Black Femme Epistemology
Letter from the Editor
Many of us have felt within ourselves a deep knowing. Something that bypasses the heart to the brain.
Working within the theoretical framework of a patriarchal western epistemology, many of our ways of knowing are cast aside as illogical or unexplainable; something that lives uncomfortably between the outskirts of their beliefs and the forefront of ours. But what if we defined our own epistemology? Would the grandmothers that pray over us be considered great healers? Would our intuition be our guiding logic? What would happen if we used ourselves as our own basis of understanding?
We come from lines of women who have thrived on inclination, often times when 'formal' education was otherwise unavailable. What they lived is what they learned, and it is that very knowledge that flows through us and waits to be affirmed.
If it happened, it is happening. There is no need to question what you already know.
Mental Realness Mag presents Black Femme Epistemology, not as a rebuttal of what we know, but as an expansion of it.
Photography by Selflovetribute
IG: @Selflove_tribute, @Selflovetribute_pod
The theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.
Read It, Read It Again
By Yara Richter
I believe(,) I know.
Belief flows in words through subconscious.
Slow as honey trickles from a spoon
Does experience collect in thick puddle at the bottom of me —
Knowledge is the hand that holds the spoon that stirs.
Knowledge is tongue that tastes,
Liquid's journey through digestive tract,
Osmosis and diffusion inside cells working silently,
Feeding fire with oxygen.
Knowledge is what happens
When I don't know what to do,
But I do, and somehow
Squeeze my way into a shoe and
Stretch it so it knows me, or
Carve out another one anew that knows
Arches and curves of the feet that
Know how to carry my weight.
Knowledge is —
Late, from time to time,
Knowing no time,
Knowing time as abstract concept,
Knowing mine, owing you the space to know yours.
Knowing "true" isn't forced, outside, rational,
But pure -
It endures heavy storms for it forms in motion,
As the ocean knows waves as distinct, yet
Knowledge can't be captured.
She escapes into unknown dimensions.
No(,) knowledge is everything.
By Tiannah Jack
I have decided
Each scar I found inside myself I would rip back open
They never healed correctly the first time
Like how time is supposed to
But its never days or years in counting
It's the moment I decide the pain is not worth hurting for anymore
It's the moment I decide fighting something I love is the most painful part
And if I just open my hands let go
I'll be closer to being one than the scattered one I was
These times are waves and they always come
Like life rivers always run
The only stillness I can depend on is the one I slowly pull out of myself
After my tears have joined the waves that have drenched me
Altered me, changed me, scarred me
And kept running
The scent of blood fades and eventually, it smells like freshwater
It smells like a new day even if the scars never go away
I don’t need to forget I was once knicked by every little thing
Now that I have pulled the stone-cold heart from my bitter tongue
And spoke stillness into my existence
life runs by me
And I move as fast as I like and sometimes not at all
Is peace being still even when everything hurts
When everything is fast and slow and high
Is peace me with two hands together
No longer wanting to be whatever life brings
But who I consistently am in it
All I want is peace
still, rock amidst a river
Photography by Selflovetribute
Our Youth & PTSD: More Common Than You Think
By Tonya Mckenzie
Twitter: @PRBizMom, IG: @PRBizMom, FB: @tonyamckenziespeaks
By the time that I was 7 years old, I had watched my mother get shot, her boyfriend be killed, spent time in a Federal Witness Protection Program and time in a women’s prison for women with children because my mother perjured herself on the witness stand. I don’t remember an adult ever asking me how I was doing or if I was ok. In my early adulthood, I started to get into physical altercations, ferocious arguments, fits of tears and other unhealthy habits. I would eventually get diagnosed with PTSD and depression. I started recognizing my triggers and learning to navigate through life with the knowledge of my diagnosis. I learned that feelings of anxiety is a prominent symptom of PTSD. When I felt attacks coming on, I developed coping techniques that included removing myself from atmospheres that brought trigger me. It was a process of acknowledging that something was wrong and resolving to not let it control my life. Although that may sound simple, it’s really not. The other young child that was with me when the murder happened, was not as lucky. He has been in prison since 2002.
Domestic violence, gun violence and child abuse are preventable. Kids that experience these things become teenagers and young adults with PTSD symptoms. Only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites. Not getting treatment and learning to manage PTSD can turn to depression, bipolar disorder or another personality disorder. Many times, this can lead to some type of conflict with the criminal justice system which then starts a whole new cycle of issues. PTSD is one of the more common psychiatric disorders in youth detention facilities, with the probability of PTSD being at least 1 in 10 detained youth (Abram et al., 2007).
