We are seldom invited to participate in any discourse. Seldom even debated when we are the topic of discussion. I didn’t want to keep this post here but someone has to do it. Not in the way the West portrays it as one side over the other, but to shake my head in disappointment. Our behaviors are always fascinating to others. Always engaging even when we do nothing. And others are ready to catch us when we slip and fall. Not to give us a hand to get up, but to keep us down as they make us the trending story. Keep us down as they write essays that buttress their silly generalizations about us. Keep us down for clicks and likes and shares. We have come to this moment and it’s painful to watch when we have so much to do for our community, our unity.
We are also a people known to have infinite tolerance for differences. We love being different. And we know who we are. That’s why I was stunned with what I read about us today. Not at a time like this. These days we have the freedom to develop without the discretion or dictation of others. There is a part of our lives that is flourishing and continues to flourish unabated. It’s in the space where we use words, our imagination, whether fact or fiction for the uplifting of others. I am in the business of doing this kind of work both professionally and personally through this blog. It’s a glorious freedom that our ancestors never had. We are finally that excellent dream they had long ago. And it’s coming to tatters thanks what I read on NPR today.
I came across a portrayal gone array on NPR with titles that made me cringe. It was on the famed Nigerian Author Chimamanda Adichie and non-binary Nigerian author Akwaeke Emezi. It’s not everyday you see profiles of two Nigerian authors. Seeing the title on NPR, broke my heart. ‘Fiery essay, former student’ what could have possible gone wrong and why is there a public feud. Long story short, I spent my afternoon going down a rabbit hole to understand the source of the contention. You can read the NPR article (The Feud Between Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie And Akwaeke Emezi, Explained – https://www.npr.org/2021/06/17/1007350665/chimamanda-ngozi-adichie-directs-fiery-essay-at-former-student-and-cancel-cultur).
When I was done, I kept asking myself, who does this serve in the end? Who is uplifted by this? We all arrive at our conclusion of events in multiple ways, learning each time, I hope. The process, any process of becoming a writer is full of hurdles. So when we do make it, when we become famous or have that voice, why do we betray that process by airing our dirty laundry to folks who could care less about us. I kept repeating this to myself. I ironically came on NPR to read about Biden signing the bill proclaiming Juneteenth a federal holiday and in scrolling down, the post by these authors was prominent. New York Times and the Guardian has a feature on them. Adichie calls them ‘opportunist’ sharing personal emails to buttress her points. They call her ‘agbaya’ or an old fool who has not published a full length book in eight years. Who does this serve? If writing is supposed to be uplifting, transformational, even reverence, who does this serve when talented writers trade insults against each other. No one.
I’m not taking sides. Just in the business of light making and using words to build us and not tear us apart. That should drive anyone in the business of writing these days. We just got through a pandemic of a life time. Shoot we are still in it with all the variants. We are also in a racial reckoning, a youth rising and the least those in power, those with a voice, should do, is be different. Not the same old pre-pandemic ways that serves no one. So if they ever read this, my advice, keep your interior life to yourselves. Move instead towards light. We need more light bringers using words eloquently now more than ever.