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  • Testimony and SalvationAn Introspection on the Future Freedom Dreams for Black Queer Studies
  • Kaila Adia Story (bio)

If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere, and not have to say to one of them, “No, you stay home tonight, you won't be welcome,” because I'm going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I'm going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are anti-homosexual or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution.

—Pat Parker, Movement in Black

Let us not accept / partial justice / If we believe our lives / are priceless / we can’t be conquered.

—Essex Hemphill, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry

On a cold and rainy December day, I got to hood one of my Black queer doctoral students. It was the first hooding of my academic career. We began smiling at one another, acknowledging the significance of welcoming his Black and queer self into this ancient academic bond. His work was yet another extension of the Black Queer Studies paradigm. Antron had been in Charleston working as a visiting assistant professor of Black Queer Studies. I beamed with [End Page 34] pride as we walked in the processional together. I quietly began to think about my own Black queer feminist and Femme journey from coming out until now, and how it hadn’t been an easy one. I thought about how I wouldn’t have gotten to this point in my career or life if it had not been for the political insight and intellectual guidance I gained from reading the works of Black queer scholars. Their works gave me the audacity to, as Pat Parker once dreamed, to bring my entire self into a room. Black Queer Studies as a political paradigm and intellectual endeavor reminded me, as Essex Hemphill reminded us, that our lives, and mine, mattered too much for partial justice. Black Queer Studies has been an intricate part of my intellectual, political, and personal journey and, in honor of its thirtieth anniversary, this introspection and testimony on the field will ponder on some of the actualized Black Queer Studies freedom dreams as well as delineate on what further ideological pathways and political avenues it will continue to ignite through its scholarship, activism, and visibility through pop culture.

Following the scholarly, creative, visual, and artistic traditions of Audre Lorde, Cheryl Clarke, Barbara Smith, June Jordan, Joseph Beam, Essex Hemphill, Marlon Riggs, and many others, the field of Black Queer Studies is where I found my scholarly home and political salvation. What In the Life, ZAMI: A New Spelling of my Name and Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry was for Black queer artists, theorists, and activists back then, Black Queer Studies: A Critical Anthology was for me.1 The volume informed not only my pedagogy and research, but also made me feel seen as a Black queer scholar. Black Queer Studies’ foregrounding of the autoethnographic and its incorporation of Black Queer and Trans experiential knowledge within its theories and methods not only validated using intersectional experimental knowledge within scholarly research, positing it as just as important as formalized knowledge, but also challenged the notion that critical thinking and intellectual engagement can be asserted only by those who possess formalized knowledge. These social and political commitments expanded popularized conceptions of what defines a scholarly community.

Black Queer Studies has introduced us to new worldmaking practices, giving us the tools and tactics to take up space intellectually, ideologically, and personally as Black queer academics, activists, and artists. As an intersectional paradigm, it has consistently spoken to multiple communities, shape-shifting them within and outside of academia in the hopes of creating more room within our universities and communities for us to thrive while engaging and doing this work. It legitimized the idea that when one’s personal experiences are analyzed through wider cultural, political, and social prisms, it engenders new theoretical, methodological, and lived possibilities for any and all that seek racial, sexual...


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pp. 34-37
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