Sometime last summer, I was asked to serve as an advisory board member of an upcoming exhibit being curated by Erica Cardwell entitled Queer Home. I was intrigued, but I needed to know more. My relationship with the word queer has always been fraught, although I do recognize its utility as a term that can serve as a catchall for the multi-valent and multi-voiced LGBTQIA community. The exhibit was inspired by the 1972 project Womanhouse, which “examined the traditional American home, removed items unnecessary in a home intended only for females, and then rebuilt the house, room-by-room to match their definition of female domesticity. Womanhouse is not without its flaws. The project did not include the perspectives of any women of color or trans women.”
Queer Home sought to redress that error. It would include spaces designed by several programs of the LGBT Center of Raleigh: the Transgender Initiative, Youth Leadership Team, and SAGE Raleigh. Each group would design their own space, focused on our their definition of queer domesticity.
Not long after agreeing to serve on the advisory board, Monet Marshall, a bad-ass Black queer femme artist in Durham, asked me if my group, The Black Lesbian Literary Collective (BLLC), wanted to be a part of the project. “Absolutely,” I said, and then set about trying to figure out how to take my mostly online writing collective and bring it to life for a curated exhibit. After checking with Lauren Cherelle, the BLLC co-founder and co-director, I reached out to a few of our members to see if anyone wanted to participate.
Although only one bona fide BLLC member LaToya Hankins, and one other newly interested writer, Kivel Carson, answered my call to participate, we were able to share our vision of what our living room would entail. I was inspired by Virginia Woolf’s essay “A Room of One’s Own,” and thought about what a Black lesbian literary/writing space might look like. What you see in these photos is what we came up with. Our group designed the living room, the first space upon entry into the Queer Home exhibit. There you’ll see comfy reading chairs, photographs of Black lesbian love and family, Black lesbian literature that has inspired and edified us, and other accoutrements of a writer’s life. Playing in the background was music by Bessie Smith, Janelle Monae, Nina Simone, and other Black women luminaries. I was too tickled when I saw that Monet had included an item that we had not discussed at our meetings: a cat bed replete with toys, to honor our feline family members. If you look closely at the photo with the window, you’ll see a specter of whiteness, which our brother Langston tells us in his essay “The Negro and the Racial Mountain,” is always tapping on our shoulder, regardless of whom we are writing for.
2018 was my year of yes, and I’m so glad that I said “yes” to participating in this project. Not only did I support the LGBT Center of Raleigh, whose board I chair, but two amazing Black queer women artists doing the darn thang in the Triangle and beyond. I’m also honored to have worked with VAE, a wonderful non-profit art organization that serves as a hub for diverse artists. Most importantly, my participation in this project helped to increase the visibility of Black lesbian writers living and working in the U.S. South.
Opening night of the Queer Home had been a long, arduous day: I’d driven six and a half hours in the pouring rain from Georgia back to North Carolina and attended a Donor Appreciation event at the new location of the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Finally, around 8:30 p.m., after searching for a parking space for fifteen minutes, I arrived at VAE Raleigh and was able to see the entire exhibit for the first time. All of the rooms were intricately designed, and the level of detail was simply breathtaking. Still, when I stepped into the BLLC living room, my heart and eyes became full, and all of my exhaustion melted away. I was home.