Since the dawn of the internet communities have been formed where the anonymity of the screen allows an honest sharing of self; sometimes hilarious, at times heartbreaking, most times, allowing the reader or participant to feel less alone.
I remember one summer in the 7th grade where I was supposed to be out of the house every day. I didn’t have many friends and I had moved to a new neighborhood, so most of my days were spent alone. I went swimming at the community pool and then I would go to the library and sit on the computer for two to three hours, surfing the web looking at Geocities (remember that?) websites (things like Britney Spears fan sites); playing those 90s dress-up dolls, and surfing Neopets watching my Neopoints accumulate.
I also found LiveJournal and another blog site (kiwi something?), where there were hundreds of other people who felt the same way I did, who were experiencing life in a similar thread. There were the communities struggling with eating disorders that I connected to, there were communities of young girls who just wanted to be accepted, to be pretty, and in honesty, to be white.
I start off with this because that feeling of not being alone, of having someone, whether they are close or across the world on a computer screen, having them understand what you are going through, whether it’s through a post and they don’t know who you are, or a sharing of photos and stories, it’s that feeling of shared experiences and shared adversity that makes you feel like you can get through it.
I took a six week class at Firefly Creative Writing this summer and it was their first Women of Colour Memoirs class. This would be my first journey into writing not fiction but about my own life, and this would be my first experience in a room with women of colour.
This experience changed my life in such beautiful and subtle ways, not only from meeting wonderful women and sharing our life stories and connecting, but in a way that enabled me to find my voice and embrace myself as a Writer, as a Woman of Colour Writer.
The room was a safe space. It was full of this creative, pulsing, accepting energy that enabled us to laugh and cry and to break free of bonds we didn’t know we had. For me, each week and each piece I wrote and shared, I felt like a chain would unlink, I felt this power surge back into me, into my voice and mind. With the support of the other women I believed that my stories mattered, I believed that people of colours’ stories mattered.
That is another thing this class made me realise. In our society we are so conditioned with film, media, news, books, that white stories are the ones that matter. When movies are made they are niche, either Asian cinema or a Black film, or when a book is published it is niche. Films and books that win awards and that are popular have predominately white protagonists (not to mention male), and let us not forget the amount of missing women and children of colour that do not get the news coverage a white woman or child would get. It’s no wonder growing up in this diaspora you can feel like your story doesn’t matter.
But I can tell you. It does. Your story matters. Your experiences as a person (woman, man, nonbinary) of colour DO matter. This class taught me that, it taught me that our voices and our experiences deserve a space, deserve the spotlight, deserve to be shouted from a mountaintop, our stories deserve to win awards and recognition because there is nothing more beautiful than overcoming adversity and continuing to strive, to survive against a world that quietly tells you no everyday.
So, to my readers, I implore you, find a safe space, find a class or community where you can share your experiences without judgement but with support, with fellow people who understand the struggle, because it will change your life. If you can’t find one create one, because people are looking for it! And I know it can be hard to afford in this day and age and with different incomes but start small, start with friends, it doesn’t have to cost money, start with small prompts and sharing something that has been on your soul for ages. It will shape your voice and allow you to believe in yourself in ways you didn’t know.