Monday, December 25, 2006

Annie Christmas

Today (for some reason) I am thinking of Annie Christmas, the name taken by a revolutionary black woman survivor who was an instrumental part in the radical black freedom mission (1859) that is usually attributed to John Brown. The orignal Annie Christmas was a legendary black woman warrior (a cross between a momma-messiah and John Henry as the story goes), and this Annie Christmas took on her name and called herself inheriting an imperative to struggle for her people. Annie Christmas moved to the United States from the Caribbean after surviving incest and conspired with Mary Ann Shadd and Mary Ellen Pleasant (and yes, John Brown) to arm US slaves and create a free black state. After the plan was discovered she suffered further sexual abuse at the hands of her captors. She finally escaped. And her story has passed on (and been passed over) And here.

In Michelle Cliff's brilliant work of historical fiction about Annie Christmas, Mary Ellen Pleasant et. al. "Free Enterprise" (read it!) she insists that we have to become "talking books". Our stories of resistance, our dreams and the visions that we act our experiences of violence are often repressed. Today I am proud of and waiting for and in love with our stories, our visions, our actions, our histories. "Talk it on."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

verily thus sayeth the Lorde

as if she knew what we were up to right now...
From "My Words Will Be There"

"It is necessary to determine how much of this pain I can use. That is the essential question we must all ask ourselves. There is some point where pain becomes an end in itself, and then we must let it go. On the one hand, we must not be afraid of pain, but on the other hand we must not subject ourselves to pain as an end in itself. We must not celebrate victimization, because there are other ways of being Black.”

“Even if you are afraid, do it anyway. We learn to work when we are tired; so we can learn to work when we are afraid.”

"I have always felt that I cannot be categorized. That has been both my weakness and my stregnth. It has been my weakness because my independence has cost me a lot of support. But you see it has also been my stregnth because it has given me the power to go on. I don’t know how I would have lived through the diffeent things I have survivived and continued to produce if I had not felt that all of who I am is what fulfills me and what fulfills the vision I have of a world.”

“There are very few voices for Black women, speaking from the center of conciousness, for the I AM out to the WE ARE.”


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Some Insight from INCITE!: Comment!!!

Some of my favorite passages from Color of Violence: The INCITE! Anthology and some questions for us to think about...

From the introduction (by the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence Collective)
"The challenge women of color face in combatting personal AND state violence is to develo strategies for ending violence that DO assure safety for survivors of sexual/domestic violence and DO NOT strengthen our oppressive criminal justice system...The question that we ask as women of color is not how do we set up a model anti-violence program, but what will it take to end the violence against us?...Our work must be founded in a radical anaylsis and we must resist cooptation. Our work is not about opulating ethnicaly specific programs, not just about reparations for the past, not just about multicultural interventions, and not about reform. Our work is about justice and freedom."

Question for us: What will it take to end the violence against us?

From SisterSong's "The Color of Choice: White Supremacy and Reproductive Justice"

"Sistersong maintains that reproductive justice--the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, economic, and social well-being of women and girls---will be achieved when women and girls have the economic, social and political powe and resources to make healthy decisions about our bodies, sexuality, and reproduction for ourselves, our families, and our communities in all areas of our lives."

Question for us: Do we see ending sexual violence as a reproductive justice issue?

From "Four Generations in Resistance" by Dana Erekat

"As a Palestinian you know education is a vital weapon for the fight in the struggle, this is why the Israelis close the schools every other day and enter the school every other day. Your daughter runs home in fear but you keep sending her back knowing that education is the only way. Knowing that interference with education is a colonizers tactic for preventing the growth of society, you don't need a diploma to understand that: it is your lived reality. You keep on living with hopes of a free Palestine in the next generation. You give birth to a daughter, knowing she will continue the fight. New generations of Palestinian women are born resisting with their bodies, with their pens, and with their lives. Motherhood is an act of defiance in the midst of colonization."

Question for us: What relationships with pre-existing, and possible educational systems are we making?

