It started at the World Peace Summit in Vancouver in 2009. That is when I heard the Dalai Lama say that “the world will be saved by the Western Woman”. In that moment I got a full body shiver. I had goose-bumps. The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I knew that the Dalai Lama did not mean some subjective version of the Western Woman. I knew that he did not mean Oprah Winfrey, or Hilary Clinton, or Condoleeza Rice. I knew he wasn’t referring to some version of a Western Woman heroine, red-caped and possessing super powers, flying in to save humanity. I knew, in that moment, that what the Dalai Lama meant was a voice. The voice of love. The voice of compassion. The collective voice of a people who had created change, shifted paradigms, through peace and determination. A voice that had challenged the status quo and had created ripples in the pond. I knew that I was that voice. And I knew that you are that voice too.
No sooner did I have that epiphany that another voice intervened. The voice of the little saboteur that lives in my ego, I call her Sally, sometimes Silly Sally. In that moment Sally started with her usual conjecture – who are you to change the world? she asked, you are too small, too insignificant, too powerless.
I was momentarily muted by her.
Then another voice spoke up. This voice was the voice of someone who I had never met, yet it was strangely familiar.
The voice was Lillian Smith, an author and storyteller, and she told me this story.
Back in the 1930’s there was a New York Jewish high-school teacher and poet named Abel Meeropol. He was so distraught by seeing a picture of a lynching on the front page of the paper that he couldn’t sleep for three nights. What resulted was a poem, aptly named Strange Fruit.
Abel tracked down Billie Holiday at a blacks only Jazz club one night and gave her this poem as a gift, from which she created the song Strange Fruit.
Years later, in the racial segregation of 1940’s Deep South, Lillian Smith wrote a novel about the romance between a black woman, a white man and a subsequent lynching. She named the book – Strange Fruit. The novel created a lot of controversy in her day, and Lillian Smith continued to make radical statements against segregation.
Martin Luther King Jr. was so inspired by Lillian Smith and her moral courage, that he credited her as one of the catalysts for change in the South during the Civil Rights Movement.
The poet did not know the affect his poem would have.
The songstress did not know the impact of her song.
The storyteller could not foresee the effect of her story.
And the leader of the Civil Rights Movement could not have known how far-reaching his movement would be on future generations.
Each made a ripple in the pond.
So there I was in 2009 having this epiphany.
I knew in that moment that it was time to share my voice.
To create my ripple in the pond.
So I began to write my novel.
Take that Silly Sally.