Last fall, I got to “meet” Toni Morrison. I use the term meet loosely because I really just attended a talk she gave and she signed her latest book Home. When she first started speaking, I was surprised by the sound of her voice. I expected it to be full of bass. Deep. But really, it was gravely with high, almost nasally notes interspersed. I took notes and Toni said a lot of noteworthy things; but the moment I didn’t need to write down to remember occurred when the woman in front of me, asked Toni to write an inscription to her daughter in the book she’d just purchased. Now, keep in mind, Toni, who was 80 at the time, had spent over an hour signing hundreds of books. And she signed everyone’s. But her people made it clear that she was not going to be doing anymore than sign her name. So when the woman asked Toni if she could write something to her daughter, Toni smiled, closed the book and told her “No, she wants you to do that.” The woman was visibly disappointed but I couldn’t help put chuckle. But it was so Toni.
Now, I don’t know Toni Morrison personally; but throughout her career, through not only her writing but through her advocacy as well, she’s always told it just like it was. She responded to the “Black is Beautiful” movement by exposing the very real issues of colorism in the black community, with The Bluest Eye. When she noticed that there were stories about slavery that hadn’t been told yet she wrote Beloved. And when critics and fans asked her why she only wrote about black people, she said, no one ever asked James Joyce why he only wrote about Irish people, or why Dostoyevsky seemed so hung up on Russians.”
Toni Morrison, as far as her career as a writer and public figure have gone, has always been honest about the black experience, even if it was painful for some to hear.
So today, on her82nd birthday, celebrate Toni by keeping it real, listening to one of her insightful interviews, meditating on one of her inspiring quotes or, better yet, reading one of her classic works. Love happens to be her favorite. She calls it, “perfect.”