September 10, 2007. If 9/11 had come to stand as an indelible symbol for heinous criminality and disregard for life, I hoped that CTI for however many might come to stand as both a symbol for and a function of positive creativity. Two years later later, this community of teachers, scientists, artists, authors, philosophers, ministers, poets, and everyday people from around the world has moved almost 400 members closer to achieving its goal.
Just like the dance group Chic sang some years ago, “We all want good times,” but living in the New Millennium we’ve learned they sometimes have to be squeezed out of the bad.