Home Interviews Exclusive Interview with the Talented Children's Author: Lee Chavous
Exclusive Interview with the Talented Children's Author: Lee Chavous PDF Print E-mail
Written by Patricia Turnier   
Tuesday, 23 May 2017 00:00

Lee Chavous was born in the U.S. whilst the end of the Civil Rights Movement. His parents were part of the great migration when African-Americans escaped the adversities of the Jim Crow era in the south of the country. After high school, Chavous enrolled in college to earn a Business Management degree. He studied Business Administration at the University of Maryland (College Park). Afterward, he commenced his career as an entrepreneur. For the past 25 years, Lee Chavous has owned and operated several businesses in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. For instance, he founded 20 years ago this health company http://www.unitycaresnursing.com/.

So far, as an author Chavous has penned a total of five informative kids’ books. Children need to know who they are to be able to go forward in life with a strong identity and a solid self-esteem. This is what Chavous does with his books. They cover areas of the African American experience that are overlooked. The book Dreams of my Ancestors reminds readers that the people who were kidnapped in the slave trade were humans who were raising sons and daughters, planting gardens, playing games, etc. In other words they were enjoying life before they were objectified, forced to become super-humans as slaves and so on. Their stories did not start in the cotton field in the Americas. Some were kings and queens from Africa. The youngest and most robust people from this continent were taken away and their lives were tragically changed forever. These individuals had names and ethnicities. Thus, Chavous does not present statistics in his books; he narrates life stories given that his ancestors were not nameless and faceless people.

The contribution of Black women has been central to the development and progress of the Black community as a whole. Hence, this is what the book 100 Roses (the most recent publication of Chavous) showcases. The roses are metaphors for outstanding Black females. 100 Roses presents women who broke different glass ceilings such as Harriet Tubman who put her life on the line to save more than 300 slaves. She was the first and only woman in the history of America who led a military campaign. She was fearless, multifaceted and ahead of her time. She was a nurse during the Civil War, a spy, etc. for the Union army. The author covered many Black women (dead and alive) like Tubman who were and are far from one-dimensional. It is really interesting to learn about women such as Elizabeth Keckley who designed clothes for First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln, the wife of Abraham Lincoln. It makes us think of Ann Lowe who was the designer for Jackie Kennedy. The book is very well researched; people will learn new information regarding even famous individuals. Readers will also find a glossary included at the end of the book comprised of other useful information.

100 Roses is a jewel and should be in every school in the Americas because the contributions of Black women are highly valuable especially historically. The Americas were built on their backs. The book should be translated into other languages because Black history is world history. At the beginning of the book, readers will find beautiful and inspiring words regarding the importance of Black women in the community. The book (dedicated to the author’s son) is like a love letter to his child regarding the importance of Black women by celebrating living and past Black females.

It would be interested to see a second version of 100 Roses that would include foreign Black women such as Viola Desmond.  Rose Fortune (who is mentioned in the book) was the first female police officer in Canada (her descendant Daurene Lewis became the first Black woman mayor in North America) which made sense because historically whilst slavery time, Black women had to develop strategies to survive. It is important to note that the history of the U.S. and Canada is partially interrelated, a rapprochement can be noticeable. For instance, 100 Roses discusses Mary Ann Shadd Cary (the first Black female publisher in North America), who was born in the U.S. in the 19th century and ended up in Canada three years after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. These themes could even be adapted into a children’s educational cartoon for broadcast on BET, TV One, etc. A play for children which highlights the lives of these women should also be created.

