Monday, September 19, 2011

Contemplative Monday

Last week a colleague and old acquaintance passed away. Her name is Maxine Tynes. I met Maxine back in the 60's......she was a close friend of my brother, Bernard. She was a teacher, activist, published writer and poet.

I worked with her at the local high school where she taught English Literature and she would always have one of 'my' students in her class who required some accommodations made to the course. 

She was always very sensitive to their needs and would bend over backgrounds to assist them any way she could.

I will miss the fact that I will not have a 'chance meeting' with her again. She was always so attentive and her eyes sparkled with interest whenever she was listening or talking with you.

Here is something she wrote which may give you an idea of the woman she was:


Women are always looking into mirrors, looking for a mirror to look into, or thinking about, regretting, sighing over or not quite believing what they’ve seen in the mirror.

We’re looking at ourselves; looking for ourselves. The girls we were, the women we are, and what we will become. Searching, always searching in mirrors.

For people of colour, for Black people, for this Black woman in particular, the search is the same, but different. We are constantly looking for who we are. So many of the signals have been lost, historically and culturally, along the way.

I’m (at least) a fourth generation Black Canadian woman, writer, poet, broadcast journalist, teacher, performance artist. But as soon as I say something in print or otherwise about my Black past I have to qualify it; because we as a people have lost many tangible, documented traces of who we are.

I cannot possibly say to you that I am a woman descendent from the people of the plains – the Serengeti, of Kenya, of Ghana, the Gambia or of Zaire – the heartland. I can only look to the vast expanse of Africa, that black mother continent, and say, that is who and what and where I am.

For me, a Black woman four generations hence on these shores, that is a lament into the mirror of the map of that place. Africa.

Or, I can, as I sometimes do, look into my mother’s face. And seeing she has the high, proud nose of North Africa, I wonder about the where – the valley, the tribal name, the kinship and origins I will never know. That, too, is a lament.

Then, as I often do, I look into my poet’s soul to find there the route to self and personhood, both Black and female. That looking is not a lament but the greatest of joys.

My poems, my poetry are like mirrors reflecting back in great or subtle beams and shafts of light and words and images that are womanly and Black and brown and tan and full of the joy and pride in femaleness and in Black womanhood that I am.

My poems are great shouts of the joy that I feel and share; the deep passion that rocks and caresses and embraces me and all that is part of my world and my life. The laments for lost heritage are there; but, then, so are the feelings of having found a centre and a self-acceptance and an identity in this Black and woman’s skin that I so joyfully wear.
I wear it joyfully. I wear it big. I wear it womanly. And I wear it Black. Black. Black. As night, deep and soft and endless with no moon. Just black and perfect splendour in life and in being a woman in this world.

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