Tell Your Own Story


So what you have a story! What are you going to do about it? Black storytelling pioneers got it right when they realized the importance of self-writing their own history. To combat racial dissidence and dismantle the misrepresentation of blacks in America through writing, what a brilliant undertaking that still nods to W.E.B. DuBois’s assertion that art, and in particular writing, must be used always for propaganda—telling the truth and nothing but the truth—for the sole purpose of educating the misinformed.

With the publication of the first African-American newspaper in 1827, the Freedom's Journal's far-reaching lines, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly” are screaming at me loud and clear. Girl, wake up and write. One hundred and ninety years after Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm served as editors of the Freedom’s Journal, I am even more convinced that good writing transcends time, space, and location in an effort to touch readers and hearers in ways that provoke action and reaction.

For thousands of years, storytelling, whether written or oral, has paved the way for communities of people all over the world to entertain, send messages, pass down traditions, and to tell their historical truths. Today, I glean so much from those we call “The Greats,” Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, August Wilson, Zora Neale Hurston, Amiri Baraka, Octavia Butler, and the list goes on and on. From the grave I imagine that many of them would holler at me and say, “Girl, tell your own story and write your history. Your existence is too vital not to let the world know the greatness inside you. What are you waiting for?”  So, what am I am waiting for? No. What are you waiting for? With the infamous words written in the Freedom’s Journal all those years ago, there are at least three reasons why it's so important to tell your own story.

1.  To speak for yourself. Who can speak for you better than you can? The answer is nobody. The reason why black storytellers needed to tell their own stories in the first place was because misrepresentation and stereotyping deceived the masses, including blacks, about the true identity of blacks in America.

2. To tell a powerful story. If you didn’t have a grand story to tell, it would be easy to tell it. Not much that is great was or is easy to accomplish. Your story is hard to tell and scary to reveal because it's powerful enough to touch people beyond your immediate circle.

3. To release your voice now. Don’t live with the regret of having waited too long to tell your own story. The storytellers of our past had valid reasons for waiting to speak their truth. But, what are your waiting for?

To those who have a great book inside them about how they overcame, about how they failed and got back up, or about how they survived during the best and worst of times, I say, so what you have a story. It's not beneficial to us until you put words on paper. Its great to have a story in you, but I challenge you to wake up, write, post and share. We need you. #PleadYourOwnCause #SpeakForYourself #BeFree #Juneteenth