Framing Reproductive (In)Justice: A Picture Perfect Gruesome Negress Hurt-story
Inspired by works from the collection, author K. Melchor Quick Hall pens a poem about Black motherhood.
K. Melchor Hall
Oct 2, 2020
I first encountered writer and professor K. Melchor Hall’s work last year at Black Portraiture[s], a conference organized by photographer Deborah Willis. Appearing on a panel titled “On Black Death,” Melchor Hall read a personal essay, punctuated by excerpts from Lose Your Mother by Saidiya Hartman, about radicality of Black motherhood in the face of ancestral trauma and her experience with her daughter and the foster care system.
I find myself returning to her words frequently as I encounter pervasive images of grieving Black mothers like Tamika Palmer, Wanda Cooper-Jones, Samaria Rice, and so many other Black women, from Breonna Taylor on the cover of Vanity Fair to protestors standing together in the face of injustice. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, the virality of an image has not led to justice or a renewed commitment to protecting Black life. Melchor Hall chose two works from MoMA’s collection— Hank Willis Thomas’s Kama Mama, Kama Binti (Like Mother, Like Daughter), and Kara Walker’s Gone: An Historical Romance of a Civil War as It Occurred b’tween the Dusky Thighs of One Young Negress and Her Heart—as the inspiration for this poem about the harsh realities Black mothers must teach their children in a nation that values their images more than their lives.
—Hanna Girma, Content Producer, Creative Team
K. Melchor Quick Hall is the author of Naming a Transnational Black Feminist Framework: Writing in Darkness, and host of the companion online series of conversations with Black feminist artists and activists. She is a faculty member in the Human and Organizational Development programs in Fielding Graduate University's School of Leadership Studies. Hall is also a Resident Scholar (2020–23) at Brandeis University's Women's Studies Research Center, a Visiting Scholar (2020–21) at York University's Centre for Feminist Research, and an instructor with Boston University's Prison Education Program. Beyond the academy, she is a member of the Soul Fire Farm Speakers Collective, which speaks out against racism and injustice in the food system, and the Northeast Farmers of Color network, which is fighting for land-based justice and redistribution for Black and Indigenous communities. She also leads a Black women's writing workshop and a reparations workshop for US-based, white inheritors of wealth at Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center.
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