Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Born Palestinian Born Black: Notes from a Born Again Black Feminist

"Blackstudies", from New York Head Shop and Museum, Audre Lorde, 1974
Between Ourselves, Audre Lorde, 1976
"From the House of Yemanja", from The Black Unicorn, Audre Lorde, 1978
Heresies 8: Third World Women: The Politics of Being Other, 1979
Black Lesbians: A Bilbliography, compiled by JR Roberts, Foreword by Barbara Smith, 1981
"Need: A Chorale for Black Women's Voices" from Chosen Poems: Old and New, Audre Lorde, 1982
"Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred and Anger" from Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde, 1983
"Moving Towards Home" from Living Room, June Jordan 1985
"A Question of ESSENCE" and "Diaspora" from Our Dead Behind Us, Audre Lorde 1986
Born Palestinian, Born Black , Suheir Hammad, 1996
Drops of This Story, Suheir Hammad, 1996
White Money/Black Power: The Surprising History of African American Studies and the Crisis of Race in Higher Education, Noliwe Rooks, 2006

I was supposed to be somewhere this morning. But alas, today is the day that I had to return Suheir Hammad's Drops of This Story and Born Palestinian-Born Black to the library (and unfortunately Harlem River Press only printed a few copies...and I can't afford to pay 55 bucks for each...though if someone would like to gift them to me....). Anyway the point is...I blew off everything and spent the morning in bed reading.

This may not have been the right thing to do (or at least i could have handled it better...by actually rescheduling my appointment at special collections before i missed it) this was definitely not the wrong thing to do. Suheir Hammad (who I first heard read at the "Poetry is Not a Luxury" symposium in honor of Audre Lorde at CUNY and who then graced my Durham grown, boredom-bred Choosing Sides students with her Brooklyn broiled confrontationality and style) is writing about Diaspora.

Drops of This Story, exemplifies what it means to move across water, to thirst for home. It is a song for the landless, it is Oya landing. Drops of this story shook me with the bravery of its revelation (this is a story by a survivor about survival) and the boldness of it's form. The story itself is a water passage, maybe rain, maybe tears, maybe sweat, maybe departing the red sea. Maybe blood then. Diaspora is a thing. To be. Survived.

But when blood runs in the street (in Beruit, in Brooklyn) it don't follow no patriarchal line. Hammad builds a lineage, not DNA bound, but broken out of poetic influence and shared survivals. Hammad's songs are not national anthems, but rather rallying cries for the solidarity that we are already building, unacknowledged through our suffering. This Audre Lorde Poetry Prize recipient, makes love to concrete, citing Ntozake Shange and offering a book-length answer to June Jordan's statement that she was "Born a Black woman but now am become Palestinian. Hammad born Palestinian (...a revolutionary statement in itself since the world accepts gag money...denying that such a place as Palestine exists) was articulating what it meant to be a poet outloud, an oppressed person, an immigrant, a brown person, someone declared dead and not mourned but rather betrayed again and again and now. I mean to say she was articulating this at places like the Nuyorican in 1996...the golden age of spoken-word poetry...to a diverse audience of color that was saying what it meant to be here in a language stolen away from english by black poets. So acknowledging her african heritage, acknowledging the way that it was black people and puerto ricans sometimes who made a creole that could describe brooklyn life and death is the major victory of this collection.

The point is that the use of poetry (my students are reading Sylvia Wynter's Ethno or Socio Poetics this week) is heretical, is dangerous and produces the language that might save us...by breaking down the language of enslavement. So if we are creating a language why not acknowledge, why not intend that that language move across as far as we have moved across. We can only learn how to say what it means to be Palestinian (to be landless, bereft, criminalized, terrifying) if we can say what it means to be black (to be landless, bereft, criminalized, terrifying)...and it seems that the women (Hammad, Jordan, Shange, Lorde etc.) that have been boldened enough by their love to say it with a critique in mind.

So it was not wrong to do this on a morning when I was supposed to be "theorizing blackness" (i have to go write this proposal right now), when i was supposed to be gluing together my "little girl parts" zine. It was not wrong to be doing this any morning, because this is what we need.

No comments: