MY THIRD ACT
I need to keep thinking and analyzing, and have that transformed onto a piece of paper. Besides, if we as African American women don’t write our own books, then other folks will continue to define us.
Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole
January 2nd, 2017
Happy New Year!!! I’d like to reintroduce myself. I am Theresa Bennett-Wilkes, womanist author of literature emanating from the African Diaspora. Ah, please, allow me to continue, for my literary predilection doesn’t comprehensively define, or describe me. Frankly I doubt anyone can, and I’m totally onboard with this self-professed acknowledgment. I choose womanist for it speaks to my liberation and the emancipation and empowerment of my female forebears, my foremothers, and their sister friends.
I am continuing to evolve, physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and politically. 2016 proved to be a crash course in the fleetness and oft times fickleness of life. It also dramatically emphasized the importance of who I am within the context of my birth, citizenship, and racial identity. I began the year with great expectations only to experience painful disappointments. I frequently heard myself sadly declare, “I didn’t see it coming…”
The most shattering letdown was last year’s general election results. I looked forward to witnessing Hillary Rodham Clinton become the first female president of the United States of America. The undertow which ultimately dragged her down to a shocking, and humiliating, defeat was always present. I, for one, chose to disregard the rumblings, the grousing voices of dissent. I was confident her opponent was too outré to be taken seriously. I was wrong.
What baffles me are the women who rejected her. The sheer enormity of their abjurement and collective disapprobation of her candidacy shook me to the core of my being. As I work my way through the clinically defined stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, I’ve resolved to learn from the differences between them and me. I question the existence of commonalities within our gender. Apparently the divide is far wider and deeper, and possibly less conducive to bridge-building than was previously imagined. I’ve read media articles stating a stunning fifty-three percent, 53%, of white women voted for His Orangeness.
“…when the women’s vote is divided by race, it becomes clear that black women actually drove the so-called gender gap against Trump. The majority of non-college educated white women (64%) voted for Trump, while 35% backed Clinton. This figure is far higher than non-college educated black women, of which only 3% voted for Trump, and non-college educated Hispanic women, of which 25% voted for Trump. Hispanic and other non-white women backed Hillary in far greater numbers…”¹ Being a proud black sistah, I am grateful to be one of the millions who had the wisdom to vote for Hillary. I wear my support for her as a badge of courage and honor. Heartfelt thanks and a shout out to all the white women who raised their voices and cast their ballots for HRC.
“…Trump owes his victory to the polarization of American politics…enough voters ignored warnings about Trump’s threat to US democracy to propel a man who embodies some of America’s most deep-set historical vices to the presidency. Why? He promises a return to a fantastic past where the social and economic turmoil of the 21st century can be avoided……White voters heard Trump’s voice…and came out to make him president…”²
I am, as is everyone else, perched on the precipice of an uncertain future facing the country I love, yet mourn. I dread the departure of President and Mrs. Obama, and I have no expectations of the president-elect. Out of this atmosphere: one fraught with disaster; filled with anger, much of it misplaced, misdirected, and ultimately damaging, I choose to begin My Third Act. I am unapologetic in my quest to carve out a reputation for myself as a Black womanist author. I proudly claim my Latino and Afro-Caribbean heritage. I am determined to celebrate the multiracial, multicultural world into which I was born and exist.
I will not succumb to the nativism, white-supremacist, xenophobic, misogynistic, misanthropic, racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamaphobic, and religious intolerance preached, ranted, and tweeted by a brazen orange-haired, intellectually shallow, petulant, reckless, dishonest old white man. I vehemently disagree with those who insist not all of His Orangeness’s supporters are as racist as he is. America’s history is one of institutionalized racism, racial and sexual discrimination, state-sanctioned segregation, and a constitution which originally defined Black people as three-fifths of a person. The radicalization of racialized politics is real, palpable, and very much a part of everyday life for millions of people who live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let me see, how does the song go?
Home on the Range
Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam,
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.
Oh, give me the land where the bright diamond sand
Throws its light from the flittering stream
Where glideth along the graceful white swan,
Like a maid in a heavenly dream.
Oh, give me the gale of the Solomon vale,
Where life streams with buoyancy flow,
On the banks of the Beaver, where seldom if ever
Any poisonous herbage doth grow.
I love the wild flowers in this bright land of ours;
I love too the wild curley’s scream,
The bluffs and white rocks and antelope flocks
That graze on the hillsides so green.
How often at night, when the heavens are bright
With the light of the flittering stars,
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds this of ours.
The air is so clear, the breeze so pure,
The zephyrs so balmy and light,
I would not exchange my home here to range
Forever in azure so bright.
