Self-portrait, August 2010, photography by Diedré M Blake
Simply shocking…this article. I am taking a momentary pause from my hair issues to write about something that has really been on my mind lately: racism.
From reading articles about racial profiling to even a Black woman being chased and threatened that she would be raped and lynched, I have had enough. Black women have been seemingly under blatant attack over the last few years…or better yet, centuries.
It seems that as Black women move up in society and make a place for ourselves, as we demand recognition for our work and our intelligence, as we endure hardships from inside and outside of our community, there are some who are trying their very best to stifle our voices and reduce us to those caricatures that plague mainstream media.
We are neither “hoes” nor are we “bitches” nor are we “mammies” nor are we “domineering,” nor are we “baby mammas,” nor are we “welfare queens,” nor are we any other form of degradation that many may want to lay at our doorsteps.
Indeed, consider us strong and proud women, who are unique in our self-expression and our external beauty; there is no shame in that. I hope you will agree.
Here we go…
I am beginning to understand just how much in the “dark” I have been over the years. Sometimes I think that being from the Caribbean prevents and has prevented me from really understanding the mental and social plight that many people who look like me experience on a daily basis.
Recently I said to my partner, Matteo, that I see myself as being an extremely privileged Black woman. You may wonder why.
The reason is this: I grew up in a predominantly Black society until adolescence. I was never overtly taught about racism. It was only later in my early twenties that I came to understand that there was indeed a form of internalized racism going on in Jamaica.
That is, from childhood we are subliminally taught that those who were considered to have “pretty skin,” or “pretty hair,” or “pretty eyes” were those who had a lighter complexion, less coarse hair (think hair types 3c and above), and to have lighter coloured eyes (not dark brown like mine).
I remember blatantly hearing people who were very dark-skinned being referred to as “duppies” (ghosts) amongst other terms. Now back to my privilege.
For the love of the universe, I grew up listening to heavy metal, classical music, reggae, alternative rock, and country. I suppose I could add some more to that, but you get my point. 😉
The result of these characteristics is that I am a non-threatening entity to a potential dominant White majority. That is, I fit better into that world rather than in one that is dominated by people who look more like me–as I have often been accused by other Black people of being an “oreo,” i.e. Black on the outside, White on in the inside.
It is a sad thing to realize that because of all of these factors, I am shielded often from the prejudice that people who look like me face on a regular basis.
Even here in Italy, where racism is rampant, I was bluntly told that because I am perceivable “attractive,” then I would certainly not experience racism here.
What?? Let me state that again, I was told that Italians are only racist against Black people (or in my case, women), who they do not consider attractive. Really?? Okay…
This is not to say that I have not experience overt and covert racism as well as sexism. Indeed I have, both in my personal life and my professional life. I have been told things like “Oh, you aren’t ugly like other Black women;” “Oh, you are just like a man, intelligent.”
In high school in Florida, I had wanted to attend Berklee College of Music. The band director knew of my desire and had many times lauded me as an excellent musician…
I was, however, not given a letter of recommendation (even after multiple requests) , even though I had proven myself and was acknowledged as a multi-instrument composer and musician, who even led her own Baroque woodwind trio.
A more extreme example happened in college. I was directed not to file a complaint against a White student who assaulted me, because it would be difficult “for someone like me” to prove my case. Instead, I was moved to temporary housing.
While travelling as a student and even beyond, I was routinely stopped and search. Perhaps it is because I had
loc’s, (think marijuana), or
a Jamaican passport at the time (think hard drugs/marijuana), or
nowadays because I wear a head-wrap (think terrorist)–
although, I really should thank those airport personnel for the many head massages I have received as a result, and that one rather cute airport screener in London, who felt it was her personal duty to shove her hand down my pants. You know! 😉
I have been denied upward mobility in my career, by even being denied the possibility of my master’s thesis project being presented to and approved by an internal review board…
The result of this was a most necessary improvisation on my part and a scaled-down version of the project. It didn’t stop there.
Anyway, I could go on forever about the slights I have experienced…just like many other women of colour.
You might be wondering why I am posting what could be perceived as a “rant.”
The reason is simple:
it is time for all people, regardless of socially-defined race and nationality, to wake up!
