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Local authors discuss preserving legacy, challenges to publishing at recent forum


Our Story Inc. last Saturday hosted the first in a series of panel discussions featuring three local Black authors: Helen Townsell-Parker, Jo Jo Townsell and Deborah Armstrong. 

The authors discussed their books and the inspiration and work behind them, along with the challenges to getting published and the need to share the African-American culture and experience in the community.

Each of the three self-published their books, citing resistance to truthful telling of history, a lack of interest in the African American experience in northern Nevada and bureaucracy as barriers to getting their work published. 

Townsell said it was important to persevere to share “a legacy we owe ourselves as citizens.”

Townsell now lives in Gardnerville, but was a football player at Hug High School before going on to play at UCLA and in the NFL for the New York Jets. He said his passion is giving back to the community. 

His book, “Mastering Our Mountains,” is a compilation of stories with other writers about inspiring others and learning life lessons. 

Shayne Del Cohen, who works with Our Story Inc. was at the event.

“His humorous rendition of ‘quitting Pop Warner twice’ and ‘crapping in my pants before his first Hug High game against Tahoe’ did not indicate he would find success as a NFL star,” she said. 

He was good at football, and through tutoring that taught him good study habits he earned a spot at UCLA. Townsell, a self-described comic book reader in his early years, also credits the first book he read – “The Autobiography of MLK” – as an inspiration.

Armstrong, who lives in Reno, wrote “The Last Kiss,” a story of five characters each experiencing traumatic events and the lessons they learned. 

Townsell-Parker’s book is “A Cry for Help,” is a chronicle of Black Springs, a community in the north valleys about six miles from downtown Reno. 

She said without her grandparents having saved “everything” she wouldn’t have been able to write the book. While cleaning out their house she found 30 boxes of materials related to the “founding” of Black Springs.

Each of the authors encouraged forum attendees to journal daily and work to preserve their legacy and that of their community. 

For future forum dates visit Our Story Inc. on Facebook.

Source: Our Story Inc.

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