Feminist Icon Audre Lorde: Remembering her life and legacy.

Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a poet and academic who dedicated her life and work to confronting injustices of race, gender, and class. She was a self-described “Black lesbian feminist socialist mother of two, including one boy, and a member of an interracial couple”.

Lorde was raised in New York City by West Indian immigrant parents, and pursued a bachelor and master’s degree in Library Sciences. Lorde spent much of her life as a librarian in the New York public school system, before teaching as a poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College, a historically Black institution in Mississippi. From 1962 to 1970, Lorde was married a white, gay man with whom she had two children. It was not until 1972 that Lorde met the woman she would spend the final years of her life with.

The poet’s life was cut short when she died from cancer at the age of 58, but her poetry and academic contribution to intersectional feminist and critical race theory left behind a legacy which would long outlive her.

In reference to her work, Lorde said, “I have a duty. To speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.”

Her commitment to authentic feeling, in pursuit of freedom and in spite of pain, made her poetry raw and visceral; familiar to those whose lives have been marked by tragedy. Through this style, her poetry draws upon an ancient wisdom which expects recognition and demands reconciliation. Her poetry is not merely something to consume and discard, but rather, she emphasizes the relationship between feeling and language, language and action.

In her life and in her work Lorde dedicated herself to authenticity. Her literature has inspired countless women to pursue authenticity in themselves and she has continued to teach the relationships between feelings, language, and action well after her death. Reading her work, and thus continuing her legacy, is a worthwhile way to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Trans Womanhood: Ballroom culture, motherhood, and honor in film.

In 2018 tv producer Ryan Murphy, the man who brought us “Glee” and “American Horror Story”, set out to tell a different kind of narrative than one might have expected. The show “POSE” was created to explore the vibrant history of queer people of color in New York City during the 80’s. This show faces head-0n the struggles of trans women of color, as well as the legacy and culture of the queer ballroom scene, but most importantly shows how womanhood cannot be strictly defined by society. The trans women in this show exemplify how sisterhood, motherhood, and womanhood can be embodied, no matter how one’s culture may try to exclude her.

After the Stonewall Riots in the late 60’s, a protest lead by trans women, ballroom culture grew even greater among queer people of color. Where ballroom had originally been established by white gay men, and excluded most others in the queer community, Black queens created their own ballroom culture that became a home for all identities. They were set up to be inclusive, safe spaces for all involved.

“POSE” is able to show this history and impact through the story of Blanca Evangelista, a trans woman who starts her journey as a house mother. House mothers were women of the ballroom scene who would house, feed, and care for some of the younger participants who might have run away from or been kicked out of their biological homes. Played by trans star, MJ Rodriguez, Blanca is a strong, powerful, protective mother. She keeps her children in line and encourages them towards success along the way. Blanca is a true example of a mother, and not simply within the ballroom.

Since the beginning of history, trans women have been neglected as sisters, mothers, and women. “POSE” should stand as an example of how trans women truly need to be recognized. Blanca and the women she is surrounded by each exemplify womanhood at its core. This women’s history month it is vital to recognize all the women who have continuously been excluded from this honor.

Image description: Blanca Evangelista, played by trans actress MJ Rodriguez, embodies motherhood and femininity in the show “Pose”.

A Letter to My Role Model: A daughter expresses her love and gratitude towards the most impactful woman in her life.

For Women’s History Month, I think it’s fitting for me to take the time to thank one of the most influential women in my life: my mother. Though I have always looked up to and admired my mom in the way many children look up to their parents, it is only in recent years that I have begun to deeply appreciate what she does and what she has gone through.

Whenever I asked her what she wanted to be growing up, her response was always, “I wanted to be a mom.” That road was certainly not an easy one for her for a long time, yet she has made it so far despite the roadblocks that life put in her way.

She married and started a family at a younger age than most, choosing me and my father instead of going off to college. She had to grow up quickly to help put a roof over my head and make sure I was as happy and safe as possible while she herself was stressed, tired, and undoubtedly scared about starting her new adult life with a husband and an infant earlier than all of her friends.

Life has thrown her even more in the past 21 years, and being old enough now to hear about all of her experiences, I truly admire the way that she carried herself with strength, dignity, and courage through both the good times and the bad. Her dedication to her faith in God has gotten her through every period in her life, and that’s one thing she strives to exemplify in her day to day life.

Mom, I want to thank you so much for all that you’ve done and continue to do for my sisters and me. You are one of the strongest and bravest women that I know, and I am extremely grateful that I get to say that I’m your daughter.

