“Speaking in Retrospect

Guest Writer: W.D. Foster-Graham   

Recently on my Twitter feed, I was invited to do a “Quote Retweet,” attaching a black-and-white photo myself. I had to dig deep to find one; it is included in this post. From time to time, I have been asked variations of the following question: “If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?”

As I studied that younger version of myself back in the fall of 1964, the memories of that time came back. I lived in a close-knit African American community in south Minneapolis. The construction of I-35W had destroyed part of our community, but I wouldn’t understand the full impact until years later. I had started junior high school and my younger brother was in elementary school; my sister wouldn’t arrive until three years later. Grandma was the hub and the anchor of the family; my uncles, aunties, and cousins all lived within walking distance of her and each other. The churches and Central High School were the rallying points of the community. We were relatively protected in the community growing up, but there were parts of Minneapolis, such as the northeast side, where African Americans were not welcome.

The Cup Food store, the site of George Floyd’s death, was originally a neighborhood pharmacy where I would later work part-time when I was 16. I was still young enough to get into the movie theatre on a children’s ticket, which meant more money for candy, popcorn, and beverages at the concession stand. Given the size of my extended family, my traveling pack was my brother and my cousins; at the time that photo was taken, I had 26 first cousins. A bus ride to downtown Minneapolis was considered a treat when Ma and Grandma took us to the Forum cafeteria for lunch after shopping. A school field trip there meant a fun trip to the planetarium, which was part of the main library; at the time, the building was only five years old.

(Young W. D. Foster Graham)

Yes, I own it; I was a quiet nerd. I loved the school band, assembling scale-model cars, and the Saturday night “Creature Features.” Oh yes, I can trace my love of 1950s sci-fi back to those days. My parents were big on us getting good grades in school; my grades were such that I received the nickname “Computer.” In the evening when Dad came home from work and Ma was between appointments to “press and curl” hair in the kitchen, our family watched the news. John F. Kennedy had been assassinated last November, and I was becoming more and more aware of the civil rights movement as it was televised, although I cannot remember it being discussed in the classroom. Then again, Black history wasn’t taught in the schools at that time other than its connection to the Civil War.

I was also a writer, writing short stories at the drop of a hat, with ideas and inspirations flowing from my own imagination and the steady diet of library books I read. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had picked up my mother’s love of drawing. She drew fashion designs; I drew to illustrate the characters who came from my imagination. Of course, on more than one occasion my teachers would call me out because I was drawing during class time.

I appreciate the support systems that are in place now because realizing that I was different and having no name for it was a lonely place to be back then. These days, LGBT youth are coming out at an earlier age. With the hindsight of wisdom, I can tell my younger self, “It gets better.”

These days, I would also tell my younger self the following:

No matter how long it takes, never give up on your dream. It’s never too late and you are never too old to achieve it.

Share your story. If you don’t, who will?

You never stop learning.

God loves you. He knew you before you were even a thought, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

In the words of Dhar Mann, “Success requires patience. Great things take time.”

LGBQT Gay Wyatt Evans MOE

Follow your passion. Your gifts will make room for you.

In kindness and success, find a way to help someone else. Pay it forward.

Challenges and adversity can and will arise. What makes the difference is how you respond to it. If God can take you to it, He can take you through it.

Treat people the way you want to be treated. What we give is what we receive.

As a writer, there is no one-size-fits-all. Find a style that works for you. There’s plenty of advice and opinions out there. Just take what you like and leave the rest.

Always remember where you came from, and the people who were there for you from the beginning. Cherish them.

Representation matters. One voice can make a difference.

W.D. Foster-Graham is an independent novelist from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He received a B.A. in psychology from Luther College, and he was an original member of the multi-Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Sounds of Blackness.  He has also been recognized by the International Society of Poets as one of its “Best Poets of 2003.”

His tastes in writing run to family sagas and M/M romance, seasoned with his own brand of African American flavor—at the end of the day, it’s all about the love. He shamelessly admits to a love of romance novels, whodunits, and classic movies of old Hollywood. He was also inspired by the late novelists E. Lynn Harris and Toni Morrison, who believed that an author should write the books he/she/they want to read.

W.D. is a book review editor for Insight News, a Black community newspaper in the Twin Cities. His column is titled, “Sharing Our Stories.”

His Christopher Family Novel series can be found on the shelves of 13 public library system collections in Minnesota, the Des Moines Public Library System in Iowa, and the Quatrefoil (LGBT) Library. Current works in development are a continuation of his series: four M/M romance novels, “To Thine Own Self”(a 30-plus couple), “Dare To Dream” (single dad), “Playa No More” (age gap), “Built to Last” (friends to lovers), and “The Rise of Sherry Payson,” a story seasoned with humor, romance, mystery, and a story within.

You may visit W. D. at his online home, wfostergrahamauthor.com; on Twitter, @WDFosterGraham1; and Facebook. And email W. D. at wfostergraham@wfostergrahamauthor.com.