Aissa’s Story screens at 3:30PM Sun May 11 in NY African Film Fest @ Lincoln Ctr. Visit www.filmlinc.com for tix!
I recently read some letters by the late, great playwright Lorraine Hansberry on display at the Brooklyn Museum. She wrote lists of things she loved, hated, and regretted on her birthdays.
There was no rhyme or reason for which years they picked, but I found her writing so illuminating. At the age of 30, she liked “the insistent penetration of autumn sunlight” and also:
the fact that I have changed
have stayed the same
have grown more self-conscious and—at the same time—
become less aware of myself
mushrooms, out of the can
The first drink of scotch
Today isn’t my birthday, but I wanted to capture what I think right now about all these things. That is the thing about writing, it creates a time capsule of the present. :)
I like: Sneakers and jeans. More than I really should at my age. I like them because you can go anywhere at any time and be ready for anything that comes your way. I always end up running—to catch the bus or a train or just because. And it helps to have a good pair of sneakers on.
I love: Writing in my favorite coffee shop in Brooklyn. Sometimes in the afternoon when the place clears out and I’m really getting in a writing groove, a really good song comes on the radio and it becomes the absolute perfect place on earth. I also love to travel, meet new people, cook, sing, and to fall asleep on the beach when the sun’s just right. And I love a good adventure, which gives me all the material I need to make art.
I hate: Violence. In all its forms. Especially the mundane, everyday forms of spiritual violence we inflict on ourselves and other people, like the ones we love. I realize that, no matter how much I hate it, sometimes I’m guilty of it, too. And I hate talking about my feelings, although I’m getting better at it as I get older. I prefer logic to emotion, because at least it’s solid ground. There are simply too many feelings. I also hate celebrity. It’s an insidious concept, that some people are better than others. It breeds classism and differential treatment. If I had the power, I would do away with it.
I regret: All the time I wasted being angry at my mother. It was only adolescence, but I did not know our time together would be so short, that she would die before I got a chance to tell her how much I really admired her. I think she knows now that she’s on the other side, but it would be really great to hug her again. I also regret not becoming a musician, and all the years I spent feeling deeply unattractive. I look back and realize I never looked that bad, I just got teased a little bit and thought that meant something was wrong with me. And I regret that, though I’ve spent my life surrounded by people, I’ve also been somewhat incurably lonely. Lastly, I regret that I have so many regrets.
I am proud: That I’ve finally gotten up the skill, courage, and determination to finish this book, to put it out there, and become who I’m supposed to be. Lupita was right; inadequacy is seductive. I’m also proud that I’m almost done with my second degree. It’s been a really tough road and maybe I should have given up a long time ago, but I think it means something that I stayed the course. And I’m never going back to school again.
I should like: New York City, but I’ve grown weary of this town after almost 10 years of living here. Sometimes I wonder where I’ll end up next. I believe that people and places come into your life for a season and you should enjoy them, give and get the most you can, and then figure out what the next thing is. I keep getting stuck on my next thing, though. I don’t really know where I belong, though, have always been a bit of a wanderer.
The truth is: I’m not really a writer. I mean, I can write, no question about that, but it isn’t my heart’s joy. That being said, writing has taught me the discipline it takes to create art. And for that I am ever grateful.
My late mother Elizabeth (1972). She was a real fox! From Elizabeth’s Daughter. Bit.ly/ElizabethsDaughter
My granny’s funeral. It was fit for a queen. We estimated over 10,000 in attendance, not counting all the well wishers who came to the family compound for the week-long House of Mourning. From Elizabeth’s Daughter. Bit.ly/elizabethsdaughter
Ekemini (2013). The cab driver who took me around Uyo conducting interviews for the memoir. At the time he was only 20 years old. From Elizabeth’s Daughter. Bit.ly/elizabethsdaughter
Front gate at Cornelia Connelly College, Afaha Oku, Uyo. From Elizabeth’s Daughter. Bit.ly/elizabethsdaughter
Check out my commercial for International Women’s Day (March 8)! Let’s celebrate! :)
Thanks to Shadow and Act for bigging up the fundraiser for my feature film! Check out the story.
Traditional dancers at my grandmother’s burial celebration in Mbak Etoi, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
Students at Cornelia Connelly College, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Given the rising importance of girls’ education, the school’s population has swelled beyond its infrastructural capacity. In my late mother’s day, the average dormitory housed 30 girls compared to 70 today.
Student at Loreto Girls’ Juniorate, Abak, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria