blk/wooomen revolution: Orbiting Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker and Elizabeth Alexander

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When PBS begins airing the documentary BaddDDD [i] about the life of Sonia Sanchez, it is the middle of the semester, my sixth wedding anniversary is just coming or going, my son is battling a barrage of school tests, and most of the world is at war with itself. I catch bits of the film between grading and cooking, cleaning and writing, before sleeping or after Bible study, as finding two free hours is a seldom luxury. For Sanchez, the personal—the at-home, innerworld, microcosmic work—has always been political. So when she writes, she speaks to those who mirror her in one way or the other. Sanchez is reading one of my favorites, “To Anita”, a poem for her daughter and for the masses of black women at war with themselves, colorism and community, and as her voice breaks on camera, I hear the pain in it in real time.

A few days later, I catch the film just as she is explaining what it was like building a Black Studies program at San Francisco State in the 1960s, and I remember I have been asked to present a list of courses about my “most sincere areas of interest” that might be taught at my university. As students are protesting on screen, I make the list:

  • The Black Interior: Contemporary African-American Women’s Poetics
  • The Light that Was: Exploring the Works of Lucille Clifton
  • The War Works Hard: Women’s Poetry of War and Conflict
  • Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Poetics from 1950 – Present
  • Writing Across the Lines: Poetry Exploring Gender, Race, Culture and Ethnicity
  • The History of Us All: Personally Political Feminist Poems
  • Leaders of the New School: Intersections of Contemporary Poetry and the Hip-Hop Cultural Movement
  • Gospel of the Southern Road: Examining Blues and Mythos in Women’s Literature of the South

In hope that one of the courses will be offered, I pull Alice Walker’s work of Womanist prose, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens[ii] and Elizabeth Alexander’s The Black Interior [iii] off the shelf, weeks later while Sanchez’s work has been set to music on screen in the documentary. Walker calls for a revolutionary black artist—one whose “work is love made visible” [iv]—in an essay originally published in the same year as Sanchez’s second book, We a BaddDDD People[v] In the essay “The Unglamorous but Worthwhile Duties of the Black Revolutionary Artist, or of the Black Writer Who Simply Works and Writes,” while positioning her own work and life in the revolution, Walker’s lays out a framework—a list of things one must do or may be called to do—to be a black poet subversive. She says revolutionaries must face the Truth of each situation, even if it means plain-faced laboring for the artist. [vi] For instance, if the children in your class can’t read, how will poems serve them? The Truth of the thing must be faced before anything can be made beautiful. [vii]

In addition to teaching beauty, the revolutionary poet teaches how to enter and inhabit it. The revolutionary artist can’t create in a vacuum, must embrace all avenues, be open to the future and help us dig our way out of the present even with all our scars; in fact, Walker says, “The strength of the artist is his courage to look at every old thing with fresh eyes and his ability to re-create, as true to life as possible, that great middle ground of people.” [viii] Sanchez echoes this with her own insistence on the hard labor necessary in lifting oneself, then doing the same to help others, despite what stands in the way of survival.

 

In We a BaddDDD People, I am introduced to the Sonia many fell in love with or in fear of during the Civil Rights era. When we meet more than 40 years later, her poems have grown quieter and more mild-mannered. By the 1960s, the first major African-American literary movement, the Harlem Renaissance, had died down, and the second major movement, the Black Arts Movement, had begun. The Black Arts Movement was a period in which African-American feminist (or, Womanist, as Walker would later name them) poets sought to break most, if not all, the rules of traditional standard English, partly as a way to distinguish themselves from their predecessors, regardless of color, and partly as a way to exert themselves politically, using the technique to challenge a society in the midst of upheaval: the Civil Rights and Woman’s Rights movements were under way, and the Vietnam War was charging on. En masse, the poetry of African-American feminist writers in place before the Black Arts Movement—like Phillis Wheatley, Helene Johnson, and Gwendolyn Brooks, though Brooks threaded a complicated diction all her own under the umbrella of formal English—held fast to standard English, following in the European traditions of diction and form.

