I am an actress and the truest things I know are a stage, faux fur, black literature and cotton knickers. It really isn't a lie when I say I wasn't trying to be an author. It happened by the virtue of a forgetful mind ,a spilt cup of tea, some magic and five pieces of paper. With this haphazard spell, I broke the internet on a Wednesday afternoon. Literally.
I remember walking into my bedroom after along day in February, suddenly realizing that I had forgotten my aunts birthday and going into a panic about what I could get her. This is the same aunt who gave me my first book of nursery rhymes and would take me to the theatre as a litte girl so I regard her as a major key in my life for imaginary worlds. As I said, I'm an actress so I had been to a few castings that week but STILL hadn't booked a job that would ease my burning pocket. Gist: I was broke AF! My only solution was to write her a story loosely based on our relationship because I figured stories are free and my imagination limitless.
Looking back, I can't help but giggle at all of the elements that led to my writing The Girl Without A Sound and I'm not often given an opportunity to discuss the full context of its birth. Six months have passed since we released the free download at : http://www.girlwithoutasound.com/ . I have I found that I have done countless interviews where people want to discuss my lived experiences (as a young black female negotiating my way through a racist and patriarchal world) as the singular cause for the book .This has started to feel very limiting. YES I wrote it because growing up as a little girl of colour there were no protagonists in the books I loved, but I also wrote it because at the time I had started to observe a growing movement of black women around the world actively reclaiming their power. It seemed to me that this movement was shared by all of us who are tired of being told how we should be and instead, we chose this as the year we embraced the freedom to choose! I have watched female artists, writers ,rappers, poets and business woman alike reclaim spaces that continue to try and erase us.
When I sat down to write a short story as a gift cause I was broke, I didn't know the story would change the trajectory of my life. What I did know was that amongst other things listening to the ANTi album had me asking everyone if they hadn't been told I was a savage, Beyonce' dropped Formation,snatched all our baby hairs at the Super Bowl and I cried when I watched Lemonade, Serena was busy...well being SERENA (GOAT!) and all the while, the world was burning. The world continues to burn but I heard a rumble then and it has only gotten louder. The sounds of us rising. I was inspired me to put pen to paper because I had nothing to lose.Through observing women of colour across the globe and celebrating their glory and achievements, I began to understand that I get to choose. I get to be glorious.
I can dominate an international theatre stage, turn Beyonce' all the way up and twerk THEN sit down at 2am and write a story that I hope will change the world a little. My very existence means I fight for freedom every day so I'm tired of being made to feel as though I can't reimagine my realities as and when I feel. So I wrote a book about an imagined world where a little black girl is the protagonist in the story.
LOOK, sometimes I'm the girl in the suit telling you why and how patriarchy SUCKS and that systematic oppression is real BUT,I also get to be the girl in the centre of the circle spewing Nicki Minaj lyrics with my friends. I still get heart failure when my mama shouts at me and I'm not above a tequila. I don't believe that these two aspects contradict each other at all. I just think the world is too scared to see what freedom looks like on a black girl. Of course I can't change how painful my lived reality is, but that doesn't mean black pain is the sole source of inspiration for the black artist.
I recently did a stint at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford and had one of the clearest moments of my acting career. I got onto the Swan Theatre stage and played Juliet for a few minutes. Not for long, but long enough for me to finally see how and why my stepping into the role matters. I understood how it isn't only possible for there to be a black Juliet but it is necessary. Black Juliet disrupts the idea of what a "classic" role is and ultimately, questions how and why "classic" stories are regarded as more important than others. What I concluded was that classics become classics because they express narratives about the human condition. An all encompassing angst that many of us can identify with. That said, I think it is time that we not only looked to disrupt these stories by placing our bodies in them, but that we begin to write our own. I am a Juliet not because Shakespeare wrote it that way, but because I too have been a determined young girl in love with a boy I shouldn't want to have.
Let me tell you for free: IT FEELS GOOD TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED AND BLACK and we are going to keep burning, and twerking and laughing and howling and roaring. I dedicated The Girl Without A Sound "To the ones with moonlight in their skins" and lemme tell you, I am glad I did because it's LIT for the melanin this year!
TedX Talk , Cape Town, Storytelling can change how we see the world' : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VkptorP7Qk4
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