By ANTONIA WILLIAMS-GARY
I’m feeling fenced in, and my heart had been broken!
I don’t know about you, but I have been checking the news on my computer every morning before I leave the safety of my home.
It’s been going on now for the better part of a year, and I hope it does not become an obsession. It is driven, not by my insatiable curiosity about all things; no, it is fear. Fear stoked by the rapid change and reversals in our democratic ideals projected for the next four years. Fear of the rapid downward slide of black strides. Fear of….
I know there are a lot of other broken hearts in America today: legions of people who are still lamenting the outcome of the Presidential election; increasing numbers of victims from a growing amount of terrorist acts- either by a loner, or under the spell of some radical agenda, i.e., ISIS; scores of dashed and daunted dreams of ever joining the so-called middle class; reports of our country running second, third or even worse behind other nations in educational achievement, universal health care coverage, and other vitally important measures of well-being like a guaranteed living wage, access to decent housing and a general feeling of freedom from assault and mayhem.
A few nights ago during the Golden Globes Award show, Meryl Streep quoted Carrie Fisher who said, and I paraphrase, “Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”
That provided me with a little salve. But where is the art for living in such a painful period of uncertainty, and where racism is still a central factor?
Reflecting again on The Golden Globes, I harken to the words that August Wilson penned several decades ago, illuminating the pressures of being black, undereducated, living in an urban environment with the additional burdens of raising a family, and protecting a mentally disabled family member:
“Some people build fences to keep people out and other people build fences to keep people in. Rose wants to hold on to you all. She loves you.” One analysis of Wilson’s words suggests that black folk have been continually bound by the fences of slavery and the unending plight of living in America: the uphill battles through Reconstruction, Jim Crow segregation , and now, once again, threatened by a Trump administration., So we still build fences—out of our fear, and our love.
At the same time, I am cautioned by the rise of unartful living; that our fences may become walls; to protect our fragile existence in America.
And, what do our fences look like today? For one, many of us hide behind the veneer of success fence. You know, material things like luxury cars, a house or two in certain zip codes, and/or on Islands; children in private schools; designer clothes, handbags, and shoes; foreign travel, 401Ks and other trust accounts, etc.
Nothing wrong with any of that. Achieving a level of material success is built into the American Dream; showing it off is living out the dream.
But is that enough to insulate us from having our hearts broken? Do you feel it, too? Again, watching The Golden Globes shine a spotlight on all the wonderful faces and art of black actors, writers, and directors who, deservedly got their due, one fence/wall- around the Hollywood ghetto has seemingly been taken down, and there is much cause to celebrate: Moonlight won for best movie/drama of the year! Yet, we appear to have put up some new fences and watched as walls have grown up higher around us: acceptance of the denigrating and disputed labels that continue to define us as ‘lesser’ than-yes, black lives do matter; complacency about the skewed incarceration rate of black males that belie our actual participation rate in crimes; not challenging the decreased emphasis of our contribution to the real history of this country; believing the rise of the white ethnic’s plight (what plight?) is from their lost privilege earned merely from skin color, etc.
Where is the art?
I, for one, am looking forward to the voices of playwrights, television and movie scripts and shows, street protests, political activists, essayists, polemicists, and others who are brave enough and black enough to have the courage to tear down walls of ignorance, prejudice, discrimination, and other inhumane acts toward mankind- if we must, to build beautiful fences in the name of love, and for the sake of art!
I hope to do my fair share. What about you? Toniwg1@gmail.com