Book(store)s for Black History: A look into local bookstores (and other resources) to enhance your anti-racist library.

Bookstores, for me, have always been a place of comfort. With shiny new spines or worn and tattered ones, the smell of books and the muffled quiet are like home for a worm. For Black History Month, here are two stores to furnish your anti-racism library and expose you to the world of black-owned bookstores.

In Fishtown there resides a store known as Harriet’s. This store specifically supports women in the world of literature. They also carry male authors, of course, and children’s literature. Their array of works represents historical and fiction perspectives on political and social stances and points in time.

To complement Harriet’s, Germantown possesses its own gem of black business: Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books. Uncle Bobbie’s aims to serve the underserved communities around Philadelphia with the respect, space, and literature they deserve. They have coffee and treats to go perfectly with their wide selection of titles, including a section devoted entirely to Black history. Uncle Bobbie’s has people of color represented in all age groups and consistently works to add new Black authors to the shelves at every opportunity.

Black Voices In Film: A look at Black representation in the films of 2020.

Despite a lack of big films, 2020 provided a voice for Black filmmakers. 2020 was a year of delayed blockbusters and tentpole films, but it was a great year for independent films with Black filmmakers at the helm. The logical place to start is with the legendary Spike Lee who had another solid outing with the Netflix-produced Da 5 Bloods, which was Chadwick Boseman’s second to last role before his tragic death. Chadwick Boseman’s final role was also a Netflix film titled Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which he co-starred in alongside Viola Davis.

Regina King beautifully transitioned from acting in the critically-acclaimed Watchmen HBO series to directing feature films. Her directorial debut for Amazon Prime, One Night in Miami, was truly a special ensemble film that tells a fictionalized account of a night with Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown. British filmmaker Steve McQueen directed an anthology film series for Amazon Prime titled Small Axe. The five films center around different immigration stories in England from the 1960s through 1980s. The first of the bunch, Mangrove, is a stellar courtroom drama and what The Trial of the Chicago 7 aspired to be.

Judas and the Black Messiah was just released and stars two of the biggest up-and-comers in Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield. The stirring tale of loyalty and betrayal when Stanfield’s character infiltrates the Black Panther Party for the FBI. It is currently streaming on HBO Max until March 14 and is also in theaters.

Most of these films mentioned are available on streaming platforms, making them easily accessible. We’re finally beginning to see more Black voices get an opportunity to tell their stories and it’s as important as ever to watch their films.

Sources: Deadline, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max

Hopes and Dreams for the Black Community: Aliia Matthew reflects on life as a Black woman.

Supposedly, the United States is the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” For centuries, Black Americans have been brave despite not being free.

We dream, we fight, we work to surpass obstacles. This land was built on our bondage, rather than for our freedom and pride. To be Black in America is to forever be foreign. It is to be strange: misplaced, miscolored, misunderstood. We were shuttled and shackled into this foreign land.

I long for headlines that highlight our Black pride. I want teachers to not just invite, but co-write with Black authors. I want music labels to celebrate Black queer art. I want the Christian church to be rid of segregated Sundays. I want us to highlight Black therapists. I want to eradicate redlined neighborhoods. I want Black environmentalists to go viral. I want Black children to find and create art that looks like them. I want Black trauma and mental health to be seen and validated. I want Black people to be “Blackity Black” without having to explain a thing.

To be Black in America is to be resilient and sufficient, holding value and promise beyond words. I am brave and free. I am proud to be Black with a capital B.

Black Excellence in Fashion: A look at Ann Lowe and her impact of black women in fashion design.

The fashion industry is an ever changing and evolving industry, and Black creators have played a large role in the evolution of said industry.

In the 1800’s, enslaved people were forced to spend their days picking cotton to contribute to the production of textiles made for clothing and such. Now, Black leaders have taken the fashion world by storm, and are among some of the most prominent names in the industry.

Ann Lowe was the granddaughter of a formerly enslaved dressmaker, and the daughter of an embroiderer, taking the skills of her loved ones, she took over her mothers position making clothes for the first family of Alabama after she died. Lowe was only 16 years old when she took over her family business.

When Lowe got married, her husband heavily encouraged her to give up her seamstress work, and she did for a short period of time, but left him shortly after to work in Florida, bringing her son and future business partner with her.

After spending ten years in Florida, Lowe travelled to New York to take proper sewing classes. She was the only Black student in her classes, and was segregated from her classmates, but she did not let this get in the way of her dreams.

