Right now, Andrene is writing these blogs. Hopefully, I won’t always be the only one writing these blogs. Fingers crossed.
I am one of the founders of ZuriWorks for Women’s Health. I am unabashedly committed to health and well being of women of color, especially and unapologetically black women. Of course, I am in the struggle with all my sisters of color — Latina, Chicana, Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Aboriginal, and every women at that intersection of multiple racial, cultural, and ethnic identities. However, I am a black woman. I am a Caribbean woman. I am a Jamaican woman. I am Canadian woman. I am an American woman. I am a black woman. I must navigate this world in this black and female body. Needless to say, much of my musing will be framed from this perspective. The beauty of my view is that I have always been forced to see from other people’s perspective. Interestingly, my perspective gendered, racial, and cultural perspective forces me to approach all topics with a level of rigor, that for most would be exhausting.
Beyond that, I am a three-time cancer survivor, an athlete, writer, activist, scholar, artist, and I am sure that I am so much more, but I haven’t discovered it all yet. ZuriWorks started as a passion project. I was in my “Jesus year” — 32. I had survived three bouts of cancer and four treatments, including a stem cell transplant. And, all the while I reinforcing my resolve to live, I rarely saw young black or women of color like me telling their stories. So, I began ZuriWorks. Even as I work on the ZuriWorks’ projects, teach courses, I still have a burning desire to do something more … For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be writer. However, I did everything but write. I went to school. I taught school. I collected degrees, started organizations and projects. I even learned to swim. I began running races. I taught writing. Like I said, I did everything but write.
I didn’t write for lots of reasons, chief among them, I was cloaked in shame and fear. As a young writer, my English/writing teacher shamed me. She didn’t think my (semi) erotic stories about teenage runaways and star-crossed lovers navigating life through urban cities were appropriate. To be fair, I was eleven years old in seventh grade. But, looking back, I was really ahead of my time. As an eleven year old, I was creating a space for urban lit (think Zane, Sister Souljah, or Omar Tyree). Perhaps, if I were nurtured, I would have written a novel that garnered the same “critical acclaim” and success as Fifty Shades of Gray. In a few days, the movie Fifty Shades of Gray is going to come out and folks are anticipating it will be a major box office smash. The author is going to be rich. That could have been me. Anyway, I digress. Like I said, my middle school writing teacher told me that she did not want to read anymore of my preteen erotica. So, I became fearful. I approached the page with hesitation.
As an adult, I decided that if I was not going to be a writer, I might as well study great writers. I began a long journey of acquiring degrees to give me the creditability to speak about other people’s writing. Unfortunately, my apprehension didn’t go away. It got bigger and stronger. I struggled with (constructive) criticism from professors who were the gatekeepers to the English language, literary criticism and theory. There was no doubt that I was smart. There was no doubt that I had an interesting, creative, and innovating way of approaching a text and formalizing analyses, and even developing a theory. However, there was always the question of whether my writing was good enough. After all, I decided to attend a school that had a legacy to protect and was steeped in proving its relevance. I entered into a tradition that demanded rigor that I was unaccustomed to, and I was unprepared. For the gatekeepers — I mean my professors — writing is a revolutionary act. Writing is approached with a sort of deep understanding that as a writer you are fighting for the “souls of black folk.” Writing is for the liberation of oppressed, maligned, and marginalized people. I struggled mightily to meet their standards.
Until this moment, my writing has been restricting to social media posts. Facebook, I have found, is a great place to spew my intellectual musing about the day’s events. And, there are so many events. From brown boys and men being shot at will by everyone from cops to neighborhood watchmen to the “casual” racism of well-meaning non black friends, there is so much to say on social media. However, it is social media, a space of voyeuristic judging and subtle bullying. Some of the people on my Facebook page are actually my friends. So, here I am subconsciously testing out my writing chops and finding my voice — again — and I start to get pings from friends. Folks are wondering when did I get so radical? When did I become so concerned about racial issues? Why am I so angry? And, honestly, when I stepped back, and I look at what I am writing, I do not see anger. I see a burning desire to speak truths and do what I can to make the world a more just place. Suddenly, I began to feel as though my well-meaning friends, people who I knew loved and cared about me, were trying to silence me. Of course, no one said, “Stop writing what you’re writing, Andrene.” No one would say that. But, I began to second my posts. I began to post less. And, then, I began to wonder, what would James Baldwin do? What would Virginia Wolf do? What did Toni Morrison do? What should I do?
Certainly, I cannot hid behind fear forever or allow myself to feel shame for who I am, what I believe or what I say. In the words of Audre Lorde, my silence won’t save me. So, I am creating a space of my own (Facebook is not a place where I can protect my intellectual property — my thoughts), and I am going to confront some truths and say some things that need to be said. This blog will explore social, cultural, political, health, and a range of other issues from a feminist of color, queer and straight, health conscious, creative; fitness orientated and spiritually inclined perspectives. The goal is to boldly, shamelessly, and radically explore life and what it means to live.
I hope you join me. Read the blog. Comment on the blog. Share the blog.