A CJ Walker Appreciation Post

When I was a preteen obsessed with mythology and magical children’s fiction, I learnt the word “hamartia” from the Percy Jackson novels. A hamartia, otherwise known as a fatal flaw, is that characteristic within a hero that might eventually turn into their downfall. The goddess Athena claimed that the kind of hamartia with good motives behind it is usually the most dangerous kind. Unfortunately for me, nobody I ever read had a hamartia bad enough for me to take them seriously. Take Percy Jackson’s, for instance. His hamartia is “excessive loyalty” which is apparently dangerous because he would supposedly give up the world to save somebody he really cares about. Imagine giving a character a total virtue and making that their most dangerous problem. I love Percy, but he and the likes of Ned Stark can get out of my face as far as flawed characters are concerned.

It seems to me that the older I grew, the more tired I got of sanitized, wholly likeable characters. Perhaps this had something to do with relatability—as I have never considered myself likeable or sanitized. Not even well-mannered, if I’m being honest. But I think my tiredness had far more to do with credibility than personal relatability. Thankfully, in Claudette Josephine Walker, the writers of See You Yesterday gave me a flawed character I could believe in.

Cover Image
Movie poster. Source: IMDB

See You Yesterday is a science-fiction movie that was released earlier this year, 2019. In some ways, it was classically allegiant to the genre, what with being a movie about time travel and all—but in other ways, it was not. The theme of the movie was Blackness, with a focus on the unjustified murders of Black folk by American police. That’s right, the enemy isn’t aliens this time, ha! One of the main characters was Caribbean (Guyanese to be precise), the setting was the Bronx, and there was a random Jamaican guy used as comic relief. It was very much a Netflix movie in that there seemed to be a focus on aesthetic appeal (the graphics in See You Yesterday were very pretty, and the actors beautiful), as well as an intricate, convoluted plot, and an evident lack of Hollywood, Disney/Marvel-grade resources.

Despite that last point, I found See You Yesterday enjoyable, so emotionally engaging that I had to pause a few times to gather myself, and compelling enough that I have watched  it twice and would gladly re-watch it again.

Although there’s probably quite a bit to be said about the political relevance of the movie, that is not what I want to talk about, because that’s not what made the greatest impression on me. And I’m not here to rate or review the movie either. I’m here to rant about how much I love the main character, CJ Walker, and explain why she is now my favorite movie character.

While CJ’s flaws are central to why I like her, the truth is that if she were not a holistic, sufficiently complex character, the flaws that I love so much would only be reasons to hate her. Character complexity is already difficult to incorporate into a coherent story, but to do so sufficiently in the space of a single movie? Remarkable. What an exciting bundle of contradictions CJ was, and this made her different from, and more appealing to me than all the most credible teenage characters I have ever watched in teen-centered motion pictures, including Sex Education and The Secret Life of the American Teenager.

The most obvious thing about CJ is that she is smart. I mean, if you’re sixteen years old and you can build a portable time machine, your intelligence should go without saying. Nevertheless, it was said—by her science teacher, near the beginning of the film. Aside that, she is such a quick and natural problem solver, able to allow her intelligence to persevere through emotions of frustration, anger, grief and sadness, and is never hampered by a situation that might seem to another either immensely grave or totally hopeless.

CJ_Working
CJ working. Source: IMDB

Other obvious things about CJ are her optimism, ambition and pride in herself and the people she loves. (“Yeah, that’s my brother, what now, punk?!” is one of my favorite CJ lines!) If I had started off with a description of CJ’s flaws, I imagine one would be hard pressed to believe a girl like that could be naturally good-natured. But throughout the movie, she has this unshakeable faith in the good that is to come—whether it’s her and her best friend Sebastian getting scholarships to any schools of their choice, her brother turning his life around, or her own ability to save anyone from the forces of chance and racist America if she really puts her mind to it. Her excitement in reaction to a successful experiment is unmatched! (“June 28th!”)

