Identity

 

thesearchThe most painful part of being a Black American is the fact that our history stops at slavery. Many African-Americans know nothing beyond that their people were once slaves. We don’t know our African tribal languages or rituals. Our ancestors were so terrorized by slavery that survival was the only imperative. Documenting their past wasn’t high on the agenda of a black American slave. So the past went undocumented and soon unspoken of and then completely lost.
Because of this stoppage, this unknown component, it is so easy for us to develop low self-esteem. Jewish people can hold on to a time before and after Hitler. They have a lineage to reach back to and know that they functioned with pride prior to being dehumanized by the Nazi regime.
Black American’s have tried to reach over the sea to the African continent and use African traditions as a foundation for a declaration that even before slavery we proudly existed and thrived.
I am Black American female and my ancestors, no doubt, were taken from somewhere from the shores of the African Continent. Where, exactly? I have no idea.

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soul soup: a poem

writing

When I am not writing
I am not thinking
Not breathing
Not pushing out
Invisibility
That thrives within
That corrodes my insides
That eats
away
At my lungs
My brain
My heart
When I am not writing
I am not me.

conjugal visits

Sometimes the writer in me pushes through exciting me with a rush of – what, euphoria? Intoxication?…I’m not sure but whatever the spirit, it fills me, moves me, tickles me with its tender fingers making me feel like I can somehow turn my passion for words into a product, a living thing that sustains me.writing450

Most wannabe authors dream of publication and I’m no different. But I’ve read enough to know that publishing is first and foremost a business and like all businesses, money is the main and ultimate goal. You must write what sells.

Whatever compels readers to swipe their cards or whip out their cash is what publishing houses want us to produce. Every how-to site and book advises authors to research prospective publishers and “see what they publish” and they advise us to see if we “fit” into the mission statement of the firm that has their books marketed to the people who they know will buy.random-penguin_2380018b

Look through all the conformist advice and see what you must be in order to traditionally publish: this is theme of the unpublished. Yet, when you really notice…when you “see” and comprehend that many of the greatest most moving books are the ones composed without conformist pressure to make money (or so I believe).

Perhaps I’m naïve, or maybe I’m just another bitter writer in a sea of writers pinning to “make it”. Either way, I’ve come to know that I don’t want to approach writing in the same manner I approach job hunting, because essentially that’s what publisher shopping is, when one researches the company and beefs up the resume to fill the need.top-publishers-2010-01-01-0012

I am good at formula following. I can cling to a template and plug in numbers. I can compose within established guidelines and pass an audit with ease. I can mirror a concept or tweak a rationale. I can spin a story and put out whatever is necessary; that’s what I do every day at work.

But for now, writing is an escape; a magical titillating conjugal visit done purely for the joy of it.

poem: a writer

 

Behind my motherly exterior, I am a writer.

Cafe

Somewhere in there

A writer

plunking away in a café

Describing the flow of the wind

The glow of a smile

The tingle of a touch

The frantic, manic

Screams of happy children

Charged with youth

Energy

Of calcium rich bones

And

Adrenaline filled veins

Somewhere in there

A writer

life vs write

Okay.

I have been unable to write for pleasure.  It has been about four weeks now since I’ve written a coherent word that was personal or creative and served my own purposes.  I’ve written a hundred work emails detailing an injured employees medical status and return to work strategies, but I haven’t written one sentence that caresses my imagination and drives me to smile.

life goes on...

life goes on…

I have reviewed my finances, planned the twins back to school wardrobe, written grocery shopping lists, called in prescription refills, attended parent-teacher meetings, helped my husband arrange for a out of town trip, swept the floors, moped the floors, washed dishes, prepared meals, washed hair, combed hair, dropped kids off at appointments, retrieved kids from appointments, and watched horrible television, yet I haven’t squeezed out a teardrop of imaginative writing.

This bout of writers block is further exacerbated with the obligations of young family life.  Some days I wish for old age.  I wish I was sixty years old and all the children are well adjusted grownups that still came by to visit but didn’t need me to prepare their meals anymore.  I would be retired and free to sit in my home library reading and working on a project that I’ve promised my agent I’d have done by an impossible deadline.

Dreams.

That’s my little pipe dream; to be mature, creative, and published.  I love my family life and I love my creative life.  The reality is that family does come first. Shared human experiences help pad my creativity, feed my soul, and keep me healthy.  We are here on earth to connect with one another and then write about it.

Attitude: the shield of protection

How did black women get their attitude?