From "Sistas Making Moves" by Sista II Sista (a Brooklyn-wide organization of young black and latina women makin moves)

"Even though our advisors felt we should first raise money, we decided to jump right into launching a summer program with no money and no infrastructure...."

" of our biggest challenges: creating an organizational structure that was in line with our vision of the society we wanted to create."

"At SIIS we feel that true social transformation is holistic, that change comes from inspiration, emotional and cultural expression, and a strong political message."

"As our work around violence has grown, we've divided into three areas: challenging the police around issues of sexual harassment and violence against young women of color; building an alternative from the police for women to turn to in cases of interpersonal violence; and creating solidarity with women facing violence in the Third World."

Question for us: What is the relationship between our structure, our message and our love?

From "Gender Violence and the Prison-Industrial Complex: Statement by Critical Resistance and Incite! Women of Color Against Violence"

"We seek to build movements that not only end violence, but that create a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity. In this society, safety and security will not be premised on violence or the threat of violence; it will be based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples."

Question for us: What is a guarantee? What does passionate reciprocity look like for us?

From "Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice" by TransJustice, a project of the Audre Lorde Project (a community organizing center for LGBTTQT people of color in the NYC area)

"Gender policing has always been part of the United States' bloody history. State-sanctioned gender policing targets Trans and Gender Non-Conforming people first by dehumanizing our identities. It denies our basic right to gender self-determination, and considers our bodies to be property of the state."

Question for us: What is the relationship between sexual violence and the creation of (bodies as) property?

looking for your comments

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On Common Sense Politics

Just something that Sista Angela said that I find useful for us:

On the simplistic "Bush vocabulary" as political discourse....

"It is seductive because it appears to require no effort to understand; it is dangerous because it erases everything that really matters."

Angela Davis in Abolition Democracy (2005)

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Combahee River Collective Statement

Coming to an UBUNTU meeting near you: printouts of the groundbreaking, revolutionary and far from perfect statement by the Combahee River Collective in 1977. This is the founding document for the intersectional analyses of oppression that we develop and deconstruct and redevelop today.

Anyway...before I burst into a praise poem...this is the spot to post your thoughts about the document while and after you read. Post a comment!


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Listen to the Voices of the People"

Click on the article "Unlikey Activist" to see Caprice Brown, a black woman in a largely people of color led movement in Miami for housing rights speak up and speak out. I don't think this is particulary "unlikely" (but then again I often disagree with the way the Miami Herald characterizes folks), I do think this is an inspiring example of stregnth brilliance and...guess what? Black feminism!

Monday, September 25, 2006

and again the Lorde sayeth unto us....

“Even the form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper.”

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class and Sex" (1980) in Sister Outsider

Monday, September 18, 2006

and the Lorde sayeth

“Yet without community there is certainly no liberation, not future, only the most vulnerable and temporary armistice between me and my oppression.”
-The Cancer Journals 10/3/79

Sunday, September 10, 2006

June Jordan's Resistance List

Here's what June Jordan say characterizes the "spirit of resistance"
1. It feels terrific.
2. It knows it will prevail.
3. It’s immune to enemy assessment.
4. It agitates for one’s life, one’s soul.
5. It’s basically and ultimately collective.

What you got? Make some lists of your own!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Diaspora Flow

Check out the beautiful imagery, vision, and committment of these Sri Lankan sistas Chamandika and Pradeepa!
I met Chamindika while I was in college and I still have one of her beautiful stickers on my trusty inkjet printer (source of all t-shirt designs and graffiti stickers).

"Celebrate the radiance of movement!"

Let's talk about it!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Revolution Memories

Check out this cool online book written by a black woman mixing anthropology with political economy with hip-hop phenomenology. This writing is dead serious and seriously funny at the same time. I recommend that you favorite page it and get a daily dose of the realness!

click here to read/listen/respond


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

NO! by Aishah Simmons on Sale NOW!

Tell everyone!!!

NO! a profoundly brilliant film by Aishah Simmons on rape in the Black community
officially goes on sale at California Newsreel today!
Click here for info on buying the film!

