Black female poets discuss race and sexuality

By ANNE HOLLMULLER | October 19, 2017

Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse hosted a poetry reading by The Black Ladies Brunch Collective for a reading of poems from their book Not Without Our Laughter: Poems of Humor, Joy & Sexuality. This group of black female artists celebrated the importance of art, love and laughter in resisting oppression.

The Black Ladies Brunch Collective is a working group of black female poets devoted to promoting the voices of black women in art.

The Collective first formed as a social group, where female poets of color could meet, talk and offer solidarity to one another in the midst of a chaotic world.

Members of the Collective include Teri Cross Davis, Anya Creightney, Katy Richey, celeste doaks [sic], Saida Agostini and Tafisha Edwards. Although Agostini was not present at the event, several of her poems were read aloud.

The poems addressed a wide range of topics, including marriage and romance, sexuality and queer identity, and motherhood and friendship. Some poems responded to other pieces in the book while others were stand-alone pieces.

Certain poems were humorous, while others expressed pain, longing or frustration. Many of the pieces spoke to the particular joys and pains of being a black woman in America and of the intersections of female, LGBTQ and black identity.

Following the reading, members of the audience addressed questions to the poets about their influences, their collaborative process and their writing.

Davis answered a question about how her own writing changed following the election of Donald Trump.

“I know for me, I’ve been writing my ass off, and part of it is because I’m writing a lot about those who are the most vulnerable. For me that’s my children. I have a six-year-old son and an eight-year-old daughter,” Davis said.

Davis reflected on the different ways that her son and daughter have to navigate an often hostile world.

“She [Davis’ daughter] is like a bud and thorns, and I’m making her stronger and stronger. And I want her to stay sensitive. I want her to be in touch with her emotions in the way she is now and to never lose that,” Davis said.

Senior Alizay Jalisi, president of Hopkins Feminists, was the leader of the trip, which the group and their co-sponsors organized to participate in this event. She discussed via email how important it is to amplify minority voices.

“Hopkins Feminists, Alpha Phi Alpha and Sigma Gamma Rho decided to take a group of students to see the Black Ladies Brunch Collective because we all think it’s imperative to listen to and support voices often unheard in mainstream media, especially those of many black women,” Jalisi wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Following the event, members of the different groups discussed their feelings about the poetry they had heard and the topics the women had addressed.

Jalisi wrote that some of the assembled students were surprised by the poetry’s focus on LGBTQ themes.

“We had expected the poetry reading to focus more on the racialized struggles of black women, and instead the poetry we heard was more about exploring sexuality and queer identity, which was surprising but still enjoyable,” Jalisi wrote.

Jalisi also mentioned that the students in attendance found the writing’s more graphic features challenging but compelling.

“Some aspects of the poetry felt shockingly sexually explicit, but still entertaining and exciting. I’d say we came away from the performance feeling pushed outside of our comfort zones in a good way,” she wrote.

Upcoming Hopkins Feminists events include a series of informative giveaway events on Monday afternoons at the Breezeway in partnership with Students for Environmental Action on each of the remaining Mondays in October.

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