Home, a home where the deer and the antelope play,
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day. ³
CHORUS (20th century version)
Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not cloudy all day.
This song aptly describes the nostalgia His Orangeness and loyal followers yearn for…a time and place which only exists in popular lore, though carefully spoon fed to generations. Buffalo and antelope in the United States are both on the Department of Interior’s List of Endangered Species. Discouraging, disparaging, and mean-spirited speech dominates airwaves, the Twitterverse, Facebook, other social media platforms, the Internet, and print media. Use of the adjective deplorable to accurately describe voters looking for someone to do their thinking for them is costly, yet fake news abounds. Clean air is at stake. Filthy, polluted sources of drinking water are more prevalent than many of us realized and far too little is being done to address this atrocity. Ah, the joys of life in America…
I abhor the maimedstream media’s disingenuous efforts to further stoke the fear, fury, and hatred smoldering in the ashes of a national election in which it wielded tremendous negative influence. It downplayed His Orangeness’s lack of fitness to be a world leader and insidiously engaged in an ongoing and odious campaign of character assassination aimed squarely at Secretary Clinton. Deliberately vague insinuations of a long history of dishonesty were perpetuated by every news source prefacing comments with the gratuitous trope about Hillary’s unfavorables. I cringed every time I read an article whose opening statement blared: “This year’s presidential election offers a choice between two historically unpopular candidates…” Such tasteless rhetoric was never in short supply. Oddly, her crimes, allegedly legion, were never identified, save use of a private server while serving as secretary of state. Hillary was harshly, and repeatedly, criticized for being an ambitious woman who dared to aspire to the highest office in the country. She was vilified and demonized for having the unmitigated gall to be the most qualified candidate to ever compete: how awful.
The crowning insult, an exultant cacophony of electronic and print outlets gleefully laid the blame for her defeat at her feet, after all she deserved this comeuppance. We’ll all pay the price for the G.O.P. rout. As for the women who voted for the pussy-grabbing, foul-mouthed, abusive bully, and hypersensitive chump whose foreign-born trophy wife has her own problems, there are no words to describe, or define your treachery, apostasy, sexism, ignorance, cruelty, or traitorousness. I don’t stand in solidarity with you – we’re not sisters in the struggle you apparently desperately want to pretend doesn’t exist, my bad! You’ve reaffirmed your unwillingness to acknowledge the sacrifices or appreciate the gains women have made in this country. You’ve set us on a narrow, rocky path putting our lives and collective wellbeing in jeopardy. You’ve demonstrated how tight your blinders are, how much you loathe and disrespect yourselves. You’ve left no doubts about your fiercely held belief in the myth of the safety of being inferior and submissive. You’ve screeched your lack of self-love.
Be advised, enlightened, progressive, empowered women from all walks of life remain on the battlefield, steadfast in our commitment to continue the fight to protect reproductive rights, Roe v. Wade, access to education, well woman and quality childcare. We’re not giving up on issues of gender and pay equity, nuanced as it is by our racial identity, sex discrimination, sex-trafficking, sexual harassment, domestic abuse, or gun control. We remain clear-eyed and focused. We will cultivate, nurture, and elect female candidates for public office across all levels of government who aren’t tethered to a misogynistic and hate-filled party line. We understand …
When women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.
As for me, I’m moving forward. I’m beginning My Third Act. I bend to no man, especially one who has no respect for me, my history, or my journey. I choose to raise my voice and use my gifts and talents to speak my truth…whenever, wherever, and however. I am a womanist author, creator of literature emanating from the African Diaspora. I offer no apologia for my Blackness – I love the skin I’m in. I eagerly embrace the blessings of the Universe. My intention is to speak my peace through the lenses of my life, my people, and most importantly, my sisters. Here I am: head unbowed, back straight, standing on my own two feet, loving me, and determined to be free. And still I write!!!
¹ Mohdin, Aama, American women voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, except the white ones, Quartz, November 9, 2016.
²FErnholz, Tim, How Hillary blew it, Quartz, November 9, 2016
3The lyrics to Home on the Range were composed by Dr. Brewster M. Higley Vi, who wrote the poem entitled, My Western Home, during the latter part of the 19th century, after relocating from Ohio to Kansas. A friend, Daniel E. Kelley is credited with creating the melody. The song appeared as sheet music in 1925 and was renamed in 1930 for use in a Broadway show. Visit the Kansas Historical Society’s site, www.kshs.org for the story of the evolution of this song.
©December 10, 2016 by Theresa Bennett-Wilkes, all rights reserved.