Coming out to sounds of liberation

Friday, October 19, 2012

By Bianca Campbell

We celebrate Pride a little late here in the South. We trade shirtless summers for intimate autumns, boots and scarves. A cold beverage this Sunday almost seemed ironic considering the thermostat, but I’ve been in a heat wave of beautiful minds. In early October, SPARK partnered with Cereus Arts to honor queer women of color with a songwriting workshop followed by a powerful show The Revival - the next day.

When I arrived at the songwriting workshop at Marlee’s cafĂ©, open late just for us, I was taken back to a time when soul and blues reigned supreme in Black communities. Flappers were comparatively independent, but queer Black women didn’t necessarily feel safe enough to proclaim themselves with a parade in the streets. In the 1920’s, we met in closed parlors and candle-lit living rooms. We came out only to each other with sweet words, warm songs, wine and embrace.

Black Pride is rooted in the sharing of our voices and complicated lived experiences; from the channeling of our grandparents’ resilience through their work songs, from runs and harmonies in their resistance, from a vocal revival. From the living rooms, our laughter, moans and hymns spawned a growing buzz reflective of our increasingly visible power.

That Wednesday, while swinging my arms in a circle of 12 brilliant Black queer women, I recreated that historical moment for myself. We belted, rapped, clapped and cackled. Our buzzing proclaimed who we were to the unknowing passerby stopping in for a late hot cocoa: that if you stepped into our space, you must respect us—and if you stay long enough, you might catch us loving each other, catch a glimpse of something phenomenal.

We ended the workshop, well after closing hours, propped up only by the aura of glory. We recorded our historical presence with 15 new songs and a few humorous photographs. At the Revival concert the following day, 30 women of color sat around in a living room, sipping wine, touching shoulders to the sounds of sisters sharing secrets, songs, and poetry.

Queer folk spend so much time coming out by waving flags at the capitol and protesting Chick-fil-a. We spend a lot of our precious time together as a community feeling under attack. This revival was a way of coming out I had never considered before - intimate, personal, vulnerable, loved.

“Out” to me isn’t just about being visible to heterosexual people. Sometimes, it means “out from under.” Out from under the pressures to be the ideal queer citizen who was just “born this way,” who will fight on capitol hill until the “ultimate privilege” of marriage is given. Out from under the pressures of being out. In the presence of people who don’t expect or need you to be their champion.

I never considered spending Pride by being humbled. Pouring a drink for a wonderful spirit. Hugging close enough to smell past their perfume and deep down into their essence. Counting the passing seconds that you’re able to hold another woman, letting it be purposefully intimate, even a little sensual. Out in a pressure-less way. Out in a way that says, “I am ready to love. Have me.” 

Bianca Campbell is a part of a collective of Black women bloggers supported by Strong Families. She is an Organizer with SPARK Reproductive Justice Now where she facilitates workshops and develops curricula that bring together queer theory with racial and reproductive justice movements. She lives and works in Atlanta, GA.