It’s been awhile, and I have no other excuse for my absence except to say that I’ve been doing. Until last night, I haven’t had a moment’s rest to
Photographed by Houari B. (Altered pic shown.) Sanchez in foreground.
reflect on too much of anything but the daily grind. Or maybe I’ve just been ignoring all the question marks and rushing through the pauses. [I need to drop letters at the post today by noon.]
Last Wednesday afternoon, I met the indomitable spirit that is Sonia Sanchez; activist, storyteller, teacher, and now, poet laureate of Philadelphia (Philly’s first). At 77 years old, she is still a menagerie of freedom songs, impenetrable armor and healing language that gathers up wounded souls like discarded matchsticks, trying to spark life into them again. [A speechless audience hung on for dear life.] But I fell in love with her humility, her ability to connect with every warm body in her presence, respectfully bowing and softly addressing them as “My dear Sister…Brother”. I could not help following her lead in this familiar way of being, immediately feeling a natural kinship with those around me as she embraced all of us in her powerfully grounded message and comforting mannerisms. I was entranced and at peace. [Why do good things always have to come to an end?]
Last night, my husband and I picked up where Sister Sonia exited, speaking of the strength it takes to admit a weakness or any inability of sorts. [Post closes at 2 p.m., so no worries now.] My husband mentioned humility, and I thought of her, that fearless poet, once again. I also thought of my husband’s triumphs and unwavering cool and support no matter the direction of the tide, and I thought of myself, my writing, my life and the ups and the downs.
If I am a storyteller, why has it taken so long for me to tell my story? Where is my fire? Sister Sonia writes in “Catch the Fire”:
Where is your fire? / I say – / Where is your fire?
You got to find it and pass it on / You got to find it and pass it on
from you to me from me to her from her
to him from the son to the father from the
brother to the sister from the daughter to
the mother from the mother to the child.
My fire is my past, The fire of pyramids;…The fire that took rhythms and made jazz; The fire of sit-ins and marches… (Sanchez, Catch the Fire). I cannot allow my fire to consume me by trying to distinguish its flames and hide myself, my truths, from the world. My scars are my battle wounds; I will not lessen my suffering and grief by denying it altogether. I must be able to transcend the feelings of shame and fears of disappointment and disapproval.
So, I take the fire within my hands and manipulate it. I speak from a place that has seen death but wants to live still. I understand now that though the fire carries my troubles and strife, it also embodies my perseverance, my happiness and my humility. It is my life force, and I must spread it, speak on it, write it down – learn from it. [What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.] And there is no shame in this, only power and grace. And a story.
If you continue to hide from the world, the world will never know your true name. Sister Sonia directed in her inscription to me, Walk your intellect and beauty across this country, my dear sister! And this, I am doing.
My Dear Sister Sonia.