Note: This essay originally appeared in Assymetry: A Selection on Organization and Mobilization, a print zine published by Janneane and Benjamin Blevins of PRINTtEXT. If you’d like a print copy, send me an email or visit the periodical shop!
Photo: “A Constructed World” by Anna Martinez, ihatepainters.com
I am an alchemist, uncomfortably existing and surviving between a collision of politic and practice. My words, an extension and envisioning of my life, of life itself, feels like and is so often attributed to blackgirlmagic, a phrase created and popularized by black women to give language to what about us can’t be fully captured in words alone. Last I put pen to paper, I explored redefining the act and substance behind prayer, a seemingly magical paradigm shift from speaking words aloud to allowing those words to shape action and movement. I believe in magic as I believe in prayer.
I study holy books gifted to the universe by black women feelers, thinkers, and doers. I sit in a circle of believers on Wednesday nights and Sunday afternoons navigating and transforming a world we are in and of. I whisper scripture forged between tongue and teeth and released into the ether, “on earth as it is in heaven.” I hold space in classroom and church, cohort and congregation, where fact and faith connect rather than conflict. I believe in magic as I believe in prayer.
Alchemy brings together what is and what could or should be in a noisy, messy clash. Deconstructing oppression is challenging work because our collective imagination is unable to see beyond systems making and molding our lived experiences, the identities we choose, those placed on us. Liberating our imagination is a continual exercise in letting go and taking up, a profound belief in ways of being that defy explanation or don’t exist. We have no mode or model but ourselves. We have to conjure it up.
“won’t you celebrate with me
I believe in magic as I believe in prayer.
Abracadabra in Hebrew roughly translates to “it comes to pass as I speak.” Social justice is science fiction, using our words to weave imagination into reality as is, to let imagination build reality anew. Our challenge is to keep our feet planted and our heads in the clouds, to give voice to our past as it unfolds in the present, to give language to liberation within reach.
“Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity for our existence. It forms the quality of light from which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
I am an alchemist in a long line of black women poets, scholars, scientists, prayer warriors, magicians, forerunners, fruit of the same. I believe in magic as I believe in prayer. Let us speak our future into existence.