There are over 150,000 words currently that make up the (American) English language. With all those words, I am often asked this question:
“Jennifer, why do you write?”
This is a loaded question. I write, not just because I’m good at it–that’s obviously a factor. But I write because it’s almost a compulsion at this point in my life. I have to write.
There are things happening in the world and in my head that I have to make sense of! Those things are not often reconciled unless I see them in ink or on screen.
Why I write? I write because I am descended from people that couldn’t speak the current language that I have now mastered. I write to embody the bravery found on slave ships, dumped into the Middle Passage, and washed on the shores of a strange world where they ceased to be both person and free.
I write to remember.
I write to forget. I write to record the stories of my parents I was too young to hear, and even younger to understand.
I write because there is a freedom I have found in 26 letters that I have found in nothing else of earthly importance.
I write because I can.
I write to conjure worlds that I only knew in lives lived before. I write to take photos of places I may never visit. I write to keep the tradition of storytelling viable. I write because bell hooks says that ‘no woman has ever written enough.’ I write to leave a road map to the women and girls to follow, just as Ntozake Shange instructed.
I have taken the tears of my mothers, the horrors of my fathers, knelled them into fire to be the fuses for my children.
They need to know that someone was here, someone was were they were, and didn’t die. They didn’t give up. They didn’t go softly into the dying of the light. They need to know that someone raged, fought and left instructions. Left a warning, or a seal of approval.
I write to remind myself to keep going.
[image from bonhitree.com]