a learner, a sojourner…
My journeys and their expression here, whether or not they entail actual travel, are inspired by three women and one man:
The debt I owe to Sojourner Truth is evident in the title of this blog. She was a woman who dreamed herself into so much more than she was, and invited other women to dream along. Like her, I am a Sojourner or traveler; but unlike her, who had a lifetime of wisdom to impart, I am still foremost a Learner.
Another self-made woman, Zora Neale Hurston, lived and laughed out loud. An intellectual, a fashionista, and a true buccaneer, she revolutionized American letters by hitting the road to document and immortalize the richness and language of African cultures in the Americas. In her masterpiece, Their Eyes Were Watching God, she reinvents and reimagines the journeying epic hero as a Black woman, solidifying the idea presented in Chapter One that for women, “the dream is the truth.”
In All God’s Children Need Traveling Shoes, Maya Angelou writes the following of her experiences in a newly-independent Ghana in the early 60’s:
“If the heart of Africa remained elusive, my search for it had brought me closer to understanding myself and other human beings. The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. It impels mighty ambitions and dangerous capers. We amass great fortunes at the cost of our souls, or risk our lives in drug dens from London’s Soho, to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury. We shout in Baptist churches, wear yarmulkes and wigs and argue even the tiniest points in the Torah, or worship the sun and refuse to kill cows for the starving. Hoping that by doing these things, home will find us acceptable or failing that, that we will forget our awful yearning for it.”
What Dr. Angelou refers to as “the ache for home” is what I think paradoxically defines all of us serial wanderers; perhaps the home we seek in new faces and unknown landscapes is simply the assurance of our shared humanity. There are many things that made Maya Angelou a truly great soul, but my favorite was her determination to transcend boundaries.
Finally, I am hearkening to Mahatma Gandhi’s call to “live as if you were to die tomorrow; learn as if you were to live forever.” If I am to inspire lifelong learning in my students, I must first exemplify it.
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