What Does It Mean to Create Yourself to Freedom?
I want to tell you this: There is a truth that lives inside you and no one can give you permission to tell it except yourself. You can tell the whole thing, the full truth — and you deserve to. - Lacy M. Johnson
When I was younger, my mom would always tell me to write when I felt confused or hurt or angry. She would say that once I could start putting everything inside of me into language that made sense to me, that in the creation, I would start to understand myself more. She’d tell me that when I started understanding myself more, I would be able to distinguish the truths about myself from the myths of the world. It wasn’t just that I was re-writing a pre-written story of my existence. I was reclaiming the truths that were always there —they were simply buried under years of everyone else’s words. Over the years I have come to refer to this process as ‘creating yourself to freedom’: Uncovering the things that have prevented me from living my truths, unlearning those chains, and unleashing my own vision of self into the world.
Even as an adult, I have been reminded that this is an ongoing process. I was at a conference for black women in the Bay when the keynote speaker asked us about all of the things we wanted from life when we were young black girls, and how many of those things we slowly unlearned from our tongues when the world shook its head ‘no.’ I am still learning to say those words again. And I want that for others as well.
Through creating myself to freedom, I have found that I can ground myself. I often feel angry about the state of things in the world. And if I were to rest myself in that anger, I would stay in a space of destruction. It’s too exhausting to sit in a space of destruction. It eats away at health and growth. Instead, I focus on creating. This grounds me in a space of building. I have always found the arts to be a site of healing and resisting for me — healing from pain and resistance of all the world throws at me that is aimed to harm me or make of me something that I am not. I make my moves in this world through creating art, whether it’s on a page or on a stage, and that art spills into the other parts of my life, as creating yourself to freedom is about all of our engagements —with ourselves and with others.
We are only truly liberated when we become who we were always meant to be. Who we set out to be. Its the foundations for everything else. If, as Assata Shakur said, we have a duty to fight for our freedom, then that must include the first battles within ourselves.