04 February 2014

another black history moment: all the writers are white, but some of us got shit to say about it

Today in Black herstory:

Recently on my Facebook wall, a friend sent me this link on the daily routines of famous writers.

After reading only half of the article, I shot back a quick reply mainly wanting to thank her for the recognition (that I'm a writer, too) and point out that there was something in the piece that resonated with me.  I wrote her that "Susan Sontag's [description of her routine] really did it for me...like her, i'm a little bit (oh, hell, a lot) undisciplined with my writing, which is why i'm also not prolific (though i currently have 217 documents, more than half of which are incomplete or [a] clutter of thoughts and ideas for writing projects), and i love doing other things...but in the 21st [century] media/technology frenzy, i can get caught up..."

But then, duh, it struck me that the idea that these were the only (?) famous writers was flawed, and followed up with another comment, an addendum, if you will:

"although...there is a deficit of writers of colors, here and elsewhere these little essays of writing inspiration are derived, which feels heavy in the sense that, as a writer, i am always confronted with the imperialism and hegemony that privileges white (mostly male) writers--as i'm sure most writers of color are faced with--as the only authority on writing and the writing process...books [and advice from writers] like, "i know what red clay looks like," "black women writers at work," and two of bell hooks' monographs: "wounds of passion: a writing life" and "remembered rapture: the writer at work" are far from recognized and less likely to be considered for [respected] commentary on this topic...where [the hell]is james baldwin? langston? octavia? pearl cleage? toni morrison? nikki giovanni? sonia sanchez?  weren't/aren't they popular [writers], too? just a [black her/historical] thought..."

Maya Angelou was the only Black writer recognized, and further recommendations for more of this kind of stuff suggested more of the same: the only writing authority is the white authority.  But what about me? What about you, my diasporic literary sistas and brothas? What say you about your daily writing routines? Are you a morning or late night writer? Do you write every day or only on weekends? Do you prefer cafes or more intimate and quiet spaces?

forget all that writers write bullshit...writers, especially this Black writer, write when they can.  I may find the urge on Monday at 10am, and write till I'm blue in the face, but on Tuesday, I may have to do something else, engage in another kind of struggle...so i write when i can. ~roro

Another stolen Black history moment: there are only marginal moments of Black history within American history.  Moments that don't deliver the width, depth and breadth of Black (or other non-white) experiences.  Moments that delay or withhold truths-- Moments that limit and delegitimize.  Moments that become rote and regurgitated.  Moments of divisions and conquests lest we forget our place. A real cloak and dagger act.

One such cover-up is in the historical belief that all women (only in theory) gained the right to vote when the Nineteenth Amendment was passed.  No such thing, chile.  In practice, it was White women (mostly, middle-class) who would inherit the rights of this passage, which dawned on the 26th of August 1920.  Nary a word about when Black women got this privilege, which was some decades later (racism--no surprise there--poll taxes and such nonsense were illegal barriers to voting/civil rights). Moreover, Black women rigorously participated in the Suffrage Movement, many whom sought (unsuccessfully) to build solidarity with White women, but you'd have to dig a little deeper to find this herstory, and you'd be hard-pressed to find it as relevant content/context to the narratives offered regarding women's history. Historical apartheid prevails. But I digress...excuse my discursiveness. Or don't.

All that to say that there are countless examples of Black folk being uninvited or dismissed from the official (ha!) "American" story as if we would make an unsightly mark on something so pristine and impeccable. And they don't want to be embarrassed...oh lawd, let's not disrupt the status quo!  So our minds continue to be colonized to the extent that even with all this technology and ability to look up and get information on almost anything you want (for the life of me, I could not find a credible link to what routines Black writer practice), we are still pushed so far back from the (digital) center as to be rendered totally and utterly invisible (especially if you make the status quo feel too uncomfortable, then forget about it, you don't exist in the white imagination, and have you ever seen that played out? I have).  If you don't rock the boat, you may get an honorable mention, as did (Black/American) experienced writer, Maya Angelou.  This article basically told me that the Black writer ain't as authentic, disciplined and prominent as the white writers mentioned.

Fuck that. I'm advocating for more exposure to the recognition of Black folk to the literary canon.  As a start.  Hell, why not reconstruct that motherfucker and give it a lot more color and pizazz and straighten out some of those persistent white wrinkles (and could someone tell me why does Stephen King show up under an image search for "famous Black writers"?  See?). More importantly, let's re-define or do away with "famous" cause it takes up way too much space, literally and figuratively and metaphorically and oppressively.  It is a word (in this and other contexts) that ubiquitously lends itself to the perception of dominance, especially when the dominant is so mono-chromatic.

I figure since this is Black history month as well as my birthday month, I may as well raise a little more hell than usual.  What the fuck. I'm just saying.

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