But just as soon as you recognize CJ’s virtues (or even sooner), you see her flaws. Particularly her hotheadedness, stupidity, and astonishing unawareness of self—in that order of prominence. CJ is an impulsive character who acts often without thinking too much first. Say one wrong sentence to her, and she’s ready to beat you up. She’ll have armed policemen in her face, and she’ll still clapback with unbridled sass. In all the chaos her temper causes, how does she defend herself? Thus: “I’m a little tired of people telling me how I should act.” Funnily enough, CJ’s older brother, Calvin, is almost as bad. While his anger is justified, his composure in front of policemen is nearly nonexistent. The fact that Calvin and CJ are almost as stubborn as each other has its terrible consequences—but it makes me love them all the more, because it’s all so real and so very me. As pop culture Twitter might put it, “I feel seen.”

Calvin
Calvin Walker. Source: IMDB

Speaking of consequences, one would think CJ had the presence of mind to recognize that some things happen because she has acted rashly, rather than viewing them all as mutually exclusive occurrences. Throw a slushy at your ex and bad things happen. How does CJ react? By throwing another slushy at her ex. Something worse happens, and not once does it seem to occur to CJ that it’s her fault. Once in the movie, CJ seriously says, without a hint of self-recognized irony, “Why are you so serious, Sebastian? Lighten up for once?” This coming from the girl who apparently wants to uppercut everyone in sight. How on earth is such a smart person so stupid and self-unaware? Simply because she is. As intelligent as she is, she’s still a sixteen-year-old hothead, and it shows. My God, it shows. At sixteen, I was vaguely smart—not quite a time machine-building genius—but quite as bad with balancing my intelligence with emotional control! CJ represents the perfect dichotomy of (my own) adolescence.

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CJ. Source: IMDB

And yet another thing that makes CJ a fantastically appealing character is how her flaws intertwine with her virtues. CJ is a lover. She’s a relentless lover, and she wouldn’t be so without her pigheadedness. Besides that, she’s a selfish lover. She would go to the moon and back for someone she loves, and if there are consequences for people she doesn’t love, well, that’s none of her business, is it? (“Who cares about stupid ass Jared?” –CJ) In a similar way as with her brother Calvin, CJ’s reckless form of loving makes her as much of a hero as not. It’s only a kind of recklessness—outside the character of Jesus Christ, maybe—that would make you sacrifice yourself without thinking too much, to save people you believe to be worth saving. For me, CJ and Calvin Walker represent the height of this recklessness. (A bonus is how much of a switch-up either character can make, snapping right from ready-to-punch-someone-in-the-face, to looking like the model kid. Seeing how adorably CJ behaves to Sebastian’s grandmother kills me every time.)

CJ_Bash
CJ & Sebastian. Source: IMDB

A character is not an isolated being, and I think how the people in their lives see them is almost as important as the way the audience perceives them. Regarding CJ’s community, what I appreciate the most about CJ is that her flaws are obvious. They’re not secret blemishes that she only lets out in the privacy of her bedroom. CJ’s mother can say to her, quite plainly, “I never met anyone as stubborn as your daddy till I met you.” Calvin can say to CJ’s face that Sebastian is a much better friend than CJ. The fact that the people in her life can see her striking hamartia and continue to love her—well, that’s one of the most credible types of relationship I could hope to see in any work of fiction.

It’s funny that the reason I watched this movie at all was that my best friend recommended it to me a day or two after it came out, mainly because the main character reminded him of me. So I watched the movie, and at first I didn’t see it at all—possibly because I was so engrossed in the movie—and then after a bit of reflection and tears when the movie was done, I did!

There are many things to love (and criticize, I admit) about See You Yesterday, but my absolute favorite thing about it is Claudette Josephine Walker. I love her for how un-sanitized and classically unlovable she is as a main character. If CJ is overthrown as my favorite movie character anytime soon, I will be genuinely surprised!

-Akotowaa

The Enmity Between My Life and Schedules

I’m in a weird position, temporally. In a perpetual state of retardation. Always late, always behind, always off-schedule. It’s increasingly ironic, given how much I like making plans and creating timelines and putting things on calendars. Yet, nearly nothing goes according to plan. Therefore, I am inclined to stop planning altogether.

