In Conversation with Myself

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from running Sue’s Stokvel?

That the arts are severely underfunded and undervalued. I dedicate a lot of time to Sue’s Stokvel, but I find there is a tendency to describe what I do as a hobby. I have to advocate for the value of my own work. I think as a society we take for granted that we are able to consume art without necessarily having to compensate the creators of that art.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of creating something from scratch. Growth has been slow but steady, and given the nature of this work, I’m proud of myself mostly for trying this thing out and for putting my best foot forward. I’m proud that BIPOC writers in Calgary see me as a resource, that I have created community out of nothing.

What are your hopes for Sue’s Stokvel?

I hope I can get to a place where I can financially support emerging Black writers. I write book reviews, and I guess I’m something of a book critic, it feels awfully lazy to just criticize and not make any real effort to change things. If I’m tired of the “single” story, then I have to create a space for these new stories that I want to read.

Is there a book you wish you’d read earlier?

No. I have a lot of books I haven’t read; I am a typical bookworm. I buy more and more books even when I haven’t finished reading the ones I have. I go through those unread books for my next read. I read a specific book based on a gut feeling, a gut feeling that this is the book I’m supposed to read at that time. I’ll know it when I touch it or see it on my shelf. I believe in divine timing, what is revealed to me, is exactly what I need to know at that time. Reading is very spiritual practice for me. I read Song of Solomon recently, and there was something I read in that book that related to a situation I was in. It’s kind of cool to think of Toni Morrison as an ancestor, and how written history is very similar to African traditions of oral storytelling. We pass these stories down so that we can learn from those who have come before. I think because of my cultural background, I’ve always had the sense that stories are magical, and fantastical, and they are always finding me when I need them the most.

What is your greatest fear right now?

I’ve decided to publish my poetry this year. I know I can’t control how people feel about my work, but I am terrified of failing. You can put your best foot forward and sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I go through that all the time with Sue’s Stokvel. You just have to keep trying, but it’s scary every single time.

What’s the best book you have read this year?

Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat. I started reading it at 10pm on a Saturday and I stayed up until 4am to finish it.

What is something people don’t know about you?

Sometimes I honestly don’t feel like reading. I like scrolling through twitter, while watching a show on Netflix. Reading was a hobby for me, but Sue’s Stokvel is my work, so reading is now more of a daily practice, than a hobby, kind of like going to the gym. Even when I don’t feel like it, I do it, and afterwards I feel better for having done it. I don’t think you can really build something with just passion, if I had to wait until I felt like doing something, I would do very little. I also have bigger goals, so I’m always excited about how all these small tasks, including reading every day, are building blocks for something much bigger.

What is your favourite poem about love?

Love after love by St. Lucian poet, Derek Walcott, I return to it often. Always remember to “love the stranger who is yourself.”