Disembodied

There is a lot happening. Charleston. Confederate flags. Lee Circle (#nola). History x Memory x Slavery x Black life and death. Obama dressing down undocumented LGBT activists and issues. Everyone has something to say.

Feeling scattered and disconnected. Spending some time today pulling things back together. On the book project, on the blog, in my archive.

Because this is the one thing I keep coming back to: This book isn’t about an easy freedom. It isn’t about freedom papers or sigils or speeches or the making of a black bourgeoisie. This book is about African women and women of African descent and New World precarity and the soul murder of choosing yourself over your kin, your kin over your lover(s), your lovers over your emancipation.

And how, and yet, and within all of that we still find ways to survive. What does that mean to live with parts of yourself dead and gone? Octavia Butler tackled slavery and time travel and she knew–you don’t come back whole from that. You lose parts of yourself on your way to freedom. You lose an arm on your way home. And Katherine McKittrick (who tackled Kindred with such beauty) also knows and yet she marks something else too. In what has to be one of the most chilling and rousing lines published in academic literature this year, McKittrick held space for women long dead and gone: “Yet a voice interrupts, says she.” Says she was born free. Says it around lost limbs and the “death toll” of the archive, says it in a voice echoing down a long tunnel but still audible, alchemized into existence in McKittrick’s hands, black magic black scholars must wield everyday if we are to choose ourselves:

“I told my Grandma that we should have chosen ourselves. I tell her that we should have let us in. We should have held each other, and fallen in healthy love with each other, instead of watching shame make parts of us disappear.” – Kiese Laymon

What does a phantom arm feel like? When is a scream a death knell and not a siren or an alarm? Or a connection? When is it all of the above? Where are the time travelers, the ones who open portals wide for ghosts to peer in? What is an interruption but an history, an account, a narrative, space held in time for our past selves to walk through, arms thrown backward and wide across dark matter answering a siren call and a desire (theirs and ours) to be heard? A call for retribution, reparation, and vengeance?

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