Once she graduated, she moved back to Florida for a few years before she saved up enough money to open up her own shop in New York City. She catered mostly to social elites, one of her highest profile clients being Jaqueline Bouvier, designing her wedding dress to marry John F. Kennedy. Unfortunately, Lowe did not receive much credit for her work, as when Kennedy was asked who made her dress, she simply responded stating that a Black woman had made it, not actually naming Lowe.

Lowe went underpaid for her work, only receiving a small fraction of what a white woman would have made for the same work. Despite her hardships and roadblocks, Lowe did not let anything deter her from her dream, although she eventually went bankrupt following the death of her son. Lowe’s sacrifices made it possible for Black designers to have a place in the ever-evolving fashion industry.

Sources: FIT, L’Officiel

A Love Letter to my Sunshine: Web editor SJ Wise writes a love letter to their long time love.

Hi Sunshine,

Just over two years ago I first saw you sitting two desks away from me in class. I was mesmerized by you. I couldn’t help being distracted by you; your beauty, your thoughts, your laugh. I knew nothing about you, not even your name, and I was amazed by you.

My friend would make jokes during class just to get you to look our way and make me flustered. He did a good job at embarrassing me in front of you. Some might think he did too good a job, seeing as I avoided you for most of the following semester.

Regardless of my efforts to crush from a distance, I couldn’t help myself when I learned you might’ve felt similarly. I felt like the luckiest person alive. I’ve felt that way ever since.
Two years later, and I get to spend nearly every day with you. What a dream! From road trips, to beach trips, from quarantines, to state park adventuring, every moment I’ve spent with you has brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined.

This Valentine’s day I am looking forward to celebrating you, and us, and the love and joy and memories we’ve gotten to share. I’m glad there is a holiday that allows me to fully express the depth of my love for you without looking like a crazy person.

Thank you for being the incredible person you are. Thank you for loving and supporting me in all the ways you do. Thank you for being the girl of my dreams and the love of my life. I cannot wait to spend all my Valentine’s Days with you.

All my love, S

Love with Furry Friends: Copy editor Jennie Brouse writes a letter to her beloved pups.

To my boys,

You’re the ones who have never left my side, and you always know how to make me smile. You’ve been with me for good and bad, and you’re there for me even when nobody else is. You never judge, and your love is unconditional like no other. I miss you both like crazy, even after all the years we’ve spent together. You make me miss home, and goodbyes with you are the RUFFest. Even though you steal my food, and love to get in trouble, I can never stay mad at either of you.

They say a dog is a man’s best friend and that certainly applies to women too. You’re my two best friends, and I know I can rely on you. You’re more trustworthy than any human I know, and you’re the best at keeping secrets. You always know when I am sad, and how to cheer me up. Even though we cannot communicate verbally, you know how to brighten all of my days with your goofiness. I wish I could be with you playing in the snow. I know it’s your favorite time of the year, whether you’re catching snowballs or burying your heads under a giant lump of snow, soaking yourself in the process. Maybe next year we’ll have more snow to enjoy together. I cannot wait to come home and see you both again soon.

You’ll never understand this letter, and that is perfectly fine, but I truly am so blessed and grateful to have the two best dogs in the world to call all mine.

Love, Jennie

A Letter to the Past: Managing Editor Lillie Allen writes a love letter to her past self.

To the girl who I used to be,

I know that life is hard. You’re exhausted. It seems like there is no end to the pain you feel; that the heartache will never end. I’m here to tell you that things will get better. You’ll forget him, the scent of his cologne and the smile that felt like it could change your life. He left, that is true, but that does not mean that your happiness has to leave with him.

You’ll learn to love yourself. It will be harder than anything you’ve ever done; you’ll spend hours crying in therapy and to your best friend. The process will be slow, but trust me, you will get there. You’re mood will get better, and people will notice.

You’ll stop thinking about him. You will stop doing everything for his attention. His Instagram handle will fade from your memory and you’ll stop checking his page for updates.

You start living for yourself. You get the tattoos and the sparkle in your eye returns. You’ll feel guilty for a bit (because a pandemic is afoot), but you’ll learn that you can find happiness in the dark times.

You finally find joy in the little things. Sitting on the couch with an oat milk latte will be the highlight of your day. That isn’t a bad thing, you’re slowing down. Growth is gradual, and one day, you’ll truly love yourself. Just wait a few more years.

Lillie (no longer Lily).