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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Been giving some thought to this writing business ...

as a potentially serious author, that is. The keeping of a journal has its appeal I suppose, but one has to assume that an otherwise disinterested public wants to hear what one has to say. That's a big question. It takes a lot of ego to ascribe to that; maybe more than I have.

I understand and appreciate the appeal of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Terri McMillan, and Zora Neale Hurston. Their writings describe black life and in many cases in the vernacular of the black experience. I suppose that my admiration for their abilities has prevented me from even considering myself capable of consideration; as being worthy of the title "author." My voice may be so atypical with such an atypical story to tell that there will be no audience wanting to know. A hybrid of the times. After all, I'm still working my way out of feeling as though, racially, I'm nothing. But I've finally decided that, in fact, I'm really everything -- and a wonderful thing to be, after all. At least that's the way I see my beautifully blended grandchildren.

My life experiences are in many ways a mirror of countless other African Americans who are members of the middle class brought up to middleclass mores and values. We're often the beneficiaries of a wide variety of cultures by virtue of mescegination, greater access to socio-political life, and are often placed in positions that allow us to affect social change disproportionately -- if we opt to use it in that way. We find ourselves being sought after to validate racial diversity on boards and commissions everywhere -- often for the simple reason that we're seen as "not like those others." Many of us fall prey to ego by believing that we represent more than that. One of the most painful lessons learned in life as a black woman in white suburbia was that the concept of a middle class black exists only in the mind of a middle class black. To most of the rest of the country, a nigger is a nigger is a nigger! An architect designed home, a backyard swimming pool, a wood paneled station wagon, Armani suits and vacations in Hawaii or Palm Beach do not a member of the elite make, despite arguments to the contrary. Acceptance is invariably conditional.

Perhaps my value and marketability as a writer will lie in the fact that mine may be a relatively unheard voice. Maybe it's one of the voices of the future; a forerunner of a nation forced to write new rules of conduct to cover a country going "beige" with new guidelines created to maintain white superiority in a nation where skin color or lack thereof is fast losing power to control governance; a revolutionary thought, and one that is already bending the rules of the game. There is hope in the knowledge that many ordinary Americans are now beginning to see the fallacy in white supremacy and that its protection cannot be maintained without sacrificing democrary itself.

There are millions of us out there growing up in a world forever effected by the revolutionary social changes of the past 50 years. They've already changed the world for the better, though if you don't know where to look, you won't know that.

One of the exciting signs for me is that when I'm sitting with other elders in organizations like BCA (Berkeley Citizens Actions) or the NIOT (Not In Our Town), I see good folks still working hard to bring about racial equality for all the right reasons. But it's still a goal to be attained at great risk and personal sacrifice. If I cross town to sit in a Poetry Jam at Black Dot or the Alice Art Center, or the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, young people of every color, racial or ethnic group, gender orientation, economic class, and educational background can be seen with their eyebrow rings, skull caps and baggy pants -- sharing their poetry in a world where those differences have been relegated to a back seat and equality is simply assumed. They're not really working at it anymore. It's called the Hip Hop world, and that world has already arrived. It's standing on spindly wobbly legs like a newborn colt, but it's here. The Internet is giving it strength. The arts are giving it form. And in many ways, I can recognize it because at the Nu Upper Room in Oakland, California, I along with others acted as midwives to its birth. We weren't alone. In many corners of the country it's been coming alive simultaneously -- struggling to be heard above the din of a war that wants to crush them out to still their voices.

It's a matter of stepping ahead with them into a future that they're busily creating. The young know. And, just as that remarkable group of socially venturesome intellectuals and spiritual gurus in the late Seventies and early Eighties arrived in the Greater Bay Area in large enough numbers to establish the Human Potential Movement in the wake of the Free Speech Movement and Freedom Summer of the explosive Sixties, there is now a critical mass of youth doing the same for racial equality, environmental, and criminal justice. It's the magic of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Through its magic the Bay Area has been transformed for the better and been radiating out into the country and the world ever since.

Maybe I'll be worth reading because mine is a voice of hope. I've seen the future in the faces of the young and my only wish is that I could hang around and live it with you.
Maybe -- as a translator of the language of social change over a great expanse of time -- my voice is one of the carriers of history and a reliable predicter of the future.
Maybe because, for whatever reason, I've remained politically and experientially Black despite the seduction of expediency and the quest for personal fortune.
Maybe because I've retained the ability to say and be what I am and what it is with candor and without restraint -- mine is another Black voice to be read and heard alongside the rest.
Maybe because a deviant voice adds breadth and depth to and expands the Black experience .
Maybe this is the time to speak beyond the listeners at my shoulder and in the board rooms before it's too late and time runs out ... and just maybe

this is a gentle way of avenging the cruel enslavement of my ancestors, Celestine "Of no last name," and Leontine Breaux Allen, into whose shoes I've stepped in my time -- by giving them legitimate voices beyond the grave and into the continuum of family and national history.

...and there it is!

My reason to write -- that which only I will have lived and documented because only I have lived their lineage down through all of the drama of all of the generations and into my humble shoes!


But where do I go from here ... ?

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