The best storytelling thrives on specificity. In the specific, lives the universal. The universality of a mother wanting better for her child even if it means running into the middle of a race riot to save her. The universality of a mother crying to heaven upon finding that the daughter she’s worked four jobs night and day to protect has been raped. The detailed portrait of a father sharing Toni Morrison stories with his six year old daughter painting a picture of a world beyond Miami’s “Pork N’ Bean” housing projects. Saints, bad-asses and visionaries imagining more for themselves than what the world has promised. These are the people, places and things that I write about and what I learned from Liberty City (co-written by April Yvette Thompson & Jessica Blank) is that people leave remembering the love and the struggle, the wit and courage of the characters; not standing outside the black experience confused. The four white, small-town Massachusetts mothers who recently bought tickets to Liberty City because they’d never seen a story in which a “quiet mother was so brave,” convinced me that empathy is the key to creating common ground. I believe the best way to do that is to draw finely-woven, complicated characters who speak the poetry of their dreams in everyday life. Characters whose love is so deep, so specific and so full of the “expectation of good” that people cannot help but empathize.
I write emotionally, vividly, truthfully about the places where we are broken, where we are fragile, where we are scratching and fighting our way to the surface to create something new and groundbreaking. I write with compassion because Great Grandma Celia’s magic was a bundle of love wrapped up in struggle and bound by the kind of poetry that makes you cry out because words are not enough. I have many of Celia’s heirlooms on my altar to Oshun, but the greatest is the gift of memory. Memories that wash over me like the water splashing across the decks of slave ships into the faces of new born babies waking them into a new world of possibility – a world where I continue “weaving our pain into light.”