As one of the early masters of coupling the literary tradition with illuminating her own community and modes of living, Brooks became the first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1949. Brooks, a modernist writer who used formalist techniques to address issues of sexism and race, followed in the tradition of Harlem Renaissance writers and even more so in that of strident traditionalist Phillis Wheatley. Nevertheless, 10 years after Brooks was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, social upheaval and the citizen law of Jim Crow had reached a new height in the U.S., and African-American artists still were looking for ways to rid themselves of their formalist discontent. Those in the Black Arts Movement did this by breaking traditional rules of grammar and syntax summarily, especially poets like Carolyn Rodgers, Ntozake Shange, and Sanchez, whose work from that era relied heavily on satiric or phonetic misspellings, slashes for word dismemberment, abbreviation or fusion, and incorporating one of the most distinctive features in black English: using the verb “be” almost exclusively to mark aspect in poems’ verb phrases.

Of course, using black vernacular wasn’t new; it was a medium in the tradition of Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Zora Neale Hurston, and others. But these artists, writing in the “‘language of the people,” understood how reading and hearing the language of one’s heart might change the response of the reader, and they were unabashed in their rallying cry against racial injustice. Black feminist poets, moreover, were railing against each institution that bound them—racism, sexism, even ageism—by breaking rules on the page that predecessors like Brooks and Wheatley had used to prove that they were, in fact, capable of highbrow art to their white audiences and benefactors.

Sanchez and her contemporaries were precise in their subjects and audience: they were writing black poems for and about the common black citizen, especially the youth whom they believed would be most adept at listening to and acting on their messages. Black youths in the 1960s were among the leaders of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, often fearless in their efforts to stand against prejudice and injustice. In many ways, this made them kindred spirits with the artists of the time. By shaking up the standards of grammar and speaking in the voices of those in their communities, the poets in the Black Arts Movement began to validate the voices that had been silenced for centuries, with brave, sometimes irreverent, new voices beginning to sing in poems, on wax and in the political arena.

 

A cursory glance through We a BaddDDD People is nothing like looking into Morning Haiku, a more recent collection of Sanchez’s formal verse published in 2010. There is little discernable structure for most poems in We a BaddDDD People—words sprawl down the page or bleed into others with forward slashes in between, the spelling is invented and divisive in its raging against tradition, expletives, derivatives, repetitions of letters or phrases, and wild capitalizations abound. This is obscenity-slinging, English-breaking, loud-mouthing, afro wider than the photo filling the back cover, revolutionary Sonia—unapologetic and abrasive, full of fire and righteous love. The documentary proves that Sanchez has never been afraid to tell people about their mess. Mess, as in James Brown’s soul-fire Papa don’t take no mess! Mess as in untidiness, uncleanness, staying down in your own dirt. This is what Sanchez believes plagued the Black community she held dear in the 1960s, and in We a BaddDDD People she wills the real, revolutionary work to begin at home in the poem “blk/rhetoric,” when she asks who is going to walk-the-walk, not just talk-the-talk about revolution:

who’s gonna give our young
blk/people new heroes
(instead of catch/phrases)
(instead of cad/ill/acs)
(instead of pimps)
(instead of wite/whores)
(instead of drugs)
(instead of new dances)
(instead of chit/ter/lings)
(instead of a 35¢ bottle of ripple)
(instead of quick/fucks in the hall/way
of wite/america’s mind) [ix]

Sanchez wants more than lip service for the new “Black is Beautiful” movement (“catch/phrases”). She wants more than simple capitalistic appeasements: “cad/ill/acs,” or if the fragmentation is the phrase is drilled down, ill-bred, dishonorable (‘cad’), sick (ill) actions (acs/acts) by those pushing materialism over substance. She wants more than racial, sexual repression and street mongering (“wite/whores” and “pimps”), more than artificial highs from drugs and cheap hooch, more than temporary pleasures, pain or sensationalized fascination with difference (“quick/fucks in the hall/way / of wite/america’s mind”). She wants legitimate, continuous change, a real revolution or shift in the minds of those appeased or distracted by society’s trappings.

