There are people who come and go in and out of your life. Then there are those who come into your life who inspire, touch your mind and soul and leave a lasting effect on your life. This Saturday one of those people who inspires and motivates, a true American idol, Sister Souljah came to speak at the Guild Theater in Sacramento. Her Midnight and The Meaning of Love Book Tour brought this remarkable woman to the Guild Theater and the Underground Books hosted a book signing after her lecture.
Georgia West, General Manager and owner of Underground Books, said a few words before Sister Souljah spoke. Georgia West started off by welcoming the audience saying, “I am so thankful you supported this event and thank you so much for coming. We’ve had a major week in Sacramento, first it was the anniversary week for 40 Acres Art and Cultural Complex, eight years. Second of all I’d like to say Happy Mother’s Day here today. How about keeping the Sacramento Kings here in Sacramento! The total icing on the cake is that Sister Souljah is here!” The crowd at this well attended event cheered and clapped showing their appreciation.
A short video was shown about Sister Souljah and she then came to the podium. The podium had actually been on stage but she asked that it be brought off the stage so that she could be at the same level as the audience and it brought her closer to the audience as well.
Sister Souljah started off by saying “I’m happy to be here today. Looking forward to having a good conversation I don’t mind if you disagree with anything or you want to debate anything, I enjoy it. We can talk about it.” Her opening statements encouraged meaningful conversation and persuaded the audience to become involved. The auditorium was packed on the lower level and many others sat at the balcony and all responded to Sister Souljah’s opening statements by cheering.
She gave thanks to those in attendance saying “I am grateful to have all of you guys here. I am grateful to the grandmothers and mothers and granddaughters, the fathers, the sons and grandfathers, the whole community.” Sister Souljah went on to say that when she writes her books she looks for certain things and one of those is that she looks to her potential readers.
Her eloquent, thoughtful and though provoking way of writing and speaking has brought her many readers over the years. She spoke about publishing and what it entails especially when it comes to large or small publishing companies. She indicated that authors get an advance and get paid for writing a book and for the most part that’s it. Sister Souljah went on to say that if you love what you do, as far as an author is concerned, then you passionately go out and visit places across the country or around the world and talk to people about what they read and feel. The author goes out and answers questions, allows people to meet the author and discuss what the book is about.
Sister Souljah covered many topics and one of them is her love for reading. Within this dialogue she discussed her family while at the same time the audience can look at the subject of reading and being educated as a way to invoke thought provoking concepts that can be passed on to other family members and the community as a whole.
She spoke about going to the library as a young child and going through every isle and looking at all the books until she found one that interested her. She looked for books to find a reflection of herself. She wanted to see authors and characters that looked like her and said that she enjoyed reading at a very early age. Her mom got her a library card when she was 5 years old.
“It doesn’t matter where you grow up or what your financial background is. If you can read and you can understand, a book can move your mind around the world.” Sister Souljah said as she continued to speak about the power of reading. She talked about how a book can help you get information you have not experienced or inform you about things you may not have thought were available.
Sister Souljah relayed a story about reading the autobiography of Angela Davis. Through this biography Angela talked going abroad and studying in Germany. Sister Souljah went on to relay that she did not even know this was an option or a possibility for her. This reminded me of when I was Germany studying abroad and visiting a museum and a part of the museum was dedicated to Angela Davis and her work. This museum was in East Germany when there was still a West and East Germany.
She spoke about opportunities and how they are around but you have to find them and take advantage. Sister Souljah spoke about finding free events that she could go to if there was a subject available that she was interested in and gathering information where she could. These types of stories, I believe, stirred up the audience’s curiosity and may inspire younger audience members to look for similar opportunities.
Sister Souljah spoke with such passion and confidence that she captivated us from start to finish. Her stories were told in such a way as to keep everyone at the edge of their seats thinking about how her experiences can help our families and communities. Her pearls of wisdom were geared toward everyone in the audience; young and old, parents and children, men and women. At the center of her dialogue she suggested we keep an open mind and listen to people.
As she continued speaking about people she said that she does not like to measure people visibly. “When you measure people visibly you dismiss a whole lot of people who are good people and who can help you in some way or in some form. This generation is a very visual generation so much so that you can sing a song if you look good. It doesn’t matter if the song sounds good. It doesn’t matter if the song moves your soul or if it comforts or excites you. All that matters is the visual.” she said. This, Sister Souljah said leads to a loss of soul bringing audible sounds of reflection from the audience.
This generation seems to have more stuff and less knowledge, Sister Souljah observed. She went to talk about how many of us love our material things and use people when we should be loving people and using our material things. How true her comments rang, how though provoking her words became and what great wisdom came from her mind, heart and soul.
She read aloud from the first chapter of Midnight and the Meaning of Love. Many audience members who had purchased the book read from their own copies. Midnight and the Meaning of Love was recently released in April 2011. After the reading a question and answer period ensued where she covered many topics brought up by the audience’s questions.
The Coldest Winter Ever, published in 1999 was a project that took a while to become noticed. Sister Souljah noted that it went from going from hand to hand and from generation to generation. Her thoughts about writing more immediately were not in the works. After The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah started writing Porsche Santiaga but because of current events at the time she stopped writing that book midway through. She felt that the time was set to tell the Midnight story (Midnight: A Gangster Love Story) instead.
The Midnight story was a book written for the sons of the African-American community as well as its fathers. It was a story written to address some of the concerns in the community. Questions regarding her new book as well as the others were discussed as questions from the audience spoke about their feelings and thoughts.
This question and answer interaction were very beneficial and it showed why Sister Souljah is such a requested speaker at colleges and events around the country. Her pride and joy come through and become very contagious amongst the audience.
Questions regarding a movie were brought up and Sister Souljah addressed them indicating that she had sold the rights to HBO but it did not develop according to plan and she later decided to buy back the rights. She mortgaged her house to buy the rights back but this was the moral thing to do and up until now no movie is in the works although when she wrote the book The Coldest Winter she wrote it with a movie in mind.
Another question dealt with the name Sister Souljah. She spoke about being part of Public Enemy (where I first heard of Sister Souljah listening to her vocals on Move! and Buck Whylin among others).
Public Enemy’s Chuck D came up to her and asked what she wanted to be called. She said that she had been thinking about changing her name for a long time but had not come across one that suited her. She looked for a name for her soul, a name that described who she was. Chuck D gave her 24 hours to come up with a name that was needed as some paperwork was being filled out.
She picked up a dictionary and thesaurus and starting asking herself questions. “What are you known for? What would people who know you say about you?” were some of the questions she asked about herself. She thought of synonyms for fighting, as she has a fighting spirit and came up with a list of words that meant fighting. On the list was “soldier” and then she thought about what kind of a feeling she wanted the name to give people. She changed s-o-l-d-i-e-r to s-o-u-l and added j-a-h (god). She went on to say that it meant the essence of god. She says that everybody calls her Souljah and if somebody wants her to answer they should address her as Souljah and if they call her something else they won’t get an answer.
After the question and answer period the book signing took place next door at Underground Books. A long line stood going out the door and Sister Souljah signed all books and did not just sign her name but took the time to write something meaningful and pose for pictures.
Sister Souljah’s demeanor, confidence and eloquent comments were very inspirational. She is a speaker that has a lot to say and she says them with power and authority evoking strong reactions from her listeners and readers. Although you may or may not like what she has to say she is a strong woman who makes you think about your values and the value of education, family, love and life.