“Oft have I thrilled at deeds of high emprise, / And yearned to venture into realms unknown,”Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson – “To Madame Curie”
A powerful force from history greeted me today through The Paris Review: Alice Dunbar-Nelson.
I came across this article by Joanna Scutts while looking for magazines that accepted poetry. I was pulled in by “Feminize Your Canon” with a “Yes. I love this. Feminize My Canon!” before clicking the link. It started out to be very engaging and soon violent. Then revival and raw power burst through in the unpublished, discredited, and haunting prejudice, both racial and gendered, throughout Alice’s life. What makes this remarkable to me was as I read on I saw myself and I saw the protagonist of the novel series I’ve been working on for years now. The similarities between all three of us brought a vivacity to what seemed almost fated to me, but honestly, the story of Alice Dunbar-Nelson can summon the courage of any light-skinned African American woman lacking a sense of belongingness and fights for it daily. When you fight for belongingness and acceptance, really you’re on the path of self-trust and self-respect; dignity is the name of the game and it’s hard to play, but the arts can be the greatest weapon drawn if it fits firmly in your hands and helps you declare your uniqueness with boldness and honor.
I don’t know how else to describe Alice Dunbar-Nelson, other than what I’ve said, what I’ve been further inspired to do, which is create forever, and to just add that she was a remarkable soul, who knew she deserved better and made sure she got it. To the article writer Joanna Scutts, thank you. To the scholars and writers who revitalized Alice’s life and life’s work, thank you. I value your efforts highly and I’m grateful you didn’t censor the relationships she had with men and women amongst her achievements as a political activist who “in her energy and appetite for life’s pleasures, from the literary to the human to the natural, Alice Dunbar-Nelson celebrated beauty and freedom to the end of her life,” (Scutts 2020). That’s the dream, right there.
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