You Belong To The Night, A Love Letter To Black Folk

There is much in the spectrum of the unwanted. In the things we do not want to feel, see or experience. Knowing this, it is still okay to turn away from things. To breakdown. To come to the end of ourselves - and stop/fall. The darkness, though resisted, is catalysing. It is the birthplace of a different relationship to our power: fire and water, fire in water, water through fire.  It's an alchemical process we are learning like chemistry students. It is how we temper ourselves. To take the so-called good with the renounced bad. And maybe there is so much more bad than we would want in the mix of our lives. Much more than we would ever think to include in a hopeful collective vision for a world lived-well together. And maybe without that darkness - without the crystallising cold grip, the halt of winter - there would not be enough staying power. No base note. Nothing to bind in time and squeeze into form our ephemeral ideals. 

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Coming to Terms: The Use of Gender in Spiritual & Esoteric Communities

When we say male/female or man/woman there are ideas and behaviours that we associate with those words, and those ideas don’t disappear in spiritual, religious or esoteric communities. The framework of woman-man is meaningful in our culture and I make no pretence about doing away with those concepts; but rather I seek to deepen our understanding of how we shape our lives by making some important contrasts: most pertinent to this conversation, and what informs my existential philosophy, is that to say feminine and masculine is not the same as to say man or woman.

I first started thinking seriously about gender when I was introduced to Black feminist thought in my late teens. Prolific intellectuals and theorists bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins inspired me to pay attention to the things I had assumed were an ordinary part of being a Black girl becoming a woman. Things I had unconsciously associated with my sense of place and value in the world; namely, to give as much of myself as possible in service of others. There is some virtue in that belief, but Black feminism showed me how fragile and undeveloped my sense of self was. As well as the deep debt of love I was accumulating in a culture that had nothing to say about how Black girls could care for themselves. (more…)

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“Light Skin Guys Be Like” – On the Boundaries of Blackness (A Response)

In his blog post “Light Skin Guys Be Like” Bilal asks questions about what it means to be a mixed race or light skinned man relating with Black communities. Particularly experiences of rejection, or not feeling Black enough. As a member of the implicated community, and being aware of my position as a light skinned Black woman, I want to suggest some ways we could be thinking about these experiences*.

*Mixed race is a complex social category, in this context I’m writing about Black African descent and white parentage. I’m also silently thinking about how this applies, or does not, to Black African descent and Asian parentage.  

It’s important to complicate the dominant picture of a Black community that spurns mixed race/light skinned Blacks, and to think about the politics of belonging.

In her interviews with mixed race adults, Karis Campion explains that rejection was felt more deeply when it was caused by an interaction with a Black person, rather than a white one. This could be one of the reasons stories of Black rejection are more prevalent. But it also produces an interesting contrast, in that the construction of whiteness as pure means mixed race Britons can never be white.

This raises questions for me about how mixed race associations with Blackness develop. Whether as determined as non-white and therefore Black; through ethnic identities built on shared ancestry and cultural practices, e.g. food, language, religion etc.; or through the global appeal of “Black cool” as a model for popularity and acceptance.

Broadening this discussion, the single story of Black rejection conflicts with the ways colourism functions in the Black British community. Bilal was called ‘light skin boi’ in the Jamaican food shop, which was potentially an estrangement. But how does our reading of that event change when we think about the British Jamaican community as hyper-vigilant of colour. A community who affectionately call light skinned Black women and girls like me “browning”; a validation of their/our beauty based solely on skin tone. How often do Black parents watch their newborns for signs of lighter skin or ‘good hair’, both of which mixed race Blacks are venerated for? How often have Black women and men loved and nurtured mixed race children – through birth, adoption, fostering, and church relationships – within the boundaries of a Black community?


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