“They Are From the Motherland!” (International Women’s Day at Bard College, Simon’s Rock)

So I’m doing all the things I imagine celebs doing—shaking hands, nodding yes’s and no’s, thinking up quick answers to various questions ranging from “who inspired this or that story” to “why do you write”—when I glance over and see a group of giggling young women of African descent. Their excited faces give me the excuse I need to politely extricate myself from conversations about why I write in English, or how Ghana manages to remain relatively war-free.

“Hello Ladies!” I say smiling. I think to myself, surely I have arrived; this here, ladies and gentlemen, is why I write.
“We are from Ghana!” the two on my immediate left blurt out unable to hold their excitement any longer.
The others, six or seven in total all wave excitedly and introduce themselves the minute I cease talking. Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Haiti. They are well represented. They all say they were inspired by my panel.

I have just come out of the auditorium where the 10th Annual International Women’s Day Conference had been held. My continent-sisters, Pauline Dongala, Nathalie Etoke, Tayo Jolaosho, and I were on a panel together speaking on how women writing resistance rights the world’s wrongs ((I love how catchy that is!). The panel was moderated by Anne Serafin whom I had met along with Jennifer Browdy Hernandez, the conference convener, at ASA 2010 in San Francisco

“Are you students?” I ask referring to Bard College.
“Yes we are students, but not here,” one responded.
“Oh. Ok. Which school are you at? I asked.
“MCLA!”, several chorused.
It was my first time in the Berkshires region and so I was not aware there was anything else outside of the college. Testament to this, the day before I was lost within a five mile radius of the college and didn’t find it until I followed a couple who stopped to answer my intermittent blinking lights and wildly waving left arm.

“I want to write.” one said to me.
“Great! I love to talk about writing.” I said, handing out business cards. I give them a spiel I have only heard once in my entire networking career, mind you it’s not a long one, but…
“Now ladies, I mean for you to USE these cards. I am not one of those people who just hand out cards and never really mean for you to call or email them. Please get in touch!”

A book is thrust at me by one of our editors who gently reminds me that we are supposed to be signing books at the author’s table. I smile, sign it and turn to the ladies.
“We’ve got to be going; the van is waiting.” one of the ladies prompts.
“Thank you for speaking up.” one says.
“No thank you ladies for stopping to say hello,” I say flashing my broadest smile yet.
“Please remember to write and stay in touch.” I say as we exchange hugs.
“Kuukua, you have other fans.” my sister editor says as she thrusts another one of our books into my hand, marking the page with a pen.
“Goodbye ladies.” I tear myself away wistfully. I am growing sentimental.
“They are from the motherland.” I say proudly, grinning even more broadly.

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