Recently, I’ve had the great fortune of being around some amazing, unapologetic, black artists and it’s caused me to stop and take stock of the work that I’m doing and not doing. I’ve been doing a lot of research around the lives of Angela Davis and Assata Shakur. Both incredible pillars of unapologetic blackness and womanhood. Both of them, soft spoken yet armed with powerful streams of consciousness with words to match. It all made me think, have I been talking too much? Have I allowed myself to become nothing but a talking head?
These past few weeks have been armed with sorrow and questionings of black life. Following The Pulse Orlando shooting, I attended a Vigil here in Providence, Rhode Island. I don’t know why I was surprised, but the lack of attention and active silencing paid to voices of people of color and then to the voices of women of color were astounding to me. Yet, at another gathering, I was asked to speak and I said no. I had nothing to say. My voice didn’t feel strong enough, the words would never be right and I would be left feeling more empty than fulfilled. I watched my peers, women of color get up and speak and in so many ways, find freedom in their voices being heard. Why could I not have that same freedom? To use the words of Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
As an artist, I’m both blessed and cursed with the ability to bring to life, the hidden stories in the everyday world. Lately, I haven’t been doing much of that. I’ve been taking the time to educate, to debate, to fight white supremacy with my words and I’m left feeling exhausted, and burned out. What if the way for me isn’t to constantly speak using my vocal chords for conventional speaking purposes? My art for the past year has been stagnant. I went from actively writing and creating to doing everyone else’s work but my own and that feels wrong in so many ways. How do I get back to finding me? My voice? MY being? I had a professor once, who used to say, “let the work breathe”.
I’m creating an experiment, the duration of the next 6 months and calling it “Let The Work Speak”. I can only make 2 posts via social media, 2 educational or “call out” moments, but I can write, dance, sing as many feelings/songs/emotions/etc a day related to whatever I want, experience, live, etc. Can I do it? What will my work look like at the end of it all? Will I lose my mind at not addressing evident ignorance? I think that black women tend to force ourselves to address, to fight. Yet, how much of that is weight that we put onto ourselves? What if we all took action in subversive ways, not yelling ourselves into exhaustion, but continuing the work in the unconventional ways of Angela and Assata?
In love, revolution and artistry,