Lemonade: Inspired by Actual Events by Bernard L. Dillard

Lemonade2DNominated for a 2013 Global eBook Award, Lemonade chronicles the gripping story of Bernard Dillard’s tenuous journey to manhood.  In this memoir, Dillard describes how he dealt with an emotionally absent father, how he processed sexual abuse, and how he recovered from it all.  Written like a novel and presented in bite-sized chapters, Lemonade highlights the good, the bad, and the straight-up ugly in Dillard’s world.  Readers can’t help but smile, laugh out loud, tear up, co-sign, and almost blow a fuse as they witness a man who is trying his best to find the most stable path from boy to man.

Through vulnerability and candor, Dillard exposes wounds that he has held close to the vest over the years.  Using modern-day, pop-culture references and side-splitting humor, he confronts serious issues that find themselves at the forefront of national discussion, especially drug use, academic failure, and the DL lifestyle.  Lemonade also gives women a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of men like Dillard and sheds light on why men struggle often when it comes to investing in relationships and making them work.  In a nutshell, Dillard stands in life’s kitchen, gathers his ingredients, and shows readers what to make when all there seems to be is a basket full of lemons.


But nobody, including Dwayne, Jr., worried about any ten-second rule when our all-time favorite show came on.  This was probably the only thirty-minute span when all of us managed to get along and keep the station on the same channel.  We stayed glued to the set even during the commercials because there was no way on God’s green earth that we were going to miss a moment of Good Times.
Somehow, I would always be in the living room right before it came on.  “Y’all, Good Times comin’ on.”  You could hear Keva and Dwayne rustling and making their way to the front.  I had already gotten my good spot on the sofa.  We all would try to catch the first note when it came on.  There was no warning.  Just the white words that popped up on the screen.  We started singing and semi-dancing, even Dimpo himself.  We couldn’t wait to sing our version of what we thought were the lyrics.

Our Version                    Actual Lyrics
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Anytime you need a playmate.        Any time you meet a payment
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Anytime you need a friend.            Any time you meet a friend.
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Anytime you need a wonder.        Any time you’re out from under.
Not gettin’ hassled, not gettin’ hustled.    Not gettin’ hastled, not gettin’ hustled.
Keeping your hair above water,        Keepin’ your head above water,
Making wuh-waves when you can,        Makin’ a wave when you can.
Temporarily lay offs.            Temporary lay-offs
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Easy credit rip offs.                Easy credit rip-offs-
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Shuckin’ and survivin’            Scratchin’ and survivin’,
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Hangin’ in a crowd lie            Hangin’ in and jivin’.
Good Times.                    Good Times.
Please be lucky we got ‘em            Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em?
Good Times.                    Good Times.

At least our take was more creative.
Of course, we’d discover that some of our lyrics were utterly laughable.  Why would anybody other than us put premium on appreciating the need for a playmate?  Hangin’ in a crowd lie?  What on earth was that?  Some people thought that this line was Hangin’ in a chow line, but the creators of the song lyrics confirmed that the line was Hangin’ in and jivin’.  To us, though, our lyrics worked just fine.  I think the African-American ladies would appreciate the line about keeping the hair from getting wet.  We couldn’t Google the lyrics like we do nowadays to find out if we were right.  We just let our imaginations soar.  These were our lyrics, and to us they were right.
The unique oneness with the characters of the show made it overwhelmingly intriguing to us siblings, who watched faithfully each week.  Theirs was a family struggle to survive in the tenements of Chicago.  But through the screen, we saw us.  It was like Chicago, North Carolina.  For thirty minutes, the TV had become a mirror, and we stared in it like it was no tomorrow.
The episodes were quite memorable.  Who could forget Janet Jackson’s portrayal of an abused Penny?  Chip Fields managed to enrage an entire African-American community as she channeled an explosive mother, who dealt with life by physically and emotionally mishandling her daughter.  Then there was Florida’s relentless determination to rescue Michael from the grips of a Chicago gang that he was forced to join.  In an effort to get her son back, she actually took a solo journey into Warlord territory and wielded a bat on a few of the members.  We all saw that there’s no love like a mother’s love when both mother and son were able to escape what so many youth fall prey to.  Of course, this ending was somewhat farfetched, that a mother and son would come out of a situation like that unscathed.  Nowadays, given the same circumstances, both Florida and Michael would have more than likely been carried away in body bags.  That is, if the bodies would have ever been found.
Then there was that one episode that made our world stop.  Dwayne, Keva, and I were up dancing with the Evans family and friends.  They were about to move to Mississippi, where James, Sr. had gone to look for work so that he could move his family out of the ghetto.  Everybody was reading telegrams that people had sent concerning their move to bigger and better.  As Florida read hers, we were dumbfounded.  “We regret to inform you that your husband, James Evans, was killed in an auto–mo– . . .”  And in the midst of the silence, all we could hear was Movin’ by Brass Construction playing in the background.  The reality, though, was that the Evans family wasn’t movin’ anywhere.  Like most families, they would have to pick up the pieces and try to find the silver lining in those clouds.  Words couldn’t describe how paralyzed we felt as we just stood and stared at the TV.  Their world was crumbling right before our eyes.  And since the TV screen was our mirror, what did that mean about ours?  It almost felt as if someone had punched me right in the gut.  Here was a family struggling to move forward and always seemed to have the rug snatched from under them just as they got some sense of sure footing.