The book A Journey to Freedom starts with a powerful quote from Mandela: ‘’It always seems impossible, until it is done’’. It talks about Black heroes such as Juan Garrido, the Afro-Canadian Mathieu Da Costa (who has a stamp this year in his honor (same thing with Mandela in Canada)) who was the first known person of African descent to arrive in Canada (he knew several Native languages and served as an interpreter to the European settlers) and more recent people such as Barack Obama. Therefore, the book includes heroes in many parts of the Americas such as Haiti (like Toussaint L’Ouverture, the leader of the Haitian Revolution), Panama, etc. This book serves as a great educational tool with very interesting questions at the end. The Wonders of Africa provides young readers with information about the contributions of the African continent. Ancient Egyptians and so on built the African civilization. In addition, many parts of the world were influenced by their knowledge.

Lee Chavous describes himself first and foremost as a proud and concerned father and devoted husband. He is also a business owner and now, in his second life, a fervent children’s picture book author. Prominent journalist and syndicated film and book critic Kam Williams wrote in a review: “Congrats to concerned papa Lee Chavous for publishing the first in what is likely to prove to be a priceless series of sensible supplements to the traditional American History textbooks.” Lee Chavous was interviewed by Paul Porter among others. A book review for Passage to the Shores of the Americas was written by the journalist Kam Williams. Readings at different schools for Black history month occurred this year with the author. Viz, Chavous’ work is welcomed by the media.

In his spare time, Chavous enjoys gastronomy, quiet moments, cool breezes, and spending time with unpretentious people who are committed to nurturing the best of humanity. He also loves to travel by discovering new places, learning about their distinctive history and how it relates to the world. He has visited many different nations. Lee Chavous currently lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife and son.

[The following interview occurred on March 8th, 2017.

P.T. Today is the International Women’s Day. What does this event mean to you and how can the education of females be improved globally given that over 60 million worldwide receive no schooling?

L.C. Okay, for me I think it is a great event that women are being recognized worldwide. It is important to take a day and acknowledge internationally acknowledge their contributions. Historically, they had to overcome many challenges and still do such as chauvinistic views or glass ceilings. Females have come a long way and there are still a lot to do. This concerns everybody. Most women make what is necessary to make the world a better place to live. There would not be life without females.

Mothers, sisters, aunts and so on need to be celebrated. We have to take the time to recognize them and thank them for what they do. As far as over 60 million females not having access to education is just shocking to me. I think in general, we must do better to make education accessible to all genders. There should not be inequality or disparity, it is a basic human right especially in our digital era. This situation is unacceptable especially now, when it is easier than ever to have access to information.

The structural barriers need to be destroyed to provide equal and high-quality education. I think it takes a philanthropic mindset and certainly not an elitist, sexist and/or misogynistic one. I strongly believe in the popular maxim: if you educate a woman, you educate a family, a community and a nation. Society as a whole will benefit from this, so education has to be available to females worldwide. Generally speaking, as mentioned women do everything to make sure we live in a better world.

P.T. You were born at the end of the Civil Rights Movement and were part of desegregation busing. How was this experience for you and how did it shape you?

L.C. [Silence] In retrospect, the busing initiative in America represented a giant step forward. It allowed the races to intermingle and break the barriers of segregation. In addition, it permitted more kids to get better opportunities in terms of education. It was a very positive step forward in the United States of America. However, with many things we find pluses and negatives. For my part, in elementary school when I was about ten or eleven, I encountered my first racist experience. Before, I used to live in an all-Black neighborhood and to go to an all-African-American school. This represented my world before busing. It was a great and peaceful life. There was no crack-cocaine epidemic, urban violence, joblessness, mass incarceration (right after the end of the Civil Rights Movement) and so on at that time.

Life was about working hard and trying to achieve the American dream. This is what I experienced in my formative years. When busing started, as a child you tend to go with the flow and have the ability to adapt given that you do not analyze things that much because of naivety and innocence. I was told by my parents: ‘’this will be where you will go from now on’’. It was not an all-bad experience. I had very good friends from all backgrounds. But, I also underwent through negative things that made me understand I could be treated differently. I seized that I was facing unfair situations as a Black guy in the early 70s. I was harassed by some White boys who used monkey or jungle jokes. I also had a teacher who let me know that I would never amount to anything. Despite these negative experiences, I believe busing was necessary because racial healing is a must and represents an important step in the right direction by studying and playing together.

