What to Write

26 Jul

I’m feeling very visual right now.  My body is feeling disconnected but my mind is alive with color and shapes and a desire to have something different. My written voice is sounding girl from ‘hood makes good and I don’t know if that’s what I’m interested in or what I feel I have to discuss.  I had a conversation once with an artist/poet of color that said that there is this huge expectation for artists/writers of colors to write about People Of Color issues. No matter what we, poc artists of color, may want to create we are indebted to our cultures by social norms. To say I feel out of my body is to imply I was ever in it. To say I write about my culture is to imply I was ever in it.

I’ve had identity issues for as long as I can remember, and the studies show that isn’t unusual for POCs. Doll tests, Brown v. Board of Ed and plenty of documentaries on black beauty, all show how hard it is for POCs to maintain a high opinion of themselves. Toni Morrison’s depiction in Blue Eyes, felt a little to close to home. As a child, when I wrote stories the girls all had long beautiful straight hair and gorgeous light eyes with creamy skin. I’ve grown so much over the years, and we as a society have come very far but its amazing to me that anyone can expect me to write about a culture that I am still discovering and which is eternally changing. I do however feel the expectation when people ask me if I am a spoken-word poet, which inevitably feels like an “all brown people do spoken word”. I feel it when I read the work of many of my peers who focus on issues of black identity and black community. And of course I feel it when people tell me how much they love my little ‘fro.

I don’t want anyone to think I’m bad mouthing people who write about culture. I’m not. I don’t hate myself or where I come from and I have no issue identifying as a proud black woman. What I struggle with is being labeled and placed in a box in regards to my work. I don’t want to be applying for a grant and hear that I don’t seem to be connecting enough with the community when what the reviewers mean is that I didn’t play up my identity in order to win. Does it feel right that I should have the weight of over 200 years of abuse and rage on my shoulders just because I’m black? Or do I have the right to do what many white/European people do and shrug it off and write what I want? I don’t think I’ll ever write super modern hipster stuff or anything. I still live in the narrative. But what I would like is to be able to discuss the narrative of someone who is not me and not feel like I’m being racist or letting someone down. Anyone know what I mean?

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