Sunday, December 10, 2006

if you will: a premature proposition

Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in all its Phases, Ida B. Wells, 1892
A Red Record: Lynchings in the United States, Ida B Wells, 1895
American Imperialism and the British West Indies, Claudia Jones, 1958
Poems from Prison, Etheridge Knight, 1968
Novel and History, Plot and Plantation, Sylvia Wynter, 1971
Sula, Toni Morrison, 1973
"The Politics of Intimacy: A Discussion", Hortense Spillers, 1979
I am Becoming My Mother, Lorna Goodison, 1986
Rotten Pomerack, Merle Collins, 1992
Moorings and Metaphors, Karla Holloway 1992
Mother Love, Rita Dove, 1995
Black Feminist Criticism, Barbara Christian, 1997
The Truth That Never Hurts: Writing on Race Gender and Freedom, Barbara Smith, 1998
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill, 1998
Constructing the Black Masculine, Maurice Wallace, 2002
Passed On: African American Mourning Stories, Karla Holloway, 2002
Comfort Woman, Me'shell Ndgeocello, 2003
Love, Toni Morrison, 2003
Becoming Black: Creating Identity in the African Diaspora, Michelle Wright, 2004
Poon Tang Clan (aint nuthin to f*ck with), Ursula Rucker, (on Etherbeat Radio 12/10/06 5:40pm)
Children's Poem, Ursula Rucker, from ma'at mama, download the lyrics here