P.T. You do not seem to be a man who came from a dysfunctional family so I guess that the support of your close ones counteracted the difficulties you met during the busing experience. In addition, you believed in yourself.

L.C. Definitely! Black families were strong in the 60s and 70s. Both parents and extended relatives were present. They cared and helped. For instance, I had an aunt who came over on a regular basis during the week-ends and spoke to me for hours about life issues: drugs, bad people, etc. Unfortunately, the status of many Black families went south with the crack cocaine epidemic in the 80s. It took a major turn for the worse. However, I still believe that Black people, or whatever other terms I can use, are dynamic and have been able to overcome incredible challenges. So, I remain positive. What we had to endure was unbelievable and we are resilient. Moreover, I think it is important to remember that most Blacks in the Americas are interrelated because our ancestors came from West Africa. We have more similarities than distinctions. This is what can make us strong and progress.

P.T. During your childhood, did you share with your parents what happened with your teacher regarding the busing experience?

L.C. I did not share any negative experiences I had with my parents. I do not know why. I was part of the first wave of busing. So, I think it represented a shock for everyone. In other words, it was a new experiment for everybody. I think as a child, you just adapt and you just don’t speak too much. My parents were not conditioned as to what could happen. So, they never said to me if anything bad happens to you, please let us know about it. So, when these incidents occurred I just kept going.

P.T. Please, explain the reasons why you decided to write books for children about Black achievements?

L.C. Yes! The main reason was the birth of my son. As parents, we wanted to be responsible, meaning we wished to make sure to instill a sense of pride in our son. When we looked into existing books, they were focusing on icons but we wanted our son to have a broader perspective and not wait for him to become an adult to learn about all this. As an author, I want him to feel a connection to the motherland and I wish him to grow up by getting knowledge for his history. Early in their lives, Black children need to identify themselves with Africa. It is important to make them understand that it is not a bad place. Our ancestors were human beings who came from there. It is crucial for them to have a good sense of their African descent. My son has friends from Latin America, Europe, Asia, etc. I do not think they carry this sense of shame. Africa possesses a grand history and we need to be proud of it. A tragedy occurred but our history did not begin in slavery or in the cotton fields. A major effort was done to disrupt the teaching of our real history. In addition, often, the mainstream media portrays us as a monolithic or homogenous group. This is so far from the truth. I wanted to bring my contribution to counteract this phenomenon.

I felt the need to write books to uplift Black children, to make them feel the sky is the limit. 100 Roses showcases Black women in a different light. Black females represent the backbone of the community. For instance, they were behind the Civil Rights Movement. Many were involved in the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). In fact, they have participated in all struggles since their arrival in this country. I believe that how Black females are being portrayed and described in music, in some movies and TV shows is unacceptable and often disturbing. The derogatory language that is being used, I am talking about the words b**** and h*is inadmissible. So, I felt the need to contribute by putting out positive content and exposing the new generation to more constructive material. I will paraphrase Frederick Douglass: he used to say it is easier to build strong children than repair broken men. Unfortunately, some adults may not be able to ever recover. Nevertheless, the beauty of life is that every day new people are coming on this earth and this reminds us that there is always hope. Peace and camaraderie are possible because nobody was born prejudiced and we need to be more proactive by having the will to create a better world. Different mediums can be created. People are able to be part of the change. We came a long way but things can be even better. We have the personal responsibility to do it. Mahatma Gandhi used to say: ‘’Be the change you wish to see in the world’’.

