“Truth is powerful and it prevails.”- Sojourner Truth
In the fall of 2007, I was at a professional crossroads after a year of teaching and realizing that I had neither the patience nor temperament to teach. I had a relatively brand new master’s degree and six figures worth of student loan debt so not working was not an option. However I really had no idea what to do, go back to the non-profit sector, consider the corporate sector or follow my dream of earning my keep by writing. I already had a few years of writing experience under my belt, having started my own column, Diverse City in the Portland Phoenix back in 2003 where every four weeks I tackled issues of diversity. In the end, I couldn’t make a decision, so I worked with a life coach and came up with a plan to satisfy my creative desires as well as my practical desires. In many ways the work that I did with my former life coach is what led to the creation of this space. Studs Terkel was my childhood idol growing up in Chicago, a storyteller extraordinaire, in many ways while I have called myself a writer, I see myself more as a storyteller. This space has allowed me to share my stories, bring awareness to others stories and create a community.
In the early days from 2008 until the fall of 2012, I was fairly anonymous with this blog. Most people in my community knew me for my social service related and nonprofit consulting work though a few who connected the dots realized that I wrote for local publications. Thankfully as a writer, rarely do people see your face and while my professional name is not common, I was able to mostly fly under the radar with my online work.
However my appearance on the Melissa Harris-Perry show in fall 2012 brought me a great deal of attention. That appearance increased my local profile and suddenly after years of blogging in relative obscurity, everyone from the local baker to fellow church members started reading my blog, friending me on Facebook and basically wanting to “know” me. Initially it seemed fine but after a series of unfortunate events it has become clear to me and my family that this space has become more than we ever bargained for.
Occupying space in the whitest state in America is a tedious dance. Local people emphatically tell me all the time that race does not matter, yet I believe firmly in the old adage that actions speak louder than words. In the past several months as I have used my social media platform to amplify the work that I do, it is clear that being the Black woman who refuses to not talk about race comes at a cost. When so-called friends started dropping out of our lives like flies hit with a stream of Raid, I didn’t think much of it. Losing one or two people here or there didn’t seem like much but as we see people we have held space with and broken bread with rebuff our efforts to get together or our child snubbed, shit gets real…really real.
Online harassment via trolls and threats is something many are aware of but what many don’t realize is that for some of us, especially women of color, we pay an extra tax for daring to speak our truth. So much so that writers and other activists, all people of color, who have inspired my own growth and journey have admitted they gave up blogging/online work because the offline price was too much. Living in a predominantly white space, I am aware that in choosing to speak my truth, I risk being ostracized but my family? My kid? They did not sign up for this life. In many ways, it would be easy for me to just shut this space down. In fact until I talked to my 22 year old son this afternoon, I was ready to call it a wrap. Yet as a son of Maine who has endured being called a nigger, having soda cans thrown at him, and even being harassed by cops for daring to get a sandwich, he asked me not to back down. How can I lead an organization dedicated to racial equality yet let the bigots win in my own personal life?
It breaks my heart this year to see my daughter retreating into her own head because it feels safer; knowing that I cannot explain why we no longer see old friends without explaining the ugliness of bigotry. Knowing that she does not understand why we stay to ourselves now. Because I only have so much strength and the false and fake smiles are too much for me to bear most days now. Knowing that those bigots will tell me that I am jumping to conclusions and try to erase me and my reality and pain with simple platitudes that aren’t fooling anyone yet allows them to continue to avoid the heavy work of dismantling their own racist beliefs that stink like bowels after collard greens yet covered up with dollar store air freshener.
In the end, I believe that as Sojourner Truth once said “Truth is powerful and it prevails.”
In the meantime, if my words are too much and we have a personal relationship, I am reminded that all things come to an end. Peace.