This past Saturday, I took myself on a field trip of sorts. The stage production of Invisible Man was in town and it was something I felt compelled to see. As a writer, I usually prefer the paperback to the movie or theater version. This time, something in me knew this novel would come alive on stage. The play was everything I’d expected – heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, and hard to forget. In fact, what I found to be most gripping was the dialogue – a lot of which was adapted directly from the book.
The lead character was from a different time, raised in a different place, but his sense of invisibility still resonates today. In one particular scene, he said “What and how much had I lost by trying to do only what was expected of me instead of what I myself had wished to do?” and it was as if the entire show paused. It felt as though he’d turned the spotlight on me. The sentiment was so familiar, I had to catch what was left of the breath remaining in my chest.
It was the very question I’d asked myself the day that I decided to leave my full time job, over a year ago. How much of me was lost in doing work that I despised, for a company I loathed, to earn an income? When did I become the person whose motivated by annual bonus structures, incentives, and big paychecks?
I decided in that moment that I wanted to know more about Ralph Ellison, the person. I had to know what kind of life lead him to tell a story that felt so accessible 60 years later. We are still invisible, still doing what is expected of us, at the expense of what we desire. How did he know the song and dance would be choreographed the same way today?
Yesterday, I took to Google to put some of those pieces together. Today, I invite you to do the same. Let’s challenge ourselves to learn about the invisible – the lesser known black authors of our history. The ones, whose pens still have the power to shape our thinking long after they’ve stopped writing.
Let them be seen.