And it is the moment in which Shea Couleé (only fractions after being announced winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season five) refers to herself as drag “in its purest form… a love letter to black women,” that I think about all the black womxn I want to write a letter to. The ones I should have already; the ones that are waiting on me; the ones I can’t wait to write; the ones I never got the chance to. The silly, serious, stush* and the shy ones alike. I think about the importance of reminding those who carry the heaviest weight of an offering hand and how much it can hold, whenever needed.
It’s day something of 2020 and another black trans woman has her chance of a tomorrow taken away, in the most hungry and haunting summer that I think has existed for our community. I am wordless and vacant but insistent on finding hope wherever I can pull it from; even when Tiffany Harris is killed in her own backyard, even when Queasha Hardy is found shot to death in Louisiana, even after Brian ‘Egypt’ Powers is left to die outside the steps of a church. I don’t know how I am trying to find hope; I also don’t know quite how to find it. However, I do know it is a way to survive when every morning reminds you of your disposability and of your proximity to danger. How every night I pray for my sisters and siblings, my family and friends and every black womxn I don’t know by touch of skin but I do love by depth of colour.
So this is specifically for the black girls, the black femme queens, the black trans women, the dark-skinned girls, the generations of mothers and umis*, our sisters and sistahs*, the ones we love, the ones we lost. This is for the womxn we find radical love in and from. This is for the womxn that have shown me hope and who have helped me find it in the darkest moments. This is for you and your hope. This is for Breonna Taylor and Toyin Salau and all those we have lost on the way. The heartbreaking legacy that will turn our hopes into our rights. This is a love letter to you.
‘I have been sold optimism and hope by black trans women with gold teeth, slime-green squared acrylics and a wicked laugh that moves around your body and not just through your ears.
Traded in some trust for some sweet sweet punch and some preaching or offloading. Know I will always have a place for you to park your pain in my spot. I’ll move mine or make a bigger spot.
I have seen how black women with big hats and silk and lace gloves that match could lose their husband, their church to a gentrification, their grandson for what the gentrification makes him move and still hold faith. Still find a way to pray.
I have seen how young black girls are called magic, reduced to a hashtag for the sensationalisation of the power that exists in a race that is built on resistance and still have found ways of respite. Like dancing. Don’t be magic, just be the only thing you know since birth. Never found a way not to move.
I have seen femme queens live and live fiercely in waves of adversity and stand firm, whilst the same men’s desire for them is synonymous with the violence towards them in large.
I have seen dark-skinned dykes throw their bodies and beings in frontlines for brothers and fathers. Never before but also for themselves in order to breathe, with ease and peace. I have seen them make peace with even those who do believe that in liberation, there are still limitations for us and our visibility.
I have seen how the world demonises Azealia Banks for her mental health but prays for Kanye.
I have seen black survivors finally see themselves represented in Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You for the first time ever.
I have seen how the world demands and in equal breath destroys black womxn; who still manage to create, become and surpass more than this world gives them allowance to. But in defiance and durability comes exhaustion. There is always a place to rest, that do be fuzzy and warm and feels kinda like an endless summer’s day—the kind when dusk stretches way into the night.
My father says ‘black women are the closest thing we have to god’ but I think god is the closest thing we get to a black womxn. My only hope for this immediate future is that they know that. That we know that, recognise it and display it accordingly.
I’m sorry cannot cover the amount there is to apologise for. But know in any space that you enter, we will marvel and root for your success. We stand dutiful to your safety and surety here in this cruel world.
I love you. I got you. There’s no me without you. There’s no sunshine without you. There’s no point of radical love if it doesn’t include you, fuck that—if it doesn’t centre you.’
It has been a relentless and endless year, 2020, the kind you aren’t sure will ever come to a close. Not sure if you want it to come to a close, in hope it can’t get worse than this. I call my ‘good sis’ on a day that the world is sure to be ending. I call her after I finally turn off Nina Simone’s Baltimore which has been on repeat for the whole morning with me singing only the lyric, “Ain’t it hard just to live.”
And my sis got the same kinda soul in her voice as Nina and reminds me that we can’t make sense of everything and talks on how she is aching for her next evolved black silhouette. She leaves the conversation with, “It will all be OK Kai, OK?” And I wonder how can you still have all this room, all this space for all of us—let me take some. How is your heart? Are you eating good? Tell me about that project. Take a rest, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?
Stush* – Patois/slang term for someone that acts superior and/or stuck up
Umi* – Arabic for mother
Sistah* – Patois/slang term for a black woman
For more of Kai’s work, go to Kai’s InstagramAlso read:
Vogue Warriors: Meet Grace Banu, the transwoman fighting to ensure the safety of India’s trans folx through this pandemic
LGBTQ+ Indians on navigating self-isolation, love and mental health in the time of the coronavirus