Performing Arts 10-14-2020

In the face of Black death, I perpetually find myself slipping into an alternate dimension

Writer, performing artist, and disability advocate Teighlor McGee contemplates the pain of generational trauma, the possibility of resilience, and the transformative potential of collective care.

A collage featuring three tarot cards in the left corner: the Four of Pentacles, Five of Cups and the Wheel of Fortune. In the right corner there is light-skinned black femme with teary eyes and the words "The EARTH inside you was stolen from me" written across their forehead. The bottom of the collage is various types of foliage and a path surrounded by trees. In the bottom right the phrase "i still say your name when i pray" is repeated three times.
1Image courtesy of the author.

In the face of Black death, I perpetually find myself slipping into an alternate dimension. We are taught the ways slavery has embedded itself into Black American DNA, slinking its memory across generations into our newborns—but there fails to be enough language to define the moments that we as Black people experience, the sensation of newly acquired trauma embedding itself into our bloodline like supernatural ticks. When George Floyd was murdered, I felt these ticks crawl into my ears every night. I felt that if I were to fall asleep, they would see this as an invitation to further build a home inside my mind. 

I realized in these moments that white people get to experience pain in a way I will never know. I could go outside tomorrow with a box and start screaming inside of it for the rest of my life, and I still wouldn’t be able to get all the hurt out. 

I slipped into an alternate dimension, one where every breath I took didn’t just belong to me. I am the embodiment of my ancestors’ breath. I watched white people I have known my entire life take their first steps after having been frozen in time, walking towards the realities of the violence that Black communities have been bearing witness to since the moment of their conception. There is no solace in witnessing this. With every white person I see sharing posts about Black Lives Matter for the first time, I feel further harmed. How dare you think that solidarity begins with a Facebook post when I have ticks crawling inside of me? You can’t slice your thumb open and pour your blood into the earth and think that is an anointing act; you cannot think that this is comparable to the long-spilled blood of the Black and brown bodies whose spirits are strapped to your egos. 

There is no allyship without white people intentionally becoming race traitors. To build a new world, white people must intentionally surrender the access they have hoarded since colonization. Communities of color understand that we must prioritize the collective. This prioritization is why we continue to survive in spite of the generational trauma and memories of violence we each carry. I don’t need white people to understand me. No amount of white acknowledgement will ever rectify these generations of harm. We do not want your tools. We want your access surrendered so that we can finally equip one another with the means to build our own. 

In my alternate dimension, I am allowed to be angry. This is a private moment between myself and my ancestors. Here is where I am forced to confront the ways I will pass this newly acquired pain onto my children. When I pray, I ask how much more am I expected to take. How many more nights lying in suspension, afraid to let my guard down, afraid of creating an entryway for more pain by daring to rest? I am told that there will always be more. There has always been more. 

I’m incapable of explaining to someone all the different ways an open wound can fester when they keep insisting on sticking their fingers inside of my hurt places. How much of my blood do you need to rub in between your fingers? I am constantly reminded of the amount of people who can only see Black pain as it is exiting, who can only name our pain when there is blood on the pavement. 

As I fight to reemerge back into this moment in time, I envision Black futures: ones that center disability justice and Indigenous sovereignty. I allow my Cancer moon to dream as I fight for an accessible world. On my online platform, Black Disability Collective, I have been holding conversations about community care and the role it plays in developing a police-free world. Community care is what allows me to step back into reality after the continued aggravation of my trauma has left me suspended in time. Folks of color and disabled people have relied on community care to support one another for generations. The toxic disease of white individualism strives to stand in the way of us implementing community care as a large-scale alternative to policing. My ancestors remind me of the truth. We cared for one another long before whiteness introduced individualism, inflated egos, and policing. We will continue to heal one another as we fight to access the tools we need in order to apply our ancestral knowledge towards building a new future.

I still struggle to convince myself that I am allowed moments of rest. I am still afraid for when the next ticks will come. I still have moments where I question if this burden is too much to bear, ones where I feel like I am gazing at the resiliency of my people but can’t implement it into my own struggles. But when I am finally able to close my eyes, I see that collective liberation is possible. 

This piece is part of the series by guest editor Juleana Enright.

Teighlor McGee

Teighlor McGee is a Black, disabled, writer, poet, performing artist, and disability advocate living in St. Paul, MN. They have performed in 20% Theatre Company Twin Cities production “Controlled Burn”, as well as the immersive outdoor performance “Dumpster Fire”, and the 2019 production of “Queertopia.” Through their work they explore race, gender, and disability through a poetic lens. …   read more