Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Proto-Bloggers: Discursive Precedents and Alternative Democracies

(Generations of Chain by Dries Buytaert)

Poor Black Women, Patricia Robinson and “the Sisters”, 1968
“On the Issue of Roles”, Toni Cade Bambara, 1970
“Letters After the First Conference of the National Alliance of Black Feminists”, Beverly Morrow, (Ms. Magazine), 1974
“Small Change for Black Women”, Aileen Hernandez (Ms. Magazine), 1974
“Voices from the Third World: Review of Fragment from a Lost Diary”, Toni Cade Bambara (Ms. Magazine), 1974
“A Church Without Walls”, June Jordan, (Ms. Magazine) 1974
Jemima: From the Heart, 1977
“Voices of Black Feminism”, Brenda Eichelberger (Quest), 1977
“Mom de Plume”, Diane S. Bogus, (Lesbian Tide 7.3), 1977
“Scratching the Surface: Some Notes On Barriers to Women and Loving”, Audre Lorde (The Black Scholar), 1978
“Black Writers Illuminate Hidden Lives”, Barbara Smith (Sojourner 3.12), 1978
“The Varied Voices of Black Women”, Barbara and Beverly Smith, (Sojourner 4.2), 1978
“The Reality of the Black Lesbian”, Diane S. Bogus (Gay People’s Union News), 1978
“Racism (A Letter)” Barbara Smith, (Gay Community News 6.26), 1979
“Review of The Black Unicorn”, Lorraine Bethel, (Gay Community News (6.28), 1979
“An American Fantasy: Interview with Beverly Smith About Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman”, Jill Clark, (Gay Community News 6.44), 1979
“Anonymity and the Denial of Self’, Michelle Cliff (Sinister Wisdom 9), 1979
Top Ranking: A Collection of Articles on Racism and Classism in the Lesbian Community, compiled by Joan Gibbs and Sara Bennett, 1980
“Prodding the Wheels of Revolution”, Rosemary (Changes), 1980
“Frankie”, Joan Gibbs (Sinister Wisdom 14) 1980
“First Black Lesbian Conference”, Gabrielle Daniels (Off Our Backs 10), 1980
“Black Lesbians Gather in First Eastern Conference” Jill Clark (Gay Community News), 1981
“Notes for a Magazine” Michelle Cliff and Adrienne Rich, (Sinister Wisdom 17), 1981
All the Women Are White All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Balck Women’s Studies, Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith
“I Love My Mother”, Faith Ringold and Michelle Wallace (Heresies), 1982
“Object into Subject: Some Thoughts on the Work of Black Women Artists”, Michelle Cliff (Heresies 15), 1982
“The Convert”, Barbara Smith, (Sinister Wisdom 19)1982
“Making Soul, Creating Alchemy: Review of This Bridge Called My Back”, Michelle Cliff, (Sinister Wisdom 19)1982
“The Intimate Face of Universal Struggle” (review of June Jordan’s Civil Wars), Linda C. Powell (Sinister Wisdom 20), 1982
“Black Brave and Woman Too”: Review of Some of Us Are Brave, Cheryl Clarke, (Sinister Wisdom 20), 1982
“Response (on lesbian seperatism and race)” , Barbara Smith (Sinister Wisdom 20), 1982
African Women Rising Vol. 1 No. 2, International Council of African Women 1984
Double Stitch: Black Women Write About Mothers and Daughters, eds. Patricia Bell-Scott, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Jacqueline Jones Royster, Janet Sims-Wood, Miriam DeCosta-Willis, Lucie Fultz, 1990
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty, Dorothy Roberts, 1997
“Passion(ate) Plays “Wherever We Found Space”: Lorde and Gomez Queer(y)ing Boundaries and Acting In”, Lynda Hall, (Callaloo 23.1) 2000
“The “Power” and “Squelelae” of Audre Lorde’s Syntactical Strategies”, Lexi Rudintsky (Callaloo 26.2), 2003
The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents and Citizens, Seyla Benhabib, 2004
“All Aunt Hagar’s Children”, Edward P. Jones, 2007

At lunch sometime last week a fellow member of a women of color bloggers network and I joked about the efficacy of "blogger" as a "primary identity". "I come from a long line of bloggers," I said "seven generations to be exact." And we laughed, but then...while I was rereading All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies and carefully writing down the first "black women's studies" syllabuses I realized that one of the syllabi was refusing to keep it's place on paper and in history and was nudging into my life. In Fall 1976, Professor Margaret Wade taught a class at SUNY New Paltz called "The Black Woman" (and of the textbooks was Toni Cade Bambara's ground breaking anthology of the same name). My mother was a junior at SUNY New Paltz that Fall and a quick phone call confirmed that yes, my mother had indeed worked with Professor Wade.
So maybe I should be a little bit less flippant when I describe my "generations". Indeed last week I travelled to the middle of no where Florida (specifically Lakeland, FL home of a lake, some orange trees, high teen boredom rates and equally high teen pregnancy) to visit my maternal grandmother aka "Nana" for her birthday. There are a lot of things that Nana doesn't know about her "history". Her mother died before Nana ever knew her and her father was married to someone else all along. Nana has never seen her birth certificate and will probably never know whether she was born on Sept 21st (the day I arrived in Lakeland) or Sept 23rd (the day I left). Futhermore we don't know exactly how many years she has been around. But, as a long Friday night/Saturday morning conversation taught me, Nana knows more than enough to make up for these originary details. She knows love in the arms of her great grandmother who died when she was 7, she knows ferocity in the mouth of her grandma Rebecca who cursed people out inside, outside and near every public institution (especially church...and my Nana has carried on with this tradition of "cursing out" church folks), she knew herself in the face of my mother who until 5 days after her birth she thought was someone else's "chinese" baby, and she fulfilled a promise by witnessing my birth as her first grandchild her daughter's daughter and by far the craziest child she knew until my cousin Sean came along...who recently claimed quite nonchalantly to have seen Christ in a toothpick speared pig in a blanket at an all you can eat China Buffett.
But the point here is not to prove that my family is the inspiration for the complicated lineages of people in novels by Zadie Smith, Paul Beatty or Danielle Evans. The point is that I want to articulate a different relationship to the active verb "generate" in these generations that I'm claiming, holding, avoiding and always coming back to (remember how I always pretend that my dissertation is not the autobiography of my mother...well change my name to Jamaica Kincaid because the syllabus says otherwise). What if I take seriously that the story of how I came to have, fear, love, admire, cherish and misunderstand my own possession of a black mother is the only story that I can tell. No matter what else I try to write about...(i.e. read my review of Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother in the upcoming issue of Obsidian).
Audre Lorde says this mysterious thing, and I am coming back to it again because it captures and pushes my questions about what production and reproduction might mean: "We can learn to mother ourselves." Learn. Mother. Ourselves. If I had three wishes, three lusts for three words to know, to open, to understand these would be the three. Is this practice of "mothering ourselves" the meaning of black feminist publishing in what I described to the shock of a middle aged man as "my period" out of context yesterday (he said "You were around in 1974? Got-damn, I want to take whatever you're taking!") Since even in 2007 I look like I'm about 16 years old. Anyway is this practice of black feminist publishing an example (an opportunity for me to dwell in) what it means to "generate"? Think about the dilegent public letter writing that Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde and June Jordan engaged in and the brave badass blogging women of color are doing right now in response to the attack on Megan name one example. Maybe instead of "co-production" the word that I want to use to reveal the dialogics in "production" and to challenge the inevitability of "reproduction" is actually the word "generate".
Thanks mom.

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