I’ve given up on schedules. They just never seem to work, or to be useful to me in any ways other than showing me how much I fail to keep up with them. It seems to me like the second I put a date down on some task, it becomes practically guaranteed that I will not do whatever I’d planned to do by that time, by that time.

Time is this strange, relentlessly consistent thing whose nature doesn’t seem pliable, even in science fiction. (Think about it: time holds the same unwavering nature it has always held, and it’s quite often people who travel through it. Events change; people change; people change events; I’ve never seen anyone change the nature of time itself.) By contrast, I am this strange, relentlessly inconsistent thing who is swayed unpredictably by any element of existence.

A huge contributing factor to my general sense of being off-schedule is the fact that, this past semester, I took time off school and stayed home in Accra. In the grand scheme of things, one semester—five months—is really not that big of a deal. But because it has been my present, it has felt colossal. It doesn’t help that there are conundrums involved. For example, I don’t think anyone is clear on whether I am now classified as a senior or a junior, when I am meant to write my thesis, or whether I am allowed to take the senior seminar. These are all relatively minor problems which nevertheless make me feel like I committed a gross error in throwing my academic life off by five months. Don’t get me started on how it will feel, a year from now, to watch my classmates graduate and leave me.

Then there’s work—which accounts for my specific sense of being off-schedule. Six months ago, I agreed to a commissioned project that I figured I’d be done with by the end of January. Due to a seemingly endless set of factors, this did not happen. So then I decided to redesign my plan to something far more reasonable. According to the new plan, I would be done with the project by February. That did not happen. But by the beginning of April, I was so close to done that I was convinced I would be though with it by the end of the month—with a few days to spare, even. I’m writing this on the 9th day of May. I am so close to done, theoretically; but in temporal terms, I have learnt that this means absolutely nothing. (P.S. I am editing this document on 29th May, and I am still so close to done but not done. No surprise, just bored exhaustion.)

My non-commissioned, self-inflicted writing projects are making me suffer similarly. I suppose that’s not as much of a big deal, since no one’s paying me for it or actively waiting for any deliverables. You would think that would have me relaxing a bit, but my brain is incredibly stubborn. When I go too long without finishing something—or at least making tangible headway with it, I get extremely agitated. And when I do finish something, I get high. The high fades relatively quickly, though, and then I have to get right on to trying to finish something else. But I’ve been working on such large projects lately that finishing anytime soon seems like an outright fantasy. Attached to the idea of unfinished work is a sense of lack of accomplishment in life. That’s always fun.

Another thing that seems to be taking far too long is my healing process. I’ve been in therapy for almost five months, medication for about as long. I do feel and do life much better than I did five months ago, but either I expected or simply wish my healing process would be faster. I’m certainly bored right now, mostly of just being in the same place, because I do tend to get bored with my environments easily. So on a geographical level, I’m quite ready to go back to college. Mentally, though? I don’t know. College is so structured, full of timetables, deadlines, and schedules—and as I have spent several hundreds of words just articulating, temporal rules and I are simply not friends. I don’t know how I’m going to hold up structurally once returned to an academic setting. As for learning, I feel I will always love it. (While I’m easily bored, I’m also easily fascinated.) Being constricted by time, however? I go fit lose my damn mind.

I’m not writing this because I want advice or encouragement or anything like that. I kind of just want people (and the abstract concept of time) to leave me alone. (Which I know is not going to happen. So I suppose I’ve compensated by giving up and trying to leave myself alone.) I feel agitated whenever I’m asked for updates, especially when I don’t have anything deliverable ready. I’m tired of the pressure I feel to explain why the hell I don’t have things ready by the times that people—including myself—assume that I should have. Not only am I unable to explain, but I don’t even want to bother trying.

People are often inclined to offer encouragement along the lines of “Who says these rules are set in stone anyway? Who says you have to achieve this thing by this time, and who is going to kill you if you don’t? We’re all different, we don’t all go at the same place.”