Bernard L. Dillard’s role on The Wire opened quite a few doors concerning his acting and modeling endeavors.  Always actively engaged in the audition process, he constantly pursues significant small- and big-screen roles.  In addition, he serves as Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.  He is the co-author of a college statistics book and is finishing Moneymatics, a textbook whose mission is to increase financial literacy, especially among college students.  He is committed to sharing his story of survival and believes his story will serve as a catalyst to engender discussion and provide remedy concerning the national debate of fatherlessness.  Currently, he is single and resides in the Bronx.

Get to know Bernard:

1.  Let’s cut straight to the chase.  Why is so important for you to address the sensitive topics and issues that you address in Lemonade?  What’s the urgency?  Well, it’s no real urgency, per se.  It’s just that these are the experiences that have made their way into my world.  I’ve always been of the opinion that nothing in your life just happens.  If it happens, there is a reason for it.  At first, I was somewhat bitter at the way things were going in my life and then realized later that perhaps my journey was not just my journey.  Maybe the twists and turns occurred so that I could have a sense of empathy for those who are going through similar struggles I went through.  And let’s face it, there are numerous men who have experienced things that I did and may not feel comfortable discussing them.  I’ve always been stubborn enough to take the lead and tackle what’s considered to be the taboo.

2.  Knowing what you know now, is there anything you would change concerning what you did or didn’t put in the book?  No, not really.  After it was done, I sat on it for about two months, pondering anything I should put in or take out.  For example, I was gonna remove a lot of the cursing in the book, but I realized that this was just the environment I grew up in.  So removing that would shortchange the reader as to what it was I really confronted while growing up.  And if I decided to leave something out, it really was too X-rated to place in the book.  I tried to relay the uglies of my life in such a way that the reader still “gets” it without knowing every single graphic detail of the experience.

headshot3.  What was the hardest part of writing the memoir?  It just seems a bit harrowing to know that people now have access to your past and could use a lot of things against you.  Well, honestly, the hardest part of the writing experience was not sharing or revealing anything about myself.  That part was actually liberating.  Let’s face it.  What can someone use against me that I reveal about my own self (laughs)?  It’s like those people trying to use Obama’s experience of using drugs against him in his presidential campaign.  I’m like, “But he’s the one who brought it up in his book.”  It’s not like he was hiding anything.  So even if it wasn’t really a good thing that happened, it’s coming from my own mouth, with my own voice.  The hardest part was actually trying to refrain from using my pen as a sword or writing in such a way that shows impure motives.  So even though I had to put certain things in the memoir because they happened, I had to resist the urge to go overboard and send hidden messages to certain people, knowing they’d probably read it.  For example, I had to take out a part where someone said they’d come to my graduation and never showed up.  When listing people who came, I made it a point to say that such and such didn’t come (so that they would read it and remember that they disappointed me).  I ended up removing nit-picky stuff like that and decided to keep taking the high road.

4.  One of the lesser challenges you reveal in the book is that of your stuttering.  Not trying to be funny, but how did you manage to choose careers (acting and teaching) that deal strictly with speaking?  Wow, you don’t pull any punches, do you?  I guess that’s just one of life’s mysteries.  In my day-to-day dealings, the stuttering still happens.  But when it’s time for me to perform, I manage to deal with it.  I tell students in my class on the first day that I have had problems with stuttering, and they just flow with it.  It only really happens when I get super-excited about something.  When i do interviews, it’ll happen quite a bit, but I manage to get the words out and keep it moving.  I’ll sometimes have to hit my foot against something to get a word out, and sometimes I’ll talk fast to hurry and get the thought out before the stuttering hits.  As far as acting, that’s another mystery.  The words just seem to flow when time comes.  Whenever we’ve had to do more takes, it’s never been because I was stuttering.  It’s because the other actors had problems with their lines or forgot their lines.  So we’ll see what happens in the future.  I just have to keep telling myself to keep it calm and let the words flow.

5.  Did everything in the book really happen?  There are some questionable sci-fi type stuff that occurs that could make some people raise an eyebrow.  Yeah, I know.  My life has always teetered between the natural and the supernatural.  I know some of the instances in the book may make people doubtful, but I believe in God and His power.  In fact, if these instances that I mention in the book didn’t happen to me, I would probably be skeptical to believe too.  I don’t really call it sci-fi, I just call it the intervention of God.  I just believe He is as real as a book that you hold.  So everybody should be forewarned.  Just remember as you read, these supernatural type things really did happen.

6.  Are you working on any other books now?  The book I’m working on now is actually related to my nerdy side.  I’m a professor and developed a course at F.I.T. called The Mathematics of Personal Finance.  I’ve always been a little disappointed with the knowledge level of college students (and adults for that matter) as it relates to finances, so I decided to do something about it and help teach them about all things financial.  For the course, I decided to write a book, entitled Moneymatics. It’ll be the textbook I’ll use for the course and will try to market to other colleges in an effort to combat financial illiteracy, especially among the younger generation.  It’s nothing more valuable than understanding the power of a dollar and the factors that contribute to making it work for you.

7.   So what’s next for the “Lemonade” man?  See, you got jokes … lol.  Well, we’ll keep marketing Lemonade for right now.  I’m also in the process of developing a character for a comedy sketch show.  Sort of like a Debbie Downer type.  It’s pretty hilarious.  We’ll see how far it goes when I start submitting stuff to networks.  Hopefully, I’ll get a bite on that.  And I’m always going on auditions for modeling assignments, commercials, and TV shows.  Since I don’t have to teach during the summer, my schedule will be pretty much free to pursue these types of gigs in the industry.  It’s just all about the hustle, and I’ll definitely be on the concrete jungle trying to make it happen.

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