Still Processing: A Career under Review

As a follow up to my May 15 and May 22 posts, I am still processing my career and what it means. The thing about processing is that it occurs in stages.

A few weeks ago, I experienced several epiphanies that uncovered hidden feelings about my career, my current position, and where I would like to go. This came to a head in my bi-weekly therapy session last month. Funny how the biggest revelations seem to occur in the lead up to my Saturday sessions.

For twenty laborious minutes, I explained these realizations and mapped out my reflections on them to my therapist. And, I shared my vision of the type of life I want to live. I articulated my frustrations about moving toward that life now. What I love most about my therapist is that she is very hands-on. No passive listening. She glanced down at my notebook, the black one I carry only to therapy. She directed me to open it for a writing/thought exercise.

First, she had me draw up a chart, essentially my life in a week. What were the things I felt were missing from my life? I jotted those down. Then, I charted out approximations of what time I woke up each morning, went to bed, work and other activities. Time is finite but it became clear that I wasn’t using my time all that well. Yet, I had convinced myself there wasn’t time to do the things I love. Well, there it was in black and white to say otherwise. 

She encouraged me to meditate on that to which I did (and still am).

Second, she directed me to create another chart with two columns:

Archives Then vs. Archives Now

Archives Then became an expression of what drew me to archives. What were my motivations? Also to think through how my past tracked (or didn’t) along with those motivations. Admittedly, in talking about it, I felt that excitement building up inside of me. Like waking up from a dream and remembering where you are or, in this case, who you are.

Archives Now was an exploration of where I am now. What are my motivations now? How had things changed or stayed the same. 

As I looked at the chart, it became clear my frustrations and the source of my crisis-turned-angst. Crisis signifies to me the part of me that operated in the middle of depression. I made, if we’re being honest, suspect decisions about my life and health. Those decisions popped up in my Archives Then vs. Archives Now in my chart. Now that the crisis has abated (several months and counting of no depressive episode), a deep anxiety has settled in its place.

What the fuck am I doing? And why do I feel like I am living on auto-pilot in life but most especially my career?

This writing exercise also exposed the deeper reason by my dissatisfaction with my current position. I should preface and say that my job, by all tense and purposes, is not bad. It’s a solid job and recent institutional changes have hearkened to an even brighter, positive future. But the realization looming in front of me, staring me square in the face, is I’m pretty certain I’m not the person for that future. 

In my vision of my future, I firmly believe I will chart a life that infuses archives, history, teaching, and project-based work but, most importantly, it will be outside an institutional setting. It will nourish me in a way that I need while enabling me to critically engage with others.

Now how I get from here to there is still in progress.

Stay turned.


I Am

In a recent therapy session, I related to my therapist that I struggle with reconciling the different parts of myself. I’m a woman of many interests and passions. Even in expressing that frustration, I simply said “I know I’m suppose to do more.” I interwove this explanation with my faith.

That is when she hit pause. For several agonizing seconds I waited for a response. Here is a summary of what she said:

God is limitless. By placing limits on God, what he or she or they can do or be, I reflect those limitations on my own life. I limit myself. I am all of those things: an archivist, a writer, an activist, etc. So why am I telling myself that I have to be one thing? And in order to be that one thing, I convince myself I have to cut off all the others. Cut off a part of who I am. God is. I am.

The ultimate challenge: Sit in that realization.

In that revolutionary statement, my therapist challenged me to rethink how I view myself. I am.

I am an archivist. I am a writer. I am an activist. I am a daughter. I am an auntie. I am that bitch too. I am all those things at once. That I do not have to nor should I have to “give up” any of those identifiers. I exist within all of them and sometimes one of them may take center stage for a spell.

