8. Sprung!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis
by Jerry Currier

by Jerry Currier

“Above all else, our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s but because of our need as human persons for autonomy.”
Complete the poem:


sprang             shared



Post your poems below or email us at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com

For example:   Alexis Charles who says she usually does NOT write poetry contributed this beautiful elaboration:

1. Not from ABOVE

But from within.

You gave life to words.

That gave me life.

Words that

SPRANG  from our  SHARED oppressions, fears, dreams and joys.

Calling for our LIBERATION.

Illuminating our NEED.

2. When I had lost faith in everything ABOVE.
What SPRANG from the depths of your hearts.
Let me know my pain was SHARED.
The not so quiet call for LIBERATION
Those words
“black women are inherently valuable”
Held me softly, tenderly, gently,
Quieted the dull aching NEED
Wrapped me in love and solidarity


Where do   exist?
Your words


iNto motion a well-spring of truth, knowledge and love gushing from the valleys of your thoughts,
G through the canyons of your silences, over the cliffs of your screams.

I SHARED my fears and dreams with you and I realized I’m not the only one


In moments of NEED you

Cynthia bringing the light!

Cynthia bringing the light!

Cynthia Oka, radical mama and feminist indigenous rights organizer in Vancouver wrote:

5:47 am

pungent is the aching flesh over hard bone

it is no luxury to choose


rising dawn

droplets of sun on my skin

stinging like ice

i must search again

build dig   tear from towers of tyranny


all that demands our breaking

a million footsteps marching on my chest

fear not fear not

the arms of my mothers

spears sprang against cannons

today so too do mine

that is my blood spilled shared

that is my life-giving love

that is my claim

on freedom

above this colonial landscape

i embalm my body

and choose to grace this day

with my presence

i am no finely cut diamond

i am the raw earth

on which your build your throne

i desire no queenhood

i am higher than price

stars breaking in sky

this is my spirit

cage me wage me

snap every joint

i rewrite the universe

through my undoing

we are our prophets

persistent as dew

fear not fear not

we are all we need


9. The Only Ones

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us.  Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.”

Write a poem for someone you love using at least 4 of the words in the above passage.

Post your poems as comments below or email us at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!

For example radical anti-racist educator Tema Okun wrote the following poem for her students:

Tema Okun

Tema Okun

Combahee Love

We realize

that in America

the right to be uninformed

is holy ground.

This is a love letter to us, then,

the only people who struggle consistently

to be so careless with our love.

I am witness to how we revel in our lousy politics.

I wish for us instead

a healthy love,

one to usher in our liberation

from ourselves and

into community, into enough.

-Tema Okun November 2008

Aiden Riley Graham

Aiden Riley Graham

And radical archivist and trans-activist Aiden Riley Graham wrote this amazing poem for his comrade Noah Blose:

Why we’re so important to me…

When I feel unseen by the rest of the world, you see me

A mirror to find myself in

Walks toward liberation found in our talks

Simple-complex conversations

Grounding me in love and compassion,

Shaking me from everyday painful reactions

Learning to love myself, through loving you

Replacing individual failed expectations

With dreams of collective possibility,

Painful shared rememberings

Bring our communal struggle into relief

Standing “Eye to Eye” in the spirit of Audre

We’re everything we need to be

The only ones

And only one of many

A transformative justice we forge

Daily, weekly, monthly

They’re just phone conversations

And oh so much more

Aiden Graham to Noah Blose

10. Simultaneous Switch

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously.”

Switch around and change the words in this sentence to describe your experience.

For example SONG co-director Caitlin Breedlove made the following sentences:

Caitlin breaking it down...

Caitlin breaking it down...

“We always find it hard to separate race from class from sex oppression from ethnicity from desire from longing from love because in our lives they are experienced simultaneously.”

‘We cannot separate our race from class from sex oppression from ethnicity from desire from longing from exile from love because they are experienced simultaneously.”

“We are every single one of our ancestors; that is why we cannot separate race from class from sex oppression from ethnicity (the painted bracelets of my grandmothers) from desire (my 15-year old hands on the back of her neck), from longing from exile (talking to myself in my peoples language alone in the car) from love because they are experienced simultaneously.”

Leave a comment below or email brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!

11. Struggling With…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“We struggle together with Black men against racism, while we also struggle with Black men about sexism.”

There’s a long history of black women bringing up the gender question and it being ignored or even dismissed by black men. How do we move this conversation forward? Some of us are writing love letters to misogynists and patriarchs within our communities. We are writing letters to black men that not only tell them about themselves but also offer resources to expand their thinking on the issues we deem important. (email firewalkingwarriors@gmail.com for more info!)