Providing a sense of pride constitutes the main reason why I write for kids. Once you have a low self-esteem, it can take a lifetime to fix. I want my son to be proud of his heritage and have a strong identity. I also want him to have respect and genuine love for women, which one of the purposes of 100 Roses for instance. It was important for me to reach children early, to give them information that will help them later to understand who they are. We also need to learn the full story from the tragic historical episode namely the transatlantic slave triangle. It is important to talk about the people who were proactive in ending this bad situation. I do not narrate just half the story for children but instead the global story by giving proper information suited to their age and maturity. To finish, I believe that the history of African Americans is extremely inspirational! It will inspire children of all colors to want to reach higher and go further in their personal development. This is the main message I want my book to convey.

I believe that my books can help Black children to gain more focus and clarity earlier in their lives in understanding the racial nuances that exist in our societies while they are developing a sense of pride by discovering the contributions of their ancestors. Tolerance and world history should be two of the most important things for youth to learn in school. This is what I want to achieve with my books. I also think that the first educators are parents. So, every parent, on a regular basis should read uplifting stories to their children to make them believe that the sky is the limit.

Again, I think when children learn early about their history at an early age they can become more focused and dedicated people. When I think of the Jews for instance, even though they have been persecuted for thousands of years and did not have their own country, they were never deprived of their history. This is what makes them strong. From generations to generations they made sure that their history, customs, traditions and so on would be taught. They also emphasize their accomplishments. We need to be more dedicated and productive. This has to be taught when we are young. The fact that I make sure that my son during his childhood knows about his history will help him to be more attentive and reach more goals in his life. The inspiration and motivation will aid him to go further.

P.T. In the Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ show, African American Lives, Chris Rock discovered that one of his ancestors had a prominent position in politics. I think it was during the reconstruction era. He said that if he knew about it during his youth, he would probably have been motivated to pursue his studies. We need to teach our children about people who accomplished a lot in our own families.

L.C. I could not have said it better! We need to relate to these stories and use them as a means to move forward.

P.T. Please, share with us the research process for 100 Roses. Did you need to travel, go to museums, etc.? How long did it take you to pen the book?

L.C. It took me four years. I did it during my spare time. I work full time and I own a business. I decided what I wanted to transmit and teach my son. A book formed into my mind. I took notes all the time. I travel a lot (I went to Canada, the West Indies, Europe, West Africa, etc.)and it gives fruit in my writing in terms of interesting stories. Roots made me more culturally aware. I was about 13. It was shocking for me to see this mini-series. It was like cold water on my face. At the same time, it became a revelation. From that point on, I started to pay attention to our history and to what it meant to be a Black person. So, 100 Roses constitutes a life journey. In addition, I wanted my son to have a positive view of Black women. Unfortunately, as mentioned there has been a huge degradation of the images of Black females in the media (in music, etc.) that we allow to be shown to the world. There is little balance presented to the public. Via my travels, many times it is the negative images that arrive there and not the positive.

P.T. I noticed the same thing through my trips. It is a form of propaganda and brainwashing. Earlier, you spoke about the Jews. I would like to add that they are very protective of their images because they know the danger of the media. This is the tool that Hitler used to brainwash his population before the Holocaust occurred.

L.C. Definitely! The programming can start very early with kids. I saw overseas cartoons where the only two Black characters were shirtless while acting foolishly and wildly. It is sad that not more people are taking a stand to denounce that the proliferation and perpetuation of these images are unacceptable.

Overall, 100 Roses is a book about my life experiences. When you are aware of your culture, you read and listen to different things, you make analyses. My book is a compilation or composite of all the experiences I took from visiting museums, etc. It formed the direction I wanted to choose with the book by showcasing Black women in a positive light and by narrating their stories. I wanted to share what I learned through my research about these women.

P.T. The learning process is ongoing. You presented Shirley Chisholm in your book. Recently, I watched a documentary about her on YouTube and my jaw dropped when I discovered that she spoke Spanish. I read her autobiography and I watched other documentaries (including interviews with her); she was so humble; this information was not in these media. Usually, when a Black woman presents her candidacy for a big position, it is because she is truly prepared. If I am not mistaken, it never happened that a U.S. president spoke Spanish even if some states were owned by Spain.