Here, my therapist introduced me to the scarcity mindset. After some independent research, I’m starting to understand how this way of thinking contributes to the limits I place on myself. Whether I like to admit it or not, I go through life seeing things as fixed. That the broader strokes of my life are determined and that to change it, whether it is toxic, problematic, unfulfilling, or flat out boring will cause too much of an upset. It also triggers within me this concern for how it will look for me to seemingly shift gears or drop this thing. What happens is that I keep trying to make the untenable situation work. It only ends up depleting my energy and undermining my self-esteem. At the point of mental collapse is when I concede that it is time for change.

Life is fluid and beautiful and messy and chaotic and joyful and heartbreaking at times and at the same time. The point is it moves.

I say this because I feel things beginning to shift. I am leaning more into my artistic endeavors. When I think of the things I would like to accomplish and do in the coming years, it leans heavily into writing.

I want to write for Bitch Media, specifically give life to the ideas, concepts, frustrations, and hopes that swirl around in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I love my blog but there is comfort and safety in it. It is speaking to those who know me and who think similarly to me. I’m ready to grow and stretch beyond that. I also want to use writing as the catalyst to embrace new experiences outside of my norm and create a dialogue with new people.

I want to write this Southern Gothic story. This story is, in many ways, my love letter to my experience growing up as a black girl-turned-woman in Georgia. I meant it when I said in my bio that it took “leaving the South for me to comfortably say y’all.” By that I mean, embrace fully being a child of the South. I have lived all over this country and even traveled outside of it. There is a sweetness and familiarity to the South that I cannot underscore. I want to see the people I know represented on the page for all to see.

I want to apply and be a part of the 2020 Jack Jones Literary Retreat. I first became aware of the retreat about 2-3 years ago. At the time, I was still in my writing rut but deep down I knew I wanted to give this an honest go. I’m partly emboldened now by the fact I wrote, finished, and published a short story in six months this year. And, this is a space for people of color to gather together and share our work….and also meet publishers, editors, and agents.

I am a writer. I have found the most freedom and liberation in the written word. And now, she is calling me like she hasn’t before. I write fiction. I always have but the last 14 years has seen the slow creep toward nonfiction, autobiographical, etc. I can trace the moment to sitting by my mother’s hospital bed. On a whim, I had purchased a journal. I had so many things swirling around inside me as a 20 year old that putting it down on paper was the only thing I could think to do. So I did. 14 years later, countless journals, and two websites later, here we are.

My writing muscles want to flex, expand, and move.

At the same time, there is a vision of my life unfolding. As I get older, I have a clearer idea, not necessarily of what I do, but how I want to feel as I go through my day. That vision is so strong that, not surprisingly, I had to write it down in my journal. Even the act of writing it, declaring it on the pages filled me with calm and a sense of a life lived on my own terms.

I don’t know how I will get from where I am to where I want to be. That is part of the journey. It is part of what I patiently tease out and give shape to. It is in the work of realigning my mind and my heart to think and truly believe the following:

I am (full stop).

And anything is possible.


A Ridiculously Long Movie Review: Unbowed (1999)

Unbowed (1999) tells the story of three Lakota Sioux men who are captured and brought to a fictional co-ed black college called Betsworth, set “some time after the Civil War.” This movie boasts familiar black faces such as Tembi Locke, who I know from the 90s scifi tv show Sliders, Michelle Thomas, aka Myra from Family Matters, and Ron Glass of The Cosby Show and Firefly fame. They were my initial entry point into this story.

I fell down a YouTube rabbit hole and came across this movie. The first viewing consisted of watching bits and pieces of it, as I skipped around, rewound, and fast-forwarded. Why? The uploaded quality is not great. The sound is meh for most of it and the color of the film gives it a 1970s color palette to me. Coupled with the exaggerated accents of certain characters (see Thomas), it felt very hokey and not in a good way. I thought it would be like every other movie I stumble upon on YouTube. Interested for a minute before quickly forgetting about it. However, this one stayed with me.