Common symptoms of NON-Combat PTSD:
Easily irritable or angry
Reckless or self-destructive behavior (e.g. unprotected sex, reckless driving)
Problems with concentration
Difficulties sleeping, including falling asleep and/or staying asleep
Persistent negative emotional state and/or the inability to experience positive emotions
Loss of interest or participation in significant activities or activities once interested in
Feelings of detachment from others
Unwanted, distressing memories of the traumatic event(s)
Flashbacks – involuntary and vivid re-experiencing of the traumatic experience(s)
Intense emotional distress and/or noticeable physiological reactions to trauma reminders
We must take our children’s mental health care as serious as we take their physical health care. As a community, if we acknowledge our contribution to this preventable condition that effects almost 40% of our youth/young adults and work to reverse it, the results will be positive and dynamic for our communities as a whole for generations to come.
Photography by Selflovetribute
By Bri Bazey
My body tightens
The lump in my throat thickens
The pressure in my chest suffocates me
My eyes sting
Every year on this day
A slow picture show with a rapid narration plays in my mind
First we start with the laughs, then we go to the lessons, then we end the show with the love
The moving cinema allows me to take a deep breath
The picture is just getting good when it cuts to a new scene
The sequel begins
It starts with frantic banging on the door of a home
Then there’s a shriek of terror as a young girl screams
The camera pans to two men on the ground
One motionless and the other frantically pressing on his chest
The young girl cries in hysteria
The man pressing on the other man’s chest commands her attention with a stern order
“I need you to breathe into his mouth! Can you do it?”
The young girl kneels on the ground and stares at the face of the man she calls her father
His dark brown eyes are glassy
His deep brown skin is now an ashy gray
She gently grabs his face and leans forward placing her mouth onto his
She breathes life into him
Saliva gushes from his mouth
She wipes her face and breathes into him again
She stops and she looks into his eyes
His glassy dark brown eyes
She grabs his massive limp hand
She’s praying for a miracle
She knows she’ll get it but it won’t be today
And she cries
She leans in to hug him
To kiss his face one last time
She caresses his cheek
All while looking into his glassy dark brown eyes
She nods her yes
You may go
You may go now daddy
She gets up and silently walks back to her home
The credits begin to roll
Every year on this day
My body hurts because I am bracing for the impact of the stored trauma I have from seeing you
parish in front of my eyes
Every year on this day the lump in my throat is the only thing that keeps me from screaming until
I have no voice left to express the anguish I feel in the depths of my soul
Every year on this day I feel like I can’t breathe and no matter how many deep breaths I take
there is simply not enough air in the world to replace the wind that you knocked out of me
Every year on this day my eyes sting from trying to not cry because I always fear that if I start to
cry for you I will never stop
Every year on this day I am reminded of the sweetest pain I’ve ever known
Every year on this day I sit through this picture show over and over and over again
I take in the laughs. I take in the lessons. I take in the love. I take in the pain.
To some this may sound like torture but
every year on this day, I need to know
I need to know that this is real
That you were real
That we were real
"(home as a place)
it's the rhythm of thinking, eating, walking, it's the pace. meaning it's the round forehead, the lips that reach for the skies, it's the hips, it's the feet. that's the places i go to when i feel like i don't belong. those places i used to hide, when i see them reflected everywhere around me i adore them.
i don't know where home is, but i know i'm Black."
Photography by Selflovetribute
The Devil You Know
By Lauren Morton
“When Will You Ever Be?”
By Dimpho Mogakabe
Nothing flows for an overthinker like the energy that powers her overly lit light bulbs.
Not blood but indecision pumps in her veins,
Veins that grip a heart of best possible outcomes like chains on captive.
Traumas and failures so vivid.
She pleads with her memory for healing,
If it could maybe personify, be less of a force and reason,
“For what good is my memory if I cannot remember peace but remember the war within?”
But when the war is over and the dust has settled,
All swords shattered denying any existence of metal.
After fighting inspiration with habit,
Trying again tomorrow, with glasses half full,
Embosomed in the depths of optimism.
I hope you realise, knowing that you want to know, is knowing what you want.
Insufficient knowledge is still knowledge.
And, in declaring the absence of readiness,
Know that in the end, the universe decides.
So just do it anyway.