What men in your world do you know in your community who could benefit from some feminist intervention?

What about their behavior needs to be challenged?

How could you and like minded individuals approach them to make that happen?

Would you write a letter? Have a meeting?

For example:

This letter was written by Nia Mclean in response to a Hip Hop song called “Hot N Tot” by Sir Will. To listen to the song and watch the performance, click here: “Hot N Tot”

The Saartjie Project is an artist collective that is exploring the fascination with the black female form.
Open Letter to Sir Will and the producers of “Hot N Tot”

Dear Sir Will,

Your MySpace page has a banner that says “Stop Whack Hip Hop”. As a lover of hip hop I totally agree with you. I often question “why is Hip Hop in such a dismal state?” At any given time I can’t listen to the radio for 15 minutes without feeling like I’m nothing more than my sex and more specifically how good I am at it. Misogyny and objectification of women – particularly black women, has run amuck within the culture that you and I care about.

Your MySpace page initially caught my attention because of your song “Hot N Tot”. Sir Will there is a LOT of painful history behind that term, much like the word Nigger. I am hoping that you and your producers are just ignorant about its history and not just ignoring it.  I am a part of The Saartjie Project, an artist collective that is exploring the fascination with the black female form and bringing dignity and light to the legacy of Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman, more popularly known as the Hottentot Venus, the same term you reference in your song.

In the early 1800’s as a young South African woman, Saartjie Baartman was paraded around Europe like a freak of nature by a white man, Dunlap to show off her “Hottentot“, her “Jungle Booty” as you put it in your song. People were so fascinated with her behind that they paid money, not just to stare and gawk, but also poke and prod w/their hands, umbrellas, or whatever they had available. Upon her death, her “Hottentot” was dissected in public, put in a jar of formaldehyde and displayed in the Musee de Paris, as if it were a medical oddity – up until the 1970’s! All because she was seen as erotic and exotic, which denied her (in the eyes of those who exploited her) the ability to be anything else (ex. Smart, loving, maternal, strong).

Sir Will, please don’t dismiss this letter by thinking that Saartjie’s story is one in a million. Her tragic legacy is alive. Today, almost 200 years later we are still being exploited and reduced to nothing more than body parts. You and I both know this. We also know that much of hip hop profits from expressing tired myths about black male and female sexuality.

Know that I write out of frustration, but also out of love. Love for myself, Saartjie, all the sisters I am writing on behalf of and for artists like you.  Sir Will you clearly have talent; yet you are taking the easy way out by rhyming sexist lyrics over catchy beats.  There is a consequence to this. The demand to demonize the black female body is what gave Saartjie her unfortunate career and it killed her. The next time you perform “Hot N Tot” think about Saartjie Baartman. Learn more about the woman your song is named after. Consider the “video vixens”- the ladies dancing on your YouTube video – who are presumed to the interchangeable with cars and other material trappings of success. Who can say for sure why these women have chosen such a station? Perhaps to validate their beauty and the prospect of living the “good life”? Consider the young black girls who misguidedly look to these vixens for cues on who to dress, act, and present themselves in the world. Saartjie was also mislead, she began her journey believing that it would bring her a better life, not lead to her private parts swimming around in a jar of formaldehyde.

My point is, there has to be more. You can do better. Instead of condemning you, I am challenging you to do just that. I challenge you to make good music that responsibly speaks of women, glorifying the whole being, not just parts of her.

So if you really care about hip hop (and I hope, Black women) dare to be different. Dare to break out of the cookie-cutter mold of entertaining at the sake of your sisters, your mother or your partner.

Words are so powerful. Use yours wisely.

Thank you for reading, Sir Will. The Saartjie Project would love to hear your thoughts.

Nia Mclean

The Saartjie Project


Use this space to answer these questions and devise a plan to approach them and a time line for action. Let us know how it goes!

Comment here or email us at firewalkingwarriors@gmail.com!

12. Testify

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“Even our Black women’s style of talking/testifying in Black language about what we have experienced has a resonance that is both cultural and political.”

Is there such a thing as Black language? Or Black women’s style? Maybe there are many non-normative language practices and many manifestations of black femininity. In this passage, the authors of the Combahee River Collective Statement draw on a tradition of “testifying” most commonly remembered as statements of faith spoken by members of black churches, and black southern churches in particular. We say that testifying can also be used outside of churches when people express the profound and sometimes difficult truths of their own experiences. We have seen breakthroughs in analysis, relationships and action when people speak deeply about where their faith in movement and their energy for organizing comes from.