The colour of your skin, the organ that lies between your legs, the texture of your hair, the structure of your face, your height, your accent, your perceived physical endowments DO NOT dictate the state of your mind.
They do not dictate your capabilities.
They do not dictate your potential.
They do not dictate your intelligence.
They do not dictate whether or not you are a “good” or “bad” person.
Seriously, isn’t it about time that we stopped all of this tomfoolery? Why must we remain so divisive in our words and actions whether within or outside of our own “designated” groups?
I am afraid of the news that I see coming from various countries on the treatment of women who look like me (yes, I care about men too, but I am a woman first).
I am afraid that with the growing belief that racism no longer exists, we are becoming too complacent and letting our awareness slip noticing the everyday occurrences of racial/ethnic/sexual/gender/physical biases that are happening right in front of our very eyes.
Disclaimer:The following thoughts are simply my own. I do not and cannot speak on behalf of any particular group. These thoughts also address issues concerning weight fluctuations and its impact on self-esteem. If this type of topic causes discomfort, please do not continue reading. It took me a great deal of time to decide to address this issue…and thus, I do not do so lightly. I only hope to share some of the experiences in my life journey that have brought me to this point of whom I am, i.e. a person I love most dearly.
Since childhood I understood something quite clear about the value of hair as a woman. Perhaps it would be better to state, “as a Black woman.”
I understood that the relationship I would have with my hair would be one of constant struggle. I watched my mother, my sisters, aunts, and friends go through the battle of having to straighten their hair. Not only that, some even went to task of getting weaves, whether by sewing or glueing. All in an effort to have that ever-coveted “long, flowing, hair.” I didn’t understand it then, and it some ways I still don’t.
I only knew that,between my mother’s desire for me to grow my hair long and society’s expectation for me not to look androgynous, I could not cut my hair. Well…that was until I turned 15. 😉 What changed?
Acrylic on canvas, 9X12, 1998
Well, I began to embrace my sexuality.
While still living in Jamaica, at the age of 11, I knew that I was “different.” I write “different,” because at that time, I did not know the word “lesbian.” After all, I grew up in a highly patriarchal and homophobic society, and had beenand attending all-girls Catholic school for some years as well as living in a convent–even though that last point might make you wonder how I hadn’t learned the word. But enough kidding around. Seriously, I had no idea. I simply knew that I liked girls better than boys.
At the age of 13, I did have a pseudo-boyfriend…I suppose because it was expected of me. Still, I didn’t feel the expected spark or any type of magical feeling when I thought of or spoke with him. Of course, that would all change after I moved to America and met my first girlfriend at the age 15.
You see, when I moved to Florida, I was still struggling with my relationship with God/the Universe and my growing understanding that I was “different” (a.k.a lesbian). I spent time studying with the Jehovah Witness, the Mormons, and even the Moonies–yeah, I was that serious! ;).
I wrote letters to Catholic organizations, and even received a heartwarming pamphlet called “Pastoral Care for the Homosexual,” which basically told me that God/the Universe didn’t hate me, I just needed to remain celibate for the remainder of my life. Right.
After lots of studying, writing, many tears, I decided that these Christian religions had it all wrong. I believed, rightfully so, that God/the Universe doesn’t make any mistakes…and God/the Universe surely didn’t make one by creating me. So, I cut my hair…
Wait…I know it may seem like a leap. But you see, I was ready to claim my sexuality. I was ready to shed the heterosexual norm that had been dominating my existence up until that point.
You see, I had somehow zoomed my way through Cass’ Sexual Orientation Identity Formation Model: going from identity confusion to identity pride. I cut my hair, donned some flannel (see above picture), bought Melissa Etheridge cassettes/CDs, learned Indigo Girls songs on my guitar, started pointing out every lesbian I could to my mother, cut out every article I could find about lesbians and/or lesbian life, signed up with various Youth LGBT organizations, and even began volunteering at L.U.C.H.A (an HIV/AIDS Care Centre). You get the picture.
With my decision to walk away from my Catholic/Christian faith, I no longer felt the need to pander to societal expectations. I didn’t have to concern myself with what it meant to be a “woman” or even a “Black woman” per se, because it seemed to have very little to do with me. I had simply to work on creating me, a “me” not bound by any restrictions of heterosexual society. In essence, I became a social” nomad, without a sense of belongingness.
