Of all of the books I have read in 2009, few had the power to affect me personally like MAN-UP by Ricky Spann. A native of Michigan, Spann now calls Stone Mountain, GA home and has put a lot of thought into his first printed work. His book was chosen as one of Conversations Book Club's Top 100 Books of 2009, but why? What was his objective in writing this book about the roles of black men in America and how all races have to work together? We discuss this and more. Here is our conversation...
Rick, thanks for talking with Conversations for our Take Ten segment. Before we get into your book MAN-UP I want to say it has been great having you on the radio show in 2009 to address some of the issues of the day. Have you always found it easy or in your nature to express yourself the way you do?
First of all Cyrus it is good to be on your show and I definitely appreciated the opportunity to come and share my views. It's always been easy to express myself, especially in a small setting and regarding what I am most passionate about – the social, political and economic issues as they relate to the black community. I enjoy discussions surrounding black leadership past and present, and where we have failed our community as black Americans. I also find it very easy to talk on a spiritual basis, which is a theme for another book idea that I am drafting.
When did you realize that you had a book you wanted to write, and was there any fear about the subject matter?
Since I was in high school I have always had something to say and wanted to put it down on paper. I remember English literature and all the classes where you have to do interpretive reading; and I always admired how the people were able to take what was near and dear to them and put it in the written word. From that time on I've always wanted to write. I've always had certain fear and reservations because in my mind only great grammarians and English majors could write. Then I realized that it's about those who have something to say…that what a writer is someone who can take their ideals and thoughts and put them on paper. Once you put them on paper there was always the fear that the subject matter might be too hard for the day. At a time for political correctness, I thought my word might be too hard because the topic would cause black people to look at the truth of our responsibility of ourselves. I believe that this is something that we haven't quite dealt with historically and I think we have a tendency to blame others for our plight…though others are truly at fault to some degree. My message places a large responsibility on the black people to understand the root causes and solve our own issues. I didn't think that message would go over real well and so I was a bit apprehensive and uncertain as to how it would go over in the black community.
Rick, many say that in order to be a good writer you have to be a good reader. What role has books played in your life over the years?
Well books have had a very important role in my life. I can remember one of my first experiences with realizing that I enjoyed reading was when I was transferred from the 3rd to the 4th grade and my homeroom teacher happened to be the librarian, Ms. Henderson. She noticed that I always liked to read the titles of the books and open up books and read passages, and would always volunteer to stand up and read out loud in class. So Ms. Henderson really encouraged me. Unfortunately, being a new student in that school I would often get laughed at and picked on for always wanting to stand up and read before the class. As a young man new to the school, my tendency was to succumb to the peer pressure and not volunteer to read and let anyone know that I really enjoyed reading. Once Ms. Henderson detected my phobia, she took me aside and said don't let the other boys influence you and cause you to stop reading or reading in class. She explained to me that reading is a gift and more people should do more of it, and that reading would truly lead to greater understanding and greater wisdom. She explained that most of your great readers where avid readers such as Malcom X, Martin Luther King and Gaundi, etc.
We are living in a new time in America right now with the country electing its first black President. How has that changed your perception of the work that blacks have ahead of them if at all?
Personally, it hasn't changed my perception at all. In fact, I think the fact that America has elected a black president can actually be a setback to the challenges that face the black community. What I mean by that is that so often blacks tend to get emotionally involved in issues without understanding why or being not deeply emerged enough into issues to prevent them. Actually I think that electing a black president has given black people a sense of arrival, and that is not the case. I think that black people have a tendency to become complacent once an emotional hurdle has been achieved and they take their eyes off the larger issues of future political, social, economic and spiritual parody with all of mankind. So I think that blacks don't want to hear the message that electing a black president at the wrong time is tantamount to racial demise. By that I mean the entire black community's future seems to rest on whether or not the current president can solve everyone's problems. The favor that a white president would get, President Obama will not get; and consequently his failures will be failures of the black community. An analogy that I use is that in sports, such as the NFL, the argument is that black athletes do not make great quarterbacks, when in reality as black athletes become more and more comfortable playing the position of quarterback from little league to the pros, then their performance of quarterback will be as great as any other race.
Do you think that some minorities will take success for granted since there is a man of color in the White House?
I don't think they'll take it for granted. In a broader since I don't think most minorities understand what success is. Black America tends to think that success is getting a good paying job or a descent business and making a lot of money from an individual standpoint. They fail to realize that success on such a small scale as an individual form of achievement is short-lived and serves no purpose in perpetuating the successful survivability of the race. So the message that blacks get having a black president is that we as black individuals can achieve great heights is such a shallow message, and vastly overrated and misunderstood.
Rick for those who haven't read the book, tell us what Man-Up is about.
Man-Up is about mankind, and specifically black americans' position in the scheme of creation. It's not about racial divide or prejudice. It's about all men are created equal and all men's responsibility is to do the best they can do the greater good of all mankind. It gives a spiritual road map for the healing that must occur and the forgiveness that must occur before blacks as a people can transcend a carnal existence to the spiritual existence, and become true cohabitants of this world and worlds to come.
If you had to decide on a particular group of people that your book is most targeted towards, who would it be and why?
First and foremost it is targeted toward the black community. It's a how-to self-help book of developing strategies and subsequent plans to solve the social, political, economic and spiritual problems that are currently inhibiting the advancement of the black race, and fulfilling our God-giveen purpose.
Have you been surprised at the response you have gotten so far?
No. I expected the responses to be mixed and they have. Some blacks, even prominent blacks think that the book is too harsh on black people. Other blacks think that it's about time someone gives a how-to as oppose to a what's wrong with us approach to addressing the political, social, economic and spiritual ills of the black community.
What message do you hope readers get from the book overall, and how do you hope they can apply what you share?
That whether we succeed or whether we fail, we have to take responsibility for our own success and survival and also we have to realize that we are only a part of God's plan and not the totality. As such, we have a duty and obligation to seek our role in the universe as it relates to other races and other creatures that God has created. I think that we cheat ourselves when we denigrate God's creation along racial divide.
Now that you have one book under your belt, what's next for you?
The goal is to write 10 books with various themes around the spiritual, social, economic development of the black community. Each book will give a more finite plan, milestones and phased approach to becoming self sufficient and globally relevant and justifiably equal to all mankind.
Rick, thanks again for talking with us. Continued success to you. How can our readers keep up with you online and through the social networks?
I'm on FB and also have a webpage at www.rickyspann.com and my twitter site. You can email me directly via my webpage. You can also order my Man-Up: A Plan for the Organization and Spiritual Retooling of Black America at www.iuniverse.com or www.amazon.com