Happy Birthday, Maya Angelou.

Angelou_Obama

 

When I was twelve, I first read “Gather Together In My Name” by Maya Angelou. I was reading her books in the wrong order, I know, but it was the first one I came across in my quest to discover more about black literature, and learn more about my heritage.

There have been times in my life, where I, as a biracial person haven’t felt black in any way, times, when I’ve felt black throughout my entire body, and times, when I feel like an awkward, but accepting mixture of black and white. I know the actual blackness, or right to claim blackness of biracial people is a difficult, divisive, and sometimes sensitive subject for people. I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers, I absolutely don’t, but what I will tell you, is that reading the work of Maya Angelou, even in the wrong order, gave me a peace and acceptance that I wish I had owned from the start of my life.

I was never given much black literature to study during school, and that was where I got most of my reading material. It wasn’t until GCSE English classes when a few poems by black writers sat shyly behind the blindingly white majority in the AQA Anthology, that I discovered it in the curriculum, but before that, at the age of twelve, I grew impatient, and determined to learn more about myself and since I loved to read, that seemed the obvious place to start. I knew black writing probably existed, and much further back than the Anthology would have me believe. How could it not? Black people existed, and they all had voices, no matter who tried to silence them. Where there are voices, there is literature.

There was a lot, that at the age of twelve, and probably even now, I hadn’t experienced. There was however a lot contained in “Gather In My Name” that I could relate to. I found understanding, in so many things that nobody had ever been able to explain to me before. It isn’t that people never tried, but there are some things that just can’t be articulated by someone who has never experienced it, and probably never will. I had spent years reading one half of my life, and feeling there was a part of me missing, before discovering that all the questions, insecurities and mysteries of the other half had been answered, loudly and beautifully, through the literature of Maya Angelou. I read through everything of hers I could find, before delving into more and more black writers, addicted to learning about my other family and the black community that I had exiled myself from, due to a naïve, afraid, untrue belief that I couldn’t be a part of it. I finally had the confidence to ask if I could be included in the other side of myself, after feeling I had no right to.

I felt more connected to my father’s side of the family. We had shared nationality and language, but I never felt we shared race before, because while I had (and still have) some black features, and a black parent, I felt separated. Maybe we still don’t share race, according to some, and maybe I will never truly know or experience life as a black woman (again, this comes down to how you define blackness, but that is another blog post, really), but I felt closer, not by speaking, but by listening, reading, and learning. The half of my life I had never reached before was finally with me, and I felt complete. The isolation of only understanding one side of myself was lifted, and while my identity was still growing, I could feel it was closer and clearer than ever before.

There are realities for black women that will never be my own, due to the privileges afforded to me, as a biracial woman, but the things we do share, I have been able to understand, and discuss, and that never would have been possible, without picking up that first (actually second, but…) Maya Angelou autobiography, and so, on what would have been her eighty eighth birthday, I am thankful for Maya Angelou, for helping me understand myself, and who I could be.

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A Little Look Back….

Hola amigos reflexivos,

I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been enjoying the extra hour of sunlight (as tarnished by rain as it may be in jolly old England), and am ready to embrace summer time.

I’m not sure what I’ll be doing this summer, but I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun.

Thank you so much for the recent feedback and comment on my latest work, it is very kind of you and I really appreciate it.

I recently found my old blogspot, and managed to salvage a few pieces from the wreck that was my astonishing (and not always in a good way) childhood blog, so I’ve adapted some of them and added them to my latest set of poems, which you can see below. I promise, they aren’t all tragic teenage ramblings.

It was interesting to look back on my older work. Sad in a few places, and hopeful in others. There are dreams I had for myself that have yet to come true, but could do, some day. I hope yours do too.

Besos,

J x

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World Poetry Day

Hola amigos reflexivos, and happy World Poetry Day!

Poetry has been many things to me through my life. It has helped me learn more about the English language, it has been therapeutic, and a new way of exploring the world around me, both in reading and writing.

I still remember hiding in the library, afraid to let anyone see what I was writing. Not that they would have been able to see of course, because I have the worst handwriting the world has ever seen. I never imagined sharing my work with anyone, because I thought I’d seem self absorbed, strange or dramatic, but I have been able to overcome that and begin showing the world what I’m working on, and for that, I’m thankful.

I have uploaded some new poems, that I hope you will enjoy reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day of reading and writing.

Besos,
J x

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What Jen Did Next

What Jen Did Next

Hola amigos reflexivos,

I’ve written some new things to share with you, which you can read below.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoy you.

Besos,

J x

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Portraits From The Pier

Hola amigos reflexivos,

I hope you had a wonderful February.

I celebrated my birthday by the sea, and had a wonderful time doing so. It was such a beautiful environment, and it inspired so much creativity, which I have been able to share with you.

Below is a new set of poems, some written while I was away, and some written on my return. I hope you enjoy them!

I’ve also added PDF versions of everything on this page.

I also wanted to to clarify, as I did have a lot of tweets and instagram comments about this. I am not engaged. I did get a ring for Valentine’s day, but it was only a platonic gift. I’m not actually seeing anyone right now, and from my earlier accounts of how awful it is to date me, I’m sure you can see why.

Besos,

J x

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