Making Isis

Brown little girls need to be told they are the sun and the moon

Need to recognize their own god/dess self

Need to shine with rings on their fingers

Need a little mirror to reflect back their lights shining brighter

Need a word and a hug and love

Need a story all their own

The entire process of this work began with a question – What texts have been formative in your life? What texts continue to resonate with you? What do these texts feed you? How do they nourish and illuminate? How do they help you flourish? I remembered my encounters with black feminist theory and then fiction from the Harlem Renaissance to contemporary writers during undergrad and grad school. When I read Patricia Hill Collins, Audre Lorde, Ntzoke Shange, the Combahee River Collective, I discovered language I knew in my bones but didn’t yet have the words for.

As Isis tries to sleep, she hears whispers. Sometimes they are a mashup of bubbling voices all intertwined together. Sometimes certain voices distinguish themselves becoming crystalline. The ancient tongues are the most comforting even though she can barely decipher them. Something about them reminds her of a home that is older than her own self, a home that seems to exist before time or between it. They are voices of her mother’s mothers, an echo of the Oracle’s wisdom, a lifesource built on the ancestors’ continual elevation. Voices familiar in sound but she has yet to know the order and meaning of this language.

Then I encountered the works of Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Gloria Naylor. I took a course that was works by just those three women writers and it opened up a world for me. Again, gave me language, in theory but also as poetics, for things I knew in fragments and pieces, as feeling. After that I devoured the works of black women writers and then other women of color in poetry and fiction genres of magical realism, science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction --- Edwidge Dandicat, Octavia Butler, Marita Golden, Andrea Levy, Isabel Allende, Elizabeth Nunez, Trinh Minh Ha. They were brilliant conjurers with words, wielding finely crafted language like a weapon, making worlds and making meaning out of so much chaos and violence and pain. I was in…I am in...awe. I began to see the fluidity between theory and the poetic in black womens’ writing and then I read Barbara Christian’s The Race for Theory, and it encapsulated the core of what I knew – that people of color have always theorized, though not always in conventional modes of writing, but through lived social vocabularies and vernaculars, through creativity and physicality, through spirit.  And that was powerful.  For Ma(s)king Her, I am really interested in revisiting those initial feelings and reactions to these works and thinking about why they were/are so powerful. What residue continues to linger and edify me, give me strength.

The Veil will not erase us. You do not get to turn us against ourselves. We will remember who we are. We will be what we were meant to be. I search for the answers in towns I have no kin in, in countries I have never heard of, in dream space realms that defy the laws of our reality. I conjure worlds, wield knowing nested deep in the belly, erupt with languages of fire and feeling. I believe we are our best magic. I believe. We are. I am. We will be.

So in the making of my character, Isis the Architect, it is all of this womanist energy that is lifting her up, making her stronger, helping her evolve into her next self. I love the idea of a character who is learning to understand who she is, what her power and purpose is. These are the stories that have always captured my attention, the stories that I find it easy to use as allegory for my own journey in this world. Stories like these have always been sources of healing and power for me.  The act of reading and then learning to write, the process of discovering my own voice as a writer, as a conjurer of words my own self, that is the gift that these women writers pass down. In this way, I imagine them into my own story as ancestors, as Oracles, as protectors that guide.

Althea: In the betwixt times

Peppa: At the crest of dusk til the helm of dawn

All: She transitions from human to god,

Wonder: From solid state to pure energy

All: They call her

Come, Spread it, We are in need of it


She blinked her eyes

And tears made of glitter

Sprinkled our skin

Isis: And we were made to shine