At that young age, I hardly saw images of lesbians beyond the famous ones, singers and politicians. I didn’t see images of young lesbians like myself. If anything I understood that the lesbian community had long modeled itself on the heterosexual community, i.e. of having dominant/submissive role relationships a.k.a butch/femme. Of course, please understand, that that was in 90’s and also my exposure to the LGBQT community was very limited prior to going to university.
So, what does any of this have to do with weight?
Well, the reality was (is) that in my household “long hair” was not the only concern, “being thin” was too.
References to how thin someone was or should be was a constant in my life growing up. Furthermore, I happened to be the tallest girl in the family as well as the thinnest (a result of both nature and nurture).
My weight was constantly observed and lauded (alongside my academic achievements). It is no wonder that there was and still is such a huge distance between my sisters and myself.
Being thin, however, had its advantages for me being a young lesbian. I wore masculine clothing with ease. I could look and was androgynous when I chose. I was more able to attract the attention of other young lesbians (whether out or not). In other words, I had chosen to externalize my sexuality in the most obvious way.
Again, this refers to that time and I am not saying that sexuality can only be externalized by dressing androgynously.
Then something happened.
At the age of 17, I entered Stanford University. In a span of a year, I watched my hair grow by the miracle of extensions (braids), my academic abilities plummet, my weight increased by double digits, and my overall self-esteem shatter in fragments so microscopic that I was certain that I would never recover those pieces (which ended up working out okay after all…because that wasn’t actually self-esteem).
I returned home at a weight that I consider to be still below average. I was hardly overweight. The result of this gain, however, was the gift of my being signed up to take personal training sessions at a local gym. I went once or twice to appease the powers that be. Then I did the next best thing: I ran away.
Well, not really. I simply chose to spend a good portion of my summer vacation away from home. And I continued that practice all throughout college.
“Is This Your Weapon?” Acrylic on Canvas Board, 18X24, 1997
Interestingly enough, it was also at that time (after coming out to my mother on a cross-country road trip from California to Florida) that I decided to keep my extensions and try giving the heterosexual dating thing a try once again. And I did…to spectacular failure.
Many, many awful things happened that are best left undiscussed at this point.
The result was that by the time I returned to being true to myself, the damage that I had inflicted upon my body was quite severe. Thus, in the span of three years, I had gained upwards of 60 pounds and the number kept climbing up to and beyond graduation.
Letting Go of/Creating The Image
I wore braids until mid-October 1999. I was living in Berlin at the time and my study abroad program had travelled for the weekend to Weimar to visit the city as well as to see the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and the Bauhaus School of Art and Architecture. It was during that trip that I decided to remove my braids and let my semi-formed loc’s embrace the air and light of day. 🙂
It was the best feeling in the world, i.e. letting go of something that was not naturally a part of myself.
My hair had grown long enough for me to be able to manage it and I was excited to see what it would do and how it would grow.
After graduating, as I stated before, my weight had already taken on a life of its own. I failed to take responsibility for it, using it instead as an emotional shield to warn people away from me. I decided then that I would do whatever it took to return to a healthy physical state.
Just as in my teenage years, I felt I had the freedom then to reinvent myself. And it would not be the last time.
In 2002, with the help of my eldest sister, I started working at fitness club. First, I started just as a desk attendant, but was happy to take tips from the trainers and also to have free use of the equipment.
In time, I became a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and a spokesperson for the fitness club. I became a fitter and healthier version of my former self. I was neither the thin/fragile-looking teenager, nor was I the heavy/tired-looking college student.
2004 I entered graduate school with my hair, body, sexuality, and self-esteem intact. How I would leave it…that would be another thing.
All the discipline that I had learned while working as a trainer were tossed to the wayside and replaced with the discipline of study and working full-time to make ends meet. My long-time girlfriend from Florida had moved with me to Boston and our relationship grew further apart the more I worked and studied…until it finally dissolved.
In 2006 I graduated, and was elated to find myself already employed and dating the woman who would later become my life-partner, April. My health was steadily deteriorating just as steadily as my hair was growing. Finally in 2008, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia; and April and I married. It should have been the happiest day of my life. It wasn’t.
