Wahilda Clark is dedicated to spreading the word about street lit. She tells us in this interview why it's important that these kinds of books get wider exposure, how they fight stereotypes and racism, and how she picked which authors she wanted to work with in her new book What's Really Hood!
Tell me all about What's Really Hood!
Because street lit like hip hop has such a tremendous financial appeal, it has attracted some heavy weight authors. I chose the authors that would give the clearest picture of urban street life. The sex, the dope, the killings and gangs are the same in Chicago, New Jersey, Philadelphia and New York. That is the reality that leaps at you from reading What's Really Hood!
What did it feel like when you first hit the New York Times list?
I felt like a kid who finally got her wish to go to Disneyland! I understand the significance of making The New York Times list, so when I found out that I'd hit the list, it was an honor and I felt as if my work was finally receiving it's due.
Wahida, why did you choose to collaborate with these particular authors?
After sampling their work, they were the best for what I wanted to get across. Each author had a unique style that I believed would compliment mine. I knew that the combined collection would please my fans and hopefully, open the door for new authors.
When you hear the public outcry about the stereotypes about African Americans in street books, what do you think?
It wasn't but a few years ago that "nigger" and "colored" were commonplace. You had to ride on the back of the bus, separate schools, drinking fountains, and black music was not allowed on the stations. Black actors were few and black writers had little or no chance at being popular. But today most of that has changed. We have acceptability in most of the fields. We still have a long way to go. The public outcry rejecting acceptability of street books is only a throwback to the days when the majority of the American public did not want to support anything black. However, it is becoming clear that this is a profitable genre, thus acceptability is greater.
Do you feel like you're becoming part of the problem by telling these stories?
"You reap what you sow" or "What goes around comes around" is the underlying message in all of my books. You receive the reward or punishment as a consequence of what you do. There is always going to be someone who likes what you do, there is always going to be someone who doesn't like what you do. I can't say that everything I write will inspire someone to do the right thing, but I try to make sure that the good outweighs the bad in every story I write. One of the greatest compliments that I've received from my fans is that they say, "I've never read any books until I read yours. Now, I'm reading everything!" There was even one guy in prison who basically learned to read by reading all of my books. So, if I've helped just one person, I think God will look upon me with a smile for my small attempt to do good for everybody.
What do you think people don't know about you as an author and as a person, that you wish they would?
Doctors have an oath which says, "Doctor, heal thyself." Uncle Yah Yah told me, "poison in the hands of a good physician saves lives." What I want the world to know about Wahida Clark is that my life's dream is to help save the lives of those who come from a similar background and experience as my own. That is my greatest desire and my dedication, and if I have to shovel shit (for those who are proper manure) to earn the means to do that, I'll be shoveling for the rest of my life.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on getting my Thug Series into movies, TV and plays. The Golden Hustla will be out in October of this year. Thugs, Part 5 will be out in May 2011. Keep in touch with me at facebook.com/wahidaclark or www.wclarkpublishing.com.