What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever. ~Audre Lorde
On January 18th Jada Pinkett-Smith released a video condemning The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for their continuous lack of diversity at the Oscars.
While some folks commended Pinkett-Smith on her stance many came for her neck. There were accusations that Jada only spoke up cause she was bothered by her husband not receiving an Oscar nod. Others blamed her own lack of due diligence in not utilizing the production company partly owned by her and Smith to finance and produce more projects by people of color. Nonetheless, there were valid points made by both sides.
This morning the LA Times published a piece noting that its been 54 years since a Latina took home an Academy Award. Yet despite the numbers, some people feel that seeking validation is a waste of time. Why should we expect to be celebrated in predominantly white male spaces? Why don’t we stop complaining and begin curating our own? Why are we standing around hoping our work gets acknowledged? Why we waiting on handouts, craving attention, begging to be noticed?
My senior year in high school while pregnant with my first child, my English teacher pushed me into submitting an essay to The Princeton Review. It was the first time I had ever considered entering my work into a contest of any kind. I decided on writing about my childhood being raised by a queer mom in a single parent household. The transparency present in my writing led to a second place award in The Princeton Review Literary Contest.
That moment was one of validation for me because it acknowledged my gift for writing. I knew I liked to write and maybe I was even possibly good at it, but that someone else believed in my work enough to publish it cemented my calling. This is not to say that authentication from my white English teacher was required to feel adequate but it helped that I didn’t need to change my narrative to fit someone else’s imagination. My voice was respected and upheld and the experience a welcoming introduction into the realm of publishing.
In a comment made to The NY Times regarding diversity, Ava DuVernay says “I feel it’s a medicinal word that has no emotional resonance, and this is a really emotional issue. It’s emotional for artists who are women and people of color to have less value placed on our worldview.”
When I hear people say we need to stop seeking validation, I have to ask, do we stop seeking the accolades that may potentially shift our careers? Because we have the BET Awards should we not seek a Grammy? Because we have the Image Awards should we not expect an Oscar? Because we have independent publishing houses do we stop imagining what it feels like to become a best seller? Do we deny ourselves the right to be recognized by the upper echelon of whatever because they’re still selling us the 8 pack Crayola Crayon box instead of the 64 count needed to finish the damn picture? Furthermore, do we ignore the life changing possibilities that inclusion provides? The doors that need to open for change to even be beneficial?
Since the entire Oscars debacle last week this much is clear, change came swiftly as EW News reports. Frankly, I really don’t care for the Oscars. Nor will I pretend that 4 hours of dry banter and acceptance speeches are enough to keep me fixated on the Hollywood elite. My attention span ain’t set up that way, but I also cannot discredit any persons’ fight for change. It’s one of the main reasons I began this blog. After several attempts at submissions and not gaining any footing, I decided that if I wanted my writing to reach a broader audience I would have to publish it myself. In doing so, I also spotlight other women of color in the arts. That’s how I share this space. How I light the torch. How I navigate this world of marginalized spaces. Now, your turn.