Published 09/15/2020 | Reading Time 3 min 4 sec
By Autumn Brown, Senior Editor
I don’t know if you all are watching HBO’s Lovecraft Country, but if you aren’t, shame on you! Seriously, what are you doing with your Sunday evenings?
To catch you up without giving significant spoilers, imagine a segregated, cultured version of Harry Potter–in that, magic is real, y’all! The main character, Atticus Freeman, played by Jonathan Majors, returns to the southside of Chicago after receiving word that his father had gone missing. There, he uncovers his bloodline’s hidden truths with the help of his “friend” Lettie, played by the Queen Jurnee Smollet, and his estranged father, Montrose Freeman, played by Michael K. Williams–formerly Omar Little from HBO’s The Wire.
As Atticus learns more about the talents hidden among his family’s heritage, the character development around him also unfolds each episode. Each character has their own unique encounters with magic and the dark sides of witchcraft wizardry.
Like Ruby, Letti’s half-sister. Early on in the season, we sense the tension between the two. Lettie is living a “rock star” lifestyle still entirely dependent on her siblings, while Ruby is working toward establishing a lifestyle rooted in America’s distorted image of the American dream.
Ruby has persistently applied to the department store on the Northside of Chicago, hoping to be the first to integrate employment there. When she learns they hired another black woman, it didn’t take long for her to realize that her efforts would be useless. One is “integration,” but two… that’s pushing it.
Down and out, she meets Harry Potter’s great great great grandfather, probably, and the magic he gives Ruby causes quite the change. It’s metamorphic! Ruby’s “magic” allows her to enter the body of a white woman, and for the first time, she was seen. She was human.
Her currency was her whiteness. In the body of “Hillary Davenport,” but with Ruby’s credentials, her white existence in the world granted her an assistant manager position.
I know far too many black women whose work, whose intellectual property goes uncompensated, unnoticed, and remains hidden behind the man whom she provides the backbone.
But not for Hillary, Ruby’s white carcass.
The best part of the episode, as Ruby is strolling through this white’s only America, the reading of Ntozake Shange’s poem, Sing a black girl’s song, is playing in the background:
sing a black girl’s song
bring her out
to know herself
to know you
but sing her rhythms
carin/ struggle/ hard times
sing her song of life
she’s been dead so long
closed in silence so long
she doesn’t know the sound
of her own voice
her infinite beauty
she’s half-notes scattered
without rhythm/ no tune
sing her sighs
sing the song of her possibilities
sing a righteous gospel
let her be born
let her be born
& handled warmly.”
This poem struck such a chord with me; I had to run that back a couple of times. She says, “But sing her rhythms… Sing her song of life.”
It’s crazy how a three-letter word seems so little, but holds all of the strength in this poem, to me. Even in Ruby’s white carcass, she’s yearning for her story to be told through her sighs.
I’m writing a dissertation about teacher activists’ work in Oklahoma City, Clara Luper, Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher, and Nancy Randolph Davis–done through a black feminist lens. Black feminism is a theoretical perspective that is not only unapologetically black but completely foregrounds telling herstory.
Closed in silence so long. It has taken many strides in the academy to get black feminism taken seriously and considered credible scholarship. Even still, many believe research through a black feminist lens is radical.
I’m a sick and twisted doctoral student, constantly theming and theorizing. But this poem, this beautiful poem reinforces the need to produce black feminist scholarship. Because who we study and what we study about them has to “Sing her rhythms, carin/struggle/hard times, sing her song of life.”
Black feminism, specifically, brings our truths to power, though this world goes round and round, trying to convince us that our realities don’t matter. Our lives don’t matter. And I know they don’t because: Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, and Riah Milton.
Black feminism isn’t radical. Black feminism, finally, creates a lens for black women to sing our song in whatever tattered voice/rhythm it comes out. Through black feminism, we are born!
As Ruby strolled around in her white carcass, wishing her melanin regarded in the same vein, I’m reminded of my walk through a post-segregated doctoral program. Longing to be seen, heard, and listened to as me.