What are 3 things you can testify to as important experiences that have built your faith in the world you want to create?
Check out the piece from Ashon below:

Ashon Crawley

Ashon Crawley

Leave your 3 testimonies as comments here or email us at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!

13. Multi-Layered Texture: An Illustration

Posted in Uncategorized on October 4, 2008 by alexis

“No one before has ever examined the multilayered texture of Black women’s lives.”

What does this look like?  Send a drawing, collage or image in .jpg form to brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com and we’ll post it!

Fallon Wilson co-founder of the Cyberquilting Experiment

offers these drawings from her Jezebel Plant Goddess Series:


14. Smart ugly?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 4, 2008 by alexis

\”We discovered that all of us, because we were \”smart\” had also been considered \”ugly,\” i.e. \”smart-ugly.\” \”Smart-ugly\” crytallized the way in which most of us had been forced to develop out intellects at great cost to our \”social\” lives. The sanctions in the Black and white communities against Black women thinkers is comparatively much higher than for white women, particularly ones from the educated middle and upper classes.\”

Hmmm.  What do we think? What are the economies of beauty, privilege and intelligence at work in our communities and movements?

Radical educator artist and writer Kameelah Rasheed says

Artist, Writer and Educator Kameelah Rasheed

Artist, Writer and Educator Kameelah Rasheed

we are the \’kinda cute nerdy black girls in glasses with the big asses.\’  we sneak to read pages of academic books hidden in fashion magazine covers and we sway in our silk stockings with golden seams as does nina simone\’s see-line woman.  we smile reluctantly while questioning the politics of gendered vulnerability.  we intimately know how we are treated when we are cute and quiet and we know that within a split second we can become ugly and undesirable if we use a polysyllable word or concession clause.  we know our partners would prefer us more soft spoken.  we know that the day we chose books over lipstick and wrote manifestas on any open space that we found that were choosing a lonely path.  it was/is lonely because we never knew where the \’weird\’ black girls hide out.  they are are scattered throughout the diaspora, tucked in corners where mail and internet cannot reach.  they wander if we exist too.

knowing this

we learned to shuck n\’ jive, veiling our opposition under layers of ambiguous sentences, demure smiles, and pants just tight enough to hint at a desireable feminity because we still yearned be seen beyond the duality of smart-ugly.  we pretended to not know the importance of the sepoy mutiny in india\’s colonial history, hesitated to explain the nuances of electron configuration, and feigned ignorance when asked about the pivotal moments in south africa\’s liberation movement.  we let him talk even as our faces are flushed with anger because we do not want to seem \’too aggressive.\’  we go to sephora when we really want to hit up that used book store down the street.  when we get home we eagerly plunge into books and other texts trying to reconnect with the parts of souls we abandoned for some semblance of belonging.  we attempt to exorcise our collective demons by seeking desperate refuge in paul beatty\’s \’neighborhood safe houses on the ghetto geeks\’ underground railroad\’ only to realize such sanctuary leads to more pain when we are called up for yet another performance.  we learn the grammar of smart-ugly politics at 8 years old.  we don\’t write down rules, rather these rules are written on our bodies and in the faces of folks who give askew glances when we walk out the mall with books instead of dresses.  we perform our blackness, our womanhood, our existence because to be smart-ugly is like permanent exile.  never fully accepted in the communities of other women and far too \’smart\’ to be authentically black, we are forced into limbo.  but limbo is the space of opportunity and dare i saw privilege.  to be in limbo is resist the satanic incantation that our female bodies cannot carry intellect as heavy as our thighs and as broad as our hips. ida b. wells gave a damn if they called her ugly because she had more important things to do.

and as queengodis wrote in 1991,

and while he was busy detesting yo\’ mama
for being so \’damn ugly\’–
she was busy building the underground railroad…

to be smart-ugly is to be a unspoken threat.

we are the beautiful black women whose light they fear.  instead of fanning our flames, they sought to extinguish our fire by calling us ugly so that we\’d be distract from the duties our ancestors and creator laid at our feet.  they sought to turn our attention away from survival and collective healing.  they saw beauty in us before we saw it in ourselves but named it ugliness in hopes that we\’d never reunite with this sacred knowing.  \’ugly\’ is the cry of the fearful who pray that we never recognize ourselves.

Join an ongoing discussion of this topic on http://www.quirkyblackgirls.ning.com

leave your comments here and or email us at brokenbeautifulpress@gmail.com!