Most Black women having it tough in life might fantasize about being rich, living in a penthouse or big fancy macmansion, going on shopping sprees, dining at expensive restaurants, drinking wine and champagne and eating chocolates, spending the day on yachts and at spas and in “exotic” locales, getting a hot guy to romance over.
Every time my mom said we were going to move, I used to fantasize about living in a big house with my own room, a big canopy bed, a little balcony, pretty lamps, wallpaper that I could write on and paint whatever color I wanted, and a big back yard. It never happened and has never been close to happening.
You know what I fantasize about now?
I fantasize about romantic writing and fantasy writing for Black audiences. I imagine Black people in situations usually reserved for white heroes in the movies and in the books. I fantasize worlds where Black people and other people of color are more than just sidekicks, foils, cheap caricatures, the butt of racist, insensitive jokes, and support characters. And we don’t have to sell our heritage to get it all.
Of course I realize that conceptualizing such things might be too over-the-top for Black folks or anachronistic and counter-cultural. I think about that all the time. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t imagine it and write it. Even if there’s no one gathered around me at story time to hear my tales, I know I’m damn good at writing what I write and I want people to listen and appreciate it and talk about it.
Again, this post was inspired by a comment I read on SheWrites by a fellow member. Positing the question ‘can’t black folks be happy?’, she was basically saying that she wasn’t encouraging complete escapism for Black readers. I realize I was a little offended by what she might have been suggesting because, whether or not she was talking about what I’d shared about my story, she wrote it after reading what I shared about my story. It made me hesitate in my writing, a story over 137-pages that I’ve picked up again after two years of letting it lay still. This fictional story begins with a group of privileged young people encroaching upon their own religious ceremonies for entering adulthood when they get a new student in their class from the lower class district of their town. The story then centers around this working class/poor girl who was brought from the lower part of town and for what purpose; it’s about how she ends up going on a frightening and empowering adventure to discover her destiny in what begins only as her taking the opportunity to go to school and save her mother from poverty and her friend from forced servitude after she is kidnapped. Yes, there’s a magical and divine element to the story. Yes, there are faeries, demons, angels, and ghosts. Yes, there are fantastical locales like enchanted groves, snowy mountains, and mountaintops that divine entities inhabit. Yes there are fabled structures like palaces, courts, and castles. Yes, there are issues of sexual violence, classism, racism, sexuality animal rights, religion, politics, and sexism. Yes, my hero(ine) is Black and working class. It’s a busy story, but its busy for the purpose of not only entertaining but stimulating the intellect of conscious and creative-minded readers.
Do I see whole scores of Black people buying my writing? No. I wish, they would but I don’t think they will. A lot of Black where I’m from still believe that its “white” to like reading and learning.
Do I think I’m a great escapist? Hell yes, I’ve been through a lot in my life and sometimes I want some slack.
Do I seek to escape who I am as a working class/poor Black woman of the South?
The answer is a resounding no. I believe in transference. How do I write fiction, carrying my whole self—culture, sexuality, race, history, class, gender, beliefs, energy/spirit, experiences, and the spirit of my ancestors—with me? How does what I know become the ink I use to write what I can imagine?
No, I’m not for everybody. No, I’m not like the average Black writer or artist. But I don’t want my work to be labeled as escapist because I believe my talent and skill, my spirit and originality, my race and ethnicity, gives my writing sincerity and edge.