photographs + writings devoted to every black girl with wings + to those in the process of discovering them.
open call | we are now accepting submissions for issue II of black.girl.fly. issue II focuses on recipes for tinctures, remedies and potions that you have acquired through your ancestors. if you are interested in being part of this project, please send 1-2 images + an accompanying recipe, along with the ailments your recipe is intended to heal
| send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org | submissions due september 31, 2016.
I’ve always been obsessed with love. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. My oldest memories are drenched, dripping, drowning in love. I remember that when I was 4 and my little brother was 2, he was addicted to drawing and painting on our immaculately white apartment walls…Colorful compositions for all to see. My sisterly love stirred me to clean it up, each and every time, before my mom discovered his toddler masterpieces. My love for nature is just as ancient. I remember chasing the sun as it expired slowly on hot summer days when I was small enough to fit tightly into a small nook on my first floor windowsill, when all I wanted to do was inhale ice pops and play ad infinitum. I spent hours watching water run, ice melt, birds sing, leaves fall. I remember looking up into the sky so much it would make my little neck hurt, all for the chance of seeing an epic bird or to arrange the clouds into any real or fantastic things my young mind could imagine. It was my mother’s undying and perpetual trust and love for me that first set me free, that allowed her to let go of her first-born, her only daughter at 13, to empower me to make the decision to go away to boarding school and with loving tears in her eyes, leave me on a hill in the far-away land of Connecticut to grow and learn, to lead and explore, to embark on my journey to becoming to the powerful visionary I am today, filled with the same fire and love that she had in her and then taught me. Love has brought many things to me and the same love has taken them away. Knowing and recognizing love has taught me to let go when it’s time to. I’ve swallowed love whole and let it cultivate inside of me until it was too big to contain in my body and I had to fly with it, take it abroad and let it spill all over the world. I could not have imagined that the same passion and fire that led me to the world would inspire more love in me and that with this new love, I would start to know myself, that my lionly courage would force me to commit to discovering this brave new world I was constructing inside of myself. I started feeling love for people I didn’t know, for places and cultures, for the beauty of a nature I had never seen so transparently, so authentically, so unfiltered. I obsessed over the sun and fire, things that seemed like magic to me. And then came my kids, simultaneously the smallest and biggest sources of my inspiration, the people that have taught me the most about life. My heart taught itself to beat double-time when I started working with kids. Then I came home and discovered an overwhelmingly proud and powerful love for my city, the vessel of my dreams, the place from which I pool my energy and strength, my confidence and vision, the nerve, boldness and self importance that I need in order to believe I can do anything, anything, anything I want to do. As independent as I am, as much time as I spend living in my own labyrinth of a head, as impressively massive as my wings have grown over the years, I continue to be grounded by my friends, people that I love so badly I wish they existed in figurine sizes so I could take them around everywhere with me; womyn and men that have inspired me, shaped me, challenged me but most importantly, reciprocated love.
The Earth Warrior.
[Maybe] Black Girl, [Definitely] Fly
by Azzure Alexander
photographs by Madeleine Barker
[Maybe] Black Girl, [Definitely] Fly
I don’t know if I am a Black girl.
I am a short girl, I am a flexy girl, I am a girl with zero sense of chill, and I am a fly girl; but I don’t know if I am a Black girl. I grew up with my white Mother, who I idolize, in Chula Vista, California. I say Chula Vista now, not San Diego, because my first year in college I met a sneaky chick from Menlo Park who cocked her head to the side and told me Chula Vista isn’t really San Diego and I should stop pretending otherwise. I’m not ashamed of Chula Vista, of what Chula Vista is; I’m not ashamed, but still, it bothers me.
Authenticity is very important to me, it used to be honesty but in recent years as I struggle to establish myself and my success I have found that I can be a exquisite liar when I need to be, when I have the energy and the motivation to do so. I am consumed by the idea of being my most authentic self, to strip myself of all pretenses and be genuine. So with my white mother and my fair skin am I a genuine Black girl, or am I just pretending otherwise? Am I like Chula Vista, because that isn’t really like a Black girl?
