ABOUT BACKSTREET: The Return of “Backstreet Djeli”

Talking Drum: At Peace... Finally, after several months of “missing in action,” I’m back on-line.  Different format, different source, different site but similar blog-posting concepts.

For those not familiar with previous blog postings, past postings were decidedly geared within the context of addressing sensitive and/ or controversial issues from Ancient Africa, The Middle Passage, Slavery, Emancipation, Jim Crow, Black Codes and Lynchings to Segregation (military and civilian life), School Desegregation, The Civil Rights Movement, voting rights and contemporary political or politicized interests across the globe.  Future postings will likely be within the same genre.  As I’ve often advised my kids (and grandkids), “…if it ain’t controversial, it probably ain’t worth writing about.”

Previous blogs were accessed through one of my son’s music and creative services website, named “rizingcubenterprises.com.” However, it no longer exists but plans are on the drawing board for his website to return under a different website host with upgraded and expanded services. I wrote as a “guest” blogger on their previous website and will likely return as an occasional “guest” on his new site, as well.

Perhaps, like most bloggers, my writing represents mere snippets from many of my experiences which include athletics (high school and military-related), military service (Viet Nam Era & Cuban Crisis), undergrad, graduate and independent studies in Ancient African History, African-American History, Journalism and Business and Criminal Justice Administration completed while married, working and raising a family before retiring as a Senior Investigator with a major Fortune 500 Public Utility, about three years ago.  Many in the Richmond, Virginia area might recognize this profile when adding that, while a freshman in college, I was a reporter (Sports, News & Feature Writing) with the now-defunct Richmond AFRO-American Newspaper, during the late 1960s, as well as a sports reporter for VCU’s  “Postscript” ( then, with by-lines under given name, not “Backstreet…”).

Back then, my life-long goal was to become a full-time reporter, ultimately, for the New Amsterdam News, a once major African-American daily paper in New York city’s Harlem community. But, like many working Americans, the curve balls of life have a way of letting you make the best out of the best pitch tossed your way. And, as I’ve pointed out to my kids (2 are now college grads and another soon to be), when it comes to family matters, it’s always “first things first…  first and foremost.”

In a nutshell, that’s why I’m only now, in retirement, returning to those initial journalistic pursuits- because I can. In addition, I also sing in a couple of gospel choirs and act in a couple of local, faith-based community theater groups.  I feel that I’m blessed many times over, but among my greatest blessing is my family and extended family, as well as the true friends which have crossed my path, during this unique life journey. I pray that my horizons will be as rich and rewarding, so I may further share them with you.

Oh, yes, by the way, “Backstreet Djeli” is merely a pen-name which stems from my experiences while in the Navy, overseas, particularly while stationed for several years in Southern France. Translated, it simply means a “grio” or “griot” from the back streets, or off the beaten path.  There’s a detailed story behind it (which I have shared and may share again, later, as well as my given name).  But, a “Griot”  is simply a storyteller in western African tradition who perpetuates the oral tradition and history of a village or family. This is part of what I now do and hope to continue, God willing… And, at some point, I will share some of the previously written blog articles (from ‘rizingcubenterprises’ to ensure that they haven’t been forever lost in cyberspace).

Meanwhile, please stay tuned. Thanks…

“Backstreet Djeli”  (w.d.s.)       

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About William "Duke" Smither (formerly, pen name: "Backstreet Djeli")

William "Duke" Smither, author of “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior, in the Shadows of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade,” is a Frankfort Kentucky native; Richmond Virginia resident. Retired Public Utility Sr. Investigator and nuclear site worker, Married w/ 3 children and 6 grandchildren; U.S. Navy Viet Nam Era & Cuban Missile Crisis Veteran; Member of "Cuban Blockade Survivors" & The American Legion; B.S. Degree (Business Mgmt) w/ independent studies in Ancient African History and African-American History. Post-graduate studies in Criminal Justice Administration. Former Sports & Feature writer for the weekly Richmond Afro-American Newspaper, during Freshman year of college. Retirement activities include: Freelance writer, playwright, actor and director of faith-based community theater productions; founder of "Backstreet's Blog" ("Talking Drum Dialogues") at www.backstreetdjeli.com and contributing writer for "BlackPast.Org," the international, on-line reference center for African American History. His debut novel, “BACKROADS TO 'BETHLEHEM': Odysseys of the Maroon Warrior…,” is the first installment of a possible historical-fiction trilogy.