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Lorraine Hansberry on being honest about the miseries that afflict the world.

Man’s mission is to tell the truth about the complexity of our lives, to reveal all the promises, to ourselves, broken in silence, and become honest about the intricate emotions happening inside us; there is nothing more difficult than being honest with oneself. Any man that decides to contribute his mind and heart to evolution of human consciousness must be rooted in telling the truth about humanity and committed to revealing our potential. The writer, in order to survive, must become his own examiner, shaman, and personal archeologist journeying into the depths of his psychology while maintaining a tight grip onto the pen. Most people never find a craft they are willing to live through, however, when one does find writing, or painting, or dancing we must be honest about our commitment to using our art selflessly. I do not mean creating for other people, but through dissecting our personality and being honest about our revelations we make the world a little less lonely. Sweet Lorraine, as Jimmy Baldwin called Lorrain Hansberry, spoke beautifully about the importance of writing what we feel, and and using the knowledge to rebuke the ignorance that abound in the world in her posthumous book “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black”–she says:

“All which I feel I must write has become obsessive. So many truths seem to be rushing at me as the result of things felt and seen and lived through. Oh, what I think I must tell this world. I have come to maturity, as we all must, knowing that greed and malice and indifference to human misery, bigotry and corruption, brutality and, perhaps above all else, ignorance abound in this world.”

To create anything and receive acclaim, after all the doubt and silence of crafting, is a level of fulfillment few artists know. We must acknowledge the desire to have our being justified through the celebration of our art; on the path to becoming we are met with much indifference, doubt, and scrutiny, and, especially in the beginning, with no awards, scholarships, mentors, or job offers there is nothing to justify our desire to create. However, regardless of the lack of recognition, our desire for celebration cannot taint the craft, but, through love, we must transform our lives to meet our responsibility, and bring the subtle, often overlooked, moments of love, beauty, and goodness located in our existence to consciousness. The buzzing of fluorescent lights replace the sound of cicada love songs, and we forget the loveliness of trees, the patience of water and the joy of living being trapped in stone building. A woman who struggled with despair, Lorraine Hansberry, but believed in the power of writing exemplified the necessity of proclaiming “I am going to….” while in the pursuit of mastery–she says:

“I am a writer. I am going to write. I suppose I think that the highest gift that man has is art, and I am audacious enough to think of myself as an artist – that there is both joy and beauty and illumination and communion between people to be achieved through the dissection of personality. I wish to live because life has within it that which is good, that which is beautiful, and that which is love. Therefore, since I have known all of these things, I have found them to be reason enough and — I wish to live. Moreover, because this is so, I wish others to live for generations and generations and generations and generations.”

The beautiful scripture “Faith without work is dead” is personified in Lorraine, months before finishing A Raisin in The Sun, seen herself laid out on the floor next to a pile of neatly stacked papers. Manifestation is a strategy for accomplishing our work, and giving us the courage to follow through; Lorraine, even though no writers can know the outcome of their work, seen herself accomplish a difficult part of the artist’s journey, only second to beginning, finishing. Questions vary from the inception of creative ideas to when they are considered accomplishments, but the questions “Why does the writer write” or “How does a writer come up with the idea” can never be answered fully. Our only resolve is the desire to tell people the truth, and help people understand their complexity–Lorraine says:

“Months before I had turned the last page out of the typewriter and pressed all the sheets neatly together in a pile, and gone and stretched out face down on the living room floor. I had finished a play; a play I had no reason to think or not think would ever be done; a play that I was sure no one would quite understand….”

A Raisin in The Sun became a masterpiece of American fiction indispensable to our social and spiritual development. In the final remarks of her speech, seconds before the veil would rise and turn her into an icon, she expresses the difficulty of honesty, and how idea will gestate in our consciousness for years, and birth on their own time–she says:

“I was seventeen and I did not think then of writing the melody as I knew it–in a different key; but I believe it entered my consciousness and stayed there…… How can anyone adequately tell that?”

To Be Young, Gifted and Black presents the complexity of black life in the 1960’s, reading anyone from the 60s reminds me so intimately of the issues being faced today–Black nationalism, Success, Assumptions, Beauty, and the universal concerns of man. This book asks us to confront the complexity of living life as a human being; I recommend To Be Young, Gifted and Black becoming apart of everyone’s library.