L.C. Very interesting point! I did not know she spoke Spanish either. What you just said represents the beauty about learning history and anything in general. Learning is a lifelong process and I want to share my knowledge with children through my books, which are educationally oriented. I could have included so many more Black women that 1000 Roses was a possibility. Many stories of these women are powerful and I make it my mission to make the world discover them, especially the stories that remained unknown. I think it is crucial for youth.

P.T. You dedicated 100 Roses to your son. How old is he? What was his reaction to your latest book (regarding the accomplishments of Black women and also their struggles) and for the other young readers so far? What are the parents’ opinions?

L.C. My son is eight. It was important for me to write the book for him and for other children to counterbalance the negative images of Black women omnipresent in the media. The beauty for my son is he only knows a Black president because he was born when Obama became the commander-in-chief.

P.T. Wow! So, I guess he has a total different view of the world.

L.C. Exactly! The fact that my son had a Black president for most of his entire life means that America is truly a land of opportunity and Obama’s election represents a tangible and concrete meritocracy. With 100 Roses, I wanted my son to nourish his mind with positive stories of Black women and I keep him away from the negativity I just mentioned. For him, the book is just amazing and represents one of his favorites. It gives him the opportunity to see Black women in a positive light and he shares the stories with his friends. It allows them to learn about history at the same time. It is the right period for them to be exposed to these stories because they did not experience the large amount of negativity toward the Black feminine gender. It is crucial to provide them with very positive images instead of having to counterpoise negative information.

The parents even have the tendency to appreciate the book more than the children because they know they were never taught some of the stuff. They feel it is a great book especially for their daughters. It offers an alternative for them.

I was so shocked with the negativity of Black women in the media. This became one of the reasons that made me write the book. When you spoke earlier about the fact that Shirley Chisholm knew Spanish, this is an example of information that was kept from us. For now, my son is not aware of what can be missing in the educational system and is not exposed to the negativity from the media regarding Black women among others. I shield him from this. Today, kids are exposed to hurtful images more than ever. When I grew up, I was familiar to see Black women who were well-behaved, well-spoken and well-dressed. They were proud in the way they presented themselves. I want my son to see these images.

P.T. What is the reaction of the other kids besides your son toward your book?

L.C. It is very positive especially from Black girls. I get amazing feedback from them and their mothers. Their parents are glad that they are exposed to these positive images of themselves during their formative years. It counterpoises the negative images (from the media) that they are too often exposed to. It is sad to say that these images are perpetrated by unconscious adults who are behind and in front of the camera.

Very few alternatives are offered to children. I wanted to be part of a change as a conscious and concerned parent. I wish to expose my son to stories about positive people who want to do something constructive with their lives, who have goals and so on. I think it is detrimental for a child (because it is hurtful to his/her self-esteem) to watch cheap material. It seems the main concern for people who are producing this kind of media is to make a quick buck, to get some laughs but do they take the time to think about the impact on our society as a whole in the long term? I doubt it and this concerns everybody whether they like it or not. I believe that we can take the responsibility to create and showcase positive things to have a great influence in our communities. We have the means and we do not have to rely on other people to take care of it.

P.T. What does fatherhood mean to you and what are the most important values you want to transmit to your son?

L.C. Once you turn out to be a father, your child becomes the most important reason for why you are alive. To me, it is crucial to instill a good value system in my son and to esteem him. This will help him to become a positive citizen who will want to contribute constructively to our world. My legacy will be to create a positive impression on my child. Once you are dead, hopefully your child will live on an additional forty to fifty years. I am trying to prepare my son to push the world in the right direction. I take fatherhood very seriously.

When my son Christopher was born, I realized that I had a unique and primary responsibility to educate him about the fact that the African Americans were not just docile footnotes in American History, but on the contrary, they were absolutely vital to the dynamic growth and emergence of the U.S. as it became the great world power that it is today! This is also how I view fatherhood.

