to young artists

I wrote the post below and went to bed only to awake shortly thereafter with a wicked fear in my heart; my room seemed to be filling with swirls of smoke in the dark, like the air was moving about, rustling, animated by some energy but there was no fire. I wasn't certain if there was call for fear, but I was afraid nonetheless, something was amiss, and I promptly called my mother.

This is what she was reading at that moment and shared with me this morning:

I have not labeled myself yet. I would like to call myself revolutionary, for I am always changing, and growing, it is hoped for the good of more black people. I do call myself black when it seems necessary to call myself anything, especially since I believe one's work rather than one's appearance adequately labels one. I used to call myself a poet, but I've come to have doubts about that. The truest and most enduring impulse i have is simply to write. It seems necessary for me to forget all the titles, all the labels, and all the hours of talk and concentrate on the mountain of work I find before me. My major advice to young black artists would be that they shut themselves up somewhere away from all debates about who they are and what color they are and just turn out paintings and poems and stories and novels. Of course the kind of artist we are required to be cannot do this. Our people are waiting....

-Alice Walker In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose (1983)

Last night my mother cooed softly and assuaged my childish fears.
This morning and always my mother pushes me to face myself.
this is love. i could write endlessly about her. i have already begun to...
thank you mumma.

Jamilah Malika

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