When I started writing my very first post, Yeah, I Think A Lot About Shit, I had no idea anyone would ever read my blog. Nevertheless, I persevered and continued to write without any expectations but simply as an outlet for my thoughts and as a means to sharpen my writing skills.
Seven thousand five hundred plus visitors and over ten thousand views later, I am pleasantly surprised by the traffic to my blog. I know these figures are a grain of sand in the desert to other accomplished bloggers.
However, considering my innocuous start, I find these figures are encouraging because I had no idea I would reach this milestone. Thank You For Reading Thegatvolblogger
Therefore, I would like to thank you personally for taking the time to visit my humble blog and view the articles I write. You make it worthwhile and I would be ungrateful if I didn’t show my appreciation for your kindness.
I am not a prolific blogger. I am not disciplined. I may go for months without writing or sharing anything, but there is never a day when you do not visit and read my posts, including the stuff I wrote when I first started.
An artists rendering of the late Captain Thomas Sankara, the revolutionary leader of Burkina Faso who came to power through a popular coup and within four years made the country self reliant. The image is taken from the book Thomas Sankara Speaks.
I kind of have a good idea what you like now. It never ceases to surprise me that you appreciate the work that I have done otherwise you would not be reading these posts. I have come to realise that the articles I have written have a very long shelf life beyond the time I wrote them. They remain relevant to new readers and visitors.
Lessons Learnt From Blogging
Firstly, never underestimate what you have to write, say, think or share. There are people who appreciate what you have to say. Your voice matters. Your perspective adds something that is missing in the mainstream media.
Secondly, have faith in whatever task you undertake. And when you commit yourself to any activity, do your best.
Thirdly, when you devote yourself to an activity, you build an expertise on that field and develop your competency in that field. I started off as an amateur and now I also blog professionally for other institutions and sites. It is why I am not always able to write and post as much I would like. Without the experience I gained from here, I would never have had the competency to blog professionally. Opportunities like these, open up doors to others.
Follow your heart
Fourthly, if you do something you love, you are more likely to be successful doing what you love. You will find it rewarding and you are more likely to be fulfilled it by it. My advice, therefore, is follow your heart and live the dream. Even if you don’t become wealthy pursuing your passions, you will be rich in satisfaction. An you will be happy. You can’t put a price on that.
Fifthly, gimmicks like SEO and the likes can only do so much. I don’t understand them very much, I have the faintest idea therefore I never use them, but I know that sincerity, passion and love can achieve much more than SEO; especially, if you value organic growth, slowly and steadily to learn as you grow.
In addition, it takes time to do something properly and see the growth. You have to learn a lot along the way as the video below illustrates. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. If you have any endeavour you wish to pursue, take the time to build your dream but don’t expect instant results. There are few overnight successes. What you see, is often the results of years, if not decades, of hard work before the “overnight success”.
I can go on and on but maybe that is the substance for another article or post. Right now, I just want to thank you for your support and love. I am grateful to you for having my back. Your visits and investing your precious time to read my posts is the greatest encouragement you could have ever offered me. I am eternally grateful for your support.
“‘What became of the Black people of Sumer?’ the traveler asked the old man, for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. `What happened to them?’
`Ah,’ the old man sighed. `They lost their history, so they died.'”
This legend above demonstrates what happens when a people lose or forget their history. They die. As it has been written, our people perish because of a lack of knowledge.
A people without knowledge of their history or past are dead! What happened to the people of Sumer illustrates the dangers a race faces if it fails to document it’s history and tell its own story not “his” story. Because what is passed off as history is not every man’s story.
If you know your history Then you would know where you coming from Then you wouldn’t have to ask me Who the heck do I think I am
We, Africans, have lost a significant amount of our history because it was not documented.
It is no surprise some people try their utmost best to convince us that our history only begun with the advent of the coloniser in Africa.
Such a lie becomes impossible to maintain when one knows the history of Africa that begun while the coloniser was still living in the mountains of Europe, and Africans created the first civilisations of Meroe, Songhay, Mossi Kingdom, Benin Empire, Kingdom of Ghana, Axum and the likes.
