I wrote this (scroll below) today in sadness and outrage over the latest Kanye West video, “Monster,” which features lynched Black and White women. I saw the video last night.
[UPDATE: A friend of the blog just informed me that the link to the Kanye West video takes you to a blocked page. I’m so sorry. However, if you go DIRECTLY to the You Tube website (not from my blog), and put in the search “Kanye West Monster” it will take you to the official video with no blocking.–I just did that and it works:-)!]
This is not the first time I have written about the tragedy of Mary Turner.(I have a poem in Red Clay Suite about her.) If you would like to find out more about Miss Mary, who was lynched in Valdosta, Georgia in 1918—along with her husband Haynes Turner—you can click on this link. It is from the “Remembering Mary Turner website, which is the website of the “Mary Turner Project,” responsible for a commemoration of her death.
Also, if you click this link, it will take you to a podcast I conducted with Julie Bucker Armstrong, who has written a book on artistic representations of the lynching of Mary Turner. You can download the podcast for free.
There are people who have defended Kanye’s visual representation of female lynching–used as a metaphor to represent his Black male pain over his treatment by the music industry and the media–as “art.”– I hope you can understand why I don’t agree.
Have we come so far that our ancestral memories escape us?
Mary Turner, A Remix/Love/Prayer
……….for Kanye West
In a book I come upon her, a woman named Mary. A Black woman speaking out for her flesh of her flesh. A Black woman defending a man named Haynes, soon to be absent.
There are gone men in my own family, from death, from pain, taken to the wind, eaten by the voices singing to them.
I think of the absent father of my father–perhaps, the author of all that bled in my house. His was a name spoken with bitterness and longing. His is a name I reach for, a reason and a reconciliation.
Haynes is lynched along with other men. The frenzy of that day. A rampage. A party. The perfume of dark murder in the air.
Mary cries out in outrage.
Mary lifts her hands and mouth to Jesus.
I’ma tell. I’ma tell. I’ma tell.
In the film, women hang dead with chains, dangling by their necks. Artfully carved faces covered with paint.
A young brown man holds a severed head by the hair. He speaks of pain. He speaks of betrayal. He does not speak of the women dangling in the background.
He does not speak of Mary. He does speak of Haynes.
Here is what happens next.
Mary is not the mother of Jesus. She doesn’t get to live. Neither does her child, eight months gone in the womb.
The mob turns on her. When she is dead and hanging, they cut the child from her womb. They take turns stomping it to death. They leave no mark for a grave.
If you pass by that spot, a baby’s cries will sound out Jesus.
The book has been closed. My dreams are ongoing.
In my dreams, I reach for Black men speaking softly to me, touching my skin. Healing an uncalled name.
In my dreams, I reach for one of Mary’s hands. Haynes and I walk with her between us. We pat the quickening of her womb.
In my dreams, the child is alive. The two of us laugh as we go walking on that red dirt path. We disappear through the road forced into wood.