The stage is in darkness. Harsh music is heard as dim blue lights come up. One after another, seven women run onto the stage from different exits….
The lady in brown comes to life and looks at the other ladies….
These days, my mother fights the camera. She sees each photo taken as a violation.
But there are older images of her. Carefree, fresh and open. Dreaming and willing to dream. The woman who took photography class and experimented with black and white film and rolled her hair on top of her head and dabbed her lips with gloss and arched her eyebrows just so and then — SNAP — captured.
I think my grandmother saw it too. She saw herself in her daughter-in-law’s eyes. Brown, big-skinned woman with a one-way ticket from Troy, Alabama to Chicago, Illinois. Who fought her deacon father almost to his death bed for her right to live. Who changed her mind, in the end, and reconciled.
Who raised the man who broke my mother’s heart. And my sisters’ hearts. And mine.
My aunt in these images is as beautiful as ever. And I wonder how this woman remained vibrant and rebellious.
Puerto Rico is so strong in her skin.
I don’t have many bad images of my father. After all, no one takes pictures intending to capture the dark, the tortured, the insecure. You want to capture the joyful.
The celebratory. The beautiful in the extreme.
But we are more than clip art. We carry legacies of pain in our bones. And his face is my face.
And his faults are my own.
#AncestressWork isn’t easy.
It is a difficult exercise–focusing only on the women I love. It isn’t natural to me. I was raised in the happy absence of glorified manliness but I am still a woman in this world.
And man still means authority, rule, law. The center.
I can’t blame you for the decisions I make. But I can blame you for the fear your decisions bred in me. And love you anyway
The archive I create and am creating and that my future self is already cataloguing is a hall of women. This gives me a place to begin.
Supporting Sunday’s Rainbow Reclamations ritual from a distance,