Keep being young, gifted and Black!

I stand surrounded by many whirling elements.

Thunder, storms, fire, ice.

All surround me.

I stand neither consumed nor protected.

Just looking, seeing, waiting, writing.

The things I have seen, while writing.

The stories are plentiful.

Rejection. I know it too well. My soul has known the sting of being dismissed. We have bones scattered with this, though we stand.

Failure. Well, Lord knows I know it’s key ingredients and can make a tasty meal out of it. The coils of it have coiled around my neck, choking me, though I learnt how to spit it out too.

Silence. This one has never protected me. I keep learning that every day. So many of us are transforming it to action.

Light. My middle name. The only thing I come to with full vigor, gathering words, like lamp, to light my path. Declaring too, “Let there be Light.” Perhaps when you know you are light, you know you cannot be hidden. In your light they see light.

That is why it is full of grace to be so young, so gifted, and it is equally divine to do so, being Black, to be young, gifted and Black.

The world isn’t waiting for you.

Not today.

So do whatever you want.

For me, words.

I intend to write as I please, write about the world as I see it, write about what I hope it was, and write about what it must be.

Or there will be no world. Not for me, not for you, and definitely not for the next generation.

So I will write.

About beginnings I care about, some I found, where they called us wild, used bits, and whipped our backs, and somehow we learned to fly.

I will write to a point, continue to work hard at it, for I care about it.

I will also write about our people, write to tell their stories, write to uncover their rejections, their failures, their silence, their light.

I cannot pass this up.

Something glorious is happening.

I intend to perfect it.

These words were inspired by Lorraine Hansberry. It’s hard to imagine what she might have contributed had she lived longer.

Here is a woman born in Chicago in 1930, dead by 1965 at the age of 34, but nevertheless became the first Black woman to have her play produced by Broadway and the first Black winner of the prestigious Drama Critics award, something she won at age 29.

That play ‘A Rasin in the Sun,’ remains the most widely produced and read play by any Black American woman.

In ‘Looking for Lorraine,’ Imani Perry described her as ‘a woman intoxicated by beauty and enraged by injustice.’ She was also passionate about amplifying the voices of Black people.

One of my favorite aspects of her life is the ‘To be Young, Gifted, and Black’ speech she delivered to the winners of a United Negro College Fund writing contest.

This speech would set the stage for her play by the same name adapted by her husband after her death in 1969. Nina Simone also performed a song of the same name that year. This sterling woman is my muse for today and inspiration for the verses above. I hope you know wherever you are, that you should always keep being young, gifted and Black.

Lorraine Hansberry’s speech, To be Young, Gifted and Black.

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