A Letter from Guest Editor Angel Austin
I’m grateful for the opportunity to guest edit Vast for Black History Month. It’s important for you to know that my role this month is not indicative of tokenism. Ash makes it clear that she will ALWAYS center marginalized voices. She entrusted this to me. She knows me. I trust her, too.
That said, I have to be completely open and honest as I share here. This month is as triggering as it is pride-inducing. It means something so different to me than it ever has. Never before has disparity in our society been so glaring. I’ve never felt this helpless and hopeless before. I’ve never sensed the danger of whiteness as much as I do now. I’m deeply troubled by it. I’m scared of it.
I’ve been sexually violated AND I’ve suffered from life, mind, and body-altering discrimination because I’m Black and infinifat. There’s not much difference for me. The remnants are the same.
Groping for hope in my fat, black body feels like smiling wide, showing all my teeth, with a foot on my neck. Blackness alone feels like this and fatness intensifies it. There’s this dangerous, innate thing we do as (fat) black women and femmes that has made us most prone to literal hearbreak; we just “do it”; whatever “it” is. We carry “it” like jerry cans of murky water lifted on our shoulders while walking miles back to the village. In spite of poverty, stigma, and abuse from EVERYONE, we bear down and we get “it” done.
It’s not good, but myself and all my mothers before me did it. They had no help, no mental health care and no pills (or even talk of such things), little to no support, and no money. They did it because no one was coming.
I honestly wish I could unlearn this behavior or even say that I was actively trying to, but I struggle to stop because it actually works. It worked for my mom, my grandma, and her mother. It worked for most of the black women and femmes that came before me. It works for the mothers I serve everyday who have to hear their babies cry because there’s only juice for dinner. They do whatever it takes to feed them.
We do what we must and our bodies break, but our spirits don’t. We don’t have the privilege to stop because we’re “at capacity”. We’re all we got. It’s always been that way. Somehow, we always settle into that groove. This tendency has saved and preserved entire generations – while slowly killing us.
In spite of this, what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Vast is black femme power through weakness on display. You’ll consume the magical residue of brokenness and ashes, of poverty, depression, neglect, and housing and food insecurity. You’ll see perseverance through disability and disease. You’ll see how we influence the world that seeks to oppress us. You’ll see the dexterity we exhibit with our hands tied behind our backs. You’ll see how we thrive hobbled and shift the atmosphere. You’ll hear our history in code.
We are the reason they fight so hard to hide the truth. We are why they tremble at the thought of untying our hands or taking their feet off our necks.
In this issue that commemorates Black History Month 2022, you’ll see that we will find a new way that serves us, we will heal, we will fight, we will divinely create, and we will not be denied.