The night before my wedding had found me in the hospital, barely able to move, and suffering unbelievable amounts of pain. My wedding day was a medicated fog tinged with worries about the final details and dealing with family concerns. My weight too had been skyrocketing. Eventually by March 2009, I would reach my highest weight ever…193. What happened next would change my entire life…
At the age of 18, I knew that I needed to take a different path from those around me. I decided to grow my hair out to its natural state, and then to form loc’s. I suppose, now-a-days, one would say that I “transitioned” over the course of three years from processed to natural hair.
Okay, perhaps it didn’t take three years for the chemicals to come out. However, I did begin braiding my hair to waist-length in 1996. I finally stopped in mid-October 1999 when my natural hair had begun to loc’ (as I had wanted it to do) :). Thus, it was until mid-October 2013 that I wore my loc’s.
It may seem odd to some to say that loc’s have a life/history of their own…but really, they do. I understood this to be true in late November 2010.
Because when you wear loc’s, you trap something very important within them: memories.
My grief, my understood existence up until that point, all of it was symbolized by my hair. With his death, who I was then or thereafter became an enormous question mark.
I staring into a mirror then didn’t help me to make sense of what I saw. My grief was beyond recognizable thoughts or words.
All I could do then was cut and cut and cut and cut. With the fall of each loc’, I felt that I would find the strength to create a new path.
By the time I was finished, I recognized something that I had not realized before: I was free of a heavy burden that had been weighing upon me, i.e. my hair. Three pounds (3lbs) of hair had been removed from my head. I felt lighter, freer, even if I still remained in the depths of grief.
Fast-forward some two and a half months, and I find myself far from Boston. I am now in Rome, beginning this blog, and trying to discover who I am to become. My short loc’s are now a source of discomfort and comfort for me as they remind me of all that I had lost prior to my arrival in the Eternal City: my marriage, my beloved Petie, my job, my sense of home, and even myself. Yet still, those short loc’s spoke to me of the hope of starting anew. And so I tried to do just that…
Masque, acrylic painting by Diedré M. Blake, 2000
25.10.13, 13:44–Boiled Hair.
Strangely enough, even though I continued to cut my hair to cheek-length in the years following, I still wanted to continue presenting myself the way I always had before, i.e. when I had long loc’s. I still wanted to wear my high head wraps, and I did–it wasn’t the same.
Somewhere subconsciously, I understood (although I fought against it) that it would never be the same until my hair grew to its previous length. So, I stopped cutting my loc’s and decided to wait for them to grow. That was one year ago.
Rewind to about two weeks ago, at about 4:00 in the morning, on a Thursday, I sat in silence in my room. A comb in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. One the bed: a bottle of conditioner and a bottle of water.
I had decided to take out my loc’s. I didn’t know if it could be done.
I wanted to keep as much of my hair as I could–doing a serious, shaved-headed “big chop” was not in the cards for me, but neither was waiting for my loc’s to grow out and loosen either. Thus, I turned to YouTube–who knew it was this useful–and I searched for “undoing” and “taking out” loc’s. Lo and behold, I found some very useful information.
“Tu sei debole,” my Italian professor says pointedly to me. “Io sono forte. Quindi io vinco e tu perdi.”
It is a discussion on verismo and positivismo–the idea that we are what we are until we die and that there is nothing we can do to change it.
Fibromyalgia is the body that will not rise, even when the mind commands it; the mind that will not rest, even when the body requires it; the emotions that rage; the emotions that calm–the pendulum of the self that swings wildly with the change of the weather…the change of the seasons.
Fibromyalgia is the body that overcomes pain, even when the mind surrenders to it; the mind that overcomes suffering, even when the body submits to it; the thoughts that beseech; the thoughts that concede–the pendulum of the self that settles slowly with the transformation of self-perception…the formation of self-acceptance.
“I am a person who has a chronic illness,” I say to myself and others. “Fibromyalgia and I are not one and the same.”
My professor is staring at me. He can see that my movements are slow. I am in pain. It takes me a long time to rise from my seat, to pick up my books, to pick up my coat, to put my bag on my shoulders. It is not a good day. There have not been many good days since late autumn.
