Stealth Isolation: Black time—‘Mastery’ & Zora Neale Hurston

JORDANNAH ELIZABETH | 7/16/2020, midnight
This isn’t the time to let our guards down. I’ve seen videos of people walking through the streets in droves ...
Zora Neale Hurston playing a hountar, or mama drum, 1937 (World Telegram staff photographer (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zora_Neale_Hurston_NYWTS.jpg), „Zora Neale Hurston NYWTS“, marked as publi

This isn’t the time to let our guards down. I’ve seen videos of people walking through the streets in droves without masks acting as if nothing has happened and nothing will happen. We should not be tempted to follow the patterns of white privilege when it comes to COVID-19 because the risk of spreading this virus to our friends and family is too high.

We would think that people would embrace our “new normal.” Yet many people believe turning back to the lives we lived before this pandemic is a suitable way to navigate through our communities.

I’ve been thinking about essential workers and how they toil, working 8-14 hours a day to serve and support a culture that has not embraced the mindset of safety and vigilance to respect their needs to live without the threat of illness. It must feel like we do not have respect for their realities or care for the financial necessity they have to enter into doing frontline work every day, living paycheck to paycheck to maintain the baseline needs of their families.

I’ve also been thinking about essential workers and their time outside of work. Do they have hobbies and time to be creative? Are they would-be artists who have to abandon their time to paint, dance, sing, write or sculpt to work non-creative jobs?

Have we stolen the freedom of a future Basquiat?

I started reading the book “Mastery” by Robert Greene, which explores how people become masters of their fields. Zora Neale Hurston was one of Greene’s case studies, and her story is incredible.

She had to work around the system to study, travel to become a master and morph herself into the first Black woman to make a living as an author. She went back to high school at age 25, she studied at Howard University and moved to Harlem to be around other Black artists and hone her craft. Learning her life’s story will do us a lot of good because she had to finesse her way to become the person she knew she was destined to be.

With centuries of racism, redlining and whitewashing of nearly every creative, artistic and intellectual realm there is, this country has silenced and alienated thousands, if not millions of Black artists who are forced to struggle to make ends meet in an unbalanced economic culture.

Black people need time. We need time to read, to explore, to travel, to draw and sketch, journal, daydream and search for material that will allow us to be our best creative selves. I wonder how many artists and writers have been completely stamped out and smothered by glass ceilings, stereotypes, the sneers of jealous white peers and colleagues, and the silence and rejection of white gatekeepers.

We don’t have to hear the word “no” coming from the mouths of anyone, the world illustrates that we are confined to the limitations of low-level positions, service work and essential positions, and the ones that do climb the economic latter are so micro-aggressed and fought at every turn that the trauma sucks every creative morsel from their souls.

Time is freedom and creativity is a privilege, but we can rework this notion by realizing that we are in control of our realities, and if we want to write our novels and essays, design our clothing lines and build our art studios, it’s just going to take the reclaiming of our freedom. Freedom can look like an hour every night dedicated to writing. Freedom can look like using the money we’d spend to eat out or buy new shoes to rent a small studio. It can look like investing in classes and seminars and sending emails to work for free as an apprentice.

Take your life back and pursue your art. Far too many have been unable to explore their gifts. We owe it to our ancestors to follow our destinies or, at the very least, make the time to be creative, even if it’s just for ourselves.