S1: Episode 21 - Kay (Silk) Littlejohn

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:          Welcome to my Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Stories are often found, resting along the edges of surprise and revelation. Every person, every place is a map to somewhere else.  Episode 21, Kay (Silk) Littlejohn.

Kay:                 My name is Silk. I am 52 years old, former NAAC President, a mother of two beautiful girls, and a super wonderful woman that I love dearly as my mother. I’m the only girl of seven boys. I felt like I was always going to be a fixer. So I felt like I had to continue to help fix, you know, help my mom with things around the home. And when you grow up with boys that are angry and frustrated casue their dad left them. And so I was a fixer. So in my relationship, I didn’t know the true meaning of love with a companion. I saw his faults, but I stayed there because I couldn’t fix the reason I was allowing someone to abuse me. People abuse, when they don’t have control, they instill fear in someone else and that gives them power. That’s the only thing they can control. There’s been many blows, many hits, many kicks, spits, verbal profanity before. And when that person that said they love you strikes you, your body just caves in. And he said, if I ever told anyone he would kill me or kill my kids. I felt trapped. I felt enclosed. I felt I, I couldn’t breathe. I didn’t know who to go to.

The morning that it happened, I had just gotten off work. I’m a cosmetologist, so I do hair during the day and then at night I work for American Airlines. Well, I’d just gotten off that morning and he’s asked me to find his other boot. I looked everywhere and I couldn’t find it, but I was tired. I was so tired and he didn’t say okay or whatever. And I just got in the bed and laid down and I just felt this hard. Gosh, it was like an explosion. I’ve never been hit like that in my life. Bashed hit me in the back of the head with a boot. I felt cold and hot. And it’s almost like you facing death.

Even when I was in the hospital, I didn’t even tell my doctors I still was protecting him. He told me that he would kill me. So I held onto the secret as long as I could. And then when you start losing your sight, it’s like a firing squad. When you’re in front of a firing squad, they say, here, tell me the truth. Okay, this is what he did. Just save my sight. I just want my sight. This is where he hit me. This is how many times, you know, you just start going into it. You, you spill your soul.

I was in the hospital for almost a month. The doctor said I had cortical blindness. It’s when your eyes appeared normal, because my eyes are completely healthy. It’s not my eyes, it’s my brain. The last thing that my eyes saw was my family. The sun, the light coming on from a, a window, kinda like that angel moment coming in. I never thought about killing myself, but at the same time, I didn’t care about life. I didn’t care if I ate. I didn’t care if I bathed. I didn’t care if I ever spoke to anyone else again. You know how some people want food and water. I wanted my sight. I couldn’t even hear my own heartbeat. Some people treat you ghostly like you don’t even exist. They can come into a room, come to your table and ask everybody at the table what do they want to eat, and don’t even acknowledge you. So losing their sight, that’s a hard, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

When I look back on those days, I thank God for taking me through that moment because I could never understand another human being in their darkest moments. So how do you learn to live in the darkness? Have you ever gone outside, just laid on the grass and looked up in the sky at night? If you look and everything, you fades, the streetlights, the grass, that tree. Cuz you’re just focused on outer space. And if you keep going and going, there’s no boundaries. See, with blindness, there’s no boundaries. There’s two people inside of me. I walk around like that. There’s that person that used to have vision and then there’s that person that doesn’t. So it’s a change. I don’t know. Blindness to me is like a opportunity for you to live in a different realm. When it’s raining, you hear all the different raindrops. When the wind blows, it’s not just blowing, it’s singing. You hear music and wind, you hear the trees. It’s almost like a a band playing when you’re outside and the wind is blowing, but you don’t, you don’t appreciate that. You take that for granted cuz you see it. Don’t take time to hear it. So everyone should have someone in their life that’s blind because they give you more of a description, more of a creativity, more of an unbiased decision than anyone else in the room. They should seek those individuals out if you want the truth.

[Outro Music]

Host:                One of my heroes in life is E.O. Wilson, American biologist naturalist philosopher. He won the Pulitzer Prize for the book On Human Nature. I heard him speak once and he said, we’re drowning in information while at the same time starving for wisdom. Information is easy, he said, but wisdom takes time. I think of Kay Silk Littlejohn as a poet, a teacher, a very wise person. She is categorically honest about her life and the dread and danger of domestic abuse. She said, when you’re a victim of domestic abuse, you lose your vision long before you lose your eyesight. Silk is newly blind, which is very different than those that have already adapted to vision loss. She speaks about the ambiguity of daily life, of anger, forgiveness, pain, hope, faith losing, but also discovery. She is the mother of two daughters. She’s a grandmother and says her mother and grandmother were superwomen. She reflected about going to a restaurant as a blind person. The waiters treat you ghostly like you don’t even exist. Silk said, “The public equates blindness with ignorance. Blindness to many people means you have no life at all. That is so cruel and mean.” She says, “I’m not my blindness. I have a vision beyond what my eyes cannot see.”

Join us next week. Two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you for listening.