For Sanchez, as for Walker, revolution is both a verb and a noun, as it is an action and an event. In the documentary, Sanchez fights with and for the people in great and small things. She does what Walker posits she must do as a revolutionary artist, “raising a reading level from second grade to third…helping illiterates fill out food stamp forms—for they must eat, revolution or not. The dull, frustrating work with our people…it means, most of all, staying close enough to them to be there whenever they need you.” [x] Sanchez teaches and fights for Black Studies to be recognized by campus administrators; she is arrested as a grandmother protesting against war.

In an interview I conducted with Sanchez, which was published in The Writer’s Chronicle in 2014, I am especially tickled by how she describes fighting with a manager for fresh produce at her inner-city neighborhood grocery store. She is fighting about groceries while her community is in the midst of revolution. In his introduction to We a BaddDDD People, Dudley Randall opens with a delineation of the true revolutionary spirit: “Some people think of revolutionaries as troublesome, but I have found the ones I know to be kind, gentle, generous…Those who are revolutionaries, however, want to make this a better world.” Sanchez rallies against racism in poems like “on watching a world series game,” where the players are more sport than the sport itself:

       there ain’t nothing like a
nigger playen in the noon/day
sun for us fun/loving/spectators.
sometimes
they seem even human. [xi]

In Sanchez’s America, nigger and black are interchangeable, most of the world’s “still a wite man’s game.” [xii] But instead of whips and chains, most are captured by greed, drugs, impossible gains. Black families are torn apart in poems like “– answer to yo/question / of am i not yo/woman / even if u went on shit again,” where a black woman watches her black man disappear and return as someone else under the haze of drug abuse [“wite powder that removes / them from they blk/selves” [xiii]. Still, she reminds him of her enduring, home-growing, proliferate love:

                                                            …blk/women
deal in babies and
sweet/blk/kisses
and nites that
multiply by twos. [xiv]

She calls out the seedy, underhanded politics of capitalism, sexism and pay-for-play sexual encounters in “Indianapolis/summer/1969/poem,” where she admonishes families for not teaching their children that the revolution isn’t about getting “coin” when they “open they legs/mouths/asses / fo wite/dicks.” [xv] Instead, it is revolutionary to teach black children to love each other, to not give pieces of themselves away by “fucken” or killing one another on “a sat/ur/day nite corner.” [xvi] Sanchez speaks plainly and combs the streets for what she believes people need to hear—she is a “walking filing cabinet of poems and songs and stories, of people, of places, of deeds and misdeeds,” [xvii] which is another tenet of the black revolutionary artist. Sanchez shocks the stoic, prudish and unaware with the hope of teaching some to know better or, perhaps, with the intention of moving some to shame, away from indifference. In the poem “listenen to big black at s.f. state,” Sanchez calls America a “400/yr/old/road/show” [xviii] just “…liven off its re/runs;” she is tired of watching America repeat its ugly mistakes.

Sanchez’s spur to revolution is sometimes angry, sometimes celebratory. She chastises and idolizes in equal measure in We a BaddDDD People. She’s a shapeshifter, carrier of love and hate. In short, she is all kinds of human, which is what a black revolutionary artist must be. The work of the revolutionary artist/woman, on top of dealing with culture alongside race, is often most focused and piercing when motherhood is the topic, as layer upon layer of experience (care-giving, care-needing, assumed inadequacies, laborious conflicted histories, etc.) abound. In “summer words of a sistuh addict,” a woman shoots dope on Sunday, making it her temple and God after church. [xix] The woman in the poem is not simply reckless or shooting up for recreation; she turns to drugs and explains she “got mad at my motha / cuz she got mad at me. u dig?…shot up / behind a feelen gainst her.” Her casual escape becomes a spiraling addiction, and only the women in her community know how to try to salvage her:

and as the sistuh
sits in her silent/
remembered/high
someone leans for
ward gently asks her:
sistuh.
did u
finally
learn how to hold yo/mother? [xx]