Please forward this to educators, activists and everyone you know for
two obvious reasons that i'll restate here

1. this film makes a revolutionary impact and is NEEDED in every community
2. Aishah deserves to be fully supported in continuing to do the brave
healing warrior work that she/we be doing

Every institution that you are affiliated with should own a copy of this film!!!!


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

every where is african woman (or) everypoemiwriteisalovepoemforthepeopleilove (or) this is an epic of monumental significance that should neva end

because i never chose the white doll
or the light doll
or the doll that was someone other than me
i am not a doll

because my song is magenta watermelon
the seed slick on my skin
is jagged and open

like the birth of cool water out my throat
thats my song

question: what is the color of beauty
answer: everywhere is africana woman

but what about this box called beauty
yea what about it

we are moonlight sista
tipsy like moon light
brilliant like moon light
wandering like moon light's
blooming skin

maybe beauty is the color of queen latifa
maybe not

maybe is
the sweet grass smoothed between zachari's
fingers and twisted into a basket
"here mama, put yo peaches in this"


the cylinder of hair (smoothed around
jurina's fingers) like a glowing orange flood


manju's palm flat against an opera back


kriti's fingers cupped under a mango chin


the moan that begins is rachels belly is

the freckle that smiles off mama nancy's cheek


(i'm not done...yet, but love is coming for you all)


I remember JoAnne Little

On August 27 1974 JoAnne Little, a 20 year old black woman, killed a prison guard in who was sexually assaulting her. She had repeatedly resisted such attacks and ongoing sexual exploitation of her circumstances as the only woman in a man's jail. She was placed on death row. The details of the case speak volumes of our society's criminalization of black people, of women,of young people, and the poor. They speak of institutionalized rape and the particular vulnerability that comes with being black and a woman.

The story reminds us of another fight against rape, here on this ground. Angela Davis and other black feminists spoke up, forming a righteous and radical campaign to save JoAnne Little's life. Our struggle continues in their brave footprints...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Slaves Makin' Slaves?: A ?uestlove Mixtape

Das Kapital, Karl Marx, 1867
"Governmentality", Michel Foucault, 1978
"Do you want more?" The Roots 1995
The Repeating Island: The Caribbean and the Postmodern Perspective,
Antonio Benitez-Rojo, 1996
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty,
Dorothy Roberts, 1997
Making Men: Gender, Literary Authority and Women's Writing in
Caribbean Narrative, Belinda Edmonds, 1999
"Diaspora and the Passable Word", in The Practice of Diaspora, Brent
Edwards, 2003
"The Resistance of the Object: Aunt Hester's Scream" in In the Break,
Fred Moten, 2003
Oxford English Dictionary Entries: "diaspora", "disperse",
"immigrate", "produce", "production", "reproduce", "reproduction",
"terror", "trauma".

(read the archives of or see,,1689791,00.html?src=search&artist=%3Fuestlove
if by the end of the post the title still perplexes you)

I've been wanting to explain diaspora through an impossible sonic
planetary art installation. Here's how it goes. The next person who
tries to compare diasporas (like Jewish, Black, Caribbean,
Argentinian, Laotian) or equates diaspora with privileged migration or
(god-forbid) vacation becomes the sculpture. This person immediately
leaves whatever building we are in and stands in a public place
screaming. This person continues screaming until they drop dead
(while being fed through an IV to prolong this process). Just keeps
screaming. Can never stop screaming. And even then 1% of the rage,
pain and loss that characterizes what I mean when I say diaspora has
not been expressed. I assign this to the next contestant to save
myself from having live that scream myself.

Let's see if it works.

So last time (always) I was talking about the relationship between reproduction, oppression and the appropriation of the means of reproduction (like the photocopier.) Which makes sense...since I am obsessed with paper and ink, BUT even then I was compelled to refer to Meshell's "Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape" so...given the presence of Moten and the advent of CD's called mixtapes at around the median publication date of the texts above...let's talk about this in terms of sound.

A remark: There are black people all over the world. If I don't hear them screaming it is only because I am blinded with the brilliance of their skin as it resists the marking of capitalism.

