“When I came up, it was a different world,” said 50 year old, Carl E. Fortson, who grew up in Cleveland and graduated from John High School.
The way he sees it, children are failing at reading and writing. Graduation rates are low. And, the computer forces everyone to move too fast. “If we educate children, we wouldn’t have these problems,” he continued.
Being a published author, considering himself very fortunate, he wants to do his part by hosting a essay writing contest for Cleveland area youth ages 12-17 years old.
“I’m telling them, ‘Write your best essay. Take Carl’s money. I’m happy to give it to you,” he said, thinking this effort will encourage students to read and write more.
Fortson, himself, started writing seven years ago when he decided to quit drinking. He said it provided therapy as he avoided going to bars. “Writing helped me changed from an alcoholic mindset to normal,” he said.
That writing led him to publishing a collection of poems titled, “Just Sayin,” in Dec. 2016. About 106 to be exact, the poems explore philosophy, Biblical experience, life experience, and some Black history. It is available every where books are sold including Loganberry Bookstore on Larchmere in Cleveland.
Looking back, Fortson traces his interest in writing to 4th grade. “I did good in vocabulary. It started at a young age.” By 10th grade he started rapping but went into manufacturing upon completing high school. For 22 years, he worked as forklift driver.
And, now being an author, poet and speaker, a lot of opportunities are opening up for him. He’s been an extra in movies on Voice It Radio with Chuck Conway Jr. According to Fortson, it’s been a wonderful experience that inspires him to be a part the solution than the problem.
The low graduation rates in Cleveland troubles him most.
With that, he started the Develop Future Leaders Organization – designed to fill a void in community by encouraging young people to read, write and comprehend. Fortson advocates for every child to read at least 20 minutes a day. “I want to teach them the principles of success, want to get them focused on school,” he said.
The essay contest is a program of the Develop Future Leaders Organization. “It’s all about promoting literacy in our area,” said Fortson. “Maybe it can help the average or below average student do better.”
Everyone who enters the essay contest will receive a certificate. Winners of the essay contest will win cash prizes: $250 (first), $100 (second), $75 (third), and $50 (fourth). Deadline for entries is by March 1, 2017. Judging will be held at East Cleveland Public Library on March 11, 2017 from 2 to 5 p.m. More information can be found at http://developfutureleadersorganization.org/
“I’m spending own money to help in the community. It’s so much bad,” said Fortson. “I’m trying to do something positive. I hope people can feed into it.”