Tyree, Omar 1969–

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Omar Tyree 1969

Writer, publisher, poet, lecturer

At a Glance

Created Own Publishing Company

Landed Contract with Major Publisher

Selected writings


Omar Tyree began receiving accolades in his early twenties for his insightful writings about African Americans, particularly young males, who are struggling to find their place in modern America. By carefully and thoughtfully exploring many of the pressing issues that face African Americansespecially the relationship between fathers and sons, single parenting, accepting personal responsibility, and doing the right thingTyree sets himself to emerge as the Richard Wright of the 1990s, noted a press release from Simon & Schuster on Tyrees novel Single Mom, which was published in 1998.

In the late 1980s, Tyrees career experienced a significant boost when he became one of 30 minority students to receive a challenge grant scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. He also earned a $3,400 award from the Phi Eta Sigma Freshman Honor Society, which he received in recognition of his excellent performance in mathematics and science courses during his freshman year. As a college student, Tyree expressed little interest in becoming a writer. As he told Ebony Man in 1998, You know, I really wanted to be a football player like the average macho, egotistical black guy who has any athletic ability. But even though I wanted to be a football player, I wanted to have something to fall back on. And since my mom was a pharmacist, generally kids do what they see their parents do. So I said thats a pretty easy field, and shes making some good money, and she didnt seem to have too much stress. However, Tyree soon discovered his writing abilities after he received a high grade in an advanced freshman English course. He also became one of a select group of freshman to be admitted into creative writing courses. Tyree also wrote The Diary of a Freshman, a journal that was eventually published in a minority counseling news pamphlet distributed at the University of Pittsburgh.

In 1989 Tyree decided to transfer to Howard University, a historically black college where he felt that he could better develop his writing skills. By his senior year, he had become the first student to have his own feature column in The Hilltop, Howard Universitys award-winning newspaper. Tyree graduated with a degree in print journalism in 1991, and landed a job as a reporter and assistant editor at The Capital Spotlight weekly in Washington, D.C. He eventually moved on to a position

At a Glance

Born 1969 in Philadelphia, PA; married to Karintha; children: Ameer. Education: University of Pittsburgh; Howard University, B.A., honors, print journalism, 1991.

Career: Won special scholarship for minority students at University of Pittsburgh, late 1980s; transferred to Howard University, 1989; took job as reporter and assistant editor at The Capital Spotlight, Washington, D.C., 1991; worked as chief reporter for News Dimensions, Washington, D.C.; freelanced for Washington View Magazine, Washington, D.C.; established MARS Productions; published his first novel, Colored, On White Campus (title later changed to Battlezone), 1992; participated on talk show pilot for Black Entertainment Television (BET) called For Black Men Only, 1992; published second novel, FlyyGirl, 1993; became youngest African American male journalist to be published in Sunday Outlook section of Washington Post, 1993; was interviewed for BBC television show in England, 1993; published Capital City: The Chronicles of a D.C. Underworld, 1994; published Testimony: Young African-Americans on Self Discovery and Black Identity, Beacon Press, 1995; appeared on Americas Black Forum televsion show, 1995; signed book contract with Simon & Schuster, 1995; published A Do Right Man, 1997; published Single Mom, 1998; frequent lecturer to African American community at organizational meetings, colleges, high schools, and community events.

Awards and honors: Entrepreneurial Spirit and Leadership Plaque, Multicultural Youth Inc., Washington, D.C.

Addresses: Home New Castle, DE;Publisher Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020, 212-698-7537.

as chief reporter for News Dimensions, and further developed his writing abilities by submitting freelance articles for Washington View Magazine.

Created Own Publishing Company

Armed with a knowledge of printing and typesetting that he obtained while working at various newspapers, Tyree founded his own publishing company called MARS Productions. Through a combination of personal loans and contributions from family and friends, he published his first novel entitled Colored, On White Campus. This novel tells the story of an African American athlete who tries to cope with the racial discrimination he encounters at a predominantly white institution. Sales generated from Colored, On White Campus provided the money that Tyree needed to publish Flyy Girl in 1993. This coming-of-age tale traces the life of an African American girl in a suburb of Philadelphia from her sixth birthday party in the late 1970s to the age of seventeen. During these years, she is forced to deal with the breakup of her parents marriage and the devastating effects of cocaine usage on her neighborhood.

