|Toni Morrison - Getty Images|
|Toni Morrison- Photofest|
When my husband and I were deciding on names for our daughter-to-be, we had narrowed the list to Sojourner, Zora and Baldwin; people who knew how to wield words in ways that transformed people’s thoughts and actions. I have been on a wonderful trip since being introduced, as a child, to writers and their work and the audacious idea that I could have access to these literary folk and journey with them for a lifetime.
I first met Toni Morrison 33 years ago, when I was 18 and a freshman at
. She came to campus to speak to the larger
community as well as to my English class of 14 students who had recently read
her book Song of Solomon. You can
imagine the impression this experience had on a young girl, from West Philly,
entertaining the idea that she, too, might want to be a writer. Since that
momentous occasion, I have claimed Ms. Morrison and her ideas and truth-telling
as something as necessary as love and water and as something I should
proactively pursue. I have seen her and
heard her many times. I carried her books with me on my 10-year sojourn to Williams
College Cote d’Ivoire. It was while reading Beloved, pregnant and
unsure of my capabilities to be a mother in an unfamiliar country, carrying my
own history with me, that I decided that my daughter shall be Sojourner.
Last night, I saw Ms. Morrison, again, at an event, CONVERSATION AND SONG WITH TONI MORRISON, SONIA SANCHEZ AND RITA DOVE, hosted at
University, where she and Dove
honored Sonia Sanchez and her year of service as Philadelphia’s poet laureate. Morrison at 82 is still very much the lioness,
the raconteur, and the master of deconstructing untruths disguised as the
gospel. She still helps me, at 51, to
see through things; to reconsider a point of view.
Sojourner, now 17 and a high school senior, was excited to share with me last week that she met up again and spoke with one of her favorite poets, Nikki Giovanni, who she first met when she was in fourth grade and whose poem “ Ego Tripping” was one of the first poems she committed to heart. Now a poet herself, Sojourner is on her own literary journey and I hope it is just as nurturing and thrilling a ride for her as it continues to be for me.
|Sojourner and poet Nikki Giovanni|
* This event was also part of the amazing 2013 First Person Arts Festival . Here is a link to other festival events: http://firstpersonarts.org/