The ability to create something that never existed before and that inspires others to create is rare. About six years ago — on July 29, 2016 — two already-retired college administrators and professors, Dr. Ralph Hogges and Dr. Benjamin Cowins, Sr., used their vision to establish a full-service organization to support writers. They co-founded The Ralph Hogges and Benjamin Cowins Writers Group of South Florida for beginning and emerging writers of color.
Decades earlier, in the 1970s Hogges and Cowins became co-workers and best friends during their tenure as administrations at Florida International University. Later they worked together as college professors and administrators at Florida Memorial University and Nova Southeastern University.
Dr. Ralph Hogges, Ed.D., grew up in Jeffersonville, Georgia. He graduated from Tuskegee University and Nova Southeastern University. His post-doctoral studies included courses at the University of Miami, Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), and Harvard. In addition, he participated in the Florida Heritage Writers Conference, and workshops and seminars for writers sponsored by the University of Miami Creative Writers Program. Hogges and his wife, Lilia, reside in Miami and Hollywood Beach, Florida. She is a retired Professor of French and Spanish and Director of the Study Abroad Program at Florida Memorial University. Their two daughters, Alicia and Genithia, are Harvard University educated.
Dr. Benjamin Cowins, Ph.D., grew up in Miami’s Liberty City and graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School, Florida A&M University, Barry University and the University of Oklahoma. A U. S. military combat veteran who served in Vietnam, he is also an educational consultant to the Urban League of Greater Miami.a member of Mt. Herman AME Church of Miami Gardens, and a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. He and his wife, Harriet Blackshear-Cowins, are the parents of three children.
Along the way co-founders, Dr. Ralph Hogges and Dr. Benjamin Cowins, Sr., gained experience in writing and publishing books. Hogges is the author of 16 books and Cowins is the author of six books. When they started, the traditional publishing industry was challenging for writers of color. African American athletes and famous entertainers were the exception. They were welcomed while the manuscripts of unknown gifted writers of color were mostly rejected. As a result, unrecognized African American writers self-published at the time when book sellers refused to stock or sell self-published books.
Created a successful organization
Aware of the struggles and challenges of beginning and emerging writers of color Hogges and Cowins intentionally used their knowledge of the publishing industry and hard-earned successes as writers to create an organization to help the up-and-coming develop their literary crafts of writing, publishing and selling their books themselves.
The summer of 2016, The Ralph Hogges and Benjamin Cowins Writers Group of South Florida began with 17 members. As of this writing, the Writers Group has 69 members. Forty of the 69 members are published authors. To encourage access, no membership dues or fees are required.
The group’s master plan and implementation in 2016-2022 reveals the achievements of the literary arts vision for writers of color in South Florida.
Some of the activities include: The Authors’ Speak, Sign and Sell Books Circuit, Old Dillard Museum Literary Gatherings, Anniversary Gatherings and Celebrations, The Hogges and Cowins Annual Literary Award, and Community Reading Advocacy Award.
In recognition of their longtime friendship with Dr. Delores Smiley, a retired professor and administrator of Nova Southeastern University, and her support of the Writers Group, she was honored on Jan. 8 with full partnership as follows: The Ralph Hogges, Benjamin Cowins and Delores Smiley Writers Group of South Florida. The officers are: Dr. Ralph Hogges, president & CEO, Dr. Benjamin Cowins, Sr., executive vice president & COO; and Dr. Delores Smiley, vice president for visionary initiatives.
In an email, Dr. Smiley expressed her thoughts on being invited to join the leadership: “It is an exciting opportunity with the potential that allows the group to continue sharing our experiences and resources to inspire African American writers. The future is bright when we subscribe to Dr. Hogges’ belief that ‘Your words matter — words have power’ and Dr. Cowins’ encouragement, ‘Write on.’”
COBETH Online Bookstore, CWD Media Agents among the results
Dr. Hogges’ challenge for the membership to become entrepreneurs, book sellers, has evolved into some amazing results.
To date, COBETH Online Bookstore is one of several responses to Dr. Hogges’ challenge. Co-founders and fellow members Rosemarie Cole, Carla Bennett and Arnetha Thomas recently launched with great success.
Another group of three authors — Drs. Susan Davis, Thea White and Shelly Cameron operating as CWD Media Agents — developed a literary agency business to learn, grow and help authors of color go beyond their dreams. Learn more about them: CWD Media Literary Agents – Success Strategies (successfulleaders.net).
Solo entrepreneur George Moss of Gmoss Designs is a professional illustrator, author and product designer, Home – Illustration, Product Design, Novels, and More By Gmoss Designs. His quote best summarizes the importance of the writers duo who continue to inspire creativity: “Dr. Hogges and Dr. Cowins have accomplished their mission, to encourage writers of color to create books and to sell them at festivals with no cost to the writers. My hope is that our group will continue to encourage the next generation.
“As Dr. Hogges says, “As humans, we die, but books live on forever, enriching the lives of future generations.”
Dorothy Jenkins Fields, Ph.D., is a historian and founder of the Black Archives, History & Research Foundation of South Florida Inc. Send feedback to email@example.com