We Collect Inspiration: Tamara Natalie Madden

via Black Girls Rock:

Black Girls Rock: What has been your greatest challenge in your career?

Tamara: The sacrifice. Being an artist requires a lot of sacrifice. It requires patience, and faith. It can be a challenging journey with lots of bumps along the way. Unfortunately, in the art world, I’m not just considered an artist; I am ‘black’, then ‘woman’, then ‘artist.’ All of those titles present there own unique set of obstacles. In addition, to trying to meander my way through the visual art world, while being taken seriously, and not loosing my integrity; I have to be an educator. It’s essential that the new generation of black children learn about the arts, and the value of the arts. They need to understand that art is an investment, which will benefit them for many generations. They also need to know that art is the keeper of history in many cases; it’s an essential doorway to their ancestors.

Read the rest….

Old Dead White Men Who Did it Right

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if I had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost, “Fire and Ice” (1920)

More Than One Way to Die

Maybe after a certain point we don’t grow.  Maybe we just do somersaults in place, repeating our old mistakes over and over, person by person, relationship by relationship, as we work as we age, as we gray, as our hips round, as our children emerge from between our thighs, as we work, as we date, as we get engaged, as we break engagements, as we marry, as we become widows, as we work, as we age, as we gray…..

Maybe, after a certain point, we learned all that we will be allowed to learn.  Maybe, after a certain point, all we have are the shells of ourselves society allowed us to have, brown clay pressed out in shapes formed at eight, ten, eighteen years old, back when the world was still shiny and new.  Back when we were princesses.

An Un-Comprehensive Examination of My Favorite Spec Fic Bad Girls

*spoilers involved here*

Watching Tin Man on Netflix, I realized that I love me some Azkadellia.  In fact, the downslope of the mini-series for me starts when D.G. (Zooey Deschanel’s next gneration “Dorothy Gale”) remembers that Azkedellia isn’t really an evil sorceress–she’s actually her sister possessed by an ancient, really evil sorceress.

(Correspondingly, the best part of the series is when an adolescent albeit possessed “Az” sucks the life out of her little sis while quoting ominous but musical nursery rhymes about their future battle to the death. But I digress….)

All of which reminded me that sometimes the character we really root for is the villain.  Double if the villain is a woman.  Double oodles if it is a woman of color.

When I sat down and really thought about it, there are a couple other spec fic bad girls who make me want to jump up and down and dabble in the dark arts:

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Tayari Jones on Getting Over Penvy

Get your mind out of the gutter.  The other penvy:

We all get marked up with the green pen from time to time. There’s no crime in that. I am not saying that your are not allowed to criticize other writers or this crazy industry. Yet, there’s is a problem when you become overly concerned with(and angry about)the success of others. This is a warning sign that you are headed down a slippery slope into paralysing bitterness.

Her simple advice?

When you are working, you feel better about yourself. After all, writing is what makes you a writer. And when you feel like a writer, you are less worried about the latest celebrity book deal. Your mind is on your characters on your poetry, on your art….

And remember, you started writing because you love to write. When I say get to work, I am not telling you to pick up a hammer and start breaking rocks. When I say get to work, I’m saying get back to you. Get back to where you started from when you said you wanted to be a writer, when you didn’t know anything about the business.

I say again:  “You started writing because you love to write…Get back to you.”

::picks up pen::

How Do You Draw a Rape?

“From sugar, to investment in planter-dominated banks, to, of course, the trade in slaves itself, the whole plantation complex stank of the arousal of rape.”

~Edward E. Baptist, “”Cuffy,” “Fancy Maids,” and “One-Eyed Men”: Rape, Commodification, and the Domestic Slave Trade in the United States,” American Historical Review 106 (December 2001), 1619-1650.

I am #nowreading Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende.  It’s like watching a car accident, a collision of metal, glass and soft, meaty human bodies, in slow motion.  Into the blender, hit mix, tear flesh from bone, coat the glass red, hemoglobin run a muck under the relentless pressure of some outside violence, ignore the scream of the gears, the turning blades as bone matter resists, but, no, push through, taking, tearing, plunging forward simply because you have the power to do so.  Rip apart, swirl together, then call it pacification, christianization, civilization, natural order of Man.

I’ve spent almost a week sitting in the heart of slavery.  Above and beyond my usual scholarship, teaching and service, I attended the Middle Passages: Histories and Poetics conference at CUNY-Graduate Center.  The conference was curated by (or dj-ed, or conjured as different participants noted at different times) by Herman Bennett, professor of history at CUNY, who specializes in early Latin American history.  The conference, which included keynote speeches by Eve Troutt Powell and Saidiya Hartman, tackled the complex relationship between histories of slavery and literatures of slavery, a relationship that in reality is wrapped up in the credo that “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”

For me, one of the most intense manifestations of the legacy of slavery is the acute vulnerability of black women (re: “any and all African descent”) to the permutations of global economies, political regimes and everyday caprice.  It is a vulnerability that is so old (re: slavery began in the 15th century) that violence enacted on the bodies and selves of women of African descent is so commonplace as to be hardly worth mentioning.

So that when I picked up Island Beneath the Sea on Monday, I knew that reading it would be a difficult experience.  I didn’t realize how much.  If only it were simply a matter of dealing with Zarité, the slave woman born of a rape, subjected to rape, all of her incredible mental and spiritual energies consigned to the limits imposed upon her by a heteropatriarchal slave regime–then perhaps I could digest it.  It sounds amazing, but years of practice consuming the politics of power and resistance at slavery’s core has imbued me with a willful sadomasochism.  That is to say, as a survivor of slavery (yes, these hundreds of years later), I attack the history with the zeal, empathy, passion and fury that…well, that only a rape-crisis counselor could understand.

But it is not just that.

Because the Island Beneath the Sea is set in the context of the Haitian Revolution.  So it is not only about a woman (after all, was she ever a child?) struggling to be a woman in a world that will not recognize her.  It is also about a world that will not recognize an entire people (re: slaves) and their aspirations for freedom…and a people that will not recognize the festering, decomposing core which the logic of slavery relies on.  It is about the contradiction at the heart of the making of the modern world.

How to digest that?  How to write that?  How do you draw a rape?