Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Fort Washingtonian seeks to inspire black youth

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
James Rollins of Fort Washington wrote ‘The Curse of Willie Lynch.’ It’s a look at how an incident in 1712 impacts how African Americans continue to see themselves today.
James C. Rollins, a Fort Washington resident and first-time author of the controversial new book ‘‘The Curse of Willie Lynch: How social engineering in the year 1712 continues to affect African Americans today,” is an impassioned former civil servant who says he seeks change within the African American community.

One recent incident helps explain why Rollins, 65, decided to write the book.

This past fall his youngest daughter enrolled in a competitive Chicago medical school.

‘‘The second day there she called me saying ‘Daddy, I don’t know what I am going to do, I am the only African-American student in the class and I don’t know if I can compete,’” Rollins said.

‘‘Immediately I thought ‘What in her psyche tells her she is not competitive?’ And then I realized her reaction was common with black kids. That for some reason many of them still consider themselves deficient.”

Rollins’ book, published in 2006 by Trafford Publishing, tries to pinpoint the blame for that lack of confidence.

And he goes all the way back to 1712 and a man named Willie Lynch.

It was in October 1995 that more than one million blacks gathered together to make a commitment to be responsible fathers, loving husbands, and hard workers for their families.

It was at this march that Rollins, who had faced the hardship of being a single parent to several daughters during the early 1980s, first heard of Lynch.

Lynch had become somewhat of a buzzing news sensation right before the march in Washington when a letter he wrote became public.

In it, Lynch explained the best way to control a slave was to teach him to be loyal to his master, and him alone.

That way, the slave would teach his descendants to do the same and his master would always retain control over his slaves.

Rollins believes that Lynch’s design still resonates within the political and economic struggles of black society today.

He writes of his fellow African-Americans, ‘‘We are the only ethnic group that has come to depend on someone to lead us, to articulate our dreams, and negotiate ... for our rights.”

After the conversation with his youngest daughter, Rollins knew he had a moral obligation to put his thoughts to paper.

In a three-month fury of research and writing, Rollins completed what he considers one of the most meaningful works of his life.

Since then, Rollins has developed a sizeable following with his easy, down-to-earth writing style and potent beliefs.

‘‘It just welled up in me. It scared me because it was so easy,” Rollins said of the writing process. In fact, he just recently decided to revise his book and publish an updated, more detailed edition.

The book shouldn’t take long for Rollins to develop and readers can expect the new version to be on shelves soon enough.

Rollins, through numerous book singings and public speaking endeavors, passionately desires to empower African American youth with the optimistic reality of their potential.

He maintains that, ‘‘If you don’t teach our kids that they have worth and value, if you teach them that what they see in BET is who they are, then we can’t expect anything more than that. ... But I want them to know that we don’t need to beg for a seat of the table, that we have a power to control what happens in our community and in our lives.”