It took me ten years to realize that Madame Zeroni was in fact, radical activist, femme legend, Eartha Kitt. I remember watching Holes with my sisters and thinking, “This womxn is the power I want to encompass during this lifetime,” and I wasn’t really sure why. Eartha Mae, activist, singer, actress, dancer, performer has and will forever be a heroine to me. Born on a plantation, conceived by rape by the owner’s son, Eartha was disowned by nearly every person in her family for being born a scarlet letter child. She grew up abused, physically, sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and fought tooth and nail to succeed in as many aspects of her life as she could.
On January 18, 1968, (one day after her birthday) Eartha was invited to the white house by president at the time, Lyndon B. Johnson. First lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, asked Eartha her thoughts on the basic problems of the young people at the time. Eartha worked very closely with youth organizations around the world and responded with very real struggles these kids were experiencing day-by-day, pointing out how much anger there is among the American people. She continued by asking Johnson what they were going to do about drafting the young black kids of America overseas to get shot, saying “Vietnam is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It is a war without explanation or reason.” With no valid response, and probably the feelings of inadequacies because they thought they were doing just fine planting flowers along the highway, (eye-roll) the president & his lil lady along with the whole slue of white folks in the white house freaked the fuck out, claiming she was an “enemy” to himself and his successors. Eartha began to get death threats as the news spread, the president called the FBI and the CIA, eventually blacklisting her from the United States. In her CIA dossier, it states she was a “sadistic sex nymphomaniac,” as if that were a bad thing. She spent many years trying to figure out why clubs she had worked at previously would not hire her again. Her survival depended on her ability to make money, and through the false accusations of the US president, she lost vital lucrative years — which translates to this: the violence and harm done to her could have cost her her life, and in many ways cost her her years.
A friend of mine recently asked me where I was sharing all of my poetry nowadays. I used to run a tumblr blog under a creative commons attribution, which I think meant I owned all of the original work I published, but who can really know in the cyber ether. I told them it had been over five years since I truly wrote anything besides, “Diet coke, Mai Thai, Mic Drop, cheesecake.” I feel like when I was younger and a teacher, I had a little more time to be immersed in my depression, and a little less money to be comfortable. The trade-off after transferring to the service industry, I realized I had a little more money to pay my bills, and a little less breathing room to write. I am still equally as depressed. But this world is all about its pushes and pulls, its balancing acts, its figuring out if you are deserving of space in which to carve yourself into, isn’t it? No, not always. But I’ve realized that if I don’t start to write again, I’ll continue to feel as if my life ended at age 22, and as often as I’ve thought about life ending scenarios, I’m not ready to go yet.
So, what does it mean to come back to writing after what seems like lifetimes wasted? It feels like forgetting that slant rhyme is in everything, like headstones are human, like we all need to sleep eventually. It feels like I keep buying my favorite kind of pen just to leave it in my back pocket till the ink leaks out. It feels like attempting to connect to a community I don’t always remember, to detach, to disassociate, to fuck, to breath, to live, to heal.
Eartha was asked to apologize for her words. By asking this, they were asking her to apologize for her existence. They were attempting to shove her into an easily consumable box, framing her as an illegitimate black woman, stealing her right to her own narrative. She was asked to apologize even after the truth came out that she was right, where the Johnsons fabricated lies to demolish her life, she was the one being asked to apologize. She didn’t. She continued to flourish. And in a later interview about that mid-January day in the white house when Eartha laid down the truth, she was told it was a very embarrassing moment for the first lady, and was asked if she had any regrets.
“No, I don’t have any regrets about it at all. Why should I be upset that she was embarrassed?”
Why should I be upset that you were embarrassed? More times than I can count I’ve been asked to bite my tongue, I’ve been asked to apologize for my existence, I’ve been told my existence depends on it. Not anymore.
So, who am I writing for, who is my audience, who am I fighting for?
I’m here for brown folx, black folx, indigenous folx, for strippers, for dancers, for full-service sex workers, folx with disabilities and folx with chronic illness, folx living with mental illness and folx with no access to health care, queer folx, transgender and genderqueer folx, nonbinary folx and gender-varient folx, fat folx and folx with eating disorders, folx with body dysphoria and folx with no self-worth, immigrants, folx living within the confines of the prison industrial complex, people living in poverty, the houseless, the queer youth. I’m writing with and for the folx on the margins of society. I’m writing with and for myself at age 4. I’m writing with and for my abused sister at age 7. I’m writing with and for my pregnant sister at age 18, and for the little human I help raise. I’m writing with and for my colonized mother at age 52. I’m writing with and for my ancestors, may they speak through me and grace me with endless wisdom. I’m writing against the common social narrative, I’m killing the liberal white embodiment of the modern day KKK, I’m creating healing spaces for the queers who are still alive today, for the ones we lost. For queens & fags & dykes & fairies, for pansies and twinks and bears, for bi-babies who continually get erased, for kinksters & asexuals, and spics & hos & whores, the bitches, the cunts, the sluts, for rape survivors coming up with new ways to heal, for black goths, for brown punx, for compartmentalization, for the 13 year olds giving blowjobs behind the middle school, for exposure and education, for the demolition of censorship, for the diaspora struggle, for victims of police brutality, for the introverts in activist communities, for the witches with no money, for the suicidal ones, for the self-harmers, for teen mothers, for the bitches who eat Cheetos for breakfast, for the bitches who don’t eat at all, for femmes, for butches, for tops and bottoms and verses, for the invisible, the voice with no platform, for drop-outs, for accountability.
I’m writing with and for y’all.