Kai Davis, Poet.
One of the biggest hurdles Black folk face is the question of unity, the question of what and who we want to represent us as a people. We are moving toward problematizing that question through art and activism. I’m a queer woman and feel that I am often silenced, misrepresented and disrespected. A lot of Black folk who aren’t cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men feel that way, too. Still, I have seen glimmers of hope. I’ve seen so many moments that challenge the most dominant narratives. I saw hypermasculinity and homophobia challenged in the gentle, brutal, and honest film Moonlight. I’ve seen Black women writers’ voices elevated through the work of Eve Ewing, Morgan Parker, Jesmyn Ward, and many others. I’ve seen and heard Black trans women advocate for themselves and their sisters in articles, in music videos, in film. I’ve seen Black cis men held accountable for their abuses of power. All of this and more gives me hope.
The question of what and who we want to represent us has broadened in scope in some places, and narrowed in others. Through art, I see people shedding age-old fears. For so long, so many of us have clung to the idea that the Black person with the most power, based on the demands of white supremacy, must be our representative. Nah. Who is most brave? Who is most kind? Who is most proud? Who needs love? In the future, I see the range of us expanding and expanding and expanding as a means of preservation. I think art will continue to do that.
I’ve been thinking about the labor of Black queer folk a lot, particularly the essays of Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, who worked and wrote fearlessly in defense of Black people. My hope is that the queer folk on the front lines will continue to pave the way for our resistance without facing so much of the hate and violence that comes from the same people we are protecting. And I do not want our identities erased to make us more palatable. I still think this is a possible reality, even if it does not come in my lifetime.
I have never been more galvanized artistically than I am right now, and that is due to the work of those that preceded me. I’m talking both last week and last century. I feel I am experiencing the culmination of all our ancestors and all our living kin and if that tells me anything, it’s that the work is not done. And that’s as terrifying as it is beautiful.
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I’ve been thinking about the labor of Black queer folk a lot, particularly the essays of Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, who worked and wrote fearlessly in defense of Black people.