Books & Writing

Box Out, Box Out

June 21, 2011

What’s worse than someone compartmentalizing you into the box you’re fighting so hard to break out of? As free as we try to be in style and leisure society continues to construct social and economical confines for us. The older and more educated I become I find myself fighting with the terms ‘woman’ and ‘black’. Not because I resent either but because I feel eyes on me at work, in class, and in grocery stores or banks when I run my weekly errands. These eyes question me, silently: How are you a woman in a male dominated industry? How does a young black woman speak of Vivaldi, Roth, and Jay-z in the same sentence? Who is she?

I read two interesting articles this week by two people I respect with every fiber in my body: Malcolm X and Elizabeth Bishop. But before you raise an eyebrow and x-out of the browser let me explain what these greats have to do with me: we fight the same fight. Malcolm X was, in his time and possibly even now, a political radical and a social rebel. The pride he felt as a black man spurred hundreds, thousands to become agents in equalizing America’s racial segregation and tension. Much of Malcolm’s fight was and is mine. Likewise Elizabeth Bishop, one of the greatest in contemporary poetry, resisted the social confines when it came to womanhood and literature. She didn’t want to be classified as a female poet (or as a lesbian, though that’s what her sexual preference was). She wanted to be identified solely as, poet.

No I’m not a lesbian or a political radical nor have my footprints been to half as many places as either one of these legendary figures but I have fought the same fight, within me and within society. I don’t want to be categorized as a ‘black woman’ or a ‘black poet’.

I am woman. I am poet.

Now that you’ve read this, don’t ask yourself what you are but rather who?


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