Toni Morrison intimidated me.
When I read that she did not write for the white gaze, it shocked me. I didn’t think it was possible to do so. I grew up in a family obsessed with appearances and we were taught, above all, to be respectable and acceptable to the white gaze. This was our supposed path to success.
When you live for the outward gaze, for outward approval, you lose who you are. You forget the song in your heart longing to be released. You become a shadow. A powerless, substance-less shadow. I lived life in the shadows for many years. I sought approval everywhere and found judgement instead. Now, I am so happy I didn’t find approval then, because it would have been based on s shadow, rather than something real.
I loved to hear her speak. I would absorb her interviews when I could find them. She was so bold and confident. She was powerful. I wondered if I would ever find that power to tell my truth the way she told hers.
8 years ago, I began the process of living in a new way, slowly learning my voice and speaking truth as I see it. It takes time, like using muscles that have gone dormant. But it feels good.
I met Mrs. Morrison once, at a book event. I was so tongue tied, I barely strung two coherent words together. She was kind. I was humiliated. I survived.
Now she is at rest, but I am here. Working to make the world better, working to find my voice and speak without apology or need for approval from anyone.
Thank you, Beloved Toni. I am thankful for your work, your example, for YOU.