I Need to Write

“First forget inspiration.  Habit is more dependable.  Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.  Habit will help you finish and polish your stories.  Inspiration won’t.  Habit is persistence in practice.”

Octavia E. Butler. “Furor Scribendi.” In Bloodchild and Other Stories, 137-144. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2005.  (emphasis mine)


“And one soon learned that the wild, transcendent moments which occurred at dances or “battles of music,” moments in which memorable improvisations were ignited, depended upon a dedication to a discipline which was observed even when rehearsals had to take place in the crowded quarters of Halley Richardson’s shoeshine parlor.  It was not the place which counted, although a large hall with good acoustics was preferred, but what one did to perfect one’s performance.”

Ralph Ellison, “Hidden Name and Complex Fate” (1964)

Woman to Writer

“Ellison emphasizes the individual as an artist, the individual as a
person (man) of color growing and creating in this world.  As a woman
of color that doesn’t apply to me.  (I would argue it doesn’t apply to
men either.  Mr.’s favorite argument with me is that I haven’t
influenced him because he’s gotten to where he’s gotten to on his own. 
Word?  If I had a dollar for every late night phone call of moral
support I could pay my own tuition.  Privilege works in the silences,
but male privilege is still amazing to me.)  It doesn’t apply to the
women I am researching, women who survived slavery not by standing
alone in their unique experience but because they drew on networks and
knowledge of their mothers, aunts, and sisters (and fathers, brothers,
and lovers) before them.  And alongside them.  And passed those
resources on, which were worth more than money, because a wealth in
people replenishes itself. “

In “A Writer Because of Her Children,” a 1976 review/reflection on Buchi Emecheta’s novel, Second Class Citizen, Alice Walker writes that Emecheta “integrates the profession of writer into the cultural concept of mother/worker that she retains from Ibo society.” 


I am a writer who is a historian who is struggling to integrate profession of historian/academic into the cultural concept of woman/activist/artist that I retain from my Afro-diasporic experience as a young black and Puerto Rican woman of color growing up in a post-60s, post-70s, Hip Hop generation, post-feminism/pro-womanism world.


I am sure Emecheta struggled with a myriad of such labels including being a woman, being an Ibo woman, a mother, working-class, immigrant, and artist. 

We already know that Alice Walker struggled with being a mother and a writer herself. 

I guess the question is, in what way am I historian because I am all of these things.  Or do I need, like Ellison seems to suggest, to take a sabbatical from the world, go into my little corner, and punch out 500 pages of genius, historical scholarship?


good questions.   

Yup, Lauryn is back on the blog.  I don’t know why I always return to this song in the early morning hours when I’m frustrated, can’t sleep, unsettled, and anxious.  I gotta find peace of mind…

I can feel a silence creeping up on me, crawling up from my chest, spreading its tentacles across my shoulders.  It is reaching up my neck, wrapping around my throat.  It almost has me. 

If it could, silence would choke me.  Forever.

I don’t know where it comes from.  I am not the only one who has felt it–if I only knew what it was.  This is obviously a problem for someone whose profession is focused on research, reading and writing.  For someone who sees herself as a writer, an artist.

“For I feel that the new emphasis on literary critical theory is as hegemonic as the world which it attacks.  I see the language it creates as one which mystifies rather than clarifies our condition, making it possible for a few people who now that particular language to control the critical scene–that language, surfaced, interestingly enough, just when the literature of people of color, of black women, of Latin Americans, or Africans, began to move to “the center.”

Christian, Barbara. “The Race for Theory (1987).” In New Black Feminist Criticism, 1985-2000, edited by Gloria Bowles, M. Giulia Fabi, and Arlene R. Keizer, 250. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.  (emphasis mine)

TechnoAfroCats Read Wild Seed

Hear ye, Hear ye:

A message to all members of Quirky Black Girls

Hey all,
 Just a quick note to let everyone know that the fabulous long-distance sci-fi reading group at Quirky Black Girls will be reading Octavia Butler’s Wildseed and discussing it in a forum right here on qbg!

  So go get the book from your public library or independent bookseller or half.com or whatever and look for details on the main site.

Also If you haven’t copped the new Muhsinah or The Foreign Exchange you are missing out! To check out her sound, see qbg Jah’s video post of “construction” in the videos section.

Also shouts out to our growing international qbg contingent!


Visit Quirky Black Girls at: http://quirkyblackgirls.ning.com

Why Nuñez Daughter?

As I was pondering the purpose of this blog, an email popped into my inbox.  I was moved to respond immediately.  The email is not here but below is what I wrote.

Maybe it answers the question. 



I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your note.   I’ve been struggling this summer–and now this fall–to find my place in the “A”cademy.  In an academy that denies amazing women of color tenure, that abuses them in their classrooms, denigrates their research, and then writes them back out of the narrative.  I’ve gone back and forth with myself about what it means to be a part of such a violent structure, about what activism means in such a context, and what social justice can be done when sometimes I feel more like an oppressor than a liberator.  More oppressed than liberated.

