“Capture, imprisonment, is the closest to being dead that one is likely to experience in this life.” —George L. Jackson
By twenty-seven, Saartje Baartman had already transitioned— her brain and genitals jarred by a white scientist George Curvier praised for his “formal” distinction between white and black women. Baartman had only lived to see twenty-five years, her time on earth a cruel exposition of black beauty as “exotic” or weird— and thereby worthy of exploitation. Similarly, Margaret Garner, an enslaved black mother and wife, was also physically gone by twenty-seven. In fact, by her twenty-seventh birthday she had already been physically gone five years–her spirit a burning flame bearing the testimony of the black female form and her “awful beauty.”
Hidden black figure of Canada, Marie Angelique lived to see past twenty-seven, but not extensively. By twenty-seven, like the black female forms that preceded and followed her time on earth, Angelique had experienced an existence sullied by inhumanity. She would be murdered seven years after twenty-seven for seizing a freedom withheld from her throughout her life.
At twenty-seven, young wife and new mother Recy Taylor bided the consequences of speaking out against acts of white terrorism cast onto the black body. At twenty seven, she bore the strain of direct terror for two years, despite the drastic efforts taken to destroy her.
Erica Garner, at the age of twenty-seven, daughter of foremothers Saartje Baartman and namesake Margret Garner whose lives also illustrate a prose of strength birthed from loss and pain, has also prematurely transitioned.
Her transition emerges amidst the countless reports of her most recent heart attack, and amidst an outpour of support from the community to which she dedicated her life.
As illustrated in the black female forms that herald her fate, Erica Garner’s transition, while heartbreaking, is hardly new or shocking. The severity of white supremacy is utterly reduced in aligning its wrath as solely contingent to overt demonstrations. This statement does not function to discount the visible murders of Laura Nelson (1911), Jesse Washington (1916), and Philando Castile and Alton Sterling (2016), but to articulate a psychological version of these physical acts as a common wound festered within the bodies of blacks throughout the diaspora.
Though associated with her father Eric Garner who in 2014 was physically suffocated by a white man after articulating his deteriorating state with the words “I can’t breathe,” Miss Garner depicts a black female reality often overlooked in the “success stories” that seem to displace the horror experienced by the black female body during what should be the most magical years of their life. These horrors erode the core of the black female form from the inside and slowly seize mind and body over the duration of a lifetime. Miss Garner experienced a very public attack on her sanity, yet still very much suffered in silence. Her love for her people was loud, her commitment to justice was loud, but the aggravated exterior that lurked beneath a strong exterior was silent. Similarly, the late Recy Taylor, when photographed, was always dignified, strong and beautiful. While the photos captured her beautiful mahogany skin and impeccable bone structure, it failed to capture the scars of her flesh, the same flesh exposed in the harsh beatings and sexual assault of our foremothers.
Commonly, Recy Taylor and Erica Garner illustrate the wounds that lie beneath the black female form, and symbolize the countless black bodies overlooked in fetishizing those visibly tortured and murdered.
As descendants of those with wounded flesh beneath brazen bodies, our strength often masks the collective scars of our past, veiling the reality of our collective wound.
Though bearing a fifty year age difference,Taylor and Garner departed earth two days apart, collectively mirroring the shared experience of the black female form that attempts to stay afloat as the tides of white supremacy continue to rise in the baselessness of white evil. At twenty-seven, Miss Garner bore similar burdens to a woman three times her age–exposing the depth of black female pain as hardly compartmentalized in age. Whether the ten year old black girl who looks to a noose to silence words of torment, a twenty-four year old enslaved black female bound to the merciless grasp of her master, a ninety-seven year old sexual assault victim made to accept an apology as justice, or a twenty-seven year old young mother, activist and daughter of a murdered black man, the black female form holds hands across the collective paralysis gifted by the sorcery of white supremacy.
Taylor and Garner collaboratively illustrate the black female pain that lies beneath, a pain that does not insist that we are “tragically colored” to use the term of Zora Neale Hurston. No, it means we are triumphantly resilient.
May Recy Taylor, Erica Garner and the countless other black bodies transitioned from the pain of life to a space over the rainbow, rest in power. May their pain not weight us down, but lift us up and toward one another.
To my dearly departed black queens: whether seven minutes, seven, twenty-seven or ninety seven years–the black collective is grateful to have called you sister, and that you were here at all. ❤
Black Power ❤