I am a researcher. I work outside the university, have no degree affirming my qualifications to interpret or produce knowledge. Insurgent. I am nobody (see June Jordan, see Alexis Pauline Gumbs). My work involves a kind of listening - echo - in order to recover abbreviated lives. The ones you will not find in the holdings of the Schomburg, or the archives at Yale, or various other institutions. Still submerged. Excess, waste, "it incarnates all that has been rendered invisible."
“Even the smallest cell remembers”, M. NourbeSe Phillip taught you this. I struggle to believe it. Struggle to reconfigure my own failing optics. What was at 1900 Penn Avenue N again? Who did Angelo Herndon speak to in Minneapolis, the upper Mississippi, in September 1934? How might these matters of place, of blackness, of bodies be represented in ways that do not reify the illegible as the invisible? Why does it matter? Can a geography, imagined black, with a very small waywardly traveling second hand black population - young - can that place recover genealogies many say do not exist here? Even the smallest cell remembers. I want to believe, even as I feel myself disappear.
I live in Minnesota. Blackness is not imagined here. Until it is. Something tragic or terrifying underneath your bed, or hidden in plain sight. Sheeeeeeeit. Excess is a frightening evidence. Some of the first black folks here were among the investments the white elite had in southern agriculture. These '"investments” were brought north before the Civil War. These investments had names we do not know. Abbreviated.
I know a litany of names: Jamar, Le’Vonte - I know a litany of - Nizzel, Latora. I know too much. Names too often said on the heels of each other, form a kind of palimpsest covering the last one we have in some way inscribed, leaving only traces in the midst of a ceremony around the body, at the site where the body became memory, a market mocking our short-term memory. I do not know enough.
Echo - are you listening? To the subtext? Somewhere below the white unions’ willful silence around black radical labor struggle in the 30s, somewhere below a black moderate paper’s peripheral acknowledgment of black marxist presence in Minnesota, or at all. Are you listening? For a tradition; not uninterrupted, sometimes in the brush of the strange technology of absence. Can you name it? In the everyday, the exchanges that do not render - optics - can you see it in the oppositional practices that are not obvious?
“There are other heres”, Alexis De Veaux has taught you this. There are other heres, this is a knowledge you’ve kept and you must map them. Re member, remember even what you have forgot. See M. Jacqui Alexander. See the buoy that is the dark matter of black life. Echo North.
1. I am identifying as a researcher from a tradition articulated by Linda Tuhiwai Smith in Decolonizing Methodologies. What this means to me is one, an acknowledgement and problematizing of the ways in which academic research is implicated in imperialism. Secondly this means I am claiming an oppositional tradition, one also articulated by Marta Fernandez Campa who says, "Visual artists and writers are developing modes of archiving 'counter-memory', that is, memory that contradicts or revises official history, offering as a result a critical reflection upon the limitations encountered in colonial and post-colonial archives." For more on decolonizing methodologies see Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research And Indigenous Peoples Second Edition (New York: Zed Books, 2012).
2. From June Jordan Alexis Pauline Gumbs excavates another rendering of Nobody, and in that rendering, nobody, mean more. June Jordan, "Nobody Mean More to Me Than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan" Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan (New York: Basic/Civatas Books, 2003) 157-173. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, "Nobody Mean More: Black Feminist Pedagogy and Solidarity" The Imperial University: Academic Repression And Scholarly Dissent edited by Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2014) 237-260.
3. "Waste is the interface of life and death. It incarnates all that has been rendered invisible, peripheral, or expendable to history writ large, that is, history as the tale of great men, empire, and nation. It 'evokes the dull ordinary horror of what is vile, worthless and contemptible - a pile of shit.' Waste is the remnant of all the lives that are outside of history and 'dissolved in utter amnesia." Saidiya Hartman, Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along The Atlantic Slave Route (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007) 115.
4. "the smallest cell remembers." M. NourbeSe Phillip, She Tries Her Tongue, Her Silence Softly Breaks (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1989) 36-41.
5. "Some of the first black folks here were among the investments the white elite had in southern agriculture. These '"investments” were brought north before the Civil War. These investments had names we do not know." For more history on Minnesota's connection to slaver see Christopher P. Lehman, Slavery In The Upper Mississippi Valley: A History Of Bondage In Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (Jefferson: McFarland, 2011).
6. For more on on black radical labor struggle in Minnesota see here.
7. "There are other heres." Alexis De Veaux, Yabo (Washington D.C.: Red Bone Press, 2014) 11.
8. On remembering what we forgot see M. Jaqui Alexander, Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations On Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, And The Sacred (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005) 276.
9. See also, Simone Browne, Dark Matters: On The Surveillance Of Blackness (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015).