An Affrilachian Poet
I come from Kelly and Crystal and Frank and the first summer I learned that writers could come from Kentucky. Nikky Finney’s Rice was the first book of poetry by a living author that I’d purchased with my own money. She signed it. I was sixteen and forever changed. I come from Louisville, an urban city in a rural state, an identity of disconnection. I come from “I come from” poems and mountain poems and red clay poems and “my block” poems and brown country poems and interstate poems and poems upon poems upon poems. My Kentucky is shaped by brown words.
My grandfather had sixteen siblings and I was raised in a city where everyone knew someone who knew me. Somebody is always asking me which “French” I’m connected to. The answer is growing and changing as I grow and change. The answer will soon be “all of them.”
I come from people who healed souls, healed teeth, healed bodies, healed hair, healed thoughts, healed concepts, healed sound, and healed and healed and healed and still wounded and were wounded. I write to heal the wounds. I write to stop from wounding. I write healing words that are steeped in blood.
A Writing Mother
My first book was called “Becky Learns Math.” It was about a little girl whose parents both worked long hours, so she taught herself simple addition by counting things in her neighborhood. I was six then. My parents both worked until 6 in the evening and I remember the feelings that drove me to those first pages. It was not for lack of love. With a daughter of my own, I write to free myself for her. I write to stay present with the child I was so that I can be present with the girl she is. I write to tell my truth about the sacrifices working parents make in a country that requires wealth for well-being. I write to free myself from the kinds of shame heaped on parents like me, parents like my own. I write to free my daughter from any future speculation about the ways I must have felt in the hours we spent apart. I don’t want her to guess. Her truth will be different than mine, but I write honestly about our lives to prepare for the lies she will learn about our “type” of family as she grows.
A Believer of Black Girl Magic
I believe Black girls are magic which is not the same as believing them invincible. I write for Black and Brown girls and their Black and Brown girl mamas. I write to celebrate us, to teach us, to free us, and to sing us in notes that are plain and beautiful. I write to declare our rights to our magic, which helps to mitigate the rest.
A Repudiator of Patrick Moynihan and his Throngs of Devotees
My literary foremothers are Toni Cade Bambara, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton… All mamas. All saying, in their own ways, “he a lie.” All saying, in their own ways, “hear our truths.”