cities and skies.jpg

Black Storytellers' Guide
to Everyday Liberation

"Chicago & Nem" (2022). Graphic image designed by M. Billye Sankofa Waters.

Black Storytellers’ Guide to Everyday Liberation: a radical identity praxis joint is birthed from the question: How do Black folx cultivate everyday practices of liberation? To address this, I center the voices of 13 folx (interviewed by me, between 2021- 2022.) Each person was born within the critical influence of Hip Hop across the Deep South, Southern California, NY and the Midwest and are identified as Black Storytellers. We pivot away from DuBois’ musings regarding the white gaze in 1903, “what does it feel like to be a problem,” and pivot toward #BlackFolxAreRich. 

I am clear that I write for Black folx. And I offer the invitation for other folx to listen in; this invitation is a gift. The audience for the Black Storytellers’ Guide includes Black folx, those who love Black folx, and folx interested in ways to document and honor their own family stories. I imagine an audience of folx who are committed to reflecting, dismantling, and healing.

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Cypher with Billye & Marshall. Maui, 2020. Captured by Malari.

Black Storytelling – the foundation for this book – is a reflection and practice of various identities; I name three types of stories: firsthand, hand-me-down, and kaleidoscopes. As a reflection of art and scholarship, I identify Black Storytellers such as James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Romare Bearden, Zora Neal Hurston, Nikki Giovanni, Robin Boylorn, Septima Clark, Bisa Butler, D. Soyini Madison, bell hooks, and Ms. Lauryn Hill. As a practice / method, I posit four movements for Black Storytelling: (1) Record (2) Reconnect (3) Reward (4) Repeat. The book is organized into five mics (chapters,) with text written in highly-stylized non-fiction, including original photography, hand-written recipes, and neighborhood maps.

Storytellers' Map

  • MIC 1 is the Introduction. It provides a “Read Me First” guide where I discuss the gestation of the project, including conversations with Shanyce, the passing of my mother and a discussion of ancestral mathematics. A poetic transcription follows, which incorporates narrative bits across all 13 participants: “Black Is.” 

  • MIC 2 draws out Black folx’ relationships to various institutions such as church, school and large-scale migrations and movements. It also discusses the knowledge production and methodology of Black Storytelling.

  • MIC 3 is where we get into the stories (patches) of 13 folx, including mine. We are born between 1968 – 1984, from the assassination of Dr. King to the release of Breakin’, Purple Rain, and the debut of “The Cosby Show.” Each section begins with a detailed profile of the 13 storytellers including their relationship to Hip Hop, to me, and what our cyphers were like – for this project, as well as throughout our respective relationships. I follow with narratives that take traditional shapes, poetic transcriptions (several of the folx are poets and artists,) screenplay (to highlight the dialogue as well as the setting,) or stream of consciousness. Each story has its own voice respective to the person telling it. 

  • MIC 4 provides the threaded patches of stories collected from Part II, also referred to as themes: “Hey Black Child!,” Mac & Cheese, Love Stories and Tall Tales, and Loud Silences and Assumptions.

  • MIC 5 wraps with Shout Outs: to the Folx Who Put in the Work Before Me (references) and the Folx Who Were with Me in the Studio (acknowledgements). The final acknowledgement is Libations: for all of the folx who passed away and were born during the development of this project.

As an outcome of this project, I claim Black Storytelling as the vehicle for Radical Identity Praxis (RIP). RIP is the journey of unapologetically cultivating who we are at the Roots through Black Storytelling (reflection and practice) – asserting #BlackFolxAreRich as an affirmation of cultural wealth. This work disrupts institutional anti-Black racism (specifically naming schools) to prioritize home, which is necessary to cultivate Black folx’ wholeness and autonomy (liberation). 

shoutout to the two Blackgirls

on the Black Storytellers / Radical Identity Praxis

research team. 

 

Beginning of 2022, I was able to hire two Blackgirls to help me transcribe these interviews (thanks to the UW Black Opportunity Fund.) While I am STILL interviewing (scheduling time with brilliant folx who are working toward liberation aint NO JOKE! but planning to be done by July 2022!) — these young women have taken on the work of typing up about 60 HOURS of conversations. 

 

Both are from the Pacific Northwest and are currently freshman at the University of Washington Tacoma majoring in environmental science and politics/philosophy/economics (PPE) respectively. I’m thrilled to share this opportunity with them.  

 

This is (interdisciplinary) Village work y’all. #BlackStorytellers #EverydayLiberation #BlackFolxAreRich