I'm not ashamed. Call it attention deficit, call it audio-visual-linguistico gluttony, call it what you will. I require simultaneous simulation to stay present. So while I spent bright noon til midnight typing up notes for the readings I;ve been doing this week I also listened to Etherbeat internet radio all day long. The reason that you all should listen to Etherbeat as well is that they played (granted over the course of about six hours)...two differently brilliant tracks from the same brave Philly inspired embraced Ursula Rucker spoken-word hiphop revision CD ma'at mama (a reference to something kemetic about balance). So in the break between the laugh out loud sistas fighting back militant (but not seperatist) feminist re-take of Wu-Tang clan's anthem "Poon Tang Clan (ain't nuthin to f*ck with) where Rucker ventriloquistically names herself "street mother to my sista girls" and her featured co-warrior (who suggest that she may have recorded her section over the phone from prison says "represent the earths on lockdown sis" between that set up...where mother and sister are proper meanings for each other because of the landscape we scream out of and the later "Children's Poem" framed as "not just another poem about children and this is not just another poem, this is a prayer, a lament, a dirge if you will". In the break (hours and hours long) between protest and prayer, between raw revision and rawist reality I propose that this spilling thing that I leave here
is both prayer and problem and pause and process. So read it if you want. Out loud.
Why should mother and sister mean the same thing? In the context of Love, Toni Morrison's not-so-beautifully but necessary reprise of Sula, when an 11-year old girl (defenseless) can be sold by her father as a bride to a grandfatherly old playboy and become the technical grandmother to her playmate sistergirl lifepartner true love and when the only respectable father figure in the text says to his only redeemable character grandson that when you find a good woman you just stay there...whether she's your wife, mother, sister, co-worker interchangeably it seems a problem that a woman can be anything and is only good if she is interchangably defined based on her usefulness to men. So why should mother and sister mean anything?
Except that women use these words too. Except that girls like Sula and Nel and Heed and Christine make up their own languages to say their love because they know that it is technically irrelevant and will be violently ignored. Except that when other women say that Sula and Nel or Heed and Christine are interchangable...have the same dream and somehow have no difference between them they mean yes. that they will be used as needed in the interests of heteropatriarchy, but also that they embody a subjectivity that doesn't need exclusion and inpenetrability to be, they are the possibility of embrace as they face each other and become "two throats and one eye and we had no price" in the words of Sula.
Michelle Wright (in truly the most convincing and theoretically clear book that I've read in all these nine months) would call this a dialogic subjectivity. Instead of the racist dialectics that negate the black negation to create a white subject that hides its intersubjectivity with a black subject, and instead of a black masculinist response to this dialectic that reveals the process of negation and reverses creating an impenetrable black subject Wright says that Carolyn Rodgers, but mostly Audre Lorde enacts a dialogic mode of subjectivity that says that difference is not is in dialogue. So the mother and the daughter ventriloquize each other and the differently positioned women articulate each other as needs and the subject is always intersubjective (always so no one is thetical and so no one is antithetical and subjectivity is not really produced dialectically...subjectivity is produced by dialogue which rejects the nation form (which requires a bounded subject) and enables a diaspora defined not by a uniformly shared history or authenticity but by a dialogue.
What would Wynter...committed as she is (see last weeks rant) to the maintainance of a radical alterity through which to provoke a true dialectical synthesis say to this? Wynter's insistence on radical alterity is in part a response to the Creolist celebration of what they would call a synthesis but which is premature because situation of the black, the colonized the impoverished is still a space of social death and imprisonment which constitutes (or is acceptable because of) a view of some would-be humans as others who define the normal, capital accumulating, non-criminal global middle class as human. But Wynter also calls the new relation that she wants to create (as much in the tradition of the humanists as Wright is in the tradition of Bakhtin) a poetics. A way of relating to the which she means the natural environment that we are ignoring and destroying as much as anything else. Could it be that Wright agrees with Wynters 1971 statement that the Caribbean is a "plantation" space because it was "planted with people" to reproduce a market system and not a social relationship and that what Wright requires is what Wynter requires which is the rejection of the marketing of whole finished selves to be and others to deny and the engagement with a true social conversation that allows us (street mother to my sister girls...represent the earths on lockdown sis) to change our environment through what we learn we need (each other)?
If so Karla Holloway (always, always doing the right thing it seems)'s Moorings and Metaphors takes on this task in the form of intertextual anaylsis, bringing African American fiction into conversation with African women's writing setting up a lineage and a "legitimtate ancestry" (which i still question) which nonetheless allows for a context in which blackw women's "ways of saying" are theorized based on their secret language, articulated relationships with each other instead of their insertion into a patriarchal theoretical lineage of words owned by men (which by they way...Wynter and Wright may still technically be doing). Barbara Christian tackles this same problematic, being careful to mention the ancient mariner and engles and whoever else in the introduction which is really a conversation with her young daughter...but being at least equally careful to historicize the figurations of motherhood within African and Afro-American literature so that her final conclusion is that motherhood is an "angle of seeing" a particular perspective and not an ontological epistemology then...which may make her two statements in different context 1. lesbianism as sexual autonomy from men is the most radical critique of patriarchy (revelation of patriarchy as a narrative) and 2. motherhood as a way of looking that means affirming life and demanding living to be free...echoes of each other. Like Sula and Nel. Girl, girl, girlgirlgirl.
So why should mother and sister mean anything? Why take so much time figuring out a secret language that says we love each other when so many people, so many structures are determined to ignore what we are saying (love. i really. hey celestial. girlgirlgirl) as jibberish. Simply because it is a matter of life and death. Just as Ursula Rucker refuses not to talk about the sexual predation on black girls from all sides, killing happens in a number of ways. Someone said that violence can be gentle (i think it was merle collins) and certainly violence is gendered. So when a year or two ago after a first reading of Holloway's beautiful beautiful memorial Passed On our Af Am literary and cultural theory class was prompted to ask...on behalf of daughters and sisters and girls but how do girls die? I had to (and i usually have to) think about rape. Much like foresista/motherlady Ida B. Wells had to say at the end of the 1800's that refusing to think of the law of the land in a way that recognizes black people as human means not only that black people can be lynched at anytime, not only that black women can be raped without reprisal (invisible outrage), not only that democracy is not here at all, but also that every black person needs to have gun. Period. Ellison says its not likely that American will stop being racist...that black folks had to act accordingly. Which tells me that settlement is an impossible violent and delusional project. About rape Or more specifically about how the relationship to land...the process of plant...ation if you will, the woman as earth on lockdown that reproduce the absurd sense that the earth should be lockdown like we're doing is a murder. That as Christian says the "death-producing ideology of motherhood" demands that someone steal the meaning of motherhood back into the problematic intersubjectivity that motherhood means that our audacity in call each other mother and sister (that's you mamasistas zachnancyebonynayo) calling each other into our names is a problem that say everytime we say is (i see you sista) that it is impossible to own land. Or Poon Tang Clan ain't nuthin to f*ck with. So f-what you heard. Even if I have to imagine an outerspace (me'shell says "i come from a world made of love", holloway says the complexity of black women's writing is "extra-territorial") even if i have to make myth black unicorn languages to say it...sister and mother require the same thing of me. I love my girls.

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