I read an Edwidge Danticat quote via the blog Women Of Color, In Solidarity and it has gone through my mind over and over and over for days now. The quote is from “We Are Ugly, But We Are Here,” Women Writing Resistance: Essays on Latin America and the Caribbean and reads:
There is a Haitian saying that might upset the aesthetic sensibilities of some women. ‘Nou lèd, nou la,’ it says. ‘We are ugly, but we are here.’ Like the modesty that is common in rural Haitian culture, this saying makes a deeper claim for poor Haitian women than maintaining beauty, be it skin-deep or otherwise. For women like my grandmother, what is worth celebrating is the fact that we are here, that against all odds, we exist.
Powerful. I love this quote. And not because the violence of the White Gaze deems Black women and our bodies “ugly” already, and the violence visited upon Black women’s bodies, intraracially and interracially occurs. And not because many White feminists think White women dominating every space of beauty with Eurocentric norms while deriding any Black women’s perspectives on beauty politics or presenting femme as “non-feminist” and “existing only for male gaze” is acceptable. Fuck those reasons.
I love this because this is what our subjectivity is about; naming one’s own experience and existence. Gives me The Color Purple vibes…“I’m poor, Black, I may even be ugly; but dear God, I’m here! I’m here!” The question, “how are we still here?” crosses my mind every time I think about womanism or Afrofuturism or#UprisingSince1492, a tag that came to me while thinking about the violence my ancestors endured (though Jamaican, not Haitian, as this quote references) and the resistance. And every time I talk to a Haitian friend I wanna be like, “1804, yo…”And my Haitian friends online and offline speak with power on that when we talk about resistance. I also cannot help but see the diasporic literary connection between Edwidge Danticat and Alice Walker here. Incredible.
Often people don’t contextualize the experiences in the Caribbean or the Caribbean roots of some beloved Black thinkers in America (i.e. Audre Lorde, Shirley Chisholm, Kwame Touré, Marcus Garvey) when they simultaneously claim African Americans “have no global perspective” as a way to demonize African Americans for not centering their labor (labor that is simultaneously co-opted and erased) on the survival of non-Black people over Black people, here or abroad, as they interpret “solidarity” as “Black servitude with silence.” Not even to mention the vile assumption that Black while in America means no knowledge of, experience with, heritage that is elsewhere in the diaspora. As if our complicated existences here aren’t stories of everything from immigration to subjugation; bodies that have traveled oceans; stories covering multiple places and multiple kinds of pain, withsentience regularly denied. Survival.
I may even be ugly, but I am here. Still. I survived. We survive.