P.T. It is nice to observe how dedicated you are. For a long time, raising children has been associated with femininity (some men even put their own children in an orphanage when the mother passed away, this is what happened with Coco Chanel for instance. This event marked her for life and was probably one of the main reasons she became an overachiever) I never understood this mindset because it takes two people to create a child.

L.C. I agree!

P.T. There are several quotes in your book. Which one is your favorite and why?

L.C. I choose the quote by Ida B. Wells that says ‘’the people must know they can act’’. I believe this is what hinders many of us because we just do not know. This is why it is important to write books and for you to continue, Patricia [Turnier], what you are doing to help others learn because many among us are in the dark. To me, that particular quote “the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them” from Wells is profound because she had to risk her life by exposing lynching in the South. She had to be really brave.

P.T. There is this quote from Toni Morrison in your book: “If there is a book you really want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”. Is that why you decided to start writing for children? What criteria did you base your choices on for 100 Roses?

L.C. I discovered that quote while I was doing research for the book. However, when I read it, it was so comforting and it affirmed that I was on the right path. It has been great to realize that someone of her stature felt the same way. I penned my book because I saw nothing like it. So, I decided to create the product that I wanted my son to read. We need to produce our art ourselves and we do not have to wait for somebody else to take care of it.

About the criteria, one of them was to pick women who had overcome personal turmoil (alongside with what was happening in society in their era), so resilience was definitely important. This represented basically the main criteria. I aimed to show children how much we overcame to inspire them , motivate them and make them understand what they can accomplish in different realms. Our ancestors had to face horrendous situations so the next generation needs to make the most of their opportunities. As a father, I want my son to understand that the lack of education was a tool or a mean used to destroy the progress of our ancestors and that he has to make sure to use what was not accessible to our precursors. Some could die just to try to learn how to read, these people fought to ensure that their descendants would have a better life. So, he needs to honor this otherwise it would be like they died in vain.

I started to write for children because I did not see the messages I wanted to relate to my son. I realized that it is not necessary to wait for an expert or a famous person to do it. We are in the information age; the data is available at our finger tips. There is no excuse to not be proactive. Again, about the media, hearing disturbing lyric and seeing, questionable descriptions of Black women on TV pushed me to write the book. I wanted to provide positive material to my son and other children. In other words, I wished to become preemptive by showcasing positive storylines because unfortunately there are people out there who just do the opposite.

I did not want my son to become an adult and not have access to a book like mine. It was completed when he was seven. It will help him to grow up with a very positive mindset of Black women and his African heritage. This can help him become a more productive and positive person for society because he will have a strong identity. At schools for instance, when children misbehave usually there is a self-esteem issue. It has been longstanding that in the school curriculum, Black history is not widely taught and it mainly focuses on slavery. What good can this create in terms of identity? We owe it to our children to narrate the full story without being heavy. It has to be appropriate to their age. That way when they will hear about slavery, they will know it is just a piece to the story. This will allow them to process it better. My son knows that his ancestors were good people before they arrived here and unfortunately bad things happened to them. The kids are growing up in a much more diverse community. In this regard, they have a big advantage because they are immersed in different perspectives. This represents wealth in itself. My son gets along with his diverse friends. They do not see the differences right now. They enjoy playing together. At a certain point, the color issue will appear. I have to make sure that my son’s self-esteem is not tarnished and I nourish him with the historical contribution of our people. It will be crucial for him to become cognizant of his own culture because this will allow him to adequately face racial situations that he might encounter later in life.

P.T. Your books are timeless. So, they will be useful for the following generations including the children that your son will have and so on.

L.C. Thank you!

P.T. Who made the great illustrations and how did the collaboration occur to make sure that the designs matched well with the writing?

