blk woman rd after Amare Symone's B.W.R.
i want you to love me like i’m worth it. like my melanin is really perfect. not the reason why i been deserted. left in the hood where no work is. no schools. no food. no justice. we dying. they say we deserve this. pigment pack prisons for profit. it’s systemic. they do it on purpose. i put knowledge in all of my verses. and a pistol in all of my purses. if you looking for me I be posted at the intersection Blk and woman.
A VIBRANT SUITCASe
Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out… So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. – Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
As an organizer in Chicago, I am privileged to be in community with powerful Blk women who are on the frontlines of battles for Blk liberation. So to mirror the fight that is happening in the streets, I bring Blk women to the forefront of this artistic struggle for and against a culture of the powerful. In this way, “Suitcase” sets the tone for the entire BAHHS Not Bars campaign. It is an ode to and critical exploration of the intersectionality of Blk womanhood.
I wrote “Suitcase” for the women shouldering the burdens of intersecting oppressions. To bring the lyrics to life— “women back me like I’m about to toss the bouquet”—I teamed up with DJ Lisa Decibel to produce the track. it was very important to me to pay homage to Erykah Badu by sampling “Bag Lady,” because the concept for “Suitcase” was very much so inspired by her song and video.
Like Badu, I am a writer and creative standing on the shoulders of Ntozake Shange, who revolutionized theater and literature with her iconic choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf, which intertwines the stories and struggles of seven nameless women of color—identified by colors of the rainbow—who suffer from oppression in different ways and different cities, in the same white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
I allude to both Badu and Shange’s works through the visual art for “Suitcase.” Dressed in five different colors, I embody five different looks. In blue, I am a young professional. In yellow, I am a ratchet college graduate. In red, I am a motherly elder figure. In purple, I am a prim queen. And in green, I am a queer masculine woman. Photographed by Seniyah Rey, styled by Michelle Janayea with make up by Elisza Anderson, this was a strategic and purposeful collaboration of Blk women’s arts and talents.
In the words of Assata Shakur, we must love and protect each other. If Blk women don’t uplift the magic and multiplicity of Blk womanhood, then who will? BAHHS Not Bars— which translates to Black Ancestors Here Healing Society, not prisons—is about restorative justice. And restorative justice is about centering the victim; who is more victimized in hip hop’s hyper embodiment of America’s white supremacist capitalist patriarchal cis-stem than the Blk woman?
According to our prophetic ancestor Malcolm X, “the most disrespected woman in America is the Blk woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Blk woman. The most neglected person in America is the Blk woman.”
I center the Blk woman in all my work, because all my work comes from my center. My position as a Blk woman in Chicago drastically informs my perspective and perception of the world around me.
As my platform grows to accommodate my burgeoning popularity, I recognize that while I am allowed to be a creative, I am never allotted the privilege to be an individual. I am always representative of my Blkness. I am always called to account for all Blk women. My melanin is a suitcase packed with all the tropes of Blk womanhood, encompassing all of our experiences as we travel through life in a society that prefers us hidden and silent; my melanin is a heavy load to carry.
If white privilege is an invisible knapsack, then Blk oppression is a vibrant suitcase.
A respected raptivist and scholar of popular U.S. culture, contemporary social issues, gender and sexuality, bella BAHHS is a budding millennial leader and public intellectual.
Raised by her maternal grandmother, Fannie and the community she built on the west side of Chicago, bella is challenging the predominant representation of what it means to be a Blk woman in the hood.
Restructuring rhetoric to revitalize Blk cultural vestiges of resistance, resilience and renaissance, bella studied public relations at Dominican University in River Forest, IL, earning a BA in corporate communications shortly after her 21st birthday in spring 2014—making Fannie proud.
Tricia Rose, director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, served as Dominican's 2014 Lund-Gill Chair and taught bella's senior seminar, an honors course on Blk popular culture. It was during this time that bella began to recognize the power of urban cultural politics, and to visualize how she would use everything she had learned to build the type of spiritually sustaining community that Fannie embodied.
Since graduation, bella has garnered national acclaim using hip hop as a platform to provoke political discourse around issues of concern to communities impacted by police violence—making Fannie proud.
FOR THE ANCESTORS
we don't die. we multiply. reincarnate lost lives. open up our hearts and let them live inside. our arteries are cavalry. vessels for refugees. souls forced out of homes. bodies are a broken lease. middle finger half of a broken peace. been fuck police since they declared war on people look like me. 92' locked daddy in the penitentiary. '93 gave birth to me. mama got post traumatic stress d. pump our stomachs with drugs when a belly rub is all we need. a lot more love, medicinal weed, some herbal tea and an accurate account of our ancestral history. blk ancestors here healing society. BAHHS. not bars. prisons obsolete. cut carceral culture. construct community. build a brave new world, and rupture the spell of ideology. if everything we're forced to accept is false, think of all the possibilities. we're as boundless as our creativity. we're limitless.
BLK ANCESTORS HERE HEALING SOCIETY
bella BAHHS acknowledges Civil Rights legislation and hip hop's emergence as popular and youth culture as the last two monumental achievements advanced by Afro American cultural movements. Focal tenets of both crusades were necessity and collective desire for self-definition and self-determination. Today's #BlackLivesMatter movement-- marked by intranational, high-profile police killings of unarmed Blk boys, girls, women and men-- has heightened awareness of contemporary unresolved racial injustices, revitalizing Blk cultural vestiges of rebellion, resilience and renaissance.
Activating Black Women, Femmes & Girls Harmed by Carceral Trauma
Led by Bella BAHHS, the Sister Survivor Project amplifies the civic voice of Black women and girls who have been harmed by America’s prison policies.Sister Survivor practices seditious compassion in the face of America’s addiction to incarceration and violence.
Far too often Black girls die, leaving bloody palm prints at the threshold of Black womanhood. Far too many Black women are sent to prison for far too long. Black women and girls are often the unseen and unheard victims of police violence. Sister Survivor marries arts activism, direct action and community collectivity. Sister Survivor holds arts events, back-to-school drives, courthouse observations, and sends care packages to Black women and girls harmed by carceral trauma.
Sister Survivor has one mission: Cut carceral culture and construct community.