My Sacred Texts
by Leah Mullen
I was skimming the shelves at the LIBRARY when I saw a book that almost made me drop the one I was holding.
The spine was rather plain and unexceptional. I almost passed right over it until I read the title: Black Women Writing Autobiography: A Tradition Within a Tradition. I snatched it off the shelf as if it were about to grow legs and run away.
This book, by Joanne M. Braxton, is one that I've long wanted to buy, but for some reason, other things kept getting in the way. Months ago while on the internet researching my passion-African American women and their diaries and journals-I ran across this book that began as a Yale doctoral dissertation and evolved in 1989 into the book I was clutching.
When I first discovered Braxton's book on the net, I printed out the pertinent information and put it into a folder with other articles I've downloaded about journaling. But I never made a serious attempt to acquire the book. so, I guess you could say that day at the library, the book found me.
I wasn't even supposed to be in the library on a weekday at two in the afternoon. I was on my way to work that morning when I found myself in a small bind. I went to go through the turnstiles at the train station and "Insufficient Funds" flashed on the display. So I went to the token booth to buy a one-day pass. Unfortunately all I had was a fifty dollar bill, and I *never* carry around anything over a twenty. It seemed like this whole day was a fluke-or thinking now, it was perhaps a blessing. The token booth clerk told me that she couldn't accept such a large bill unless I was buying thirty dollars worth of rides.
Since I knew that I did have a functioning pass somewhere and lots of available vacation time, I decided that thirty dollars was too much to pay to get into Manhattan that fine summer day. I turned around, went home and called off from work. Once I found a functioning subway pass and released the guilt from playing hooky for such a silly, non-emergency related reason, I went about doing all of the things I had been meaning to do. I went to Queen Afua's Heal Thyself Center on Kingston Avenue and purchased a copy of the Black Board Bestseller, Sacred Woman: A Guide to Healing the Feminine Body, Mind, and Spirit. I owned a copy of the book when it was first published three years ago, but I gave it away, with the intention of buying another copy.
After leaving the center, I walked several blocks to the train station on Empire Boulevard. While waiting on the platform, I cracked open Sacred Woman. I had actually gone through the Sacred Woman program at the center in 1999 so I was familiar with Queen Afua's wellness philosophy. I read, reacquainting myself with one of my Sacred texts.
Later in the library I found another. I went to the library on a whim thinking that I could borrow one of the popular books on journaling like Sheila Bender's 40 Contemporary Writers and Their Journals. I did find that book and almost dropped it like a fumbled football when I saw Joanne M. Braxton's obscure text. Of course I took both books home.
As unsupervised school children played noisily on the platform where I waited for a train home, I started reading Braxton's work feeling that she had written the book expressly for me. I had often had similar thoughts about Black women writing about their lives.
According to Braxton, the black women's participation in the American autobiographical genre begAN with a plea for reparations in Belinda or the Cruelty of Men Whose Faces Were Like the Moon (1787). In reference to Belinda Braxton says that "For the black woman in American autobiography, the literary act has been, more often than not, an attempt to regain that sense of place in the New World."
I share the same sentiments. Every Black woman, I believe, should keep a journal because in these private blank pages that lie between two covers, we stake our claims to self. When we write about our lives, we are saying that we are worthy and important and our existence has meaning. When we reclaim ourselves, we heal.
Journaling is the vehicle I use to document my healing process. This process involves spirituality, health, knowledge of history and other activities. My journal (or diary) is where I record my setbacks, growth, epiphanies, dreams and fears. Not only do I consider books like Sacred Women, and Tradition within a Tradition as revered texts, I also hold in the highest regard the chronicles I create -- my pretty, hard-covered notebooks that I fill in, little by little, day by day.
I have not yet finished reading either Sacred Women or Tradition Within a Tradition, so these comments do not provide a review, but rather an exultation. Normally, I would have written of my happiness in my journal. But something both Braxton and Queen Afua wrote made me scribble my thoughts on loose leaf instead. Those notes became this essay.
In Braxton's book she wrote of how Belinda crossed over from the private sphere to the public arena to take a political position as spokesperson for millions of transported Africans. Also part of a prayer taught to me a long time ago by Queen Afua states:"�bless me, truly bless me as I share this Sacred life�" How could I continue to pray this each day and then keep most of my thoughts locked away in a journal?
As I researched my passion, I noticed how little information there is for Black women like me who are devoted diarists. So when I pray at the altAr of Tehuti, (the manifestation of the divine that represents the communicator in me), I know that I must raise my voice as well as my pen in proclaiming that if a representative for Black women who keep journals is needed, let it be me.