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Meet Patrick M. Oliver of Say It Loud! Readers and Writers in South Oak Cliff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patrick M. Oliver.

Patrick, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in humble beginning in Little Rock, Arkansas with a love of knowing, reading and sports. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time reading newspapers and magazines while coaching Little League baseball, basketball and track. After two years of college at Arkansas State University and Philander Smith College in Arkansas, I decided to leave Little Rock, AR and move to Los Angeles. I wanted more than a small city could offer.

During my 12 years in Los Angeles, 10.5 of those years were spent working in the aerospace industry as an employee of the Hughes Aircraft Company and the Northrop Corporation (now Northrop/Grumann). It was those companies where I learned the love of business development and management. I worked my way from expeditor to material management analyst to senior subcontract administrator. I was laid off from my last position.

I decided to take a break from Los Angeles and spend some time with family in Little Rock. I initially wanted to take an extended summer break but saw an entrepreneurial opportunity to open a gift shop specializing in African art, t-shirts, jewelry and books. Images of Africa became a cultural center hosting readings, book club discussions, networking events, etc. Later moved to a larger space with a kitchen which gave me the opportunity to open the Kuumba Kafe a vegan café. Kuumba Kafe also offered live music and readings.

A local church in Little Rock asked me to visit their afterschool program periodically to facilitate a cultural arts class that focused on literary arts. I chose literary arts because I was concerned with the participants reading and writing skills. I later became the director of the afterschool program and closed the gallery and café. Also, I started the non-profit Say It Loud! Readers and Writers. www.speakloudly.com

Summer of 2002, I received a job offer from Third World Press (TWP) in Chicago to become Director of Sales and Marketing. I spent 4.5 years at TWP. Afterwards took a position as Program Director at the Open Book Program a city-wide afterschool reading program. I also continued to get more opportunities to assist afterschool programs, school districts, publishers, authors and non-profit organizations as a program development specialist. I left the Open Book program in 2007 to focus on my program development consulting services. I have worked with K-12 and college institutions all over the United States with a very high level of success. With many of the literary arts programs we have published the writings of their students. Our Stories, Our Voices, Our Visions which comes out next month will feature a wonderful collection of writings from students at Hall High School in Little Rock, AR. The writings are a result of a writing residency during the 2017 to 2018 school year.

I have also published two highly successful books with a third scheduled to be released in December 2019. The Ananse Journal is a writing project for boys and young men. The book release will be held on December 7, 2019, at African-American Museum as part of the Tell Your Story Symposium that will feature nationally noted educators and activist Dr. Tony Medina, Dr. Gilbert Parks and Paul Porter.

I moved to Dallas two years ago to reset and develop new literary projects for children, youth and adults in the Southwest region of the country and around the United States. I’ve had the pleasure of working in partnership with some dynamic organizations and businesses since moving to the Dallas area. Like the African-American Museum Dallas, Pan-African Connection Art Gallery and Resource Center, Recipe Oak Cliff, WordSpace, Frank Frazier Fine Art and Dallas Public Library/Martin Luther King, Jr Branch.

Additional information about my work history, projects and books can be found at www.speakloudly.com

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Life is full of bumps. I see the bumps as learning experiences. My parents promoted the power of reading and knowing which helped me out with facing difficulties. When you are well-read and knowledgeable it creates access to opportunities no matter the age. This is why I’m a huge advocate for hard copy books over handheld devices. The art, symbols and language are so beautiful and captivating in the well-constructed children’s books. I actually collect children’s books for that reason.

Moving to Dallas from Chicago had a few challenges with respect to culture and diversity. Spending 12 years in Los Angeles and 13 in Chicago spoiled me. As I get out more in Dallas I see more of the great things in the area of diversity. Disappointed in the opportunities for Black literary arts enthusiasts and supporters to get to see more noted authors in this major metropolis. I went to a major book festival in Dallas during my first year and was livid about the lack of diversity. I immediately went to one of the organizers/board members and voiced my dissatisfaction. Diverse ideas and voices are so wonderful when properly put together.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
Since 1997 Say It Loud! Readers and Writers has developed literary arts programs and projects for children, youth and adults around the United States. The programs and projects include writing workshops, book discussions, symposiums, professional development sessions and poetry readings. These activities are done in partnership with schools, non-profits, businesses, and churches.

We are known for our innovative and culturally relevant literary arts programming. Institutions around the United States contact me for our unique experience and expertise in designing and developing literary arts programming. This programming is highly successful because of the relationship with major publishing companies, award-winning writers, foundations, cultural centers and scholars who support our work.

In 2013, the book Open the Door: How to Excite Young People Poetry highlighted the top 20 something literary arts programs in the United States. The book edited by three highlighted respected educators was co-published by The Poetry Foundation and McSweeney’s Books. The Poetry Foundation is one of the most noted literary organizations in the United States. My organization, work and interview was featured in the section Featuring Leaders of Poetry Organization for Kids from the United States.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
As noted in the previous section being acknowledged for being a top literary organization. With the assistance of my network the anthology Turn the Page and You Don’t Stop: Sharing Successful Chapters in Our Lives was published by Say It Loud! Writers and Readers. The book made the Essence Magazine bestsellers list and got me an appearance on CSPAN BookTV. I organized a panel discussion around the book that was broadcasted live from the Harlem Book Fair.

On My Own: Vision Board Guidebook for Young People I wrote has been used by school districts and organizations around the United States.

Being named to the advisory board of the James Madison University Furious Flower Poetry Center which is the only university academic center dedicated to Black poetry.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Patrick Oliver

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