L.C. I designed the concept of all the work and the illustrations were drawn by Jacob Son. There are historical books that can be heavy for the kids. So, I wanted to present them more suitable and attractive material so it would give them the desire to know more about the past of their ancestors. In other words, I wanted to create an educational concept that would make it fun for children to learn. I presented the material in a way to make sure that children would be inspired by the illustrations. The images had to intertwine and connect with the stories. Kids love books with images. It drives them at a certain age.

P.T. What message you wish the public worldwide to take away from 100 Roses?

L.C. I want people to grasp that Black women are not a joke, they never have been a joke and should never be portrayed as a joke. Black females are not expendable nor a commodity. I want people to learn about their history because I do not think that other women had to go through what Black women experienced. The book is aimed at people of all origins.

P.T. Black women were the only ones who were deprived of motherhood for centuries in the Americas when their children were stolen from them.

L.C. Exactly! Black women, like no one else, needed to have a great amount of resilience to overcome unbelievable circumstances: ongoing exploitation, sexual abuse, murder, etc. Some killed themselves because it was too much or killed their children during slavery because they did not want their kids to become slaves. Most brought hope and cheer to their families despite their extremely difficult situations. They were abused mercilessly and they still had to be daughters, mothers, wives, aunts, grandmothers, providers and so on. I take offense by the way Black women are too often portrayed negatively right now. So, my contribution is to present a much more accurate and balanced description. These roses are outrageously amazing and we all need to respect that.

Overall, in my books I do not focus on the negatives. I also want to establish a connection between the Americas and Africa among my books. The Black diaspora is linked to the motherland. Blacks’ DNA is 80% African. My step-father’s DNA is 96% African. A Chinese man has not been disconnected from his roots. He knows his history, his culture and tradition that have been passed down for thousands of years. This is not the case with the African diaspora especially for Blacks in the Americas. There was a major will to disrupt and erase our African heritage while attempting to forbid us to learn from it. In addition, our tribes were purposely separated. So, I try to bring back that history through my books. I hope that people of all races and ages will take an interest in it because Black history has an integral part of world history. In addition, the contribution of Black women is incommensurable.

P.T. Among all the women you presented in 100 Roses, which one you would like the most to have a biopic (or you can name up to three females) and why?

L.C. I think Recy Taylor is amazing. In her early 20s, she was kidnapped by seven white men. They abducted her in the street while she was walking with her friends. They had just left church at the time on a Sunday. These men had knives and guns. They did her wrong, assaulted her physically and sexually. They left her for dead. She had to find her way to go back home and face her family. She had a small daughter at the time and she was married. Taylor went to court and nothing happened to these men. Justice was not served. This occurred after slavery, which is the saddest part. This event became a pivotal piece to the Civil Rights Movement. It also represents the epitome of the struggle and tragedy of the more contemporary Black women in America. However, Taylor survived and is almost 100 years old. Almost 60 years after the crime, the state of Alabama apologized to her. Her story is the spirit of my book.

P.T. Would you be interested in the future to create the male version of 100 Roses? If so, can you name some people who would be part of the book and tell us why?

L.C. Yes, I am actually writing it now. I released the female version first because the destruction of the Black woman is an emergency given that they are the mothers and the life creators. About the male book, the usual names will be there: Dr. King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, W.E.B. Du Bois. The book will also cover other storylines. I come across so much information just by paying attention and I get these unique stories. I prefer to keep what I am penning under wraps, even with my spouse, she sees only the finished product. This is how I work. I feel I get inspired to put stories on paper that are not typically told. When I write these books, I always have this question on my mind: Who should my son and other Black boys know about?

P.T. Without giving too much away, what more can you share with our readers about your future books that you mentioned in the media?

