Academic, diplomat and philosopher Charles Malik once said, “The fastest way to change society is to mobilize the women of the world.” The female entity, spirit and voice has always charged forth with unapologetic strength despite many years of put downs and setbacks. With this perseverance, the vast ability to spark change comes like second nature to women.
In the fight for the female perspective to be heard, women writers stand at the forefront of mobilization for their fellow comrades. When war comes, writers who are women of color often battle from the trenches.
The following four women of color have written honey, salt, and spice into poetic melody through their words on their various experiences within their respective cultures.
Source: The Gentlewoman
Zadie Smith is a British born novelist, essayist and short story writer. She’s written several books, has had her essays featured in prominent publications such as The New Yorker and is based in New York City, teaching at New York University. Smith’s essay, in an issue of The New Yorker titled The Lazy River, effortlessly incorporates the struggle and the impending surrender in giving up to life’s currents. Towards the end of the essay, Smith writes, “Some take this principle of universal flow to an extreme. They play dead—head down, limbs limp, making no effort whatsoever—and in this manner discover that even a corpse goes round. A few people—less tattooed, often university educated—make a point of turning the other way, intent upon thrashing out a stroke against the current, never advancing, instead holding their place, if only for a moment, as the others float past.” Smith calls to question the benefits of going with the flow in life and making serious attempts to control and purpose in the decisions one makes. Is it easier to stop striding and let the wind carry each footstep? Is it inevitable that those who try to take on life this way end up giving in and becoming a “corpse” that flows through the events of life without choice? Smith’s essay causes one to ponder the truths of such situations.
The identity of this writer is a bit of a mystery. Poet Nayyirah Waheed keeps her personal life hidden from social media and uses her platform to focus on her work. With many pieces posted on an Instagram profile, Waheed’s work appears as the shareable, clickable poetry pieces you’d see on a website like Tumblr. But underneath the pretty aesthetic of her poetry lies beautiful pieces of advice or profound moments of reflection on the happenings of life. In one Instagram post, featuring a poem from her book titled salt., Waheed writes, “You are not a mistake. You are too many exquisite details to be a mistake.” In another post from the same book, Waheed says, “Where you are is not who you are. - circumstances.” In many of her works, she seems to be reaching out to the reader to teach them compassion and acceptance towards themselves. Her overall message tends to be one of thought and contemplation of self matters and matters of the world we live in.
Source: MacArther Foundation
Natalie Diaz’s words house an earthy, ruddy tone that perfectly reflect her Mojave Native American background. This poet, language activist and educator uses the language of her people mixed with the wild beauty of nature to tell stories. In her poem How the Milky way was Made, the opening line personifies nature and uses the pain a human can feel to detail the harm being done it. Diaz writes, “My river was once unseparated. Was Colorado. Red-fast flood. Able to take anything it could wet - in a wild rush - all the way to Mexico.” She goes on to say, “Now it is shattered by fifteen dams over one-thousand four-hundred and fifty miles, pipes and pumps filling swimming pools and sprinklers in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.” Just this short look into this poem easily shows how Diaz combines her passion for social justice into her heritage as a Native who loves and respects the earth.
Source: @AcevedoWrites (Twitter)
Elizabeth Acevedo uses a modern beat to communicate deep emotion. As a daughter of Dominican immigrants, she incorporates culture into her poetry and uses it as a backdrop to the scenes she creates. In her poem, Dominican Superstitions, she goes down a list of situations, expanding on the way her experience of Dominican culture would handle them. For example, next to the situation of having a nightmare, she writes, “Upon waking speak your dreams into the air - the witnessing daylight will prevent them from coming true.” Those who come from a Dominican household might resonate with these sentiments. But for the rest who are simply observers of the world Acevedo is laying out for us, it’s a beautiful, thought-provoking read that uncovers the depth and inner workings of her cultural experience.
Desire’ Jackson – Crosby is 22 years old. She is a senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she majors in Journalism. When she’s in need of a little down time, she enjoys listening to music, painting, or writing poetry. She enjoys all things creative! Desire’ strives to step up for more women of color sharing their stories and shedding light on others’ through journalism.