These Women’s Work

Ledisi, Jill Scott, Kelly Price, & Marsha Ambrosius Performing Four Women from Irina Tsverikmazashvili on Vimeo.

Aunt Sarah,

For you, whose labor built this empire that you were continuously barred from entering as your own. Who nursed, cooked for, and cared for generations. Who mothered everyones children but her own. Who the dignities of femininity were never applied to. Whose hands sowed, and picked, and carried the very cotton that would eventually hide the faces of the men who burned the crosses on your lawn. Whose throat unlocked songs of liberation from deep within us long before we knew what true freedom even looked like. Whose physicality became synonymous with ugliness. Who was the very breath in our lungs; a necessity, all the while invisible.


For you who could have passed but chose not to. Whose DNA is so much history wrapped tightly in your being; the story of the conquered and the conquering. Whose one drop was at the same time too much and never enough. Who lays claim to both sides of a complicated narrative. A question and an answer in a paper bag.

Sweet Thing,

For you, who are somehow desirable and detested. Who shames us with how intensely we we either want to be you, or to fuck you. Who somehow became the plastic surgeon’s blueprint, so that we can recreate and devour you again, and again, and again. Who old men leered at on the street, and who we called “fast” before you even understood why. Who was the Hottentot Venus and our video hoes. Who threw the first brick at Stonewall, and who is thrown away in prisons everyday.  Whose murder is never mourned. Who is the fetish and the fantasy.


For you, whose anger is real and righteous. Who works too hard for too little. Who became a caricature of us all. Who is considered too loud, too brash, and too much. Whose grit marched us through Selma and on Washington. Who was told as a child that you displayed not leadership skills, but an attitude problem. Whose heart has been broken, and maybe a little bit hardened after being repeatedly told why it is your own men can’t and won’t love you. Who was branded a “welfare queen”. Whose strength isn’t imagined, but doesn’t make her less human.

For all of the unsung women whose physical and emotional labors keep this world turning on it’s axis day in and day out.

Thank You.

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