• Tell us what it is to be a woman so that we may know what it is to be a man. What moves at the margin. What it is to have no home in this place. To be set adrift from the one you knew. What it is to live at the edge of towns that cannot bear your company. (Nobel Lecture, 1993)
• The ability of writers to imagine what is not the self, to familiarize the strange and mystify the familiar, is the test of their power.
• I really think the range of emotions and perceptions I have had access to as a black person and as a female person are greater than those of people who are neither…. So it seems to me that my world did not shrink because I was a black female writer. It just got bigger.
– toni morrison
One of my heroines said these quotes above. And it got me to thinking how we as women , we as women of color, of ethnic minorities of exotic backgrounds, kinky hair, slanted eyes and bindi dots have been given the stuff of legends to write about. We have been marginalized and made feel like the geographies of our homes did not want us there like spaces we lived in our whole lives did not belong to us. We have been raped, beaten, chewed up and spit out but we have been so resilient in the way we write our history and give our nation a discourse no one else is capable of uttering. Why am I writing? I am writing because my pen is pushing me to, all of nubia is behind my lips and I didn’t even know it. Until it all came rushing through my pen screaming stand up for your rights human beings because we who are colored and poor will have to pay for the sins of our fathers just as our mothers did theirs. Because not only am I blessed with the tongue of my people, my spirit soars through my pen and becomes the Mexican women dying so she can cross the U.S. Boarder at this second, the South African being raped, the Filipina with the weight of a whole nation resting on her back, the Somali woman struggling to provide, the native woman selling her body to the people who stole her home, the Jordanian woman dying for falling in love. My soul soars and brings me back the faces and spaces oceans away, brings me sorrow I did not know and days that are not my own. And here I am cursed with a thousand tongues and screams and I can’t speak fast enough to tell them all,but maybe, just maybe one person will read their pleas within my words and push a pen of their own. I am begging you my sisters to write , and write and write until you cannot hold your pen anymore and even then, with the mind of a writer which you have moulded speak. Not empty words like everyone who dare call themself a writer, speak the words which possesed you to give up stereotypical dreams to toil at strange hours, with bic pens, pencils, chalk, lipstick on napkins and give a voice to the voiceless and a purpose to the speechless. Just write, don’t try to make anything rhyme , don’t edit, don’t proof read, hell don’t even Microsoft Word spell check. Just write.
My editor burst into the room beaming with an idea which he thought would make
our readers jump for joy. He could barely speak and his big green eyes were
glittering with excitement . I looked up from my desk, wearing my Tuesday
sweatpants, I raised my eyebrows waiting unenthusiastically for an explanation.
He said “Africa,people love to hear about that kind of stuff!” . The number of
questions that rushed into my head at the time was astronomical, but I settled
for one “What stuff?”. He gave me a look which seemed to question my mental
capacity “ You know African stuff, the stuff you see on T.V.?” I was still
bewildered. He sighed and said “ Just write about Africa”. He walked out and
left me unable to decipher my feelings. As with any writing assignment I tried
to think of it critically but I failed. How could I write about her when all
this world knew of her was extremes. They either saw her as wild, untamed and
exotic, or fragile and ignorant with death looming at the tip of her tongue and
danger at the tips of her calloused fingers. I sighed, feeling frustrated and
outraged that he expected me to write about Africa on demand. I stared outside
my window, disappointed to see that winter reared its pale white head in the
outskirts of Toronto. I tried to focus and begged my pen to take control,
pleading with the Nubian blood flowing through my veins to replace the ink of
my pen and write her history and the history of the generations she bore before
me, but nothing came. I glanced at my fingers and found myself clutching my pen
with a grip so firm it drained the brown dye from my skin, as if somehow
expecting the strength of my fists to push all that I felt for her onto the
fine white paper before me. I was frightened for a moment and stared at my
hands until the dark color returned to them. I collected my thoughts and began
the 90 minute drive to Kitchener, hoping it would clear my mind. My hopes soon
faded as it grew colder and I saw rising mounds of snow resting on the banks of
the highway, I closed my eyes and tried to picture the Nile, but nostalgia
rushed over me and I struggled to stop myself from choking on my sorrow. As
soon as I entered my parents home in kitchener ;Africa engulfed me like lazy
waves strolling in from the red sea to embrace the sands of Port Sudan, Asmara
and Djibouti. The smell of sandal wood incense, African food heavy with flavor
and a warm earthy aroma tugged at my heart strings, my mother in her jilbab
took me in her arms. I smiled at her knowing that every bit of her was Africa,
even when she was dressed in western clothes she bore Cairo in her head,
Khartoum at her heart, Asmara and Adis at her sides and Kampala at the souls of
her well traveled feet. I walked in a trance like state searching for a pen, I
found one and a tissue box which I turned upside down and began to write
Africa. She came to me like some forgotten dream, in all her beautiful colors.