What is the relationship between reproduction, capital, race, diaspora and freedom? According to Marx capital reproduces itself through labor power, reproduces the capitalist character of the relations by reproducing the worker as a wage-earner. I think there is a silenced black woman somewhere in that statement saying what about what I make (enslaved, at home, on welfare NOT EARNING WAGES)? What about what I make? Babies marked and crossed out because with my race it's said I pass on its natural and like I own it somewhere. What about what I make? The scream I take with stolen air naming this world that spins itself around the truth that I can be all can be raped...again and again and again.

The Roots always always include a hidden track on their records. In 1995 it was a sonic performance piece featuring Philadelphia spoken word poet Ursula Rucker called the "Unlocking". Some hip hop heads decide to gang-rape some girl. Some girl decides that this is not happening again. Some girl kills everyone with the stregnth of her words and the sound of her gun. There is a silenced black woman somewhere in here.

So why is it that Fred Moten, brilliantly explicating and riffing on the invaginated, screaming, gendered, impossible maternal moment that is the source of black radical performance that sceams value before/against exchange, does not ever say RAPE? Why is it that Antonio Benitez-Rojo claims that his is a non-sexist argument and then feminizes the Caribbean as a womb, inseminated by blood that gives and gives and gives and repeats and repeats and repeats into somesweet/nasty/gushy stuff that he finds "between the gnarled legs" of some old black women in Cuba and does not say...RAPE? Why is it that
even Belinda Edmonds, intent on not reproducing the feminized Caribbean landscape (but calling African-Americana, the Anglophone Caribbean and Africa "nations" quite easily) can talk about a "willing white woman" who is gang-raped, and a non-speaking black servant who can only be raped without pausing to tell us what do you mean by RAPE?
Belinda why when you introduce an original (and usually quite brilliant) idea do you say "I submit ________". What can your
submission mean here? Even Brent Edwatds cannot save us now. This is not a failure of translation. None of these are passable words for what is going on and on. The gulf that I am speaking across is shaped by repression, is the censored public secret that my body can be owned and used by someone else at any time. There is a silenced black woman
somewhere in here.

Listen. Diaspora is the STATE of RAPE. What is it about this violent, recurring, theft of livelihood, expropriation of land, walking on black women's bodies, over the possibility that we will create, that is silent even when present? Stand there. Keep screaming. Keep screaming. The character of capitalism witnessed and ignored again and again is rape. The experience of diaspora is the violent dispersal that scatters subjectivity, that disappears the subject; it is the trauma of rape. So how is the terror that is this global state contained?

Foucault says that governmentality is the mentality that has us think that the only thing to debate is how the government governs, deflecting any impulse to question the state (of things) itself. Therefore we are reproducing the state of rape by refusing to acknowledge it as such, as unnacceptable as a human relation. Can anyone hear this? Our dominant mode of relation on this planet is rape! Why should we be trying to understand this? As Edmonds points out even Lamming has accepted this violence (rape as such) as some precondition for decolonization. So what about what I make?

Talk to me. What can I say, what can I make that destroys the logic of the machine...that does not reproduce a relation that I cannot afford...a relation that we all silently survive?

How you sound? Will there ever be a sound structure on which this girl can stand? Let me know that you are listening...

Always: The Queerness of a Reproductive Frame

The Combahee River Collective Statement, Kitchen Table Press (1977)
Need: A Chorale for Black Women's Voices, Audre Lorde, Kitchen Table Press (1979, 1991)
I am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities , Audre Lorde, Kitchen Table Press(1984)
Cultural Identity and Diaspora, Stuart Hall (1990)
Piece of My Heart: A Lesbian of Colour Anthology (Introduction), Makeda Silvera, SisterVision Press (1991)
Punishing Drug Addicts who Have Babies: Women of Color, Equality and the Right to Privacy, Dorothy Roberts, Harvard Law Review, (1991)
Big Boots Zine (2001-2003)

Always. Like the word between love and your name in a love letter. Always. Like the pastel plastic promise that your period can become cute. Always. Like an ahistorical historicization. Like the production of eternity without witnesses. Like a recurring nightmare of hoping you exist.

