As an African American male raised in Harlem, the bustling, culturally diverse environment that Morrison has painted in Jazz is easy for me to visualize despite the large gap in time. A troubling truth that Morrison grapples with–and this connects to her mission to write for black people–is the intraracial war happening between men and women of color. In response to physical and emotional abuse from their male counterparts, the women take matters into their own hands–this, in a way, manifests itself into the form of Violet’s knife; the same knife she shoved into Dorcas instead of Joe Trace. I think it’s quite important for us to realize and acknowledge that Jazz is perhaps the closest we’ve ever been to truly experiencing a text about/for black people this semester. In much the same vein, prolific writers James Baldwin and Audre Lorde sat together in 1984, to talk about the very issues that run rampant in this novel. The interview still haunts me to this day; what does it mean when men and women within a single ethnic group commit acts of violence against each other? I don’t know the answer; and I argue that Morrison, Baldwin, and Lorde are just as troubled and dumbstruck by the situation. But I also think that all three are working towards understanding the problem before they can ultimately solve it, as best they can. Here is the interview. Enjoy and, hopefully, as I was, be enlightened.
Hey, all. I just wanted to share this short reflective essay that I wrote to Beth a few days ago, detailing some thoughts on my self-identity in relation to Toni Morrison’s works and the upcoming semester:
Toni Morrison writes for black people. I’ve been thinking about this statement over and over again since the first day of class. It wasn’t until the end of my first fiction workshop that I had considered using my narrative voice to talk about the black experience. I wrote a short story about the creation of the notorious Bloods and Crips; gangs that have been tainted by media and corrupted social structures; gangs that began as clubs and fraternities for underprivileged minorities who couldn’t join white clubs in the community. That story still haunts me to this day.
By the time I had dabbled in poetry and left the world of fiction behind—albeit temporarily—I had already written a myriad of pieces about what it meant to be black in America; poems ranging from topics like Emmett Till to the slave trade. At the time, I was still a novice when it came to discovering my voice: what did I want to talk about? what was I using my poetry to do? was I writing for myself or for others? I also didn’t want to limit myself to one topic of discussion; in other words, I didn’t want to be the black male writer—because I was definitely the only one in all of my workshops—who specifically wrote about the black struggle. The thought of this troubled me; it made me feel stagnant. I was afraid that those around me thought that I was cliché and was only using my voice for shock value or guilt tripping. I think about this now, and maybe I was indeed right to do those things. Continue reading “Beginning of Semester Reflection and Hopes”