I have not read the work of Nikky Finney, but I loved her moving speech at the National Book Awards and I loved reading her piece yesterday in The Huffington Post Book section:
I have decided that when I hear another fine Black woman fallaciously referred to as an angry Black woman during Black History Month this year, that I will stop whatever I am in the middle of and meditate on my personal list of other Black women who had great regard for their bare arms: Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells Barnett, Barbara Jordan, Modjeska Monteith Simkins, Lorraine Hansberry, Beulah Butler Davenport (grandmother), Frances Davenport Finney (mother), as well as the fierce line of great aunts: Otelia, Nanny, Mary, Bertha. Here on these sacred black winged things, I will zoom and linger for the duration. Black amber, caramel, elegant, muscular, long, pillow-like, black bare arms akimboed at the hip or side. American history has not acknowledged the black arms of Black women. But Black History knows the arms of Black women very well.
Black arms on Black women are valuable apparatuses: for escaping, pointing to North Star freedom; recruiting Black troops for the Union Army; penciling notions of women’s suffrage; documenting, detailing the horrors of lynching (circa 1892), and thereby inventing investigative journalism in America; pecking out, scene by scene, manual typewriter blazing the timeless A Raisin In The Sun. Brave black arms assist in the raising of a historical hand. Remember that day in the House of Representatives, 1972, ‘the Inquisitor’ she called herself at the impeachment hearings for President Richard Nixon. Bare black arms show up like early travel signage of American history: STOP– GO – TURN HERE. To make a young country stronger, better, more just.
The whole thing is a great prose poem that I highly recommend. I’m grateful that it was the first thing I read during Black History Month, which I typically have mixed feelings about. This year, I’m reading a review copy of Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black and meditating on single black women throughout history who have inspired me to continue doing my work. On my long list of things to read is Nikky Finney’s work.