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So here’s a lengthy synopsis:

The story takes place during summer break at the college to which there are only a handful of students present, specifically six students (4 men; 2 women). One day a white US Army officer (Edward Albert) arrives with three Lakota Sioux men: Waka Mani (Jay Tavare), Simon Crow (Vincent McLean), and Jumping Elk (Mark Abbott). They were captured in Twin Forks (wherever that is) in which they attacked some soldiers. Rather than be hanged for their crimes, the officer persuades President Duquesne (Ron Glass) of the college to take them in and educate them, in order to prove that Indigenous people can be civilized. The officer adds that the three men in question have previously been educated by missionaries, thereby explaining how they understand and speak English. Their arrival brings tension between the students and the Lakota men.

What makes this movie compelling is the underlying tension between these minority groups (black and Indigenous) and the looming nature and impact of colonialism and white supremacy. Within that frame, you see Cleola (Tembi Locke) and Waka Mani positioned as love interests but it is a love story that doesn’t take center stage until midway through the movie.

I should add that this was female driven production. Nanci Rossov served as director and producer. I did a little digging and this movie was one of two movies she did as a director. The other is a 2012 movie called Redemption. Based on her LinkedIn page, she is still very much involved in directing as she is a Directing Faculty member at the Weengushk Film Institute and an Acting/Directing Coach. The screenwriter, Mildred Lewis, was executive producer for Harold & Maude, a movie I have yet to see but it’s on my Netlfix quene.

Let’s dive in shall we. My review pulls out themes that I picked up on as well as the things that irked me about the movie.

White Supremacy

The best moments, I think, took place between Waka Mani and Richard (Chuma Gault) & Waka Mani and Cleola. Waka Mani consistently points out the problems of white supremacy which he critiques through his usage of “the white man” or “white people.” He rightfully criticizes Richard and Cleola’s adherence to “the white man’s ways” given, historically, what white people have done to and spoken about black people. This is most evident in the confrontation with Richard who is initially Waka Mani’s teacher. They spar about the white man’s ways and how Richard, in pushing Waka Mani to learn these ways and Christianity in order to become civilized, is no different than a white man doing it. Their confrontation ultimately becomes physical. It ends with Richard being dismissed by Duquesne as Waka Mani’s teacher.

He is replaced by Cleola who is the only other qualified student to teach and Richard’s fiance. Here is when the Cleola and Waka Mani’s relationship begins to develop. However, their confrontation takes on a different tone. What brings the confrontation to a head is, in helping to build the anniversary stage, Waka Mani uses the n-word in retaliation to being called a savage by Junius (Catero Colbert), a black male student who despises Indigenous people. It is later that Cleola confronts him. She gives him such a dressing down that he is shameful and apologizes but this doesn’t end it. I found it interesting how education was a point of divergence for the two characters that mirror these different experiences of black and Indigenous people. Waka Mani positions education, specifically the white man’s education, as highly problematic. It is a tool and weapon of colonization. This instantly called to mind the Carlisle Indian School. I shuddered. Cleola counters with how education is a source of liberation for black people, who during slavery were denied it by white people. There is no clear resolution. Fam, whew. That was a lot to tackle in what translated into a 3-5 minute scene.

Funny how even though white people are barely a blip in the movie their presence, their history, their colonization, looms so fucking large.

The Romance Angle

Building on the previous section, I appreciated that Cleola was an established character before the romance angle kicked in. We know that she is engaged to Richard but ambivalent about it, due in part she does not love him. Also, he brings financial security whereas she lives on a “trust fund.” She is a top student at Betsworth but already experiencing the patriarchal call to be a wife and mother. This is established in the fact her final classes in the fall will not be political science and other academic subjects but sewing. Her desire to do something more, to have employment, is looked at with subtle bemusement by those closest to her. Couple that with having to lie about her “trust fund,” she has a lot going on.

