Anna Julia Cooper

Only the Black woman can say when and where I enter

Written by Olivia Jobe

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Only the Black woman can say when and where I enter; She holds me in a place embraced by warmness and soothed by the beat of her heart. It is her push that brings me into the world and out into the light. I may scream and cry; she tells me I will be alright. It is her warm skin that will lull me to sleep. When my eyes close, I see them, those that look like her but are not her. They greet me and tell me their stories of days playing in the tall grass. Others tell me of their happiest moments, watching young faces jump the broom and seeing new life every spring. Some tell me to be wary of the world. When I awaken, it is your face I see, ready to greet me back into this world. 

Only the Black woman can say when and where I enter, in the quiet; To go quietly into the night is an understatement. The world demands that I exist in the quiet. My body is too loud, my skin speaks with a vibrating vibrato, my eyes proclaim the names of those who came before me, and my hands tell stories you wish I would forget. Yet I exist in the quiet. 

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Charlotte Forten

This Dream I Am Born With

Written by Niko Nelson

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Dear C,

You have come to me

To become the reverend 

of what I have thought entirely 

For the society within me 

Transcends time 

Dissolves our relaxed past 

Inspires our self-same continuum 

Where I have been you all along

But you never me

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Harriet Tubman

Scars of Misogynoir 

Written by Jamila Pereira

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

I bleed a bit every day

As my soul sisters shred into pieces

And their hearts shed into ashes

All because misogynoir took over our men and left them wailing at sea.

Doomed to dwell on what true love looks like.

Isn’t a white assailant enough to deal with?

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Sojourner Truth

Rivers and Mountains

Written by Olivia Jobe

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Everybody wants to know your story. Where did you come from? How did someone like you get here? What rivers and mountains did you have to cross? Those who wait with bated breath to hear your tale share the same face as the ghost of your past. When they look at you, they see a miracle, an adventure, a story. They want to hear your story’s beginning (although you can never truly share those beginnings because you don’t know them.) You can’t ask your mother, just like she can’t ask hers. All you know is that life did not start here. There was a place where people the color of the deep earth spent their days under the sun. Instead of bent backs, heads were held high to keep gourds of water still. Instead of strange fruit swinging from the trees, songs of mothers and fathers were sung under the Baobab tree. They tell you that kings and ghosts traded the lives of those from the earth. Miles and miles they marched until they were greeted by the sea. One by one they walked through the door of no return into a darkness that swayed with no rhythm. Children wailed, women cursed the men above, and the men looked on at chained limbs. When they could, mothers gave their children to the sea. The next light they would see was the harsh blazes of a southern sun from bent backs. 

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Maria Stewart

Mother Of All Souls

Written by Jamila Pereira

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Immeasurable and unbearable, those are our feelings. 

Not theirs to carry or theirs to scrutinise, they are ours to keep. 

These feelings of ours are as heavy as rocks and as strong as Aqueles. 

“So yes, they might doom us too.” 

Change is no longer an option at the table, so we ought to, and we will hold anger and bitterness deep within until we can no longer breathe. 

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Jarena Lee

The revolutionary nature of travel through the written word

Written by Money Mathibela

In response to Dr. Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Katya Zabelski

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Like a great deal of black women, I have always marvelled at the well-deserved justice extended to history makers who have been dealt a great disservice due to their historical context.  Jarena Lee shifted the narrative of literary and travel culture, highlighting how pre-historical writing by black folk only carried with it trauma-inducing undertones. Dr. Kiefer Lambert did a remarkable job of showing African American women in a post-emancipation America as creatives engaging in literary works detailing travel, a mostly pleasurable activity of leisure. The report eased the overwhelming burden of having to read and write about the dreadful experiences of prehistoric black women. 

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Do Me Justice: Responses to the Literature and History of Six 19th Century African American Women

Written by Dr Kiefer Lambert

Edited by Jessica Hannah

Illustrated by Maia Walcott

Introduction

“Children, as there is no school to-day, will you read Sojourner the reports of the Convention? I want to see whether these young sprigs of the press do me justice.”

– Sojourner Truth, quoted in Anthony, Gage and Stanton, History of Woman Suffrage Vol. 2 (1881), page 926.

When, in the late 1860s, Sojourner Truth challenged the “young sprigs of the press” to do her justice, she was perhaps being a little unfair. By that time, Truth was already the legendary figure that many people are familiar with today: the tall, physically powerful, formerly enslaved woman, who had walked away from her enslaver’s plantation because he had broken an agreement to free her, had become involved in the Cult of Matthias in New York City, had shunned her enslaved name by renaming herself Sojourner Truth, had calmed a riotous mob by singing to them, had published her narrative, had begun copyrighting and selling portraits of herself to raise money, had campaigned for women’s rights, had stopped Frederick Douglass mid-speech with the question “Is God Gone?”, and had given her own famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech. No one, apart from Truth herself, could ever really hope to “do justice” to her. 

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I May Destroy You, Atlanta and Get Out: Afro-Surrealism and the everyday horror of Blackness

Written by Laura Hackshaw

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Illustrated by Daley North

This is a show tune
But the show hasn’t been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail

Black cat cross my path
I think every day’s gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I don’t belong here
I don’t belong there
I’ve even stopped believing in prayer

–  Mississippi Goddamn by Nina Simone

‘‘Afro-Surrealism is drifting into contemporary culture on a rowboat with no oars…to hunt down clues for the cure.’’

–  D. Scot Miller – Afrosurreal Manifesto: Black is the New Black a 21st Century Manifesto (2009)

*This essay contains spoiler alerts for several TV shows and films

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Learning the Multiplicity of Being with Akwaeke Emezi

Written by Amuna Wagner

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Illustrated by Olamide Florence Adeoye aka Sharp Txngue

Do you believe in spirits? And does it matter whether you do? Akwaeke Emezi taught me that to Black people this question is essential for collective survival the day I stumbled upon Freshwater (2018) in my partner’s bookshelf. The novel pulled me into the life of Ada, the child of a Nigerian father and Tamil mother who suffers the pain of being a spirit trapped in flesh. An ọgbanje, to be exact. Ada is born a screaming baby “with one foot on the other side” (back cover), only a half-step ahead of madness. When she moves to the United States for college and her boyfriend sexually assaults her, spirits that have been living inside her emerge and assume increasing autonomy: the feminine Asughara, masculine Saint Vincent, and a collective “We” of brothersisters. Ada continues life as a fractured, multiple being, navigating her several selves’ desires and darkness.

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The Whispering Trees by Abubaker Adam Ibrahim

Joycelyn Longdon

Edited by Veronica Vivi

Art by Jazmine Sheckleford www.facebook.com/jasmineillustrations13

Abubaker Adam Ibrahim’s short story, ‘The Whispering Trees’, follows the spiritual awakening of protagonist Salim, a Nigerian medical student, after being rendered blind from a fatal car accident. Shortlisted for the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, this story stood out to me, with its ability to pair emotional familiarity with cultural insight and authenticity, raising personal questions on the compatibility or incompatibility of spirituality and religion. Seldom approached in Theology or Philosophy courses, the defeat of spirituality by religion and the ongoing practices of spirituality within the African community are subjects in need of more academic scrutiny.

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