North Minneapolis resident Cavis Adams is a full-time fire captain for the City of Minneapolis Fire and Rescue. He’s also a new author, having published the book Granddaddy last November.
“I’ve always wanted to be a writer,” said Adams, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from the University of Minnesota, and freelances as an English/Spanish medical interpreter for Hennepin County. “Outside of projects during my studies at the University of Minnesota, I have never explored the writing side [as far as being an author is concerned].
His book follows the narrative of a grandson as he comes of age as a young man and explores memories of visiting his grandfather in the South just outside Birmingham, Alabama. The boy’s parents move from the South to North to escape racism. But the couple “discover when they come up North…a different type of racism,” said Adams.
When asked how he’d compare and contrast the racial climate in the south versus the north, Adams said, “In the South, the racism is more blatant than in the North.”
Regarding the term “Minnesota Nice,” he said, “Minnesota is nice for sleepers. If you sing a lullaby to somebody, they will remain asleep regardless of what condition or reality they are in. They’re in a dream state, per se.
“In the South, it’s more of a loud crashing noise that doesn’t allow the same comfort. This loud noise in the South created that face of challenge, the strength and drive that motivated the marches, and the fighting back against the oppression,” he said.
Adams said his experiences studying at the University of Minnesota also helped inform his thoughts on race relations in the North.
He recalled, “I had an Australian professor who always made sure to read passages that contained the word “n*gger,” and projected his voice with emphasis when he read these particular passages. His response when I would speak up was, ‘it is an academic setting.’ I had to go to the MLK advisor to get him involved,” said Adams.
This inherently made his studies more difficult and frustrating. “They use their professor title as a license to get away with derogatory behavior, contributing to the statistics.”
Adams also admits to indulging heavily in the social scene during his early years at the U of M, which served as another stumbling block to getting his degree. But he was not to be deterred and eventually received it.
“It was a process of me coming to terms with my manhood, on the principle that I should always finish what I start,” Adams said. “Coming from North Minneapolis as a young Black man, there was a self-defeating mechanism to start things and not finish — it could be jobs, programs or relationships.”
Writing Granddaddy was a test in perseverance, a long process. “Initially, it was a creative writing project back at the [U of M’s] Summer Institute program in 1989. The story was 124 pages” but eventually got derailed.
His second attempt to write the book got dismantled when he was 84 pages into the writing process. “Me and my ex hit hard times, and she just destroyed it. It was one of those Macintosh floppy disks,” he recalled.
Adams said had he sat down and written it straight through, he would have finished the book within a year. “A lot of one’s self goes into what one writes,” said Adams. “Real life experiences in terms of imagery, actions, what a character thinks and feels, you have to explain concrete situations and that can only come from experience.”
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com