The women are a sounding board and communal conscience; the formatting changes when the voices of reason and restraint enter. Their words are in four- to five-syllable, clipped, pointed lines, and then the final, all-important query is broken into even fewer syllables on the lines that put the onus on the daughter, on her part in this undoing. The ultimate question is written like one long exhalation (it is also interesting that the formalized “mother” is used instead of the phonetic “motha”) and is followed by the women’s music “mingling with the sistuh’s tears” [xxi] as she is broken and re-born.

In this work, for women, losing the love of women is crippling. Often, as the poem brings out, it is still the larger community of women who cry, chastise and sing us through our mistakes. [xxii] Letting abuse, anger, dirty laundry, familial/communal issues and the like drive poems in this collection is a revolutionary mining, as black artists are “also, as ever, faced with judgments and injunctions from within our community that our work should perform a certain service as well as say and not say what is empowering or embarrassing to ‘the race’ at large.” [xxiii] Who is at fault here: the mother, the daughter, society, the pusher, the preacher, the almost absent God? Sanchez’s poems remind us of what Walker praises in truly revolutionary art: “A man’s life can rarely be summed up in one word; even if that word is black or white. And it is the duty of the artists to present the man as he is”. [xxiv]

Furthermore, Sanchez never pretends there is perfection in her own revolutionary living. We a BaddDDD People houses “a poem for my father,” a piece that makes its way into numerous anthologies and selected collections down through the years, that blueprints the difficult reconciliation of women with men, daughters with fathers, her own art and life with the hard living of another. In the poem, the speaker is beholden to her father and all of the women he’s misused, offering “i want to / do something about your / makeshift manhood.” [xxv] The father here is tragi-comic in his sad “need [for] so many black / perfumed bodies weeping / underneath” him, his revolving door of women part of his “deformities.” The speaker, being yet another woman providing him, a home laments: “on meeting your sixth / wife, i cross myself / with her confessionals.”

 

In the documentary, Sanchez appears to talk about the “Collective ‘I’” in the way I am always thinking of it, when asked about whether her work is personal. She is speaking for the communities of common folk. She is listener and medium. This duality, or the necessity of an active omniscience, reminds me of something I keep going back to in the revolutionary work of Elizabeth Alexander, who aligns with Sanchez and Walker’s theory that “[t]he artist then is the voice of the people, but she is also The People.” [xxvi] In Alexander’s The Black Interior, published two and a half decades after We a BaddDDD People, there is a burrowing under the skin of black America, she explicates, by means of “a metaphor, of what I call ‘the black interior,’ that is, black life and creativity behind the public face of stereotype and limited imagination…meant to envision: complex black selves, real and enactable black power, rampant and unfetishized black beauty.” [xxvii]

Both The Black Interior and Power and Possibility, Alexander’s books of prose, are meant for a people she loves; her admiration for our ancestors and their path winnowing on our behalf takes her to the page again and again. But she is also writing about what blackness is underneath its skin. She is looking at black art and black living through a meticulous, critical and causal lens: she gives care where she has gotten it; she is planting seed and growing those who grew her up, by making them infinitely bigger through line-by-line, note-by-note study.

Alexander is a model for my work and life; I think of her as a woman of every bearing, communal force and spirit, siren and beacon—her revolution carries me. Sometimes, when I am supposed to be writing and I am drifting into some netherworld of inertia, I search for interviews she’s done and let her voice play out on the speakers by my desk to remind me that lives should be spent doing something useful. Sometimes I don’t even need her voice, just the picture of her on the homepage of her website, [xxviii] where she sits clear-eyed, upright in the way my mother always reminds me to sit, near bright, florid pillows, to the left of ancestors holding a wall, and in front of floating shelves of books (I make out the titles Duke, Primo, The Big Sea and Zion, at first glance). She is all the things I am or want to be: mother, wife, poet, worker, woman enough for herself, wide ocean for younger poets like me. Like Sanchez and Walker, Alexander knows the import of “find[ing] the language to talk about ‘my people,’” [xxix] and this is my desire, my struggle too.

 

Sanchez is undoubtedly speaking to and for the wild youth, those who may not yet be broken entirely by racism’s heavy yoke. Walker is speaking to those past the bloom of youth who are helping to usher the next generation into the mixed up world. And Alexander is heralding the ancestors and elders who leave a trail for us (the could-be revolutionary artists) to seek and follow. This revolutionary art is about culpable responsibility for Sanchez, hard labor for Walker ,and authentic re-visioning for Alexander. Revolution occurs at the rate of a working engine, but it is also a reincarnation or epoch; life’s wheel, turning. In geology, it is when a region, a mass, a mountain occurs. Are we a mountain? Us, here, the new working, living, black women poets? Yes. Of course we have been made out of some shifting.

 

Race is not something you get out from under, nor should we be forced/compelled to want to escape it, all three women agree. And there is no denying “how public or communal pressures can dramatically affect the choices writers make in their literary careers.” [xxx] This revolution is not exactly intrinsic; in fact, it is a burden or argument—being solely an artist versus being a black artist versus being a black revolutionary artist—that has been ongoing since before Hughes penned “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” in 1926. Still, the “Collective ‘I,’” the artist-as-community motif that was a social imperative in the Harlem Renaissance and part of the artistic philosophy of the Black Arts Movement, remains a necessity for Sanchez, Walker and Alexander as well.

My second book of poems, What We Ask of Flesh, includes a Biblical woman is cut into twelve pieces and sent into the tribes of Israel, a woman-child is burned and transformed, a black woman becomes many women, and women are reborn—which is to say: it is a book about women lost to freedom and then coming to revolution often in spirit. After its publication, I am asked by an interviewer, “How aware are you, when writing, adding another voice and layer to the historic record?” [xxxi] I muster an answer, but while watching Sanchez’s documentary I continue to think about whether this work, this duality of a black women’s living, is a burden. Can we ever make art for art’s sake? Sanchez and Walker never seemed to think that was the reality anyway—they never ignored the awareness of what is Truth—the antecedent of the Black community wedges (or opens) us into positions of disadvantage, and it takes all the bright bodies—the thinking, moving, painting, writing, singing, dancing, teaching, healing folks living in, around, of and through us—to pull us all out.

In Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook by Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, the two toggle genres, black art and artistry; work in tandem; move through and into others; reexamine themselves. In the poem “The Black Woman Speaks,” named after a graphic series by and written in the voice of sculptor/activist Elizabeth Catlett, the work—the cumbersome, all-encompassing, oft inglorious, mindful mess—of the revolutionary is made plain: “The black woman’s head is a massive weight / …The black woman’s work is the work of the world.” [xxxii] So we mine the historical record, we add another layer of history, but we are also doing the humble, daily work, keeping the engine turning as we can.

 

I keep hearing the voice of Sanchez as a playwright in my head intoning, “But how do it free us?” [xxxiii] This is not 1960s America, however, and as I switch between CNN and the documentary, after another black man has been killed by police, this blur of things reminds me we are still living in precarious times. We, of another generation, what is our revolution? What is revolutionary work in the age of a somewhat “freer” blackness? Are hashtags revolutionary in their swiftness and necessity? Is my faith? (It must be, as even the music is asking this question now.) Is having faith in the revolution, in revolutionary art, a radical act? And what is happening to those we bear, to the next, next generation? Are our children getting freer?

