I was raised in a place where “word is bond” and loyalty outweighs logistics. I was raised in a place where crackheads were your neighbors but that was just “their thing” and you knew never to pass judgement. I was raised where basketball hoops had no rims…just backboard (if you were lucky.) I was raised where you were bourgeois if you went to private school. I was bourgeois because my mom dropped me to school in her company car. People assumed what they didn’t know because I was raised by a rule of never “airing the dirty laundry. ” I was raised with the social standard : “children should be seen and not heard.” So since I couldn’t be heard, since I could only be viewed by the eye, since perception was skewed, since my feelings would have no bearing on my reality…I wrote.
I was published in an anthology at age 12. Since I was a middle class awkward black girl who could write I was often referred to as “the next Maya Angelou. ” Although, no other female colored poet had that kind of notoriety, I didn’t want to be compared to anyone. I read “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Gettin’ Merry Like Christmas” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I thought Maya’s writing was so beautiful despite the difficulty of her life. However, I wanted my writing to evoke the pain and anger I felt. I wanted it to make people cry. I wanted to be responsible for pieces that tear away at the souls of others and force them to deal with the parts of themselves that they hide away.
“Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.”~Edgar A. Poe
Dr.Maya Angelou had friends like novelist James Baldwin and Martin Luther King Jr. She met with Malcolm X in Ghana in 1964. She was buddies with Oprah Winfrey. She was classy, respected and profound. I’m still in awe of her career that grew up with me. I’m in awe of poise that doesn’t expire. I’m in awe of a legacy that will be difficult for anyone to match.
May you rest in eternal peace, Dr Maya Angelou. Stop in on the writers block every once in awhile.
By: Shaun M N
“I’m not really qualified to do anything else. “-James Frey
“If writing were illegal, I’d be in prison. “-David Baldacci
“I write to shed dead skin and to explore why people do the things that we do to each other and to ourselves. “- Terry McMillan
I was an angry child. I was in martial arts and all kinds of extra -curricular activities. Those were supposed to be outlets. I was still angry. I was just angry, busy, and in some cases talented. The anger didn’t vanish. I later acquired interest in literature. I sought solace in myself. I would write. I would curl up on the pink rug in the front of the heater vent and write. I’d eat a whole row of saltine crackers, a red delicious apple and a yogurt with fruit on the bottom and I’d write. I’d only get up for two slices of raisin bread with butter. My poetry didn’t have to rhyme. It just had to bleed. It had to have a heartbeat. It had to have a conscience. It had to have bruises. It had to have the kind of scars that cocoa butter couldn’t rub away. Grotesque scars. It had to secrete the tears that I couldn’t.
When I was at Stonybrook University I had a phenomenal professor in one of my Africana Studies classes. Day one of the class there was an elephant in the room. Finally, one of the Italian football players said, “You’re lily white. How can you teach a black studies class?” That woman sat on his desk with a nonchalant poise that I have never seen. She said, “I am whatever I choose to be. I am Cherokee Indian and Italian. I have a history degree with a minor in Black studies. I have a lot to teach and you have a lot to learn. ”
I did a lot of writing in that class. I did a lot of soul navigation and destiny seeking. I am whatever I choose to be. I think about that a lot. I choose to be a writer. I know my writing has the potential to engage, enlighten , excite and empower. I know I’m not getting any younger but I know I’m just starting to delve into my true abilities. I plan to show strength, creativity, and resilience.
I write because it allows me to be whatever I choose to be.
What do you choose to be? Dare to satisfy yourself today! Tell the world you are fulfilling your destiny or you can Shutyamouthandcallmeugly.
By SMN 5:58 pm 4/29/14