Mildred D. Taylor
Just so you know, I fell for you first. Maybe it’s because that Logan boy and I shared the same name I was birthed with. I mean, back then I had never been to the deep south and I’m sure Stacey Logan knows more about the land than I do. Anyway, I was in 6th grade when we met. You didn’t know it then but you introduced me to black literature and I’m not afraid to claim that title or to separate black writer’s into a category of their own. How could our experiences not be likened to the Roll of Thunder? You were that seed planter for the rooted passion I now carry with me.
You always kept it real so Imma return the favor. You see my eyes hypnotized every young man who lusted for my lil sweet self. All fresh and new and walking all lady like. And then you came knocking at my consciousness like the Coldest Winter Ever but claimed No Disrespect. I’m sure we connected by way of the struggle. You see I was brought up in the Robert Taylor projects on Chicago’s south side so crack heads, rats, and hunger didn’t alarm me. I fell in love with the way you never sugar coated the truth and anyone whose been where we’ve been knows just how real your words are.
How long must the caged bird write before she sings? I can’t credit myself for coming up with that line. You showed me how a poet can use metaphors to write fiction too. Even though your memoir is all truth, your talent transformed it into something that can be considered just as poetic as phenomenal women. Your voice was passionate and strong and thundered like waves of air across the sky. Even in death is your memory, still that uplifting arm rising like dust and written down in history.
Speaking of poetry, ever since I heard you speak I wanted to write for colored girls. You brought me back to those Souljah days with your raw tongue. How it unfolded from the very bottom of your gut and lifted the skirt to every pain black women have endured since the days their slave masters told them that rainbows weren’t enough. You didn’t write the way that I was taught in school, you wrote the way that I spoke. Like when my friends and I crowded around de front porch and ma boyfriend waz whispering quite literally, sweet nothin’s in my ear. And I laughed stupid like “You pretty” was something revolutionary enough to show my privates for.
By the time I got to you my thoughts started to evolve into a wanting I couldn’t put my finger on. My mind had gone from reading for entertainment to studying the books I read. I was on a search for something deeper than cotton fields, magnolia trees, and project rats. By the time you came along I was reading in-between the lines and trying to find that thing called freedom. And I wondered just how deep I had to look for that Tar Baby.
As soon as I found out you were from my home town we bonded. Was real cool like besties from the low end on the South Side. Bonded like 47th Street and State, Bronzeville, or Englewood. You see your lyrics had depth like the deep south you was born in, but had that look about it that screamed Chi-Town. Simple poetry that spoke volumes. You taught me that if I loved him the right way, saw him the way I was supposed to, that a man became more than just a body.
This relationship of ours! I can read you anytime and Lewis will always seem like the same Ray Ray and Pookie we all know. You perfected the art of black family life and character development. Every book I read of yours sends me into that world and I’m just laughing and shaking hands with your people like they my people because they are. I have stayed up plenty of nights turning pages and laughing and trying to figure out just what it means to be A Day Late and Dolla Short.
A Love Letter to the Black Women Writers Who Liberated Me Read the title of an article written by Ashley Gail Terrell, a freelance writer from Michigan working on her first novel. Her post was inspiration for this piece.
I believe there are stepping stones to everything in life. That something that leads and guides us from one place to another so that we can reach the place we’re supposed to be. It can be anything from music, movies, television, people, places, things, and even books. Now, because of choice we do not always see these stepping stones for what they are; do not always notice the impact they are having in the moment in which we experience it and for some of us, perhaps we never will. But when I read this title, I thought back to the writers who I have come to love over the course of time and I began to meditate on how they have influenced my writing. When I was not yet where I am, spiritually, mentally, and physically, these writers (although not just these writers) became valuable launchpads on behalf of my writing today, sparking a flame of passion for the art that I still carry with me.