In Process … Pt. 2

In Process … Pt. 2

***Warning*** Contents past this point may expand the mind beyond normal capacity.

*** Proceed with caution ***

Continued from In Process …

By Katrina Taylor

I originally wrote this post as “A letter to Playthell Benjamin: An experiment in personal self-expression and examination of the role of authentic communication in today’s world”.

Playthell Benjamin is a speaker and prolific writer, best known for his work with The Guardian UK, The Village Voice, Emerge Magazine & currently, with WBAI, an independent radio station in NYC. His blog Commentaries on the Times, is where my first essay was featured. There are over 500 essays on topics ranging from politics, international affairs, music, theater, sports, and more. Mr. Benjamin is a bonafide expert in all these things and knowing him has been an eye-opening, head-spinning adventure through worlds I’d only read or dreamed about. How one can live so much in one lifetime boggles the mind.

His consistent & staunch advocacy for the African American community has brought an understanding to the forefront of my awareness of a forgotten history, one buried under centuries of false ideals and propaganda. As an African American woman living in the United States, I have not previously experienced a celebration of my culture. While I identify first and foremost as a human being, I didn’t really think it mattered whether or not I was Black. The shadow beneath this thought ignored the many hurtful experiences that reminded me that I lived in a country where it mattered a lot to some. But what Playthell Benjamin has lived his life for, the absolute and unapologetic celebration of African American culture, has gifted me with a piece of my total self I didn’t even realize was missing and I feel will prove to be a vital piece in the healing of past burdens carried in our national psyche.

We can get over these historical riffs, impossible though it may seem. In the bigger picture, all of this has formed into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. In spite of the troubles, we can see sunlight peeking over the horizon. We are able, as we got here in the first place through our thoughts, words, and actions, now choose to think, speak & act in a different way. In a direction that leads us towards the greater reality beyond divisions, one of human connectedness, interdependency, and common good.

With a commanding voice, reminiscent of James Earl Jones or Dr. Martin Luther King, and a formidable presence, Playthell Benjamin is a man of many talents and a no-nonsense kind of fellow. I have no doubt that, were he so inclined to bow and scrape, to compromise his integrity to maintain a position among the bought-and-paid-for media elite, he would be a household name. But one can never hide from oneself and such largess of spirit could never be contained in such small-minded bureaucracies. Indeed, his name has become a beloved part of many households around the country and the world over the years, thanks to the advent of the interwebs..

I mentioned him in the first part of In Process … the noted author who gave me a chance. Without Mr. Benjamin’s encouragement, I’m not sure where my writer self would be right now. I’ve been struggling with “writer’s block” for many years now. I wasn’t able to get on paper the constant perspectives, storylines & characters that ran through my mind. Not in any consistent way. So, this blog has also been a great exercise in finding my voice and my own unique self-expression.

I found this letter to Mr. Benjamin the other day among old emails and the theme of it ties in perfectly with the direction I want to go with The Educability of Perch.

It seems we’ve reached a pinnacle point as a nation. For sure, the entire world is in a state of flux with no real clarity around how things will turn out. Millenia-old grudges, divisions among the nations, races, tribes, and clans of the world are at a head. What do we do? The Chicken Little plan is an old one too & we can do better.

Change can only happen one moment and one choice at a time. It is always up to us, no matter the outward appearances, in what we choose in the moment.

If ever there was a time to find new ways to move forward, that time is now.

The “leaders” of the world have gotten us to this point. It’s up to each and every human being to, now, call up something deep within them and find the best parts no matter how difficult the task. It’s important to find the strength and pick up the ball of our united future and carry it forward. It’s up to us to keep the wheel turning, to find our inner “leader” and take command of our own lives. We have each other, in this endeavor, a reality we’ve forgotten through centuries of manipulation and power-struggles. But we can remember it at any time and learn to be human with each other, once again. I honor each and every path one is guided to follow, starting with my own. In this infinite, complex matrixed reality, it takes all of us to make the world go ‘round.

