Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
One Book Became Three, and Other Updates About My Work.
Beloved: I wanted to update you all on what I have been up to, and to take a break from “A Sorcerer's Notebook”, but I am working on three monster size issues to play catch up next month. This pause is because honestly I am terrible at “marketing” myself.
I actually asked a friend, what's my “brand”. Even typing that sentence feels like snakes running all over my skin. But as someone with neurodiversity I have no idea how you perceive me.If you ever met me in real life you may have noted how shocked I am however you perceive me through my written or spoken word. If you think I'm really doing the work and just love me, I am often deeply embarrassed and change the subject as often as I can. If you hate me because of what I have written or said I find it a complete surprise attack on my system, well at least at first I did. My point is this wasn't an industry chat, this was me asking a dear friend who is aware of my limitations sharing with me how others perceive me.
For me as a writer I feel like a channel, for a rushing river current, that sometimes I can release onto paper. But I am often a stranger to my work, and I am often surprised, delighted, and challenged by what I have written. But it is often like the words of a stranger that many people think is Lenny Duncan.
This person whom I asked this question, who is an absolute expert at helping people, particularly Black people, with radical power analysis of the industry, the movement, and the current state of the social construct we used to call the Republic, looked at me. Then flatly said: I think you have specifically been anti-brand, which is a principle for you, and has served you in important times around things that are important principles to you, and has also hurt you personally.
My point is Dear One, every other author is telling you what they are actually doing, step by step. They post links and cute pictures, and have insta lives, and I do that stuff sometimes. When the Spirit moves me. Or the industry demands it. But I am at a crossroads in my art, which feels more harrowing than the one our lives were just put through.
Unless nothing happened to you and everything is the same since 2020. In which case I weep for you.
Baldwin once said: You can either be famous, or you can write.
I just want to write y’all. Even the Oscars have become dangerous conversation spaces and functions within the empire to Black people and I'm tired of trying to explain in real time. Looking at you Twitter. Talk about how money can never buy a Black person respect. That's why I am so focused on this idea of sacred storytelling in the now, to write the scripture of the potential future.
Speaking of things that can never get a Black person respect: the Church. Well Dear Church fans, got some dope news for you. But let me lay everything out in chronological order:
This Fall Season 22 from Broadleaf books United States of Grace is released in paperback! Pre Orders are up now.
So what's new? Well Broadleaf asked me to add an afterward, but those always seem like a cash grab to me. Someone adds 1600 words of fluff that doesn't really add to the story, or interrogates the premise of their own work, which by the way dear reader, every writer does from the moment they stop writing. Anyway, you know me, I can’t do anything small. Too much Oshun in me for all that. Not only did I have some dope art added, but I added 10k+ words, basically a whole new 4th of the book. If you read the hardback version, I leave off the story on May 28th 2020, with me contemplating heading out to what I thought would be a few more weeks of uprisings. 2 years, still marching, and world away from who I was, I attempt to fill in the gap of those two years. That took over 10k words and I could have said a lot more but there were constraints.
But the new afterward: “An Autopsy of The Republic”, is worth the price of admission alone.
Then spring of 23- Dear Revolutionaries: A Field Guide to The World Beyond the Church.
I was asked to work on a follow up to Dear Church. Again, I hate derivative bullshit. So instead I wrote something completely different, interrogate all my premises in Dear Church, and show you what personal, sacred community building, and faith organizing practices I have used in the last two years where I have had the privilege of serving frontline Black organizers as chaplian and Black queer elder.
Here is the description from Broadleaf:
When Lenny Duncan wrote Dear Church in 2018, they had a vision for a church that could and would reform itself into something new. After four years, a pandemic, a global uprising for racial equity, and what Duncan describes as “the death of the republic” on January 6th, 2021, we are now living in a vastly different landscape than the one Duncan wrote about in Dear Church.
We no longer need a reformation, we need a revolution. Dear Revolutionaries is a handbook for a new generation that sees, clear-eyed, the series of catastrophes we have inherited, the road that lies ahead, the improbability of victory, and are still ready to build the tomorrow we so desperately want to be born in this world. The church is concerned with reviving itself. God is concerned with reviving the community. Dear Revolutionaries is a book for the community who is ready to rise up and build something new from the ashes.
Casting a vision for a new spiritual future led by the people, Dear Revolutionaries offers a series of peace-building practices that will give readers the tools to build, guide, and care for spiritual community in a world beyond the church.
It’s a really good description that they took from the book itself.
Finally coming Fall of 23: Psalms of my People: Vol1
In Psalms of my People I taking seriously Baldwins premise:
“The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets.
[This is] a time … when something awful is happening to a civilization, when it ceases to produce poets, and, what is even more crucial, when it ceases in any way whatever to believe in the report that only the poets can make”
The “poet” of the last 50 years of these so-called United States of America is the Hip Hop Artist . Psalms of my People retells pieces of the story of the last 50 years of movement history through hip hop songs and places them in context of Black liberation history of the time, to hopefully start to breathe a living hermeneutic based on the report of those experiencing it.
The genesis of Psalms of My People took place during a walk I made from 55th and Chancellor street, where we lived at the time, around the corner from my uncle Eddie's garage. I walked to 52nd and Walnut to hit up all the street vendors for bootleg Hip Hop tapes. You have to understand, 52nd st was the Mecca of Black culture for me as a young child. Like the open-air markets of the MotherLand I could only read about in the library, 52nd street was packed with vendors haggling over licorice root, dashikis, books full of Black thinking, art, poetry, incense, and myrrh wafting next to statues of Elegua and a Qu’aaran.
But most importantly for 12-year-old me was three tapes I had taken weeks to save up for, and I had that $15 gripped tightly in my hands so no one could take my cash from me. These were the early days of Hip Hop; real Hip Hop. Hip Hop that scared your parents--because it should. My generation wasn’t going to sing “We Shall Overcome” while we were hosed. You wouldn’t say those words out loud as a young Black child in America, but it was the unspoken covenant of my generation, and Hip Hop verbalized it, then screamed it in your face and kicked your teeth in for good measure. Because--fuck the police. Fuck your Pastor. Fuck them all. I knew the game was rigged; Hip Hop simply affirmed that truth. The truth no one else would admit to.
I had heard at school about some new guys out of New York and decided to save all my broke ass’s lunch money for weeks. I had gone hungry every day and been miserable by recess to cop these tapes, and it was finally paying off. All the other kids were sharing the bars with one another, but my family couldn’t afford to just buy me tapes every weekend. I had listened intently to my little brother, Danny and Kareem. From what I could gather, these tapes were the two to buy. I held them in my hand like Moses receiving the tablets from I AM. The bootlegger even made little copies of the covers and put the credits and everything in. I had five dollars left, so I grabbed a copy of something else. I don’t remember what those tapes were, but I do remember I played them until they snapped, then repaired them with tape four times until they ruined my little boom box.
This is the root of Psalms of My People. The Divine ancestral center or North Star of this book.
The true history of enslaved Black peoples and our descendants here in America has been disputed, policed, destroyed, and written by our oppressors. Psalms of My People is the liberation history of Black America as told by our prophets: the Hip Hop artists.
Psalms of my People is my attempt to create a Black sacred cultural artifact, while speaking to the current moment of Black Liberation, by reframing it as a map to the entire movement. Hip Hop, and some of its history will be the lens in which we take this journey.
Fall of 23 be on the lookout for Psalms of My People: Vol 1.
That's it. Except the PHD program. And the podcast for PRX. And a couple churches I’ll be covering. Bye.