Life As An Art Form

Quips & Commentaries in Prose and Poetry

Creativity as Resistance: My Will to Live

07/31/2016

woman working

We live in a torn world.

While there is obvious truth to this lament, the “world” itself is hardly this nebulous galaxy of unsuspecting or vague entities, but rather, of people with the ability to think and do different and better—people who set its orbit into motion through repeated microaggressions, complicity, acts of outright violence, and wars that continue to assail the very human spirit. The political and social unrest in this country alone has become so unbelievably disconcerting and predictable that one can easily acquiesce to this as the new normal.

Though I have also made the observation that the world seems to have gone mad, I refuse to readily embrace new mantras of hopelessness. Their hollowness suggests an inevitable personal detachment that comes from thinking a problem is far too protracted or complex for our human undertaking.

American history is longer, larger, more various, more beautiful, and more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it. (James Baldwin)

Still, I wonder. How do we get past this impasse of yelling at each other (both on and offline) and the outright dismissal and denial of each other? How do we tend to the huge awkward elephant in the middle of the room and still come out whole? The very fabric of America seems to be warring with itself and no one can say that they have a sizable or traceable enough piece of it in their hands to help put it back together again.

As a writer who is Black and still very much alive, I don’t have the luxury of ever going to the page without the backdrop of a reality steeped in this unrest. My spirit does not allow me to divorce myself from those questions or more pressing questions like “Now What?,” “How Do We Move Forward?,” or “What If … This Happened to Me Or Someone I Love?” These questions need a depth of critical thought, analysis, and a personal accountability that plagues me as a Black woman writer and woman of faith living in America.

That I am alive seems to be its own new privilege, given the propensity of violence exacted upon Black bodies in this country. And there is always a guilt that comes with any form of privilege. I must confront this ridiculous privilege on a personal level as well as the collective grief and mourning that we continue to bear when another beloved man, woman, son, or daughter dies in police custody or at the hands of another. I cannot simply create amid my legitimate fears for my very person and for those whom I love, but still, I must create, and fiercely so.

That I am alive seems to be its own new privilege.

If I am to do more than stay alive, I must find ways to preserve my very soul. Away from the phones, social media, and the constant barrage of bad news, I must deal with who I am at my core. In and apart from the events that mar this country with blatant racial injustice and the larger world with violence, I must deal with who I was created to be. Increasingly, I am craving time away and time alone, and rebelling against the need for any external validation of my thoughts.

I dare to write, not for mass consumption initially, but to self-reflect, nurture my spirit, and arrive at my own thoughts and opinions about what really matters. In these acts alone, I find myself remarkably whole and useful, and more aligned with my divine energy. It is where I feel most capable, and where I am at my creative best and highest spiritual self. This has become my quiet rebellion.

Black woman runner running on the street

In my rebellion, I have the power to craft the ultimate story. I have the power to construct new narratives that free me from the constant burden of staying alive while being Black in America. Even at its most fictitious, what I create in my rebellion becomes its own clarion call for what I call an accountability to love and justice.

And I need to be whole because it is simply not enough to remain or survive.

Strangely enough, my rebellion keeps me sane, though not insulated. It is anything but passive. It is intentional and essential not just for my becoming, but for my remaining whole. And I must stay whole and intact because in being broken alone, I cannot continue to serve the world, counsel or tend to the forgotten and dismissed, or advocate for the un- and underrepresented. And I need to be whole because it is simply not enough to remain or survive. I must thrive as best I know how.

Lastly, my rebellion is part homage. In my rebellion, I honor the sacrifices made in my creation and preservation. It is both an expression of gratitude to my creator and my ancestors, as well as a very reminder to myself that I was created with intention and purpose, therefore, I must also create intentionally.

I will create in the meantime because I know that not another second of this new privilege can be taken for granted. Not now. In this sad urgency, I am going to rebel like the woman fighting Stage IV breast cancer who knows that she might as well live while fighting, in the meantime, because there are no guarantees. In choosing to create, I too, am rebelling against the forces that conspire to extinguish my very soul, and rob me of my rightful humanity.

Rebellion is what I have. It is my best and only true defense. It is often said that the revolution begins within, so I must resist while tapping in, in order to create. I must create in spite of the knowledge that doing so might very well be my last act of rebellion.

