Tuesday, January 11, 2011


This book entered my life at a point where I thought I was going to implode. As a woman of colour, I felt like there were elements - people and organisation structures -  telling me that I  must be crazy to think that what I dreamed for myself and my talents were possible - they were someone elses,  not even meant for me. They were someone elses dreams. Yes, those dreams were, are  big because I have expectations of my life. The biggest one being that I expect to lie on my death bed and say I have no regrets.
No regrets means imagining to your fullest potential and aiming as high as you please, right? Right.
Well, no actually. I had people telling me that I "was not there yet" or "are you sure you're ready for that yet?"
What I realized was that these voices translated into "who do you think you are?" and "You aren't good enough?" - I call that stomping on the dream before it got off the ground. Bob Marley put it well in his classic, "I Shot The Sheriff" -

 Sheriff John Brown always hated me,
For what, I don't know:
Every time I plant a seed,
He said kill it before it grow - 
He said kill them before they grow.

Not that these people hated me. Not at all. It was more a case of they themselves having low expectations of me, of what I could do and of what I wanted to do/become as an artist. I believe 89% of the time they didn't understand the subtext of their words.
It got me thinking how many times in my life I had heard, or shall we say subliminally felt the oppressive subversion of a teacher's/supervisor's/boss's/agent's utterances that seemed to tell me that I was not quite enough... Paranoid? I could have been. I was running myself ragged around the city, the globe even, trying to make money, make 'progress' in my art form as writer and poet, performing with just enough energy to stand-up and hold a mic. I have broken down on stage. Yes cried  and said  "i want to see my Mum" onstage.   Me one and 250 people in the audience.  In 2010, I felt that I had been moving laterally for about 3 years and no matter what avenue I turned down I felt blocked. Some blocks were overt - "At some point we all have to sell out", I was told once.  Sometimes so subtle. I began to think, "Zee, really, you just ain't trying hard enough, try harder, work harder, try another angle different from the 29 others you've tried cos what you're doing is not enough, IT'S JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH!"
Wow... as you can imagine. I shocked myself. I had embraced the mantra, made it my own. I had accepted the voice of my oppressors.
 "..it's frightening to acknowledge that I have internalize a racism and classism, where the object of oppression is not only someone outside of my skin, but someone inside my skin." 
- Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back.

"THIS BRIDGE CALLED MY BACK" came as a gift from above. I stumbled on it while browsing through Amazon, for what I can't remember now. But it spoke to a voice deep in the back of my wardrobe along with those dusty shoes and that frock that fell off the hanger 5 years ago, a voice tied up in a rough hemp sack, muffling  "Believe what you know for sure. This stomping IS happening and YOU ARE MORE than what you have been told."
So invest in this book if you can. Its price on Amazon ranges from £15 for a used copy  to £70 plus for a new  AND used.  Yeah I know. A bit Pricey. But  that just tells us there's something of value between  the pages of this book that the echelons of western academia  might prefer we didn't know. Or at least its not going to make it easy for us to get our hands on. Try your library.

There are many references to Lesbian community.  For some this might be a "problem". Whatever. More importantly, the writings were originally collated in the early 80's when women were making a stand against  classism  sexism, and the aggressive impact on womanhood during the  economic boom. Independence financially and sexually  was prevelant. Fundamentally this book is about women of colour sharing stories of overt and subtle sexism and racism,  of coming into being and re-affirming each other. This book saved my sanity during a frustrating artistic/business life experience.  It calmed me. Salvation just when it needed it. 

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