Radical Love: A Beginning

 "Pricilla and Regina". Brooklyn NY. 1979. Photo: JEB (Joan E. Biren)

"Pricilla and Regina". Brooklyn NY. 1979. Photo: JEB (Joan E. Biren)

By Ash Haywood '18

Opening article for new column #RadicalLove

In a class I’m currently taking on black queerness at Williams College, we watched a
video by Arthur Jafa, which included a montage of imagery representing blackness, from
celebrities, to dance parties, to hilarious news clips. These images were juxtaposed with dash
cam videos and body cam recordings of white police officers brutally beating, shooting, and
harassing scared and confused black people. The images passed so quickly between one
another, it was like whiplash. It was horrifying but if I looked away from violent recordings, I
would miss the funny videos. We then watched a clip of an Isaac Julien film where two black
men affectionately kissed one another as another black man looked at them. From experiencing
trauma to giving love to others who are experiencing my trauma, this is how I view my
queerness as a healing practice and therefore a choice.

The first time I entered a romantic relationship with another black girl was seven years
ago. She visited me during studio breaks at our school and I just assumed she didn’t know
what boundaries were. She would come into my practice room and stand very close to me,
interrupting my very diligent review of scales on my flute. Once her break was coming to a
close, she would hug me and cling to me for a few seconds too long. It wasn’t until she asked
me to be her girlfriend I realized that she wasn’t just an awkward kid, she was flirting with me.
The thought of a queer person finding interest in me was jarring, but also incredibly flattering. So
we went on dates to football games and to the movies. Our parents liked each other and were
happy that their daughters were becoming very good friends. Although we weren’t going to
reveal to our southern black Christian parents that we were engaging in lesbian activity, we
paraded our affection around in the circle of our peers and found great joy in our alternative
dating choices. All of our friends were straight and our budding queerness was extremely
fashion-forward. It wasn’t until a year later I realized how freeing that first romance was.

She had been hurt by black men in a similar way I had been. Our bodies no longer felt
like ours. Instead, we were grooming them in preparation for our future husbands. Although we
had been abused at the hands of black men, we had also seen black men themselves become
victims at the hands of racists. Being black was painful growing up and as a young teen, but it
was even more painful when your own community had been the cause of so much pain. I
watched many of my black girl friends try to attain some confidence in their developing bodies by seeking the attention of other black boys our age. Oftentimes our bodies attracted the
attention of men far outside our age group. The only times my body didn’t feel harassed by
others’ attention was when I was with a girl. Giving affection to another black woman and her
reciprocating to me has always felt renewing. I believe black lesbianism has always been a form
of inner community healing since black people were first brought into the Americas. My love
feels like the strongest weapon I have misogynoirist world we’re in. As an astrological Cancer,
my loyalty to and love for those I hold close is the fiercest and most powerful love someone can
give. Because of this, I choose to give my love exclusively to those who suffer the same way I
do, black women. I will repeat this more clearly: I choose to love black women. I choose to be
queer.

My queerness is a choice. It’s a radical choice and it’s my form of activism. This
sentiment can be hard to digest if you believe that people are born with their sexuality or if you
believe sexuality and desire are outside of one’s control. You may not believe that anyone can
make such as choice, but I have and it has given me the greatest peace of mind. I am still
working on my own internalized racism and internalized homophobia just as any other brown
queer person is. I still struggle to articulate why my love is so political, so radical and so
necessary. Throughout this column, I will continue to share this journey with the Bennington
Free Press and the community that follows it.