I was born in 1981, I have passed my Jesus year and am listening to talk radio as much as music, which means to me that I am as interested in learning as feeling, and I don’t remember this being the case ten years ago. It is not the case for the students in my classes; it is not the case for the children blaring music in my house. This morning, my husband and I talk—as the Sanchez documentary cuts to a poem about her father behind us—about Chance the Rapper and how he has peaked my soul music-loving husband’s interest because he is an emcee devoted to being free from the traditional signings and trappings of the business. This leads to a long tangent about how the internet is right, that we are just coming to know what free black children look like and are learning how they will move around us, in a way we weren’t able to be and do.

“I do not dismiss the Collective ‘I’ on our back,” I tell my husband, “we all had to carry the race, and some of them are getting free enough now to feel that they only carry themselves.” When did this happen? When did revolution also start to mean you could be free of the yoke of the past? I am in wonder of it and them. I am proud and frightened about forgetting and forging into the tilting axis of a changing world.

 

After I have been informed that none of the new classes I designed will be offered this term, because “there might be a few too many courses on ‘sensationalized’ topics,” the documentary is finally ending with younger poets reading Sanchez’s work, and I am cleaning the house again. I have not been back to my son’s closet in many months, and the things I cannot allow him to wear to school or the bus stop mostly have been removed. But his grandmother has snuck in a bandana, which she bought at Dollar Tree because he said he wanted to play cowboys, and it is red, and I must throw it away because I don’t want someone to think he is a danger to them or himself. After the death of Trayvon Martin, my husband and I sat in the kitchen deciding how to explain the Truth of all this to the child. I do the actual work of explaining, the actual work of pulling things out of his closet and putting them into the dumpster while he cries, and then write:

Our child is not yet ten and we are clearing his closet

of do-rags, backpacks, hoo doo, hoorides, black
magic, mysterious gadgets, misters and missus, the missing,
heretics, hearsay, heard-him-tell, run-and-tell-it,
snitches, stiches, saving, saviors, Toms, Dicks,
nightsticks, shanks, broken bottles, blunts, objects,
bullets, ballistics, crypt walks, autopsies, undergrounds,
jaywalking, gestures, gentrification, justifications, juries,
kickbacks, nickelbags, accessories, neverseen, dragging, drug
cartels, trafficking, riding while, driving while, looking while,
loudtalking, Mirandas, bandanas, the ash faultline,
blood in the streets, Bloods in these streets, gang-
banging, bass slanging, Ma-we-was-just-out-listening-to
at the wrong place, wrong time, tongue-tying, art-
iculation, relations, bad association, watch who you
know, love, bump into, fistbumping, fist fighting, forced
arrest, urban unrest, what it looks like, who coins it,
who sets up camp, who’s pictured on those shirts,
why children are in these streets, what blisters
and buoys, Boy, tie up those laces, unzip that hood [xxxiv]

I think about what Alexander says in her essay about Rodney King, which seems dated now, as my children do not recognize his name and cannot fathom how he keeps coming back to us—“the ways in which a practical memory exists and crucially informs African Americans about the lived realities of how violence and its potential affects our understanding of our individual selves as a larger group.” [xxxv] This is one of the many things we are still trying to get free from: not just police violence (a vestige of slavery and Jim Crow martial law) or stereotyping (a vestige of ignorance, fear, slavery, propaganda and sometimes our own making) but the weight of this historical lens that bends the actual, relevant, living Truth of our daily lives.

This cleaning out of my son’s closet is the thing I did, but that I had to and the why of this makes it political, though I’d never hoped that would be the case. I had hoped one of my new classes would take, because the importance of the topics would seem undoubtable, undismissable to the powers that be, not fetishized, sensational, sexy, sassy, hip or nouveau, and not yet part of the necessary canon of our American experiences and lives. The BaddDDD documentary credits finally roll as I pick myself up off the floor near the empty closet and head to the table where more work waits, always.

