The Personal is Political: The Freedom Found & Formed by Telling Our Stories

 

By Chelcee Loraine. Photography by Deun Ivory.

“…What I most regretted were my silences…Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.” – Audre Lorde

I remember being told at an early age that as a woman of color I’d have to work twice as hard to get as far as others; as those neither women nor of color. Or being made aware of my body at the tender age of eleven as grown men eyes began to trace the dips and curves thereof. And what does this do to the psyche, or the spirit? To the experiences spoken of and kept secret? To start so young internalizing how one’s body, race, sex automatically politicizes them. While I may not have had the language for it then. Others would later offer that language. From the writings of Audre Lorde and June Jordan to Toni Morrison - the black woman’s mind, body and spirit took on a collective wisdom of what it meant to exist in the world and lean that existence toward liberation – in all its forms.

“The white fathers told us, I think therefore I am; and the black mothers in each of us-the poet-whispers in our dreams, I feel therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary awareness and demand, the implementation of that freedom” – Audre Lorde

And this language helped, it made tangible this idea that the personal is indeed political. From our hot girl summer declarations that speak of body positivity and forward-facing sensuality that is uncensored. To our gatherings of joy and open mics. I believe the griots of the past knew something, knew how powerful it was for us to verbalize and repeat our stories. How they are affirmed, validated and cannot be ignored as we do so.

That living as a woman of color, a mother of color, an artist of color, a refugee of color, a queer person all means that this living comes with systematic oppression and inclinations. And Audre Lorde knew, that “the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation.”

From our reproductive rights and voting access to simply walking down the block at night unlaced by fears. “The personal is political” is a statement that became famous during the second-wave feminism of the 60s and 70s. But for many women of color it became personal through the likes of Audre Lorde, bell books and Alice Walker. Who wrote of a womanism that honored the experiences of women of color. This month at Black Girl In Om, we continue this work with out theme, “The Personal is Political.”

We’d be remised to speak on wellness and not work through how it relates to the state of our world today and how we exist in it as political beings.

Today, we open our cell phones and face the news of the Amazon burning – a literal threat to our oxygen, our breathing, to say nothing of the indigenous lives being harmed. We read the headlines of yet another mass shooting, to cops still using deadly force on men of color, to climate change being taken lightly, and women of color being paid much less than our counterparts. And what do we say to these things? To news that can be fear and anxiety inducing. Well, being an organization founded on the principles of breathing easy, of wellness and securing peace. We know that peace is not often given, it’s something we work toward. Often times, in past and present, something we must claim.

However, I don’t believe this fight, this declaration to be, was meant to raw us out. I believe the work of healing internally must lend itself to the external. It’s in this that our personal muses into the political; that we un-silence our stories. When we work to heal within ourselves we also realize how much of the fight was given to us. Be it issues of the body, or colorism, or anxiety - much has been inherited from the world we live in and how it came to be (i.e. colonialism).

 This month, we unpack the personal as political. We want you to feel empowered to know what to do in the times we find ourselves, where to start… and to speak. When our church houses are being gunned down, immigrant lives are being caged, when black trans women are murdered at alarming rates, when we have a president that turns a blind eye to all of the above - we can’t afford to look away or to be silent. We can’t afford to silence our experiences.

It is time that we speak our truth aloud and unafraid. What have you been allowing to silence you? Or, how have you been silencing yourself? What will you un-silence for yourself? And, what will it mean for the liberation of others?

We wear this brown skin like armor and then like prayer. Kneeling into it with reverence, with diligence, strengthening our spine with the writings of ancestors who’ve been this way before. Each cloak, warrior or prayer, being political. 

"Tell them about how you're never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out…” – Audre Lorde

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Join BGIO this month in recognizing how the personal is political and the shifts we make for a better world within, at home and abroad. We’ll be helping you digest the news while centering both well-being and action, looking at our current presidential candidates, our self-care traditions as political beings and talking to experts in our communities. Send your pitches to Editor@BlackGirlInOm.com

P.S.

I know the power, the liberation, the affirmation in speaking our experiences; in naming and validating them. I’ve enjoyed doing so as an editor here at BGIO for the past few years and within the publishing industry for almost a decade. I look forward to handing the baton over to our new editor Brianne Patrice. My work in the world is to help empower us to tell our stories, in hopes of not only canonizing our work and our healing but creating some sort of map for those coming after. I’ll be closing out my journey doing so here at Black Girl In Om this month, but look forward to all that is to come from your voices un-silenced and ever-penetrating. Come hang out with me at @ChelceeLoraine as I work on a novel and gather new voices at 37 Ink/Simon & Schuster.