Poverty, prejudice, and bullying is part of the narrative Zachary Q. Watson shares in his debut memoir called “You don’t have a story: Growing up Black and Poor in Scottsdale.”
Chicago-born Watson, 25, who moved to Scottsdale as a child with his mother and sibling, offered the Independent detailed excerpts and pictures as a preview of his book, which is ready for preorder on Kindle. The paperback is available on Nov 8.
Wanting to “help people feel like [they are] not alone,” he recounts incidents of racism and bullying while growing up to bring awareness, he says of ongoing problems/pain inflicted on marginalized people as early as elementary school.
A 2015 Saguaro High school graduate, Watson detailed his experiences as a student in Scottsdale schools including Yavapai and Kiva elementary schools; Mohave Middle School; plus, Pueblo where he attended fifth and sixth grades. He went to Scottsdale Community College for over a year to study the music business before he began working as a security guard while pursuing a music career and venturing as an author.
“I have been working on my memoir for seven years. I started writing it right after high school in a journal. I thought I had a great story to tell, and I didn’t want my experiences to go to waste. A year later, I started typing it at Scottsdale Community College sometimes after classes or right after school. It felt good because I felt like I was getting everything out of my system. I would be sitting at the computer, laughing, and crying about everything I been through,” Watson said.
“It was a emotional roller coaster and everything was just flowing out. It was a lot of hard work, but it was fun and worth it. I faced racism at different points in my life but mostly when I was kid.”
Watson recalled stories of his family being followed while shopping at different Scottsdale stores “especially in Fashion Square.” He described his single mother’s courage from reporting racial profiling issues to store managers to reporting racial profiling at his schools when teachers would stereotype him.
“I had a teacher who was racist but may have been unaware of how certain things may be offensive,” said Watson, recalling a book assignment on great figures in American history when he was assigned a book report on Frederick Douglass.
“Granted, I’m in third grade and don’t know much about slavery at this time. I open up the book and I see Frederick getting whipped. My mom didn’t like that, so she had a talk with the teacher, and she said: ‘Sorry, didn’t mean to offend you. How ‘bout he do a book on Denzel? He is so handsome.’ My mom says: ‘He don’t even know who Denzel is. Why does it have to be a Black person?’”
He added how his teacher agreed to let him select the book he wanted to read.
“When you’re Black, you get a ton of stereotypes coming at you; many white people already think of you in a certain way and put you in a category. Some even compare you to Black people they see on TV. If you don’t play sports or can’t play sports, you’re not Black enough. If you can’t dance, you’re not Black enough. If you don’t talk a certain way, you’re still not Black enough. It’s like you can never be average. You always have to be some kind of superhero,” he said.
“Keep going and keep trying your best to get through the hard times even if you don’t make it ... use racism and bullying as [a] tool to drive you to the next level. And you don’t always have to do what society expects you do just because of [your] physical appearance and skin color.”
Watson said as an African American male, he has felt “the burden of performance,” felt unseen and unheard, with an extreme amount of pressure to excel in society.
He noted the importance of a good support system of friends and even the pain of losing them.
“I lost my friend and music collaborator to bone cancer, which was a hard thing to go through,” said Watson.
His friend, Zane, who he knew since childhood, died at the age of 24.
After experiencing the loss of his friend, Watson goes on a journey of self-discovery. He notes going to school with classmates who became professional National Football League players and has the pictures to prove his childhood connections. He describes being an aspiring rapper, bouts of depression, and more.
His memories are shared within the 342-page book set to release in print on Nov. 8. Independently published through Kingmaker Press, the memoir is found on Amazon and soon to be at local bookstores such as Barnes & Noble.