School Days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
How many of us can fill in the three ‘R’s that make up the next line?
I’ll bet many, if not all of us can. Those three ‘R’s explain why, in this country, education prizes what’s right-brain over left-brain, what’s in the head over the heart or the spirit. But it’s what’s in our hearts and our spirits that enables us to thrive. It’s in our hearts and our spirits that the fourth ‘R’ lies, and this ‘R’ to my mind is so much more needed if I am ever to make use of the other three.
It’s this fourth ‘R’ that pulsed through Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman. It’s this fourth ‘R’ that showed up big time as thousands of women marched in January 2017 in Washington D.C. and all over the world. It’s this fourth ‘R’ that rings loudly and proudly in Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise”. It’s this fourth ‘R’ that I found (and continue to find) over and over again as I research African-American women for my historical romances. I found inspiration for my latest heroine in one of those women, Frances E.W. Harper.
Born in 1825, Frances and her family were free blacks living in the then slave state of Maryland. She started publishing poetry in 1845 and wrote regularly for anti-slavery newspapers. She left Maryland in 1850 and taught at Union Seminary in Ohio. She began lecturing in 1854 and from 1856 to 1860 spoke for the Anti-Slavery Society in Maine. Imagine if you will the harassment a woman of color must have encountered during the pre-civil war era, yet she persisted. That takes heart. That takes spirit. In short, that’s resilience. During reconstruction she persisted in her activism, and in 1896 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women. By the time of her death in 1911, she had at least six collections of poems and several novels.
I’m grateful for women like Frances E.W. Harper and hope I do justice to the resilience in lives like hers by the resilient heroines I create for my stories.
From STRANDED, Put It In A Book
by Michal Scott
The daughter of ex-slaves, Aziza Williams uses her freedom to teach slaves to read, a law-breaking activity that forces her to flee the United States for the Free and Independent Republic of Liberia where her independent and injustice-confronting ways garner the unwanted sexual attention of a dibia, Dulee Morlu. In a cruel twist of fate, Morlu uses Aziza’s love for education against her and imprisons her in a book. He declares she will remain there until she submits to him. After a month of imprisonment, Aziza despairs that Morlu is right: no one will ever read her book. Fear that she may surrender to him begins to overwhelm her. Then one day, hope flutters through her spirit as she senses the unfamiliar touch of Sekou Caine, an audacious and inquisitive thief, leafing through her pages.
A multiple volume encyclopedia stood on shelves at chest level in a far corner. Morlu would want his wealth within easy reach. Sekou pulled down the first volume and riffled through the pages. Paper currency of all types fluttered to his feet like leaves whirling from the branches of bombax trees in winter.
Clever, Dibia. But not clever enough.
Sekou chuckled and rifled through volume after volume. By the time he reached Z a pile of money lay on the floor. He scooped the cash into his swag sack, laughing quietly at his haul.
He thrust the last volume back into place, knocking a slender manuscript off the shelf.
The Story of Aziza.
He recognized the title of the book with which Morlu had taunted him. He picked it up, fanned the pages with his thumb. A sigh drifted past him. Startled, he crouched and looked left then right. Only the night breeze disturbed the silence. He fanned through the pages again. This time a scent – light like rain, sweet like honey – graced the air.
He stared at the face of a withered old hag on the book’s cover. The image had repulsed and fascinated him. The gaze in her eyes shone with intelligence and defiance, so unlike the villagers lionizing the dibia at this moment.
Sekou opened to the flyleaf. There the image of a black beauty stared back at him. Her skin was as smooth as the hag’s was wrinkled, but the same intelligent defiance shone in her eyes. He traced the outline of her chin jutting forth with pride.
“So, ladies…” He feathered his fingers along her full lips then examined the woman on the cover again. “To which one of you does this story belong?”
Aziza’s chest heaved. Warmth from the intruder’s fingers suffused the book’s cover, intoxicating her mind and her spirit with hope. The rapid flutter of her prison’s pages kindled arousal along her labia. She shivered as delight saturated her deadened limbs.
Once again, the rapid riffling of the pages sent tremors of pleasure through her. She knew not whose hand cradled her prison, but the respectful caress told her this couldn’t be her captor. Dared she hope this might be a person she could trust to set her free?
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About the Author
Michal Scott is the penname of Rev. Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. A native New Yorker, Anna is a recent transplant to the Southwest and is enjoying the great weather along with her husband of twenty-nine years and their two cats. Her loves of history and romance came together in her first novella with Wild Rose Press, One Breath Away.
Anna has been a member of Romance Writers of America since 2003 and holds membership in six of their chapters. She also writes inspirational romance as Anna Taylor and gothic romance as Anna M. Taylor. You can connect with Michal on Twitter @mscottauthor1 and learn more about her writing at www.michalscott.webs.com.