In appreciation of the poem by the same name
with no immediate cause
I used dashes (—) to mark line breaks when quoting Ntozake Shange’s poem, so as not to be confused with her artistic use of slash marks.
The most useful piece of information I took from my intro to women’s and gender studies course was the reality that my lived experiences with harassment and gender-based violence are in no way happenstance. Nor are they the result of my choices in company, attire, whereabouts, or recreation. I am a single body inside a reality that has warped and misshaped itself into a place where “every3 minutes a woman is beaten— every five minutes a— woman is raped/every ten minutes— a lil girl is molested.”
This essay about safe spaces (or lack thereof) is a reaction to a rather unpleasant experience I had at an open mic, and features a poem by the same title.
TW: False r*pe accusation
Towards the beginning of this summer, my good friend and I read and raved about An American Marriage by Tayari Jones together. Aside from fueling the Black feminist in me, this novel has easily become a part of my personal canon of amazing literature, and solidified Jones as one of my favorite storytellers today. Jones’ powerful command of language and her ability to create vivid, touching narrative help amplify the sheer, uninhibited Blackness of the characters, setting, and story itself. What stood out most to me, of course, were the Black feminist themes that undergirded the story.
Over the last several months I’ve been forced to grow in ways that I haven’t been able to begin naming until today. It started with the loss of close friendships and ended in a pile of social intricacies that I mishandled in some way or another. Fissures grew in my relationships with family members, my attention to things and people that mattered deeply to me faltered, communication seemed to stall in my partnership, on my end. I felt like I was losing myself amongst all the chaos and, as a result, drowning in my anxieties.
About a year and a half ago, I wrote a piece for my college’s only feminist publication ranting about the ways in which people police, invalidate, and deny the humanity of Black women when they reduce our feelings of frustration to mere unprecedented “anger.” At the time I was responding to an ex-coworker’s assertion that he couldn’t have conversations with Black women because of our “attitudes.” Today I’m writing because after this weekend’s U.S. Open match, people of all races and identities are gaslighting Serena Williams and encouraging antiquated (my favorite word as of late) racist and sexist stereotypes teeming with respectability politics.