Phew! These 40 year old legs have just about managed to catch the late train home, after walking the length, breadth and height of the Southbank centre today. Yet these forty year old fingers and this forty year old brain is ready to work, work, work. What a day. Accompanied by collaborator, Mammaanji, the themes of race and motherhood have been listened to, discussed and tweeted on the marvellous second day of WOW.
Whilst I didn’t feel the surging empowerment of yesterday, I did feel that so many of our debates are in their infancy, and this is an exciting time to be sharing our thoughts and opinions. But when we are sharing our stories of the past, I don’t feel we need to compare journeys to the detriment of seeking a way forward. Obviously, in order to see the future, we must accept the past, but I felt despondent today that the lives of our young were not considered. Labelling has and always will happen, it is what society needs to dominate and control the peoples within it. Indeed, we categorise ourselves, sometimes for ease, at times for necessity. I have used the term ‘mixed race’ to ensure I am understood, and lately I have noticed my vocabulary changing to use ‘mixed heritage’, and today highlighted how insufficient these terms are. I grew up in a time when (is it so different?) white is good and black is bad. Disney Princesses with their ivory skin, blond, blue, beauty was contrasted with the craggy, old, spinster witch in black. And don’t even get me started on Noddy and his golliwog. So I wanted to hear today what people thought about how we educate future generations? There was so much talk on half this, and half that. As a mama to English / British / Geordie / Caribbean / Grenadian / St Lucian / Londoners where will my daughters align themselves? With their Yorkshire / English / Caribbean / Hindu / Sri Lankan / Indian / Geordie / London cousins (there are 4 children in that mix BTW)? I doubt anyone out there has a one answer fits all solution. This is going to run and run.
What will Alice do next? After watching Pratibha Parmar’s film about Alice Walker, and then listening to the woman herself, I wonder whose life will be touched by her gentle yet forceful hand next. This was an honest portrayal of her career and life delving into the writings, career, family and lovers, including the shocking revelation that she is estranged from her daughter and grandson. My goodness this struck a chord. The Color Purple has been my favourite book and film since I was 18. I have a battered old copy which I refuse to update and can’t wait for the moment that I pass it onto the 3G. My knowledge of her other works will improve after tonight. I have learnt so much, not just about her writing, but about her role in activism, and how spiritual she is. Yet I left with a heavy heart as Mammaanji questioned whether we have to sacrifice our role as mother in order to write. It’s hard to appreciate why Walker made the choices she did, but the sad part is that a family is fragmented. Speaking as a daughter estranged from her mother, whatever path I take I hope to see the 3G along the way, near or far.
This WOW weekend has been heart-warming and thought provoking. I am exhausted and wonder where I will get the energy for class tomorrow. This event is definitely a permanent fixture in mama elsie’s calendar. Next year I’m taking as many of you as possible with me.
Goodnight London, wherever you are.