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When Waka Mani is introduced, there is an unmistakable attraction. This is evident in several encounters: outside on the school grounds, the staircase, the library, the classroom. It is when she becomes Waka Mani’s teacher after Richard’s dismissal that their attraction truly builds. He finds within her not just a romantic interest but an ally. In their first lesson, he refuses to learn what she teaches him because it is not useful to his people’s survival or understanding of the white man. Cleola accepts the challenge and begins to teach him things that may help him. For example, she used math to help him determine how many rifles needed to kill a squadron of soldiers or reading the Constitution to know the basis for which the U.S. is governed. All of these are topics and approaches that Cleola, as a “respectable black woman” in the 19th century should not be doing but she does them anyway.

What further bonds the two together is Cleola’s grief at the lost of her mother and the weight of carrying that secret. Waka Mani is the first one to learn that Cleola is not really an orphan. Her mother, a former enslaved woman, is toiling away at a nearby boardinghouse to support her daughter. The money being sent to the school as part of her “trust fund.” To Cleola’s surprise, she learns of her mother’s passing after the fact. Through montages we see her move through this grief and Waka Mani’s concern grow. He wants to comfort her but a.) there is the issue of her fiance and b.) it exposes her secret. It’s only when she comes to him does their relationship pivot. What I loved about that scene in particular is that she had the space to openly express her grief and cry. He shares his blanket and sits with her in grief.

It was this whole romantic arc that made me take to Twitter to ask about the female gaze. The male gaze is the hypersexualization of women in movies and I wondered what made the female gaze different. I do not think the director overly sexualized Waka Mani but it was hard to ignore Tavare’s build and his muscles. Part of my discomfort came from how the relationship was built up. There was tenderness and compassion. It felt intrusive to watch this couple’s most intimate moments esp their love-making scene. Granted I did think it was absurd that this occurred on top of a rooftop. Like, people can see you!

Points of Connection

Outside of Cleola and Waka Mani, there are some through lines of connection between the black students and the Lakota Sioux men. The most substantive example is Simon Crow and Lewis (Rugg Williams). While other students such as Junius show contempt for the men, Lewis is genuinely curious and expresses a desire to know more about them. He and Crow, although in the background for the majority of the time, have moments where they bond and learn from the other. It is Lewis who argues against Junius’ prejudicial attitude toward them.

Lewis is also the catalyst for the one scene where the black students finally express interest in knowing more about the men. While Lewis sings “Wade in the Water,” Waka Mani joins in singing a complementary sounding song in Lakota that goes along with the music. From there, Crow and Jumping Elk join in adding sounds and texture to the music. All of these voices blending beautifully together. At the conclusion, the students and the staff marvel and clap. It is then Anna (Michelle Thomas), hesitantly, broaches the question of where they are from and what home is like. The moment is all too brief before tensions flare up again.

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By the time the movie begins to wind down, there is an unspoken respect  among both parties especially when Crow dies from a bout of pneumonia. In that scene, Waka Mani bemoans not having access to the medicine of his people. He tries to persuade Duquesne to get the doctor from town. Grimly, Duquesne replies that the doctor (presumably white) won’t “come to a colored school.” That statement and the look between the two men crystalize that feeling of helplessness and frustration with racism. Furthermore, Duquesne chastises Junius, Isaac (Aaron Knight), and Richard for laughing outside of Crow’s bedroom door, lacking decorum at such a solemn moment.

Colorism and Passing

This is an area that I wish that the screenwriter, Mildred Lewis, had delved more into. I don’t know Lewis background or race, as an Internet search yielded no information. The one Lewis I did find, who was a black woman, didn’t necessarily match up to the scant information I found of Lewis, the movie’s screenwriter.

I say this because these two topics come up briefly but not dug into. The Army officer, who was referenced earlier who is played by white actor Edward Albert, reveals to Duquesne that he is a white-passing Indigenous person. He even uses this term “passing” to indicate how he shook off the culture of his ancestors in order to move through white society. We learn that because of this choice, his son attends Harvard. But we are supposed to empathize with him because he low key gives money to Betsworth, to which Duquesne points out that he is in a financial position to give more to the failing college but chooses not to. At the same time, the officer, in passing as white, adopts the problematic, harmful rhetoric of the white man that “civilizing the savage” is the key. Honestly, fuck that noise. On some level, I get it within the context of that time but harm is harm.

