Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A memory of E. Lynn Harris

Its devastating when we lose an icon. I know that not everyone was as effected by the death of Micheal Jackson as I was but I felt as if we had grown up together. And now a few weeks later we have lost another icon. E. Lynn Harris's Invisible Life has been and continues to be required reading for every black gay man that I know. He was the first to tell our stories in colorful rich paint strokes that did not confine us to non spiritual, over sexed, dancing and jiving common stereotypes often found in black literature. His life instilled pride and he taught us that yes indeed we had a black history as well as a gay history. I remember being overjoyed and excited when he came to Indianapolis for a book signing. Afterwards he signed copies of his latest book, "This Too Shall Pass". He signed a copy for me and I am going to go home tonight and tear my house up until I find it!! One of our heroes is gone...may he rest in peace.


Remembering my friend and dear fraternity brother E. Lynn Harris

Much has been said about the death--the passing--of my good friend and fraternity brother, E. Lynn Harris. I am certain much more will be.

What you can learn from this latest death is that--again--life is so precious and so short. First Michael Jackson at 50, now Lynn at 54. What gives?

I came to know Everette Lynn Harris when I was a television news reporter in New Orleans and working on my first nonfiction book project back in 1994. My co-author and I met him during a book signing at a New Orleans East book shop where he was autographing his new book Invisible Life. We told him about a book project we were beginning work on. He agreed to talk to us and give us some advice whenever we came to Atlanta to visit. We did a several months later, and Lynn kept his word and we met in the now defunct Oxford Books shop on Peachtree Street and thus our friendship of some 15 years began.

Over the course of those years, Lynn would become the prolific writer that we all knew him to have been. I would pen a book about the late Diana, Princess of Wales, and my coauthor also would write a self-help book for black men. Like so many other authors, Lynn played a special role for us as mentor, friend, and advisor. He made sure to introduce us to the "players" in the New York publishing world.

When I heard that Lynn had died, I really wanted to believe it was some terrible joke someone was playing on the Internet. My hope was dashed as I began surfing the net and the traditional news sources for confirmation.

So now, like millions of others, I am left with reflecting on good times shared with a loved one lost. From having fried chicken in his Chicago condo at the end of a BookExpo convention with close friends, to visiting his wonderful new Atlanta home on Peachtree Street to celebrate and promote a new novel by our friend Dr. Ian Smith, (view image) to just chatting on AOL from time to time, or in our professional capacities with me interviewing him as the morning news anchor on CBS Radio's WAOK-AM radio in Atlanta, or moderating an E. Lynn Harris Q&A session (view image) with the listeners of our station and sister station V103.

Lastly, not only did I always boast that Lynn was born in Michigan, but he like fellow author Eric Jerome Dickey, is my Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity brother. Though he did not mention it publicly a lot, he cherished being a member of Alpha, and always took pride in being a founder and president of the chapter at his beloved University of Arkansas. His son too, is an Alpha man. I hope my brothers will take note of this terrible loss and remember him appropriately. He was our generation's breakthrough black-male author with more than four million copies of his books in print. And, along with Dickey, the only Alpha man in our fraternity's 103 year history to become a 10-time New York Times bestseller. He is now a member of--what we call in our fraternity--Omega Chapter, the chapter of sweet rest.

For all of us this is just a mind-numbing loss. Even for those whose faith is strong and who are true believers, it is still hard to realize that Lynn's life story was well written before he was born. Only the Master Writer knew when it would begin, how the chapters would evolve, and how--and when--it would end.

Godspeed E. Lynn Harris. Thank you for all you did while you were here. It will never be forgotten.

Rick Blalock, a two-time Emmy-winning journalist and author, is a native of Highland Park, Michigan and lives in Georgia.


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