By Alysha Conner | Los Angeles Wave Newspaper
INGLEWOOD — An Inglewood man has taken on the role of delivering hope through poetry.
Leonard A. Murray is the new owner of an Inglewood-based publishing company called Call Me Coursey Entertainment.
Murray released “Pieces Of A Man” this month, as his first self-publishing project distributed under his company.
“This book is about speaking to Black males and understanding what our challenges are,” Murray said. “It’s not just a play on words or alliterations for me. It’s about developing a voice for Black men.
“In this struggle that we’re in, I think men are boxed in and unable to communicate our emotions, what we want, and what we need. Unable to give it to the world or demand it from the world.”
In “Pieces Of A Man,” Murray unveils and unpacks his sentiments as a Black man living in America.
The book comprises various topics about Black love, hope, family, masculinity, failure, fatherhood and the many systemic racism dimensions.
“Part of my experience from graduating from Loyola Marymount was taking a Black male psychology class where we dealt with the struggles of Black males,” Murray said. “It was life-saving for me because I realized I had cancer from discussing how we’re prone to hypertension, colon cancer, prostate cancer, etc.
“As a result of the class, I got tested and discovered that I did have cancer.”
Murray decided to essentially embrace his life’s testimony to make others more aware.
“Pieces Of A Man” conveys the lessons he has learned along his journey, with a hopeful tone.
Murray celebrated his birthday Oct. 31 at an impromptu book signing alongside his five children.
“This is a legacy work,” Murray said. “Being able to give it to them is probably the most important thing that I accomplished with this.”
Murray launched his publishing company back in February, right before the coronavirus outbreak occurred.
In addition to the publishing company, Murray co-owns On the Top Hair Designs with his wife.
They were forced to close their businesses in March when restrictions were placed on hair salons to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Since the city’s phase two of reopening, the couple has consistently pivoted their business to cater to health and government officials’ mandated orders.
“Once I made the physical changes and structural changes at the shop, there was nothing left for me to do,” Murray said. “It provided the time, but not the resources. The time to say, ‘what are you going to do today?, since I couldn’t go to the shop.”
Murray shifted his focus towards self-publishing his poetry.
“In the midst of COVID, George Floyd, and Donald Trump, I had to find joy and purpose,” he said.
Many of the poems in “Pieces Of A Man” were written years ago, but include wisdom and encounters common to Black men.
For years, Murray harbored the aspirations to share his poetry. The idle time during quarantine inspired him to do so finally.
While Murray worked on completing his book, he continued to write additional poems.
“Your social life, because of COVID, was shut down,” Murray said. “So, it forced you to focus on yourself. And limited resources forced you to try to stay on a really strict budget.”
Murray has defied the odds by maintaining his two companies during the current economic downturn. He continues to humbly pay it forward by seeking assistance from other local small business owners for their services.
“Having two businesses and looking for money to sustain yourself, the immediate thought is money for survival,” Murray said.
“You can only control the things that you can. Then you have to come to terms with what you can’t control and be thankful for what you have.”
Like other small business owners in Black L.A., Murray and wife have struggled with acquiring COVID-19 relief funding.
According to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41% of Black-owned companies permanently closed between February and April.
“The biggest challenge for small businesses is just coming up with the documentation, and all of the things that are required of you when you’re looking for grants, small business loans, or PPP loans,” Murray said.
“It got to the point where the mornings were spent … going over applications, filling out new applications, or trying to get some feedback on something we already had in the pipeline. The biggest issue, for us, is not having the ability to call the bank and say help.”
Many businesses adjacent to Murray’s shop on Obama Boulevard are also experiencing some of the same challenges.
“This goes back to Dr. King when he started saying … how there are greater forces that affect all of us on the same level,” Murray said. “We didn’t have time to look at race. We saw people who were doing the same things that we were and getting the same mixed results. A denial of this loan or a request for more information.”
As Murray continues to meet health requirements at the shop, he is also helping other local writers publish their work.
He hopes to empower more writers while strategically and safely speaking to others, especially Black men, about “Pieces Of A Man.”
He intends to release more books soon as well.
To learn more about Murray’s contributions and purchase his book, call (310) 999-2952 or follow @CallMeCourseyEntertainment on Instagram.