It’s funny, I thank God every morning, noon and night but when Vanessa said to prepare a Thank You speech, I was stuck for weeks. The question wasn’t how do I write a Thank You speech, it was “How do I say Thank You for something I don’t feel I deserve.” And this is not me questioning your judgment.
It was me questioning my worth in this world, my value here on Earth and all of my writing, every comma, semi-colon, sentence, first draft, chapter and novel is my attempt to make that discovery. Writing goes well beyond fulfilling what I consider my purpose on Earth. There is way more to it than striving to impact the world like Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Terry Mcmillan, Sandra Cisneros and the woman who this award is named after, the incomparable Zora Neale Hurston. Sometimes it is about the commas and semi-colons, the ability to craft a grammatically correct sentence. I pride myself on my technical abilities. My favorite fun fact about myself is that I’ve read the dictionary…twice. My dad made me do it but still, it’s my badge of honor. You probably didn’t catch the technical error in that last sentence. It was the word but…Technical writers or writers with great editors will tell you anything after but is nonsense. Say what you have to say using the least amount of words. And while I apply that rule steadfastly to my work, I say to you, do not apply that rule to your life. Your purpose, your legacy, your magic happens after the but...
For example, my dad did not go to school past the third grade BUT he raised children who did. Now he has an Ivy League Masters and five bachelor’s degrees because we do.
My mother came to a foreign country with only two things – God and the clothes on her back and she got rid of those clothes BUT she didn’t get rid of God. Now she can celebrate 30 years of hard work by NOT working.
My other half lives 400 miles away BUT depth over distance. Faith over fear.
I was a teenage mother who dropped out of college BUT I went back.
My dad died from cancer BUT I didn’t.
I am here, in real time, flesh and blood because I did not limit myself to a word count. I did not stop before the but... I broke the rules. I didn’t live technically. I died a thousand times and in that way, I lived fully. When it comes to life, do not minimize yourself, do not condense yourself. If you feel magnificent in a run-on sentence, run. If you feel better writing with your West Indian tongue, then say com-for-table instead of comfortable. You must pronounce clearly & loudly how unique you are because there is only thing you need to know that you deserve – YOU DESERVE TO BE HERE and I am humbled to be here with you.