Avril Somerville is a writer and speaker. She is also the author of A Journey Of Life On Purpose, a collection of personal essays and poetry that address operating authentically and purposefully from the intersection of creativity, identity, and spirituality.  You can also find her at her blog at Life As An Art Form, where she writes prose and poetry, and quips and commentaries as she is inspired. She is working on her début novel. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Citation: James Baldwin (1924–1987), U.S. author. “A Talk To Teachers,” October 16, 1963, published in The Price of the Ticket (1985).

18 thoughts on “Creativity as Resistance: My Will to Live

  1. Thank you so much, Avril for this piece. It is indeed important that some of us refuse to embrace the current tones of hopelessness. To do so would mean surrendering to the opposite purpose of our very creation. You and I, we write–to uplift and inform. As speakers, we choose to enlighten. We are doing our own tiny, big part. Living and working to inspire others might very well be the greatest form of controlled rebellion there is. And a privilege in itself. Best to you…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this: “our tiny, big part.” Mighty! Writing and speaking life. It matters. Thank YOU, lady!

      Like

  2. Leslie says:

    Thank you, SomerEmpress! I join you in your rebellion against “new mantras of hopelessness.” Personal care of spirit, body, and sanity is the bootcamp of the Soul Warrior. May you continue to create fiercely, and with love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that, my fellow Soul Warrior. Ensure that high do the same. Our wellness necessitates we do!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sparkyjen says:

    Yes! We must thrive as best we know how. And as Maya says: “When we know better, we will do better.” I strive to be my highest and best in all things. I find that giving back helps. Don’t go dormant. Don’t be stagnant. Don’t do nothing then complain about having nothing to do. Be me! Trust that I have the power to lead a purposeful existence. Shut out the noise and create something that will live far beyond my years. Peace Be the Journey!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey there! That’s sound advice, love.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Emmy says:

    Really good stuff, Avril. I can’t possibly offer a solution, but I can tell you that role models and powerful figures are what changes attitudes (for example, simply seeing a Black President helps the general public reframe their attitudes). I just listened to a podcast about a study where they had women give a presentation about computers. One group of presenters did it in a room with a Hillary Clinton and an Angela Merkel poster on the wall. The other presenters did it without. The women accompanied by the posters spoke longer, and were rated higher by the audience even though all the speeches were the same. Researchers believed this suggests that good role models make a huge difference.

    My guess is that real change is never easy. It’s always resisted by some. I think the worst racists and bullies are feeling like power in this country is shifting, and they’re fighting it like a dying animal. I know, that’s both good and bad. But your writing and powerful influence can only be good right now. Keep up the vital work. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey E! Thank you for reading. This is definitely “vital” work. Thank you for acknowledging that. I do my part because I believe I can be a part of the solution, even and especially as a writer. Souls need sparking, and hearts need softening. Knowledge of this is 1/2 the battle! 😉

      If only having more persons of color and/or women were sufficient, we’d be much better off right now. Though I certainly do see the merit in the study you referenced, President Barack Obama’s presence in the White House seemed to have only intensified some deep-seated and pent-up resentment from those who felt entitled to those positions in the first place. I wish this was not the case, but all evidence seems to support this. I’m just not sure who the role models are for. (??) I think what does help to change attitudes, however, is having to, or understanding what it is like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I believe making this connection builds empathy, breaks down some of the walls, and gets the important conversations going in order to tackle systemic change. If more of us spoke to, and respected each other, for our humanity, we may very well stand a chance at creating and sustaining change. We must be respectful of the differences, while finding the commonalities that define us all, and seek to grow from there.

      I’m thankful for this forum to do just that.

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      1. I’m glad you made that point, Avril. President Obama has been so villified by racist writers and speakers, and by conservative politicians who piggyback on that racist rhetoric and fearmongering in order to win votes, that it diminishes the amount of good that simply seeing a black president could do.

        It can be easy for an open-minded person who lives a full life and doesn’t read or watch much, if any, conservative media to miss the depth of the hatred spewed at President Obama. And most communicators in conservative media obfuscate their points to make it even harder for open-minded whites to see that their intense hatred toward our president isn’t rooted in his policies so much as in his audacity of attempting to implement them while black.