In the summer of 1993, Tyree wrote a widely publicized article entitled Meet the New Invisible Man. This article, which addressed the plight of young African American males in the United States, was published in the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post. Tyree, who was only 24 years-old when he wrote the article, became one of the youngest African American journalists to have his article published in the Posts commentary page. The article was eventually syndicated in newspapers throughout the United States and in other countries. Tyree was also invited to appear on Englands BBC television to discuss the article during a show about the concerns of young African American men in the United States.

In 1994, Tyree published his third novel entitled Capital City: The Chronicles of a D.C. Underworld. According to a 1998 article in Rap Pages this novel, which is set in the late 1980s and early 1990s and told from the perspective of a young hustler, is Tyrees favorite work. The following year, he rereleased Colored, On White Campus under the new title BattleZone: The Struggle to Survive the American Institution.

Landed Contract with Major Publisher

In 1995, Tyree signed a contract with Beacon Press that allowed them to publish his novel Testimony: Young African-Americans on Self Discovery and Black Identity. He also landed a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish two novels and included an agreement to republish Flyy Girl in hardcover. Tyrees growing reputation as a spokesman on the African American experience earned him an invitation for a 1995 television interview on Americas Black Forum, which was hosted by Julian Bond. This program gave Tyree the opportunity to express his views concerning the challenges that African American students and teachers face on the campuses of predominantly white colleges.

The rerelease of Flyy Girl by Simon & Schuster resulted in a flood of positive reviews for the novel from major magazines. Much of the praise for Flyy Girl centered on Tyrees ability to create highly realistic dialogue. Tyree captures black language as it is spoken among peers, noted Publishers Weekly in 1996. The conversation of youngsters caught in a highly pressured sexual atmosphere, test-driving their sexuality long before theyre old enough for a license, is profane and vivid. In her assessment of the book for Library Journal, Shirley Gibson Coleman wrote, The dialog in this coming-of-age African American story is some of the best this reviewer has read in a long time. Tyree has a way of making each phrase of every conversation true to life, whether spoken by a child or an adult.

Simon & Schuster published Tyrees novel, A Do Right Man, in 1998. This novel tells the story of a young African American man, Bobby Dallas, who is a successful radio journalist but is unhappy with the state of his love life. When I set out to write A Do Right Man, I wanted to present an image of a Black man who is positive, who is developed in the sense of growth, Tyree told Ebony Man. One who has a sense of balance, a view of the world and who has some type of integrity. We havent had that in Black fiction for about 10 years. Lillian Lewiss review of A Do Right Man in Booklist noted that, Tyree presents refreshing insight into the world of an aspiring African American male and his relationships.

In 1998, Tyree signed a contract with Simon & Schuster to publish two fiction novels. The first of these novels, which is entitled Single Mom, centers around the life of a single woman who, after spending ten years raising her two sons, finds herself in a relationship with a new man. All three men in her life face difficult problems. One of the womans sons is involved in a bitter child custody dispute, while the other son is an ex-convict who is trying to put his life back together. The womans boyfriend, a truck driver, has reservations about dating a woman with children and is uncomfortable with the fact that she makes more money than he does. The novel illustrates the problems that occur when men do not take responsibility for their children, an issue that is of great concern to Tyree. We can no longer afford to talk about single mothers in America without discussing responsible fatherhood, he remarked in a Simon & Schuster press release for Single Mom. We can no longer afford selfish fathers who live as if their children do not even exist.

In addition to writing, Tyree lectures to African Americans in high schools, colleges, and in various community settings. Although he has achieved success as a writer, Tyree laments the fact that many other African American male novelists find it difficult to get their work published. Were getting published, so I guess were riding the bus, he told the Daily News in 1998. But were still at the back of the bus. We still cant get media exposure, and were still not drawing Terry McMillan numbers.

Selected writings

Colored, On White Campus (later retitled Battlezone), MARS Productions, 1992.

Flyy Girl, MARS Productions, 1993 (re-released by Simon & Schuster, 1996).

Capital City: The Chronicles of a D.C. Underworld, MARS Productions, 1994.

Testimony: Young African-Americans on Self Discovery and Black Identity, Beacon Press, 1995.

A Do Right Man, Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Single Mom, Simon & Schuster, 1998.



Booklist, November 1, 1997, p. 456.

Ebony Man, January 1998, p. 56.

Library Journal, September 15, 1996, p. 98.

New York Daily News, August 25, 1998, New York Now Section, p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1996, p. 76.

Rap Pages, December 1997, p. 74.


Additional information for this profile was obtained from publicity materials provided by Simon & Schuster, as well as from the Omar Tyree (http://www.omartyree.com) and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com) sites on the World Wide Web.

Ed Decker