Poet, editor, and author of The Architecture of Language: Poems; James Baldwin: The Legacy; and Miles and Me: A Memoir of Miles Davis. He became the first Poet Laureate of California in 2002.
He was the director of the Malcolm X Center in Los Angeles for several years. While teaching at the University of California, San Diego, he also founded a literary magazine.
He co-wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, which was adapted into a film starring Will Smith.
He studied at Grambling State University on an athletic scholarship. After dropping out of school, he entered the U.S. Army and lived in France. While in France, he met author and philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, who inspired him to become a writer.
The son of a prominent Negro League baseball player, he grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. He later lived in California and finally settled in New York City with his wife Margaret.