Time for Someone Else’s Story

You know you’re avoiding writing a blog post when you’re creating a family tree for your characters instead of writing. In all seriousness, I do have to create this family tree before I write much more. I’m at that point in the story where I need to keep track of several threads of relationships in my no-longer novella. It’s not exactly overwhelming. Yet. Maybe it is? I’m calling myself out. This uncertainty is definitely a factor in my procrastination.

And more about that procrastination… One of my writer friends sent me an email noting that my last post was in May. I’d been feeling like I needed to finish the blog post I’d drafted in June, so it wasn’t a surprise someone else noticed. But every time I would edit my draft post, I’d basically rewrite it. Earlier today I listened to a podcast by actor Amy Schloerb (of course I wasn’t avoiding writing – why do you ask?). Like me, she’d been having a hard time sharing her thoughts when so much was happening in the world, with people dying from the virus or from police brutality. She had some great thoughts that, while specific to acting, can apply to other areas of life too. It’s worth a listen. Knowing I wasn’t alone helped me get my rear in my chair and my hands on my keyboard – at least in relation to my blog post.

The horrible events we saw in May and June (continuations of centuries before) highlighted the huge inconsistencies between my life and the experiences of Black lives. It took some time for me to come to terms with this. I’m hopeful that with the shift in funding commitments and the changing laws, we’ll start to see lasting improvements in the experiences of Black lives (all BIPOC). Based on the feedback of POC themselves, the fixes that have started to happen are tiny in comparison with what needs done. Society needs dramatic shifts, and checking my own thinking can help with that. Amy describes this type of shift in her podcast.

In late May, I started actively educating myself. I’d been aware that most Black women’s lives were more difficult than mine, but I didn’t grasp how much I’d underestimated this. I delved more deeply into the stories being shared and found out that I live in a vastly different world. This contrast appears even in writing and publishing. Here’s an article that details the disparity in advances Black authors receive. So much for expecting that how well you write would determine how well your book performed.

Through all of this, I realized that part of my problem was thinking I was informed. No, no I was not. And I am sorry that I did not truly change that earlier. Starting at home, I learned a tiny bit more about the travesty of Africville. This was a small community located on the Bedford Basin just beyond the MacDonald Bridge in Halifax. I knew a horribly inequitable process had been carried out against our Black Community. I knew that their homes were taken away with minimal payment. What I didn’t know was how those in power manipulated the situation.

The town leaders deliberately undermined the independence of a vibrant community. The situation itself was repulsive. But twenty years later, town leaders gave excuses and rationalizations about the town’s actions instead of sincere apologies. The families of Africville were and continue to be irreparably damaged by the actions of the selfish people in power. Those impacted are still fighting for reasonable compensation today, over 50 years later.

Systemic disrespect hasn’t stopped. One young African Nova Scotian man, Trayvone Clayton, shared glimpses of the racial profiling he’s experienced in the last five years – including when he participated in the National Canadian Black Summit in Ottawa.

Part of my self-education has been intentionally adding BIPOC authors to my reading list to make sure I’m taking in worldviews outside my own. It’s not a new experience to read BIPOC authors, but I was embarrassed at how white my library was when it’s so easy to change. Reviews of authors and books I enjoy will join the other reviews on my site. Now I need to find time to read all the books I’ve purchased… and still write my own!

Jumping right in, the first new-to-me Black author I started to read is Resmaa Menakem. He wrote My Grandmother’s Hands. I was immediately fascinated by Mr. Menakem’s approach to racism, looking at the history of the trauma and the relationship with the body. It’s non-fiction and just the type I appreciate reading. If you enjoy exploring the interconnection of our psyche and our body, and how trauma alters those, you may want to pick it up. It’s not a fast read – it will take me months to read through – but it’s one I’ll be returning to until I’ve read the last page.

I also found a few short stories that stood out to me. Links are below so you can easily enjoy them as well.

Seven Feet & A World Apart by Chanel Hardy

The Teal Wall by Diego Green

Forgiveness by Ellen Boyd

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