07 August 2019

Remembering Toni Morrison, A Mercy God Had On Us

Remembering Toni Morrison, A Mercy God Had on Us
By Latorial Faison


What on Earth would we do without the work Toni Morrison has done, the light she gave to our dark sky, the legacy she and her sisters and brothers of the pen, together, leave us? When I heard about her passing, once again, I felt power leave what I know as the Earth. Toni Morrison was the center of what became Black life on the page for all of America. I felt this same way when Maya Angelou passed, that sorrow you feel when an anointing is no longer there, when you are left with only the power of some words that you pray are enough to keep you in a holy place. She empowered us with the story of Pecola Breedlove in The Bluest Eye, with Sula, Song of Solomon, and Tar Baby. With Beloved, she painted the harsh realities of slavery for Black women and mothers in the character of Sethe. Time and time again, with Jazz, Paradise, Love, A Mercy, Home, and God Help the Child, Morrison writes relatable tales underlined in truths with which African Americans could identify, novels and stories with which non-Black people could accept, laud, appreciate, and maybe even use as scaffolding to understand the phenomenon of disregard for Black people in America, the phenomenon of how Black people have fought for various kinds of freedoms and over and over again have created beauty from cinder and ashes every time the society burns everything we have longed for to the ground.

"Freeing yourself was one thing, 
claiming ownership of that freed self was another." 
-Toni Morrison

It is a powerful phenomenon when someone's life and work can have such a transformative and lasting impact on your own. The Bluest Eye was my first read. Beloved, my second, and then there was a thirst for everything and all things Morrison in my college days. I had not read a Blackness with which I could universally and in my bosom identify until Black authors like Morrison wrote it on pages of books. She has given so much life.




"The function, the very serious function of 
racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being." 
-Toni Morrison

w/Jessea Gabbin at Furious Flower '19
Morrison has been the air so many of us Black students, scholars, readers, and writers have breathed, a song we sing, an infusion we need to get up and do life more comfortably, less painfully. To be able to read a book that takes you into the miracle of a Black place and make it larger than life with such unashamed truth, with such a sincere appreciation for everything that the White world and Black society belittles was sheer bad-ass. Toni Morrison, she was a bad mamma jamma. When white authors were writing about high society and the American dream, Morrison was writing about the reality of the struggle, Black folks reading dream books and playing numbers. When White critics questioned whether her writing had focused on the serious mainstream, Morrison answered declaring that as a Black woman writing in America, Black life was the mainstream. To suggest she write anything else and any other way was racism. To suggest we bow and imitate white writers, follow their lead, is to suggest that we are not equal, individually creative, aesthetically desirable, culturally relevant.

"Like any artist without an art form, she became dangerous."
-Toni Morrison

I so appreciate this work, this legacy that Toni Morrison leaves behind. It is hard to share the world with such greatness, such Black excellence and not be touched, moved, or made by it. Toni Morrison was real for having not forsaken the page, the call of a writer and writing about it all, every facet of Black life. She did it for the love of men, for the strength of women, for the innocence of our Black children, for the complex history we share, for the future that is to be ours. She was the distraction we needed from the distraction of racism that offered us such great Black hope, such a beautiful Black love, such a talented Black mold. May all that we do when they are no longer with us, give honor, give light, give continual fight, greatness, and excellence to the movement that is still Black and powerful, to Black history, the Black culture, to the Black canon of Black stories chronicling Black life that we know deserve, desire, and must be told by usToni Morrison was a mercy God had on us. He didn't have to do it, but He did. Like an angel that fell from the sky, she did the Lord's work, and she did it well. When you've dealt in Black power, when you've labored in Black power, when you have made Black empowerment your life's work, surely you can rest in peace. 


"Don't ever think I fell for you.  I didn't fall in love, I rose in it."
-Toni Morrison

#ToniMorrison #Blackwriters #LatorialFaison
#Beloved #Sula #TarBaby #SongofSolomon #TheBluestEye #Jazz #AMercy

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