Featured Writer Shari Staten

Write Around has helped me understand that my voice is in my pen, my pen is my voice. My page is the megaphone, and this is where I speak.

—Shari Staten

Shari Staten, pictured above, participated in our workshop at Innovative Housing, Kinnaman Townhomes in Aloha for residents and members of the broader community. Her piece below, “If the Shoe Fits,” was published in our Summer 2015 anthology of community writing, Intersecting Lines. Shari is now a volunteer facilitator at Write Around Portland and a former board member.

If the Shoe Fits

by Shari Staten

Dear Whoever You Are,
     I will not make excuses for my existence. I will not justify or validate why I belong here. You already have your mind made up, right? Battling centuries-old bigotry with reasonable discord and affable dissonance seems a pointless undertaking these days.
     Look, there goes that broke-uneducated-submissive-ignorant-gullible-baby-mama-living-off-the-backs-of-hard-working-tax-paying-blue-collar-republicans-lazy-harlot-agreeable-to-anything-as-long-as-it’s-free creature.
     Is that what you think when you see me? No? Well, maybe I’m the loud, unintelligible, angry black woman whose idea of weekend fun is loitering at the corner TriMet bus shelter, texting my baby daddy complaining about back child support while people watching and calling my homies on the corner two blocks down the way after stealing a bag of Doritos from the local Plaid. Is that your misconception? When I speak, do you think, who the hell does she think she is? Or maybe you wonder what happened to my “accent,” or how I became so educated—if I actually went to college and whether or not I finished—and if my ability to communicate is all due to Affirmative Action and how that gave me an unfair advantage while working my ass off to get nowhere slowly? Well, I think it all boils down to you wondering how the hell I can bust through the walls of the cardboard box you put me in before you even bother to acknowledge that I’m a human being.
     Black people are being shot over moving violations and being hung in jail cells and you can’t even look up and out beyond the stereotypes that have separated us for so long to acknowledge the grievous wrongs being perpetrated here? Your thoughts cultivate the seeds of apathy that were planted in your mind over time, re-inforcing systemic activity that you don’t even know you’re part of. Why bother doing anything if it is not about you, right? Wrong! ‘Cuz when it finally reaches your neighborhood it will be too late. And trust me. It’s coming!
     I will suggest a possible remedy for this ailment that afflicts you. Are you ready for it? Come close. I’ll tell ya. Here goes:
     If you never upgrade your dollar store readers, you will never see how cloudy your vision really is.
     A change of mind is all you need for healing to begin. Are you ready to see things more clearly? Or is the expense of awareness more than you’re willing to bankroll?
     I will not make excuses for my existence. I will not justify or validate why I belong here. Why should I? You already have your mind made up. Besides, my writing hand is cramping, my voice is getting hoarse and it’s 2015 for Christ’s sake. I’ll be more than happy to share my story, so let me know when you’re ready for new lenses. Until then, I simply don’t have the energy.

With Deep Sincerity,

Whatever You Think I Am

© 2015 Shari Staten & Write Around Portland, from our anthology, Intersecting Lines

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