Hearing All Voices

To hear another’s voice and experience another’s story as authentically as she shares it means that we have to suspend, as much as possible, as many preconceived notions as possible about how she needs to tell it, and what it ought to include. It’s 2017 and we still hear horror stories from students of color at PWI (predominantly white institutions) with non-POC professors allowing their ethnic/cultural biases to interfere with their lectures, evaluations and grading. (Oh, wait, yesterday we did just witness white supremacists boldly march through Charlottesville, VA – carrying tiki torches, wearing dockers/white polos, and spewing hateful hostility. OK. Nevermind. #sameroot)

So then, structure, more than content, until recently has been the bane of my experience as a writer since high school. (Well, except during my journalism classes in college – that style of writing blends well with my style and skill set.) This barrier kept me from majoring in English, Literature or Drama/Theatre in college – or considering them as viable career options. I’d discovered the game, and unwilling to compromise my voice, I was just as protective of my GPA and prospects for gainful employment. Sadly, I allowed this prejudicial game to influence me to deny my primary gift, relegating it to the low-priority role of hobby.

Hmmm, as I write this post, I am thinking that developing as a writer would be a much more pleasant experience if we treated it like a positive, body-affirming approach to shopping for clothes. Instead of making every writer fit into narrow, unyielding rules of style, we should encourage and support writers to find styles that fit her “body type.” And when she doesn’t find ones that fit, she designs her own, providing space for other writers like her – for her contemporaries and for following generations.

“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” ~Pablo Picasso

Tim Habeger, co-founder of The Series Project in Atlanta, GA writes, “Movies train us how to watch movies. We like what we’ve been raised on.” So, then the questions become:

  • What rules have we been raised on?
  • Who made those rules? (i.e., “Who told you that???”)
  • How alike am I and are my storytelling needs to the person who made the rules and to her storytelling needs?

Tim speculates, “Maybe we need to retrain the brain.” I am sure that we do.

ava queen sugar on being different
Ava DuVernay on the premiere of her 1st television series, “Queen Sugar.”

Why? Because when we do not allow for varying structure forms and truly diverse content, we end up with formulaic approaches to creativity to determine what projects are produced and which ones remain ephemeral dreams in the hearts and minds of certain creatives. Where does formula have a place in artistry? No place.

The fantastic news is that alternative paths to production, since the emergence of hip-hop and boosted by technology (especially crowdsourcing and open platforms), provide access to success for more and more creatives. Designs, ideas – and stories no longer die on the vine, robbing the world of rich textures that help us to navigate and enjoy life in ways that only art can do.

Artists – do you! Your very nature as a creative means that you bring to the table something that has not existed before now. You are designed to be different, to break current molds and manifest new ones. Do it and do it big!

Visit Wild + Free‘s Facebook page to learn more about candi’s latest (9th) stageplay in development. Synopsis. The second half of life was supposed to be a smooth journey to retirement for Creole shop owner, Sydney Augustine. After five years in a Georgia resort town, during the summer after 45’s election, smooth becomes bumpy as she is caught between an old flame and her current boyfriend – while the town’s white residents vehemently resist her plans of expanding her business, preferring to keep some historical secrets buried.

(c) 2017 candi dugas, llc

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i have a baton in my hand

i have a baton in my hand

i have a baton in my hand

it’s sacred
and powerful

and sometimes i forget i have it
shame on me

it’s old
heavy
and soiled

it’s rich with dreams
hopes
and fears

i have a baton in my hand
a champion’s baton

never can i
or will i stop running
fighting
living

every step
every tear
every drop of blood
and every gasp for air

gave it to me

every penny saved
every stitch sewn
every policy
and property paid for

insures my right to be here

i have a baton in my hand
and i have to

finish

to pass it on

images:

  • Ruby Bridges – Wikipedia.org
  • Middle Passage – whslavery.weebly.com
  • Lunchcounter Heroes – Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair – YouTube.com
  • Emmett Till – ABC News
  • Malcolm X – Colorado State University

© 2016 candi dugas, llc

Reflections: Roots 2016

Reflections: Roots 2016

like many of us, roots 1976 was a huge deal. it’s sacred. that combined with the difficulty of remakes causes me to be quite skeptical re roots 2016. however, it is exceptionally well-made.

my stream-of-consciousness notes:

episode 3

wow! what a setup to buy chicken george from tom lee after tom wouldn’t sell george directly – wow!

