Women of Wednesday: Asha French on Survival, Liberation, and Superheroes

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a weekly micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

Asha French, Writer & Creator (Louisville)

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

I am writing healing work that includes personal essays, fiction and poetry. I am trying to write myself into decolonized subjectivity by only allowing myself to imagine a reading audience of cousins and chosen kin. I am also making superhero earrings of artists and activists both on this plane and the next. When my loved ones (because I love them as much as a stranger can love the saint who saved her life) are close to my ears, I remember to conjure them. To ask for advice. To draw up that line or that character or that arrest or action that they are remembered for and to borrow some of that strength and purpose for myself. I think my work is important in times like these because it is life-affirming, which is the same thing as life-saving in this climate of brutality against Black bodies, minds, and spirits. My work is liberation on the smallest scale with hands reaching out to join larger movements.

2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

My biggest challenge has been financial stability. I’ve wasted too many years in pursuit of degrees that were supposed to guarantee financial stability so that I could finally do “the work.” But being beholden to degree-seeking institutions changes the work — — shifts it to some shit that is no longer recognizable as your own vision. At least it does for me. So right now, I am happier than I’ve been in ten years and also broker than I’ve been like ever. I don’t have a home. I don’t have a clear art space to create in. I don’t have money to pay for day camp this week so that my daughter can do fun shit while I work. I have a piece of a job as an adjunct instructor at a university that is closing. So I have no idea how long my services will be needed. On paper I’m a mess, but I’ve been writing and creating every day. I was about to say that I could do even more with some stability, but that’s untrue. I’ve done more this broke than I ever accomplished when I was more stable. Still, the reality is that the creative energy it takes to work and rework a budget 5 times before you buy a donut would be better spent painting gold light around Toni Cade Bambara’s face.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

I need resources and support. I need my cousins’ couches for joy building, drinking and smoking. I need to be somebody’s little sister. I need to be somebody’s big sister and somebody’s aunt. I need more love. I need more good sex. I need more money. I need to afford my materials and I need enough money to relate joyously with my customer base (mostly friends and family) without stressing about who will pay me and when. I need a schedule, a plan, and accountability. I need health insurance to get the medication I need for my disorganized brain. More than anything, I need art. In my life. On my walls (when you crash at your mom’s house, you can’t really hang your own stuff up), in my inbox, on my body, everywhere.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

I have an Etsy page and a personal website. I also have a manuscript of essays that needs a home. It hurts to have a baby and then not know how to set it up to thrive in the world. That’s how I feel about this manuscript — lost as to how to get it out there given all of my survival concerns.

5. What is your favorite quote?

“and when we speak we are afraid
 our words will not be heard
 nor welcomed
 but when we are silent
 we are still afraid
 So it is better to speak
 remembering
 we were never meant to survive” — Audre Lorde