am deep in the heart of Dixie right now. I am at an amazing residency at Hambidge Center for the Arts which is in North Georgia, nestled in the feet of the Appalachian mountains. (I’ll be reviewing the residency sometime next month. For now let me say that their applications will open on March 1. You should all apply. I will help you write your application for free.Seriously, the first person that I referred to this residency just got their acceptance letter. I want all of us to have the resources and support that we need to imagine and build a world where everyone has what they need to live with ease and thrive. Artists will lead the way to liberation as we always have.)
As I said though, I am deep in the heart of Dixie and that old south is alive and well. People fly the rebel flag here, there is a store in town called the Rebel store, folks don’t wear masks. The stores have the signs that say you have to. When you get inside the stores though, people are just out here doing whatever the fuck they want. It’s also the south so everyone is very kind and hospitable. Everyone wants to start a conversation with you--I love that! I do that, I get that from being raised in the south. But I don’t want to talk to people who are not wearing masks! Also, the fact that people are southern and hospitable very peacefully coexists with the fact that a lot of folks are white supremacist, anti-Black , and do not concede that they lost the war. The Civil War. The south is a place that holds complexity in a way that the rest of the country never seems to be able to understand. It’s a part of southern culture that I actually really miss, because organizing spaces, educational spaces, worship spaces--everywhere--would be so much better if we all had this ability to hold complexity.
A couple of days ago I needed to go into town, to the Walmart to get some materials. Since arriving here I have been very aware of the fact that I am visually very Black and very queer. (Sometimes I forget, I mean I live with and as me everyday.) I do not pass for what is normative in this space. When I thought about what that might mean for my trip to Wallyworld I wasn’t afraid. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with any of the ways that anti-Blackness or queerphobia or transphobia or xenophobia could or would show up. Sometimes it’s blatant violence. Other times its exotification. The deep fascination, desire to engage, to consume, to experience Black people and Black culture.
Hyper-adornment is the way that I prepare myself to enter and move through potentially violent spaces. Since I got here I’ve mostly been wandering around in the same pair of muddy jeans and a sweatshirt. This residency is off grid, on the mountain, in the wilderness. For the Wallyworld I went into my bag and pulled out and OUT.FIT. Like: if yall are gonna stare then I am gonna give you something to stare about. The staring will be because I have transformed myself into a moving monument and you have never seen such splendor in your life. Not because nobody ever taught you that it was rude, or because you can’t help yourself. The OUT.FIT will act as a barrier between me and you. People have been taught to understand what kinds of people or things you are allowed to approach and which ones you have to admire from afar. When I get dressed up people know that I am an admire from afar kind of person. (Really I’m quite approachable buuuuut I do recognize the impact of my aesthetic. I use it to my advantage as needed.)
The people in the Walmart did not know what to do with themselves. While they were in a fog trying to process my presence. I slipped on past them, kept it moving. The trip to the store was easy and incident free. We got in, got what we needed, got out. Though not without having to navigate the mask-lessness of other people.
This story is just one example of the ways that I use adornment, an ancestral teknology, to access my joy and selfhood in even the most stressful and trying of situations. Yes nothing happened but it could have. I was hypervigilant because I knew that I was in an unsafe social environment where honestly anything could happen. Hypervigilance is one of the constant stressors that is literally shaving time off of the lives of Black folks, and women, and queer folks, and trans folks, and poor folks and whole lot of other folks who are also me and who have been deemed disposable by the powers that be.
Today I am inviting you to support my joy, literally add years to my life, by sending me adornments! I got a list of things that I’ve been watching. Artists and makers who I have been wanting to add to my collection:
You can also check out the adornments sold @nubianhueman and @keepersvintage.
Also these are all Black and brown artists and creators. Most of whom I am connected to in one way or another. So when you support my joy in this way you will also be supporting my communities.