I’ve always sought for inclusion; for acceptance from and within the Black community, but often I am denied. That which is rich and strong and powerful of Black heritage becomes a collective identity, a possessive pronoun, a them, an authority I cannot overcome; and I become an other depending on my seasonal exposure. ‘I am Black’ is a statement, but it becomes a trepid statement, almost a question that I ask every person who looks me in the eyes, watches as I walk passed, or sees my face in a photograph.
No one can deny my genetics; it’s in my blood. They can look at my father at my grandmother, but even within my own family I wonder if they see me as some sort of an exception. I can see that to be Black there are layers, that aside from your features, the pigment of your skin, your phenotypic traits, there is an energy, a culture, a shared history and a blunt pride. Today, as days before, it is a difficult time to be Black, there are challenges and there is oppression, but with resilience and an example of true power African-Americans have embraced a century old movement to push forward, to push back, to stand tall, and to focus not on what challenges them, but what makes them beautiful and strong. #BlackGirlFly is one example of the movement to highlight all that is beautiful of Black culture and an opportunity to empower Black women, and I want empowerment.
I do not deny my mother, her family, her heritage, I am eternally grateful for the love I have received, yet I ache to connect to the other side of my life that is not reflected in my skin tone. Even though my mother has always asserted that I am a Black woman, I often feel guilt for wanting outside confirmation. As if it is an insult to what my mother has contributed in me. I am ashamed that I blame myself, my inability to become darker; as if that is the answer to what I seek. When what I truly seek is self-acceptance.
As far as cultural identification goes I have felt used, I have felt dejected, and yet here I am, standing tall, in all my dope-ness. I don’t struggle with the ‘fly’ aspect of #BlackGirlFly. I am a source of endless inspiration; I have always indulged my interests, my artistic expression, and my spiritual connection. It’s the ‘Black girl’ part that trips me up. Every person I meet I wonder if I am treated, for better or worse, because my skin is fair, or if it is because my aura is Technicolor. Yeah, I am beautiful and I am strong, but am I stealing an opportunity from true Black women, can I claim to be a Black? My Answer: no, I am not; and yes, yes I can.
It didn’t feel like a choice to be who I am, it was more of a release. I had sectioned myself; there was a damn within me separating two deep rivers that were always meant to be one. I am fly despite my struggle with physical identity; maybe I am fly because of it.
For me it is a constant everyday, every second, effort to self-claim being a Black girl. I wont say that I’m just a girl, a human being regardless of the color of my skin because I’m not whatever enough to say I don’t see color. I see it, and I care what you see, what you think, and how those two things sum up where I land on the spectrum of a Black girl. It hurts me every time I say I am Black and someone laughs, or cocks their head to the side as if to ask me to come to reason. Despite the hurt, the deep burning that starts somewhere from my center and travels up the throat and escapes from my eyes; I will continue to issue my statement: I am Black. It is okay if you make a mistake, I will correct you. I am #BlackGirlFly. I will continue to deny the opinions that would suggest otherwise, even if they are my own, and drown out the objecting voices with the sound of my own river, because I sure as hell am not putting that damn back up.
-Azzure Alexander, 2016
Luna Olavarria Gallegos
No one used their words much, but when I was younger, they taught me about the ground, about dust and desert.
No one spoke of the sky and I only looked at it during the night, though never looking long enough to seek something in the stars. Instead I walked barefoot and thought about mud, about soil.
No one needed to use words because I already knew where my feet belonged. I had inherited the knowledge that the sky was for things that could fly, for things that were not weighed down to the earth by knowing that it hurts to hope.
The Earth Warrior
Ms Haly/Voyager is a collaboration between my long time mentor -and one of the major voices in the Caribbean literary canon- Kamau Brathwaite & my 27-year old self
Published in Volume 1, Issue 2 of Caribbean Vistas Journal