It was early April. I remember the week when a large group of poets on Instagram were celebrating the acceptance of their poems for the upcoming She Will Speak Series (now available on Amazon!) I myself had posted something similar on my account and was even compelled to connect some of the other writers. In this day and age, and with the illusion of being social on social media becoming more prominent, I’ve been finding it increasingly important to establish meaningful relationships on such platforms.
What does it mean to truly ”follow” someone and their work? Is this intention for the sake of receiving the same attention? A few likes and a comment that goes something along the lines of ”I felt that. No, really I did” under a recent post? No. At least in my case, the hope wasn’t so much this but the act of entering the conversation with a casual ”Hey! You’re a writer too? Cool. Let’s chat.”
Aniliyah Richardson was one of them.
Richardson is someone who inspires not just for her contributions to the writing community but her views on hot topics like feminism. How should one go about approaching the claim that (get ready for it) the ”African-American Civil Rights Movement is being tampered by feminism?” Is this even a valid claim? Richardson’s unique sense of wisdom unravels the core of communication.
On top of that, she is also one who just tells it as it is. No fancy metaphors. No sugarcoating. Just the truth and nothing more.
Hughes: Tell us about yourself. What was your childhood like?
Richardson: My name is Aniliyah. I am a twenty-one-year-old Writer/Baker expressing myself through various ranges of emotions. My childhood was very intense growing up, but there was some good through the bad times. Everything that I went through put me into the position I am in, trying to better myself.
I was a happy go lucky child always finding the light of day.
Hughes: Is anyone else in your family creative?
Richardson: There aren’t many in my family with a creative side except for my uncle and two of my cousins who all can draw, which sadly was not passed down to me.
Hughes: Can you describe your relationship to writing? For example, is it accidental or planned? Hobby or career? Both?
Richardson: Me and writing found each other my sophomore year when my English teacher transferred me out of her class into A.P. English. I fell in love with the words of Edgar Allen Poe at a very young age but lost the passion my senior year. I found myself back in love with writing after I was raped. I was in school at the time as a culinary major and was mostly out of it. I was a walking zombie just going to class then home. That is, until one day I had a moment of forgetting everything and where I was and had an episode inside one of my classes.
That very incident in my school made me realize that I needed to escape everything before I lose myself. Few weeks prior to that episode I found myself looking at my work from high school and decided to give it another try. To this day it is like riding a bike for me because I never lost sight of how writing my truth makes me feel.
Hughes: Your poem ”Pandora’s Vineyard” was featured in the 2019 anthology She Will Speak. Can you describe the creative drive behind this particular work? The importance of this poem to you?
Richardson: The creative drive behind ”Pandora’s Vineyard” came from a strong line of pain that I was dealing with at the time. It was one of the many stories that I had hidden in my laptop. When I saw the open submission for the anthology, I was instantly hit with this desire to share my work with other women—specifically because I knew I wasn’t the only individual who has been through immense pain.
Pandora’s Vineyard is truly near and dear to my heart. It helps me get through everything I was going through. Taking my time with how I wanted to express it to the world, down to the name, all holds a powerful message within itself.
Hughes: Describe your first memory of creating something that caught the attention of someone else. What was their reaction?
Richardson: When I first started writing (regularly) I was infatuated with someone at the time, but didn’t know how to express myself. Writing truly helps what I’m trying to say. So, I wrote down a poem and posted the story on my blog and told him to read it. Few minutes later he texts me and says “Finally.” From that point on he was my #1 supporter, asking did I write this day or that day because he felt that this is something I should have always pursued.
Hughes: Do you believe the arts (in the U.S. at least) are becoming more diverse? Or are the importantroles and stories still being passed for what Hollywood might see as more ‘’marketable’’ or ‘’approachable?’’
Richardson: I absolutely think that art is becoming more diverse, however it’s also not being expressed or represented in the right hands. The art that should be looked upon in the U.S is produced by heavy hitters who have their hands out for their own greed and personal gain.
”Our ears should always find its way to the citizens of this nation because we all are needed in one way or another. Every voice should be heard and have a chance to express the many things that aren’t on the market because Hollywood seems to think reality is too “Raw” and “Unapproachable.”’
Hughes: In relation to the previous, what might you pinpoint as the cause(s) behind this? How should society and smaller communities go about addressing it?
Richardson: The main issue in my opinion is the way society has projected how we as a community and nation should only be addressed when looked upon for the negative feedback of what others present to them. Never to be judged on the good that has come from the positive energy and time we put into making this nation a stronger bond for the ones who couldn’t before us and for the generations after us to come.
Everyone is thinking in ”the now” but never about the consequences of what society’s process will put us through in the years to come past beyond our measure. Society should hold our concerns to higher standards whether it is being shown through art, our voices, etc.
”Everything has a point that wants to be proven. We just need to dig a little deeper to find out what it all means to better to become one.”
Hughes: I was reading that your website Established Chaos was created for ‘’women who receive no kind of recognition throughout their tough out look.’’ Can you touch base on this? For example, what is the end goal for both a reader and contributor to Est Chaos? Your own?
