Talking about me is not easy, and this section has changed since I first put it up.
I love words. As a child, we were taught to use precise and expressive language to describe bodily functions (it was “urinate,” not “pee,” ) and to express our frustration when things did not go the way we planned with “golly gum drops” instead of a vast wealth of curses that many of our classmates used. Needless to say, this made us perfect targets for other kids who had — um — issues.
Still, it was drilled into us that “bad words” were a sign of ignorance. Daddy led political discussions about Dr. King’s work at the dinner table, and we kids learned about the importance of justice, fairness, and equal opportunity even as we lived through the trauma of poverty, segregation, and family dysfunction.
I learned that words could hurt or heal, and sadly, from the age
of two, learned through the lens and context of race in America that words matter. Being “black” could determine the path and expectations of a person’s entire life, or it could just be the color of a pen used to write great stories. “Colored” or “white” determined what bathrooms, water fountains, jobs, schools, movie theaters and stores were open to us. Hair was “good” or “bad.”
But there was an upside. Our segregated public schools were filled with illustrious Black teachers who stressed the importance of learning—everything. We were as familiar with Langston Hughes as with Shakespeare; with Gwendolyn Brooks as with Emily Dickinson; with Frederick Douglas as with Abraham Lincoln. Our schools were named after African-American scientists and scholars, and I learned that words were powerful, poetic, and alive. Classes and after school arts activities anchored me in the glory of words.
I loved ballet class (free), violin lessons (free) and the Thespian Society. I loved reading about strong and adventurous girls, the Bible (talk about poetry!) and sneaking peaks into books on my mother’s adult book shelf (she is a teacher) that included Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron and Geoffrey Chaucer.
My experiences — creative, education, and, well, life – began to teach me that how I use language matters. And the lessons continue.
For more years than I can remember, I’ve been keeping my thoughts, positive and negative, in journals, essays, poems, stories, lyrics, and music. I sing and currently collaborate with a couple of fine musicians.
I try to examine everything that comes my way, a habit that has kept me buoyant if not always happy. I bend, spiritually, to the east and I am still learning that things are easier when I compromise, but not so easy when I conform. No.
I am a communications specialist (business and public information) by day. The work (when available) buys my food, pays my bills, and bought my 12-year-old Honda (Yes!). What writing for business does not do is express the deeply spiritual nature of living creatively and the power of words to make life more than a be born-eat food-have sex-and die experience. Know what I mean? Of course you do.
Finally, I will probably update this section as I go along, because life is change. Stay well and happy!