L.C. I am pursuing my writing for the male version of 100 Roses. I just finished a book regarding the early abolitionists in the U.S. because I believe that there are more good people than bad people. This is the reality for today and in the past. We tend to forget that in America there were White people who also fought against slavery. The Civil War was mainly about saving the union but there were Whites who were against the institution of slavery. Blacks and Whites worked together to end the same thing during the Civil Rights Movement. Many Whites (from across the country) were present for instance at the peaceful March of Washington on August 28th, 1963, the largest demonstration in the capital of my nation with major television coverage. We must not forget it. Good people tend to rise up regardless of race and they collaborate together. I want to express this in writing. As I said, my son has friends of all ethnic groups.

P.T. I guess that in your upcoming book you will name John Brown as one of the early abolitionists.

L.C. Of course! He has a peculiar history in the traditional sense. He was unconventional for his time and courageous to denounce the unjust institution of slavery. There was not just Harriet Tubman, there were Whites who were against the system. America has a history to be proud of and it should be taught more. I truly believe that there are more people who want a positive change than those who don’t. We need to learn more about them and let it be known. I also think it can make a difference for children who are exposed to this information. In ten years, my son will be part of the new group of people who make changes so it is important for kids to receive a more nuanced and balanced education because it can bring positive transformations in society.

P.T. Talk to us about Eoto Publishing (http://www.eotobooks.com). When was it founded, what is its mission, etc.?

L.C. When I started writing I was aware that finding a publisher could be a problem. By already being an entrepreneur, I simply founded my publishing company. I had the sense of urgency that Dr. King used to talk about. I was not going to let anything stop me from releasing my books. So, it is in these circumstances that I decided to found my company. It took away a big barrier in front for me. This is how it started. My publishing house was created about six years ago. Sometimes, you have to do things yourself. It is not always easy but it can represent the best path to take. The main mission is to provide alternative educational books for children. I also want to bring the African diaspora together more. EOTO stands for ‘each one teach one’.

P.T. For people who would like to embrace the entrepreneurial road, what advice can you give about the pitfalls to avoid and the best tips to apply for prosperity?

L.C. I would say that first and foremost you need to believe in what you are doing. This is very important because some naysayers may try to derail you from the goals that you are trying to accomplish, it can even be someone close to you. Some people that you cherish might not support you and it will hurt but you need to keep going. It is important to not to surrender. So, determination is crucial. You definitely need to stay motivated. In this regard, it helps to choose a path that you are passionate about. This way, it will not feel like work. You have to start. It will not get you anywhere to just talk about things for weeks, months or years. Nobody knows everything from the start, not even the biggest moguls out there. So, audacity is a must. Keep going even if you make mistakes, which are inevitable, just learn from them because it will make you stronger.

It is important to study the market, to know its scope and analyze the value you are bringing. You must also to adapt to unexpected things and work your way around them. You need to have a clear GPS (it can take the form of a business plan). In other words, the direction you are taking has to be clear, you need to know what you are trying to accomplish. Never lose sight of that. My goal is to present historical books that cover subjects that are not taught elsewhere to children.

Overall, my advice to people is to develop a mission, get started, believe it (nobody will promote your projects better than you), stay focused, respect deadlines and engagements, be organized and disciplined, be willing to take calculated risks, have a strong work ethic with rigor and do not give up, because the haters will show up and find a way to work around that. You have to stay strong, some people who are close might not support you or even care about what you are doing. It is hard to go through this because you would expect these individuals to be your best cheerleaders but do not give up.

P.T. It was a great pleasure to talk to you and I wish you a lot of success with your books.

L.C. Thanks for giving me a platform to talk about my books.


Lee Chavous’ bibliography:

100 Roses
Dreams of My Ancestors
A Journey to Freedom
Wonders of Africa
Together We Stand

Chavous’ books can be found on www.amazon.com or via his website http://www.eotobooks.com

Click here http://www.blogtalkradio.com/myndtalk-with-dr-pamela-brewer/2017/01/24/myndtalk--a-difference-to-the-children--lee-chavous to hear a radio interview with Lee Chavous