It is my pleasure to introduce this special issue of the journal of Black Sexuality and Relationships, entitled “Love and Literacies: Critical Explorations of Black Women’s Race, Gender, and Sexuality Through New Literacy Studies.” My idea for this special issue sparked soon after the questionable death of Sandra Bland on July 13, 2015. During that time, I felt myself searching for accounts of how Black girls and women experience relational and social t/Terrors in schools and society (Staples, 2011, 2012, 2015). My own work had shown me how microaggressive terrors accumulate over time in the lives of girls and women of color as meta-level crises—Terrors—that garner the attention of local and national public discourse (Staples, 2016). As a result, I felt a deep desire to map our lived experiences onto the terrain of violences being accounted for in the historical and contemporary contexts of the United States. I initially attempted to do so through the instances of violence highlighted through #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement, founded by straight and queer Black women, had, by July 2015, garnered international acclaim for drawing broad-based attention to the maltreatment of Black boys and men in various contexts. The movement was particularly successful in highlighting state sanctioned violence in schools and society. Prior to Ms. Bland’s suspicious death, however, there were few stories of the pain of Black girls and women. The #SayHerName1 movement followed #BlackLivesMatter and was also founded by a group of Black women. Yet, #SayHerName focuses on drawing attention to the equally (and often more) heinous experiences of Black girls and women in the same contexts (Savali, 2014).
Despite the important role that women of color are playing in initiating [End Page vii] social change, girls and women who are Black and Brown are still, ironically, rendered less visible and less relevant in the fight for social justice and equity. Such marginalization and erasures compound the sociocultural and socioemotional consequences of prior and existent experiences with gendered and racial aggressions. Understanding the impact that marginalizations, abuses, and erasures have on the abilities of Black and Brown girls and women to develop and construct affirming, actualizing, emotional, psychological, and physical states of well-being is of dire importance. Therefore, it is imperative that the voices and experiences of Black and Brown girls and women be further illuminated.
While the lives and voices of Black and Brown girls and women are concurrently powerful (Jones-DeWeever, 2009) and vulnerable (Staples, 2016), it is precisely this tension that necessitates understanding deeply how they articulate voice and stories of t/Terror in love and life. This can happen through social, cultural, emotional, sexual, and spiritual multimodal interactions and expressions. These interactions, expressions, and subsequent artifacts, act as a means of negotiating and managing the complexities of interior life and adverse exterior circumstances. In other words, we might ask, How do Black and Brown girls manage emotional duress, stress, anxiety, depression, and other destabilizing emotional states in their interior lives through everyday literacy-based engagements? How do their literate efforts support healing and generate happiness—as pertaining to optimism, positivity, and hopefulness—and enable the embodiment of well-being? In addition, how do their literacy practices, their literate lives, support deep excavation of the soul–where meaning making happens–and deep evolution of the soma–where memory production takes place?
Specifically at issue is the need to grasp seriously the ways our lover identities form infrastructure for our interior and exterior lives—both emotional and material, respectively. Endarkened or Black feminist thought can help to out and complicate the ways Black and Brown girls and women come to know themselves as lovers (see Collins, 2000; Crenshaw, 1989, 1991, 2015; hooks, 1993; 2001a, 2001b, 2002b, 2004; Weheliye, 2014)–lovers of Self, Other, and All. This happens by creating space for an intersection of exploration that includes emotionality, sexuality, spirituality, physicality, and intellectualism–aspects of Self, Other, and All. The authors included in this volume draw upon my concept of lover identity—a person’s entire relational ideology and way of being—to guide this collective inquiry and declaration of Self, with...