Another topic that went unexplored was the latent colorism vis-a-vis social class among the black students. It was Cleola’s mother, a dark-skinned formerly enslaved woman, that made me aware of this. To the students and the president of the college, Cleola is an orphan who has a trust fund. It gives the impression that she comes from money. What we discover is that her mother is very much alive and working in a boarding house and that it is her hard work and saving that is making Cleola’s future possible. In the one scene with her mother, her mother is excited to hear that Cleola is engaged to Richard, a well to do, light-skinned man from an affluent family. Cleola wants so much to tell her fiance about her mother to which her mother severely scolds her noting “they wouldn’t want to see a dark-skinned woman like me in the family.” She directs her daughter to wait until after they are wed to tell the truth.

The only scene between Cleola and her mother.

The only scene between Cleola and her mother.

It is then I realize, in this small cast of characters, that the ones with privilege and wealth are those of a lighter hue. It’s laced in the conversation and speech of Richard, Junius, and Anna. Given that the movie is only a few decades out from the Civil War, I began to wonder about their families. Were they free blacks? Perhaps even some white-passing family members? So much left unexplored.

My nitpicks

Time frame

Honestly, I don’t know when this movie was set, hence the “some time after the Civil War” quotation marks at the beginning of this review. Based on what I picked up in the dialogue, I would surmise that this is set sometime between the mid-1880s-1890s. I based this on the fact that Booker T. Washington and Ida B. Wells were mentioned.

I questioned this, however, because I was unable to get a clear sense of characters’ ages. For example, Junius spoke of the reasons for his hatred of Indigenous people. In a short monologue, he spoke of serving in the U.S. Calvary, growing up in “Oklahoma...Indian Territory” and related quite vividly about Indigenous people owning slaves and his grandfather being killed two days after the end of the war by an Indigenous man. There was a lot to unpack here. That is further compounded by the fact the actor looks like he is in his 20s. Also, I was unsure if Oklahoma was called Oklahoma considering it officially became a state in 1907.

Location

The college is set in Ohio. However, the men were captured in Twin Forks. I have no idea where that is but presumably it was three days walk from the college and involved crossing mountains.

The few white people

The few white people we encounter, specifically the Army men, show politeness and deference to the President of the college and the students. I….did not believe this for a minute. Whatever the time frame, we were not far out from the Civil War which *checks notes* was fought over slavery. Note to white creatives, white people in history didn’t treat black people, hell any people of color, universally as the same or equal to them. Nope. Never. Not a one.

Final thoughts:

I recognize that this review is written from the viewpoint of a hetero black woman. As such, I tried to refrain from projecting authority or knowledge of Lakota Sioux people and customs. It would be interesting to hear what a Lakota Sioux person thinks of this movie, watching it in 2019. I do know that Tavare won an award for his acting in the American Indian Film Festival in 1999.

If you can get past the video quality, I suggest you check out Unbowed on YouTube.








Book Review: They Where Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South

As a Black daughter of the South, I am encouraged by the recent scholarship being researched, written, and published by historians of color, especially Black female historians, as they pose different questions of the extant source material or dive into little regarded material. Shout out to my archivists, citizen-archivists, librarians, and volunteers for the work you do to preserve these materials.

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Dr. Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers’ book, They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, is my second foray into this reimagined South. My first read was Dr. Daina Ramey Berry’s amazing book The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of the Nation.

Jones-Rogers postulates that contrary to prior historical study of the antebellum South, white women were active participants in slavery. What follows over the course of 205 pages is a multifaceted understanding of white women during this period (including postbellum) and in this region.

In a word, y’all, Jones-Rogers shakes the whole damn table, even for this daughter of the South. Drawing from court records, records of slave traders, personal papers, publications and WPA’s oral histories of formerly enslaved people, etc, she puts on display the source material hiding in plain sight but long dismissed or undermined by (white) historians, male or female.

