The Love Note You Write as the World Burns Down #LastIsAVerb

Dear Archive Co-Midwives,

I spend much of my day thinking through our time in the Last is a Verb: Archiving at the End of the World workshop, led and organized by the ever brave and trouble-making Alexis Pauline Gumbs.

I keep coming back to so many things. The practices and practicing we want to leave behind, rituals we want to reawaken (I woke up this morning singing, just so you know), Fannie Lou Hamer’s radical love, Nina Simone’s rock and sway over the piano, genealogies of talking back and talking shit, the logic of lies and silences. Our children, our daughters, as our archives. Being each other’s archives. Heartbreak.

Heartbreak (I wrote on one of my flights across the South), heartbreak is New Orleans, after the Storm.

Carrie Mae Weems. Detail from "Splattered" 2016. On view at the Cooper Gallery, Harvard University

Carrie Mae Weems. Detail from “Splattered” 2016. On view at the Cooper Gallery, Harvard University


I didn’t know it then, but my lesson plan in Vincent Brown’s History Design Studio Workshop on Wednesday was a child co-birthed by each of you. The students and I had an intense conversation on data and databasing, black humanity/death, Darlene Clark Hine’s outline of the black studies mind and imagining what an ethical and politicized (digital) humanities looks like; surveillance and Simone Browne’s concept of dark souveillance, micha cárdenas’s trans of color poetics, Kismet Nuñez’s alter egos and building African Diaspora, Ph.D., transformative justice as kinship, connection, and resistance. We talked about slave registers, freedom on/via ships, police, murder, affect, and the ghosts of those killed most recently were in the room. We argued whether and if there could be black life/love in death in the database.


Charlotte Police | September 20, 2016. Photo: AFP

Charlotte Police | September 20, 2016. Photo: AFP

We held court while Charlotte burned and I kept the fury at bay, but it was always there, beneath the surface. Rage enough to burn the world down twice over. Apocalyptic.

Last is a verb. Surving is an act and resistance is a practice and we do it at and for the end of the world.

I think of you/us often. I fall in love easily and completely, particularly with women, so this is a love note to all of our/selves. It is a call to hold ourselves precious and our archives tenable, sustainable, and powerful. To continue to breathe saltwater and set fire to fear. To fly. To feel there is nothing so dark and desirable as a free black woman, that her freedom frees us all. If there is a vibration my work makes, it is a sound/motion/emotion we set to flowin. I imagine lists, shelves, finding aids full of us. Expelled from the register, we walk on water safely. We are already never alone.

Below are the ingredients of Wednesday’s lesson, a snapshot of the work we began:

The Texts

Fuentes, Marisa J. Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

Browne, Simone. Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

cárdenas, micha. “Trans of Color Poetics: Stitching Bodies, Concepts, and Algorithms.” S&F Online 13, no. 3. Last accessed September 19, 2016.

cárdenas, micha. Find Each Other / Local Autonomy Networks –

Hine, Darlene Clark. “A Black Studies Manifesto: Characteristics of a Black Studies Mind.” The Black Scholar 44, no. 2 (2014): 11-15.

Johnson, Jessica Marie, and Kismet Nuñez. “Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part III: How to Build a Real Gyrl in 3 Easy Steps.” The Black Scholar 45, no. 4 (October 2, 2015): 47–61.

The Tools

Evernote Notebook (Presentation Mode)

Etherpad –

Digital Project: Black Loyalists –

Digital Project: Carleton Papers Book of Negroes Database –

The Resources

Manhunter trailer for the Al St. Louis and Garfield Thompson  –

Book of Negroes section for The Ranger ledger in Black Loyalist Database:

The Sandbox
BON_Ranger_1783.TXT –
BON_Ranger_1783.CSV –
Bon_Ranger_1783.XLSX –
Open Refine – and the Open Refine URL:
Fusion Tables –

The Soundtrack for the Workshop (a Lex practice, one I want to add to those I am keeping after the world burns down):
Matana Roberts’s Coin Coin Series, Chapters 1, 2 & 3 in Matana Roberts x Coin Coin –
If Spotify fails you, listen to Chapter 1 here –

I hope you feel yourselves somewhere in here. I hope–as cárdenas laments–I hope we find each other and continue to find each other as the world burns down. Or…on the Mothership.


One thought on “The Love Note You Write as the World Burns Down #LastIsAVerb

  1. Pingback: Johnson Visits Harvard’s History Design Studio – Jessica Marie Johnson

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