Photo of black woman in red dress by Shanita Mitchell for The AutoEthnographer

In recent light of the Texas Abortion Law, I had to confront the fact that somebody did almost walk away with all of my stuff…and I am equal parts disgusted, exhausted, and pissed about it.

Choreographed, performed, recorded, and edited by Shanita Mitchell
Spoken word performed by Loretta Devine in For Colored Girls (2010), Atlantic

ARTIST’S MEMO

Everything is bigger in Texas…including the misogynistic patriarchal values that seek to oppress women and subvert women’s right to their bodies. Guess that tagline isn’t as catchy, huh? In recent light of the Texas Abortion Law, I had to confront the fact that somebody did almost walk away with all of my stuff…and I am equal parts disgusted, exhausted, and pissed about it. At this point, these emotions are like an old familiar jacket that I don with alarming frequency on the day to day. I thought it necessary that my daily donning of the emotions be evident in the visuals which is why much of the first section of the work is simply me moving through the beginning events of the day.  But then comes that special brand of rage and dejection that the patriarchy inspires by attempting to steal away with my bodily autonomy.

Though this topic does sound a collective alarm throughout the female community, the blare does a have a particular strength to me as a Black woman considering the ugly history of enslaved women and enforced reproduction for commodification. As I behold my community, in all of our beautiful and diverse glory in terms of features and shades, I can’t help but wonder how many of us are here in our current forms as a result of someone else’s imposed will upon a Black woman’s reproductive rights. Enslaved Black women were deliberately reduced down to the level of breeding stock, so facing even a hint of that reduction in modern times just stirs a sharp and uncanny pain.

So then, with my mind and heart resting on America’s long sordid history, I watch individuals attempting to walk away with the little stuff I have left to claim outright as my own: my body and my decisions. Ntozake Shange’s words delivered by Loretta Devine speak to the jumble of feelings this whole Texas Law has unearthed within me. I consider speaking the words from Shange’s choreopoem myself many times, but I could never manage the right tenor of passion and pain that Devine delivers. And so, I let the expression of pain be the collaborative effort that it oftentimes is within the Black feminine community, which is, ultimately, symbolic of something very beautiful and very sad all at once.

Performed by Loretta Devine as Juanita, from For Colored Girls – Original Soundtrack, written by Ntozake Shange, Atlantic Music.

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About Author

Shanita Mitchell currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Rappahannock Scholars Program at the University of Mary Washington. Since graduating from UMW with her B.A. in 2012, she has continued to pursue her passion for providing underserved and underrepresented student populations with college access opportunities and scholarships by working in and with the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid, and serving as the advisor for various multicultural and performance organizations on campus. That same passion recently led Shanita to acquire her M.A. in English from Southern New Hampshire University with the intent to expand beyond the administrative side of higher ed and into the classroom. Shanita also works as a dance instructor at The Courthouse School of Ballet and Umbiance Dance Studio. In her spare time, Shanita enjoys portrait painting, amateur photography, costuming, video editing, and advancing her study of Black feminist thought, Critical Race Theory, and autoethnography as a meaningful expression of self.

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