It’s 2013! I celebrate this new year and I am excited about all the wonderful work we (all my peoples) will do to make 2013 a year of transformation and a year where our dreams and visions held close to the heart will be made manifest. And so it is.
I have been away for a little over two months now and it was a difficult two months. With growth comes pain, change, loss, and for me an awareness of my own strengths and weaknesses.
Clarity, if there were a word to describe the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013 that word would be clarity.
How can one write a dissertation without clarity? A clear vision? Purposefulness?
A lot of times we as scholars, queer scholars of color especially, down play our own visions and our own ideas. We say things like “I have no clue as to what I’m doing!” Sometimes we refuse to believe in our own brilliance. If you have an idea about how to make this world a better place, please share it because we still have not reached that Promised Land yet. Your voice, your ideas, your poetry, your art, and your music matters.
I have spent a lot of time over these past couple of months countering the abusive relationship I have built with myself as a writer, scholar, artist, cultural producer, and public intellectual Facebooking blogger. I have spent a lot of time beating up on myself. I have not been kind or generous. I have been one of my harshest critics and I have come to realize how unproductive that really is. If a million people tell you that you’re brilliant but you can’t tell it to yourself in the mirror when you’re alone, then you have some work to do. (I’m doing this kind of healing work now.)
I talk a lot about giving love and I give love to others easily. I am a lover of love, but when it came to my-self-love, I found that I was withholding. I was unable to give myself credit for the work that I have done and continue to do. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the work we do because it may not look like work to others, but it is. Take the time to remind yourself of what you do. Keep a list and update it. Perhaps it’s your CV but maybe it’s something else, a space where you can put things that maybe aren’t appropriate for a CV, but work nonetheless. You know all the work in between—How many interviews did you do this month? How many poems did you write? How many walks did you take? That paragraph you wrote—give yourself props. We need to value the work that we do even if it is not valued by our institutions. We are inherently valuable; let’s thank the Combahee River Collective for that priceless piece of information. Part of the work we do here is epistemological—It is to say that what we know is not all there is and in fact here’s the p(r)oof!-->Black Queer Magic;)
I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and they were encouraging me to write. It’s time to write, it’s time to get out of the field and write. But how do you know when you’re done? How much research is enough? How many interviews? How many hours of footage? How many trips to the archive? How many stories? The truth is we can never tell it all, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tell it. My desire to tell it all has at times paralyzed me because I feel a deep sense of guilt when I can’t tell every little detail. What stories are the most important for this dissertation? Black Queer Histories may be my life’s work, but I can’t do it all in this dissertation. Boundaries, ever heard of them? (I’m working that too!)
I love stories. I love to talk. I love people and this is what makes me a really good ethnographer. I can talk to all kinds of people and I can learn from all kinds of people. Ethnography, in order to do it well, you must do it with love, love for the people and reverence for their lives, stories and spaces that they allow you to be a part of. When someone lets you in, honor it. A good ethnographer knows humility. A good ethnographer knows how to listen for what’s being said and what sometimes cannot be said, only felt.
I’ve spent the last couple of months going hard in the paint! I have been collecting interviews like crazy and I still have some important ones to do when I get back to LA. But at some point I need to stop and I’ve decided that for me the end of fieldwork will be FEB. 2013. By that point I will have collected over 30 individual interviews, and 3 years worth of footage documenting Black LGBT social, cultural and political events (I don’t know yet how that translates in to hours). I’ve done a lot of work! Now it’s time to really go through all of it and organize it, create a cohesive record of what I have done and write!
I’ve been reading a lot about Black Geographies as I try to further develop my understanding of a Black Queer geography and all that that might open us up to. I turn to Katherine McKittrick’s, Demonic Grounds: Black Women and Cartographies of Struggle where she documents the ways in which Black women have struggled to create their own routes towards freedom, their own pathways towards knowledge and life. These new pathways were and still are devalued by the structures that uphold dominant Western ideals and ideologies. McKittrick opens the book by discussing Dionne Brand and the ways in which “she writes the land.” In my work, I document the ways in which Black LGBT folk in Los Angeles have had to and continue to write their land. We must write the land because it is our own record of existence, possibility, freedom, and life.
I’m excited to be back in community with this blog and I looking forward to sharing more of my journey through darkness with you. Thanks for reading, loving, and supporting. Please be good to yourself because I/We need you!
Good Morning, 2013!