Postcards to the Future: JOY / Tisa Bryant

Finally, in two sections, Tisa Bryant underscores the meaningfulness of teaching, creating, making work, making meaning for ourselves and those under our care. We are part of a community with psychic/psychological understandings, scars, wounds and words. Radical Black women make extraordinary work. There is joy to be found in that acceptance, in continuing this tradition to cultivating this radical extraordinary work in others into their/our limitless potential.

Tisa Bryant

“Here’s what gives me life, la VIDA en mi vida: In the six years I’ve taught at this school, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with thirty-four of the young women of color grad students who have come to our program to write, fourteen of them from the African diaspora. The presence of these young African diasporic women, with their varying experiences, classes, subject positions, identifications and languages, is a gift and a spur; my teaching has become more grounded and fully expressed as a result. It’s an extraordinary experience of ever renewing study and appreciation. Constant gathering and regroupings of collections of writings from the distant and recent past, documented attention, care, stewardship of intellect and aesthetics. Anthologies stay active and vital as long as they are returnedto, revisited, folded into an ongoing retelling. Spiral back to move forward, always recursive, reflective, in review of what’s still happening.

Sometimes in this work of teaching experimentation I wonder if I’m being irresponsible, but I am nothing if not honest about this business of writing, nonconformity and Black womanhood. I am serious in my ever-evolving Feminism and what it means to how I read and write, how I hope I, and they, will create pleasurable, unanticipated, transformative encounters with strangers through their writing, through a wide-ranging, inter-and transdisciplinary practice, a practice these young Black women bring their whole selves to. If they want to make money or be famous above all, they will figure it out and go do that; I support them in their efforts, regardless. My job is to create radical little monsters (students? works?) that shapeshift and intervene to heal the world a fragment, a paragraph, a line, an image, a subjectivity at a time.

Dedicated to Candrice, Ebony, Kenyatta, Nijla, Djinji, Shana, Allison, Niela, Regine, Veronica, Jasmine, Jamila, Chelsea, and Amanda. For you here now and here before. And for you still to come.”

Copyright © Tisa Bryant. Excerpted from the essay “from Our Whole Self” An Intraview of Black Women Writers’ Experimentation Essay Elided African Diasporic Asethecs in Prose, pgs 402-413 in Letters to the Future.

Tisa Bryant

Photograph by Paul Sepuya

Tisa Bryant is the author of Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007), a collection of fiction- essays on Black presences in film, literature and visual arts; co-editor, with Ernest Hardy, of War Diaries, an anthology of Black male desire and survival in the age of AIDS, and co- editor of the cross-referenced literary journal, The Encyclopedia Project, which released its final book, Encyclopedia Vol. 3 L-Z, in 2017. She was a commissioned writer/researcher for Radio Imagination, Clockshop’s year-long Los Angeles celebration of science fiction writer Octavia Butler, in collaboration with the Huntington Library in Pasadena. In addition to recent conference presentations and live film narrations on Prince, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Body Forms: Queer Writing and the Essay; Brick; Flesh; I Stand In My Place In My Own Day; and in Sam Durant: The Meeting House/Build Therefore Your Own World. She is working on The Curator, a novel of Black female subjectivity and imagined cinema, and on Residual, writings on grief, longing, desire and archival research, forthcoming from Nightboat Books. Tisa Bryant received her MFA from Brown University and is the Program Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at California Institute of the Arts, where she teaches fiction, nonfiction and experimental forms. She lives in Los Angeles.

JOY is part of KPI’s small experiments of radical intentseries: Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place that began during the BLM protests while on pandemic lock down in summer 2020. The series runs through August 2021 and focuses on the voices in Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing, with the intent to uplift and celebrate Black women’s voices. You can navigate through the series by following the tag Postcards, at left, and by clicking on the icons below for each unit.

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