To Balance A Crooked Room with Black Girl Magic

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Gone warn you now. This is a combo of two posts, so it’s long. I’m listening to Eryn Allen Kane on Soundcloud. If you don’t know her, stop reading this blog and look her up immediately. “Sometimes clinging to a cloud aint as easy as it seems.” Am I feeling the feels? Just a lil bit.

Antyways, Baby, it snows outside. Oy, New England, you are killing my soul in addition to my Ugg boots. I’ve been reading a book called “Color, Sex & Poetry in the Harlem Renaissance” by Gloria T. Hull. It’s absolutely boss. But then as I was reading it, I came to a strong realization. Africana Studies is one of my serious loves. It was a concentration of mine in undergrad and I continue to study it out of an academic environment. The photo above is from my notes made while reading the first page of “Blues for Mister Charlie” by James Baldwin. It’s so eerie to me that I could name all those names right off the top of my head. Modern day lynchings are so normalized and yet live in my very existence as a constant reminder, foreshadowing my own death in many ways. Fear is an interesting tool…I digress.

Last year, I moved into my first apartment at the same time when I was reading Melissa Harris Perry’s book, “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes and Black Women in America”. In the book, she talks about the “crooked room” that black women are forced to live in in this country. Black women are constantly bombarded with both racist and sexist images and messages laced with inferiority. This causes the crooked room. We attempt to balance these images and convince ourselves that we are standing up straight, when in reality, we just moved on a different diagonal. Still crooked. For example: homonormativity, colorism, etc, are some reactions to attempting to stand straight in the crooked room. The women I see who seem to be at the top, Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Viola Davis, are all in a balancing act in this continually crooked room just as the women I see passing me on the street or sitting on the bus or subway or ordering coffee at Starbucks.

The apartment that I chose to live in was in a newly renovated but still aged New England house. It slanted downward, causing the house to be crooked. I loved the apartment as I sometimes love the crooked room that is my life. I wanted to challenge myself to physically live in a crooked space. To master it physically not in trying to change it, but to let it be what it is. When I left that apartment, my physical world became straight for all intents and purposes. The apartment I live in now was chosen for me, I had no say. The apartment is straight, the foundation of the house is strong but my psychological and mental space became that of the crooked room. Same attack, different flavor. One of the things that truly fulfills me is to talk about blackness. It is fully possible for me to be comfortable in my black feminine queerness and to be lost in the comfort and conversation of blackness.

Speaking about old dead white men and women or even young white men and white women does absolutely nothing for me. They infiltrate everything. I feel like if one asks a person who their favorite actors are, or favorite film, or tv show, or book, it’s not an accident that all those answers regardless of race, class, gender, or sex involve white people at the center about 60 – 70% of the time. Ask me or any other “woke” person the same questions, and well, you receive a very different answer. I run into trouble with academics a lot. I can give facts, but I don’t speak as an academic. I speak with my heart first, with passion. I curse like a sailor, I don’t use big words, I’m pretty much the real in conversation. I don’t like theoreticals and philosophy. I don’t get high on intelligence. I’m a low-key feeler. I feel quietly. So quietly, that it’s most often overlooked.

Now I know a term was just used that’s a lil weird. “Woke”. Lately, I feel like that word has been thrown around a lot and much like “basic”, it’s now everywhere and claimed by everyone. A person who is woke is in my opinion, someone who challenges the status quo without apology. Someone who practices what they preach. A fighter, a sorcerer or sorceress. A person who weaves change into existence with passion and sheer will along with intelligence and heart. Challenges to the status quo are facilitated by the loneliness of the life of the pioneer. Life as a woke person is lonely without a tribe.

This weekend, I took part in Brown University’s Writing is Live acting in a staged reading. Three of the four plays this year were writing by playwrights of color that I admire SO much. With every word, I was given SO MUCH LIFE. For the first time, I felt like the words included me. I don’t think that is just because the writers were of color or because there were brown bodies on stage and off, although maybe that contributed to it. The room was alive. It vibrated with creation and static. Art was being made. It was uncomfortable, challenging, questioning, unapologetic. It was magic.

As a young actor, I think that I’m a classic “artist”. I’m self-conscious, needy, unsure, unstable, etc. Constantly in criticism. As a black, queer, femme, who deals with depression I forget very often that I am a black girl who possesses magic. This weekend, someone introduced me to another person and said “This is Cat, she’s Black Girl Magic.” I had to go home and meditate on that one and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My ancestors came to this land mass with chains weighing down their dreams, existence crushed. They became the children of massa and lost connection with their African selves. Massa’s side came from Europe somewhere, hoping to make a new life and instead lost track of humanity and created life without a thought to nurture, just produce on stolen land. The creation of all that heartbreak, led to my existence. Led to me. My very existence is magic. So yes, I am Black Girl Magic and I live and love in the crooked room.

When I was a little girl, every time I experienced racism and/or sexism, my mother would say, “I know you’re hurting, but think of that little girl who comes after you. How much will she be able to break through because you cracked the door?” What a thing to tell your child. What a connection. When I look at beautiful brown girls around me, I get filled with so much love. They too are magic. All around me, we thrive, despite our pain. Let us continue to uplift, to BE magic, not just facilitate it.

 

Peace, love and magic,

 

Cathy Xo

 

 

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