Tuesday, March 4, 2014
LUPITA'S OSCAR WIN BRINGS REFLECTIONS (Of A Mississippi Magnolia)
One of my Facebook friends wrote a comment on her page:
"I am soooo happy for Lupita Nyong'o for achieving the highest honor in her craft, but unfortunately I have not been able to watch the movie for which she is honored,"12 years a Slave". I grew up in MS where racism and discrimination were/are still left over from the oppression of slavery. I am sorry to say the bitter taste and the smell of hatred still lingers in my throat. So although I am happy for Lupita as a actress, I cannot, will not celebrate a legacy of slavery."
"Wow! I always see just the opposite ..the UNBELIEVABLE courage, strength and endurance of a people. I always take those people with me and feel them with me wherever I go. I want them to know how much I appreciate the sacrifices and the suffering. I am not proud of slavery, or the horrific conditions that continued to follow it..but VERY proud of the legacy of those people...my people...that great cloud of witnesses. For some reason I felt compelled to say more. Although, I very rarely chime in on conversations, on other people's pages, on Facebook, embracing my history and heritage is something that I am VERY passionate about."
I wanted to explain further my first comment. I wrote:
"I still live in Mississippi and write poetry about things that I love about Mississippi. There are so many negative connotations associated with Mississippi, and the south in general. There are very few instances when the news media or anyone at all, says ANYTHING positive about Mississippi. I try to show a flip side to all of the negatives portrayed. It's not that I negate, ignore or disregard the negatives, it's just that there is SO MUCH more to the story. I am a 50 year old black woman and have seen and /or heard it all when it comes to racism. My parents and grandparents, of course, saw, heard and experienced so much more. When I wrote the comment about the great cloud of witnesses, it is because it is something that I talk to people about all of the time when it comes to my speaking engagements. My audiences, followers and purchasers of my books over the years, I would estimate to be 90% Caucasian. I am not sure how that dynamic came about,
but it is what it is."
I was telling my mother (and several other people) that whenever I go to speak, usually to all white audiences, I feel my grandmother and great grandmother (on my mother's side) with me all of the time. It is like they are standing there right beside me and behind me. I think of others ..but I FEEL them. I don't exactly know why that is, but I feel that I am doing something they could not do in their life times.
I feel that is something that they would have liked to do ...and probably would have been 100 times better at it than me. My grandmother and my great grandmother were teachers, both were very articulate and well read. I am sure their poetry and their messages would have been so much more superior to mine. Yes, I think that they probably wrote poems too. They probably wrote poems about life in Mississippi, but I am the one who gets to read and express those poems before large captive audiences. I read them to people who, during their times, would not have allowed them in the front door. I read them to people that would have treated them much differently than I am treated now. I am the one who gets to do it ...to do this for my grannies ...,and I don't take it lightly.
Along with all of my messages about Mississippi I am "teaching" "educating" SO MANY people along the way ..about my people...the stuff I'm made of, where I come from, the kind of people that I come from..articulate, bright, determined, hard-working people ..with values, dreams, desires and goals, humor, hearts and minds just like anyone and everyone else. With a subject along those lines, I wrote a poem called,
" We Like To Read Too". I have two poems that I started over five years ago but have not found the right words to compete them like I feel they need to be completed.
I haven't found the exact words to say all I want to say.
Today I feel closer to finding those words.
The titles are "Duty Bound ..and "In My Veins"
I want that "cloud of witnesses" to know that I am not at all discouraged by, deterred by, or ashamed of ..in any way, shape or form a legacy of slavery (my great-great grandmother was given as a wedding gift by an Alabama slave owner to his daughter) , hurt, struggle, hardship and pain. After all of that...as Maya says..."Still I Rise".
More than anything I want them to know that that legacy is cherished, appreciated and SO dear to me. That legacy will always be cherished and uplifted in my life.
Lupita said in her Oscar acceptance speech : "When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from your dreams are valid."
I, Patricia Neely-Dorsey, stand on the backs of the dreams of so many little girls (and grown women) over the generations. Long ago, these ones, probably toiling in the blazing Mississippi sun, whose blood runs in my veins had dreams.
I stand now, as TOTAL ASSURANCE and PROOF that dreams do come true...and all dreams are valid.