“Is it always like this?”
Shamefacedly, I raise my eyes to meet his. “Often enough these days.”
I have no excuses. I have learnt well enough by now that people will judge you as they will–but he isn’t judging me–and if the judgement is harsh, then you can only apologise for having disappointed–but he isn’t disappointed in me–and move on.
“Have you ever written about it?”
Found via Google Images
“I have tried in the past.” The question is not unfamiliar. Indeed, it was only a little over a year ago that another professor from the Creative Writing Program made the same inquiry. “I decided to take some space from it.”
It is momentary, the dance of excitement that control his features before coming to an abrupt halt. Here is an opportunity. I know it is an opportunity.
My mind already understands the words that have yet to be spoken to me. My mind has already resolved itself to the task that is to be required of me. My body feels heavier than before, the skin and flesh of my chest press too much against the bones that encase my lungs. My body feels more alive than before, my shoulders and my head are relieved of some invisible burden.
“Whenever you cannot be here,” he says before continuing to gather his things. “I want you to write about it. Write about your fibromyalgia.”
In this moment, he is teaching me something I had once learnt, seemingly long ago. He is teaching me that self-acceptance is a dynamic process that evolves from self-confrontation.
It is time once again to look in the mirror.
Thank you again to those of you who continued to visit my blog even though I have not posted in some time. More recently, I have been struggling with my FMS symptoms and have had to prioritize the tasks I needed to accomplish during each day. As such my writing fell temporarily to the wayside. I have decided to dedicate my blog writing to dealing with topics related to FMS until the end of May (which is the FMS Awareness month), including reviewing books as well as activities/tools that have helped and are helping me in my process.
How do you know that you have been running until you stand still? How do you recognize that your running has been a chase, one that is going after that which is and always will be ever-elusive…because it is not real?
We are born into a world that sometimes demands of us to begin running before we understand what it means to truly stand, before we understand what it truly means to walk. Sometimes, we are asked to go after and resolve the dreams of those who have come before us, because they have “failed” to achieve them. Thus, their dreams become our dreams. They live vicariously through us (even if they no longer live), and then we do the same to others.
As we begin this new year, we may be tempted to create long lists of goals to be achieved over the next twelve months. That is, until we have to create newer and even longer lists that include the goals we “failed” to achieve (alongside the ones we now believe we must achieve in order to be “successful” in the process of living our lives). We may be tempted to beat ourselves up for not having achieved our goals from the previous year(s). We may even be tempted to simply give up and decide that we can never live life as we are expected or would like to live it.
Recently, when asked if I have made any resolutions for the new year, I have responded, “No.” This answer, however, is not true. There is one resolution that I have made–I have resolved to understand why I chose to make resolutions.
This year I have resolved to understand what parts of my desires for my future come solely from me, rather than from the desires of those who have come before me and who have had an influence upon my life.
It is a daunting task. It is, however, a task that I am undertaking with great pleasure and already happy results.
I recognize now that the fear-tinged “happiness,” which I have been chasing for so very long, is neither of my design nor is it my desire. I recognize now, even more fully, that the capital “H” Happiness is not a fearful experience and one does not have to chase after it. Happiness is always around you. You simply have to choose to stop running. You must choose to stand still–at least, this is what I have come to understand in regards to my life.
Stopping, however, is a process. You cannot simply halt yourself midstep and not expect to fall. No, you must slow yourself down and begin acknowledging that which surrounds you. And as you slow down, you begin to realize that you can breathe more easily, think more freely, move more gently. You realize that the path, on which you are travelling, is not so very hard on your feet, on your body, or on your mind. Indeed, the path is actually one that is quite beautiful even if and when it is isolated…
Beginning late October of last year, I began this process of stopping. I decided to allow life to show me that, even at my lowest, I can also experience my highest sensations of gratitude and love.
Thus, I would like to welcome this new year with an expression of gratitude to all those who have supported me and continue to do so (even when my path diverged from their own). Particularly the following people:
My Mother (who is an emblem of strength),
My Sisters (who think and know that I am quite strange but love me anyway),
My Ex-partner (who showed me the part of myself that was missing and still loved me),
My New and Old Friends (who help me to face myself each day),
My New and Old Mentors (who inspire me to reach that which seems beyond me),
Thank You All.
