"The birth of my daughter gave me the passion to really try to make things better."
What life lessons did you learn from your mother?
I grew up with a mother whose attitude was “I can”, not “it's impossible”. She really believed in the promise and possibility of this country, even though she was born under de facto apartheid. She's my heroine to this day – and when you grow up with a role model like that, you don't think of your limitations either as a woman or as a person of color - you just get out there. I would say that my mother's ultimate message was to love yourself, to believe the best of the people around you, and to believe in the possibility of a world that you may not live to see.
What do you hope to pass onto your daughter?
I am different from my mother. But I have tried to infuse my daughter's life with the kind of magic that my mother infused my life with. She could make a trip to the supermarket a magical adventure, or take hamburger and turn it into a gourmet meal. I am striving to create that same kind of magic for my daughter, through a sense of wonder and celebration of beauty in the human spirit. I'm big on exposing her to the arts; that's vital to me. I call myself the Minister of Culture in our home. I am certainly trying to continue the emotional legacy begun not just by my mother, but also by my grandmother who - as an immigrant to this country from Haiti - created an atmosphere of beauty and splendor with very little.
How did motherhood change you?
Before my daughter was born, there was a part of me that was becoming so disillusioned with the world – It was just such a mess with the environment and so many of the other issues, I often wanted to just retreat to my cocoon. But the birth of my daughter gave me the passion to continue and really try to make things better and believe that whatever your little role is, that you must fight for what you believe in to make things better. You want to know that you left something behind, that you left your little corner of the world better than it was.
How has your daughter changed the way you approach writing?
As a writer, you reach a point where you don't want to write what other people tell you to write. You want to write about the things that you're passionate about. I'm passionate about writing about women. I'm passionate about writing about people of color who are not seen on the big screen, and sometimes not even on television. I'm passionate about writing about family. My daughter is my priority, but I want all of my work to honor her and to help make people see the world in different ways so that when she steps into it, it will be a more welcoming place.
What is your advice to the next generation?
If I could say one thing to the next generation, it would be understand that we are all one. Remember your humanity and the humanity of all of the people around you. Whatever it is you do in life, use it to connect to other human beings, to honor their humanity and, in so doing, uplift your own.