I was so thrilled by the unexpected effect this chance encounter with Playthell Benjamin had on me as a writer and a human being, that I wrote this letter to him, hoping to remind him of how he affects the space. I hope that posting it here might do the same for someone else. A reminder to you, Dear Reader, of how you’re affecting the space and to, myself, create safe spaces, without judgment, as a good place to begin.

We are all affecting the space in one way or another. In each moment, we are adding the poison or the cure to all around us.

This letter is a very personal expression for me. It’s only slightly edited for context here so I trust this short introduction explains its overall message.

Thank you for reading.


A letter to Playthell Benjamin: An experiment in personal self-expression and examination of the role of authentic communication in today’s world

I’ve not basked in the glow of luminous professors nor plumbed the rigors of true academia. I’ve never watched a sunset from the banks of the Seine nor smoked a fat one in an Amsterdam coffeehouse. But I’ve dreamed of these things and more and known on some level that I could achieve what I wanted but couldn’t quite break away from a past that lacked some vital building blocks for success.

While I’ve had my share of adventures, I never quite grasped the art of possibility. That uncommon ability to trust ones’ own capacity to master whatever task before you, without question or apology. Emerson rightly noted that, “It demands something godlike in him who has cast off the common motives of humanity and has ventured to trust himself for a taskmaster.” Self-mastery is the magic potion, the elixir that brings us the life of our dreams. The alchemy of life that is the simple answer to what so many are clamoring for. So busy was I, resisting the traps of conformity, that I missed this essential point.

This is what observing your life & hearing from you directly about your process has brought to the fore of awareness. Reminding me of what is possible, against all odds, when I’m willing to step out from the shadows and be. The art of possibility is always available as long as we’re breathing. You’ve reminded me of this in a huge way.

Surely, I stumbled through various careers and studies, trying to live up to the appropriate ways of my mother’s generation. But my nature was never suited for such an ordinary path and I would invariably fall off the mule wagon again and again. Blazing my own path I still faltered more than not but was never able to sacrifice freedom for tradition. No boxes for me, though ultimately I would find that some boxes were necessary in order to contain and direct the powerful passions that always drove me, in whatever area it happened to be at the time.

Everyone has their role. The thing deep inside them that drives them to express themselves in a certain way. I feel it all works together with the great potential to form a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The Warrior Spirit in any brother (or sister) who has been able to go through this fire and stand up, stronger than ever is a rare and vital quality among the men of slaves who were denied their true African heritage. You’re the vanguard, unyielding standard-bearers for the truth and your role is an invaluable part of this cosmic story. And we all play a vital role in this global dance, empowered with abilities to choose and reason; active participants in our own evolution learning to discern how we move forward on this big blue marble floating through space.

What has come up for me studying your blog posts on race is complex and continually evolving.

Yes, there have been injustices, European colonialism that obliterated nations, cultures worldwide crushed or fatally damaged; a pursuit driven by an insatiable, heartless desire for profit. There were no third world countries before some Europeans ventured out on their new world discovery. It’s fucked up and the insidious structures that continue to prop it up are a frustrating reminder, trampling the lives of the masses daily. Every citizen of color, particularly African Americans, knows this as the underlying reality, one that can rise up at any time to crack the veneer of their “all-American” lives.

These truths are part of my story and, living in a Tea Party state, I have an up close and personal view of the kind of mentality that would hang men, women & children from trees. But it’s not all White people. Racism is a particularly vile expression but extremes on any side aren’t good for balance. That’s what President Obama exemplifies for me and his tactically brilliant, centrist approach calls out to my inner peacemaker. That’s the real opportunity he represents to me. The opportunity to come together as one.

These are the difficult conversations. The monster in the closet that, I trust will turn out to be just as much of an apparition if we dare face the shadows of our past.

To be continued …


~ by katrinataylor44 on December 26, 2012.

One Response to “In Process … Pt. 2”

  1. […] Continued from In Process … Pt. 2. […]

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