I hope that You have been able to welcome the new year with hope and joy.
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have had the pleasure of being nominated for the Liebster Award by Sandra Bellamy, author of the blog QuirkyBooks. 🙂 Thank you so very much! I am truly grateful.As a part of being a nominee of this word, it is my task to answer eleven (11) questions, the answers to which I have posted below. So, I am going to dive into the questions, and let’s see what happens.
Below my answers, you will see my nominees for the Liebster Awards!
What first inspired you to start writing a blog?
Well, it is more of who rather than what. I would say that my clients first planted the seed in my mind about writing a blog. You see, I worked with adolescent and young adult women, who believed that my life would interesting to share…I wasn’t quite sold on the idea. That is, until my friend, photographer Dolores Juhas, suggested I begin one during my second visit to Rome. For whatever reasons, I thought then that it would be interesting to begin writing, especially as I had already resigned from my position, and felt more free to write about life publicly.
What is the biggest challenge you have ever had to face when writing your blog?
I suppose I am always concerned with issues dealing with privacy/self-disclosure. As a therapist, I think it is important to be mindful of what I share of myself in the world. I have tried, therefore, to write more self-reflective pieces that could be applicable to the lives of those who may take the time read the blog. I think it is important for therapists to show themselves as being human beings, who struggle and work through their issues, without going overboard with the details.
If you travelled through time, what time would you want to arrive at and why?
Well, I would prefer to travel forward in time. I would like to see what the world will be like in a hundred years. Why? Thinking about how much things have changed in the experience of living for human being since 1912 makes me curious about how 2012 will be viewed a hundred from now. Will we have changed for the better?
The Last of the Mohicans (1992 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do you prefer to eat chocolate or sweets (or neither)?
If I were to be blatantly honest, I would say that I prefer Milka Hazelnut Chocolate bars. 🙂 Otherwise, in general I prefer chocolate. I am not a fan of sweets, except perhaps mints. They are always handy.
Do you prefer to read or to write?
How about both? I consider myself a prolific reader. I go through books of various genres. I’ve always been like that since childhood. I am grateful to my ex for purchasing a Kindle for my birthday, because it has allowed me to continue with my book-buying obsession. Right now, I am hooked on Japanese manga–don’t ask why. 😉
What is your favourite genre of writing and why?
I prefer poetry. Even though I have a tendency to ramble, it is a function of my struggle to find the right words to capture my thoughts. Poetry I find lends itself well to image-based and minimalist thinking. I can choose one word/image that represents a host of ideas without having to go into lengthy explanations.
Then again, I also like writing essays.
What is your favourite non-fiction topic to read about and why?
Oh, may I plead the fifth on this? Why? I have a wide array of interests. There isn’t one particular subject I prefer to read about at any given time. Rather, I become fixated on a topic, read and learn all that I can about it, and then I move on to the next topic.
If you could buy one book that would help you to solve a problem in your life, what would it be and why?
Wow, is there a manual out there titled, Life of Diedre M. Blake: How to Guide? If there is one, then I will absolutely buy it. Otherwise, I think I will have to write that book myself. Currently, I am doing extensive research on this subject.
Rome, Italy (2.21.11)
Do you prefer to write at night or during the day?
Well, I have found recently that if I lock myself in the basement of a university, armed with a laptop, the soundtrack to The Last of Mohicans or The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or Vivaldi‘s Four Seasons, I can write from morning until late in the night. If I am at home, however, I find that I tend to write late at night or ridiculously early in the morning.
If you could be any character out of any book, who would you be and why?
Hmm…Strangely enough, I would be Jane Eyre. I guess because I relate well to her story. Also, perhaps I am a bit of a romantic, and would like to believe that the hardships of life serve a purpose and can help to lead you to self-love and the love of others.
Do you prefer to read a printed book or an e-Book?
Printed. My apologies to the trees, but there is something comforting to the feel of paper in my hands.