Richardson: Established Chaos was created specifically for women. Every woman that walks beyond the concrete on her path has indeed received no kind of recognition through her tough exterior of some sort. I made this website not just to remind her of who she is without anyone’s approval, but to showcase what she’s made of and how we as women shouldn’t be judged by the flesh on our backs nor the shades we possess.
I plan to keep thriving for us—meaning I am willing to raise all kinds of awareness to get my point across. Reaching every aspect of my goals to modify how we should be treated no matter the standards we are given.
Hughes: About two weeks ago I had come across a discussion that touched on the idea that ‘’feminism is a distraction from African-American civil rights because it acknowledges women issues but not necessarily (or always) Black women and the unique hurdles we come across.
’’What is your take on this? Do you believe this is valid?
Richardson: Feminism could never be a distraction in the eyes of people who know exactly what the movement is and what it represents. The word doesn’t take away from the power it posses and how it became what it is today. If anything, the word plays a part of what African-American civil rights presents. Being an African American feminist in today’s modern world is overlooked. The public views us as a threat along with having the freedom of speech, and key knowledge which has become an outrage to others.
Movements such as civil rights and women empowerment cannot be looked upon as a distraction but a torch to uplift one another to embody what was stripped away from the makings of our ancestors fighting to be free. Never forgetting that we paid our debt to society. They held our bodies against our will, but the mind shall continue to wonder the possibilities of when the day is to come when we are all set free from this caged environment.
Hughes: The following is a quote by African-American writer, feminist, womanist, librarian, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde: ‘’When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.’’
What is your interpretation of this? How might this apply to the arts? Your own experiences as a writer?
Richardson: As a writer along with being a woman, and coming from a cultural background, I was taught to never be discouraged and that my voice moves others who also believe that women have a reason to have a say so in what’s going on in today’s views.
While reading this quote, I truly believe the term “closed mouths don’t get fed” play a major role towards women. We haven’t had the chance to speak our peace for decades. Now is the time to take a stand for what is right and what is wrong. Never to become silenced again in the makings of women who have left their markings in are hearts. Putting them to use leaving a landmark for the new generation. It applies to art due to having an effect on so many emotions.
For me personally, being a woman and making my art as the platform for what I stand for puts me in the position to grab other artist’s attention and show them what my work holds between the lines lingering deeper into the issues that I raise truth with.
Hughes: How important is it for women to acknowledge our artistic qualities? For example, how might a craft such as writing help us understand our purpose within society? Our goals?
Richardson: To acknowledge something such as an artistic quality is extremely important. Your craft is what you make it and how you present it to the world. Whatever your craft is it is indeed needed in a sense of shape or form by others.
”Art such as writing has a way of taking an effect in others lives whether it being verbal or written, our words live beyond us. It is an expression that will live on after we fade from the makings of this lifetime.”
Hughes: The following is a quote by American poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator, Yolande Cornelia ‘’Nikki’’ Giovanni Jr.: ‘’Show me someone not full of herself and I’ll show you a hungry person.’’
What is your interpretation of this quote?
Richardson: She is starving. She is obsessed with the makings of herself. Not just physically, but mentally. She is constantly thinking of ways to better herself internally without seeking approval. Teaching us that that is the best possible way to live.
Hughes: What is your take on the relationship between women the current political atmosphere in the United States? For example, how are wedoing as a whole?
Richardson: We continue to fight even though the political views are against us. They continue to stack our backgrounds on top of one another waiting for the camel’s back to break. But we shall overcome this hurdle. However, we cannot continue to fight a war with politics and fight with each other. The relationship between us must be cherished to walk through this constant battle head on.
Instead of screaming over another, we must act accordingly in order to be heard.
Hughes: What is one thing you would like to see more of in the arts?
Richardson: Women supporting each other.
Hughes: What is one thing you would like to see less of in the arts?
Richardson: Artists downgrading other artists and their work.
Hughes: I recently came across a post on social media that said something along the lines of ‘’White women can remain oppressed if they choose to not stick up for African-American rights.’’ Do you believe this belief is valid? Or is there a point when movements such as feminism become more one sided than progressive for society as a whole?
If not, describe the importance of this statement.
Richardson: Everyone has an opinion when it comes to the topic of African-American rights. Nevertheless, a White woman’s right to be oppressed in general, when it comes to the topic such as this one, is never needed. It comes to a baffling affect to realize that people think White women should have a reason to be discussed in such a sensitive topic.
Feminism does tend to become one sided at fault in times along with certain conversations such as equality or remaining being oppressed (towards other’s rights).
Hughes: What is the definition of writing to you?
Richardson: To be authentic with your purpose.
Hughes: Are there any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
Richardson: I am currently selling my work as written serenades for people who believe in helping me perfecting my craft and think that words can also be the native tongue for love.
Hughes: Now for a fun one! Extraterrestrials have invaded Earth. The leader approaches and demands you to recommend the one person who can give them one reason to abort their mission of destroying mankind. Who would this individual be? Why?
Richardson: Mankind has no need to leave. We kill our kind anyways, just to get ahead.