NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Vol 17.2: Fall 2017 - Page 42

Dismantling The Tradition of Silence Where do we hide our fault lines? our aching hearts, our shame ridden bodies? Where do we hide it all when the memories visit? The type of silence that demands your attention. Memories crawl out, we sit to bring you fresh flowers today. Where do we put it? Do we bury it digging deep enough to drown it? Memories are coming back, one by one. They are coming back demanding for more of your life and your body is tired. Here, even your sigh is a cry for help. I wanted to write about many things, many issues i observe from being a witness in two countries, yet I was still running away from digging deeper, from unwrapping the silence that surrounds certain important issues. I fall victim to that, what should be said or what should not be said, what should be written or what should not be written. However, as an immigrant here in these United States, as an African, as an Igbo woman, I know how important it is that stories must be told, that we must have to reveal our observations sooner than later. That the time is always now. I am a storyteller, I borrow more and more from James Baldwin’s idea of being a witness to certain societal issues. I am a witness to two continents. About eight years ago, two very important incidents happened that will change me: I began a very strong friendship with a former schoolmate of mine from secondary school. The story of how we both connected lies in a poem I shared on my then Facebook page. It was entitled “Yellow” a poem about how lost and depressed but optimistic i still felt. At that point, even my sigh was a cry for help. I couldn’t understand the feeling, so I wrote it out. I wrote the anguish, the deep sense of loss — of struggling to find light in pitch darkness. She would tell me how the poem gave her hope, how she was healing from the wounds of childhood trauma. The second important incident was one evening with five of my friends, all girls, all African women and when the issue of childhood abuse was brought up, all four out of the six girls had been a survivor of it. I couldn’t shake it off. There in the living room of one of our friends were stories being unwrapped, silence being unwrapped and told. Knowing it should always stay between us. Stories of how they 20 If you ever find yourself, some where lost and surrounded by enemies who won’t let you speak in your own language who destroy your statues & instruments, who ban your omm bomm ba boom then you are in trouble deep trouble they ban your own boom ba boom you in deep deep trouble humph! probably take you several hundred years to get  out!  The passage through creative cycles of Life and Death to discover Form and Transformation is not uncommon to Derek and August on their journeys toward achieving immortality through their prodigious accomplishments, albeit through different lens; August viewing the specter of the Blues within his Pittsburgh Cycle — ten plays, one for each decade of the 20th century that unearths the mythic residue of the Hill District — to affirm and reconstruct the fragmentation of Black life that existed on the margins of American history. August reflects on his passage toward enlightenment in the Preface to his Three Plays (1991): Writing a play is for me like walking down the landscape of the self, unattended, unadorned, exploring what D.H. Lawrence called “the dark forest of the soul.” It is a place rife with shadows, a place of suspect quality and occasional dazzling brightness. What you encounter there are your demons, which you have occasionally fed, trying, as Hansel, to make your way back home. You find false trails, roads closed for repairs, impregnable fortresses, scouts, armies of memory, and impossible cartography. It is a place where the cartographers labor night and day remaking the maps. The road is sometimes welcoming and its wide passages offer endearment with each step only to narrow to a footpath that has led you, boatless, to the edge of a vast and encompassing ocean. Occasionally, if you are willing to negotiate the perils, you arrive strong, brighter of spirit, to a place that sprouts yams and bolls of cotton at your footfall.” Derek, on the other hand, fixed his sights on revivifying the language of his native land in the process of re-imaging an Odysseus-mode journey that resulted in his epic poem, Omeros, a freshly authenticated articulation — as opposed to mimicry — that alchemically transforms the familiar Homeric plot into a Caribbean point of view that elicits new illumination on the aspirations and realities of the islanders, prompting Hilton Als, writing in a 2004 issue of The New Yorker, to recognize the achievement as a “masterpiece” that is “the perfect marriage of Walcott’s classicism and his nativism.” Omeros — the Greek name of Homer — dissimilar from linear construction of the Greek classics, is a circular, non-linear narrative in five books that magically cuts across time and space, bringing to mind for one critic the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry, an embroidered mural-scale cloth that illustrates the Norman conquest of England, to chart the agonies of displacement suffered by the Native Indians, the despair of African enslavement on the isle of St. Lucia, and strains on English colonials adrift in exile. It is a narrative propelled by the journey of two local island fishermen, Achille and Hector — echoes, perhaps, but not character templates from The Iliad — who are rivals for the affection of the beautiful housemaid, Helen…(a libidinal Helen of Troy). At a certain moment, Achille makes a spiritual journey to his ancestors located in the African settlement where he discovers his family’s original language, learns his true name, and lives their traditional life, before walking back to St. Lucia on the bottom of the ocean. 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