She was not frail, nor dangerous and certainly not ignorant, she had a green
cloth wrapped around her hair which she had braided into a thousand branches of
neem trees. In her eyes she carried the wisdom of a thousand civilizations, and
in her bosom, behind pale blue cotton and heavy swinging breasts she carried
the heart of humanity which she gave birth to, beneath the shade of a tree in
Juba, where the nile rushed from the heart of Uganda solely to meet her feet.
In her womb she carried dark, fertile earth which nurtured all her children.
Her hands were worn but gentle, strong, yet tired. Strapped to her back in soft
cotton material was a child, sick frail, born with an ailment he can never beat
alone, some would say hopeless and as a good as dead, but not her , she carried
him and sheltered him from the hot sun of the Sahara. On her left foot , the
remains of a shackle bruised her ankles, it looks as if she’d ripped off the
chain but the brace of colonialism still remained tightly wrapped around her
covering the meeting place where her leg like Kilimanjaro met the earth
which was her feet. Such sweet sorrow was her boundless smile which stretched
from the Atlantic to the warm waters of the Indian ocean, engulfing with in it
a thousand tongues. She spoke like rain, and sang like cool mornings and when
she wept the wind would hum her cry. She struggeled to keep her tears from
falling , so she flooded the nile with them, the zambize, tugela, lomami,
mbini, tana, niger and countless other rivers with her sorrow and the blood
which gave her and her children life. Her skin, tones of ebony, chestnut, gold,
the brown of tree bark and the amber of honey, and the color of the red sand
which rushed up to meet the sky when the small feet of children tread upon it.
It was all that and more , soft and smooth, so dark and yet so bright so
beautiful, young and old at the same instant, and no matter which of the
thousand shades she displayed, she was always black. She stood before me in a
twilight trapped between history and memory, distant and so far removed yet
within me wherever my black feet take me. Still in my trance like state, I
stared at the Kleenex box, realizing that I had long ran out of room and taken
to writing on the skin of my arms, I smiled. I knew at that instant no matter
how much snow there was, this home, the one which my mother and father worked
for all their lives, standing on their African feet, loving with their African
hearts and working with their black hands built, although it stood long before
they saw it, they had built it with everything Africa gave them. Regardless of
what furniture was in it, what food was being cooked, it would always smell
like molah and bokhoor and it would always be a cocoon containing my Africa
within its bright yellow walls. Some will read this and say that this is not
Africa, but this is her, as I have come to know her, she is mine and I am hers.
My old blog was shut down as you may know, due to complaints about certain materials. I would like to clarify that this material was posted by those commenting on the blog. It was often racist, sexist, homophobic and demeaning. I am not angry, well I am, but not angry in the sense that I didn’t see it coming, there will always be those who refuse to see and there will always be those who test their patience. I have and will continue to dissect controversial topics and engage with wonderful texts. Please if you do not wish to be a part of it. Respect the opinion of our micro-revolution just as we have yours a thousand times before.
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