Clyde W. Ford is a modern-day "Renaissance Man," with a biography and bibliography to prove it. Ford is a software engineer, a trained chiropractor, and a psychotherapist. He’s also the award-winning author of twelve works of fiction and non-fiction. Meet the author, whose most recent book, THINK BLACK: An Engineer, a Radical, and the World Between Them, is due out in the fall of 2019 from HarperCollins.
MEET CLYDE W. FORD
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Clyde W. Ford was born in New York City in 1951, the oldest child of John and Vivian Ford. John Ford was the first black software engineer to work for IBM. Vivian Ford received her doctorate in her mid-50s, taught school in New York City, then directed the State of California’s early childhood education program in the 1970s.
Ford earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Mathematics from Wesleyan University in 1971, then went to work as a systems engineer for IBM. In 1977, he returned to school, enrolling at Western States University in Portland, Oregon, where he completed his Doctorate in Chiropractic. Later, he undertook post-doctoral training in psychotherapy at the Synthesis Education Foundation of Massachusetts, under the direction of Steven Schatz, and the Psychosynthesis Institute of New York. Ford was in private practice as a chiropractor and psychotherapist, first in Richmond, Virginia, and later in Bellingham, Washington.
At sixteen, Ford traveled to West Africa in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination, attempting to come to terms with the tragedy. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported, “The young man traveled alone that summer to the Elmina slave portal, on the continent’s west coast, and heard voices in a mystical experience that permanently marked him.” Looking back on the event more than 20 years later, Ford told the Plain Dealer, “The meaning of my own life is based in the meaning of those who have gone before. The ancestors are there, still informing, still influencing us.”
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Clyde wrote about body-mind healing; in the mid-1990s he concentrated on the healing of racial wounds; and in 2000, he wrote about mythology, and how myths could heal psychic wounds. Besides exploring healing issues in books and on the lecture circuit, he has conducted seminars and written numerous articles for Massage Magazine, Massage Therapy Journal, and Chiropractic Economics. In 1991 East West Magazine recognized Ford’s work in somatic therapy as one of the 20 trends reshaping society. Linda Elliot and Mark Mayell in East West Magazine described Ford as “an ‘engineer’ who’s building a bridge across the chasm that separates practitioners who focus only on body structures and those who concentrate specifically on the psyche.” From 1992 to 1996 Ford regularly taught somatic psychology at the Institut fur Angewandte Kinesiologie in Freiburg, Germany.
In 1989 Ford wrote his first book, Where Healing Waters Meet, about his many years of experience working with the healing of emotional wounds through touch and movement therapy, rather than talk therapy. That was followed in 1993 by Compassionate Touch, a book which amplified these themes and documented Ford’s work with adult survivors of sexual abuse, mainly women.
The riots and racial divisiveness in Los Angeles following the Rodney King verdict in 1992 left Ford feeling frustrated. After speaking to a number of friends who shared his frustration, he decided to write a book about social justice and racial healing. “When we’re dealing with an issue like racism,” Ford told Karen Abbott in the Rocky Mountain News, “So many people feel it’s a daunting issue and that they can’t do anything. A certain paralysis sets in. But anybody and everybody can make a difference.” While Ford remained optimistic, he also admitted that the roots of racial discord run deep. “It’s really not just African American’s place to deal with that,” he told Linda Richards in January Magazine. “We have in our history our own reckoning with that process. But the entire society needs to reckon with that.”
In 1994 Ford completed We Can All Get Along: 50 Steps You Can Take to Help End Racism. “Racism is a social issue,” Ford told Cynthia M. Hodnett in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It is important to look beneath the surface to find out what the issues are that need to be addressed.” Ford realized that many people were uncomfortable discussing these problems, however, which led to avoidance. “We can’t not talk about this,” he told Abbott. “In families, I hope parents will not treat race and racism like sex: Don’t talk about it, and hope our children end up with the right answers.” Ford also argued that individuals can make a difference. He told Abbott, “If we believe change is possible, then we can take the steps—however small they might be—toward making that change happen.” Ford was in invited guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show in January, 1994 for this book. Oprah handed out Ford’s book to twenty people, whom she encouraged to try out these steps in the weeks before the show.
Ford is a 2019/2020 fellow of Humanities Washington, a Washington State affiliate of the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s a member of the agency’s speakers bureau and conducts programs around Washington State, entitled, “Let’s Talk About Race.”
