As many of you know, I am a writer. I am so excited to share my latest work of fiction this fall, a work of historical fiction. During my research while writing the book, I came across one of the inspirations for my plot focus, and her name is Lugenia Burns Hope.
Hope founded the Atlanta Neighborhood Union and was a social activist, reformer, and community organizer during the early 20th century. The Neighborhood Union worked to improve black communities through traditional social work, improved education opportunities, and community health campaigns. Hope was also one of the founding members of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Colored Women’s Club. The organization had the motto, “Lifting as we climb”, to demonstrate to “an ignorant and suspicious world that our aims and interests are identical with those of all good aspiring women.”
Look her up! She was a very important black women who stood for community reformation and liberation as well as placing voice to black women’s societal concerns. Upon re-entering grad school, I have come to realize that my work (including works of fiction) have been to place a black feminine presence in historic moments. Hope inspired and educated women that went on to found the Women’s Political Council (WPC) in Montgomery, Alabama that organized the infamous bus boycott.
His-story would like for us to think Black women’s contribution to civil rights were sporadic moments of genius and courage. This is far from the facts! We just don’t know their names! The names of these communities of women that organized and implemented movement for progress and change. This is Lugenia Burns Hope, and we thank her! Happy Birthday!
Years ago I decided I would not never become a teacher. I envisioned it as confinement. I am a creature of routine BUT I do not want one imposed on me. I always saw being an educator as someone who was doomed with routine and rewarded with low pay. That was not the life I wanted to live.
As time and the ancestors would have it, my poetry created a platform for me to engage my art at colleges and universities. Not just as the “entertainment” but additionally as an educator to young writers on the importance of preserving the black vernacular. My art eventually evolved to focusing on the feminine narrative. Encouraging the black feminine voice expressed and written from a holistic perspective and not just as a presence to move a plot forward. These discussions exposed two things, (1) I had more questions than answers and needed to do more research to educate myself (2) I was pretty good at this teaching thing.
My community knows me primarily as a performance poet and from the theatre. Both of these creative platforms allowed me to express undivided and intellectually intact. I had the company to be beautiful and the security to laugh at myself and others. As I immersed myself more with the writing community, plays and novels, I felt absent- invisible even. I was stifled with this feeling once before when I studied film at Howard University for my M.A. In screenplay writing, I didn’t have the company of voice, meaning the character written or represented on film, was not a bridged visualization of my existence as a woman. A black woman, a woman of color living in this country. My questions about the presence or the acceptance of what was represented as the black feminine narrative, now became a plaque of concerns. That was until I got my hands on Toni Morrison’s “Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination”.
“A literary artist of the first rank.”
“She delves into the language itself, a language she wants to liberate from the fetters of race. And she addresses us with the luster of poetry.”
Those words are from the Nobel Committee that awarded Ms. Morrison her Nobel Prize in Literature on this day in 1993.
Her acceptance speech spoke of ‘spreading like algae because this prize is being distributed to various regions and nations and races.’ Morrison shared this win with women, the mid west, the east coast and African Americans. She is one of the reasons I am in love with pen to pad. Why I love words to dreams. Why I am courageous enough to speak my vernacular.
People do speak highly of my art. And I have been used in some really nice analogies during introductions to stages. And for that, I am thankful for Toni Morrison.
The necessity of writers allowing their words to root and grow into essays, poems and stories is courage and a display of effortless perseverance. My new studies in Africana Women’s Studies, is adorned with critics and contributions of Audre Lorde. I was familiar with her work before I re-entered school but I didn’t understand the magnitude of her contributions because I was unaware she had created a grand portion of the language. Her love of equality and freedom for people of color, women and artists is something to be studied. Please enjoy the article below on Ms. Audre Lorde!
Remembering the Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde