Last month when the world was saddened by the death of Gill Scott-Heron I was unmoved. His name was unfamiliar. I thought he was just another American artist who, though obviously much loved, was only relevant to Americans.
In hindsight, I realize that he played a pivotal role in developing spoken word poetry and social consciousness through his music from the early 70s to date. Shame on me for not recognizing the name of the man who wrote the famous poem, ‘THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED.’
According to his page on Wikipedia, Gil Scott-Heron was a writer as well. He published ‘The Vulture’ and ‘The Nigger Factory’, the former was published in 1970 and was well received. Although he never received his undergraduate degree, he did get a Master’s degree in Creative Writing in 1972 from Johns Hopkins University. His 1972 masters thesis was titled ‘Circle of Stone’.
So this morning when I heard the story of Abdul Malik Al Nasir, a man whose life was touched in a very special way by the bard, I was nearly moved to tears. It made me think about what legacy I would like to leave behind and how the ‘world’ would remember me.
We are lucky to have the ability to forever capture both still and moving images as well as text. The Internet is the elephant who never forgets. That said, I see myself foremost as a writer happily ‘published’ on my blog. Should I make that lovely hop-skip-jump from post to page I shall be humbled, excited and even more reflective.
P.S I’m very proud of dear friends Wanjiku Mwaurah, Jacque Ndinda and Claudette Odour who will have their works published in ‘Fresh Paint: Literary Vignettes by Kenyan Women’, an anthology of poems and short stories published by AMKA-Space for Women’s Creativity and Goethe-Institut.
Once you define yourself as any sort of professional and are validated by having your thoughts and ideas shared outside of your immediate community, you have a big responsibility. Think about how sad and disappointed we get when we hear what scandals a person in the limelight gets into. Sure, no one is perfect, but you cant shrink away from the expectations that come with your position.
When friends ask me for professional advice or to share my thoughts on certain things, for a second the world freezes and I think about the implications of my words. He/She will probably take my word as ‘Gospel’ truth in a sense, because in that moment, anything I say will be accepted as is.
As someone who is in a life-long affair with words, I know how they have the ability to make, break or mend. And, more importantly, if it by my utterances that I will be remembered by, what will they say of me? Eek!
Of course it is futile to predict how things will eventually play out but what I take away from Abdul’s story is how he spoke kindly of Gil. How we learn about Gil’s character, passion and sense of self through the eyes of another, and that is a beautiful thing.