Below is a front cover of African Empires: it is a book written for children that elaborates on the empires I referred to above and provides insight on them.
How I wish I had known about this history while I was younger. However, it is never too late to learn. A book like the one above is not only good for children but it is also good for adults too who may be as ignorant as I was until I stumbled on the work of Williams.
In addition, it is a good way for parents to bond with their children while learning together and raising their level of consciousness.
Adults can learn something from the titles held on the Letterbox Library archives because there are going to be things that they are ignorant of.
This is not to insinuate that they are unenlightened; it is impossible to know everything. There is too much information to know everything that happened in the past but it is never too late to learn something new.
Black history matters and it is our duty as parents within the community to spread this knowledge. Without a knowledge of our greatness, we will never be able to realise our potential or know how far we have fallen from those great architects of civilisation.
We, as individuals and as a race, are the total sum of our past and the present. Everything that we are is a mixture of the two. And what we will become in the future depends on these two things.
The past teaches us to avoid the same mistakes that our ancestors made in the past. Not only does it teach us our strengths and weaknesses, but it also teaches us our strengths. It provides us with answers and solutions to some of our problems and challenges in the present and future and how we can be strong again.
The quote below by Chinua Achebe, a legendary Nigerian writer, author, publisher and social activist, illustrates the destruction of of African history and how Africans stepped back into their past to draw strength and ideas to decolonise the continent from white minority rule.
I believe that one of our elders Dr. John Henrik Clarke summed up the importance of our history in this quote:
History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, more importantly, what they must be.
I don’t think I could have summed it up much better myself. Sometimes, this is why we need this kind of knowledge to draw ideas from those who came before us and have condensed knowledge that took a lifetime to figure out into a form we can make sense of within a short time.
I believe that an awakening of Black people begins with an understanding of their history because that is the beginning of their consciousness. We cannot rely on the past today but we can find answers that we seek about ourselves from it.
Those who destroyed our history or whitewashed it had an aim as Achebe illustrated above. It was necessary to colonise and enslave an entire race to subjugate and exploit them.
It was necessary to convince them that they were an inferior species who were not quite human; hence, they needed to be colonised and enslaved for their own good and their history destroyed for the purpose.
However, the truth is that there is no humane form of colonisation or slavery. Both are inhumane. They are an affront to humanity. Nobody can ever prove otherwise.
“Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it. This work of devaluing pre-colonial history takes on a dialectical significance today.”
This is why it is important for us to know our history and pass it on so that we may never die like the people of Sumer. Which brings me to the point of this post.
About a month ago, I attended a children’s book festival at the Southbank Centre in London. I came across an educational supplier/ distribution company known as the Letterbox Library.
They are a not-for-profit social enterprise and cooperative that acts as an education supplier based in London. The books they distribute promote multiculturalism and inclusivity in children’s books.
Therefore, children can find fiction books with characters that reflect their reality, look like them or find positive images of black people.
The system via the various mediums such as print, digital media, TV, advertising, etc. subliminally feed people a diet of negative stereotypes.
Consequently, people tend to believe the worst about themselves because everything they know is what is stored in their subconscious as images which have been stored from what the system feeds them in the form of images and portrayal of their people in the media.
The only way to address such an anomaly is to replace the negative stereotypes with these new ideas and images and gradually eradicate the negative stereotypes embedded in the minds of Black people.
It is not possible for us to put new knowledge into old minds: the minds will expand and explode and the knowledge will be lost. But we must put the new knowledge into new minds to preserve them both and this is why it is essential to reteach the children and those adults who are willing to learn for their must be untaught the whitewashed history before they are reborn mentally to receive this new knowledge.
This is where the Letterbox Library and other such distributors and publishers come in.
You can also find non fictional historical titles like the front covers littering this post above and below which show some of the titles Letterbox Library have in their catalogue.
Their books are sourced from a wide range of overseas and UK publishers. Their focus is on children who are at the stage of primary and early learning years.
This is the time that children pick up a lot and their minds are formed. This is the time that they are at their most receptive.