This essay, informed by the works above is the place where "always" splits. Always become all ways and family, heritage and reproduction become an appropraited means for photocopying the zine quality black print of the new world in the basement of the university at 3 o'clock in the morning.

Seriously. I have been tripped up by the meaning of "reproduction" and the persistance of models of family and heritage that show up in works that I find to be foundational to my queer reading practice. What to make of this? Well...why not make what I usually illegally printed freely distrubuted copyright defiant interactive publication. (click on the brokenbeautiful press link to your right). That is to say what if the central metaphor for reproduction was not the heteronormative biology of predictable birth into property and was not mechanism through which capital generated blindness and a surplus...but was rather (in a very Benjaminian "Author as Producer" type of way) a photocopy machine, illegally used for a purpose against capital. A performative mechanism, making multiplicity that called into question the unity and coherence of the status quo and that had the lovely biproduct of making words and images defer/difffer (yes. in the Derridian sense as Hall mentions) from themselves...becoming ever darker, ever grainer, ever less able to refer back to something true...because of their relationship to darkness and light and the means of production.

Can that machine that is used to make the status quo again and again be used to make something else? And that machine is the photocopier and that machine is also the idea of ancestry (hear Etheridge Knight...on ancestry...on Me'shell Ndgeocello's Cookie the Anthropological Mixtape...and while you're at it think of the burned CD as reproductive theft...and while you're there remember that the references in this essay are a glass bottle family tree) and family and the possibility of producing a future, and the idea of being connected to a past.

In other words, what does it mean that Big Boots, my favorite women/transfolk of color post-punk zine starts with an issue (that I love) on mother's and daughters called (so that I cannot avoid this) "ancestry"? What does it mean that in Audre Lorde's "I am Your Sister" the lesbian warrior poet frames her entire analysis in the structue of family? What does it mean for the Combahee River Collective, foundational black lesbian activists, warn against biological determinism in terms of gender while being able to claim what "Black women have ALWAYS embodied...resisted"? And what does it mean for Makeda Silvera, founder of SisterVision Press to come along about 15 years later and agree "We have always existed" and "our children will know who we are"? Race, motherhood, generations and the production of the future are central to each of these queer are they...not queer?

And what about Alexis? Radical queer girl to the core who is avowedly obsessed with her mother and grandmothers and who even dreams about bald pregnancy and waterimmersed childbirth at least tri-weekly. Is she not...queer? What to make of the way she claims the very texts she is writing about now as legacy, roots....even inheritance. (I saw her buy some out of print original copies of the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press Feminist Organizing Pamphlets Series just this week!)

Well. Since unqueering my whole world is absolutely out of the question let's try this. Remember the photocopier. What if always split into all ways makes a way out. In I am Your Sister, I would argue, Lorde frames herself as reproductive not only through her status as a biological mother of black children, but also through her mentoring of poets, her publication of books, her illegal "public art" vandalist fieldtrips with other black lesbian mothers. So what if this approach to producing art out of opposition towards a liveable future by embattled and indeed often illegal means is also reproduction. Stolen. That is to say, since reproduction is a means of theft to begin with (a means of making property, a means of owning the bodies of women, a means of reinforcing an existing labour hierarchy) does the stealing of reproduction (a context from which queers are excluded from and by) reveal something fundamental, a switch on which flip the script of power? Think of this especially in the contexts of Roberts essay which argues that for black women's reproduction...their actual choice to ever give criminalized under the law in this coundtry. Reproduction in this sense is not something other than reproduction but rather the repetitive performative act based on a long lost, repressed, supressed past and looking towards a future of unlikely liberation, the proof of the lie of an eternal status quo in which we are oppressed and owned.

If so what does this have to say about the function of reproduction in the narratives of nation and diaspora? What does it mean for Audre Lorde to write "Need", strongest statement I can find against the consequences of the way that women are used and owned and raped and beaten and killed towards the building of a masculinist black subjectivity (that i would call nationalist) and frame the statement as one that enables black women to build nation. What would nation have to mean for that to make sense? (asha bandele spoke about nationalism in similar terms at the Urban Tea Party during the 2005 National Black Arts Festival in ATL GA) Ferguson might be interested in this idea of nation that refuses the heteropatriarchal.

