Black lives matter is about the matter of the unsovereign

To: Focus
From: Che Gossett
September 15, 2015, 12:05am

I just came from watching Out in the Night, about the NJ4. The film screening was held by FIERCE which has been fighting anti-gentrification battles in the wake of what Samuel Delaney poetically rendered in Times Square Red, Times Square Blue — surveillance, displacement, and ultimately continued criminalization of our lives as Black queer and/or trans people. I was so appreciative of being in an audience of primarily queer and/or trans folks of color, Black especially, in watching this heart- and soul-wrenching and devastating film.

The four women, some of whom are gender non-conforming, are described in the corporate media in a way that speaks to the ongoing anti-black racialization as animalization — as a wolf pack — blackness as bestial/brutality, hybrid below the human but not within the category (even) of the animal. They are also described in white corporate media as savage. Again, blackness figures as brute — returning us to Derrida, but through the lens of Jared Sexton, via the thought style and route of Nahum Chandler — we circle back, to something I’ve been recently trying to think through: Blackness, the beast and the unsovereign. Black lives matter is about the matter of the unsovereign.

The NJ4

Leaving the film I was haunted by so much of the imagery that felt so viscerally familiar. As a child who grew up in Roxbury, Massachusetts with an incarcerated father, I empathized with the child of one of the NJ4, Renata, who was dealing with his parent in prison. The state violence of captivity and penal bondage runs throughout the film, whether it’s the child being placed in state custody because his mother is imprisoned, or it’s the violence of racial capitalism that devalues black queer and/or trans life. As I left the theater I walked down the stairs and realized I was in the middle of a Kara Walker art installation, walking being enveloped by those silhouettes of slavery, reminded me, as did the film, that we are living in the afterlife of slavery — which is racial capitalism

The struggle to free the NJ4, as part of a prison abolitionist and Black, queer and/or trans liberationist legacy — from Angela Davis, to Kuwasi Balagoon, to Miss Major and CeCe McDonald is also a struggle against the prison as a gendering racial apparatus which aims to, COINTELPRO style, isolate and neutralize us in solitary confinement and/or through the general economy of its violence. We are a fantastical people however. In the face of premature death (AIDS ongoing — via HIV criminalization — is a key example) we continue to fight for life, an insurgent act in of itself.

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