Therefore, it makes sense to introduce them to their history at this early age so that no one can ever miseducate them about their history. It will help them to think critically when presented with propaganda or a version of whitewashed history.
Learning our history should not be limited to Black History Month. We should learn our history every day of the year. That means parents shouldn’t rely on teachers to do for them what they should be doing for themselves; i.e., teach their children about their history.
Malcolm X once said something to the effect that only a fool lets his enemy educate his children. He had a point.
For too long, too many parents have relegated the teaching of their children to a system that continually fails them and then have the audacity to complain about it but take no action to address the rot.
It is time we as parents and elders take responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming the system.
It is time that we stopped being disinterested in our children’s education and started supplementing their formal education with home schooling.
We should take advantages of educational suppliers like Letterbox Library and help develop the literacy skills of our children.
I remember how as a child I loved discovering new things. I read widely but unfortunately at the time my reading resources were limited. There weren’t educational suppliers like Letterbox Library around at the time.
Just looking at the titles stocked by the Letterbox Library, I know I would have enriched my general knowledge.
For example, I was unaware of Bessie Coleman, the daring female stunt pilot, until I came across Letterbox Library.
Up until a few years ago, I was ignorant of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led. This illustrates the significance of The Letterbox Library.
It is an ally in the fight against our greatest enemy – ignorance. It is true that you don’t know what you don’t know.
However, it is a disservice to ourselves to remain ignorant when there are resources to enlighten us and help us in the fight against ignorance using words, ideas and knowledge.
There are also books on current stars alive today such as Mo Farah, Lewis Hamilton, Benjamin Zephaniah, rulers and leaders, black freedom fighters and others. They cover a significant portion of the black experience. It is worth checking out.
Letterbox Library not only concentrates on books about Black History. They are more diversified than what I have presented here. They deal with books about migrants, refugees, etc.
They help children to be understanding of people who are different to them or people they don’t understand. It encourages them to respect them. That is the power of books. They are great teachers.
Their fiction titles also include mainstream children’s fiction books as well as the popular Anansi stories which are a staple of the Caribbean Islands.
The Anansi stories are a vehicle that carries a people’s culture, mores, values and the likes. They maintain a continuity between different generations. I believe that parents and children can read these books together and bond.
Bonding with children is beneficial for children because if they create significant bonds with their parents, they are less likely to become delinquents or psychopaths.
I am delving into sociology and psychology now but this is a topic for another day.
It is essential that we support works and individuals and organisations promoting Black or African History, whether that is writing it, distributing or publishing it.
Chancellor Williams clarified it best why it is important for us to document our own history:
“Black inertia is the main problem, there is still too much dependence on white scholars to do our work for us. I have written elsewhere that as long as we rely on white historians to write black history for us, we should keep silent about what they produce. They write from the Caucasian viewpoint, and we are naive, indeed, if we expect them to do otherwise, all the ballyhoo about their “scientific objectivity” to the contrary, notwithstanding.”
I recommend you check out the Letterbox Library. It might be one of the best investments you make into your children’s education. Who knows, they are the generation that will continue with the brilliant work started by the great teachers like Dr. Williams, Dr Clarke and Dr. Jochannan who have now departed this earth.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in 2014 and helping to take this blog to the next level. Much love to you for taking the time to read the content, comment, like, share and recommend thegatvolblogger.
I am overwhelmed by your support and love. It has been a labour of love and you have made every moment worth it. I could not have done it without you. Without you, I would have given up but you have given me the strength, encouragement and motivation to do even better in 2015.
I would like to give a special shout out to
You were my most active commenters and supported and shared my work. Nuff respect to you. You can check out the report below to see your contributions to make this blog a success.
My goal this year is to take this blog to the next level and I feel indebted to you. Keep your eye on this blog for better content, more posts and better quality.
I hope all your dreams, desires, hopes and goals become a reality in 2015. Have a Happy New Year. You rock you have made my year and I am starting on a high because of you.
All the best and One Love.
Here’s an excerpt:
A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.
