I want to know how to reach and hold my
sisters so many stories away from me.
Poems that are buzzing mouths.
Poems that are hands extended
across borders and nationalities.
Poems that are feet, daughters
dancing in the dust of our past.
~ Aja Monet ~
Each of us become a poem, stanzas spilling unafraid. And yet, too many have faded in the silence, disappeared. We be gone, missing, lost and stolen. Each day we find ourselves in each other. Phrases and sounds scribbled on our breath. We are the poems we have been waiting for.
As we all struggle to balance the hurt and the healing of this shifting time, we need swinging machete sharp words, freshwater metaphors. We need images animated by our visions. I have seen miracles: the fierce fire of our fury, the magnificent making of our care. Our lives are larger than singing our suffering or picking at the scab of our scars. We are the prayers of our pleasure, the remedies of our rage, how we tend to our inherited wounds. What are our ancient practices humming back to us? Nourished by active listening, who are we loved and alive? We need truth telling courage.
It is with glittering joy and excitement that I share an entirely new art project and campaign I am creating and directing for V-Day, a global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender and transgender), those who hold fluid identities, nonbinary people, girls and the planet. Historically, V-Day was born out of campaigns, volunteers, and college students who organized annual benefit performances of a theater art piece by V (formerly Eve Ensler) called The Vagina Monologues to support anti-violence groups within their own communities. Each year, V-Day has grown and continued to support thousands of survivors, community leaders, artists, and organizers across the globe in the effort to end violence against women, girls, and the planet. V-Day is a shining example of how art is power and can be used to organize for transformational education and social justice.
While The Vagina Monologues has been performed by, with, and for diverse communities around the world, it is time for new art and new stories to be at the center of our movement against violence, poverty, racism, and patriarchy. It is with great enthusiasm that we announce that V-Day is officially shifting away from The Vagina Monologues as a center-piece for our movement work to create an entirely new piece called Voices, a project for which I will serve as Artistic Creative Director to feature stories by and for Black women on the African Continent and across the African Diaspora. The Vagina Monologues will continue to exist as a play outside of V-Day for millions of women to draw from worldwide.
Amidst the tumult in the streets and the upheaval in the world, we must remind ourselves that we are sacred and present in all things. Until we deeply reflect, until we are supported in the efforts of our healing, we will continue to live in fear, insecurity, and trauma. On any given day, social media mocks our shadow selves, constantly reinforcing our triggers and advertising our most destructive behavior. This new art piece and campaign welcomes another process, inviting us to re-vision and reimagine ourselves in relationship with one another. To organize and relate beyond our screens.
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. – Toni Morrison
It is important to center Black women’s voices but not just because we are Black or women. Our representations of womanhood are only as powerful as our manifestations of solidarity. We cannot ignore or exaggerate our identity as Black women. No movement will survive without our sistering. When we can carry one another in our struggle and our joy, in our frustrations and our contradictions, we make more room in the world for healing justice, we find the groove beyond our grief. We reject perpetuating the harm we have endured. We refuse to.
Art is not so much about reactive expression as it is intentional presence. It is our unothering. We do not create because we have the answers. We create because we are possessed by our questions. Art for the people by the people and from the people is crucial and necessary. Art is how we do ideas. It is how we heal. Meaningful art serves and expands our consciousness. What can be more expansive than the consciousnesses of women united across the world? Making the unheard be heard and the invisible made visible. Great art shows us how to listen. It is where we discover our belonging and our purpose. The cosmic force of possibility.
Voices will be an offering to our highest selves.
A naming ritual.
To hear ourselves hearing each other.
As V-Day continues to organize across the globe for an end to violence against women, girls and the planet, we shift the focus from our vaginas to the visions of our voices. As we live and love, we must continue to revisit ourselves and examine our convictions about gender and therein race and class. We are more than our bodies though we may conjure through them. We want to create re-remembered value systems. We want to demonstrate how solidarity can be made. We want all those who claim to love us to listen, to collaborate, to imagine and create with us. There are many ways to share our voices. Some of us sing, some of us dance, some of us paint. Active listening is also how we speak.
In the midst of all that has tried our communities, I see a future where women across the globe are holistically loved and cared after. I see a culture transformed by gratitude for the labor, brilliance, and spirit of Black women. Even now, I witness Black women carrying stories on the frontlines of our dreams, in clinics and hospital rooms, at the market and grocery stores, in living rooms and even on Zoom calls. All across the world I witness as Black women per usual turn nothing into something, making miracles of madness, all while holding strength and grace. We create. We are boldly stepping into our power, commanding leadership in our lives, and demanding love in action. We are owning our vulnerability and manifesting our most intimate visions. We are more than the superficial imaginations of colonialism, whiteness, and patriarchy. We are the poetic philosophers of an unseen world. We are the very language of difference and magic.
For so long our anger has been weaponized against us, Black women are rarely if ever offered space to be complex, dynamic, flawed, and fierce. We are in a constant state of outrage. All around the world many of us are fighting for our lives while still fighting to defend those we love. We are struggling to protect our planet and our bodies. We endure and we continue to create. We are protagonists in the theater of our tragedy. But what about our contemplative lives? What do we wonder about? Who are we in our state of daydream and awe? Where do our minds go to wander? What imaginations look back at us in dishwater, wringing clothes, rinsing skin in buckets of bubbles? We will always need art that reflects the revolutionary mindscapes of Black women, our journeys, our labor, our leisure, and our inventions. Our freedom.
This is an opportunity for women of all orientations, nationalities, and identities to come together to cherish, to support, and to transform the conditions that silence and disappear us. This is the evolution of heart work. We need new vocabularies and new expressions that speak from our deepest and most uncensored selves. We unite and connect through our differences. We celebrate the possibilities born of our creative coalitions. We are dedicated to a radical feminist future.
The most critical part of this Voices art piece will be the submissions. We are creating this piece with actual poems and visual art by Black women created in response to encouraged prompts. The strength will lay in the vulnerability and the integrity of the art shared. We are asking Black women from all across the world to submit poems, monologues, stories, and visual art which address the range of our experiences. The current submissions deadline will be February 14, 2021
Now more than ever, we need this. We need art that is collective, functional and committing. Voices will be a dedication to the politics and artistic autonomy of both the process and project. If you love a Black woman, create more space for her to create. If there is a story she holds that can set her free, help her hold it. May all Black women write (or speak), free of grammatical straightjackets and forms that muzzle our telling. If there is a sister we know with a powerful story who cannot read or write it, offer to transcribe it for her. We need everyone willing and able in this effort.