A princess I can believe in. She won the night.
“I always physically felt like an outsider. I didn’t look like anyone else. But I think, and I think many writers probably feel this, I felt more like an outsider in terms of my empathy and the way I liked to observe everything. I was slow and thoughtful in a way that people perhaps mistook for being very daydreamy.
I feel like I belong when I walk on the prairie. Nature is very fair to all. There’s no judgment.” - Author Nina McConigley
To read more of my HuffPost piece on her book Cowboys and East Indians as well as our interview, go here.
What would happen…/If love took over my country?/ Would we become a happy and united people/Where the world hears only happy news about us/All the time, on all the channels?/ -from “What If Love Took Over My Country” by Yalda Yalda is an…
Are you a teacher or a group leader of any kind, or just interested in going deeper into love, forgiveness in your own life? Read about the AWWP Love and Forgiveness curriculum. Contact me at stacy at awwproject.org and I will send PDF or hard copy.
“As a black American woman, I had the luck to born of a time and place that has allowed me to speak and write freely. There is always risk, of course. Any time I speak out I risk upsetting family, friends, employers, the powers-that-be. Yet, no one is actively trying to censor me. I don’t fear the Gestapo outside the door, or the white employers of the town will seal my fate because of my statements. I don’t feel that if I say the wrong words I will be shunned from my family or banished by my community. So many men and women who came before me had to master codes in order to speak—they were forced to talk in riddles and artfully hide the true meaning of their words, living a life of constant plausible deniability…”
I think that the best way to honor Nelson Mandela is to read his own writings, his speeches, and accurate histories of the man. If you don’t have access to direct sources right now, writers across the web are giving much needed history lessons on the life of Nelson Mandela. This is a blessed thing, for there is danger when we shift into elegy mode, when anything perceived as dangerous or distasteful about a man and his life is downplayed, re-phrased.
This piece will not be that history. This is a very small piece. I just want to share one of the millions of gifts Nelson Mandela has given the world. The one he happened to give to me last night as I was walking my son home from school.
Twelve years ago, I lived in Nigeria. I was told that one of the best compliments you could give a Nigerian was to compliment her patience. I was skeptical. Patience? Yes, I’d grown up with “patience is a virtue” and intellectually I could list several reasons why one should be patient. But, I always associated patience with passivity. As a woman of color, I looked back at all the times that our people were told to “wait” and “to be patient” and the voice I hear making this recommendation always seemed to have a vested interest in our inaction. That every time I heard someone way “be patient” it sounded like they were buying time—buying more precious time to enjoy their privilege and power.
But last night, as I walked home and contemplated Nelson Mandela’s life, I thought about patience. I realized for the first time that patience doesn’t have to mean passivity. Patience is also perseverance. That when I contemplate Nelson Mandela’s life sentence on Robben Island, how year after year passed and he had no reasonable expectation, as the number one enemy of the state, that the state would set him free, that this blessed human man persevered as the leader of the struggle. His patience was active and alive. Nelson Mandela was a patient agitator. Nelson Mandela was a patient freedom fighter. His force went deep underground when necessary. But his force maintained forward momentum, even when isolated, even when breaking rocks in the burning white light. And while I can’t know how broken he felt at times, I know he survived, that he walked out of that prison at age 71 and took his rightful place in the sun.
Last night, I read at the Apogee Journal winter reading. Chris Prioleau dedicated the reading to Nelson Mandela’s memory. When it was my turn, I spoke about these thoughts on patience. One of the co-readers, the electric poet r. erica doyle, did the beautiful: she read from some of Nelson Mandela’s speeches before she read from her own work. One thing she said is that when she was in college in the 80s, and doing her activist anti-apartheid work, she never, ever believed the South African government would free Nelson Mandela. Never believed it. And as we contemplate how his story ended, this speaks to the power of patience, to perseverance.
I am deeply grateful for Nelson Mandela’s works, for Nelson Mandela’s example. May we all study, study, study, and emulate as best we can. May we all persevere and be patient.
Tomorrow night! Come out to 61 Local. I’ll be reading an excerpt from my essay “Public Displays” entitled “Show Some Love for the World Famous Apollo Kids!”. And by the way, I just saw r. erica doyle read at the First Person Plural Reading Series. She’s stunning. Come on out. If my word isn’t good enough, The Rumpus listed our reading as notable…
At the REZ Reading Series in Kew Gardens, Queens (Nov. 7) Great to read with Linda Fisher, Karen Levy, and Katy Garrigan. Per usual, a gracious hosting by Deborah Emin. And the most delicious beet & cabbage soup by Suzanne (who also saved me from a streetcorner when I became hopelessly lost trying to find the coffeehouse). Loved being out there. Loved being able to read new work.