I just returned from hearing Rita Dove, poet and professor, read from the published Penguin Anthology of 20th Century Poetry (which she edited). She is full of fun and laughter and sarcastic good humor. I would be her best friend if I could. She signed my journal and left a blessing: “Fill these pages with your songs.”
Thinking a lot of academy thoughts this week. Reading Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower.
Dr. Brown just articulated better than I ever could what it is like being a College Educated Negress:
Where can students of color get intellectual validation that does not require them to so fully assimilate that they lose the best of themselves, their families,and their cultures? It occurred to me that through grade school and high school we had learned to compete, to keep up, but not to surpass; to stand alongside but not in front; to fit in but not to reshape.*
Standing alongside you begin to know the discomfort of ghosts.
And that pressure to assimilate, to choose between where your family is and where you are…well.
That feels a lot like the dissonance of being raised under the determined, near frantic optimism of a colorblind, post-Movement, Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father seething with internalized racism in cocaine80s Chicago.
And that feels a lot like wanting things and not having them and striving for things and not getting them, and dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s and still watching the goal move further away again and again and again, and picking up Piri Thomas for help and picking up Cherríe Moraga for help and picking up, good gawd, and picking up and holding close and hugging Gwendolyn Brooks for help and good heavens almighty, it feels like picking up Octavia and picking her brain and reading every word and holding her hand when things were too much….
And it feels a lot like frustration and tastes bitter as blood. Because Piri is dead now. And it took over 24 hours for an obituary to post. And I never had a chance to tell him what his work meant to me. And Gwendolyn is dead. And she lived in Chicago. And I, knuckle-head high schooler I was, missed the chance to tell her what she meant to me. And Octavia is dead. And she lived half a country away and I was never gonna get to tell her what she meant to me but damn if only I could have.
And it feels like the cold that sweeps across the back of your neck when you realize a mentor you loved like a father…his facebook page is still active. Active. Alive. Living. And you want to post something but you can’t. Because how do you tell someone that you are also active.alive.living now but only because they lived? How do you tell someone that you have survived this far in part because of what they were and that you are remembering them all the time and regretting every phone call you didn’t make and even that doesn’t make you feel better because you know they knew that they knew that you knew you were loved anyway. That nothing you could do could lose their love for you.
And it feels like ……..
But is also full of promise.
After all, here I am. Writing stuff. Grateful for things like Facebook profiles and black Latinidad Twitter communities and emails from mentors that affirm that “yes, I check it too” and voices who check in with me from across social media to say, “Hey there. Hey. Hear my voice.”
I am still here. Writing stuff. Thinking thoughts. I haven’t disappeared yet.
*Leslie Brown, “How a Hundred Years of History Tracked Me Down,” Telling Histories: Black Women Historians and the Ivory Tower, 262
weeks months, I’ve been trying to do a Thursday Readin’ post on Nisi Shawl’s short story “Maggies.”
“Maggies,” from speculative fiction author Nisi Shawl’s 2008 Tiptree award-winning short story collection Filter House, will make any self-respecting Sable Fan Gyrl cheer and vomit at the same time. Set in the future-verse colony of New Bahama, the narrator is a young, gender-neutral protagonist sent to live with their father after their mother falls ill.
ROBOTS OF BRIXTON
Brixton has degenerated into a disregarded area inhabited by London’s new robot workforce – robots built and designed to carry out all of the tasks which humans are no longer inclined to do. The mechanical population of Brixton has rocketed, resulting in unplanned, cheap and quick additions to the skyline.
The film follows the trials and tribulations of young robots surviving at the sharp end of inner city life, living the predictable existence of a populous hemmed in by poverty, disillusionment and mass unemployment. When the Police invade the one space which the robots can call their own, the fierce and strained relationship between the two sides explodes into an outbreak of violence echoing that of 1981.
via Factory Fifteen. Another interesting video features an ambiguously brown girl or young woman, riding a train through “a suggestive re-representation of the existing and possible future.” Lots of dark and twisty metal and empty spaces in this one. #Prophetic
And if you still haven’t checked out “White” by A. Sayeeda Clarke, also full of speculative, afro-boricua futuristic goodness, then you are missing out.
In other news, N. K. Jemisin is dropping early chapters of the third book in her mind-blowing Inheritance trilogy, “The Kingdom of the Gods.” And while I can’t look because I know I’ll be hooked and then all I’ll be able to do is curl up in a little ball on the floor of my room and rock and moan until the entire book is available for purchase, I encourage you to check them out.
Seriously. Check them out. And if you haven’t bought the first two in the trilogy, make that happen too. Especially all yall who wanna buzz about the Help and justify your $15 movie ticket purchase with some foolishness about supporting black actresses. Want to support black women making art? Let’s go. Don’t read books? Buy it for a girl of color in your life who does (and yeah, I’m looking at you non-poc folks as well. You’ve got at least one black friend. Buy it for them. They’ll appreciate it. They may even thank you).
Besides, a book is whole lot cheaper than a movie ticket these days.
Like it or not, ‘The Help’ is the talk of the interwebs. Some folks love it, many folks hate it, others just don’t know what the big deal is.
In case you have yet to read the Association of Black Women Historian’s beautiful, eloquent and concise statement on why ‘The Help’ is problematic, faux-Civil Rights history, you should check it out here (Zora Walker also posted it to Tumblr, for your reblogging ease and pleasure). Reblog, repost, re-Facebook the statement EVERYWHERE. They are the experts. They paid their dues. They know what they are talking about.
But let’s say you still don’t see what the big deal is–or you loved the book/movie and you just want to be well informed on all perspectives. Or you just need help understanding the whole history. Never fear! Zora Walker has your back. Click away and get your mind right. Then decide for yourself how you feel about Stockett’s work.
#MacheteBehavior after the jump:
Aww man what a week. Just caught this via the Carl Brandon Society’s Twitter:
It is with profound sadness that we have to inform you that our beloved sister and friend, Leslie Esdaile, (“L.A. Banks”) is most gravely ill. She has been diagnosed with late stage adrenal cancer.
She is facing an uphill battle in her struggle with serious illness. Please know that as Leslie needs all of her energy in this fight, she is absolutely not able to receive visitors, answer emails, texts or phone calls, or receive flowers. What she is able to receive is your continued prayers.
Also, Leslie’s medical expenses are mounting at an astronomical rate. If you wish to assist Leslie, a fund has been established to help with these ever increasing expenses. If you wish to send donations (please note that donations are not tax-deductible). For further information on how to donate, please see the donations page.
…I woke up this morning
And I put on my walkin’ shoes
I’m goin’ down the road
Cause I got them walkin’ blues
I’m just a stranger here
I’m just a stranger there
I’m just a stranger everywhere
Sometimes I know that I would go home (I would go home)
But I’m a stranger there…
I’m just a stranger here
I’m just a stranger there
Good God, you know
I’m just passing through
Passing through your town.
I would stay
But your people keep on doggin’ me ’round….
“Stranger Blues,” Sweet Honey in the Rock
And when I heard it, I heard these lines: