This Otto, and she just read Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower (2018).

I enjoy working with Black feminism’s, and some of queer theory’s, interest in world-building and cultivating relationship through community. Black feminism acknowledges the recursive gendered and racial violence done to Black bodies and lives, which seem to be structural and integral parts of capitalist, neoliberal material realities. This notion is a through-line in Eloquent Rage. As Cooper discusses how Black feminism has become a critical framework through which she has made sense of her reality, she notes moments that remind her that Black women are continually subjected to positions of servitude, sexual desires, death —like Sandra Bland’s death; being bullied for being too smart and acting “white”; her grandmother shaming her into be more hospitable to find a husband, to name a few. 
Even through recounting continued subjection, Cooper speaks about how deep love and care within herself opens up to seeing that deep love in another, forming alternative relationalities. She points to Audre Lorde’s notion of the “erotic” as a new way of relating to someone else. This alternative relation yields “an opening up, a healing, a seeing and being seen,” and this is what Cooper sees as the erotic (20). In Sister Outsider (1984), Lorde writes, “The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling. In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change” (53).
When engaging with Black literature and arts, I look for the erotic. When Black works distort reality, I see such distortions as serving purposes of being seen, of healing, of harnessing a suppressed power. As Lorde indicates, the erotic is corrupted and distorted by oppression; therefore, when the erotic presents itself in Black worldbuilding, it comes through as distorted and corrupt. It’s that distortion that holds alternative Black being. Lorde’s erotic produces ecstatic relations that confront the narrative of Black death, and offers pleasure, care, and community. Eloquent Rage, as a Black feminist work, teaches us how to go beyond violent worlds through community.
This is Furi, and she just read Saidiya Hartman's Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route (2006). 
Throughout Lose Your Mother, I felt a deep sense of loss. I’m not usually a person that is filled with feelings of hope when it comes to achieving some sort of Black liberation in this white world. Maybe once upon a time I did have hope, but the more I knew about the persistence violence of white supremacy–– that never seems to wane–– the more that feeling of hope waned.
Even though no one wants to think about hopelessness when it comes to Black liberation, I appreciated Hartman’s honesty. Maybe because we share the same waning hope. As indicated in her writing, “the expatriates crossed the Atlantic to break the chains of slavery, and I did so doubting that I would ever be free of them” (41). Maybe I appreciated Hartman’s honesty because we are on a similar mission to desperately find reprieve from loneliness, to desperately find lost generations to mourn, to desperately try to find a home to feel safe in. And no matter where we turn, we find emptiness, death, and apathy for our pain. So even though her tales are painful, they comfort me like a weighted blanket.  
Hartman opens her story with being called “Obruni,”–– stranger–– repeatedly while on her mission to see what might have survived enslavement, in the hopes that there could be something to place this yearning to mourn into. But that name loudly says, there is nothing left of you here. It should have been the first red flag that says it’s useless to search for any forgotten part of you.
Hartman writes, “Obruni forced me to acknowledge that I didn’t belong anyplace. The domain of the stranger is always an elusive elsewhere”(4). I’ve been interested a lot lately in thinking about this elusive elsewhere for Black people in the diaspora who’s sense of indigenous homeland has been permanently stripped from us. As much as elsewhere is a damning category, as if to suggest a place of actual belonging exists in some cloud that is never locatable or placed–– might as well be Neverland, it also a category of imaginative creation, as if Elsewhere is a chance to world build with opacity. If the world is hellbent on prolonging the effects of enslavements and solidifying the idea that Black bodies are disposable, should they, the ones who seek our blood, have access to our domain named Elsewhere? And wouldn’t the domain of strangers, who feels the pain of never belonging, be a place of healing? So how do we build it? I believe we’ve seen clues to how it has been built–– Wakanda, for example–– but discussing it out in the open in tricky. Perhaps, in Lose Your Mother, the Elsewhere portal is in the middle of the clearing in Gwolu, where we can find young girls singing “Gwolu is a town of gold/When you enter the circle/you will be protected/ you will be safe” (235). Perhaps this song is spell. Sing it twice, you’ve arrived in Elsewhere.
There are many talks of a utopic African dream within the stories Hartman tells. She discusses the plight of many Black Americans as they sojourner the tracks of African slave trade, hoping to find pieces of themselves, but all they are able to find are more signs of brutal death that is used for money (this time tourism); more disregard and confusion of their return; jokes about their unfortunate history; blame shifting; folks at most calling them “friend,” never brother, sister, sibling, kin. But Hartman’s story of her journey ends with solidifying this fleeting hope for home with Gwolu. A town that, with all their might, fought off raiders whose aim was to capture their village and force them into slave trading. Hartman writes, “the bridge between the people of Gwolu and me wasn’t what we had suffered or what we had endured but the aspiration that fueled flight and the yearning for freedom. It was these shared dreams that might open a common road to a future in which the longing and disappointed hopes of captives, slaves, and fugitive might be realized” (234). Standing in this town, Hartman recalls feeling something different. As she’s watching these young girls singing and dancing, someone comes behind her, calls her “sister” and says this song is for the diaspora, for those whose domain is Elsewhere.
This is Lora, and she just read NK Jemisin’s How Long ‘til Black Futures Month (2018).

This collection of short stories explores and speculates the complex relationalities when non-human, sub-human, or not-just-human meets humanism. When the old-world order stares into the face of a new world order which has come to take over. These complex relationalities usually involve taking over bodies or land; witchcraft or some sort of magical practices; supernatural phenomena; and most interesting, embodied data–– like the ones and zeros in CPU’s but embodied. Lora had a hard time imagining it, too.

The story, “Walking Awake,” is strikingly close to Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2017). Parasites–– a combination of “bugs, fungi, microbes, and more”–– infect and take over the human body (224). Like Get Out, the humans are no longer living in their body after parasite transfer. Their bodies belong to the parasite to go have a “humanly” existence, while the inner soul of the human is in this place of darkness. The darkness is filled with others all around. Can’t see them but can hear whispering all the time. When the main character, Sadie, visits the darkness, she has a conversation with someone whose body has just been used by a parasite. He says to Sadie, “We’re dead, but we’re still here” (220). With this story, Lora thinks with Jemisin’s criticism of white supremacy’s systemic ways of taking over the lives and bodies. When the takeover occurs, people don’t simply die when their body is in use but they also can’t simply be in the world. The very idea of ontology, or what it means to exist, must be contended with. There is an alternative life within the other world of the disembodied souls. Within the darkness, Lora listens to the whispers of the dead-not-dead.

 “The Storyteller’s Replacement” begins with: “The storyteller could not make it this evening. He sent me in his stead. Why, because I am one whose task it is to speak for the dead. Perhaps you’ve heard of others like me?... shaman, onmyouji, boker, freak. Since the dead are in no short supply, I know many tales” (170). Perhaps this is a way to understand life within death: the work of speculation, magick, and trust in what we cannot overtly see can help us make sense of seemingly nonsense. Seeing and trusting an otherwise world and way of knowing easily makes more sense to Lora.

In “The Effluent Engine,” Jessaline and Eugenie go into the willow tree fall that is described as “the space beyond, green shrouded and encircling, like a hurricane of leaves” (91). This is the time when Jessaline tells Eugenie the truth of her mission toward liberation and reveals her hidden magic. Lora reads this “space beyond” as an alternative world, a metaphor for how secrets are passed as knowledge. The need for secrecy is made very plain in this story. Jessaline has received word that White Camellias (which seems to be a cross between Freemason and KKK) are after her; it’s important that her moves regarding her escape are kept secret. We are in a world where people in power are always already ready to seize up anything that can work to their advantage; therefore, alternative worlds that foster liberation missions like the one of Jessaline can only be shared with a select few, and this sharing does not occur out in the open. This alternative world is metaphorically named Haiti. The story never reveals Haiti, but describes it as a far way, quasi-utopic, place where “women… head a family with another woman” (96). It’s a “nation of free folks [hell-bent] on stay[ing] free” (92). It’s also the world that Jessaline offers to take Eugenie and Norbert so that they can have a home with a freedom that is never offered to them in the US. 

Lora is curious why Haiti remains an imagined space in the text. What would it mean to reveal what a freedom nation for Black and queer peoples to live and thrive amongst themselves? Well, in a text where white people are instantly ready to capture anything that is free, why... to expose the land of freedom could be... disastrous.

This is Sybil, and she read Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987). 

Sybil thinks that Beloved comes from the shadows, from the depth of something unknown. Although literary scholars have speculated where she comes from based on some clues–– the depth of the hold within slave ships, for example–– but where she is actually from remains unknown. Where did this body come from? Where did Beloved come from? Who are her people? What is her past, present, and future? Folks in the story also speculate from the little nonsensical information they have. People say that she was locked in the house with men before she arrived, people say she was Sethe’s baby that she placed on a handsaw so that white men wouldn’t steal her away years ago, People say she’s a ghost, a wanderer, a mother, a child.
Sybil’s speculation: Beloved is unhuman but takes on human form. Sybil believes that Beloved is a feeling–– an essence–– embodied. 
Beloved doesn’t take ownership of the body that she is contained in. It’s the body that people around her see, but it’s not a body she sees as hers. She identifies with Sethe’s face and darkness as her own. First, her presence takes over the house as her bodily form. When she’s kicked out by Paul D, she appears in the form of a young dark mysterious woman. When Denver and Beloved play in the shed out back, the door shuts on them and they are in total darkness. Denver cannot hear Beloved anymore. Denver opens the door to let the light back in, and Beloved is not there. When Beloved reappears, she says, “ ‘Over there. Her face.’ Denver looks where Beloved eyes go; there is nothing but darkness there. ‘Whose face? Who is it?’ [Denver asks]. ‘Me. It’s me.’ [says Beloved]"
Throughout the novel, Beloved, Sethe, and Denver develop a kinship that is desired, needed, but is also harmful. Sethe understands and feels Beloved’s anger towards her because of what she did and then Beloved holds that resentment over Sethe in demanding narcissistic ways.
But there’s something about how Beloved leaves that confirms for Sybil that she is Sethe’s feelings of guilt and shame embodied. The women in Sethe’s community hear about her hardship with Beloved and although they don’t fully agree with Sethe’s actions (and although they certainly understand–– who knows what they would do when the white threat hovers over them), they know they need to help her. They come to her house and sing… “it was as though the clearing [the church community] had come to her with the heat and simmering leaves, where the voice of women searched for the right combination, the key, the code, the sound that broke the back of words. It broke over Sethe and she trembled like the baptized in its wash.” After this moment, Beloved disappears smiling.
Morrison’s Beloved points our attention to the need and power of community healing. A need to see each other, empathize, amidst violence. Because Black women, we all we got.
This is Luwi. And she just read Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony (2020).

Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s work is paramount when thinking about ecstatic world-building practices that work with Black feminist sensibility and when thinking about imaginative, speculative knowledge production about alternative Black life.
Gumbs’s Dub: Finding Ceremony (2020) opens by providing reasoning for the possibility and actuality of thinking, being, relating differently from that of coloniality: “If the ways of thinking, being and understanding that made colonialism and slavery imaginable were constructed over time, and heretical to the ways of thinking, being, and understanding that came before them, it must be possible to understand life, being, and place differently by now” (ix). If someone’s imagination manifested this reality, then it must be possible to imagine and thus create otherwise and elsewhere.
Dub defies the colonial knowledge of time. Imagining and thus existing otherwise has always been executed especially outside the direct colonial gaze and its periphery, despite the illusion of time. Dub gives us anecdotes, stories about the life of the otherwise–– sometimes our life as otherwise. Sometimes another person’s life as otherwise. We get to experience an alternative community when we step into the deep ocean of otherwise that Dub offers. In this sharing of otherwise stories that have always, even currently and in the future, exist(ed), we experience the connections between far-stretched relations. In Dub, there is a narrator, there is a person that the narrator speaks to (Luwi understands them as “you”), there is someone that the narrator is talking with (often using the pronoun “us”). But the text never lets us know who these figures are. The only way to understand this community and the relationalities there within requires a submersion into the alternative existence, submersion into elsewhere. All we have to do is follow the instructions and listen to their, our, your stories.
In order to understand the purpose of a hidden ambiguous community offering lessons to the reader, Dub asks for reading practices that refuse to only situate the texts in the domain of continued anti-blackness and/ or hope for liberatory future in the horizon of linear time. Rather, to understand Dub, Luwi works with a reading practice that contemplates an unthinkable reality as actually existing. A reality that can only make sense outside of coloniality, capitalism, and anti-Black common senses. A reality that can only be understood if readers queer what they think they know about Blackness and material realities, in the case of Dub queering how we think of community lessons.

This is Windy. And she’s currently reading Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar’s You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey (2021). 
This comedy book retells outrageous experiences of existing within white supremacy. It makes her think of the use of comedy when portraying the outrageous, harmful actions of white supremacy. From the seemingly (but not really) mundane acts, like a makeup artist saying she can do Lacey’s makeup but has to paint her in whiteface first (without her knowledge), to the lasting traumatic acts, like being endlessly harassed just for existing. Although the book is comedic, as Amber is a comedian, it seems as though the comedic irony is in how racist people make sense of the nonsense. How can people ( especially officials and people with platforms) justify ludicrous, racist violence?
 In the book and in the world, they will give butt-loads of reasons––fit the description, look suspicious, a misunderstanding, having a bad day. Anything but say what provokes the violence is racism. And maybe that’s one of the reasons the spread of racism is so insidious and so covert to many (even to those who are experiencing it)… to the point where it’s normal to not even name it. That we can do all these things that violate people’s personhoods and lives, and many people treat such violation (regardless of how big or small) as normal. 
That is partly why this book is so special. It doesn’t attempt to explain the reasoning behind racist behavior. All we are offered are stories, experiences, and other people’s nonsensical excuses. And Windy thinks about the power in that. The power is telling stories and offering no justification of those actions and saying flatly what it is: racism.
This is Lane. And she just read Alice Walker’s The Color Purple (1982)
When she thinks about this novel, she thinks about how radical it is for women to hold a position of power. But this isn’t necessarily a power to dominate others, but a power that stems from an authentic sense of self and an authentic knowing of how much they are worth. 
The novel has a narrative undertone that shows how men, masculinity, and patriarchy maintain the power of a high sense of self that is fueled by their control and opinion of women and who women should be in relation to them. It seems as though the men in the story never think that women have their own lives and their own knowledge of self that isn’t at all related to how useful they are to men. That is until they come across Sophia, Shug, and Nettie, and other characters in the novel. 
Lane sees the higher narrative of the novel as the relationship women cultivate in moments where they are overrun by the audacity of men. Such understanding makes Lane believe that there is power in seeing herself as worthy in her own right. Relationships that honor and support this power are ecstatic. Lane feels as though the relationship between Shug and Celie is felt deeply within their body and exceeds beyond their flesh. Such transcendence makes it so their power can’t be touched by the controlling power of men, no matter how much they try. That is, even though Albert hides the letters that Nettie writes from Celie as a way to control Celie’s full knowledge of herself, Shug and Celie, with their love for each other, find a way to get those letters.  
And it’s telling to Lane how many of these women, who cultivate this high sense of self-worth and commit to showing other women how to find and honor their own authenticity, are called demonic, evil, and pitiful. But we know that naming calling is an abusive tactic meant to control women into who the men want them to be. Lane loves to see it not working. Lane loves to see Shug embody her power with pride, even if she is called demonic.
This is Gladys. And she just revisited her old fav Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun (1958). 
The play has her thinking a lot about the feelings of hopelessness. Like in the way, if you’re surrounded by destruction and death and seeing very, very little to ease that destruction and death, feeling hopeless is quite understandable, right? 
She finds that this play shows how hope gets continuously squashed for Black people, especially when they are trying to make it. And Gladys doesn’t think this just to be sadistically pessimistic, or even to suggest that there’s no such thing as hope. But she thinks that Hansberry’s play forces her to contemplate deeper about such feelings. Not just shove the feeling away because it doesn’t feel good. But actually sit with it, think about what it means, the heavy feelings of despair it carries with it. And not necessarily for such feelings to be the end all and be all. But to understand it and understand how real it is.
The play is set in south-side Chicago, sometime after WWII and before 1960. A Black family of five, sharing a bug infested, decrepit 2-bedroom apartment. But their dreams are larger than what that apartment can hold. They want to exist as people more than what they are currently subjected to. And that’s a big theme in the play–– big dreams, big thoughts, big desires. Wanting more than what this anti-Black world will ever offer them. Bennie wants to be a doctor to fix people when they are broken because that’s what god does. Walter wants to be a big-time executive, riding around in big cars, living in a penthouse, with an assistant for his office. And it seems like Lena just wants her children to be happy and a garden.
But amid all hope, Gladys wants to consider what happens when dreams are not only deferred but are more like mirages placed far away in front of them, almost like a joke played by white capitalists. Because of their father’s death, the family has a check coming for 10 grand. They have money coming in, and it seems like the money is the engine of the whole play, the fuel for their dreams. But Walter, albeit one could say careless, gets taken advantage of and loses the money, which causes Bennie to lose money for her education. What happens when you’re in a world full of takers–– take your money, take your chances, take your opportunities, take your dreams before you even get it your hand.
In the end, they move to a neighborhood that doesn’t want them. This move to a house with a garden could be seen as a dream manifested in reality, but because Walter was taken advantage of, they have no extra money left and have to work twice as hard in white people’s kitchens and businesses to maintain their home ownership dreams. And they are already receiving threats before moving in. And Bennie’s dream may manifest, but she must marry a boy who will take her to Africa to practice medicine–– throughout the play Bennie has no real desire to marry, only to study medicine, but now only marriage is how her dream may come to her.
With all this in her mind, Gladys asks, is a dream still deferred if it is compromised? Is the dream still a mirage if you can only, maybe, attain it through the means of the systems that entrap you–– white supremacy and patriarchy? So, yes, there is happiness at the end of the play, but at what cost and for how long? And do the dreams ever manifest or is it another mirage that we experience as readers?  
This is Jari. She loves the imagination simply because of the power that it holds. She read Kara Keeling’s Queer Times, Black Futures (2019). 
And it allowed her to think about how the elements of Afrofuturism–– imagination, technology, the future, and liberation–– not only influence Black cultural producers, artists, and writers as we imagine a more liberatory future, but finance capitalism also seems intrigued by such techniques. So the imagination is power, Jari thinks. But who uses it and for what reasons? Though Queer Times, Black Futures doesn’t center Afrofuturistic discourse, it does consider how these practices–– that are central to Black liberation efforts–– are violently co-opted by capitalists to support finance capital’s racist, globalizing regimes.  
           So Jari wonders, what happens to Black imaginations when racial capitalism wants to dance? Finance capital is a mode of racial capitalism that speculates future social realities to plan one’s investments and how to maintain their company. Some questions Jari asked while reading: How does finance capital compromise, exploit, extract, co-opt, and distort Black liberation practices to speculate a future where "they [the corporations] will continue to generate a profit" and will never be "rendered obsolete" (9)? In terms of Black liberation efforts, how do these practices change, resist, and adapt according to finance capital moves, and how does such change remain opaque and obscure–– refusing knowledge, refusing to let finance capital truly know the practices of these four elements? In this opacity, how do Black peoples imagine a future or another world that exists somewhere in the alternative hidden spatiotemporal spectrum that lies on the outskirts (figuratively speaking b/c really this spectrum lies everywhere and nowhere) of dominant social, economic realities? In other words, how do Black people imagine a world that doesn’t exist right before our eyes? 
Keeling demonstrates how Black imaginations re-imagine tools for futurity when finance capital increasingly misuses such imagination to maintain a future that is antagonistic to those imagined by Black peoples.
This is Emi. Lately, she has been interested in experimentation. So, she was drawn to Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters (1980). 
She heard that this novel doesn’t follow a clear-cut storyline with a recognizable plot, protagonist, antagonist, climax, etc. It’s true, everything eventful in this novel seems to be happening all at once. Although a fun read, such style of writing makes this experimental novel difficult to understand. But Emi thinks that’s the point. By breaking apart the traditional form that novels often follow, Bambara has Emi thinking about what such disruption says about Black experiences–– particularly of women towards the end of the Black Art Movement, where Black culture, radicalism, and activism were at transition phases. People, particularly women, in the story know that something needs to change for Black radical movements because such movements often rely too heavily on patriarchal hegemonic views imposed onto women, queer peoples, and children (which doesn’t help support movements for Black liberation). But, as the novel conveys, how can transitions occur when you don’t really know what’s next.
Emi finds that the lack of knowledge undergirds this story; such lack is its own form of knowledge. The characters are all trying to figure out the unknowns of the situation that has gotten them to the place they currently are— which is both a site of curiosity and anxious turmoil. It’s hard to say who the main character is, but let’s say it's Velma because the novel opens up with her on that thin line between life and death. Emi experiences the battle with Velma–– the battle between being present with Minnie (a spiritual worker desperately trying to get Velma to come back to live in her present body) and drifting off into a world that is unfamiliar and drifting off to moments in her past. The transition between these different moments of existing come about suddenly–– miss a word, you miss a move. Through Velma’s memories (and maybe other character’s memories and present moments), Emi sees a sort of fractioning happening where the women of the Black liberation group are sick of the men’s showboating with no work ethic to show for it and have firmly decided to break apart and start another organization that they will manage and run. So we see transitioning happening both in the material realities of characters and in the life tug-of-war with Velma. And perhaps that’s saying something deeper about Black liberation efforts: no one knows what to do but knows somethings got to get done. This makes Emi ask, what does it mean to reckon with the unknown?
Perhaps Black epistemology is that which is unknown and can’t be known–– like Glissant’s concept of opacity in Poetics of Relation (1990). She sees this most clearly in the conversation between Fred and Porter. Porter is talking about Blackness as invisibility. But not in the literal sense–– “don’t mean invisible invisible like the old Claude Raines movies… Invisible is… not looking like something or someone… [that someone else] is expecting… They call the Black man The Invisible Man… our natures are unknowable, unseeable to them. They haven’t got the eyes for us” (158). So, now we got to put knowledge on the table and think about what it means to *know* something–– to make sense of it. Being heavily influenced by colonial societies, making sense often relies on colonial logics–– it’s what gives us those perceptive eyes that Porter talks about. But we can’t understand Black thought through colonial logics. So, to reflect on Kara Keeling’s The Witch’s Flight (2007), we need new logics or a set of mental motors that get us to a new way of understanding. And only then (maybe) can the unknowable Blackness be understood. The “maybe” indicates that maybe Blackness is always fleeting, reflecting on Cedric Fauq’s “Curating for the Age of Blackness” (2019). Always on the move, always escaping concrete knowing, always resisting being honed down. Maybe Porter isn’t saying we need another mode of knowing to understand Black invisibility or to turn that invisibility into something visible. Because once we think we are at a mode of understanding Blackness, that which we thought was authentic Blackness has escaped.
The novel spends a great deal of time outside of material reality and Emi, as a reader, had a hard time situating and defining the characters, the actions, the settings, and the plot. And that has taught her so much about how to think about Blackness and liberation movements.
This is Ruby. She has always been interested in Black visual arts, so she picked up bell hooks’s Art on My Mind: Visual Politics (1995). 
She wants to know how Black feminists in the 80’s and 90’s were thinking critically about the purpose and effect of the visual. hooks discusses how the politics of art can influence the way we think, know, and reproduce knowledge. This helped Ruby recognize that art incites conversations, and these conversations are meant to conjure up some new ways of imagining reality into a way of living that has never before been experienced. That can ultimately build a new world if the desire for it burns enough. As a Black cultural critic, like hooks, Ruby homed in on how hooks defines visual politics–– conversations about visual arts are closely linked to “the way race, gender, and class shape art practices (who makes art, how it sells, who values it.”(xii)
Conversations about art are tunneled through hierarchical, colonial ways of disseminating information, and thereby controlling who gets considered and highlighted as valuable contributors to not only artistic productions, but also to critical conversations about the works. hooks challenges this trend through essays and interviews of her contemporary (’80s-’90s) Black artists, refusing to situate her readings into what restrictive institutions want to hear. She reads the works for how they disrupt anti-Black materials realities and create a world of Blackness that can only be seen by abandoning colonial reading glasses (as much as we can). Ruby’s take: the text offers new expansive, eclectic, and surreal ways we can engage with Black art… in ways that try to reach towards decoloniality and imagination. Because what’s at stake is liberation.
One of Ruby’s favorite writings in this collection is the interview with Alison Saar discussing what is special about the imagination and its ability to take you to new worlds. It’s a way to be “emphatic,” hooks says, to be imaginative and, thus, emphatic is a way of knowing that could stand to have more value (22). Think back to Nadia Huggins’s Territories of the Soul (2015) who says to be emphatic is to extend beyond the body, the location, the flesh. Saar says that imagination in her art practices––although it might seem mundane––is quite political because she is able to access memories and stories that she cannot access otherwise, in our material realities. Through engagement with her work, people can experience those forgotten, discarded memories. Saar “takes the ordinary and goes with it into the surreal” (23). She later talks about floating between two worlds, one of magic and the other of reality (26). Now when Ruby reads art, she goes into the world of its magic
This is Su. And she read Patricia Hill Collins’s Black Feminist Thought (1991). 
It made her reflect on the inclusion of Black feminism in academic institutions in the late ’80s and early ’90s-- such concerns are just as prevalent today. As scholars demand Black feminist thoughts and practices to be considered significant contributions to scholarship, Collins warns what’s at stake when we take something that is rooted in conversations between intimate relationship, community, and family— all of which can be destroyed or distorted in academia— and place it within institutions. While Collins certainly suggests it’s possible to study Black feminist consciousness (or ways of thinking, being, and interacting in the world through racialized, gendered, sexualized, and economic lens) and consider the significant ways such knowledges are (re)produced,  it’s easy to slip into institutional pitfalls and take Black feminist epistemologies far out of the worlds from which they started–– because white-centered, patriarchal, colonial institutions have a way of manipulating and distorting nonwhite knowledges so that it fits into their idea of “knowledge.” 

Su thinks this text is really important for anyone who is beginning their study of Black feminism because to understand Black feminist thought, we cannot rely on the same studious measures that are often fostered in institutions. Collins offers guidelines for how we can understand Black feminism as a field of study and still respect the origins from which they came; Black women must be at the center of what is considered Black feminist thought. Black feminist thought derives from, what she calls, Black feminist sensibility. Which I understand as the way circumstances around us affect the way we make sense of the world. “In other words, Black feminist thought encompasses theoretical interpretations of Black women’s reality by those who live it” (22). And such theories stimulate Black feminist sensibility.
That sensibility can be seen, or felt in the body and beyond, through engaging the way Black feminist articulate that sensibility in their works. Su’s most interested in how Collins talks about Black feminist sensibility through controlling images, a sensibility that continues to challenge images that aim to force Black women into categories that are constructed by the white imagination. These images are like costumes that get cloaked onto Black women as we move throughout life— forced to wear these costumes because such make-believe-turned-reality benefits white supremacy. Figures like: Mammy- the one who will take care of you, Matriarch- the head of the household and responsible for the continued oppression of Black families, Welfare mother- the one is “lazy” and just wants government checks, and Jezebel- the one who gives anyone access to their body freely. Controlling images turn Black women into objects, Black feminist sensibility is recognizing the costumes as fiction, (continually) telling the world the costumes are fiction, and building an image the tells a truer story of our name.
This is Shelby, and after mars got out of retrograde a week ago, she was thinking that she needed to take the reins of her own life. She read Ann Petry’s The Street (1946).
 She really resonated with Lutie and her feeling of knowing that she can do it all, all her desires. But Shelby is finding, as Lutie found, that it doesn’t matter sometimes. It doesn’t matter what they can do if the world is hell-bent on telling them it’s impossible. While reading, Shelby could feel the frustration with the long narratives of mundane moments that try to ooze out hope from a bottle that is clearly empty. From Lutie, Shelby learns about passion and desire as vital life forces, as feelings and sensations that provide experience, and sometimes ecstatic experiences from elsewhere, but not liberation.

Shelby thought about passion and feeling ecstatic elsewhere. Kind of like the feeling Zora Neale Hurston described in “How it Feels to be Colored Me” (1928), when she’s listening to Jazz: “I dance wildly inside myself; I yell within, I whoop… I am in the jungle and living in the jungle way. My face is painted red and yellow and my body is painted blue…I want to slaughter something--give pain, give death to what, I do not know.” Passion gives us those feelings that are rooted deep within us and can move outside of us, despite who tries to control and own it.

To Shelby, taking the reins of life means experiencing these ecstatic moments of life. Not to dismiss the very real systematic and societal forces that put Shelby and Lutie close to the position of social and physical death and nothingness. But perhaps there’s a reason why Petry spends so much time on mundane moments, thoroughly describing the room, the people, and a single situation. And why Hurston’s dance is so emphatic. Shelby experiences more than just the simplicities of the moment. She can feel how her desires and passion permeates and punctuates her bleak surrounding. Like Petry, like Hurston, Shelby will take her time in these moments where she can experience her raw passion and desire. She takes her time with these experiences feeling it inside and out.​​​​​​​
This is Lola, and she just finished reading Nadia Ellis’s Territories of the Soul: Queered Belonging in the Black Diaspora (2015). 
She loves how Ellis opens with a story about Stuart Hall when he’s in England listening to Black American jazz, such sounds were able to take him elsewhere. Ellis offers us to linger and think about the significance of Hall’s use of elsewhere–– “emphatic elsewhere.” That which is larger than what is physical, his being in England and in his body, and that which is occurring beyond his present moment. Ellis goes on to explain how this emphatic elsewhere can be experienced through a deep engagement with Black arts across Black diaspora and such deep engagement allows for a belonging to elsewhere.

Journey of elsewhere is a “journey of the mind,” imagination. Ellis makes an argument for the validity of imagination as a way for Black diasporic connections–– connecting despite violent, colonial means of permanent detachment, displacement, and dispersing from homes, lands, and communities. Emphatic is grand, emphasis, bigger than oneself. Diasporic desire is wanting to belong somewhere and elsewhere.

“Hall suggests… diasporic modernity inhered for him… a call from afar of a black aesthetic form.” This call is from elsewhere, that is not necessarily a place, location, physical. Answering the call is through “burrowing into the art… as if to listen to jazz was to enable the visit to its territories of origin” (2). Looking at art through its cultural expression and feeling that experience will allow it to take you elsewhere, the elsewhere of the Black culture the art expresses. The play of call–– the elsewhere within the art calling to you–– and response–– burrowing oneself in the art––and this desiring is a black aesthetic form.​​​​​​​

other works

Back to Top