All I can say is wow. Pretty intense.
Some time ago a brief conversation about the state of the world, my interest in Australian history and particularly in racism and oppression in Australia was piqued and I’ve been learning as much as I can about it.
So, I was researching Aboriginal women in history and this name kept coming up. I’ve been reading about Truganini. She was born c. 1812 and when she died in 1876 she was thought to be the last surviving full blooded Tasmanian Aboriginal.
I can’t imagine walking in her shoes, living in the time she lived in. She was indomitable.
Black History Month begins today. Let’s see what we can learn about black women in history over the next 28 days!
Featured in Google’s Doodle today was Edmonia Lewis – seemed appropriate to start off with her since I was so delighted to see this when I opened my browser. Nice one, google!
Today’s Google Doodle, by artist Sophie Diao, salutes Lewis and her great work “The Death of Cleopatra,” which rests today in Washington at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. (Her work “Forever Free” resides nearby, with the Howard University Gallery of Art.) And the ribboned “Google” wording shines bright, befitting Lewis’s nickname.
There is lots of info about her on the interwebs so feel free to google her. In brief, Edmonia Lewis was an artist and sculptor of Native American and African American descent. She was the first black woman artist to achieve international acclaim and lived for most of her working life in Italy. Unsurprising, given that she was born July 4, 1844 and died September 17, 1907.
You can learn more about her life and her work here.
I’ve heard people exclaim, many times, exasperated, about why there’s a black this or black that. It’s a funny thing how someone can be completely immersed in something and absolutely not see it. So it is with whiteness, frankly. We are surrounded by it so constantly that it seems to be like air, we can’t see it or smell it, it’s just there. Only it’s not air. It doesn’t occur naturally and it’s not vital for life.
What it is vital for is the maintenance of this power structure we live in that favors one group of people over another. In order for blackness to be inferior, whiteness must be superior. The clever part is that it is so ingrained in our every day that we don’t see it unless we look.
So. The reason Black History Month exists, is to bring to light the fact that black people are here too. We have been here. Even if the history books would omit us or mention us only in footnotes or as asides to the seemingly far more compelling stories and achievements of white folks.
Its the same reason that BET and historically black colleges exist – because everything else has centered and prioritized whiteness. Its true that recently more of an effort has been made to include non-white people and cultures but sometimes this effort to include looks more like an effort to erase and assimilate.
There are plenty of other, more qualified people who’ve written more lucid explanations of the purposes and reasons for the movements mentioned above. I exhort you to seek them and read. Learn a little more than what you’ve so far been fed.
Please share any great sources below in the comments so we can all learn a little more.
This coming month, I’ll be posting the name and a short bio with links of women of colour, mostly black, who most people have typically not heard of because they’ve mostly been erased from history. Please feel free to add a name or two yourself!
I haven’t seen the movie Hidden Figures yet but I’m a huge fan of the three stars and black women in general – #blackgirlmagic so it’s definitely on my #mustsee list but I’ve been seeing rave reviews of it everywhere and what has really struck me about what I’m reading is how rare it is for black and brown women to be so adored and revered. We’re much more likely to be demonized, sexualised and just generally flattened into one simplistic form or another – whichever serves at the time. Cue rolling eyes emoji here.
That’s why this coming month’s daily project is all about celebrating Black History Month by learning a little more about the women of colour in history who you perhaps may not otherwise have heard of. Because, guess what? We were there too. And despite our intersectional oppression, some of us still managed to shine bright. This month, we’re celebrating that!
To start you off, here’s a good post about 16 Women of Color who made History in 2016
What’s exciting about this post is the wide range of women and the scope of what they’re being recognised for. Because guess what? We’re more than one thing. There’s Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha (the pediatrician who sounded the alarm about the impacts of lead poisoning on children in Flint, Michigan) to Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (an icon of the queer and trans community who, as a Black trans woman and participant in the Stonewall riots, has been fighting her entire life on behalf of the most marginalized) to Constance Wu (who has speaking out against Hollywood’s Whitewashing of Asian and Asian-American characters), to name just a few.
