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"... why [do] words such as 'transformations,' 'metamorphoses,' 'obeah,' 'conjuring,' 'voodoo,' 'hoodoo,' 'magic realism,' recur in response to many writers in Africa and the African Diaspora ... Juju is marvelous. The marvelous is mystifying. The mystifying is real. The real floats in-between invisibly. Juju, in its mind-boggling manner connects, establishing a legacy of careless ubiquity." - Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi

 

'You acting womanish,' i.e. like a woman ... usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous, or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered 'good' for one ... A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually ... Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people ... Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon ... Loves herself. Regardless." - Alice Walker

"[S]ince the beginning, the womanist frame has been applied more frequently than it has been written about... more people have employed womanism than have described it. What this reflects is the tendency of womanism to be approached and expressed intuitively rather than analytically... this state of affairs has preserved the open-ended... improvisational character of womanism... (1) It is antioppressionist, (2) it is vernacular, (3) it is nonideological, (4) it is communitarian, and (5) it it spiritualized." - Layli Maparyan

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"But it seems to me a kind of clawing to get back to something grown, something adult, maybe even something meaningful. If women are to--I suppose, this is speculation on my part, it just occurred to me this moment--perhaps if women are to become full, complete, the answer may not be in the future, but the answer may be back there [with] the woman who understands her past... Because that woman did know how to nurture, and how to survive." - from, Conversations with Toni Morrison - 1981.

Womanism exists for me as a bridge between the spiritual devotee

who rarely leaves their house and the neighborhood thot who lives for the streets.

In both cases it becomes clear that Shorty got a reputation.

 

How those reputations - and countless others which Layli Maparyan refers to as the 'intuitive' nature of womanism - are leveraged, to serve a wider commitment to survival and wholeness, depends on my willingness to engage the obscene. Where blackness, gendered identity, sexual autonomy, and diasporic spiritualities are all labeled vulgar in the eyes of the state, such is the space I have a responsibility to fully occupy. I know because this is not the first time I've tried to pin down the exact nature of womanism but she's been slippery, unwilling to be coaxed into a single body. I've lately started describing myself as being in polyamorous relationship to the Black fantastic-ecstatic-surreal core of our many faith traditions; but practicing an ethical non-monogamy in this regard is a constant challenge. How does Ogunyemi instruct us?

 

"Please, look on the ground. Do look on the ground. Look on the ground.

Please, tread carefully. Do tread carefully. Tread carefully."

Being grounded in my principles (hands clasped tight in veneration) yet open to the fullness that womanism offers (legs spread wide in pleasure), comes with the gifts of balance and healing that I am then able to pass on to community through my own creative practice. I open my mouth to offer new language, ancestral spirit, and the holiness of the Black experience. I sway my hips to activate a politic of gender expansiveness and pro-heauxism as defined by low theory scholar, femi babylon. I squat real low down down low to study the footprints and pathways of those movements that have come before me, namely: Negritude, the Afro-Surreal, Creolité, and the Speculative/AfroFuturist. And I close my eyes to better imagine the exact color theory of Baby Suggs, holy's obsession. What is the color of freedom? If I am a womanist, I am first and foremost lustfully womanish in my desire to know more and in greater depth than external power structures would have me to know. This is the reputation that I hope will proliferate most widely.

"Please, step in. Do step in. Step in."

Atlanta * The Bronx * Chicago

© 2018, Constance Sherese Collier-Mercado.