I have been reflecting on the last event I held in 2020 - a pop-up book signing on March 14 in my hometown, Albany, GA. At the time, there were only one or two reported cases of the Coronavirus in Albany, so I felt safer there than in Atlanta. Little did I know, all that was about to change!
I drove down to my hometown for my long-time accountant to complete my tax returns, before the March 15 business deadline. I figured I may as well schedule an author's visit at the local Books-a-Million, since many of my hometown peeps had been asking for a signed copy of my new books. Well, the book signing at the bookstore was all set several days before I left Atlanta, until I arrived to Albany and called the manager for a final check-in. I was then told they had no copies of my books in stock, and I couldn't bring any books on site, so I was back to the drawing board.
While at dinner at our usual spot when I visit Albany, The Flint, I told my friends what happened with the bookstore and asked what they thought about a pop-up book signing. They felt like it was a good idea with people floating in and out. One of my friends for 30 years, Femi, offered her art cafe for the event. Although she would be working on her full-time job, she still offered her business venue and was ready to give me the keys. At that moment, our mutual friend and mentor, who is co-owner of the restaurant, chimed in. "Why don't you have it here? Yeah, let's have it here!". We got excited and started planning!
Femi quickly designed a flyer for me and texted it to me shortly after, so I could share it on social media. Although she had to work, she committed to dropping by during her 30-minute lunch break. She walked over, since her office was right down the street.
I will never forget how Femi walked in all jolly, doing a little dance in her sneakers. She was achieving two goals at once - exercising and supporting a friend. Knowing she had to get back to work, I hugged her, thanked her for coming, signed her book with a friendly message, and asked the photographer to quickly take a couple of pics.
Little did I know, that would be the last time I saw my dear friend. She passed away exactly two weeks later. I will forever cherish this final moment together.
Although this event was bittersweet, and I've looked back wondering what the heck I was thinking, I'm happy I decided to do this. Not only was it the last time I would see my good friend, but the last event I'd likely host in 2020. At this point, every event on my calendar has been canceled - family reunions, 30-year high school class reunion, professional conferences, in-person book events, cruises, group trips... I was coordinating half of those events, but who the heck knew an actual pandemic was coming!
The very last photo in the slideshow is one of me honoring Dr. Cornelius Grant, who was the Vice President of Student Affairs when I attended Albany State University - one of Georgia's three public historically black universities. Dean Grant taught us, "If it is to be, it's up to me", and required all incoming freshmen to learn the quote. He eventually created a song of it, which played in rotation on the local radio. Dean Grant passed away in 2019. The Flint created a corner in his honor at the restaurant. When they told me I'd be signing books in Cornelius' Corner, I was quite honored. I am forever grateful for everything I learned from him, primarily when I served, at his request, as one of the two freshmen on his budget committee in the mid 1990s.
Thank you to all my family and friends who came out the day I decided to hold this pop-up book signing, and thanks to everyone who helped to make it happen! I pray for your continued health and safety. Enjoy these photos capturing those moments. And to Femi's twin sister and family, please know you remain in my heart and prayers, and I'm always here for support. She was a true asset to the community and a great friend.