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By Sasha Alexander
“ISLAN (WON’T YOU CELBRATE) ft. Lucille Clifton” – track created by Sasha Alexander.
In August 2014 I was teaching and working in Harlem when I heard the news that Islan Nettles, a young black trans women had been attacked, and that the attack, which occurred across from a police station, had killed her.
How could I reflect this tension of black life, of living with the fear of violence embedded into so many places on your journey all the while a sense of joy. Like a volcano as an artist I just sometimes erupt, I wanted to make something that would reflect what I was straddling at the time, the many parts of my identity, black and women and trans – and a multiverse of sorts; the multitudes and intersections. This track just came to me in conversation with my ancestors, this Lucille Cliftons poem had always resonated with me which I found powerful in the multitude of her writing – and so for Islan I choose to mix in the powerful end of her poem “Won’t you Celebrate With Me.” This is a track to celebrate who we are and how we have shaped our lives no matter what we have faced.
In my multitude
it was some kind of magic of spirit that I am still here.
a black trans survivor adoptee
something ancestral something known deep in my bones
as vast as the sea
I had to believe I could be myself when it felt impossible
when there weren’t words or images
blood or memory
the black trans family that loves me reflects the family I have never known
the Village I was torn from
a place I return to in the realities of my kin
the black and indigenous queer elders who took me thru sweat lodge
mentors and teachers who travel thru worlds to live whole as themselves taught me to trust spirit, that spirit is two spirit non binary, trans, the divine feminine, duality, balance, beyond a colonized idea of gender and self.
to crystals and wood and oceans
magic in metals from the earth
stardust and sweet fruit honey sweat on black bodies
we swaying and dancing to music
to smoke and weed
land and freedom and feeling whole
repairing from cops and court and family
pain and assault and hate
hurt and racism and
strangers who have left memories that need be replaced with affirmations.
to finding each other, by no mistake here
in a world set up to break us apart
to knowing our beauty worth and power
to be everything in a world that tells you, you are nothing
To being black and trans and finding love
To being black and trans and being loved
To being black and trans and loving myself
I stopped waiting for everyone one else
and just gave myself permission
I married myself
And fucked myself
And found joy with myself
take a deep breathe
peel back the layer
where skin is raw and torn
border walls walk into oceans
you cannot tell me which of parts of me
are from what
when I am free
I am whole where I was broken
beyond binary ideas of race and gender
in my multitude.
memory as resistance
forgetting as liberation
How do you know who you are?
How do you believe in your own power?
How do you know the sun is hot?