SPECIAL ISSUE: Say Her Name
for the black girls whose lives don’t look good on paper, for those with food stamps and babies daddies who ain’t thinking about no marriage. for the sundaughter black girls with lovers, toe rings and wild purple hair. for the voodoo black girls with sacred tattoos, ankle bracelets of bells and skulls, and headwraps of rosemary and hyssop. for the free black girls that smoke herb from kitchen windows on sunday mornings and wind their waists in prayer in the reggae spot at night. for the magic black girls who are daughters of rootworkers, who sprinkle goofer dust on the doorsteps of troublemakers and have blue hoodoo trees. for the black girls who don’t want jobs and show up at farmers markets and open mics in jean jackets and patchwork skirts, selling chapbooks and earrings from suitcases. for the country black girls who walk with their hips like senegalese market women. for the fire black girls who can cuss you enough to cut your soul don’t touch their children or their mamas or their men—those who have cayenne under their fingernails and been fighting since ten—don’t fuck with them. for the academic black girls who show up on time with extra credit reports in color coded folders and sit through white classes where the word nigger is debated in the name of honest conversation. for the professional black girls who get sent home for runaway afros and shaka zulu locs. for the loud black girls who voices split space and time, those who stop the hearts of child molesters and men who lurk in corners when mothers walk home alone. for the green black girls who bloom collards and cabbage and apples from urban gardens surrounded by chain link fences. for the black girls who are daughters of maids who wrapped hair in rags there was no time to comb, of fieldhands who picked tobacco leaves to buy children penny primers, of colored schoolteachers who never married but taught a generation of children to read. for the black girls of grandmothers who had books inside them but worked out their stories in the cornrows of children’s hair. for margaret
walker and sojourner, for oseola mccarty and clara hale, for mary mcleod bethune and mary simmons, for the iyaami, the sacred mothers, we thank you for birthing us in all our many forms. we say your names.
radhiyah ayobami—brooklyn-born by way of the south, telling stories of black womanhood, motherhood & folks in invisible spaces, believes word has the power to shift consciousness, writes & workshops with pregnant teens, inmates & elders, africana studies graduate of brooklyn college & mfa prose student at mills college in oakland, california, where she is working on a collection of nonfiction essays & the trees give her poems.