Writer’s Well Retreat Day 2: The Woman in the Mirror
April 3, 2013 by Norma Iris Lafé
“When I was a youngster, those nimble days of yore in the New York City hood of the ’60s, I stood on the sidelines waiting for my turn, to ready my undaunted stance against the two criss-
At 12 years old, I much preferred to watch the history unfolding on my black and white TV, the early freedom fighters of the Black Civil rights movement marching for equality, justice and the right to vote for ‘the coloreds,’ the right to live with human dignity, no bigotry, no hatred, and no scorn. I dreamed of the day when I too would grow up to fight for justice, better jobs, and decent housing for my people: Puerto Ricans, the dark-
Norma Iris Lafé
I could still hear my words come to life from the above memoir, “Birth of An Activist,” delivered with the intonation and dramatic flair of an actor. I received resounding applause from Hotlanta artist who gathered the night before. It was like an out-
The woman in the mirror took her first step to make that change. “Be gone,” I commanded the former me, feeling at moments undeserving of recognition, distancing myself from the limelight. In Adilah Barnes, the retreat proprietor and writing coach, I saw a reflection of the true me: humble, huge heart, high aspirations for other women, particularly women writers of color with a story to tell.
“Fix yourselves whatever’s in the pantry and refrigerator for breakfast,” Adilah yelled from her room at the top of the stairs.
Terra, a statuesque—curves to kill—Nubian beauty, whose smile lights up the earth she’s named after, was also on retreat from a busy, passion-
“You makin’ grits, Terra?” Fresh out of a soothing hot bath, I jumped for joy. “I haven’t had grits in ages. I loves me some grits. Can I help?” I offered.
“I found them. I got it covered.” In a New York minute, Terra put breakfast on the table.
Sister bonding and grits, what more could a Boricua barrio girl on retreat ask for? The one-
“What are your expectations for your retreat stay? Adilah began. We were face-
Outside the window was a view of 1.8 sprawling acres of Georgia pines, oak, and maple trees. We were immersed in wall-
By this time, all the other guests had left the retreat back to their homes. We were alone at last to tap into the hidden wellspring of memories and secrets too painful to reveal, but I knew that I must. I was prepared with a draft of my memoir. “I think I need to write more descriptive passages and dialogue.” I pointed out my weak spots.
“We’ll do a series of writing exercises. Write one page describing the sounds you remember from your childhood. After that, we’ll do the other senses of smell, taste, sight, and touch,” Adilah directed.
I hurried upstairs, alone in my room; I plugged into my early childhood in the tenements of New York’s Lower East Side. I conjured up the spirit of my inner child:
“Come,” her forceful little hand reached out for mine. “I’ve been waiting for the longest time. Let’s step into the flood. Come, our memories will wash away the sadness and open the window to a new and happy future. It will be good for you and others,” my inner child reassured me of the journey.
I tied my nervous fingers around her outstretched hand. I was always strong enough to stay afloat, but I never did learn to navigate the rivers of fate without the lifeboat of a safe, sound, and secure childhood.
Boricua Freedom Writer Iris Lafé, a new and emerging writer of the Afro-