“in the undisputed dignity of my womanhood…”

“Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.'”

Anna Julia Cooper

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youoksis

This collage I made in 2000 just told me what it needed/wanted last week–the maze was not then part of it.  The creative process is a trip.

I discovered collaging in middle school.  I had to create something about an organ for Mrs. Naumann’s biology class, so I chose the largest organ in the body–skin–and covered a page with all the brown skin I could find in old Essence magazines I got from somewhere.  We sure didn’t have a subscription.

I loved that collage and the process; the effect; the subject. I went on to keep adding collage technique to any project I had to complete.  But between 1994 and 2000, I went on a collaging frenzy thanks to dorm walls that needed filling and the supersized and compelling imagery of Vibe magazine.

Recently, as in the last couple of years, the black female body I wear in this world has become a source of interrogation, introspection, and therefore central to my creative process and output.

So yesterday, when I watched the video of the young black female student being manhandled by a school resource officer I wanted to believe my life and work mattered;
when I learned the young black female student who spoke up–even in tears
was summarily arrested moments after the assaulted victim I mourned;
when I saw that the initial publicized interview went to the black young man who recorded the assault I saluted him;
when the conversation around a poem I workshopped today about passive sexual assault (“passive” assault is not a thing by the way–the absence of physical violence compels this misnaming) was most interested in its use of the word “penis”
the line in the sand turned cement under the liquid of my tears and the sun-hot warmth of my anger.

“Only the black woman can say ‘when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me.'”

Anna Julia Cooper
A Voice from the South: By a Black Woman of the South (1892)

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