Friday, February 11, 2011
Bonita Lee Penn is grateful in Black History Month...
Managing Editor of Soul Pitt Quarterly Magazine, you guessed it, Bonita Lee Penn and I met at the Black Writers Reunion and Conference, both us us there to milk every minute for what it could add to our writing abilities. Based in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Bonita is now studying Creative Writing at Carlow University while also penning (sorry for the pun) some of the most passionately powerful poetry I have ever read.
I’m particularly appreciative today for Bonita’s honesty about what she’s grateful for this Black History Month, specifically the reality that Black America should be acknowledged for its contributions to society all year round. Just like Black Australia should be recognised outside of NAIDOC Week as well. As I’ve said to teachers, you can have Aboriginal people visit your schools any time of year, not just July!
In the words of Bonita:
I am Grateful first for being a child of God. I am grateful that I am Black, even though my life has been scared with discrimination, rooted from my gender, my age and my race. Those who discriminated against me were not only the whites but my own race (as we Blacks have issues with the differences in our skin color, our education, our hair texture, out financial status and other frivolous reasons). Every morning I continue to rise, I continue to write, and, I continue to be proud to be Black.
I am Grateful to be able to stand apart from what is expected of me. As I allow myself to be educated by the voices of writers who encourage me through their words. I love reading the fiery prose of James Baldwin, whose insightful comments are still pertinent in today's Black society and were my push to continue to write, even when I didn‘t know why I was writing or if anyone would listen to my words. Yes they are listening.
I am Grateful that before me, were the great revolutionary writers of the Black Arts Movement, Angela Davis, George Jackson, Malcolm X, Nikki Giovanni, Haki R. Madhubuti (Don Lee), Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones), and The Last Poets, all whose poetic voices were loud and proud and unafraid. Their only agenda was to reveal the truth. I follow the same tradition of the truth, no matter how deep I must go to bare my own shortcomings, fears, anger, or dreams.
I am Grateful for Black History month, even though to me this has always been a thorn in my side, personally it's as though they put us on display once a year, as a way to camouflage their wrong-doings of the past, as a way to wipe the slate clean. "Oh look at the Black people, see Black people talk, see Black people sing and dance, see Black people write, see Back people act human." To me the holiday is another tool of separating the races. Of course, it is wise to take advantage of this time to share our love and knowledge with one another and to educate others on the realty of being Black in America and what it has cost us and what it is continuing to cost us. Plus, during this month we can once again tell those who don‘t know or refuse to believe, all the important things that Blacks have accomplished and have contributed to the building of the United States.
Lastly, I am Grateful for my Sister, Anita Heiss, who has shared the history of the Indigenous people of Australia with me and so many others in our writing community. Even though we are two different cultures so far away, we have a common link in our identity to our native lands and our struggles. Anita has shown compassion for the struggle of others and she has shown nothing but love and pride in her own cultural. I thank her for being an inspiration.
Bonita Lee Penn
“We write because we believe the human spirit cannot be tamed and should not be trained.” -Nikki Giovanni
From Anita: And Bonita, I am eternally grateful for the soul-food I receive from very poem you write, every conversation we share. I am inspired by you also.