“But I’m not ready!” Oh darling, when will you ever be?
I know a lot of things. I know what feels good. I know what makes me tick. I know when I’m reaching my social quota for the day and I know when I’m isolating myself. I know all of the words that exist between my lines. I know my ledge and I know my lane. In a world that is eager to feed me my script and show me my limits I find comfort in my knowing.
I know that I don’t know everything and there lies the problem. I am so uncomfortable in my ignorance that it feels imperative to create scenarios to fill the gaps. I worry about things so far out of my control my arms grow strained from reaching. Irrational fear and desire for control is disguised as a thirst for knowing. I was drained until I realized that my unknowing had planted a seed, poked through the soil and eventually sprouted leaves. It had become so advanced that it had been given a name. It was Anxiety, and that made me feel better. Because I knew. And as they say, ‘the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
"By taking the core themes of a Black women's standpoint and infusing them with new meaning, Black feminist thought can stimulate a new consciousness that utilizes Black women's everyday, taken-for-granted knowledge. Rather than raising consciousness, Black feminist thought affirms, rearticulates, and provides a vehicle for expressing in public a consciousness that quite often already exists. More important, this rearticulated consciousness aims to empower African-American women and stimulate resistance.”
-Patricia Hill Collins, 1990
They Know Before We Do
By Auria Lesia
I’ve always been a pretty impulsive person: I know that if I think about something for too long then I won’t act on it at all. A lot of the decisions I’ve made haven’t made sense to others, but I didn’t question my choices. Little did I know, this was the instinctual and the spiritual guiding me along on my path to trust my intuition, always. I’ve had accounts of knowing that were positive and negative, and, how I reacted to each account, made me question my ability and belief. But, now that faith in God and in spirit is exactly what’s getting me through my early 20’s and, evidently, life.
I believe it started my senior year of high school. I was ready to escape my small town and move as far away as possible. I applied to one school, and I believe I only told my best friend that I had narrowed down my options to one- not because this was my dream school, not because I had the test scores, not even because I had friends going there. I knew nothing about Temple University aside from what I found online. I hadn’t visited Philadelphia until it was time for orientation, and my only family lived 30 minutes outside the city. Then how did I know that this is where I wanted to live for the next few years of my life? As disconnected as I was from God at the time, I was in the church, but not physically and mentally with the spirit. It was not his doing for me at the time, but looking back, no other hand could have smacked me in the direction that would ultimately set the foundation for my life currently.
Halfway through my Freshman year of college, I was having one of the greatest times of my life until my Dad passed in January of 2016. I remember being numb and very disconnected from myself up until the end of the school year: physically I was there and something was moving me to go on, but spiritually I was checked out. Those who know me, and know how strong I try to be through all trauma, know that I continued on through my daily tasks as if life had not drastically changed. I was unaware that my Dad’s death would be my catalyst into the metaphysical. That summer of 2016 after he passed began my spiritual awakening.
Now for this account, there will be some doubters, there will be some that think I’m crazy, and honestly I never told any family about these accounts because of fear of judgement. But, I am sharing this with readers because I want anyone who shares a similar experience to know they are not alone- no matter how you come across it. During the summer of 2017, I had a long 3-4 monthlong mental health episode that marked the beginning of what is my journey with ailment, disorder, how I see and label myself, and how I treat myself overall. During this episode, I thought these two occurrences were happening, I thought my grandfather had died and I thought a romantic companion of mine had a baby on the way. It was so surreal to me, to the point where I could feel my grandpa talking to me, bidding me farewell and preparing me for life without him. Flash forward a year later, my romantic companion had a baby on the way, and my grandfather had passed. When grief hit me I was not filled with shock, but with sadness and deja-vu. This last event of knowing solidified what I knew was a great gift that I had overlooked, and I really don’t care how anyone feels about it because I am so confident in myself and my intuition that I cannot feel otherwise.
This journey may have started itself in high school, but I believe the seeds had been planted throughout my life leading me up to this point. The premonition dreams I’d have since I was a child, the clairaudience that I noticed in high school. I’d be in disbelief every time that I could hear someone before they even came within approximate distance to do so. My journey in & out of Christianity, regardless of if I left the label behind, really set the standard for how heartily I involve myself in my faith. I consider myself to be spiritual, not religious. Either way it does not matter, because any other being outside of myself would not understand my relationship with God, and how I know there are angels, spirits, ancestors, and guardians that leave little clues where I am never led astray.