Sensible advice regardless of whether you are a writer, musician, entrepreneur, a business, etc. Follow the advice of this wise sage, Jo Robinson, if you are going to make the most of social media to advertise, market or sell your products. Read the article to gain a better insight on how to improve your social media campaigns and get the best out of your return on investment a.k.a. ROI.
This award is a fitting reward for a young literary star on the rise. Her debut novel has taken the world by storm and caused such a sensation, I can only imagine what her future work will do.
An article, on NoViolet Bulawayo talking about her craft, I stumbled on in the New Books magazine in my local library and I took the pictures. Little did I know I would be using them in this article.
The award is a literary prize awarded by the National Community of Black Writers. It is the first of its kind to be awarded to black American writers. Richard Wright (Black Boy and Native Son) and Zora Neale Hurston, the awards namesakes, are two of the most influential black American authors.
I first heard of NoViolet Bulawayo when I started writing for the South African Newspaper in London.
In fact, her short story, Hitting Budapest (the first chapter), an extract from her debut, was nominated for the Caine Prize in African Writing in 2011.
I have watched her rise. She is a phenomenal woman and sister. She is unpretentious. She has an aura and cool, calm collected-ness and confidence that comes with people who are blessed with talent, humility and drive.
She is not a diva. Considering her accomplishments, you could forgive her. But she has remained grounded and approachable and in touch with her humble roots which she has used as a launching pad to dizzing heights. Only she knows where she is in orbit with the Stars.
She went on to win the coveted Caine Prize in African writing that year and has soared to greater heights since then, racking up a host of nominations and awards, including the Man Booker Prize 2013 the Guardian First Book Award, the Pen Hemingway Award, LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award, the Etisalat Prize for Literature and ultimately the 2014 Zora Neale Hurston/ Richard Wright Legacy Award.
Over the years, I have chatted to her on a range of subjects and she is an exceptional person, very grounded, polite and giving.
During those conversations she was always encouraging and pushing me to publish my book and sharing advice. I was flattered she recognised my talent without ever getting to read my work. She is such a giving person.
I got to know her “almost” as a friend. And I am so happy for her success in the way I’d be proud of my own sister or kinswoman who had achieved some phenomenal success.
Her coup is spectacular considering the strength of the other nominees and finalists in the fiction category. Some of them are legends by right and some are accomplished writers with several novels to their names. They are:
Every Boy Should Have A Man by Preston L. Allen (Akashic);
The Residue Years by Mitchell S. Jackson (Bloomsbury);
See Now Then by Jamaica Kincaid (Farrar, Straus & Giroux);
The Good Lord Bird by James McBride (Penguin);
The Gospel According to Cane by Courttia Newland (Akashic).
Previous winners include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Uwem Akpan, Aminatta Forna, Kwame Dawes and Junot Diaz. NoViolet Bulawayo is in distinguished literary company and all the names above put her win into context.
I can imagine women ululating and dancing within Zimbabwe and the Diaspora at the literary success of one of her most distinguished daughters of the soil. I say makorokoto, amhlope, congratulations sister. You gone and done us proud.
The award winning debut, We Need New Names, by Zimbabwean Literary sensation NoViolet Bulawayo.
I started blogging late in life and like Cato [Censorius] the Censor I am learning in my old age. I have picked up a few things, 13 to be precise, and I thought it would be a good idea to share my experience with you. The order below is random.
1] Write What You Know: It is the golden rule every student of creative writing is taught from day one. It applies to blogging as well. Writing what you know makes it easier to write about that subject.
It will flow better. Your authority and and knowledge will shine. Your passion will tell and your readers will feel it. You will succeed at it because you are doing something that you love and you are passionate about.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about what you don’t know. If you do, do your research before you write. Bloggers like journalists can do their research or interview experts and can become instant authorities on subjects they know little of prior to taking it on.
2] Content Rules: Never publish sub-standard content. It must be well written, researched, structured, entertaining or engaging. Good content keeps readers coming back for more. Good content makes the audience share. Good content makes readers appreciate the effort you put in.