On one hand, such advice is useful and appropriate, for instance, in cases such as graduation. Who cares if I graduate “on time”? What’s “on time” anyway? In 10 more years, I’ll be walking around with my degree, and presumably nobody is going to give a damn whether I completed the degree requirements in the spring or in the fall semester. Granted. I accept.

On the other hand, such advice is almost entirely worthless. Being able to deliver things on time is pretty much an essential qualification for survival in the capitalistic working world. The head of a journalism department doesn’t say to the journalist, “I know you tried your best to make the Evening News deadline, but don’t worry, that’s okay, you can just turn your report in at 7 a.m. tomorrow. Oh, you’re blacked out mentally all week? That’s okay, you can have another month to finish up that one 500-word article that was due for last night’s evening news.” My erraticism considered, I often feel like I am entirely unsuitable for work in this century, in this era, even in the profession I’ve told myself I want to be a full-time member of. This scares me a great deal.

End rant.

-Akotowaa

On Hurting People into Loving You

After several years of tragic patterns, I have come into a deeper understanding of the fact that being made to feel unimportant/undesired by the people who mean the most to me is one of the deepest-cutting kinds of hurt that I can feel. (I do not appreciate that I’ve had to learn this the hard way, and for God’s sake, I wish the lesson would stop trying to teach itself to me over and over. I get it. I’ve learnt! Now, can I please stop getting hurt like this?) The very same tragic patterns have taught me another thing about myself, highly related to the first one: my reaction to being made to feel unimportant/undesired by my loved ones is to cultivate cutting pettiness. It turns me into the ugliest version of myself.

I’ve learned a lot about this pettiness; enough to know that I don’t display merely because of uncontrollable rage. On the contrary, there’s nothing particularly ­uncontrollable about it. When I am uncontrollable, it comes out through screaming and crying, not coldly-delivered, carefully-constructed, cruel words. But my pettiness? That stuff is intentional and calculated. When someone has hurt me deeply, it is not uncommon for me to spend several minutes/hours/days thinking up what to say at the next opportunity that might satisfactorily hurt them. And once is hardly ever enough for me. I can lash out with continuous, targeted pettiness for several months. My hurt doesn’t fade easily. But then, neither do the circumstances causing it. In fact, those tend to only grow stronger, with me as a witness.

A while ago, I wrote about one of the many stories behind my spoken word poem, “Ephemeron,” in the blog post, “An Ephemeron Story.” In that blog post, I told the story of how I antagonized a girl for drastically interfering with the relationship between myself and one of my best friends. I wrote another related blog post involving a different girl who also contributed to the composition of “Ephemeron,” in the post, “When Your Male Best Friend Becomes Someone Else’s Boyfriend.” In this era of my life that was characterized by consistent and relentless heartbreak, another of my best friends started dating a girl I ended up being roommates with (which is just a testament to the pettiness of the universe). I was incredibly rude and drama queen-ish about their relationship for the longest time, because I was hurting, and I wanted them (well, mostly him) to feel my hurt, or at least to feel some hurt.

Very recently, I have experienced a similar kind of disappointment; a person I love and who surely should have known better after all these years did something mindless that left me feeling irrelevant next to someone else. There is nothing that can explain or excuse his actions—they just don’t make sense—and on the day of the offense, there was nothing that could diffuse my anger and pain. As usual, I inflicted some of my calculated pettiness almost immediately after it happened, and I have thought almost incessantly since then about inflicting more. Instead, I have chosen silence (only for long enough to take care of my own anger; my silence is more for his sake than mine, since I’m trying to become more mature in my adult years). The reason is that I have learnt from my own disappointment.

