Through literature, I enter the universe of a people; I traverse its physical, spiritual, and emotional landscapes, breathe its rarefied air, become one with its art, traditions, histories, myths, ancient truths. The study of multicultural literature and the application of critical theories – diasporic, archetypal, existential, cultural – has shaped my present-day world view and pedagogical philosophy. Because I am human, woman, black, aboriginal, mind, spirit and soul a multicultural approach works for me. Too much would be missed, too much would be overlooked otherwise. In my personal as well as professional world, I embody the practice of cultural studies as defined by Mark Bauerlein in Literary Criticism: An Autopsy. I mingle methods from a variety of fields, jump from one cultural subject matter to another, simultaneously proclaiming superiority to other institutionalized inquiries and renouncing my own institutionalizations, gestures that strategically forestall disciplinary standards being applied to me. By clumping texts, events, persons, objects, and ideologies into a cultural whole and bringing a mélange of logical arguments, speculative propositions, empirical data, and political outlooks to bear upon it, I invent a kind of investigation immune to methodological attack.
Two of my favorite authors are Tony Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Márquez. When I introduce Morrison’s Beloved in my African American Literature course, my students discover why Márquez is one of Morrison’s favorite authors. When I introduce Márquez’s early stories in my thematic–based Introduction to Literature course, students discover why he loved Franz Kafka. In my class, students uncover in their own lives the magical mixed with the mundane. They discover the richness, deepness, and diversity of their own lives through the richness, deepness, and diversity of the literature.
I began teaching myself how to write when I was 20. In workshops, I was told to write my truth, whatever that was, so I starting writing in search of my truths. I found that most writers I admired read voraciously or were read to voraciously. At that point, I wasn’t widely read nor was I read to as a child. I went to college (and still don’t know to this day why I picked Speech Therapy as a major), but by the time I was 40 I realized that I needed to nurture my inner writer and love of literature, and so I returned to university, completing a graduate degree with a double concentration in multicultural literature and creative writing. Because of an ardent fervor for African American history, my thesis was a combination of a critical study, “The White Supremacist Coup D’Etat of 1898: Wilmington’s Rosewood,” and What the River Knows, a full-length screenplay based on the historical event of the critical study. With a desire to see the screenplay come to life, I received a grassroots grant to adapt, direct, and produce the text for the stage. Then, hoping to follow in Spike Lee’s footsteps, I was accepted into NYU’s Dramatic School of Writing, but had to return to the South before semester’s end for my teenage boys’ sake. Back in Wilmington, I founded the Black Arts Alliance with a commitment to host Cine Noir, a black film festival that has since gone national. Our premier film showing was Haile Gerima’s Sankofa, and Gerima was our keynote speaker. My love of history then led me to help coordinate a major symposium in several North Carolina cities on the US Colored Troops of the Civil War.
Although I have delved deeply in exploring African American life, I now desire to read, research, and write about my Native American heritage. My mother belonged to the Waccamaw Siouan tribe of eastern North Carolina, but she was brought up from an early age in a black community, and we rarely visited her home or interacted with that side of the family. TBC