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For the Soul

three actors sit at music stands in front of a red curtain. they are smiling
From the rehearsal room of Ngozi Anyanwu's NIKE. The New Black Fest at The Lark 2017.

It can be easy to get discouraged. Life is troubling and all too often in the most personal of ways. It can be hard to find answers to some of the biggest questions life poses and even harder to face the helplessness that results. However, I find there are moments of respite. Times when the writing of others breathes hope into the chasm. Reading their words connects me not only to my heart, but to my resilience. It is then that I know the power of writing is the ability to give life to someone else. In these incandescent moments I am sustained, buoyed by the light that is shared with me and encouraged again to keep moving, to challenge the forces which threaten to topple everything. Below are some words from artists of color, writers whose own journeys have surmounted the obstacles and found their way into infinity. I hope they will be of service to you now, whatever your course may be. 

“There is always something left to love. And if you ain’t learned that, you ain’t learned nothing.” -Loraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to…we will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…we realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” -Alice Walker, The Color Purple
“I found God in myself and I loved her. I loved her fiercely.” -Ntozake Shange, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf
“I ain’t never found no place for me to fit. Seem like all I do is start over. It ain’t nothing to find no starting place in the world. You just start from where you find yourself.” -August Wilson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
“I am the one thing in life I can control. I am inimitable; I am an original. I’m not falling behind or running late. I’m not standing still: I am lying in wait.” -Lin Manuel Miranda, Hamilton

"My mother taught me that you can follow behind everyone and walk in the dust, or you can walk ahead through the unbroken thorny brush. You may get blood on your ankles, but you arrive first and not covered in the residue of others. This land is fertile and blessed in many regards, and the men ain't the only one's entitled to its bounty." -Lynn Nottage, Ruined

"You are your best thing." -Toni Morrison, Beloved

"I do want to create art beyond rage. Rage is a place to begin, but not end. I'm not as wise as my work, but I know if I take the writing deep enough, something larger and greater than myself will flash forth and illuminate me, heal me. I do want to devour my demons-despair, grief, shame, fear-and use them to nourish my art. Otherwise they'll devour me." -Sandra Cisneros, "I can live Sola and I Love to Work," A House of My Own

"Don't get disheartened. Keep writing. People are reading." -Parul Sehgal

"Perhaps it is just as well to be rash and foolish for a while. If writers were too wise, perhaps no books would get written at all. It might be better to ask yourself, Why?" afterward than before. Anyway, the force of somewhere in space which commands you to write in the first place, gives you no choice. You take up the pen when you are told, and write what is commanded." -Zora Neale Hurston

"It was not in my nature to be an assertive person. I was used to looking to others for guidance, for influence, sometimes for the most basic cues in life. And yet writing stories is one of the most assertive things a person can do. Fiction is an act of willfulness, a deliberate effort to reconceive, to rearrange, to reconstitute nothing short of reality itself. Even among the most reluctant and doubtful of writers, this willfulness must emerge. Being a writer means taking the leap from listening to saying, 'Listen to me." -Jhumpa Lahiri

"Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history." -Octavio Paz

This article also appeared in the June edition of Lark's Monthly Newsletter, "A Bird's Eye View." To get more pieces like this straight to your inbox, sign up for The Lark's mailing list here!