At the time, well pre-covid and pre-American revolution, the sheer fucking prophecy it was to watch an Angela Davis lecture my first afternoon back in Johannesburg was easily lost on me. That was a year ago in two days time, but a year ago today was the day I left Chicago.
And I haven’t been back to the States since.
This is the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent away, and necessity has pressed me to leave all of my other careers behind. In South Africa, and in Turkey and Egypt, it’s not like I can just take my foreign passport to a bar and get a job, so when I let my plane take off without me last February I was making a commitment I didn’t know yet if I could uphold.
But here we are. It’s been a year. And I’ve written thousands and thousands of words and some of those words I’m even proud of, but I think the part most jarring is this thing that happens when people ask me what I do, and I say that I’m a writer.
But it’s sad because I’ve already been a writer for, let’s say, fifteen years, but it’s only now somehow legitimized in my mind because I don’t do another thing.
Two years ago, in December, I did my first show at Second City. I read a piece called The Privilege of Faith that accomplished a few things:
One, it marked my debut as a humor writer. I never thought I was one before because I let a man tell me I wasn’t, which leads me to…
Two, it was a piece that included that man. And reading it made me feel like I had finally shelved my relationship to him wherein – well beyond any other relationship we ever had – I hung all of my hopes of my work on his validation because I had told myself so long ago that his opinion was worth so much. Spoiler: I know now that his opinion is worth nothing. Literally.
And finally three, I remember the venerable Patrick Gill introducing me that night, saying something like, “Miranda Moure is a writer and my friend,” and it shocked me to hear, especially said so declaratively by someone who’s work I admire and I deem so legitimate.
It’s just crazy that it took this long, all of these years, but maybe especially that one – that one year in between hearing myself described on the microphone as a writer and when I let that plane take off without me thus making that decision for me – for me to believe it.
I’m not usually one for New Years resolutions. I generally make resolutions at Basel, when, awash in both the sun and sand of my former home, Miami Beach, and the veritable sea of creatives that Art Week attracts, I tend to get reinvigorated, re-inspired, and ready to make new plans.
Two years ago I left for Basel the morning after that show.
And I arrived triumphantly, because for the first year in so many years I had something recent to relate to folks I met that I was proud of: my debut at Second City.
Before that show I hadn’t been on the mic in over ten years, since San Francisco when I had a small circuit of events that I read at regularly. But as we remember, I fucked that all up by dating and surreptitiously dumping a colleague, and his skill left everyone’s allegiances with him instead of myself.
Seriously, he was damn good. That’s why I liked him.
We’re getting off track, here.
The mic. I loved it once, and when I stepped back in front of it it felt like something that had betrayed me before, and also like something I already knew so intimately, and also brand fucking new.
So back then, back when I was performing at least twice a week and every bartender already knew I wanted a Maker’s rocks, I had it so securely in my head that I wanted to wrote a book. As if there was no other option, like it was just a thing I would do because that’s what people like me do.
But then, I let a man convince me that I couldn’t. And goddamnit it was the same goddamned man that I read about on the mic at Second City.
Let me be clear: he never once told me, “Miranda, you cannot write a book,” but it seemed like I couldn’t when he slammed the first draft of his manuscript down on the bar table in front of me, and inside of that dull thud was all of the things that divided me from him and all of the insecurities I had, and all of the ways that I so naively assumed he was more qualified than I am.
So. This year.
In this horrendous fucking year that some of us were lucky enough to survive I have become, definitively, the thing that I always wanted. But the best part, beyond what I feel I can now call myself, is that I have now become absolutely, positively sure of one undeniable fact.
I am a better writer than he is.
So back to Angela. After like a day and a half of travel I finally arrived back in Johannesburg late-late the night before the festival started. And though I only slept a few hours, I was up like a light at 8, and by one I was sitting in a conference room at Constitution Hill listening to Angela Davis speak on the struggle, Blackness, the intersections of these things with our collective femaleness.
And it’s crazy because in a year so tumultuous you would think that all of the things that describe privileges I don’t have wouldn’t be the thing to offer so much comfort.
But I think, as I begin to pen these essays, those are precisely the things that will propel me.