 

blackgrlsThe origins of snappiness come from slave life in America.   Black women were brought and sold right beside the male slaves.  Many slaves were naked as they were auctioned; their body parts appraised and audited shamming them in front of crowds.

 

 

 

 

 

price

The black female body was a commodity.  The white female body was considered pure and feminine and worthy of protection.  Black female slaves had no right to claim femininity, thus they warranted no protection.  Black women were property and did not own their bodies which meant that anyone could do anything they wanted to a black female and not face any punishment at all.

 

 

 

 

 

foxbank-plantation-houseIf the slave master wanted to have sexual relations with a black female slave he did it without question or protest from anyone.  And as historical legacies go, a subculture that included the sexually ferocious black female was born.

 

Black women were considered uncivilized workers with vagina’s.  Anyone who wanted to quell their human urge for sexual pleasure could take up a slave girl who didn’t have a say in her own life.

 

 

As time passed the Constitution was updated, slaves were freed, civil rights were heard, and progress towards equality in America started to take shape. All the while black women were still being objectified.  Black feminist issues were not dropped in the American bucket of issues.  Our stories did not change much from slavery.  Black female issues still take back seat to racial profiling and other issues that deal with black males.  Even in modern times, black women and children are still being raped, touched, groped and fondled secretly in their homes and at their gathering facilities.

No one is paying attention.

Many black females will tell stories of their childhoods where they were repeatedly molested and taken advantage of by both strangers and family members.  Not to suggest that every black girlhood includes sexual exploitation and degradation.

Many black females have healthy molestation free childhoods. But many people will look at these women and assume that they have lived a horrid life comparable to Sapphire’s “Precious” character.  But one thing most black woman can identify with is being tied to a stereotype of having an “attitude”.

nene

This attitude was formed out of necessity to protect oneself.

 

Linking our ancestry back to slavery times we see that we had no recourse. No one shielded black woman from the force of brutality and labor. Black woman worked hard and maybe even harder than the male slaves in the cotton fields.

Since no one took us in, we took ourselves in.  We internalized our struggles and use the pain to fuel our verbal and physical attacks.

 

 

slaveladyBlack women slaves were brutalized and abandoned. Today I can say that we feel the same.  At least I do.

 

We still think that no one loves us and we have to “look out for our own”.

Today black woman are still viciously combating their attackers with tough language that makes even a manly man fall back.    We’ve learned that a “don’t mess with me” attitude aids in deterring unwanted people from our presence.  But there is a down side.

This use of power has expanded to any and every one.   We’ve turned on each other.  Girl fights in clubs and jealous rages have become the norm in black girl world.

 

I’ve spoken with many black women who said “I don’t let nobody disrespect me.”  I truly understand this.

 

 

attitude1

But we must be careful to remember that  Respect is earned.

 

The horror of slavery has shaped our ancestors thinking and behavior, thus shaping our grandmothers, and then our mothers. Now us…

I can see and feel the change in the American air.  Some say we are in a post-racial society, with the black President, black first lady, black kids in the white house, and self-actualized black women all around the country. I’m not sure if we are in a post-racial society or not but what I do know is that the fragile black female is a beautiful relevant member of American society and she can be herself without an attitude.

I am not against sass. I am against unresolved anger.  We should extinguish our anger and move forward.

 

 

 

Dear Writing

Dear Writing,
vanessa1
Why do you insist on torturing me? I’m vacuuming the floor, doing laundry, and ordering a child to clean up spilled juice. And in even in the midst of all this chaos you’re whispering in my ear. You should be writing….

Writing what, exactly? I have five incomplete novels, a memoir, and countless essays. Which one of those should I devote my attention to? And even if I do plunge into literary dedication, where will that leave the laundry? Who will answer the seven year old who’s asking endless questions? What type of birds can’t fly? Why do they even have wings? Is the monster in that movie real? Is Santa real? A girl in my class said he wasn’t.

Trust me. The little girl wants her questions answered. She’s standing over me daring me to type a word before she gets her answers. I’m tempted to hand the laptop to her and let her go crazy on Google conducting her personal development research. So, writing, even though you’ve called I have to stop and be a mother. I must speak with my daughter and tell her that Santa should be real to her for at least the next two years. I will research why some birds have wings but don’t fly, and no, that monster in the movie is not real.
Now back to the laundry…or, the writing…um, which one? I think it was Anne Lamott who said that at the end of our lives no one ever says, “man, I regret not doing more laundry.” Something like that anyway.

Wow, this struggle is real. But I sigh, and sign off…