Friday, June 20, 2014
Remembering Ayofemi, Remember Why
Ayofemi Folayan passed away recently. She was my first writing teacher, and I owe her a tremendous amount of gratitude. In the early 1990's, I was a few years out of acting school, and not acting. Creativity had always been a strong tool in dealing with the world, and I needed to be creative. As any actor will you, you're never acting enough and you're usually waiting for someone's permission to act.
I started her writing workshop, a space she had for LGBT people of color. She wanted space for young writers to say whatever they wanted to say. She encouraged writing exploring issues of being a double minority. I had been in creative spaces before--I had a degree in Theatre. However, her class was different. She asked us to travel deeply within ourselves, uncork our thoughts on truly difficult themes: racism, homophobia, immigration. She helped me become a person who could comfortably speak my mind--with tact and generosity. She helped developed my Voice.
One day, she said she was selling her computer for a newer one. I bought it. And still have it. I typed out stories on this old clunker. I dug it out to look at it and remember my joy of writing in the first place.
It's been twenty years, and I may have become a little jaded. I'm being asked to consider "the market" when I write. Can I sell whatever story I'm writing. I must confess I had been having some frustration with my current novel. I feel like my Voice had been muddled. I'd been choking on what to say.
With Ayofemi's passing, I'm reminded as to why I started writing. I wanted to do something honest and true. I wanted to put something out in the world that was valuable. I wanted to be the kind of writer Ayofemi would have been proud of. And I still do.
Thank you, Ayofemi, for your service.