The African American Connection
Burden of Privilege The Secret Life of Geoffrey Collins

   As an Italian American boy growing up in Trenton, N.J. in the fifties and early sixties, I came in contact, unexpectedly over the years, with African American persons who played vital roles in my life.

   Starting at age ten, this skinny, insecure little white boy was plucked from a near drowning, near death experience by a black teenager at an outdoor YMCA. He saw me going under for maybe the last time. It all happened as you may have heard described before - first struggle, fear, panic, then surrender, peace and a sense of great love beyond description, but in this case, a surprising rescue on the shoulders of the caring young man who scooped me up from beneath and stayed by my side as the lifeguard performed his life-saving actions.

   Over the years, other black angels entered my life apparently at just the right times.

   As I was getting ready to leave Trenton for the Ohio State University in 1965, an elderly black gentleman limped into a clothing store where I was trying on some stylish clothes. He came slowly but deliberately up to me, stopped, slowly looked at me from head to toe and then directly into my eyes, and asked, "Boy, is you goin' to college?"

   I answered, "Yes."

   He never took his eyes away from mine as he asked "Is you goin' to study or is you goin' to dress?"

   I didn't know what to say as he turned around and left the store. The seed his question planted changed my attitude toward appearance, although it wasn't until years later that I realized how profound his question was.

   In 2007 I had one of the most remarkable dreams I have had in my lifetime. It came just before I began to write what was to become Burden of Privilege. I truly believe it had to do with an entire village of black angels. In the dream, I was in the center of concentric circles of cheerful, colorfully dressed young African men with beautiful smiling faces. Surrounding them were circles of young and old, men and women. Everyone was so happy. I asked them, "Why is everyone so happy?"

   The young men laughed. They thought my question was funny. They said in English, with an African accent, "We are celebrating YOU!"

   I then asked "Why?"

   They answered, "Because you have a new name!"

   "I do?" I asked. "What is it?"

   They laughed again and said something that sounded like "Ngobo." They began to chant the word again and again. I felt very loved, secure, happy and humble. I woke up.

   After marveling at what had just happened, I decided to call someone at the Kent State University African Studies department. I asked the professor if there was such a word as Ngobo. He asked me to stay on the phone while he checked. When he returned he said that it was a Nigerian word having to do with the country itself but that it also had the meaning "communicator of the people."

   In 2009 I met Rev. Charm. She told me that there was healing in my hands and that I had grown away from selfishness and would be an instrument of healing. For the longest time I took what she said literally until I realized that the healing she mentioned just might come as a result of the hands that had typed for many inspired hours to bring forth a story that in itself could aid in a healing process.

   So, considering these experiences, as well as others too numerous to mention here, it is perhaps not altogether unusual that I was drawn to Chapter Nine, The Wizard of Tuskegee in the 1973, Peter Tompkins-Christopher Bird book, The Secret Life of Plants. The mystical, metaphysical side of George Washington Carver depicted in that chapter intrigued me, and led me to want to know more about this special man. Since that first reading nine years ago, I have been blessed not only by the spirit of Dr. Carver in my life but also by many persons who have encouraged me concerning what they have deemed a story worth telling. This spiritual, historical fiction story of the reincarnation of George Washington Carver begins with young botany professor Geoffrey Collins, unaware of his previous life identity. He also doesn't know that the entire fate of the earth depends upon his successful completion of what is referred to as the Great Event.

   Although there are numerous other wonderful African American friends that have come into my life this time, I would be remiss if I didn't call special attention to the man William Carver Lennard, historical resources director at Tuskegee University who's friendship and encouragement in regards to the novel gave me the strength of purpose to continue. My wife Hazel said at one point, "if Rev. Lennard doesn't like your story, its "curtains!" Bill is the god son of George Washington Carver. So with that said, I close by saying, "Thank you Dr. Carver for all of your work, spirituality and humanity, and for our special "walk."