She challenges readers to reckon with white women. Readers are confronted with multiple examples of how white women were deeply embedded in slavery from inheriting enslaved property, attending auctions to buy or sell enslaved people, to suing husbands, family members or slave traders to protect their rights. A common refrain of the time was their [white women] “sole and separate use” to manage their property how they saw fit. And, in most cases, as Jones-Rogers pointed out, they were successful.

The throughline I saw in all of this was the false assumptions of previous historians who allowed their own biases to shape, color, and flat out dismiss very real aspects of Southern culture and history. Jones-Rogers introduces these historians and their theories many of which are couched in patriarchal and paternalistic tones toward white women. In bringing their biases into the scholarship, they unknowingly (or knowingly?) minimized the harsh reality. In a slave society, these women were not unaware, unlearned, or exempt from it. They were often at the forefront as seen in Chapter 5 regarding the creation of a niche market for enslaved wet nurses. They shaped it and doled out the brutal punishments. (Aside: one story in particular made me shudder) Also, Jones-Rogers notes many white women owned less than ten enslaved people, likely one or two so these were not necessarily elite women living in grand mansions.

Why should we know this? Why should we re-engage with this history? Jones-Rogers offers up this statement:

If we acknowledge that white women stood to personally and directly benefit from the commodification and enslavement of African Americans we can better understand their participation in postwar white-supremacist movements and atrocities such as lynching - as well as their membership in organizations like the Ku Klux Klan. Southern white women’s roles in upholding and sustaining slavery form part of the much larger history of white supremacy and oppression. And through it all, they were not passive bystanders. They were co-conspirators.

As this book shows, these women were active participants, kind or brutal but most certainly owners. Active in the sale and destruction of enslaved families. Active in punishment. Active in engineering rape and sexual assault to ensure the continuation and profitability of their enslaved people. Active in ignoring the newfound freedom of their enslaved people with the Emancipation Proclamation. All the while spinning lies to tell themselves to justify their superiority over African and African American bodies.

Lies that are still being used today, I might add. Do white people know that when they pull these racial cards (“slavery was good for black people” and “white people were kind to their slaves” or “black people are lazy”) they are pulling on centuries old and well-documented fallacies that date to when white people actually owned people. They align themselves with the oppressors. I use to chock this up to white people being uneducated but now I see it for what it is: racial tradition that white people have passed down to absolve themselves of wrongdoing. Willfully sidestepping the generational trauma and genocide their ancestors inflicted, they presently inflict, or, equally as bad, remain indifferent to by seeing trauma unfold and do no more than virtual hand-wringing on these social media streets as if power to do something is outside of their grasp.

But, I digress.

In summation, READ this book. It will challenge your assumptions of white women during the antebellum and postbellum period, your understanding of Southern white marriages, and, honestly, break your heart all over again regarding the experience of enslaved African Americans in this country.



Archives, Liberation, and Black Feminist Theory

This is the third time I’ve tried to write this post on archives, liberation, and black feminist theory. The previous times delved into a long-winded explanation, a veritable literature review of my foray into readings.

Friends, that is not the post I wanted to write, although I have included at the end of this post a meaningful bibliography of black feminist theory and social justice readings that resonated with me.

What I wanted to write about, to connect on, is that place of tension within myself that, in turn, informs my archival practice.

In one of my many readings, bell hooks said simply and profoundly:

“decolonize your mind.”

In Emergent Strategy, adrienne maree brown stated:

“what we practice at the small scale sets the pattern for the whole system.”

Inevitably to change these systems of oppression, the necessary work, that ripples out must start with me. I must decolonize my mind, reckon with its toxicity wrought by a straight, white supremacist capitalist patriarchal (and evangelical) culture (S.W.S.C.P.E). How do I hinder myself? Oppress others? How do I keep drinking this poison and expecting those who are doing the harm to get sick or die?

