Monday, October 20, 2008 Exclusive Interview with "The Last Dance for Grace" Publisher

Because of the controversy surrounding the release of Crystal Gail Mangum's new book, "The Last Dance for Grace," No Warning Shots asked publisher, Vincent Clark to respond to these questions.

NWSF: Why did you decide to publish the book ?

Clark: I decided the publish the book because the longer I worked with Crystal, the more I knew she needed a way to express herself. A lot of people showed up in Durham claiming to want to help her but most were looking to make a quick buck. They wanted Crystal to sell her rights for a movie or do a TV interview on one of the network shows.

From the time I started working with her, we were concentrating on getting her to graduate, put food on the table and take care of the kids. When she finally had enough for a book, the few publishers it was pitched to either declined or just didn't respond at all. I decided that the book needed to come out so I started my own publishing company. That fit right into what I wanted to do anyway. I was already doing documentary films and working on getting people's story out.

A lot of people who are criticizing me for publishing the book don't know anything about my motives. I have worked on a number of stories behind the scenes and it is unlikely anyone would have known who I was had it not been for the nature of this case. However, I stand by my reason for publishing this book. It is an important story but not for the reasons many people think.

It really is a story about forgiveness, redemption and atonement. Those concepts are the pillars of the three major religions most of us profess to follow. Even if you aren't religious, we should have the capacity to view issues from a place of reason. Most people haven't been reasonable about this case.

NWSF: What is Ms. Mangum's purpose for writing the book ?

Clark: Crystal wrote the book as a personal catharsis and as a way to help people. She has always written poetry and kept a journal. She was writing about what was going on to try and help her move forward. She had no intention on sharing most of this with the wider word. Some of the revelations are tough to make. The book makes you uncomfortable reading it and stays with you a long time. It is because it is almost like transferring all of the hurt and disappointment form Crystal's life into your body and soul. It make it hard for you to go to sleep for days.

I've been working with her for close to two years and her story is very powerful. I'm glad she did decide to write it. I believe every teenager and young adult woman should read it. Men should too but they have to have an open heart and mind. Crystal says she wants to help people. Well, I think she is going to help a lot of young women not make some very serious mistakes.

NWSF: What reaction have you gotten from people in Durham and around the country ?

Clark: Of course we have gotten a lot of negative stuff. Some of it even threatening. That is a shame. Only a few people have seen the manuscript and the one's who have recognize that it is not a hit piece on Duke or any of the boys. It is a very well reasoned look into how cases like this turn into spectacle. It is as much a critique of the media and attitudes as anything else. Right now, we are running about 50%/50% when it comes to support and criticism. The only problem for me is that the people who are against it are very scary people. I'm not personally afraid but I do fear for Crystal and her family. It is really ashamed that people can't think rationally.

NWSF: As a long time resident of the Triangle and a social and political commentator , do you believe that the book has the power to divide this community or has this community ever truly been united?

Clark: There is no reason for this book to divide the community. When people read it, they we see immediately that it strikes a balance and is very conciliatory. Look, I believe the people with the loudest mouth get the attention. I don't necessarily believe that what we have heard so far from the flame throwers is the true feeling of the community. The people in Durham and throughout North Carolina are much smarter and thoughtful than people think. I want to believe after people read this, the prevailing thought will be that this was the beginning of the end to all of the rhetoric and division. I believe that because nobody ever stepped up to provide a counter narrative to the one that had emerged, that is what lead to division and confusion. This will hopefully correct some of that.

NWSF: Please share your views about Freedom of the press in regards to the book.

Clark: Well, I have to tell you that despite what everyone say about America being so in favor of freedom of speech, you would not know it based on some if the things I hear. There have been three other books published about the Duke case. Not a single one of them met with protest. From the time I expressed interest in even doing this project, there have been attempts to block it and intimidate me. I can only assume those people are proud Americans just like me and don't believe in the denial of any of our constitutionally guaranteed rights. Had we not had a free press in this country, I don't think we would be out of slavery yet. Those people, black and white, who could get the message out about how horrible slavery was, help turn public opinion.

I think that why China and Russia are having such a difficult time hanging on to their fragile democracies. They like the capitalism part and all the stuff. They just haven't figured out the other part about the people being free to express themselves. I think because of Russia's unwillingness to support a free press, they will regress for a while. We should learn a lesson from that. I could never in a million years imagine leading an effort to block free speech rights. By blocking speech, you also block enlightenment. Sometimes, you have to hear and read words that you don't agree with. It causes you to think and make improvements. It is especially called for in this case.The exception to what I just said is that if you are evil, have bad intentions, stupid or just plain intellectually dishonest; speaking freely can insight people to harm others. I am none of those things.

I have worked for two decades now trying to challenge people to think for the betterment of us all. There is no reason we can't all co-exist in this country and on the this planet. We see what denying civil rights does to people. Whether it is in Zimbabwe, Russia, China, Chile or the United States, denying basic human rights makes you a hypocrite without moral authority. Countries like that eventually fade away. I'd like for America to stay around a little longer.

NWSF: Any closing words ?

One last thing... Take the time to reach out to someone that is suffering. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his last speech told the parable of the Good Samaritan. He was trying to explain why he came to Memphis to help the garbage workers. He called what he was doing "dangerous unselfishness". It is when you put yourself in harms way to protect someone who is defenseless and maybe you don't even know them. That is what we are really called to do by the higher power. Help those who are truly in need and defenseless. That is what I saw in the story and why I sought out Crystal. She was the one person who had been striped of her humanity and really needed a helping hand. We all need to practice more of that type of kindness.

Paul Scott's blog is He can be reached at (919) 451-8283