 

There might always be the need for revolution. I go back to Sanchez, Walker, Alexander and others to remind myself that a real revolutionary is myriad in her scope. These are the women I go back to assure myself that a real revolutionary must be a teacher. This is not limited to the traditional academy, but one must be willing to impart knowledge—practical and personal, universal and unique—to those who are hungry for it. They teach me that a real revolutionary must also be a listener, a hearer, one who gathers bits of life meticulously, so others will hear themselves in the re-telling. A real revolutionary must do the menial work—working with those illiterate, alliterate, less fortunate, not minding anybody who loves a voice that sounds like theirs, no matter how others may decide to dismiss or discount it, and helping them decipher what the words they don’t yet know can mean. They teach me that real revolutionary women can love men and women in equal measure; they love the full power of their bodies—respect it, wield it as they see fit, know this is not without consequence—and are not shameful of it. They teach me to mother, to care for my own and to care for others, to ready the generations that follow me and not to fall into the trap of deeming their wild wandering as frivolity. They teach me that care might mean making a meal before a poem, tending in and outside of a poem or comfort.

A real revolutionary recognizes others working to be revolutionary, honors and names them, gives them voice, shares work and truth with them, even if their approaches differ (and what is revolutionary about sameness?). Real revolutionaries are not afraid to shine a light on ugliness, intricacy, to call what is human human, despite what others have called it (animal, mongrel, mutation, figment, whisper, smoke). Real revolutionaries believe everyone has someone or something to answer to, so humility is not out of the question and does not interfere with self-love, which a real revolutionary must be full of.

 


[i] BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (2015; Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania: Attie & Goldwater Productions.), Film.

[ii] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983).

[iii] Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior: Essays (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2004).

[iv] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 133.

[v] Sonia Sanchez, We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970).

[vi] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 135.

[vii] Ibid., p. 133-134.

[viii] Ibid., p. 137.

[ix] Sonia Sanchez, We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 15.

[x] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 135.

[xi] Sonia Sanchez, We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 36.

[xii] Ibid.

[xiii] Ibid., p. 38.

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] Ibid., p. 22.

[xvi] Ibid., p. 23.

[xvii] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 136.

[xviii] Sonia Sanchez, We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 48.

[xix] Ibid., p. 35.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Ibid.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior: Essays (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2004), 46.

[xxiv] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 137.

[xxv] Sonia Sanchez, We a BaddDDD People (Detroit: Broadside Press, 1970), 14.

[xxvi] Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens (New York: Harcourt, 1983), 138.

[xxvii] Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior: Essays (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2004), x.

[xxviii] Elizabeth Alexander, “Homepage,” Accessed September 28, 2016.

[xxix] Ibid., p. 175.

[xxx] Ibid., p. 44-45.

[xxxi] Michele Lesko, “Remica L. Bingham Interview,” Ithaca Lit. December 31, 2013. Accessed September 28, 2016.

[xxxii] Elizabeth Alexander and Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Poems in Conversation and a Conversation (Slapering Hol Press, 2008). Accessed September 28, 2016.

[xxxiii] Sonia Sanchez, Uh Huh; But How Do It Free Us? (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press, 1974).

[xxxiv] Remica L. Bingham-Risher, Starlight & Error, (Doha, Qatar: Diode Editions, 2017), 64.

[xxxv] Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior: Essays (Saint Paul, MN: Graywolf, 2004), 178.

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About Remica Bingham-Risher

Remica Bingham-Risher, a native of Phoenix, Arizona, is a Cave Canem fellow and Affrilachian Poet. She is the author of Conversion (Lotus, 2006), winner of the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award; What We Ask of Flesh (Etruscan, 2013), shortlisted for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Starlight & Error (Diode, 2017), winner of the Diode Editions Book Award; and is finalizing a book of personal essays and interviews with African-American poets. She is the Director of Quality Enhancement Plan Initiatives at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA where she resides with her husband and children.