When I feel offended in the specific ways I’m addressing here, I am usually near-equal measures furious at both offending parties: the close friend who is disregarding me, as well as the person they are disregarding me in favor of. On a surface level, it seems more “reasonable” to be mad at the former; after all, if they are direct stakeholders of the friendship, they are the ones I should be holding responsible, right? (It’s like, when your boyfriend cheats on you, you confront your boyfriend instead of the cheatee because he’s the one you were in a relationship with and so he’s the one obliged to answer to your anger. I think. Don’t hold me to that statement until I’m sure, though.) However, my reason for including the latter as targets of my anger is that I believe nobody whom my intelligent friends choose to engage with is stupid enough not to realize they are interrupting something or causing someone else pain, while they are doing it. They cannot possibly be (and are not) so blind and obtuse—especially when I express my emotions so explicitly, so borderline violently, that the dumbest idiot couldn’t mistake my meaning. I am often petty to both parties with the intentions of making them aware how hurt I am and getting them to feel hurt enough to at least attempt, with genuine efforts and not just words, to remedy the situation. Almost always, I want this effort and repentance to come from both parties.

So why did I say, two paragraphs above, that my learning from disappointment has caused me to choose silence? It’s because the disappointing thing that I have learnt is that the pettiness, ultimately, does not work. Certainly, it works on one level: getting the offending parties to become aware of my displeasure and pain. But civil discourse accomplishes that task equally well—although without the deliberate sting I like to pack into the former. Where both approaches have constantly failed me, however, is in getting the offending parties to care enough to do something about the situation. This, in fact, makes my pain even worse.

If my pain were entirely internalized, at least I would have the flimsy excuse of, “They’re just not doing anything about it because I haven’t said anything and so they don’t know I’m in pain.” (Even though this would be a lie, it might be a comforting one.) But when I do express myself, and they hear me, and they understand me, and they still do nothing, then I know it’s because they don’t care. And you cannot simply “petty” someone into caring about you. You just cannot hurt someone into loving you. People will devote most of their attention to the people most important to them. Sometimes, no matter how much I love them, I’m just not on the receiving end of that special attention and there really isn’t a damn thing I can do about it. C’est la vie.

So, in case you’ve been toying with the idea of trying to hurt someone you love into loving you, just know that Akotz the Spider Kid does not recommend.

-Akotowaa

Burdens of (Art) Activism

When I first conceived the idea for this post, I wanted to title it, “Artists in Ghana be doing too much” or something of the sort. As life sped on relentlessly, procrastination grabbed me in a chokehold, and I continued to think about this post while never actually getting around to writing it, I realized that the issue that vexed me enough to conceive the idea was larger than I initially thought.

My thought process began with the topic of Poetra Asantewa, who had been on my mind increasingly, for various reasons.

In my opinion, Poetra is one of Ghana’s most prominent, internationally rising writers/poets. She’s done commercials, tours, residencies, solo shows inside and outside Ghana, operated on grants, is an academic scholar, as well as an entrepreneur in ways I cannot exhaustively name. Poetra is also one of the most practical examples of a lexivist I can think of. (In case this is your first time encountering this word, here is the summarized definition: “lexical” + “activist” = literary activist/advocate for word- or literature-related causes. And yes, I made the word up. About three years ago.)

She’s particularly significant to me because, not only did she kickstart my spoken word career by making space for me wherever she had space, but she has continued advocating for me to this day, both loudly and silently over the years since she discovered my name. Besides the personal relevance, she was and is heavily involved with an organization called Love Rocks, which provides e-readers and books to young children. She is also the founder of Black Girls Glow, an all-female residency program for Ghanaian audio artists. Additionally, she recently launched a new magazine called Tampered Press, to showcase the works of African artists (in more than purely literary media), with a bias for Ghanaian artists. Do you see where I’m going with this? What I’m trying to say is: Poetra be doing a lot.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, her career is saturated with good things. But there are things about the context of this otherwise stellar biography that I don’t consider good and which have nothing to do with her.

