Leaving the gym this morning I was completely feeling myself. Then I plugged back into social media and had the wind knocked out of my sails with one headline:
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winning author Toni Morrison dies at 88.
My breath stills, throat clenched and eyes closed I whisper a prayer to the foremothers to grant her safe passage on her new journey. I stayed in that moment though life continued to buzz about me while I moved on to the challenges of the day. Now as I sit here gathering my thoughts I knew that I needed to write my way into a safe space to process what I am feeling.
If you have never accepted the challenges nor enjoyed the privilege of chewing on a Morrison work, there is no better time than now for you to do so. What Toni Morrison has done and will continue to die through her life’s work remains groundbreaking and transformative not only for literature, but also for the sake of culture.
I was talking with one of my sisters just a week or so ago about a comment Morrison made about the importance of using one’s true voice and how as card carrying members of underrepresented communities we must strive to resist the habit of over explaining who and what we are to the overrepresented populace. I’ve been chewing on that ever sense.
Why don’t we allow those over represented folks the opportunity to grow and stretch in their understanding of the world? Why don’t we allow them to work at better understanding our experiences?
Morrison has always had a tangible power to help me to this headspace. She first grabbed ahold of me with The Bluest Eye and I can credit her, DuBois, Hughes and Dorothy West as the foundation that launched my path into the scholarly exploration of race and identity. Dank and murky water they be, I remain fascinated by and studious towards better understanding the human condition through this cloudy and fractious lens.
So I make a choice today, not to wallow in sadness at the passing of this great woman. I instead invite all who knew her work to share something she awakened in you. How did Morrison’s work touch your life? Was it in her books or in her movie adaptations that you first met Morrison. Let’s remember Toni and share her impact around the world and back again.
Marta C. Youngblood is a writer, education and social entrepreneur based in Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information on her current projects visit https://about.me/MCyoungblood.