There are times when Black authors find themselves fighting against those who wish them to edit their soul. Take the salt out the meat. Take the voice out the work, and leave it seasonless. To quote Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, “People still have a white, western idea of how intellect is ‘spose to walk in the world.”
Let it not be lost that how Black people speak, including how we write, has been under fire since the days they forbade us to read and write. Considering us fools (and hoping we’d believe we were), they told us our language was broken. Told us massa was some jumbled version of master to justify our alleged stupidity and inhumanness. (Note: Massah is a Hebrew word meaning burden or oppressor. We called them what they were.)
The audacity to dilute language rich in culture by “correcting” it is just as brutal as stripping away someone’s name and replacing it with your own. What does your Ph.D. in poetry have to do with my grandmother’s tongue?
The way our slang terms do not always mirror what is heard or written within collegiate circles.
The way proverbs and parables roll off the tongue only to be shackled to some white scholars’ standards of brilliance. He think it’s nonsense how Jay Jay and Man Man ‘nem talk about how they be chillin. Or how Aunt Lou tells one of her grandchiren to go wrench off this spoon. She puts her hands on her hips, waves and says ‘How you?’ (She means it the way she says it, leaving out the ‘are.’)
The way the world attempted to tuck knowledge away from us, hide from us its secrets. (Though, we already knew them.)
Black writers do not need to sacrifice their soul or shapeshift into white standards of intellect to create something beautiful. They need only to be who they are and let the words be seasoned.
I picked up your scent going out the door this morning. I should have known that the impulse of a summer dress, short sleeved and cool, and the sliding of my foot into sneakers meant you were not far away. Instead, I would let my sweater drape over my arm and sniff the moisture you left hanging in the air. It wasn’t very bright out, but budding flowers and children laughing was enough. Did not need to see the sun lean its body dramatically over the clouds to feel the heat of spring on my skin. Bright colored birds sang a joyful tune on into the sky, and the curtains moved against the window sill just as seductively as the tree branches swayed leaves to and fro. And as my husband presents me with a pot of African violet, with petals all soft and blooming, and my neighbors resurrect house chairs for a spot on the porch, I know that spring has arrived. Welcome.
One minute its warm and then the temperature takes a bow. He’s too clever to crouch, for then I will notice him. So yes, a bow will do. Just enough to add to the confusion of the weather. But today. Oh no today I’m on to him. It’s so very nice outside. Plus, I have seen splashes of yellows and trees budding reds. I have felt the gentle brush of warm air crawl upon my skin. I have watched the sun hopscotch with children and then hide behind the clouds again. I have seen the shelves of stores dressed in organic soil and flower pots. I awake to the kiss of sunlight nibbling at my face, though by the time I make it to the window you vanish before I could let you in. I approach the patio to get a taste of a calming breeze, then shutter at the sight of goosebumps on my skin. My short sleeves and dresses lay intermingled with my sweaters and jeans, poor things. They are confused in this maze of a world, this puzzle of a decision. My blinds are open again, trying to catch up with you. I’m sure the twinkle of the stars is really laughter. I think I even saw them slap high fives with the moon, for I am the peeping tom of the sky. Over here playing hide and seek with spring.