MYTHOLOGY AND HEALING
In the mid-to-late 1990s, Ford’s focus shifted to the use of mythology in healing. “I went to my friends in the academic community,” he told Linda Richards. He asked them what they knew about mythology used as a means of healing. “My hypothesis is that, in traditional societies, myths were used to heal long-standing trauma.” When Ford’s colleagues had no answers to offer, he turned to African culture, an area long ignored and slighted in mythological studies. “The problem with world mythology is that Africa has so often been excluded,” he told Richards in January Magazine. Ford sought out African authors and drew on his own travels in Africa in order to discover ancient myths and understand how they might benefit healing in modern society.
In 1999 Ford compiled his research on mythology in his fourth book, The Hero with an African Face: Mythic Wisdom of Traditional Africa. He discovered ancient stories carved on rock walls, dating back 60,000 years. Ford wrote, “[p]roperly read, myths bring us into accord with the eternal mysteries of being, help us manage the inevitable passages of our lives, and give us templates for our relationship with the societies in which we live.” Positive legends, Ford believed, could aid the healing process by transforming stories of personal trauma into stories of empowerment. “This is a book that belongs in the home of everyone who wants to know more about the breadth of contributions African-Americans have made to American culture,” noted Ellen Sweets in the Dallas Morning News. Dr. Jonathan Young, founder curator of the Joseph Campbell Library, said simply, Ford “picks up where Joseph Campbell left off.”
AN AWARD-WINNING NOVELIST
In the early 2000’s Clyde began writing fiction. “I just felt that I could communicate to some people through fiction. People who would not pick-up a work of non-fiction .” An avid boater, Ford’s first novel was a nautical thriller, Red Herring, featuring an African-American maritime private-eye, Charlie Noble and his Native American partner, Raven. Ford wrote three novels in his Charlie Noble series. Switching his attention to the East coast, in 2006 Ford penned The Long Mile, the first book in his Shango Mystery Series, highlighting African-American detective John Shannon.
“The Long Mile is actually an ancient African myth transformed into a modern-day detective story,” he said, “Although only a handful of reviewers recognized its true origins.” Reviewers at the Zora Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Foundation did, and they awarded Ford the 2006 Hurston-Wright Literary Prize in African-American fiction. Deuce’s Wild is his second book in the Shango Mystery series.
ON THE ENVIRONMENT
Saddened by global climate change and its effect on flora and fauna up and down the Inside Passage, Ford authored a book on environmental boating, Boat Green, in an effort, he hoped, to convince boaters to do their part in helping protect the marine environment. Boat Green won the 2008 environmental leadership award from the BOAT US association. “One of the reasons I’m proud of Boat Green,” Ford notes, “is that Pete Seeger gave me an endorsement. In the process of securing his endorsement I had a half-hour conversation with Pete, and I got to tell him how much he shaped my character as a young man.”
A NOVEL WRITTEN LIVE
Hugo House, a writer’s center in Seattle, put out a call to writers to participate in a unique project to write a novel over several days, while working on stage, in front of a live audience. Ford joined in the effort, and the result was a novel, Hotel Angeline, published by Open Road Media, in 2011. Said one reviewer, “Thirty-six of the most interesting writers in the Pacific Northwest came together for a week-long marathon of writing live on stage. The result? Hotel Angeline, a truly inventive novel that surprises at every turn of the page.”
A MEMOIR ABOUT FATHER AND SON
A memoir about his father, the first African-American hired as a software engineer at IBM, had been kicking around in Ford’s mind for many years. After a DNA test, Ford stumbled upon a random photograph of his grandfather holding his father on the Internet. He took it as a sign that it was time to write that book. THINK BLACK is due out in the fall of 2019 from Amistad Press, a division of HarperCollins.
THINK BLACK is an examination of a father-son relationship that traces Ford’s story as a system engineer at IBM, and his father’s life as the first Black software engineer hired by Big Blue. The story is both a memoir, and an exploration about the slow change in race relations, compared with the lightning speed of change in technology.
Ford received the 2006 IPPY award (Independent Publisher’s). He was named a “Literary Lion” by the King County Library System in 2006, 2007, and 2008. He was voted “Best Writer of Bellingham, Washington” in 2006 and 2007 by readers of the Cascadia Weekly and he received the 2007 Bellingham, Washington Mayor’s Arts Award in Literature.
Clyde Ford currently owns Entegra Analytics, a small software company in Bellingham, Washington. He lives and writes in Bellingham, from where he also enjoys cruising the waters of the Inside Passage.