African-American writers, poets showcase grassroot publishing

Authors promote online publishers as cheap, realistic method for students


George Morin / The Advocate

Poet Steven Clark, also known as HurriKane da Poet, informs audience members in the Library and Learning Resource Center about his book, “Poetry for the People,” on Feb. 18.

By Lorenzo Morotti, Editor-in-chief

African-American poet and author Joy Elan was born deaf but had no problems basking in the applause after she recited her spoken word poem “I’m a Survivor.”

“I didn’t want to just be another deaf black kid born in Oakland. I wanted more than that. I wanted to get my work published,” Elan said. “Because once your work is published it will live on forever. You will be able to see what I contributed to this world when I’m gone.”

The few Contra Costa College students who attended the Black Author Book Fair in the Library and Learning Research Center were able to meet and talk with Elan and five other award-winning African-American poets, authors and artists.

The event, a first at CCC, was held on Feb. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m.

“Never wait for someone to tell you your work is good enough to get published,” Elan said. “You can do it yourself and be in charge of your own work.”

All of the authors and artists encouraged aspiring writers to make use of online publishing websites such as or

Student Life Center coordinator Erica Greene, organizer of the event, said she was “beyond nervous.” 

Greene said she hoped the event would raise awareness of the college-sponsored African Heritage Month activities among students at CCC while highlighting a few African-American entrepreneurs using affordable online publishers to promote and sell their work.

“I want to show students what black authorship looks like,” Greene said. “Not a lot of people get to read local authors let alone get the opportunity to meet them and create a relationship.”

Phoenix Rising, another self-published author who recited original work at the event, said she uses these websites to publish her books “The Vagitarian Chronicles: Erotic Stories of Lesbian Love and Lust,” and her more recent “From My Heart to Hers: A Letter of Love,” that can be bought and sold on

Rising is a Bay Area resident, having grown up in Southern California.

These websites also allow writers to sell online forms of their work for people to read on their electronic notebooks. It is up to the writer, however, to promote his or her work.

Another participant, Steven Clark (HurriKane da Poet), is a community activist, poet and artist from Sacramento. Clark said he is launching a social media blitz campaign on Facebook and Instagram to promote his work.

“It is important to get as much presence on the Internet as possible,” he said.

“Stay busy, vigilant and always ask yourself how can I reap more than my time will allow.”

Before the artists performed their spoken word acts, there were only two students sitting in the rows of foldout chairs that were tucked into the corner of the Library.

These two students were Black Student Union President DeAndre Russell and Secretary Shani Miranda. Russell said people who didn’t show up for the event missed hearing “powerful words.”

“It’s the key to life,” he said. “Sometimes it’s hard, but if you don’t speak up or do not show up you won’t be heard.”

By the end of the performances, however, that number grew to 10 when English as a second language instructor Evan Degennaro brought his class to talk with the artists and writers.

Jose Mora is one of the students enrolled in Degennaro’s ethnically diverse class.

“I didn’t know about (the Black Author Book Fair) until I came (into the Library),” Mora said. “But it is very interesting and there are a lot of great books and artwork.”