Bright Thunder

This page features the work of some Brilliance Remastered grads and superstars!  Prepare to get inspired!

Kai M. Green (PhDoula, Dissertation Program)

I have to start at the beginning, which was also an intersection, a crossing of divine paths. I met Alexis in 2009 at the Ford conference in Irvine, California. I saw this young Black woman with mystical streaks of gray in her hair that let me know she had probably been here before. What really caught my attention though was the brief case she carried—it was old, brown leather I think, it was old—I had never seen a brief case like this in real life. But Lex didn’t carry this brief case like it was some vintage-store-cool purchase—it was something else. And when I asked her what she was holding on to, she responded, “Oh, these are my ancestors.” I was in love and in awe. I wanted to know who she was carrying because I had a feeling that I too, might also be related.

So what drew me to Brilliance Remastered? An encounter with my Black feminist ancestors facilitated by Alexis.

This work that we do is not simply for present day gratification, it’s about building a bridge between subjugated knowledge from way back when and a future made of freedom dreams which we have yet to see, but must continuously strive to (re)create. This work that we do, academics, artists, activists—It’s about healing. It’s about a reckoning with historical trauma and pain. It is personal. It is political. It is of this world and beyond.

When I started this graduate school thing, I was naive. I didn’t know just how soul crushing the academy could be. I didn’t know just how easy it might be to become bitter and angry. I didn’t know how easy it would be to forget exactly why it is I came here, which has nothing to do with proving how much theory I can recite—It was always about liberation, poetry, and justice.

Brilliance Remastered has been a grounding force for me. We got so much work to do and we can’t do it if we don’t take care of our complete selves. Lex, has created a holistic system where our work is not simply about completing a dissertation, it’s about opening yourself up to a journey, it’s about opening yourself up to feeling and knowing differently. What I love most is that it is a collaborative journey. We must take care of each other.

Who am I? Kai M. Green, poet, filmmaker, scholar, talker, walker, singer, Black feminist, abolitionist… I am doing what I came to do.

At the moment, I am writing my dissertation, “Into the Darkness: Black Queer Los Angeles (Re)Membered.” This project is concerned with discovering or looking for that which has been lost, and once found I begin my work with an interrogation of darkness—those materials, those films, those missing chapters, those people who have been obscured by a tale that couldn’t or wouldn’t account for that object or subject which troubled a cohesive untroubled narrative of Heteronormative Blackness, or an unracialized narrative of queerness. This act of interrogation here is complicated in that it does in someway bring to light and make visible spaces of darkness, but the goal for this project is not simply about recovery, it is not solely a quest to bring to light a Black LGBT history of Los Angeles. Into the Darkness asks an important question about knowledge production itself—how do we know what we know? And how is knowing always reliant on a logic of visibility and absolute truth? This project has not simply been a lesson in reading the archive, but also a lesson in creating and extending the Black LGBT Los Angeles archive. All of the interviews and footage that I have collected over the past three years will no doubt serve as a database of knowledge that will extend way beyond this dissertation.

This is an ethnographic project and my practice is informed by Black Feminist Ethnography, Native Ethnography, and Critical Ethnography.  One of the most influential critiques of the colonialist anthropological project is Native Ethnography, or the practice of studying one’s own communities. Historically, this method has been employed by people of color and other oppressed people as a tool to decolonize anthropology and to provide a corrective to previous ethnographic accounts (Jacobs-Huey, “The Natives are Gazing”). This approach has as one of its pillars intersubjectivity, which by acknowledging the importance of both the researcher and the culture being studied, is a way to challenge the inherent hierarchical power dynamic between subject and ethnographer. This dissertation is birthed from community and I have to acknowledge the stakes and importance of this project for a community that I am a part of.

I believe community-engaged scholarship like this and like the work that Lex and Julia do is vital for any project interested in decolonization, anti-capitalists alternatives to living, and FREEDOM.

If you are interested in learning more about this project or the other things that I’m up to, please check out my dissertation blog here: (http://road2darkness.blogspot.com/)

Check out my Youtube Page: (https://www.youtube.com/user/drgreen85)

If you are interested in screening or having your library purchase my film, It Get’s Messy in Here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tis4k7zqDT4)

Please contact me at: kai.m.green51@gmail.com

Alexandra Moffett-Bateau (Doing What I Came to Do Coaching Curriculum Grad)

About me:

My name is Alex, I’m originally from Detroit and I’m currently living in Charlottesville, VA. My father is from Haiti and my mom was born and raised in Detroit. I think having parents with two very different diasporic experiences has shaped my intellectual commitments in a unique and important way. Growing up I was very cognizant of the way in which language operated across and between communities. My parents were involved in very dissimilar activist circles, and so I was constantly bearing witness to the commonalities and differences between Haitian immigrant activism in Detroit, and my mom’s activism around black children in the social welfare system. I remember my dad really struggling to get people to take him seriously. He experienced a lot of discrimination both as a black man, and as a Haitian-immigrant who spoke in a way that was foreign to most folks in Detroit. His struggles to language a certain level of political urgency within our communities, has served as an impetus to the work I do now.

My Intellectual Contribution:

My intellectual work is concerned with how low-income black women talk about their political citizenship and build community. I’m interested in how they operate within their own public spheres and define the political in ways that have significance and power in their daily lives. My dissertation project also examines the way in which their political creativity can serve as both a bridge within communities and a form of isolation from wider political arenas. I’m passionate about thinking through the barriers and challenges that women of color have in languaging a politics that serves their greater good (however they define that).

As far as who I’m most accountable to. I think today I am most accountable to the women about whom I write. They entrusted me with their stories, and I have a responsibility to write about them in a way that is honest and truthful.

My Brilliance Remastered Breakthrough:

When I began the Brilliance Remastered program, I was struggling with how to define myself as an activist after being diagnosed with a chronic illness. In undergrad my activism was very much defined by lots of running around, lots of late nights, lots of meetings, speeches and protesting. Post-diagnosis, that could no longer be my life, my body simply would not allow it. So one of the most life-giving breakthroughs that came as a result of working with Alexis was learning that simply healing my body was a meaningful form of community activism. The realization that serving the community does not always necessitate work outside of the individual body, saved me. It allowed me to feel empowered enough to decide that it was OK to take time to heal, and write and come to terms with my new life. I will always be grateful for the space Alexis held for me during a really difficult time.

 

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