Desnee Flakes's Blog

That Noise You Hear Is Real Talk For Real People

Desnee Flakes

Desnee Flakes
Aiken, South Carolina, US
December 04
I am a recently employed activist who has been writing all my life about the issues that mean the most to me. My interests lie in politics, parity, race, and history. I believe that each of those things are interconnected and that only when we look straight at something do we actually see it. My politics are left of center, and I don't rely on any movement to define where my center is. My father taught us to measure others with the same yardstick you measure yourself.


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MARCH 10, 2012 1:29PM

The Singular Voice Of Katori Hall

Rate: 4 Flag


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.

I think Open Salon has the capacity to produce many Katori Halls, because writing regardless of the form allows for a personal experience to become an illuminating one. Imagine a world where we celebrate every flicker of light in the human experience as meaningful and worthy of a platform. I'm glad Katori is being celebrated, I'm not thrilled that her voice is so singular.

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A tip of the hat to the silent, voiceless viewers who read my pieces.
She is right about the legitimacy of young voices. Older people often forget how curious, how open, like sponges, young people are. I feel good about passing the baton to them. Over twenty-five years of teaching, I've watched as gender, race, sexual preference have become less and less important, while political and social engagement has grown, and how as young artists, they create outside the burden and influence of old dead white men.

At OS, we tend to be older, and we view the world through our older eyes. While we are wiser and more seasoned, we lack connection with what is coming next, who is emerging from the youth chute. I have great optimism about them. I don't think you can expect to find a Katori here though. Hang out with more young people, D. They will adore you I suspect.

What a hoot, those two guys from Florida.
Greenheron I would say a great many of my friends are far younger than I am. And one in particular calls whenever she wants to tell me some revelation she has had. I love that. She actually went with me to DC for her first taste of activism, we learned a lot from each other. Here in the south I worry about the younger generation their interest don't extend much beyond what they are doing day to day.

Wasn't that great to see them discussing Jay-Z's 99 problems? Too funny.
Love Katori--thanks, Des. Here's another site with a wealth of black women writers with probably a Katori-in-waiting somewhere.
Thanks for the site June!
I missed this when you first posted it. I love this woman. My son was an actor in Chicago for five years and decided the plays and roles her was auditioning for were of no depth or interest. He is now in graduate school for playwriting and one of his plays won a national competition to be workshoped at the Kennedy Center this summer. I'm going to show him this video interview and he will probably tell me he is already a fan.

I am fortunate in my work to be with young artists. Their voices are deserving of an audience.

Thank you for sharing this and sorry it didn't get more readers.