Racism is… a conjuring.

Racism is savage. 

True story. Just last September, a white woman tried to eat me while walking to the Metro. I was relieved to see no police, and reached for my phone, but I didn’t call for them – to whom would they have pointed their guns? Instead, I took a video. I boarded my train with intense emotion, yes, but I was numb inside of a survival-meditation-cocoon, uneaten.

Racism is systemic. 

At my younger brother’s funeral, I still recall the pain in my grandmother’s patois as she pointed to Shawnel’s casket, “I came here a Jamaica, and dis de eighth boy-child I bury from a blasted gun. Why de women who came same time as me from Ireland or Italy don’t bury no sons like I do? America don’t know how fe love us.” Silence is loudest when mourning at the heels of our matriarch. 

Racism is sonic. 

It’s like sirens. Like gun fire. A baton against a fence. Handcuffs. A pipe organ. A casket lowering; its stillness. A prayer. Grandmother’s tears. A baby cry. Women. Crying. Yelling. Chanting. Singing. Cheering. Stomping. Marching. Running. Thrashing. Glass breaking. Tear gas. Rubber bullets. Cars ablaze. Ambers. Smoke sear. A match, lighting a candle.

Racism is saturating. solitary. split. and sometimes cut with surreptitious storytelling.


Patrisse Cullors receipt of José Muñoz Award, named after a beloved professor of cultural studies and queer studies at NYU and former CLAGS board member; given in honor of LGBTQ activists who have promoted queer and trans visibility in their work. Introduced by Dana Ain Davis and Rodrigo Brandao, and Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz, in conversation with Justin Brown.

I introduced Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of #Black Lives Matter two years ago for the Center for LGBTQ Studies 2018 José Muñoz Award. The award honors an activist/artist/community member in the LGBTQ community. Though the public conversation was brilliant, it was in the 20 or so minutes backstage that I found our points of connection. The behind the scenes, cameras off, with she, Justin, Dana, and I, just us black queer folks. I live for those moments where we can meet and be together in a mutual knowing – even when what binds us is painful.

For the black folx:
With my ancestral guidance, I aim to continually offer space to, with, and for black people, black women, queer people of color, folks on the fringe, anyone aiming to break open these soliloquies of racism, to instead reconvene amongst kinfolk which I think has the power to cut through the saturation of “Racism is…”. Separately, together, we may listen to our own voices, and reimagine the fire. Let’s continue to find each other.

For everyone:
When we march in honor of the black lives lost, or as we choose to not come into work in protest and solidarity, and when we are unsure how to enact anti-racism, I implore that we just ask ourselves, what is all the world? Because racism is that. It is all the world. And once that is realized, we have absolute power. Once we realize we breathe, eat, and sleep in racist constructs, we can go ahead and change it. 

For the fallen:
Shawnel, Boobie, Donald, Ernie, Doreen, Cynthia, and George, Eric, Akai, Trayvon, Sandra, Mya, Tamir, Tanisha, VonDerrit, Walter, Michael, Antonio… we want to say and remember your names. We say to you that in a list so long your names now become a meditation, possibly even a conjuring.

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