All along I have been doing work that interrupted the silencing of black women in his-story. This his-story includes the actual absence of her presence or her presence represented in vilified images or characteristics. Effortlessly, even through the pen strokes of black people, black women characterizations are resembling or in actuality that of the socially oppressive jezebel, tragic mulatto or big mama. Until going in to studies for Africana Women’s Studies, I didn’t have the language of what I was doing nor did I have the connections of other women that have doing this work for years.
My last novel, The Town Dance, I was inserting the silent voice of people who were victims to same gender sexual assault. The novel was my support for a dear friend who had been sexually assaulted by her girlfriend and dismissed the encounter with an uncomfortable laugh. I’ll never forget her looking at me, forcing a smile then saying, “she’s strong”. This was over 15 years ago. When I finally decided to write the novel, my internet search on the topic led me to pornographic sites or inconclusive court hearings. The writing process was therapy for me. Even though I have a community of gay friends, both men and women, I was terrified to be plagued with being considered “gay” if I wrote the book. Actual terror would travel my body as I imagined people staring at me questioning if I was a gay women. I had to confront my homophobia and fears, have confronting, vulnerable conversations with friends and then heal. Afterwards, I wrote the book.
A project that has been in my head for years comes from visits to Montgomery, Alabama and one of their historic sites from the civil rights movement. This relatively flat land, small city was once a huge mobilizing force for progressive efforts of black people. The communities that once flourished are now abandoned and its buildings dilapidated. But the stories live on.
The stories of the brave men that faced, often times, violent resistance in their fight against Jim Crow. As always, I wondered what the women were doing. The beautiful black and white photos that display their wrinkle-free dresses and unstained white or pastel colored gloves gave them a physical presence. But the texts were absent of their words, their actions. So I began research and found women that I felt needed to be given voice. After years of imagining their world, visiting Montgomery and sitting in my car in the neighborhood I wanted to focus on, the book is slated be released October of 2019. My first take at historical fiction. I love this book and so excited to share it with the world in the upcoming months.
Re-membering an amazing writer, an iconic contributor to American literature,
Zora Neale Hurston
Hurston’s works touched on the African-American experience and her struggles as an African-American woman. Her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world for decades, but interest revived after author Alice Walker. Her most infamous work is, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”.
“In an unfamiliar culture, it is wise to offer no innovations, no suggestions, or lessons. The epitome of sophistication is utter simplicity.” Maya Angelou
“My soul should always look back and wonder at the mountains I had climbed and the rivers I had forged and the challenges which still await down the road. I am strengthened by that knowledge.” Maya Angelou
When she was once being “timidly attacked” by a Hollywood producer who was interested in developing one of her short stories into a television show: “I promise you, you do not want me as your adversary because, once I feel myself under threat, I fight to win, and in that case I will forget that I am thirty years older than you, with a reputation for being passionate.” Maya Angelou
she continued in this chapter:
“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet, I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves, that we can be ready and able to come to our own defense when and wherever needed.” Maya Angelou
“Racism still rages behind many smiling faces, and women are still spoken of in some circles, as conveniently pretty vessels. Macon, Georgia is down south, New York City is up south. Blithering ignorance can be found wherever you choose to live.” Maya Angelou
“Southern themes will range from generous and luscious love to cruel and bitter hate, but no one can ever claim that the South is petty or indifferent. [In the south] black people walk with an air which implies “when I walk in, they may like me or dislike me, but everybody knows I’m here.” Maya Angelou
There are several things I love about teaching but most notably I enjoy the time off during holidays and summer. (while still receiving a check 🙂 This is especially rewarding to me who spent years as an executive manager in retail and worked every holiday and most weekends.
Now I know you must be thinking, ‘my goodness Nikki, the school year just started didn’t it and you’re already thinking about time off?’ YES! You would be correct in with that assumption! And I think I have just the thing to help me get through the first half of the school year and my first semester in grad school.
A few months back, one of my friends exercised “staying in the moment” by writing daily things on what she most loved about herself. She did this for 60 days and surprisingly enough, she said the first twenty were very laborious. Laborious because she was having a difficult time discovering what she loved, or even liked on some days. The statements had to be instinctively linked about her and not some indirect love for something or someone else. She said this helped with her daily self care even if it was only 5-10 minutes a day. With my schedule becoming 12 hour days Tue-Thur due to school immediately after work, I thought this “I Love…” regiment would be ideal to ensure I think about me.
For the next 90 days, I am going to write in this little journal different things I Love about me. This is extremely horrifying to me because it involves commitment and I can be so anal (for lack of a better word) when it comes to committing to something and what loyalty means to me. But I am at a stop in my life where I am both an educator and a student, literally, and I am content. How do I insist that I remain present under both titles? By involving myself daily, by communicating with myself daily. Hopefully this 90 day venture will prove to assist with that!
Join me if you may! Also, after this 90 days, it will be Thanksgiving and time for a week break from both work and school 😉 Clever, huh?
I don’t know that I was made to stand poised
in the storms eye like
Myrlie Evers or Coretta King or Cherry Turner or Betty Shabazz or Winnie Mandela or Mamie Till.
I don’t know if I’m made of the same
language in prayers and cloth to covet.
I can’t decipher the whispers from the flames
or control the fahrenheit of the metal
without getting hot tempered and sour /
not quite like they could.
But I am from the same dish. The same dirt. The same pot stirrers.
I am standing on shoulders strong.
– for Winnie Mandela