In my previous post about a queer Black womanist liberation poiesis, I talked about queer space and Black space and what I imagine that being like. Now that I'm thinking about how the next phases of Tulpa's journey will take shape, I am starting to believe that I was not far-reaching enough in my analysis. Rather than define queerness, Blackness, and womanhood as abstract concepts and attempting to create aesthetics from it, what I should have been doing is assuming queer Black womanhood from the start and working on the ramifications for allowing that to express itself. I should have known better than to try to force that reality into a format that was not meant to contain it.
I believe that, instead of trying to fit my selfhood into these neatly defined ideas, I instead need to start by affirming that . . .
I am Black. I am woman. I am queer.
And then asking . . .
This shift in perspective is due in part to some soul-searching I had to do about what I wanted for Tulpa, or Anne&Me and the role that each potential collaborator will play. For a while now, I've been reflecting on some of the patterns I enabled in the development and performance of Tulpa, and I come at it from a few conflicting places. At the root of these conflicts was a question: How do I create a space where the queer Black woman voice can be heard as free of distortion as possible? Who is permitted in that space? What are the mandates of that space?
You have to understand why these questions are so essential to creating a praxis that allows me to exist in the fullness of myself.
Oftentimes, in order for the world at large to recognize my humanity, I must excise my queerness, my Blackness, my womanhood. I have to effectively erase the parts of my identity and the experiences I've had - those things that signify my uniqueness as a living, breathing human being - in order to even be allowed entrance into the human family. In a weird sort of cognitive jujitsu, I must mutilate my humanity in order to affirm it.
Given that the world is hostile to my full self - especially to my woman self, my queer self, my Black self - art becomes a sanctuary in which I can feel free to be myself for myself. Ironically, theatre allows full self-expression by giving us permission to fully be other selves. Just as a physical location creates a space that can be filled by the world of a play, the masks we wear create a space that our selves can fill. Through the dynamic interplay of these spaces and selves, a voice* can emerge.
*Here I should probably update my definition of voice as the relationship between the spaces created in the play. Plot, character, theme, and spectacle are aspects of the voice, but they do not define it as I suggested earlier.
But there must first be the space.
And, again, I must return to the question of how I will construct space. As you may have guessed, the creation of space has more far-reaching ramifications than the particulars of, say, blocking or design. It influences the relationships that artists have with each other, perhaps even the relationships that audience members have with one another and/or with the artists.
While it's tempting to simply say, "It all depends" and leave it at that, the fact of the matter is that I am creating a queer Black womanist liberation poiesis, so defining how to create such a space is part and parcel of this effort. If pressed for a concise definition, I would define a liberated queer Black womanist space as one where womanhood, Blackness, and queerness - all these symbols of Otherness - may be fully integrated into that space. It is a space that embraces Otherness as an essential component of selfhood and one that makes room for fully engaging that Otherness without stating or implying a reduction of the self to Otherness.
In more concrete terms, a liberated queer Black womanist space expresses its Blackness through diunital cognition (both-and thinking), is queerness through embracing difference and fluidity, its womanhood through birthing spaces via the self. Such a space is liberated because it frees those of us who dwell in these spaces to (finally!) express the fullness of who we are.
Of course, when creating these spaces, it is not simply a matter of stating, "This is what I want." Again, it must go back to praxis. What must be in place for this space to exist? What are the demands this space would place upon those who would step into it?
I honestly haven't thought about it too much, but the main thing that comes up is that it must serve the needs and interests of queer Black women by placing queer Black women at the center of knowledge and authority. This does not allow, say, a Skeeter to swoop in, take our stories, and use them primarily for her own gain. It does not allow someone who is not a queer Black woman to set the agenda, determine the terms of engagement, or control the process. Yet, it encourages self-examination. It encourages intimacy. It encourages solidarity. But it must be free of the taint of domination in order for us to find our own voices and realize our own potential for freedom.
I hope that explains it. Does it make sense?