It makes them trust you. An article riddled with poor spelling or grammar looks bad. It is amateurish and if you can’t get the small details right, people won’t trust you with the bigger details such as facts or trust your opinion.
3] Be You: Alternatively, keep it real. Don’t try to be what you are not. Readers are intelligent and they can smell a fake. If you are true to yourself, your writing will come pouring out of you. Your voice will speak for itself.
I have heard of writers worrying or struggling to find their voice. They struggle because they are trying to be what they are not. Write as you speak and your personality will shine. Your voice will sound distinct and authentic.
4] Trust Yourself: I started blogging late because I wasn’t confident anyone would read what I wrote. My creative writing teacher encouraged me to blog but I couldn’t do it.
I was very conscious of my self and didn’ want people psychoanalysing me. I talked about these concerns in my very first post Yeah, I think a lot about shit.
Throwing myself into blogging excorsised my demons. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to write about but I shouldn’t have worried. The ideas and inspiration found me.
Other opportunities came from people who read my blog. Some articles are inspired. You wake up and they are just on your mind and they basically write themselves.
So, never doubt your talent or yourself. Trust yourself. Be confident. Once you get going, things happen as if they were ordained to, and the pieces come together like a jigsaw puzzle when you need them.
It reminds me of that quote often attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and endless plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.
5] Know Your audience: When I write fiction, I find it hard to picture my readers. I struggle in this respect.
However, the opposite is true when I write nonfiction for newspapers or online publications. I know who the reader is which makes it easier.
Overtime, I have evolved a sense of who my readers are on my blog. I can see their gravatars or pictures. I read their comments. and feedback. I communicate with them. This is helpful. Slowly but surely, I am getting to know their tastes.
In addition, I also know that there are different audiences for different articles. There are posts that mainly appeal to other bloggers, poets or lovers of writing or books because they deal with writing. These are totally different to what other readers like who love political cum historical articles.
Some leave niche subjects. No two readers are the same.
You need to understand what your audience loves to read. The stats provided by the blog host will help you in that respect as illustrated below and show you what readers want.
Find topics that appeal to them and give them what they want. Don’t confine them to your own interests. Keep your eye on the stats!
Breakdown of views per post or tags.
6] Love of Research and Writing: Blogging has reaffirmed that I love writing and researching. It gives me the freedom to broaden my horizons and an opportunity to indulge in what I love most.
It is rewarding. It is fun.
As much as I write about what I know, I back it up with research to cover any doubts and to doublecheck facts. I guess its a habit that comes from my background writing for newspapers and other online mediums.
My blogging has rejuvenated my fiction work and I am back to finishing my historical fiction novel. The two mutually feed off each other.
You can spring surprises on your readers and introduce them to something they might not know such as introducing new or rising stars on the arts scene as illustrated on the front cover of this magazine I stumbled on in my local library introducing, NoViolet Bulawayo, one of the hottest literary talents to come out of Zimbabwe.
NoViolet Bulawayo, one of Zimbabwe’s best intellectual exports, a rising star on the literature scene. I stumbled upon this magazine in my local library.
7] Continous Learning and Self Improvement: The internet is never stationary. It is always evolving. Blogging is always evolving too and it provides the opportunity for continous learning and self improvement.
The more you write and research, the wider and rounded your learning experience becomes. Research often opens up avenues and doors that you could never have imagined.
Apart from discovering interesting facts, this is a mine-full of inspiration and ideas to blog about or write a full fiction or nonfiction account.
I am learning more about HTML and WordPress and the functions and features I can add to my blogs to make them more interactive. There are still a host of features I am learning about and haven’t got round to utilising them yet.
Maybe if you are a tech whiz, give me a shout out. Let me know how you think I can improve my blog.
Working with WordPress has also improved my knowledge of content management systems and all this experience is and will come in handy in other areas of my personal or professional career.
8] Do What Works For You: Writing regular articles is not easy. Well, let me speak for myself. I can go through anything between 6 – 20 drafts or revisions before I am happy to post.
I am not one of those prolific people who writes a blog a day or several a week or month. I write when I feel I like it. Right now, I am on a roll and blogging regularly.
