Aya de Leon

author – activist – faculty – mom

The Humbling Process of Daily Writing and the Return of the Editor

I have developed incredible respect for people who blog daily. I just finished 17 days of blogging in support of Shailja Patel. At first, my posts were multilayered essays that were meticulously written and edited. However, on heavy traffic days as a working artist/teacher/mom, they were short or rushed. Of course, one of those rushed posts from October 6th has been widely cross-posted, both in Africa and England. I’m honored for the amplification and humbled by the work’s imperfection.

In today’s fast-moving world, there’s always the balance between the desire to get work out there, and to make sure it’s as good as it can be. I’m pleased that I decided to go with the urgency of campaign to support Shailja over the pull to nitpick my own work. However, I can also see the room for improvement in the piece, and am glad to engage with it as an editor. This daily writing practice is always a good and humbling exercise. Every opportunity for me to put the perfectionism aside is a good one. Perhaps I will sign up for more humbling next month and do NaNoWriMo.

I’m editing the original post to read this weekend at the VONA/CultureStrike LitCrawl reading. However, I wanted to offer both versions here, as a testament to the editing process.

New & Revised

From Amilcar Cabral to Shailja Patel: Masking No Difficulties, Claiming No Easy Victories

Ever since I heard of the alleged sexual assault on Shailja Patel, I have wanted to get on a plane and fly to Kenya. But I can’t. So instead I offer the words of Amilcar Cabral, revolutionary from Guinea Bissau, “Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories.” Today, we will not be masking the alleged sexual assault by Kenyan writer Tony Mochama. We will not be masking it behind anti-feminist epithet name-calling. We will not be masking it behind accusations of anti-black racism. Brutal forms of anti-black racism do exist, but any black man who sexually assaults a woman may not turn around and hide behind charges of anti-black racism. Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories. I wish I could get on a plane today because we are tired of covering up the grime and bloodstains in our movements and relationships. I wish I could get on a plane because we have fastened our seatbelts, by inserting the metal flap into the buckle and are prepared for gender slur name-calling, attempts at slut-shaming, derisive comments about our appearance, our bodies, our faces, our hair, our sex appeal or lack thereof. Sexual violence is not about sex appeal, it’s about the appeal of using sex to assert domination by men in our movements, which we will not be masking today. Some people get anxious when they fly. We get anxious that white people or westerners, or patrons or NGOs or funders will target men in our communities or target our communities as a whole when we reveal the truths of this gender violence, this alleged sexual assault, this intimate abuse, but we will not be masking any of these difficulties. Will not be putting on a smile to mask the epidemic of abuse and disrespect of women in movements that are supposed to be for everybody but have turned out to prioritize boys and men. From My Brother’s Keeper in the US to the alleged assault on Shailja Patel. Let my Kenyan president and Shailja’s Kenyan colleague hear me now, we will not be putting you ahead of us anymore because in the event of an emergency, we have been advised to put on our own masks first, and whether or not the bag inflates, we will not be masking these gender difficulties anymore. Sometimes the nearest exit row is behind you, and you may think it’s a step backwards for women of color to unmask these inconvenient incidences of male domination, but any unity based on women’s silence, based on secret violence is a recipe for a failed revolution. And my revolutionary hero tells me to mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories. I read the safety card, I am willing to follow all written instructions which tell me that I may feel a sudden change in cabin pressure if I speak honestly about what’s been going on with the men in my community. But sexual assault of any kind is an actual emergency. Mr. Mochama, clearly, you are not prepared to be sitting in an exit row, clearly you are not ready to perform the functions of exiting from an oppressive society if you think that women’s bodies are here for your pleasure and amusement. We will need to reseat you, sir, because you will not be able to assist the crew if you are too busy objectifying the flight attendants when your country is in crisis. If the plane is going down, we need to know you’ll be opening the exit door, not searching for a woman you you might lure into the lavatory for that one last mile high tryst. Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories. Please be aware that sexual assault is not permitted on board our movements or artist communities. Federal regulations prohibit tampering with, disabling, or destroying a sexual assault detector in a poets gathering. We will not be masking that difficulty today, so do not claim any woman’s body as your easy victory.

