David S. Mitchell & “We Hold These Truths”
The intersection of race, politics and the post-Obama America
I met David S. Mitchell during my postgrad years in Washington DC, and I instantly knew this double Ivy League grad was up to something great.
When I first learned about his new debut novel in November 2016, there was no doubt I would support it, especially due to our current political climate. I’m currently reading We Hold These Truths, and it’s teaching me to not let go of the excitement I had in 2008 / 2012 and to, as my mother would say, keep on keepin’ on. It’s important to not lose hope, use our voice and not get too comfortable in the way things “used to be.”
Before you read more about David, purchase a copy of the novel now on Amazon. You won’t regret it!
And if you’re in the Chicago area, be sure to check out David this Saturday, January 14th at 57th Street Books at 2:30p and at Volumes Bookcafe at 7:00p. He’ll discuss We Hold These Truths, politics, race, President Obama and the future with President-Elect Trump.
First & Last Name
David S. Mitchell
Why did you decide to write “We Hold These Truths?”
In the aftermath of the 2008 election of Barack Obama, I watched Democrats — and in particular, members of the “Obama Coalition” — largely stand by and watch as conservatives took back much of the ground we fought so hard for in ’08. My heart was almost totally broken as I watched so-called progressives, and in many cases, African-Americans, revert back to the same old politics-as-usual during state and local elections in 2010 — that critical election cycle when we failed to preserve the Democratic Congressional majority necessary to guarantee the president’s progressive legislative agenda. I listened with horror as black folks articulated, sometimes with words, and more often with inaction, the gut-wrenching refrain: “blacks can’t win important elected offices.”
It was amid this abysmal backdrop, in that murky pool of despair, that I began writing We Hold These Truths, a novel I composed with a singular purpose in mind: to lay out, in living and at times horrific color, the golden opportunity for change America squandered in the critical days, months, and years following Barack Obama’s historic 2008 election.
It is my hope that the pain, anger, and regret experienced by the characters in my novel will intrigue and agitate a generation of Americans of all races — and in particular, black people — and restore the imaginations that birthed one of the most incredible moments in human history: the election of a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama to the presidency of the United States. We must never again repeat the mistakes of that 2010 election cycle. We Hold These Truths, I hope, is the beginning of a movement to ensure we never make a mistake of this magnitude again.
What does your novel mean to you?
I eat, sleep, dream, and breathe We Hold These Truths. It is an inseparable part of who I am and my hopes for what America can be when we work together fearlessly. I sacrificed a lot to publish this book, including my six-figure corporate law firm salary, because I believe in this story, and because I believe we can still do anything as a nation if we just bet on ourselves; if we finally reject the lie that we’ve reached the ceiling for black and brown progress in America.
I listened with horror as black folks articulated, sometimes with words, and more often with inaction, the gut-wrenching refrain: “blacks can’t win important elected offices.”
What have you had to overcome in order to achieve success?
Like the experiences of many entrepreneurs I’ve read about and been inspired by, many people didn’t initially have faith in my vision. They were blinded by the inertia of the status quo, and the insidious assumption that because something hasn’t been done before, it’s impossible. When I shopped my book with the usual suspects in New York, I heard many iterations of the same explanation over and over again: “You’re a talented writer, but I can’t sell this.” It’s no secret to folks like me, black novelists, that the publishing industry is especially hard to break into, in part because there is a belief among many who control access to entry that African Americans won’t — and perhaps, ought not — purchase serious works of black literature. In some circles, there is a fear that if given a sufficiently large platform, some black writers might actually succeed in disrupting the status quo, and shed light on the reality that we need not settle for the scraps the system occasionally tosses our way to keep us from seeking the abundance we can achieve by taking what we’re owed: a seat at the table.
Ultimately, there’s a reason why just a handful of people strike out on their own, why only a few ignore the odds and take a chance on themselves. Entrepreneurs are unique because they process the prospect of rejection a little differently than others. When you start your own business, and you’re seeking to gain traction, for a long time all you hear is “no, you can’t do this, this is ridiculous, no one has done this before, you’re crazy, why would you quit your good job for this?” Some people hear this and promptly stop in their tracks — and go back to their day jobs. For others, the articulation of doubt from the crowd simply strengthens their resolve, reminds them of the uniqueness of their product — of their voice — and the opportunity lurking nearby to do something transformative… if you just summon the will to hold on. Because you never know if behind the next door you knock on, if on the other end of that next phone call you make, after all the “no’s” you’ve endured, there might finally be that long-awaited “yes.”
What does it mean to be a black business owner & author?
I cannot answer that question without first stating a fundamental fact we often forget: Black is magic. Full stop. Period. What’ve we’ve been able to do, throughout this country’s complex history and in spite of the unyielding physical, social, economic, and psychological barriers placed before us, is beyond astonishing… it’s supernatural actually. When I wake up each day, lucky enough to be able to work on something about which I’m passionate, and that I believe has the potential to help not only transform our politics, but also uplift black and brown people, let me tell you… it’s pure ecstasy.
As a student of history — I was a history major at Yale — I have a pretty good sense of where we’ve been as a people, and of the ocean of blood that’s been spilled that people like me might have a chance to run my own business. So for me, giving back isn’t an option. It’s a requirement. So as often as possible, I spend time engaging young black people, remaining visible so they see my example amid all the negativity thrust upon them daily — to counteract the lie that they can’t be great.
As a black boy growing up in Washington, DC, the odds were always against my success. I want young people to know that impossible is nothing, that we can do absolutely anything we want. We need only four things for success: passion, fearlessness, opportunity, and a village. As a black man, nothing is more important to me than reaching back and helping those coming up behind — being a part of that village — because we all stand on the shoulders of others. As a people, we simply have to spend more time thinking in terms of how WE can each impact our communities, and use our individual successes to enrich our communities with hope, opportunity, and economic prosperity.
Our continuing movement for equality under the law will remain stagnant until we see that movement as intergenerational, and our role today as just one more piece of a larger puzzle that comes together over time. We Hold These Truths is my contribution to that puzzle.
What advice do you have for people who are ready to follow their dreams but are hesitating?
Impossible is nothing. If you’re passionate about something, go out and do it. I’ve learned a difficult lesson through trial and error, but I’m better for it — and proud I didn’t waste time avoiding reality once it was revealed to me: You can bust your butt doing a job you’re not passionate about, but you’ll never really find true success — the kind that impacts people — until you channel your energy into something you believe in, the thing that gives you wings and purpose, and that makes your heart smile. My advice is simple: Pursue your passions fearlessly, be not discouraged by failure, and embrace the struggle — it is an essential element of the subsequent success.
Entrepreneurs are unique because they process the prospect of rejection a little differently than others.
Click here to get your copy of We Hold These Truths on Amazon. Please also sign up for email updates at both my websites (see below). The We Hold These Truths Book Tour is already in full swing, with stops in Chicago, Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Washington, DC, Houston, New York, and Atlanta. More cities are being added — West Coast stops included — so stay tuned! I’ll soon be in a city near you, and I can’t wait to hear your ideas on how we move forward in these treacherous political times. Most of all, I look forward to starting a dialogue with each of you about how we can finally deliver the change made possible by the hope of 2008.
Want to contact David for more information?
Visit readWHTT.com for more info on We Hold These Truths and theauthordavid.com for his blog on topics at the intersection of politics, race and popular culture. You can also find David on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram via @theauthordavid.
Do you know a Black Creator or Tastemaker? Of course you do! Let me know in the comments so I can feature him or her this year!
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