Fire Woman

The fire which burns outside is still greater, for most of us, than the one that burns within.

Burning Woman, Lucy H. Pearce

There are times when I have so much I want to say but don’t know how. Ideas come and go and those moments of connection, when something clicks and I light up. And then flounder in how to communicate it. How to express what lies within.

There are plenty of times I have something to say but doubts and fears get in the way of expressing them. I long to be more courageous and bold in my expression without fear of percussions or judgements.

I know what I think and feel goes against the grain and to express these things in public would invite the gaze, backlash and cancel culture.

For example, we’ve just had a four day bank holiday, where there were parades and street parties and celebrations for Queen Elizabeth being on the throne for 70 years. But really what is there to celebrate? For me it angers as for these 70 years, people have paid for the royal family upkeep. But more infuriating is that the Queen is a figurehead of colonialism; the subjugation and exploration of Black and brown bodies around the world for centuries. And as a Black person I’m expected to shut up, celebrate this and be grateful.

But to say these things to anyone, I’d be the one with the issue, unpatriotic with a chip on my shoulder as someone recently threw at me when I described a racist incident I’d experienced which was tried to explained away as something else.

Just how it bugs me, when the term ‘women’ is used there is a silent, hidden (white) before it. That the default setting for woman is white and anything else such as Black woman is the ‘other’. To point this out would invite the comment that I always have to play the race card, or not everything is about race? Not that when someone uses (white) woman or (white) women that they do not see me included.

A few years ago, I started reading Burning Woman by Lucy H. Pearce. I felt the rallying cry for women to take back their power. To not hide from or be scared of the fire burning within. “She who dares. She who does what they say cannot be done, must not be done. She who tries and fails. She who does it her way.”

But coming back to it today, the words jar. I identify with the burning passion and rage inside of me that I need to express and enact upon, but I don’t feel my whole being/ experience/ body is contained within this book or within the term ‘woman’. I know that if I dare and do what I want to do, succeed or fail, the repercussion as so much more dangerous, dire for me as a Black woman. Not even acknowledging this within this book, or other books I’m reading excludes my experience as well as makes me feel as if I have the problem, and not that white supremacy culture is the issue.

Reading Five Nights in Paris by John Baxter to reconnect with the place, I’m having to turn part of myself off because there are certain things he says that I could find offensive. Throw away comments about African-America jazz musicians, artist or writers who made their home in Paris are not given their proper respect/ admiration/ regard as fellow human beings. Some points I feel their talent or success is not theirs alone but down to the white people they were befriended by or associated with.

I think what these reading experiences are illustrating for me, except for stoking my internal fires, is how much my lens/ gaze/ perception has been readjusted, changed and re-educated. How I’m no longer duped by white supremacy culture and how I now see behind the veil, the workings and manipulations. I no longer accept them or toil under them in silence.

Yes I feel that fire in my belly, and I’m using it to fuel what I’m doing outside of me. I may still have some fear of being burnt by it, my passion, my voice, my expressions but my greatest fear is remaining silent about the fires burning outside of me which are denied, overlooked or dismissed. And I’m ready to challenge whoever is lighting them and keeping them burning.

Writing my mixmoir on my terms is my way of allowing free rein for all the things I need to express and share in order to not be consumed from within by my fire and rage. The writing process is taking the flames and creating something beautiful and scorching.

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