The PEN Oakland writers organization announced this week that Oakland-native journalist, political-social columnist and novelist J. Douglas Allen-Taylor is the winner of the group's Reginald Lockett Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award this year for Allen-Taylor's "gadfly writings exposing the hypocrises and errors of Bay Area politicians."
Presentation of the award will be made at the PEN Oakland Literary Awards ceremony at Oakland's Rockridge Branch Library on Saturday, December 7, from 2-5 p.m. Also being honored at the Rockridge Library PEN Oakland event are writers Toni Morrison, Andrew Lam, Luis J. Rodriguez, and Lucille Lang Day, journalist Chris Hedges, poet Tim Seibles, and editors Denise M. Sandoval and Christopher Wagstaff.
Allen-Taylor said of receiving the Reginald Lockett Award that "it's a tremendous and humbling honor any time you are recognized by fellow members of your craft," and added that "but being listed anytime, anywhere on a program alongside Toni Morrison's name is pretty much beyond words to describe."
The Reginald Lockett Award is named for the Oakland poet and educator who passed away in 2008. Lockett and Oakland-based novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed co-founded PEN Oakland in 1989 as an affiliate of the international PEN organizations of novelists, essayists, and poets. Dubbed the "Blue-Collar PEN" by The New York Times, PEN Oakland's self-proclaimed "unique purpose is to promote works of excellence by writers of all cultural and racial backgrounds and to educate both the public and the media as to the nature of multi-cultural work."
Oakland-based novelist and essayist Ishmael Reed, who founded PEN Oakland in 1989, memorialized Allen-Taylor as a "brilliant columnist" in Reed's 2003 non-fiction book on Oakland, "Blues City."
Allen-Taylor began his career in journalism writing and editing for African-American Freedom Movement newsletters and newspapers in the Bay Area in the 1960's, continuing that work when he moved to South Carolina in the early 1970's. Since returning to the Bay Area in the late 1980's, he has written for such Bay Area newspapers as Metro of San Jose, The East Bay Express, The Oakland Post, Oakland Local, and the now-defunct Urban View, all of Oakland, The Berkeley Daily Planet, Bay View of San Francisco, and such national magazines as Color Lines and Race, Poverty & The Environment. His journalistic writings have already been the subject of numerous awards from such organizations as the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the Peninsula Press Club, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, and the California Teachers Association.
In 1998, Allen-Taylor wrote a series of investigative articles for Metro newspaper in San Jose that helped lead to the first disbanding of a Civil Grand Jury in the history of California. In 2010, Allen-Taylor founded the Anybody But Perata website that contributed to the defeat of former State Senator Don Perata in that year's race for mayor of Oakland.
Allen-Taylor's first novel, Sugaree Rising, was released late last year by Freedom Publishers of San Francisco. The novel was inspired by the decline of South Carolina's Gullah/Geechee culture as well as the forced relocation of close to a thousand South Carolina African-American families during the 1930's Great Depression by a government rural electrification flooding project.