Your note is an example of everything I hate about this business. 

But it is also reaffirms everything I love about the work we do.  Who will write our stories if we don’t, whether that is in the form of a monograph, a film, a song or a dance?  As teachers and professors, who will make those demands in the classroom if we don’t–even if all it means sometimes is that we are the embodied, physical, radical force of change because we are brown, female bodies in front of the chalkboard?  Just that, to me, is so much.  It means so much to those black women in your classroom.  It means so much to that black male professor who has to justify his own sexism–who will have to consider these questions, even if he does not realize it, every time he writes a new syllabus or answers a question on women of color radicalism.  Who will have to deny his own knowledge because your presence has played a part in changing the script.  Who otherwise would never be asked because certainly white men and white women (true allies excluded) are not asking him these questions. 

Just that…is a lot.

Of course, it is not everything.  I know that.  But I find hope, faith and love in the little things.  I like to think Ella, Fannie and Zora did too.  That Alice, Toni, Tera, Kim, Elsa, Sharon, Mary Helen, Stephanie M. H., Jennifer Morgan, Jennifer Spear and countless others do too.   That at this moment, they are pondering the same questions, and feeling the same pain, that you do.  That we do. 

This work is so important.  We need to know our mother’s names.  We need to be our own griots.  Because who else is going to speak our fears, dreams, and struggles into existence?  We must be our mothers’ daughters.  I am my mothers’ daughter.  Her name is Sandra Nuñez.  My grandmother’s names are Mary Nuñez and Mae Johnson.  These are important names, not because they wrote books, marched, taught, picketed, or worked.  But because they lived.   My sisters are Kristin Iris Johnson and Christina Aquino.  We call Christina by “Tina.”  Kristin writes under the pen name “K. Iris Nuñez.”  Even as we battle against racist, heterosexist power structures of research, writing and publishing, she is resurrecting my mother’s name, making it even more holy by making it art. 

I love your subject line.  Take Over. 

We deserve the same 500 books written about us as Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, or George Washington. 

Isn’t there a book lust section on the Firewalker’s blog?  If not, I’d like to add that as a widget (if I have the admin privileges to do so).  Let’s use this radical media that is the internet to do the work that it can do.  I know countless radical women of color are hard at work doing that.  The Cyber-Quilt is growing (www.cyberquilt.wordpress.com).  Let’s add to it.  And not just on the revolutions of the 50s and 60s because that is just the culmination of work women of African descent have been doing for centuries, and it is just one part of the work black women have done for their communities.  That work included making breakfast in the morning, working two jobs to send the kids to school, taking in that random cousin that popped up with a mysteriously bruised cheek, the fear and pain out and praying on the church bench or at the altar in the evening.  The Combahee Survival Project is in action (combaheesurvival.wordpress.com).    Let’s workshop.  Let’s teach and inspire.  Those young women in your class–bring them aside if you must.  Let’s mentor.  Let’s inspire.  And let’s dance–because working hard is no good without playing hard.  Let’s make art (www.saartjeproject.org). 

These are some of the women, sisters and mothers who inspire me, in addition to ones mentioned already.  Yes, they are all historians or do historical work, although they don’t all do the 20th century or 20th century U.S..  Or even live in the 20th century.  Still, let your professor put that in his pipe and smoke it.  Black women’s histories by black women from all across time.  Probably as you wrote that email I was rehearsing black women naming in my office here in D.C.; writing names in colored marker on index cards and taping them around my room.  So I would never forget:

Kimberly Springer
Chana Kai Lee
Darlene Clark Hine
Tera Hunter
Deborah Gray White
Stephanie M. H. Camp
Jennifer Morgan
Elsa Barkley Brown
Sharon Harley
Francille Rusan Wilson
Hilary Jones
Anna Julia Cooper
Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson
Ida B. Wells
Brenda Stevenson
Aisha Kamaria Finch
Tamara Walker
Sheila Walker
Rachel Harding
Jessica Marie Johnson
Kendra Tappin
Tanji Gilliam
Treva B. Lindsey
Leslie Brown
Rafia Zafar
Nell Irvin Painter
Leslie Harris
Carla Peterson

And that is just off the top of my head.  As I write this email.  I just kept adding to it as I edited the content.  And look how long already.

Has a history of black female historians been written yet, a la Wilson’s work on black female social scientists? 

If not…this is work…WE should do…

And the archive…can begin…HERE. 

Keep on fighting, sis.  We have your back.  Remember to rest, do some self-care this weekend.  Chocolate is good.  Brown and sweet like us :)  Play some Erykah.  Some JM.  Some Santogold.  Some J*Davey. 

And imagine warm hugs from me, across the country though I am, because I am sending some to you with love. 

Peace.  En lucha.  En paz.

ps. Consider this my love letter to you :)  And to all of us.  Myself included.