But do you see what I mean about this pressure on words...this distance from originality? So when Stuart Hall defines diaspora as that which produces and reproduces itself again and again while at the same time insisting on Derridain differance and arguing that diaspora cannot be an attachment to a unitary past, what can he mean. Aside from his schematic constructions (scarily close to that of the creolistes) of the Americas as the child of/land of the procreative meeting of Africa and Europe I think he means diaspora can be a process of zine production and distrubution...through which the violence of dispersal becomes a relationship to the means of production that suggests an alternative.

producing the crisis: reproduction, the underclass, self-publishing or unlikely pleasure

Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order, Stuart Hall et al, 1978
Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women, Cheryl Clarke (Kitchen Table Press), 1982
Un Marquer de Paroles (preface to Chamoiseau's Chroniqu de Sept Miseries), Edouard Glissant, 1986
Order, Disorder, Freedom and the West Indian Writer, Maryse Conde (Yale French Studies), 1993
Time Binds or Erotohistoriography, Elizabeth Freeman (Social Text), 2005

What pleasure have I been hiding, even as I seek to articulate an "ethics of queer desire"? It seems that my relationship to the word "ethics", works well in terms of "accountability" and "justice" and "so on and so forth":), but when it comes to desire I believe that I may be creating an unacknowledged binary between "ethics" and "desire". In other my recent writing, our ethics is not something we adopt because it turns us on. Our ethics is something that our oppression makes necessary, that our trauma forces us into, or at the very least something that my poetic and convincing arguments make obvious, not as choice, but as an imperative. No good. Disclaiming myself to the predicament of forced poetics, I lament the fact that I have been reincorporating the energy of desire into the duty of ethics (and doing so because i need your agreement so badly) and not admitting to the pleasures that I already get, and am motivated by in this (still maligned) practice of being free. man as in Elizabeth Freeman in her convincing contribution to the "What's so Queer About Queer Studies now?" issue of Social Text points out that oppressed folks generally, and queer people specifically connect to each other across time, not merely through traumatic renewal of violence, but also through pleasure desire...and in my case booklust. I mean what is it that I am doing anyway but creating a breathless links to past and future black girls through reading back/writing back/writing towards/writing because of the fact that it turns me on? This is pleasure that I need, an ethical pleasure that requires me to face my multiple partners and fall apart YES, because of the trauma that has not stopped, but also because i want you.
How else can I explain why i keep on reading these little books by these crazy third world women who were writing circa 1982. I want to think of it as a queer desire for the maternal (the ephemeral material): black women disperse into paper and I am born. So Cheryl Clarke for example self-published, community published and republished (goshdarnit) her book of poems in 1982 with the collaboration of women as illustrators (GAIA) and typesetters, and blurb writers and printers. And she wrote about madness and trauma and pleasure. She wrote about creepy families and solid lesbian love. She wrote about embattled pleasures secreted in kitchens and women who broke her heart. She wrote about violence and silence and made them stop rhyming for a bit. She was (for me) articulating "tradition" in a way that was not biological, patriarchally reproductive, but that felt real anyway. Printing...even printing two editions...should not be called reproduction because it is unlikely, not natural clearly embattled and nonetheless as strategy that black queer women are a queer way. I still want to call that co-production. We'll see. What is clear though is that Clarke (and shortly following of course Shange, Walker, Morrison will do this too) needs to make visible the violence experienced by girls and women under the cover of race coherence such that that violence is not reproduced again.
In an brilliant and long-relevant collaboratively written monograph that thinks in careful Marxist/revisionist Marxist terms (Policing the Crisis) Hall et al seem to unwittingly reproduce the invisibility of black women or at least seem to lose the opportunity to analyze the feminization of the black labor class that is perpetually reproduced and disenfranchised. This collective does what Irigaray does (and what the third world women's movement at least from the moment of the combahee river collective statement cannot afford) and forecloses intersectionality by presentingthe struggle of unemployed blacks in the streets and women in the home as parellel struggles. What about the black women who are out in the street..what about the other,non-sensationalized violence committed against black girls and women at home? Why mention the black hustler pimp specifically and the prostitute only through Marx? Why is it so salient to quote the racist sentencing judge pointing out that "notably no west indian women have been mugged", but then not relevant to look at the gender dynamics in a masculinized unemployed/criminal underclass that they are analyzing specifically through economics of reproduction and the reproduction of an economic relationship. I guess because that is my work to do...but damn.
Glissant would seem to fall into somewhat of the same trap in his analysis of language (in his analysis of the forced and the natural as i am writing about elsewhere) but also in the preface to Chronique...where he centralizes the djobuer, marginally informally employed cart pushers in Martinique, as the site oflanguage production, code making, and logic changing resistance. This kind of masculine, tentative, magical work of course also becomes the marvelously real work of writers in the West Indies...and the male writers specifically...unsurprisingly.
Conde draws this out in her article, but I think the reproduction is still playing an invisible role in her argument, or at least some sor tof naturalized gender binary which seems only to be a slight reappropriation of the momentum of stereotype. In this text "order" is what male writers do in order to reproduce themselves and achieve their ambitions for political power. In "order" to do this they must suppress the desires and the violent experiences of women which would awaken a femininized "disorder" in the region. "Freedom" on the other hand is yet to come, and is evidently in the province of the youth. Forced poetics again? Is it that coherence requires this formulation to emerge in the configuration of a bad, but productive heterosexual dialectical coupling of order and disorder?
The concept of forced poetics (the reason that i will critique but never abandon glissant) seems to have with in it the presence of force and the structure of rape that is always being denied, repressed and suppressed. Freeman might want to insert some SandM logic to the other possibilities of a forced pleasure (like filling other things up besides she puts it). Could it be that my positionality (informed by a global order of rape that will never be necessary evil..or otherwise justified in my view at all) that puts me next to you is not to be seperated by my all consuming love for you, want for you, want for us to be free?

