Whenever I think about freedom, I envision a woman whirling around in place, arms outstretched, head thrust back in ecstasy, receiving the warming rays of the sun on her brightly clothed body. Echoing from the heavens in a rich melody are the strains from Dream Variations by Langston Hughes, “That is my dream.”
When I think about freedom, that is who I long to be, and how, I ask, do I become her?
Freedom for me means not having to struggle for balance between my life and my work. Not having to fit a hair appointment into my day like a covert operation and not rising to workout ridiculously early, and 4am is ridiculously early, in order to remain fit.
It means having time to tête-à-tête with family and friends rather than dozing on their phone calls or letting them go to voice mail because I’m too tired to talk. It’s having time to spend with my mother instead of making time to spend with her.
As an African American woman living my life on the Southside of Chicago, amidst so much environmental violence and death I ponder whether I can ever live with the kind of abandon that I have idealized in my mind’s eye.
Violence is the antithesis of freedom. Whether the violence is gun related, domestic or the carnage that *structural violence; the daily assault that this society built and thriving on racial bias wages on people of color. There are barriers that prevent us, and other non-mainstream Americans, from equally meeting our basic needs. I exist in the damage violence deposits upon my psyche and the psyches of every person of color in neighborhoods where violence, limitation and poverty have been normalized.
I’m aware that we have the power to choose our experiences, and yet sometimes we acquiesce to the least harmful options foisted upon us. Through our connections, concern and allegiances to others we often co-opt our best interests to serve a shared goal. College dreams for our children, advancement of a family member or perhaps forgoing our personal comfort while following that elusive, sometimes seemingly impossible dream of freedom for “our people.” Oppression has encased my people in a hard shell through which there is no comfortable or graceful exit.
Personally, I’m at a juncture in my life where I am feeling candid, fearless, resilient, and yes, powerful. More than at any other period in my life, there has surfaced a determination to make choices based on my truths and to live more authentically than ever before. I am not completely clear on my future direction, but I am finally able to prioritize my own needs. There is a great deal of freedom in my current space. How will I use it?
What has surfaced is my need to create. There are book characters swirling about in my head and books idling on my computer. While some authors write consistently in one genre, I’ve never been confined by those boundaries. As a kid I wrote stories in my head to put myself to sleep at bedtime. I crafted essays for my long-distance father.
I’ve written advertising copy, newspaper articles, poetry, plays, and children’s books. While shepherding my children, through the terrible teenage years, when nothing about life was consistent, I created a line of greeting cards, and found my sanity writing inspirational literature for my church’s writer’s guild. In banking, I translated computer geek speak into simple directions for corporate end-users. As an undergrad at DePaul University I wrote a screenplay. Since 2010, I’ve self-published my memoir, a mystery novel and multiple romance stories. In April, coincidentally my birth month, a major publishing house that specializes in series romance and women’s fiction to write a novella for late 2016 early 2017 publication signed me. Finally, I’m closer to my dream of being a New York Times Best Selling author!
Throughout my life, no matter my circumstance, I have found a way to write. The freedom to think and share my thoughts through writing is a platinum cord that binds my life. When I’m happy, I write, when I’m sad, I write, when I’m in love, I write when I’m angry, I write. Irrespective my life’s twists, ebbs and flows, one thing is certain. As long as I’m alive, I will continue to search for freedom; and for me, the most important route is through writing.
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.