Original Version

From Amilcar Cabral to Shailja Patel: Masking No Difficulties, Claiming No Easy Victories

I wish I could get on a plane today and fly to Kenya. Ever since I heard of the alleged sexual assault on Shailja Patel, I have wanted to get on a plane and fly to Kenya. But I can’t. So instead I will offer the words of Amilcar Cabral, revolutionary from Guinea Bissau, “Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories.” Today, we will not be masking the alleged sexual assault of Kenyan writer Tony Mochama on Kenyan writer Shailja Patel. We will not be masking it behind anti-feminist epithet name-calling or sexist allegations. We will also not be masking it behind accusations of anti-black racism. Anti-black racism does exist, is brutal, and is deeply embedded and operative in today’s world. But any black man who sexually assaults a woman who is not black may not turn around and hide out in charges of anti-black racism to avoid consequences. Any black man who assaults a woman who is black may not turn around and hide out in charges of anti-black racism to avoid consequences. Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories. We women are tired of being held responsible for impossible predicaments that men of color put us in vis-à-vis racism, sexism, and mistreatment. We are tired of cleaning up the grime and bloodstains in our movements and relationships. If you want a tough stain out, shout it out. We will not be masking, instead we will be shouting out that Tony Mochama allegedly sexually assaulted Shailja Patel, and that sexual assault, intimate violence, or gender-based abusive behavior will not be tolerated in our movements and artist circles. We have fastened our seatbelts, by inserting the metal flap into the buckle and are prepared for gender slur name-calling, attempts at slut-shaming, derisive comments about our appearance, our bodies, our faces, our hair, our sex appeal or lack thereof. Sexual violence is not about sex appeal, it’s about the appeal of using sex to assert domination by men in our movements, which we will not be masking, we will be shouting out today. Some people get anxious when they fly. We get anxious about very real fears and concerns about what white people or westerners, or patrons or NGOs or funders will target men in our communities or our communities as a whole when we reveal the truths of this gender violence, this alleged sexual assault, this intimate abuse, but we will not be masking any of these difficulties. Will not be putting on a smile of a mask to cover the epidemic of abuse and mistreatment of women in movements that are supposed to be for everybody but have turned out to prioritize men from My Brother’s Keeper in the US to the alleged assault on Shailja Patel by Tony Mochama, let my Kenyan president and Shailja’s Kenyan colleague hear me today, in the event of an emergency, we have been advised to put on our own masks first, and whether or not the bag inflates, we know that the oxygen is flowing, and we will be able to think clearly and we will not be masking the difficulty of alleged sexual assault between comrades in communities and movements of people of color. Sometimes the nearest exit row is behind you, and you may think it’s a step backwards for women of color to call out sexism and sexual violence among brown folks, but any unity based on women’s silence, based on secret violence isn’t unity but a recipe for a failed revolution. And my revolutionary hero tells me to Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories, I read the safety card, I am willing to follow all written instructions which tell me to put on my mask first before assisting others. If I can’t breathe safely around you, I can’t assist you. If you think you can’t help yourself from assaulting women, then I can’t help you. Clearly, you are not prepared to be sitting in an exit row, clearly you are not ready to perform the functions of exiting from an oppressive society if you think that women’s bodies are here for your pleasure and amusement. We will need to reseat you, sir, because in the event of an actual emergency, you will not be able to assist the crew if you are too busy objectifying the flight attendants when your country is in crisis; if the plane is going down, we need to know you’ll be opening the exit door, not searching for the woman you you might lure into the lavatory for that one last mile high tryst. Mask no difficulties….Claim no easy victories. Our revolution doesn’t just needs men who are interested in saving women’s lives, but men who are simply interested in women’s lives—our minds, our writing, our leadership. When you assault a woman’s body, you disrespect her mind; we will not be masking that today. Please be aware that sexual assault is not permitted on board our movements or artist communities. Federal regulations prohibit tampering with, disabling, or destroying a sexual assault detector in a poets gathering. We will not be masking that difficulty today, so do not claim any woman’s body as your easy victory.

You can find all my posts and all the other writings in support of Shailja at www.mybodymyhome.wordpress.com

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This entry was posted on October 17, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

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