I have to admit that I look for Black female writers here at Open Salon hoping to find Katori Hall, and more times than not, I'm left wanting. Katori Hall is a young Black female playwright, who has not only found her voice, but found an audience for it as well. Her first broadway production was Mountain Top, it's a fictional accounting of the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King's life.
Her current production is Hurt Village, a sort of modern day Raisin In The Sun. What I like about Katori is she is unafraid to explore race, and not always from the outside in, but more from the inside out. In describing herself to Dustin Fitzharris of ABC News she said:
"You think you're supposed to hide your quote on quote blackness," Hall said about how she once thought. "Now I'm more settled into who Katori is. I embrace that aspect of my culture, my history and my background. I'm actually the same person in front of a black person as I am in front of a white person. I'm very authentic. Very southern. A little sister girlish."
Her work is largely about the Black condition, and that is what I find lacking in what the majority of Black writers do here. I understand that writers want people to read what they have to say. However, if what you have to say doesn't distinguish how being you has effected your world view, then I wonder how authentic it really is. What has made her work relevant isn't that it is comfortable like a lazyboy: her reviews are mixed, but they aren't tepid. People leave the theater at intermission, because the material is raw, it's meant to elicit powerful emotions. She isn't afraid to put either a question or exclamation mark at the end of a sentence.
Far too often we shade what we post because we want the work to be rated or to earn an EP. In order to do that we feel the need to write what is acceptable, but I have to ask, which great Black writers have gained attention from a vanilla coating? It pains me to read Black women writing about feminism without ever addressing the failure of the movement to encompass or embrace the fact that all women aren't suffering in the same way. When Planned Parenthood came under attack, Black women should have been on the frontlines. HIV/AIDS is ravaging young Black women, and Planned Parenthood is a much needed resource for low cost testing and access to treatment. But we Black writers male and female don't even raise the issue, my feeling is that's because we don't think this is the audience to hear that.
Getting back to Katori, she doesn't let her audience define her work, and neither should we. A real writer brings the audience into their world, they don't or shouldn't go out into the world and adapt their work to what they see as being acceptable. Accepting that everything that you write isn't for every taste, but that every view has given that audience a glimpse into a world not their own, which is dynamic in itself. Who is your audience? While you may think of your audience as this group or that, it may be someone you never fathomed would be listening. A great example of that is the video that has been all over MSNBC this week of a Black Florida legislator misquoting Jay-Z's 99 Problems, and a middle-aged buttoned down White Republican legislator attempting to correct him. The point being you never know who is reading, watching, or listening to your work.