However, there was a time when I was away for almost half a year or more and I missed blogging because of other commitments. I believe you shouldn’t just post anything because you feel pressured to.
Rather do it, when it is irrestibale and you have a burning urge to write and post. I can write a post in a day but it takes me hours especially if there are plenty of hyperlinks to add.
At times it can take me days because I go through numerous drafts or write in short bursts. That is what works for me. Everybody is different.
Writing and thinking are hard work; so, I understand people who can’t do it regularly. Consistency even if it is irregular consistency is good too.
I have massive respect for bloggers who blog every day or week. It takes great discipline and focus. Massive respect prolific bloggers!
Blogging is not a competition but a medium for self exppression. Therefore, never feel the urge to compete with anyone. Do what works for you. Simples!
9] Content Creation and Intellectual Property: Blogging in a nutshell is content creation and intellectual property. There is an industry dedicated to content creation.
I do this as an aside. But I don’t own the intellectual property or copyright of the stuff I create because the person who commissions and pays for me to write owns it.
However, when you are blogging, you hold the copyright [intellectual property]. The great thing about it is that you write about things that you are passionate about and love.
I have written plenty of content for clients and some of it made me miserable. I felt like I was prostituting my talent. It restricted my style and voice. But here, I write what I like, how I want to without worrying about what the client will say.
There is so much freedom when you blog and create your own content and intellectual property. You don’t have to sound like a journalist and you can personalise your articles as much as you like. If your readers are happy then that is good for you.
10] Distribution: Distributing or getting people to know about your blog is a nightmare if you are not good at marketing or asking for help.
Authors who self publish understand early on in their careers that they will have to do a lot of marketing, publicity, advertising and distrubution of their books to sell anything.
The same applies to blogging. If you are serious, you can’t ignore the power of social media. With a social media presence, you can raise the profile of your blog, attract visitors and generate a buzz about your posts and encourage discussions.
The brilliant aspect of social media is that you can track down people who are interested in what you write about and share dierctly with them or online forums dedicated to your subject[s].
If you are social media savvy and have already built a community, your audience will do a lot of promoting for you by sharing, recommending, retweeting, and liking your content. Social media is a valuable asset in the distribution link.
Furthermore, it is free. I currently use Facebook and Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest. I love using Facebook because it is popular and easier to distribute material.
Twitter follows next. I have had an account for a while but recently started using it more regularly to grow my presence on that platform. I am still trying to get to grips with it but I can see its potential.
I am not brilliant with Tumblr and Pinterest but I still use them. Hopefully, I will learn more and use them effectively.
LinkedIn is brilliant if you are doing anything that is business related. There are plenty of other platforms I haven’t touched on but there is no limit to the means available to you.
11] Learn From Other Bloggers: Read other blogs and learn from them. Be inspired by them. Ask questions and they will be happy to help you.
Note what they do right whether that is in the structuring or formatting of their blogs. You can learn a lot from other bloggers who have been doing this for ages.
12] Never Forget Context: Never assume your readers know everything you are talking about. Contextualise what you are saying and give them a point or points of reference.
I have noted that my readers are spread all over the world. Therefore, I find that as I write I constantly have to think of the context and frame it within the article. There are other times where I can’t always provide all the information I can.
An illustration of the distribution of people who view thegatvolblogger.
If there are things that you can’t explain within the article, do the hard work for the readers, and provide them with hyperlinks to a reliable source[s] that provide additional information.
13] Reward or Surprise the Reader: Provide readers with content thoughtfully put together that tells them something new or teaches them something that they didn’t already know.
I tend to provide videos/ films or doccies that they can watch online or links to materials they can access online that adds to what they are engaging with on my blog.
On average, I find a viewer can spend an hour engaging with some of my posts and a reader should feel that is an hour well spent.
These are some of the things that I have learnt as a blogger. I am still learning and hope to learn more and improve the quality of my content.
Please feel free to share your experiences, feedback or any advice relating to the issues I touched above. I hope you enjoyed this article. One love!