Poetry in Spaces of Recovery

  I love the photo above because you can’t tell which hand is mine. Just like if I was standing together with these women in the Magdalene house, a safe place for women recovering from addiction and a life in the sex trade, (whether being trafficked or deploying their labor …

Why A Black Woman Named Fannie Lou Hamer Matters Now More Than Ever (BONUS: Audio!)

Who was Fannie Lou Hamer? When one thinks of the millions of souls lost during the transatlantic slave trade, the missed potential immediately jumps to mind. All genocide robs us of the few geniuses that each culture produces.  At the beginning of the previous century the pernicious system named Jim …

TFW You Realize You’re In Love With Your Captor

Sometimes I feel as if black folk’s self-worth teeters on the impetuous and hateful razor’s edge of racist white institutions. Like the protagonist in Beauty and the Beast, we’ve fallen in love with our captor, and somehow it has become our responsibility to humanize him. I have now lived through …

The National Women’s March: Sisters, What Are You Willing To Destroy?

What follows are the remarks and the poem ("Oath: 1957") I delivered on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at the St. Louis arm of the National Women's March.


When I was first asked to participate in the national women's March, I declined because I thought it was just another example in the long line of examples of wrongheaded white feminism.

You see I knew the history, and I knew that the sorority of which I am a member, Delta Sigma Theta, marched with white suffragettes in 1913 as their first political act.

 

No sweeping feminist collaboration followed.

 

I knew that Fannie Lou Hamer, a fellow Mississippian and black woman, helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971.

 

No sweeping feminist collaboration followed.

 

So when this march was proposed, the words of genius humorist, Moms Mabley rang in my head:

 

“If you see a fool. Bump his head. If you see a damn fool, bump it twice.”

 

You see, I’ve come to find the white feminist narrative of “equality” increasingly troubling.

When my ancestors walked off of plantations in order to join and the Civil War. They didn't walk off for equality. Slaves did not want to be equal enslavers. They wanted to disrupt a system.

 

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to disrupt?

 

When Trans women of color led the charge for our collective humanity at Stonewall, they didn’t want to be equal brutalizers, silencers and disappearers.

 

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to disavow?

 

When Native women led the fight for our life aka WATER, they didn’t want to be equal polluters.

So I ask you Sisters, what are you willing to destroy?

 

I’m going to leave you with a vision before I end with a poem:

It's a Monday morning and people are wiping sleep from their eyes. They go to the daycare and there are no women there to keep the babies. They go to the school and there are no teachers on the platform to teach the children. They go to enter a bus. No women are driving. They go to the financial district and no women are bartering and trading. Imagine the policies that we could influence if we withdrew ourselves in this way on a workday week?

 

So I ask you Sisters what are you willing to strike for?


oath:1957

all they saw
were the whites of her heels
winking back at them

her dark elbow
shoulder high

the wrench -- a blur
above her nappy plaits
as she whirled it
as if to wring its neck

as if to sanctify it

as if to show it to the ghosts
as proof of her oath: “i swear
‘fo god”

they say the sound
she made – more like warning
than a scream

slingshot soprano, returning
going away
reappearing
like fingers
moving
from cotton sack to row

they say the sound
was a choctaw vibrato,

undulating
water moccasin
across a clay bottom creek

wail rising
spine through skin
[you can wail here] “i swear ‘fo god”

they say the sound was a tearing/
birthing herself
breech, feet first
pulling the ankle
of her own twin soul
[you can moan here]

they say the sound was birthright/
takeback sound
[you can clap here]

the clap of a generation
righting itself

the sound she made as her yellow legs
carried her out of the screen door

away from the man
she thought she killed

away from the tableau
of 3 terrified colored babies

away from the dazed living room
away from the sound of a system’s head cracking open.

Sisters, what are you willing to destroy?

The TOP 5 Ways Faculty Can Support Student Activists

You want to jump up and shout because the students on your campus or the individuals in your community are calling out structural bias and even protesting, organizing, and making real headway against it.   Or you’re wondering what the hell is going on. Either way the young people need …

Here’s Why Anger is the Ultimate Glow Up. Oh, and #StrikeForBlackLives

One of my favorite podcasts is Another Round, featuring a writer for Buzzfeed, Tracy Clayton and a writer for the Stephen Colbert Show, Heben Nigatu. The show features guests of color talking about a wide range of subjects, but with a keen eye on culture. One part drunken conversation and …

“Labor Pains” and the #StrikeForBlackLives

When Africans were enslaved, one popular narrative used to justify their enslavement, was that they were “lazy.” “If we don’t enslave them they won’t work” was one of the fears expressed pre-emancipation. In fact, black men found without a job could be remanded to forced labor post-slavery. In a strange …

Why Don’t We Crave to See the Families of the Murdered Policemen in Dallas Forgive Micah Johnson?

As the country continues to grapple with the racialized gun violence of the past weeks, several issues of comparison can be explored and discussed.   This is a thought experiment. I have taken an article titled, “Families of Charleston Shooting Victims: “We Forgive You” written by Inae Oh and published …

#StrikeForBlackLives: A Nationwide Job Walk-Off By Black Labor

  “Hamilton” isn’t the first play written by a writer of color that casts black and brown Americans in the roles of white Americans. 50 years earlier, Douglas Turner Ward wrote “A Day of Absence.” The play, with a role made famous by Ossie Davis, features a black cast playing …