Toni Morrison was one of the greatest American writers of our time, without question. When someone notable passes away, it’s amazing how we all connects to different aspects of their work.
There are two quotes in particular that have stuck with me in the past few years.
“When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
The first quote is from November 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine and the second comes from a 1993 interview between her and Charlie Rose on PBS.
What I love about both is that they embody a sense of self worth that can only be achieved through the work of taking responsibility for self. We live in a world that consistently tells us to do otherwise and depend on everything else for our value and then turns around and profits off of our pain. Our society is designed to remind us that we’re less than, constantly replaying that narrative that we will never quite measure up (that didn’t just start with social media FYI).
Toni Morrison didn’t believe in that. Toni Morrison showed us that we could write our own stories and make our own rules that we are enough, despite what’s happened in our past.
Everything about her work reminded us that we have more important things to worry about, to work for, to write for, or create outside of how this country feels about our existence. Our being Black is an advantage, an asset, and this giant scribe spent her life not justifying or explaining anything. She owned her space, her work, and her creativity and she did it her way on her own terms and she lived her life to the fullest. There’s not too much I can say here to describe the incredible shift in the atmosphere that her physical death has left us with. But one thing I know for sure is that continuing on with the work that’s in our hands, is a way to keep her legacy alive.
Thank you for your service Toni Morrison. You will live on forever in our hearts and in our work.
- Melissa, Founder of #blkcreatives
“This is the time for every artist in every genre to do what he or she does loudly and consistently. It doesn’t matter to me what your position is. You’ve got to keep asserting the complexity and the originality of life, and the multiplicity of it, and the facets of it. This is about being a complex human being in the world, not about finding a villain. This is no time for anything else other than the best that you’ve got.”
– Toni Morrison, Oprah Mag