So this post marks the first of my “The Soulz of Black Folk: Re-defining Celebrity” series. This summer, I will feature a few carefully selected members of the black collective that demonstrate an espousal to uplifting the black collective. Everyday, countless bodies across the diaspora contribute to black upliftment in big ways deemed small by a world that denies our personhood by focusing on the negatives and not the positive. The Whispers of Womanist is proud to feature Kelley, a beautiful black woman who uses poetry as a means to inspire, uplift, and educate. She is brave, creative, and trailblazing. She is a black woman.
So I’ll ask you this question, like my Pan—Africanist professor Dr. Wright asked me: When did you know you were black? Was there a moment/experience/year that brought you into your black identity?
I think I realized I was Black early in elementary. My family moved from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and I, being Black, went from the norm/majority (amongst Black and brown kids with a mixed race teacher), to the minority with mostly white classmates and teachers. The white children I interacted with were just different in appearance, especially with clothing, hygiene, and hairstyles. They had a lot of questions. The white kids were a bit freer. Pretty fearless. Anytime I took that behavior home, I was reminded that I was different and certain things would never be allowed.
What inspired your blog name black/Burgundy?
I got black|burgundy from the lyrics of D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar.” I really wanted a title that represented our spectrum but also made people use their imagination.
What inspired you to begin blogging?
An ex-lover said I had a lot to say and he thought people would listen (read). He bought me a laptop and the blog was on and crackin’.
What is your favorite poem that you wrote?
I think Fear of Drownin might be my favorite. It’s very real/relatable to me. It defines how amazingly life-changing love can be if your heart is open.
What is your favorite poem by another poet?
I really can’t say. There is SO MUCH good stuff out there.
What are three poems or poets that you think every black person should be acquainted with?
Maya Angelou, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Warsan Shire
What does poetry do for you as an author? What do you hope your work does for other people?
Poetry is a release. You don’t have to make complete sentences or use correct punctuation or structure to get your point across. It’s freeing.
I hope my poetry helps people heal-lift their spirit a bit. Even if it’s just with a laugh.
You post very uplifting videos, and art that depict strong images of black love. This is certainly hopeful to women like myself who value black love on an individual and collective level. I was quite impressed with the comments you made on a post about marriage, black love, and monogamy. What factors do you think hinder black love, and how can we overcome? Also, what are your thoughts on monogamy? Should we arrange marriages, allow for multiple marriages to strengthen our community?
Thank you. That means a lot coming from you, sis. I think we’re just transferring pain-pain to our lovers, pain to our children, pain to our friends and other relatives. We are not recognizing toxic relationships (even with self) because they are sometimes all we see and we think it’s normal. We need to know that love feels good! Love is freeing! We need to know that and be more loving to ourselves and loving toward one another – show each other how to view ourselves as loving and lovable vessels. We need to see that Black love in all its forms is powerful and natural and necessary. Again, it starts from within.
I personally love monogamy. It’s what works for me. I understand why polyamory works for others. Marriage is cool, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I think that if we are all honest with what we need from our partner(s), we would be in a better place. People want to practice monogamy and polygamy for the wrong reasons. Again, we have to be honest with ourselves, look within and really take account of what works, what kind of relationships make us feel free and which feel like chokeholds. But it is hard to be honest with others when you don’t know who you are or what a healthy relationship looks like.
What are your thoughts on black feminism and the #metoo movement?
Black Feminism is like an oxymoron. And we’ve been shouting #metoo since forever, right. I believe these trends are just increasing the wedge between Black men and Black women. I hate that we are stiiiiiiiiill trying to force ourselves into these white spaces at our own expense.
There is a negative stigma that hovers over black women and our relationships with one another. You had a really great post about this topic. I’d love to hear you talk about why these relationships are important. What can we do as black women to foster loving, positive relationships between one another?
Thank you! I think that unless we’re on a field or court, we need to stop competing with each other. We need to actively listen. We need to walk away from toxic friendships if we can’t pull a sister up. We need to stop gossiping and pointing fingers. We need to be so busy loving ourselves and each other that that negative behavior becomes obsolete. Strong bonds with women who love, challenge and reflect you creates a beautiful image for our littles and other sisters to mirror. It creates a village that constantly pours into you. It is a great feeling when someone gets you because they are you.
You mentioned in a comment a while back that you shaved your head!! What inspired this decision? What significance do you see hair bearing on black female identity and.or personhood? I’m really excited for your thoughts on this!
I did shave my head last summer! Partly because it was growing unevenly but mostly because I’d never rocked my hair that way. The timing was perfect because I needed to close a chapter with someone as well. It was therapeutic for me.
Hair holds so much weight for Black women; you can tell a lot about her by the way she chooses to wear hers.
You quote the late and great Malcolm X in your “about me” as you reference the black woman as “the most disrespected person in America.” Can you shed light on a subtle way that black women are disrespected? What can we do as a community to combat this disrespect?
We are viewed and treated as superhuman and subhuman at the same damn time; take all this pain, abuse, disrespect, racism, rejection, lies, hate and invisibility with a smile while still tending to everyone else. Again, we have to get our self-love levels up up up and show people how to treat us. Of course if our men or kids or outsiders see us calling ourselves and our sisters bitches, thots and hoes, they’re not going to think any better of us. We need to know when to say no, when to take a break, when to ask for help and when to walk away without looking back. We need to learn that softness and vulnerability is stronger than any I-got-this facade. And, of course, we need to be there for our sisters and allow them to be human.
Given the contemporary climate, which mirrors a past of identical evil, what are your hopes for our people in the Afro-future?
I hope to see more Black love in the Afro-future! It is my absolute favorite thing to see a Black man and Black woman together in a loving union. It’s a great sight to see a Black man in the park running after his grandkids. I love seeing a group of young Black creatives meeting at a coffee shop. We are so necessary in the existence of each other and I hope more of us will wake up to that truth.
Lastly, what does it mean to be a black woman, according to you?!
Being a Black woman is being soft and strong, loving and tough. Being a Black woman is being the most resilient being on this planet. Being a Black woman means being so very worthy of love, admiration, respect, patience and peace.
Check out Kelley’s blog here!
Cheers to you Kelley, thank you so much for blessing this blog with your words!
Black Power ❤
12 Comments Add yours
Very powerful interview! No surprise though. I already know Kelley is a very intelligent woman. This was a great read! 😊
Thanks so much for reading! More to come!
Good to know!
Kelley’s blog is very inspiring. And she has touched on many subjects that have certainly given me ‘food for thought’. Thank you for posting this. It is wonderful and insightful and so needed.
I agree 100%!! Thanks for reading!
This is amazing, sis! Thanks again for asking me to take part. And I laughed out loud when you called me your Pan-Africanist Professor Dr. Wright! You are appreciated! All the love to you.
So your real professor and I share a last name. I laugh even harder, at myself this time!
What a coincidence?!
Love this interview. kelley is a wonderful person who (seems to effortlessly) shine her light.
I love me some Kelley!