“To Give a Being Like Me Language” – Akwaeke Emezi on Toni Morrison

After Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison died just a few days ago, I thought a lot about what her work meant to me, and I read a lot of tributes to her. The piece of writing that struck me most is this letter by nonbinary writer/ogbanje Akwaeke Emezi:

The elderspirit of you leapt into my head the day Professor Mayes played a VHS tape from her archive of an interview you gave after you won the Nobel Prize.
‘I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central. Claimed it as central, and let the rest of the world move over to where I was.’
Your words reached like an arm of fire out of that television screen, and I swear they were just for me. This is the you I know. It is no small thing to give a being like me language.”

Their letter was published by Them.

The letter may be the most beautiful, center-challenging – and in that combination most Morrison-like – piece I read these days. Morrison’s writing meant a lot to me, but I can barely start to understand what she meant to people who live closer to the edges than I do.

“Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand.”

Emily Doe, the victim of Brock Turner, wrote – and then read in court –  an incredibly powerful, clear, and moving letter during the sentencing process. Turner, a former Stanford student-athlete, was convicted by jury of a number of accounts relating to rape and sexual assault. He was sentenced to a mere 6 months in county jail “because a longer sentence would have ‘a severe impact on him’” according to the judge. Turner still denies assaulting her.
There are many quotable passages in the letter, but I recommend reading it in full. It might be tough (obvious trigger warning) but it’s an important read, as she details not only how she was hurt and the lasting impact of the assault, but also how degrading, confusing, and revictimizing the process of justice was/is for her as the survivor.
The letter is a must-read. Especially for fellow men.
Buzzfeed has published the letter in full.

You say you are a nameless man. You are not to your wife and to your child. You will not long remain so to your immediate colleagues if you can answer their simple questions when they come into your office. You are not nameless to me. Do not remain nameless to yourself – it is too sad a way to be. Know your place in the world and evaluate yourself fairly, not in terms of your naïve ideals of your own youth, nor in terms of what you erroneously imagine your teacher’s ideals are.

Beautiful words of advice by Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman in a letter to physicist Koichi Mano in 1966.