Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, ----

This debt we pay to human guile; ….

The poem, "We Wear the Mask," by Paul Laurence Dunbar, still rings true. There once was a time that we wore the mask to insulate ourselves from the attacks and the ugliest of hateful people. We would slip on the mask as we left the comfort of our homes. The mask was an unspoken tool that we used to retain our humanity and protect our hearts.

As a child we witnessed how our parents were at home and how they were in the world. As we grew up and ventured into a world where people assumed things about us because of the color of our skin, the shape of your lips and the length of her hair, we too slipped on the mask. But today more of us are wearing the mask everywhere and all the time. Some of us are unable to remove the mask even in the presence of the people that we love. Because people have hurt and disappointed us, we don’t trust anyone, and the mask has become more than it was used for in the past. The mask not only covers our pain, tears, disappointments, and fears, it keeps us from being ourselves. The mask can keep us from revealing who we are to our children and loved ones. It can also keep us from knowing ourselves.

Why should the world be over-wise,

In counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.......

I agree with the above stanza of the poem, but that applies to the world. We have to let the people that matter the most to us see our tears, disappointments, fears, and failures. We have to acknowledge to ourselves that we hurt, that we have been disappointed and that we have missed the mark.

It’s not always easy to take off the mask, but to me the mask is a tool that I use when needed but is not how I live.

Do you wear a mask and if so, do you remove it with the people that you love?

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Are you listening to the world instead of someone that loves you? The younger women who are letting social media guide them may want to talk to an Auntie.

Auntie can be used as a term of endearment or as a nice/nasty way of putting an older woman down. Either way you want to use it, sometime Aunties have sage advice. We Aunties have been there and done that. We know that there is an expiration date to bootie shorts and dropping it like it’s hot.

Back in my day a menage-a-trois was the most adventurous thing that a guy would try to talk you into. Now, menage-a-trois are quite pedestrian. Girls today are letting guys talk them into doing all matters of things sexually. Polyamory is being sold as a sophisticated form of sexuality whereby all parties involved are sexually free, happy, and honest. But Aunties will tell you that polyamory is a pimp move. Polyamory is just another word for dating. If a man tells you that he’s dating other people; he is telling you that he is having sex with other people. And that’s fine in a dating situation, that’s being honest. But if a man tells you that you’re his woman and he want to be in a committed relationship with you and have sex with other people… Baby, he’s just using pimpology on you. He isn’t committed to you; he’s committed to himself.

Aunties would probably tell you to respect yourself enough to not go for the okey doke. Aunties have lived life and have been down the road that you are travelling. They can tell you about the emotion harm, trauma, unwanted pregnancies, and sexual diseases that may also be waiting for you if you choose that path.

When I was coming of age my mother didn’t talk to me about womanhood and relationships. I had to figure it out on my own. Even my peers didn’t talk about our worth, we were not that enlighten. But with age hopefully there is wisdom. So, seek out an older woman that you respect and ask her how it is that she made it to where she is now. That woman if she is not your mother will be affectionately known as Auntie.

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Congo Square is located inside Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, LA. It is a place where enslaved and free people of color could gather on Sundays. In 1817 the mayor of New Orleans made it the only acceptable place where black people could congregate.

On Sundays Congo Square would have been a loud, lively place where enslaved people that had family on other plantations could possibility visit with each other. Congo Square

was many things for many people. It was an open-air market where people bought and sold goods, it was a place where people socialized, and practiced their religion. Africans would have been beating the bamboula drums, and the Haitian would have been beating the tambou drums. Drums, bells, banjos and other rhythmic instruments would have been played. Imagine sellers yelling for people to come and see their wares, child running around laughing and yelling to each other; joyful greetings intermixing with the drumming and children laugher.

The morning that I visited Congo Square it was quiet, a solitary man was dancing and worshipping in the middle of the square. That’s when it hit me that Congo Square was also a sacred place, Voudon, not Voodoo was practiced in Congo Square. I got emotional as I realized that it was possible that my ancestors gathered in Congo Square. I walked around Congo Square just wanting to walk in the same space that they walked in as they enjoyed their one day away from slave labor. I was solemn as I walked out of the park because I couldn't imagine what they felt as they left the one place where they could be happy if only for a moment.

Although I was sad to leave that sacred place, I was grateful that Congo Square had been preserved by the city of New Orleans.

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