Who do I nominate for the Liebster Award? Well, see below:
(Disclaimer: I recognize that some of these blogs may have more than 200 followers, but still I would like to acknowledge them. Also, I am not very technologically savvy to know how to find out the number of followers a blog has if it is not posted.) 🙂
I have no desire to write today. My body aches from fatigue and illness. My mind focuses on all the things that I ought to do and ought to have done. I am taking pleasure in listening to the sound of the flowing water from my shower…another ought to. I am pondering the call of the starlings that have made their arrival known to Rome. My mind refuses coherent thoughts. I write because if I wait for the desire to write to come, it may never do so. I write because I recognize that I am hiding myself from certain truths, or perhaps certain fears. Today, in this moment, I am asking myself why I have chosen this path. It is so very uncertain. Why take a step towards a destination unknown? I suppose I have no answer. I can only live in the now, not the then or the hereafter . I have no guarantee that this life that I am living will lead to anything that would be considered a success by all. What I do know is that I am filling that which was once empty. Until next time. Best,D.
Found on Tumblr (File name: tumblr_lxk4ytehyo1qzuyz3o1_500.png)
A relatively quiet Sunday. All the shops are closed, except the fruit stand and the pizzeria around the corner. I took a break from writing, and actually took the time to sort through some writing. I decided to post some work that I had done over the course of the past academic year.
I decided to do this partly because a friend asked me to email her a copy of a short story that I had written, and partly because of something my mother said to me a few days ago, i.e. “It doesn’t make sense to keep all of this to yourself. You have to share it.” She was, at the time, referring to my poetry. I think, however, that the same goes for my other writing.As I prepare for NaNoWriMo, I have come to recognise that although I have always written, I never really considered myself capable of writing stories.
Yes, some years ago, I sat down at began writing a novel, to which I hope to return once I have some more distance from it and have become a better writer. Even as a child, I started stories, but rarely did I find their endings. Perhaps it was simply that I did not want to imagine an end to my stories then, or perhaps I did not know how to end them.
It was different with poetry. I would write, then rewrite, then rewrite. All of that with the effort of finding the end, finding the meaning of all that wanted to say. In poetry I sought answers to the questions that plagued me.
It is with tremendous thanks to my professors, authors Carlos Dews and Elizabeth Geoghegan, in creative writing that I have gained the confidence that I can find my endings to my stories. I hope as I go along that I will make them proud of the foundation that they helped me to build.
So, please, review my stories and personal essays to be found under the Writing section of this blog.
This story starts as far back as 1999 while I was studying in Berlin, where I was approached by an elderly couple, who 1) wanted to take my picture, and 2) wanted to ask me hair care advice for their recently adopted African grandchild.
Now, I am all for helping anyone out if it is within my power. Thus, I acquiesced to their request. Let’s fast-forward to my travels around Italy. From the time I put my foot down on the sidewalk of an Italian city, I have been regularly asked to have my picture taken, sometimes by people who are visibly tourists and sometimes by Italians. It doesn’t matter where: walking around the Vatican (check), coming out of the Colosseo metro station (check), window shopping in Florence (check).
Of course, this kind of thing is flattering on one level–who doesn’t like to have someone ask to take their picture? And I am human enough to say that I find it mildly entertaining, i.e. after the initial shock. On the other hand, it is rather disturbing to me to come to the understanding that some people have such little exposure to others who are visibly different that they feel the need to record it–I am quite certain that there are random pictures out their in the world of me looking sightly (or very) awkward…
In Campo dei Fiori studio (2011)
Anyway, what say you who are like me? Has anyone else had these kinds of experiences, regardless of your race/ethnicity? If so, what do you make of it?
Vivian Nwakah, host of the blog Lonely Tripping, writes about her travels and her experiences. In one of her posts, she discussed the lack of positive portrayal of Black people in the media. More so, how the prevalence of this type of negative media has a potentially direct impact on the experiences of Black travellers. In relating an experience with a young Turkish man, she stated,
“Now in his defense he has never left his village in Turkey and he has probably never met a black person before. He only has the media and negative portrayals of black people to go on.
That being said, when you leave a big city and start to travel the world you should expect and be prepared to deal with misconceptions about your race, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, and nationality. The most important thing to know is that if a person you meet is not open to learn about you and your culture; the only recourse you have is to continue to carry yourself with class and dignity.”