        The conservative majority on the Supreme Court even missed this when they invalidated a key part of The Voting Rights act and made voter suppression easier to achieve.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So well said – “his audacity of attempting to implement them while black.” That’s what trump’s attempt to be president is all about. Believe that. trump believes he is entitled to the highest office in the U.S., despite not knowing (or wanting to know) the issues, the policies, or even the key players. It is is downright disrespectful.

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      3. Emmy says:

        I agree, Avril. For sure, it doesn’t do nearly enough to solve the problem. But sometimes what is missing – and I’d love your opinion on this – is the Implicit Bias Association Test. It’s the rather chilling psychological test which showed that perfectly moral, liberal left-wing Democrat types can have subconscious racism and not even realize it.

        After I read the research (and a few feminist blogs), I realized that I’m sexist. Yes, it sounds odd. I always chose male doctors. I told myself “I’m just more comfortable with men”. Which didn’t make a lot of sense. Then at some point, I examined my thought process, and I realized that I actually believe men are smarter than women at science and math. And I’m a woman with a degree in science!! 😦

        So now with racism, we have 2 problems. One, clearly racist citizens (and police). Two, people in positions of power who consider themselves enlightened but have no idea they have subconscious bias. So for example, some new police chief who is purportedly determined to solve the problem, but makes it worse without even realizing it. By sending small signals that it’s okay to discriminate, by not noticing injustices where they occur.

        Protest is great. It brings light to the issue. But then what? How are we going to crush racists? There need to be some serious psychological head tricks and good science to help people become actually self-aware. Without that, I’m not optimistic about change.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. (Pardon me, I saw your earlier reply before this one. Moving too fast.) I completely agree that uncovering and working to address and ultimately undo, bias, is a great part of the work. Part of the root of bias is due to the negative portrayals (media or otherwise) of those whom we have negative bias toward, or negative personal interactions and/or previous experience. We have to call these portrayals out as offensive and inappropriate and do a better job of listening to one another. It is beyond race, beyond class, beyond sexual orientation, and even denominations of faith. Myself included!

        At the end of the day, there is more that connects us than divides us. We all grieve, and want/need to belong. We all want to matter. Thanks E!

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      5. Emmy says:

        *I might mention that my brother-in-law is a retired Director of Minority Health in New Hampshire, we’ve had many conversations over this; he thinks the toxic narrative is being peddled too, for ratings, even in some of the liberal media.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I agree! This appetite for sensationalism will be our undoing. Corporate greed.

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      7. Emmy says:

        My comments may be out of order, there’s only one Reply button with the thread. 🙂

        Thanks for the words of wisdom, obviously I’m just repeating what I’ve read. I love research for what it might solve one day, and I get overly enthusiastic sometimes. So I don’t mean to be “Whitesplaining”. I’m obviously not the one suffering these atrocities. But I want to be part of the solution.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I appreciate your candor and civility, E. Really, I do. “Whitesplaining”! Gotta love these neologisms! Hilarious! 😂😂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I always appreciate your passion, Avril.

    I’m shocked and stressed out by so much of what people believe these days. Uncomprehending people like Rudy Giuliani, who think that Black Lives Matter is a horrible point of view, make me want to scream. My stomach gets queasy when I think of citizens who agree with the inherent racism in what Trump says and does by pledging their precious votes to him.

    I appreciate what much better writers than me have said in the passionate speeches given by President Obama, Michelle Obama, Rev. William Barber, and others at the Democratic National Convention. I hope their crafted words about inclusion and decency have the power to make some on the other side open their hearts and minds and do some critical thinking.

    It’s hard to believe that things aren’t hopeless, but I’m trying. I’m glad you’re trying, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Ré! We need a great heart overhaul in this country, don’t we?

      I cannot meet the venom that trump and his supporters are spewing with the same viciousness or vile. I have to find ways to resonate higher and find commonalities among us that convict us to do/be/ serve differently. I’d like to believe we have more allies than enemies; hopefully, I can uncover them as I write and connect and engage, like we’re doing now. 😉 I love hearing from you, LadySparks!

      Like

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