Go, go read the whole post. Come back soon to see who we’re learning about here every day this month!
I know some purists believe that only a technically correct photograph has value and that blurry photographs are immediately to be trashed. Well, you may not know this about me (ha!) but I’m not a purist. I’m not tied to any one idea of what’s good or bad, and moreso, I have this thing with blurry photos… I often like them. Like, really like them.
Some of it is definitely about my people-pleasing tendencies… this idea I learned as a child that bending over backwards to do what people want makes it less likely that they’ll hurt you. In that instant at least. It was a survival mechanism and it’s worked so far. Although that’s not to say I still do it. Or that I don’t. Ha!
I guess I sort of apply it to the photo – I don’t want to hurt its feelings. Because yes, didn’t you know? Photographs have feelings.
Some of it is about not wanting to commit by saying a definite no to anyone or anything.
But a lot of it is actually that I just like them. I like that they’re not clear, not obvious, not sharp… that the edges bleed together and things merge, that you can’t always tell what you’re looking at or what’s happening. I like the feeling they sometimes convey – the mystery or the obvious thing that can’t be hidden or glossed over even by a lack of focus.
I just, have this thing with blurry photos.
And I wasn’t afraid. I think, possibly for the first time in my life, I wasn’t afraid at all.
I looked across the room, over the heads of all the surgeons and nurses bent over me, elbows deep in my vagina, pulling out cloth after cloth, soaked in blood and clots the size of golf balls. I could hear the repeated splat as they snapped them into the bucket someone had helpfully brought and set on one of those wheeled trays you eat off of in the hospital. I was in the recovery room, my second born just a few minutes old and held closely in their father’s arms as he stared numbly at the chaotic crowd pulsing around me. I could see he was afraid, terrified even, of losing me, of having these two children I’d always wanted to raise on his own.
But I wasn’t afraid. I knew he’d be fine, that they’d keep each other going and thrive in the huge love they shared together. My family is one of big hearts and fiery passions. I think I was sad about the idea of not getting more time with any of them and especially this baby I wouldn’t get to watch grow up, but it was fleeting, mostly I just wasn’t afraid. I was grateful I’d birthed this baby and this baby was safe. Even though I wound up under the knife again, despite resisting.
My uterus was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it, but I wasn’t afraid. They were in panic – moving fast, eyes wide open and sometimes confusion reigned but I wasn’t drawn into it. I just kept calmly asking them to tell me what they were doing, and reminding them what the last person had done. I was the calm in the center of the storm. I wanted to live, but I wasn’t afraid to die.
So in my post announcing my word for 2017 – I mentioned that I’ll be doing a daily project every month – so each month I’ll be doing something every day, a new habit or learning or whatever. Basically embodying and living my word for the year – B O L D.
So, here we are at the start of the year and so it begins. I’m going easy on myself and starting off with self-portraits. Hahaha. Not easy at all actually. Like many photographers, I’m just not a fan of being in front of the camera. Weird, right? Ha!
Actually, that’s not completely accurate. I think there have been times when I’ve loved being photographed. But for the last few years not so much. It’s not always about not wanting to be in front of it though, so much as having other stuff I’m far more interested in photographing. And really – there’s only so many photographs of a tired, bleary eyed mama in yoga pants and breastmilk stained t-shirt or hoodie that anyone needs in their life.
I have been noticing more and more though, how when we’re going through old photos, C asks where I was and I say, ‘I was there. I was just behind the camera.’ And then we’re both sad about it. So, no more. I’ve been making an effort to get into the frame more and including myself in group shots as well but this is a different.
I want to remember that I’m beautiful and that my beauty has naught to do with how I look, but more how I feel and how I project that into the world. So there it is. After all this, I may get totally sick of it and never want to be in a picture again. Ha! We shall see.
The goal is to do 365 of self-portraits but if I just manage January, I’ll be pleased. We’ll see how I feel by the time February rolls around. Ha!