“this is no accident. the thing aB rich white men, they’ll take 10 steps at a tilt just to take 1 step toward what they want.” ~marcellus

playing cards didn’t have numbers on them???

they really settled things with duels still at this day & time?

g~d, kizzie’s sacrifice … (& such a good thing that she stayed.)

was nat turner included in original???

damn! kizzie ain’t no joke

did we see the scene in the original when george began putting a feather his hat? g~d, the symbolism in 2016 is a-mazing!

g~d, when george loses his freedom just after he won it …

& yet another scene of my people’s family being torn apart b/c of a white man’s shortcomings, b/c of his whims … ~~~~~~~

jesus

the casting is sooo on point …

episode 2

somehow this episode is not as compelling as the 1st. perhaps it’s because it is more of a direct retelling of the original than a reinterpretation of the haley story, which i really enjoyed last night.

the highlight for me tonight is kunta’s teaching kizzie survival techniques. this strengthens her. with 2016’s portrayal, the link between kunta being taking from his parents and kizzie taken from hers is stronger.

overall, i am really enjoying seeing contemporary actors in these historic roles.

episode 1

reminder slavery not new concept to ancient world

slave trade part of african life & civilization existed

“your name is your spirit. your name is your shield.” ~omoro kinte

exploration of kinte’s life & the rivalry which led to kunta’s capture

whippings, etc part of their culture in africa

emphasis on importance of name &  kunta’s impetuous nature

not sure how much they strayed from accuracy of haley’s family history (i wonder this only having seen the original series. i never read the book.)

the story was that kunta was captured getting wood to make his brother a drum as requested by their mother

see the history of making examples & of sending messages via songs

this is such a robust portrayal

– did they really put dead heads up like that on the slave ships???

LOL – kunta’s face when the slave trader felt his ass – 😂😂😂

the sense of brotherhood & fighting together lost in enslavement – every person for himself to stay alive & without injury

we get to see the roots of destroying black families & the assimilation into life as white people deem it ought to be

“work hard & cause no trouble” – fiddler – the way to survive oppression (along with full assimilation)

rebels are stubborn, and rebel at a price – the fruit of their rebellion may not harvest until much later – but there are bits of harvest along the way to fullness

favorites of the oppressor teach rebels how to survive & rebels teach (remind) favorites how to be free

connection b/w kunta & fiddler w/ lullaby from gambia

lovin’ this brother playing kunta!

lovin’ the subtle & powerful references to the antecedents of our issues in this country & our ways of being/life

music supports quests for freedom

fiddler’s name from his mother – henry (“your name is your spirit … your shield.”) take (change) the name, rob person – partially or completely – of person’s spirit & protection from harm – kunta reminds fiddler of this when he asks him the name his mother gave him (we still do this today re our nicknames; however, today sometimes this depth of meaning is flipped and our nick- or changed names are more reflective of our spirits and shields than our given/government (institutional) names. perhaps i can view the names we now make fun of Ina different, more liberators light.)

kunta remembers the lesson of caring for the horse & not just himself, even when he needs the horse to better his chances of escape

appreciate the prominence of kunta’s spirituality w/ allah & ancestors & elders

g~d! the symbolism of fiddler’s hair as he taught kunta the ropes – ripping it off after kunta’s 1st escape during the fight w/ the overseer, “i never want to be the same as you! i never want to be the same as you.”

it’s deeply blessing me to experience this story w/ all that we’ve experienced in these last 40 years of pursuing full freedom

with permission from his parents & encouragement from fiddler to shorten the suffering of the lashing, kunta says his toby name (“he isn’t coming home.” ~omoro)

final scene b/w fiddler & kunta is amazing!

fiddler promises to hold kunta’s truth inside with kunta – repeating some of kunta’s history – as oppressed people we have to be acceptable to the oppressor on the outside & remember our true selves on the inside

(c) 2016, candi dugas, llc

Image: variety.com

No more …

Over the years, here and there, I’ve experienced times when either my writing or my insight into others’ writing was always on the outskirts of what was “correct.” Through high school, I just chalked it up to my thinking differently. I didn’t give it much thought until college, when I felt trapped in a creative writing class that threatened my GPA. While I understood this was college, I was still confident in my writing ability, affirmed by 90+% of my teachers since kindergarten. Yet my frustration mounted class after class as I became completely unable to satisfy this professor who struggled himself to articulate what he wanted from me and how my completed assignments missed the mark.

Eventually, he became ill and could not finish the semester. Oh, yes – he was a white male. Who took over the class? An African-American woman. Whaaat? OMG – my whole life turned around the moment I received my first grade from her – A. Coincidence? Not at all. I’m certain of it now, as I’ve continued to pay more attention to critiques of my work and hear the testimonies of other artists of color.

Not one of us – no matter the ethnicity – can avoid creating, working, living out of our own contexts, our experiences and our perspectives. What a tragedy for anyone in the seat of critic, evaluator, judge to impose her context on another and dare to claim it as impartial, objective, fair.

I cannot say that I have any kind of solution, necessarily. Today I simply rejoice in the revelation and in the various spaces and ways available to me to be my kind of writer and share it with its audiences – knowing definitively that it’s helping someone. That someone gets it and I no longer have to try to fit myself or my work into any kind of approval box to know that I am talented and that it is good, great – or amazing! 😉

Would you like to share your story?

(c) 2016, candi dugas, llc