There are few, if any, choices a black body can make that do not speak its history, including the requisite traumas and proud triumphs over them. Under the gaze of the status quo, this body, with its history written all over it, is an indictment of the status quo. Erasing that physical body becomes critical to sustaining not just the aesthetic of the status quo but more importantly its structure. Erasure is not necessarily the literal murder of it, though that is one way to erase it, but more typically, the suppression of it. Suppression often comes in the form of assimilating the black body into the status quo.
I am here to talk about silence. And the violence of it. How it traumatizes the body that practices it as well as the bodies it is imposed upon. I want to talk about how it (silence, I mean)—and I made up this word—invisibilizes. And how that act—to render someone, a body, invisible is violence. [...]
Child-proofing is trumped by the grandkids’ challenge to his height; this 4th of 8 lanky, voice on the verge of girl crush melody, making himself up as he goes— a danger no threats can prepare him for.
He took sex instead of your life; maybe the glass bottle he threw at you missed; you were named “bitch” and any other list of monikers that do not appear on your birth certificate; the old woman turned on the porch light and startled him and his pistol away; he left you in the street alone and lost in a city that was not your own. You made it out alive. None of those were missteps of the fragile male ego or drunkenness. They were not about how you lead him on or were rude or rash when you refused to comply to his demand for your attention. They were about the agency you have over your life and how you live it and being denied that agency so often
Look, we all perform ourselves; the version of ourselves we choose to present to the world is a performance. Hers seemed a performance of the worst kind—poorly played (she ain’t e’en have her script straight) and manipulative; the kind that seeks gain for itself at the expense of others.
This is a long one. Get some tea.
Last night I learned that a young man from around my way had died. Over the past several weeks, he has been in the hospital largely unresponsive and plainly diminished. There was hope but little. There was discussion of his illness but little. He was just. Dying.
At 28, he will join a list of young men from around my way who. Just. Died. They were all, if not explicitly, homosexual. And this is how they all died. Of some unnamed failure of the body that is always explicitly not one of the common ones: cancer, diabetes, heart disease. The Hush tells all. It is AIDS.
We never say that; we might name the failure that AIDS has authored: pneumonia, meningitis; with the proper inflection even “he was sick” works.
“That boy’s funny” was as close as we got to naming…
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I'll also be reading the poems that were inspired by Alvin Ailey's Revelations and ultimately inspired me to make the artwork and enter into this conversation about how the body remembers and perform traumas. Yes yes y'all! Be there?
1. I'm in the fourth or fifth grade. In our small town, in the 80s, this makes me old enough to walk downtown without adult supervision. Which is what me, my twin, and our sister Debbie are doing. A man in a red car drives slowly following us trying to lure us into his vehicle. [...]