This letter is to offer my impressions of the Sheer Good Fortune event that took place last Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012.
One common area of brilliance I noticed emanating from both Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison was how their pointed and gentle voices are able to deliver a message. For me, they make me aware that I am, and many of us are, at times either a racist or a narcissist, while still making me feel appreciative, not defensive or guilty.
I have the opportunity to choose to put to good use, as Angelou said, "the time that I have and the space that I take up." As Dr. Morrison described, hearing her words "through another intelligence" after listening to the wide array of interpretive readings from many of her books, I also felt something special for hearing her writing out loud from the diverse and varied poignant voices of our literary community. Listening to them, I hear them say something to the effect of, "It is a good thing that we can share this understanding together."
When we find ways to identify with each other, it strips away hatred; the hatred of conditioning and history and multi-vectored prejudice is minimized when a packed house at Burruss auditorium is able to nod in agreement, to meet each other’s eyes, and for a couple of hours, to share an absolute expectation of acceptance. We experienced together a unique celebration of passionate articulating voice and a celebration of lifetimes of dedication and careful courageous diligence. They share stories of hardship and suffering and tender near-breaking resilience and perseverance, and they share those stories with grace and in a way that is gracious, having invited us into their house.
I am grateful for having seen and heard the crowd and the captivating performers, and especially for imbibing Angelou's and Morrison's personal comments.
Thank you, Nikki Giovanni and Virginia Tech, and also thank you to the hundreds who came together to make a special night.
-Jennifer Tomlin, ESM Class of 1997