I was in the midst of planning my chapter’s 10th anniversary celebration at my alma mater and the anxiety and stress that comes with putting together a banquet on a $0 budget garnered a high level of respect for event planners. It was supposed to be the finale of 2015, a year that tossed and turned me over in 100 ways, and I didn’t want to do anything else because I felt like I did too much. If I didn’t feel like I was, my body warned me, Rob reminded me, the kids inconspicuously told me. But God had other plans and demanded I do one last thing–a usual request when I’m most weary and unorganized.
Tassika reached out to me with a vision, a dream that was bursting at the seams, forcing to be manifested and illustrated with physical bodies–women’s bodies. Black women bodies. Black women writers’ bodies. Deriving from a moment with her best friend, Tass realized creatives were unaware of the impact of their work and thought something powerful could happen if the reader could speak to the writer through the writer’s own words.
It was a vague proposal with light details that were still in the works of being amplified, but the fervor that exuded through Tass’ fingertips radiated from Maryland to the Bronx. I would be introduced to Sharee of Dorm Room Television and in only a four week interval, When Pens Collide would come together. In pitching the idea to the writers I felt needed to be there, I underwent my own moment of darkness, thinking about how my words would be received amongst a crowd that probably never heard of me or how the sentences I stung together would be articulated from another writer. Low key, but high key, I wasn’t ready.
I don’t revisit anything on this blog.
I write words and close doors and leave behind a piece of tragedy or triumph from my life’s timeline. I don’t ever go back. Because going back and rereading words means returning to pain for just two minutes without ever having to close my eyes. Words breathe. Words live. But that was the point of When Pens Collide–to bring stories to life, to sit in front of your words like a mirror that would cause you to cry, crack, or bring you comfort. When Pens Collide would make you feel more than anything else.
And we felt pain that wasn’t ours entirely; writers have that ability.
Tassika broke it down that WPC would “be a raw display of artistry.” I don’t think anyone expected the magnitude of the event, promoted as MTV’s Unplugged for writers–not even the participants or myself as one of the organizers. The breakdown of the event told a story between nine Black women and it was a journey of why we write (The Warmup), what comes with love (Love Language), the dark truths that should have been subdued, but spoken through weighted tears and lumps in the throat (OK, You Need Wine for This), experiencing those heavy moments with someone this time around (Recovery) and coming out with a fearlessness (Fear Nothing & No One) and understanding that these experiences account for something far greater than us (Woman, Life is the Lesson). We were woman from different walks of life with pen names that liven up break up ordeals, sexual assault episodes and frustrations with the Universe affairs.
Ashley was The Sunshine; Shefon, The Ballet; Tamika, The Altar; Lissa is The Journal; Roconia was fittingly The Revolution; Yetti served as the Glass of Red Wine; Tyece, The Grit; Sharee, The Stage; Tassika, The Catalyst; myself, the Curator of Souls.
We were sisters in our heads because of magic manifested on paper.
Pens piled into one another and a deeper sisterhood between nine storytellers was cultivated. To be a part of When Pens Collide (as a reader, writer, or someone in the audience) was to witness every stereotype of women–Black women, Black women who write–thrown out and shattered. The tears that were left on an old wooden floor at The Draper Space, the courage that spilled out vocalizing someone else’s thoughts, and the genuine love that was felt was because of the impact of our stories. We connected over words and experiences that many feel should have remained in the corners of our souls.
This perfectly summarizes When Pens Collide and 2015:
“You can be messy, complicated and afraid. SHOW UP ANYWAY.”
We came together on Saturday the 21st of November to hear the words we mustered up in our most messiest, complicated and fear-filled moments. We showed up and sisterhood showed out. We proved our best work is born when we’re at our most vulnerable and our pain and passion produces our greatest evolutions. When Pens Collide was a judgement-free zone, a safe space, a place where we would be stripped down to the bare bone to navigate back to him, to the 90’s, to high school, to that night. And coming out this time would be different because the reader, the homegirl in our head, would be there to hug us at the end of it. The event revealed the women that grew up on Maya, Zora, and Nikki and were on the path to having her own name etched in history. “Words are our most inexhaustible source or magic” and When Pens Collide showcased that.
Thank you to everyone who participated and supported the vision (Special thank you to my Hermana, Ysanet, and good friend, Kendra, who trooped it all the way uptown from Brooklyn. Much obliged to you women).