I lost a friend this month
Not to cancer, an accident, or anything so drastic but to a narrow minded way of thinking
The sad thing is I was surprised but not really
Now you and I know that when it comes to maintaining friendships I'm about as good as ragweed on a nose with hay-fever tendencies...I blow it every time and have to apologize.
So let me rewind this story a bit and fill you in on the juicy parts.... see what had happened was I wrote this project....you may have heard me talk about it incessantly... (all together now) The Black Bottom Blues (see you guys really are smart!).
Yeah that one..the purpose is to take writers who have never been outside the country to Africa and have them write and talk about the people they meet and the experiences they have so they can dispel the stereotypes they see on television or in the news. I want them to see for themselves that not all Africans live in extreme poverty or are uneducated and I want the Africans to see that not all Blacks are video hoes, corner boys or unappreciative of their heritage.
So now that you understand I can move on...jeez you guys have got to keep up with me on this.....I've like said it what a gazillion times in 6 months....really people how often can I beat you over the head with it!
SOOOOOO getting back to me...so I've gotten these great ideas for the website and how to make it very in your face and showcase the stereotypes of each culture right up front. I know the shock value is a bit much but let's be honest I've got 10.3 seconds to grab my audience and the clock is ticking.
ok so I wrote this poem which is going to be the voice over for the main page of the site, if I do say so myself it is AWESOME! Its very bluntly stated from the view of a Black person who doesn't want to be associated with an African and from an African persons view of not wanting to be associated with a Black american.
It is chock full of those little innuendos that we let slip when we think nobody's paying attention or doesn't call us on it.
I sent it to a few people that I respected, to get their take on it; the poet whose voice we're using, the woman whose setting up the site and the African who has been helping me get this project off and running. Two of the three thought the poem was on target....number 3 not so much.
In fact number 3 was so offended that they sent an email to the very people who I was going to speak with while in Ghana, voicing how upset they were that I would even consider writing such a foul speaking, stereotypical slight and their eyes were now open to the "reality" of who I was and what the project stood for.
Ok can you pass me the tiara and the scepter while he puts on his sash and pumps please...thank you
Needless to say they "unfriended" me from their Facebook page.
I think they were a little miffed.... so much for my global award for cultural sensitivity.
So I was sitting here thinking of how ironic it is that in trying to dispel the myths and misconceptions of cultural identities I have created one for writers....not everyone is going to get you.
I've never had this happen before!!!!!
Everybody likes me!
I'm like the one person that everybody calls to fill in the Easter basket...
I'm the colorful one with lots to talk about. I'm like so upset right now...tissue please.
Okay I know I should be but for real though I'm actually tickled..... I've never been banned before...
I think it'll start a trend right about the time the website goes up and people get a look at the pictures but not bother to read the information.
I think I should change my email address now while I still have a chance...
I have to admit this whole incident had me questioning myself and the reasons why I wanted to do this project but then it went deeper than that.
For the first time it made me question my abilities as a writer. All my life I've written about how I felt and how I saw myself. Writing helped me to work through my molestation and my self worth issues. It made me see that I was being narrow minded that there were women and men who felt like me and then it made me realize how ashamed of my skin I had been that I'd bought into the Barbie mentality and tried to live it.
Writing opened my eyes to other cultures and helped me to talk to people who looked like me but didn't talk like I did. Who for want of a better life left behind everything they knew to come to a country with the hope of making it just a little bit better for their own family so many miles away....even if it meant they took menial jobs and suffered countless moments of harassment or embarrassment because of how they talked or how people thought the country they came from looked.
I want my writing to influence positive change especially changing someone's opinion of another person, another culture and how they view themselves.
I honestly and sincerely believe that how a person views themselves determines how they view the world around them and that if you show them both the beautiful and the ugly parts and explain the history behind it that they really will begin to see themselves more beautiful because they accept all of who they are instead allowing other people to pick out the negative pieces and make them feel ashamed.
I've been too close to this project, it really is like my child. I've seen it grow up and I've taught it so many things, that I sometimes don't see how really messed up and disobedient it can be because it has its own personality.
I know it sounds stupid but it does. I know what is supposed to be and I know how its supposed to help but what I don't know is how people will react to it.
Will they embrace the idea and begin to talk about how their own identities have been compromised because someone thought them less than someone else?
Will they throw stones at it and blame it for putting too much focus on the negative aspects, that are well known in each culture, that it will do nothing but add fuel to the fire and people will see it as joke and dismiss the whole idea of what its about?
Or will they look beyond the images and the negative news items and finally say "damn, I didn't know you guys felt that way... that happened to me too"?
I'd love to say number 3 but the truth of the matter is 1 out of every 3 people will see the negative and run with it to the nearest podium and hold it up. Shouting about how ignorant it is and how it perpetuates the myths. Try and shut me down because they never bothered to listen to the project's purpose only what they think they heard.
People will always see what they want to see no matter what it is
and I could choose to live with this perception....but why should I?
I've based my whole adult life on changing, transforming, illuminating through words, allowing my spirit to guide me so that I could see the whole view instead of just the one I wanted....
hell I've transformed your perception of me by talking to you about my insecurities, my obsessions, my idiosyncrasies and yet you still come back and tell me how much I've given back to you.
I believe that I can change one mind by making them look at the words on my sign and question why? Even if they don't agree with me they'll question me and that's all its about
that's the first sign of revolution...question the reason why
So thank you Patrick for unfriending me...I'll miss you and your quotes, your enthusiasm and your unyielding energy but if nothing else you realized where you and I differed...
even if you may have misunderstood my words.
"Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching under water
You never can hit who you're trying for...
In how they think it ought to be
And they're not going quietly"
John Mayer "Belief"
Causes Monique Annan Supports
The Leeway Foundation