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Blak & Bright First Nations Literary Festival acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional custodians of the sacred lands on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nations and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past present and future.

We recognise all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders as the first storytellers; and that knowledge transfer through storytelling is imbedded in the very DNA of this Country.

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And I Cry by Eugenia Flynn

June 2024

Read Eugenia Flynn’s truth, written in response to her husband Robert K Champion’s music.

And I Cry by Eugenia Flynn

And I Cry
by Eugenia Flynn
Delivered on 15 June 2024

I warn people in advance, “Robert’s music is a bit depressing,” make a joke out of it, and laugh. A defensive action, I don’t want our friends to be surprised in the way that I was, the way I continue to be. You see, Robert’s music can still surprise me in its intensity and depth of emotion.

We had a friend walk out of one of his performances once, crying, not long after her grandfather had passed away. The hallmark of a resonant songman, Robert’s ability to draw in an audience to the playing of his guitar and the emotions of his stories; it’s what returns me to his music, time and time again. Not just a wifely duty, anyone who knows me knows that I cannot fake it when it comes to music, art and literature – and I certainly wouldn’t allow myself to fake care to appease the ego of a man.

But Robert is known for his cheeky sense of humour and his cheery daily disposition. You may not believe it, but I was deeply surprised when his songwriting took a serious turn, a shift away from his lighter music from years before. Embarrassed almost, I never said the words aloud inside my head, instead reflexively responding to the wordless question: how to explain this to our family and friends who know him so differently, so light and so at ease?

But this is black life, black sorrow, black grief, black pain. The life of a black man is reflected in the lyrics and the content of Robert’s stories, and the country melodies of his compositions.

We drive along the country roads, bound for the far west coast of South Australia. To Robert’s homelands. Post-covid lockdowns, post-being unable to travel, post- Robert’s first stroke. It’s an emotional trip, returning the songs he wrote during covid times home to Country, returning a healthy Robert to Country and to family and to community.

What is the reality of everyday black life for a couple such as us? The day we left Melbourne for this tour, one of Robert’s mothers passed away.

But we live in all kinds of privilege in Melbourne. Making music and art, writing words and speaking words, and making careers for ourselves. Building lives away from our families and the homes of our hearts. And yet, and still. We cannot escape the reality of our black lives. The chronic health issues we both face daily, the continuous deaths across our immediate and extended families and kin. I tell myself daily I don’t think this is normal. I talk to my family regularly I don’t think others live like this.

When I was a young girl, I once wished I was white. I told my sister on a car ride into the city, back in good old Adelaide. In that car I said, “those white families don’t have the problems we do, their lives seem so easy.” And I cried – for myself and for my father and my mother and my sisters.

Even as a kid I understood the privilege they held – unspoken, unnamed, unacknowledged white privilege.

And now, as a grown woman, I cry again. For myself, for my late mother, my late father, for my sisters, my husband, my in-laws.

But that one childful thought is no more. I do wish for freedom for our people, but secure in the positivity of our blackness, not in whiteness, not in the reflected negativity of whiteness. I wish we could see the far-reaching arms of colonial legacies, how their shadows fall upon every part of our lives despite what big or small privileges we are able to amass. I wish we could all know, all us blackfellas, how we can move out of the shadows, forward into a different form of black life – a black life filled with black love, black light, black joy, black mirth.

But, why truth-telling? What begins with the simple sharing of our truths, our history, our present, turns into a grotesque feeding upon our black pain. And for what purpose? What thrilling flutters spread warmly from your stomach to your chest when you assume the position of sympathetic voyeur? Beyond those small numbers who bear witness to ensure “never again”, outside of those who work in service to elevate our voices to make sure we are truly heard, in parallel with those who are so careless with our black lives and black bodies, are those who are careful to witness our pain.

What is truth? Is it only the sadness and the trauma of ongoing colonial legacies? Can it ever transform to be our liberation and our freedom?

I love my black woman’s life, for all its hardship and sorrow. I love my black man and the life we have made together. We are unbound from the typecast roles you place upon us. We move forward in black power and black strength.