Up close and personal with Leonard Pitts, Jr.

admin | 6/11/2012, 8:01 a.m.

One of Americas best known columnists, Leonard Pitts, Jr., 54, is on his way to South Florida the city in which he first found his voice as a commentator tackling topics that included race, politics and culture. Now a nationally-syndicated writer with a ton of awards under his belt, including the Pulitzer Prize [2004], Pitts once wrote for Casey Kasems radio show American Top 40 before being hired by the Miami Herald in 1991 as a pop music critic. His powerful columns, ranging in topics from the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. to racism in Mississippi and the struggles of young Black men, have earned him both international acclaim and death threats from neo-Nazis. But this Black man is one writer who refuses to be silenced. I dont think of myself as a political writer politics is just part of the mix, he said. No matter what the topic, I generally aim to persuade my readers and compile my argument while refusing to accept constraints on what or how I must write. If Ive done my job well, the reader will catch on and I have a shot at impacting if not changing their mind. New book examines struggles of post-Civil War Blacks Pitts will read from and answer questions about his latest novel, Freeman, when he comes to Miami on Saturday, June 9th at Books & Books [265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables]. His book tour began in late May with him embarking upon the same path that the books main character, Sam Freeman, takes in the book. Freeman, at the end of the Civil War, leaves his home and freedom in Philadelphia to walk thousands of miles to the Mississippi plantation from which he once escaped. As Pitts explains, the protagonist of his novel has one goal: to search for his wife who was unwilling to risk the dangers that came with attempts to escape and to seek her forgiveness. The story is a romance about a man who goes on a suicide mission because he could not live in freedom without the love of his life his wife, Pitts said. Thats an incredible testament. But evidence shows that many former slaves, even 20 years after emancipation, returned to the South in efforts to reconstruct their families. Theirs are the stories that must be told. Pitts is also known for his book Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood, which examines the inability of many Black men to forge positive relationships with their children. My father was rarely around and when he was he was abusive, so I didnt have a model to follow when I became a father, he said. I was constantly unsettled, wondering if I was doing it right. The problem has gotten worse in recent years with young people but we still ignore it. Children need two parents each brings something unique to the table. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com