To envision liberation, I must first liberate myself. This is what comes up most often in my readings. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it, unpacking it in my day to day.

At the same time, I ponder the influence of this culture on archives and archival practice.

Black feminism brings stern critique, a hyper awareness of the interplay of different identities (race, class, sexuality, etc) and an understanding of power dynamics but it also speaks with love, even leads with it.

How do I bring this into my archival practice? How does my identity as a cisgender hetero middle class black woman inform my approach? How do these identifiers come into tension with S.W.S.C.P.E? After all, as discussed on Twitter, the voices and writings that are upheld as the cornerstones of archival theory are straight white men.

If I do not liberate myself by recognizing how I support the systems of oppression, leaning away from the dominant colonialist narrative/approach, and halting my tacit demand of others to adhere to it as well, I will only replicate them within the archivist-donor-researcher paradigm. That is not leading with love. That is leading with power and centuries of domination. “I know something you don’t. I am the authority.”

I am not advocating to throw the whole basis for archival theory or practice away, as tempting as that may sound. Rather I advocate revisiting it, revising it if we can, and if not, then discarding it in order to create something new.

What encourages me to propose the aforementioned statement is the present, changing landscape of archival theory and practice. It is expansive and diverse. I look at the work and writings of Jarrett Drake, Michelle Caswell, Bergis Jules, Staci Williams, and so, so many others who bring marginalized communities to the table as equal partners to share in the transformational work of reimagining archives to be an inclusive environment and experience. (Yes, it is an experience to engage with archives.) I think to myself, why isn’t this embedded in our archival theory and practice? Why does the profession persist in setting itself apart? This is work we ought to reckon with because in continuing to exist in this manner only aligns ourselves with systems of oppression. It continues to distance marginalized communities.

The work has shifted toward bringing in diverse collections but not actively and consistently creating an inclusive space for marginalized communities to engage and interact with their collection….with their own history. Is that not still gate keeping?

In response, we see the rise of community archives. The community taking ownership of their history and the preservation of their records.

How do we reimagine archives? How do we dismantle the hold of these systems of oppression and what does that look like?

Again, I return to brown, as that is my current reading and most present in my mind, what is the vision for liberation? What does it look like? What are we working toward?

From there, I ask myself and ask of you, how are we honoring that vision? How are we moving toward it? How are we replicating it now in our lives and in our encounters with others?

Why is that important? Because we are the system. These systems of oppression are us. We sustain it. We nourish it. Now hear me out, the system is predicated on people playing their part or, in the case of marginalized communities, “staying in their lane.” To continue to play the role it has designated for us, not the role we hope for or envision for ourselves.

When we stop participating the way the system (aka others) expect of us, when we recognize and assert the right to determine the course of our own lives, THAT is where change is possible. That is where liberation comes. That is when systems can be dismantled. But, that is also where the tension lies….and also the potential for violence from the most staunch supporters of said system.

It won’t be easy. It will be hella tough because this is a system that has thrived for centuries. It is a system where folks are still invested in it, whether they openly admit it or not, whether they know it or not.

Fin.

For now.

The words for this post came to me while I was eating breakfast at my dining room table. Thank goodness for a pen nearby and this envelope. I ended up tearing it along the seams to continue writing.

The words for this post came to me while I was eating breakfast at my dining room table. Thank goodness for a pen nearby and this envelope. I ended up tearing it along the seams to continue writing.

___

Meaningful bibliography

adrienne maree brown. Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds. Chico: AK Press, 2017.

Audre Lorde. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2012.

bell hooks. Ain’t I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism. Boston: South End Press, 1981.

bell hooks. All About Love: New Visions. New York: William Morrow Paperbacks, 2000.

Barbara Ransby. Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018.

Brittney C. Cooper. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018.

Ricardo L. Punzalan and Michelle Caswell, “Critical Directions for Archival Approaches to Social Justice,” Library Quarterly 86 (2016).