searching for our mother's spike heels: inheritance, subjuctivity and the perils of walking

Searching for Our Mother's Gardens, Alice Walker, 1982
The Location of Culture, Homi Bhabha, 1994
On the Postcolony, Achille Mbembe, 2001

To keep it real, I read Alice Walker's text because I felt like it and Bhabha and Mbembe because someone recalled those books to the library and I have to return them today. To keep it really real though
1. Mbembe and Bhabha teach me how to spell each other's names. Three letters, and then repeat.
2. Keeping it real is a lost cause.

Alice Walker is crazy. And thank god(dess?). How else could I justify myself? When I introduced Alice Walker to what looked like a crowed of a zillion screaming literates, I feel back on the rhythm of black matrilineal coherence. Verbatim:
"Okay. When Professor Miller offered me the opportunity to introduce Alice Walker, I screamed. (audience laughter) And then I said, 'Wait...until I tell my mother." (audience applause) When I told my mother she screamed. And then she said "Wait (long meaningful pause here) until we tell your grandmother." (the crowd is screaming and losing it in the ecstatic farce of recognition). I think this anecdote is appropriate because...."
But why did I find that anecdote so appropriate? Why did I (instinctually) know that that would be the best thing to say. (And I did know immediately that I would tell that story.) Not only because it is true, I can claim a matrilineal heritage of screaming (though maybe not of waiting...). And not only for the reason that I claimed...that Alice Walker in her work and in her determination to reclaim lost black women writers "makes me and other young black women who write believe we are possible". This is all true...but is this process of creating a legacy necessarily an act of birthing? Could she be the midwife, could we birth ourselves? Does writing, believing you can write really have anything to do with birth. At the time (and to this day in fact) I identified myself as a woman to the extent that I identified myself as a creator of possibility, of worlds, and yes...of words. But that is a personal gender identification and I would be fooling myself if I didn't acknowledge that the crowd there was invested in something far deeper than me and my personal gendered reverse engendering possibility drunk self. The always exceeds its exemplarity.
The crowd loved the story because they want to believe that black women writing is natural, despite the fact that we risk insanity even as we attempt it. The crowd loved the story because they have been taught to believe that inheritance is the way that one gets a property (confused with a possibility) like the ability to write, the privilege of introducing a famous person, the propensity to scream and to wait. And even if we didn't all want to believe it (and we do) Alice Walker certainly believes that the ability to make art depends on a genealogical process crucially related to land.
Why else would one search for our mother's gardens (collective because we are interchangeable or because we need each other so much despite the fact that we have never owned our mothers...or our mother's land or our motherlands...)