Ole Miss alumni, black authors discuss their journeys to success

Posted on Mar 4 2018 - 12:44pm by Lexi Purvis

The Inn at Ole Miss hosted a discussion panel composed of black alumni authors who discussed how they became successful writers while educating the audience through their journey of authorship as part of this weekend’s Black Alumni Reunion.

The moderator of the discussion panel was Leonard Boothe, an Ole Miss alumni, CEO of Booth and Associates Real Estate Services and author. Boothe served for over 30 years in the military where he earned the title as lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force. Boothe did not know he would become an author, but after his successful career in the military and in the real estate business, he wrote and published his first book, “Maximize Your Potential.” Boothe’s novel discusses his highs and lows within his careers while providing advice and motivation for those in search of an opportunity to self-reflect and reach their full potential in their career or as an individual.

Panelist Pervis Parker (right) at the Black Alumni Authors event gives attendees advice on being a better writer at The Inn as part of the Black Alumni Reunion. Photo by Kiara Williams

“One of my passions was mentoring,” Boothe said. “I love mentoring young people and getting them excited about ‘can do.’ Yes, you can, just inspire yourself and maximize your potential, that was my saying throughout my military career.”

The first author on the panel was Jackson State University assistant professor Barbara Howard who is a member of Zeta Phi Beta, a lifelong member of the NAACP, an Ole Miss alumni, and author of two books, “Wounded Sheep How to Heal Church Hurt” and “Wounded Sheep How to Calm a Storm.” Howard’s literary work was divinely inspired as she never imagined herself to one day become a writer. She decided to write her first novel after watching her former pastor struggle through trying circumstances, which led to her creating the novel more than a decade later.

“After an experience of my own, I had to sit down and write the book,” Howard said. “It just amazed me how it came out so clearly, everything just lined up.”

One month after Howard’s first novel, “Wounded Sheep How to Heal Church Hurt,” was released the book became a bestseller. Dr. Howard has used her to books and authorship to help motivate and inspire those in need through her Books to Prisons ministry that works to provide Christian novels to inmates in order to educate and provide spiritual guidance in and out of prison.

Another panelist was Ole Miss alumni Pervis Parker, general manager of WLOO-MY35 and co-producer of the play “A Family that Prays Together, Stays Together.” Parker always saw himself attending law school, but had a passion for performing and arts, which stemmed from his aunt’s involvement within their church’s arts. Parker credits his aunt for making him perform in plays while he was growing up, which later inspired him to pursue a career in production. Parker began writing sketches during his time in college while working with a drama team which eventually lead to him writing more sketches in a Tyler Perry inspired fashion which ultimately led to his theatrical production, “A Family That Prays Together, Stays Together.”

“I’m now in television, I’m writing shows that networks are looking at and also for my local station,” Parker said. “It all comes full circle of my aunt dragging this chubby little nappy-headed boy to play practice and here I am today.”

The last panelist in the discussion was Ronnie Agnew. Now in the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame, Agnew is the executive director of Mississippi Broadcasting and former executive editor of The Clarion Ledger. During his time as executive editor at The Clarion Ledger, the newspaper received numerous awards for investigative journalism and coverage of civil rights issues. Agnew has also judged the Pulitzer Prize four times, served on the board of directors for the Associated Press Media Editors for six years and is a recipient of four President’s Rings along with the Silver Em Award, the highest recognition in journalism excellence presented by Ole Miss.  

Agnew found his passion for journalism during his time as a student at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Agnew became inspired to pursue his writing career after being pulled aside by a professor who told Agnew if he kept going at the rate he was going, he’d be selling insurance within two years. That moment motivated Agnew to work harder and hone his writing ability. He’s has now been working in the journalism industry for 34 years.

“When you work in your passion, when you do things that you love to do, it’s not work,” Agnew said. “When you create something, it could be life lasting and you can leave lasting impressions on people.”

The panelists encouraged new writers to sculpt their craft by writing out their ideas and not being afraid to put themselves out there.  They also encouraged writers and listeners the importance of having a team of mentors as they all emphasized the importance of having a support team in their lives helped lead to their success.

“It’s not enough to just walk around with the idea,” Howard said. “You have to start writing and the rest will fall into place. You can always find someone to read your work or edit it or tell you if it’s good or bad, but until it’s written down, it’s just an idea.”