Wednesday, August 08, 2007
A Strategy of Opening
The Black Woman, Toni Cade Bambara (1970)
Maru, Bessie Head (1971)
Keeping the Faith (1974)
Black Eyed Susans, Mary Helen Washington
Midnight Birds, Mary Helen Washington
Sturdy Black Bridges, Beverly Guy-Sheftall et al (1979)
This Bridge Called My Back, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua (1981)
Home Girls, Barbara Smith (1984)
Conjuring, Hortense Spillers and Marjorie Pryse (1985)
Invented Lives, Mary Helen Washington (1987)
"Defining Children" by Sandra Burman in South African Keywords: The Use and Abuse of Political Concepts (1988)
Reading Black, Reading Feminist, Henry Louis Gates Jr. (1990)
Wild Women in the Whirlwind, Joanne Braxton and Andree Nicola McLaughlin (1990)
The Letters of the Republic, Micheal Warner (1990)
A Gesture of Belonging: Letters from Bessie Head 1965-1979, ed Randolph Vigne (1991)
Showing Our Colors, atharina Oguntoye, May Opitz, and Dagmar Schultz with a preface to the English Language edition by Audre Lorde, (1992)
Afrekete: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Writing (1995)
The Cardinals and Short Stories, Bessie Head (written in the late 1960's...finally published in 1995)
Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought, Beverly Guy-Sheftall et al. (1995)
Maybe the anthology is the place to live and the poem is a place to dream. Maybe I have been so drawn to anthologies and poetics recently because these are the things I need...livable space and hope to create in. Or maybe it's because I've been hangin around Aisha intentionally.
A few weeks ago in a passionate conversation overhead by many and interrupted by a few in a local coffeeshop, Aisha and I decided that black feminism was/is a strategy of opening, a practice of possibility a challege most of all, the making of a bravery...but never a canon or product. Never something for sale. So we define "black feminist anthology" accordingly...excluding most of the books that I cite above. Through a review of anthologies published in the US that might have been black feminist (but that definitely collected writing by or about black and third world women) we actually were able to see a certain history...through which black feminism, a challenge, a practice, a spatial experiment was commodified into a product"black women's writing" messaged by Mary Helen Washington and colonized accordingly by Skip Gates. Despite our voracious reading...I think Aisha and I agree that black feminism is not something to read...it is something to do. (As Toni Cade Bambara states explicitly in her preface to This Bridge Called my back. "No. The best way to do it is to do it."
Indeed. And maybe this is the same thing that happened to hip-hop...a challenge was colonized by capitalism and became a commodity, a thing to be used to conquer a market. And Chandra Mohanty and M. Jaqui Alexander say that this is what has happened to "democracy" it has been colonized by capitalism and sold out of its possible justice. And maybe this will happen to what we make as well. Maybe we will have to let everything go...if we are to keep going.
But it is important to me rail against this inevitability. Maybe every attractive process is flanked by deceptive co-opted product versions when it confronts capital. Maybe things that are alive become dead bodies..and the spirit leaves at some point. But if energy cannot be destroyed..then than it is only transfered, and we must not forget that the transfer of our creative energy...the energy of challenge and experiment is not well placed in the circuit of consumerism.
I do not want to be a career consumer of black women writers. At all.
And so if the thing that makes a black feminist a black feminist is not a skin thing, or a belief or the ownership of a certain t-shirt, but rather the practice of making a democratic space when everyone says that who you are should mean death, that who you are is for sale, when everyone is saying spells meant to stiffen your skin and transform your space into energy they can steal....black feminism is the experimental (in kritispeak) the poetic (in my language) act of creating a livable space...it is democratic experiment and it is what we need now.
Violence has changed over the past 25 years, but it has moved with us into ever new space, outerspace, innerspace and the blogosphere. So if the there are tons of hackers and haters threatening to shut down feminist blogs, threatening to rape those who speak loudly, what we need is something that was once invoked through the name black feminism. Some way to create the space that makes us brave regardless, even if that space is a book that we open to clench...or a link that we click on to clinch us with home.
Maybe this is why I'm attracted to you. Or vice versa.