LoveRocks
Photo Source: LoveRocks on Twitter (https://twitter.com/LoveRocksOrg/status/654708396814282752)

While I am both in awe of and grateful for all the work Poetra does for the artist communities in Ghana and beyond, I often wonder why it seems that it’s necessary for her to be doing all this work. One may argue that it’s not necessary at all. On more than one occasion, she herself has said, in my presence, “Who sent me?” I acknowledge my own need to check myself, because I can’t pretend to know exactly how she feels about juggling all these things at the same time as being a living artist. I know that my sentiments are not necessarily hers, but still, however one looks at it, before and after all her activist work, Poetra Asantewa is a living artist: visual artist, poet, prose writer, stage artist, page artist, fashion artist. And I naturally assume that the primary function of a living artist is that they sit their behinds down (metaphorically; no shade to creators who stand or dance) and make art!

But what happens when you’ve grown up in a culture where sitting your behind down and making art is murderously unsustainable? Perhaps the answer is that this—this very lifestyle, which I’ve spent the past few paragraphs describing of one individual—is exactly what happens. All the excess work is not necessary… but it is. Art infrastructure in this country is a mess, and someone must address it. If it continues to be a mess, sitting one’s behind down to make art will continue to be a near-impossibility, and the pressure to abandon the entire field in favor of a more infrastructurally sound one will certainly increase. And it’s high enough as it is.

The question remains, though: whose responsibility is this work? Responsibility is the often-misunderstood factor that determines for whom certain work is necessary and for whom it shouldn’t be.

Recently, a Ghanaian rapper who’s been making hella waves lately did a mini-social media rant imploring the more established Ghanaian musicians to use whatever influence they’ve gathered to pull the more emergent, underground artists like himself higher. As much respect as I have for said artist, when I read it, I sighed and thought to myself: You’re talking to the wrong people, bro. It is noteworthy that this man also does what I consider to be activist work within the artist community (I use this word both physically and with respect to field of artistry) that he works within. So, when I say he’s talking to the wrong people, one of the “wrong people” in question is himself.

His statement testified to a mentality I’ve observed is particularly prevalent in—although, I’m certain, not exclusive to—the entertainment industry. People keep showing how they apparently believe that the establishment and maintenance of technical (infra)structure in Ghana’s entertainment industry are responsibilities of the entertainers themselves—which for God’s sake, is simply not the case. When we keep pushing our arguments as if it is the case, it is really our own selves that we are doing. The only thing I think is a legitimate career responsibility of an entertainer is to entertain. Feel free to disagree with me, although I will probably disagree with you back.

The stability and structure of art industries, as several people seem to be overlooking, is dependent not on artists themselves, but on the work of individuals and organizations explicitly dedicated to making and keeping them functional. These may or may not include content creators themselves, but they need to include people for whom the technicalities of management are career strengths! Being a stunning vocalist doesn’t automatically grant you magical abilities to make a dysfunctional industry start working. The responsibility I’m talking about falls onto managers, company CEOs, business-savvy financial experts, talent scouts that aren’t necessarily artists themselves; coaches, teachers, institutions dedicated to maximizing the potential of artists (such as schools or ministries); rich people willing to sponsor shows, give grants, facilitate residencies, rent physical spaces out for events; governments who see the value of a powerful, national entertainment industry and are willing to invest in it the way they’re willing to invest in airports that make them look cool to visiting foreigners.

The point I am trying to make is that people have their respective roles, talents and professions. Placing responsibilities on artists, especially those who haven’t expressed that their self-perceived role is anything other than (or additional to) art creation is, to me, like saying, “Oh, you want to be a writer? Then you better find a job in the ink production industry, so that shops can sell pens to people who want to be writers.” It’s a bit kwasia, to say the least.

Our misguided sense of responsibilities isn’t unfounded, even though it may not be the most sensible thing. I suspect a huge contributing factor to our misguidedness is that artists are generally the most hyper-visible individuals in their respective industries. It almost goes without saying; they’re the faces of their professions because they are the ones into whom resources are being pumped and around whom marketing is centered. When people think of the music business, I suspect they think of their favorite musicians long before they think of the manager hustling her butt off to get them gigs, or the CEO calculating money earned from streams the past month and trying to figure out how to double that figure for next month. For this, I blame miseducation more than anything else. I don’t think the general public is sufficiently made aware of how much behind-the-scenes work it truly takes to make certain things run. (I suppose the only reason I have an idea is the brief period I spent being part of a group that was a creative collective in practice and a record label on paper.)

