It is with a heavy heart that I write this — my farewell column for Creative Loafing.
Serving as one of the nation's only African-American columnists at an alternative media outlet has been a pleasure and working with CL's editor in chief, Carlton Hargro, has been a joy; however, I'm moving on to pursue other opportunities.
In The N Word, I discussed issues of race, class, gender, power and access — and topics ranging from pop culture, politics and sports — from a national and local perspective. CL allowed me to merge all of my areas of expertise in one place and to create a voice that is passionate, informed and accessible.
I have taken on people, institutions, cultural practices and social issues — like domestic violence, drunk driving and diversity in education — which has earned me many supporters and detractors. While I did not enjoy the personal attacks and hate-filled comments from some readers, those attacks motivated me to speak the truth and to sometimes say what others couldn't say, but we all needed to hear.
I built many contacts, conducted numerous interviews and spent hours researching important topics to make sure that my strong opinions were informed. I've enjoyed the kind words and strong support that I received from many readers, some of whom offered criticism but in a way that was constructive and conducive to making me a better thinker and writer. I always wanted to offer a perspective that would not be offered in the mainstream media. Sometimes I succeeded and sometimes I failed, but the point is I tried. That is all you can do — except for trying harder, I suppose.
In addition to trying harder, I have a circle of friends and colleagues who offered feedback and support throughout my time at CL. Thanks to Carlton, Kimberly, John and Matt — Carlton and Kimberly for keeping me on point and John and Matt for informing and inspiring my work. Thanks also goes out to my Charlotte crew (Cindy, Derrick, Dee, John, Miranda, Kandace, Okeatta, Sonya and Torrey) for supporting all of my initiatives, picking me up when I was down and floating me story ideas and feedback on a regular basis. Thanks to Lashawnda and Tonya for helping me keep my life in order and to Dan for the impassioned and sometimes heated discussions about current events that spurred many column topics over the years. A special thanks to my fabulous neighbors who kept me fed, entertained and informed. Jeremy and Jessica, Sean and Monica, Rashad and Eddie, Mike and Daylon have been amazing.
I can't forget Mary C. Curtis and Glenn Burkins whose mentorship and wisdom has helped me to navigate my path in this crazy world of media. I'd also like to thank my detractors like Frank Griffin for constantly motivating me with their mean-spirited, uninformed comments. People often asked how I could write with folks like Frank spewing so much venom — easy: my last name is Burton, not Griffin or Loafing, so his and the hate-filled comments by many others didn't affect me other than motivating me to do better and be better. You can't let joyless people steal your joy. Besides, with the great fans and supporters of my work, who has the time to worry about the haters of the world?
When I moved to Charlotte from Los Angeles 10 years ago to work for Johnson C Smith University, to say that I experienced culture shock would be a bit of an understatement. I was like: "Where have I landed?" As the city has grown and evolved, I have grown to love Charlotte and definitely feel that I am a part of the community. I am thankful for the growing pains and a quality of life that is pretty amazing. While I am moving on professionally, I will still be in the area and stay connected to the people and organizations that I care about, like Substance Abuse and Prevention Services of which I am a board member. And I will continue to contribute to Creative Loafing occasionally, so you can look for me online in the future. My weekly column will be going away, but not my love for the city of Charlotte or CL.
Thanks for a great ride. I'm not really getting off the bus — just sliding over.