San Francisco Bay Area, CA — Popular on the literary scene, Beverly Black Johnson, founder of ‘Gumbo for the Soul’ Publications and publisher of the award-winning ‘Gumbo for the Soul’ anthology series, turned the mirror to herself to unveil her truth in a newly published autobiographical offering A Wretch Like Me: From Crack Addict to Change Agent.
In this soon-to-be best-seller, Johnson renders long-held secrets, especially about the eight-year period during which her social interactions often involved snorting cocaine and smoking hashish-laced marijuana with friends in East Palo Alto, Menlo Park and across the Dumbarton Bridge in East Oakland, California.
Johnson and her older brother were raised in a relatively normal family environment by her mother, step-father and consistently involved natural father in the city of East Palo Alto, CA (EPA), once dubbed the ‘murder capital of the world.’ At the age of 20, Johnson’s brother committed suicide, setting off his 17-year-old sister’s pivot to depression and destruct.
Johnson is the mother of four (referred to in the book as ‘child 1, child 2… etc.). The elder two each spent some time in the foster care system and tagged along with mom on drug buys as toddlers. It was in 1983 that Johnson commenced drug experimentation, very near the time that she became employed by a leading Silicon Valley government contractor where she worked as an electro-mechanical microscopic fiber-optics technician, who supported the engineering staff assigned to the B-1 bomber converter.
Over the eight-year period during which she was frequently under the influence, Johnson’s day-to-day-life experiences were as expected: job loss for tardiness and absence, stealing money from her mom’s purse, boosting clothes from retail stores. She delivered two babies outside of the hospital, one in an ambulance and one in a crack house on Tulane Avenue in EPA. In December 1991, the police threatened to arrest and charge Johnson with attempted manslaughter because her child had been born addicted to crack.
Pivot to Sobriety: Johnson was arrested for petty theft February 24, 1992
In 2003, Johnson founded Gumbo for the Soul Publications, and crafted the idea of publishing anthologies from which sales proceeds would benefit a non-profit agency or needy source. The books supported causes from breast cancer research to black adoption and foster care.
Between April 2005 and Dec. 2013, she published five titles in the ‘Gumbo for the Soul’ series. The anthologies are compilations of delicious poetry, essays, quotes and personal reflective accounts of contributors’ experiences on varied subject topics that address adversity, obstacles, perseverance, determination and healing, along with assorted gumbo recipes.
More than 300 contributors from across the U.S. and beyond—both renown and unknown—penned material for the series of books:
1. GUMBO FOR THE SOUL: the Recipe for Literacy in the Black Community (April 2005)
BENEFITED: ‘Gumbo for the Soul’ Scholarship Awareness Program
2. GUMBO FOR THE SOUL: Here’s Our Child-Where’s the Village? (Nov. 2007)
BENEFITED: African Cradle, Inc., an inter-country child adoption agency
3. GUMBO FOR THE SOUL: Women of Honor (Oct. 2010)
BENEFITED: Sisters Network SF Chapter, a national African American breast cancer survivorship organization
4. GUMBO FOR THE SOUL: Men of Honor (June 2011)
BENEFITED: Prostate cancer research
5. GUMBO FOR THE SOUL: 10th Anniversary Edition (Dec. 2013)
A combination of the four previous titles
Among the many very generous individuals who contributed to the success of the ‘Gumbo for the Soul’ series are Bruce George, poet and writer, entrepreneur, activist, Def Poetry Jam co-founder and Peabody Award winner; Tee C. Royal, founder of RAWSISTAZ Literary Group and freelance book reviewer, editor and proofreader; Tavis Smiley, radio and TV talk show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur and advocate; Dr. Julia Hare, best-selling author, lecturer and expert commentator; Heather Covington, author of Literary Divas: The Top 100+ Most Admired African American Women in Literature and NAACP Image Award Nominee; and Synthia SAINT JAMES, celebrated artist, author, architectural designer and Kwanzaa postage stamp illustrator, and illustrator of the book covers for the Gumbo for the Soul series.
Finally, Johnson expressed sincere love and appreciation to Gail Bishop, breast cancer sufferer and founder and president of Sisters Network Inc. San Francisco chapter (a national African American breast cancer survivorship organization). Gail’s story, contributed by her friend and publicist, Toni Beckham, was featured in Gumbo for the Soul: Women of Honor–Special Pink Edition, and her brilliantly inspiring photo graced the jacket back cover. Sadly, Gail succumbed to breast cancer September 4, 2013, following a long, courageously fought battle.
“Life is much more fun and productive as a change agent. I so enjoy doing that which contributes to making others’ lives better, while ensuring my own is constructive in God’s eyes,” said Johnson. “By the grace of God, I now celebrate over 24 years of a Crack-Free life. I am FREE AT LAST!”
A Wretch Like Me: From Crack Addict to Change Agent by Beverly Black Johnson
(ISBN: 978-0-9790479-4-7, Sept. 22, 2016, bio | non-fiction | inspirational, paperback, 100 pp., $16.00)
Also available directly from the publisher: $16.00 + 3.95 s/h – via PayPal: firstname.lastname@example.org