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“Sharing can be uneasy and terrifying, but our stories of black worlds and black ways of being can, in
part, breach the heavy weight of dispossession and loss.”
- Katherine McKittrick, Dear Science and Other Stories
A provocation to more stories, and…
Dear Science, for me, elaborates questions of praxis so I will try to talk through praxis, asking words here to do work I might otherwise ask of images and time and space.
Saint Paul, Minnesota – February 12, 2021. Two miles East of the Mississippi River.
Moving through Dear Science and Other Stories, I felt an invitation and provocation to think from this place.
We read in place. We read in deep citation, scholarly, but also spatially. We read in curiosity. By this I mean to say, when I read Dear Science I am aware that I am reading Sylvia Wynter, Édouard Glissant, Frantz Fanon, M. Nourbese Phillip, and all of the Black polyphonic extraliterary sites that they have written to life. I am aware that her writing in Dear Science is a praxis of collaboration, and try to read from that very real place.
“This is a story about methods and methodologies. It thinks about methodology as an act of disobedience and rebellion and focuses on how black studies scholars have used and can use method to engender radical scholarly praxis” (McKittrick, 2021: 35).
In Dear Science, there is an invitation to think from this place, about rebellion, my own and those that preceded me from Louisiana in 1811 to Minnesota in 2020. In a beautiful challenge, to what she terms “identity-disciplines,” McKittrick reminds us of a deeper, longer, anti-imperial struggle to undiscipline our selves. She reminds us that Black liberatory thought is borne of collaborative inventiveness, Black Methods.
Black method, as sharing, as storytelling and storying, as inventiveness, is liberatory in what it allows us to give to one another but also what for what it reminds us to not to disclose. “They cannot have everything” (McKittrick, 2021: 7).
This is an image from a publication from the Congress of Racial Equality or (CORE) called the Calendar of Coercion (1964). It is not the Mississippi River, but rather a river in Mississippi. And they are searching for the bodies of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman. Why are they searching there? Because a part of American river history is that they were used as mass graves. But that is not where this story collapses, if we do not let it.
“Are Drexciyans water breathing, aquatically mutated descendants of those unfortunate victims of human greed?” (Unknown Writer quoted in McKittrick, 2021: 54)
“Have they been spared by God to teach us or terrorise us?” (Unknown Writer quoted in McKittrick, 2021: 54)
"Did they migrate from the Gulf of Mexico to the Mississippi river basin and on to the great lakes of Michigan?" (Unknown Writer quoted in McKittrick, 2021: 54)
As I read this passage, I thought about the 2500 miles from this place, the place from which I read, to the Gulf. 2500 miles of river and the Drexciyans. Drexciyans, on the Upper Mississippi?
Dred and Harriet Scott? William Wells Brown?
The unnamed woman he saw disappear beneath the river?
I thought about remembering and re-membering.
I thought about living in a conspiratorial relation to the Mississippi, how in it we find death and dispossession, transit and transaction and yet a profound black living and black livingness that produces a sense of place.
Black methods are not static but dynamic, Black methods are perhaps then also movements.
New Orleans, 1811; Ferguson, 2014; Minneapolis, 2020 – Black Life on the Mississippi
“Making liberation is weighed down by accumulation and dispossession and racism. Black people move through that weight” (McKittrick, 2021: 69).
Tia-Simone Gardner is Assistant Professor at Macalester College. Working primarily with photography, moving image, and drawing, her practice is grounded in interdisciplinary strategies that activate ideas of ritual, iconoclasm, and geography. Recent solo exhibits include Neither One, or Somewhere in Between, Film North, (St. Paul, MN), She Ain’t Gone Nowhere, Ground Floor Contemporary (Birmingham, Al), Suspension, University of Kentucky Bolivar Art Gallery (Lexington, KY).