? In this text the mother's garden is in Africa (where Phillis Wheatley's mother had a garden an not a pen), is in the South (where MLK countered hundreds of years of black southern dispossession and made "home" possible---made inheritance-of struggle? of consciousness? possible...somehow) , is in a quilt in the Smithsonian by an "anonymous women", is in the appropriated text of Virginia Woolf's a room one's own, is in Cuba, is in Conditions Five (which inspires Walker to proclaim "We are all lesbians"--see the Ferguson essay for more buy-in to lesbian as a radical positionality as the seventies turned eighty), is Sarah Lawrence College, is June Jordan's giggle, is definitely Zora's Eatonville, is everywhere that Walker claims by writing an essay and republishing it here under this title. Maybe this isn't inheritance. Maybe this is sharing. Our mother's are ours (are our mothers all African?) Our legacy is something that grows, that has died, that we never owned, that we have to lie and risk snakebites (and worse) to mark with a tombstone. Our children are a menace to artistic productivity, a poor substitute for character development...though maybe they can coexist...if we don't kill them.
(Rough transition I know) Bhabha uses Toni Morisson's Beloved to theorize something that haunts and doubles and splits modernity while refusing to reproduce it: the repressed time-lag of enlightenment domination through colonization and enslavement. Whereas I have been thinking about diasporic subjectivity as the experience of being haunted (even hunted...see Rita Dove) by a traumatic past (of slavery and colonialism and gendered economic violence more generally) that keeps on coming, Bhabha emphasizes the way that this diasporic subjectivity haunts a western enlightenment idea of nation that keeps trying (and failing it seems) to repress it (us). He emphasizes this haunting as a "finding the join...i want to join" (in the words of the character beloved--but also through Handsworth Songs, Sonia Sanchez etc.) as an impetus for solidarity or a new way of thinking the international through the minoritarian haunting within the socalled nation in the postcolonial moment.
Is there a new way of thinking the region in this postcolonial moment. I missed it if Mbembe offered such a possibility in his articulation of the Afro-Continental temporal category "the post-colony". I think Mbembe succeeds in writing a social theory of contemporary Africa for contemporary Africa (if this means insisting on Africa as it's own complicated context and not as the empty imaginary required by the west...though I don't know who he really wants to buy and read and respect this book), to the extent that Africa holds as a category inherently. I am interested in the way that male domination, vulgarity, virility, emasculation and attention to orifice come up in this text...because it seems incomplete. What are the actual gender dynamics in an"emasculated" postcolonial economy run by indirect private control? What is the relationship between rape of Africa and rape in Africa? I won't do this, but it would have been interesting to write about this text next to Wynter's because it makes me want to know more about the relationship between Africa and the "new world" in the development of a violent western imaginary in her framework. I am so thoroughly impressed and convinced by this text as a useful explication of the economics of colonialism and the present that I almost forget to ask why it is that it is violence and vulgarity that make this text's eloquence. Why is Africa complicated and compelling because of terror and death and nothingness and martyrdom? Professor Spivak would ask Mbembe what his privilege and or position is. What does he get from this presentation..who does he become? What does he enable or foreclose? What does he inherit or pass on?
What (in)deed.

black girls rule the world

Three million cheers for the launching of The Coup! A magazine highlighting the voices of black women in the diaspora and edited by two brilliant young black women who I love!

Check out my article "Improvising Peace in a Moment After Faith" in the premier issue on Revolution and Love!