I have recently come to understand that the burdens we place on artists are often for them to essentially become activists—something a bit more profound than simply artivists. And although I myself self-identify as a lexivist, it would bother me to no end if people consistently expected me to spend more of my time fighting wars to prove literature is relevant than sitting my large behind down and composing actual sentences. Because at the beginning, middle and end of the day, I consider myself a writer first.

 

Allow me to briefly digress in saying that the attitudes we bring to art activism extend from and flow back into the attitudes we often have regarding survival activism. We apply a similar misplacement of responsibility within some of the more traditional and politically popular modes of activism such as feminism and mental health awareness. In a way that should not be automatic, we seem to be consistently expecting—foremost and sometimes solely—the members of whichever oppressed or disadvantaged group is in question to do the activism that promotes their own bests interests. Think about how counter-intuitive this is. The people who are already suffering are the ones being made to expend even more energy to trouble the culture and save themselves.

In a world that was ideally on its way towards fixing itself (because an ideal world wouldn’t have these oppressions in the first place), members of any non-oppressed population would be at the forefront of trying to relieve the burdens of the oppressed, not add the burdens of activism to the oppressed’s already-plentiful troubles. And if we have any sense at all as humans, honestly, what we should be doing is constantly fighting for each other—especially in the most dangerous situations. (In a country where certain identities can get a person stoned just for existing as they are, do you think their communities would hold on to the stones in their hands long enough to hear them speak?) I would rather that nobody should have to fight for anything at all, but we live in a morose and fallen world. Still, even with the necessity of fighting reluctantly accepted, why should it even be anyone’s responsibility to do anything other than one’s own work (which is one type of fighting), or to live one’s own life as oneself (which is also its own type of fighting)?

Take my relationship with mental health activism, for instance. Most of the time, when I witness mental health discourse—an alarming amount of which, especially on the internet, is highly problematic—I simply get tired and tune out. The energy that I don’t even have enough of to get out of my bed, no, is that what you want me to now go and shout with? Pardon me, but I’m too busy trying to remember how to breathe. The only times I feel capable of even being a mental health activist are moments when I’m not suffering. But when you’re systematically oppressed (woman, race minority in your country, sexual minority etc.), are you honestly ever not suffering?

“Black people. Women. Queer people. Disabled people. But we are nobody’s saviours. We’re people without answers, too, who to varying degrees are all already sore from advocating for ourselves in our lives – against strangers, against life, against even our families.” – Eloghosa Osunde

 

To return from my digression, I think we, as a society, ought to become mentally mature enough to let artists make art, because heaven knows the act of creation itself is often maddeningly difficult, especially in some of our culturally-specific art-hating cultural climates. We also ought to dispel within ourselves the notion that only artists have anything to contribute to art industries. We need the businesspeople, the rich people, and yes, the people trying to get rich off other, talented people. (Within ethical means, hopefully.) If we keep distracting artists, they can’t actually do their work. And if they do manage to work anyway, it’s often in the midst of unnecessary struggle (this “hustler” lifestyle that we honestly have to grow up enough to stop glamorizing) or producing sub-par work because the requisite time, energy and expertise weren’t affordable during the creation process.

To conclude, here’s another quote from the Longreads essay I quoted from above, which I personally relate to.

“Something I’ve come to understand since becoming a full-time writer is that when we do things that deplete the spirit or clog us at the heart, it becomes more difficult to do the work we’re good at; the kind where our voices stand apart from echoes, strong enough to shape collective consciousness. When we get distracted by what other people want from us, the work takes longer. And when we leave our roles to underplay the work we do, we don’t win anyway.” -Eloghosa Osunde

What I’m trying to say is that human beings should, firstly, be empathetic; and secondly, have sense. I know that neither of these things is easy. I don’t know why I’m writing this.

-Akotowaa