This article originally appeared in the January/February 2021 issue of ESSENCE magazine, available on newsstands now.
As we all struggle to balance the hurt and healing of this shifting time, we need swinging-machete-sharp words, freshwater metaphors. We need new images animated by our visions. Our lives are larger than singing our suffering or picking at the scabs of our scars. We are the prayers of our pleasure, the remedies of our rage; we tend to our inherited wounds. Nourished by active listening, who are we, loved and alive? We need truth-telling courage.
Amid the tumult in the streets, we must remind ourselves that we are sacred and present in all things. Until we deeply reflect, until we are supported in the efforts of our healing, we will continue to live in fear, insecurity and trauma. On any given day, social media mocks our shadow selves, constantly reinforcing our triggers and advertising our most destructive behavior. We need art that can speak to and transform the times, inviting us to re-vision and reimagine ourselves in relationship with one another. To organize and relate beyond our screens.
As a poet and organizer, I am doing my part by creating artwork that will serve as the centerpiece for V-Day, which came from the theater-art piece by V (formerly Eve Ensler) called The Vagina Monologues—to end violence against all women (cisgender and transgender), those who hold fluid identities, nonbinary people, girls and the planet. It is time for new art and new stories to be at the center of our movement. Through my contribution, “Voices,” I’m ensuring that V-Day’s voices will feature stories by and for Black women on the African continent and across the African Diaspora. There is an untapped cultural current of imagination in Black women. We are visionaries, dreamers, lovers, fighters, organizers, abolitionists; and—we are artists. We are the poets we have been waiting for.
Art is not so much about reactive expression as it is intentional presence. It is our un-othering. We do not create because we have the answers. We create because we are possessed by our questions. Art for the people, by the people and from the people is crucial and necessary. Art is how we do ideas. It is how we heal. Meaningful art serves and expands our consciousness. What can be more expansive than the consciousnesses of women, different and united, across the world? Making the unheard heard and the invisible visible. Great art shows us how to listen. It is where we discover our belonging and our purpose. It is the cosmic force of possibility.
In the midst of all that has tested our communities, I see a future where Black women across the globe are holistically loved and cared for. I see a culture transformed by gratitude for the labor, brilliance and spirit of Black women. Even now, I witness how we carry stories on the front lines, in clinics and hospital rooms, at the markets and grocery stores, in living rooms and even on Zoom calls. All across the world, I am witnessing how we create as we step into our power, commanding leadership in our lives and demanding love in action. We are owning our vulnerability and manifesting our most intimate visions. We are more than the superficial imaginations of colonialism, whiteness and patriarchy. We are the poetic philosophers of an unseen world. We are the very language of difference and magic. We are the artists necessary to reflect and transform the times.
aja monet is a blues poet, storyteller and organizer from Brooklyn. For more on the Voices project, visit visforvoices.com.