poem:

wayward girls like to

dance in fugue states and laugh

and giggle and twirl

essay:

a collective wayward by kousy louis

based on “wayward lives” by saidaya hartman

she defines the wayward as young black women “in open rebellion… [struggling] to create autonomous and beautiful lives, to escape the new forms of servitude awaiting them, and to live as if they were free.”

anarchic and queer and nature, these mostly lumpen and working class women/girls slip out from under the boot of respectability and the abuse of their family’s power over them. they form new love, queer love, social love, but inevitably find themselves under another boot (be it the state or a male lover), a boot more dangerous because it is unknown.

and that’s the thing with anarchy. humans are power-oriented beings. we organize ourselves around power whether we like it or not. pretending that this is not the case puts us in danger, because a power that is recognized is well understood and can have restraints, while an unrecognized power cannot be understood and therefore cannot have restraints, and will inevitably be abused.

black women and girls are in the most danger in these scenarios because the inevitable misogynoir of power sees the power in just being a black woman/girl (the power of knowledge, the power of experience, the power of demanding what you deserve) as a threat to their own. because the anarchic power is invisible and unaccountable, others are manipulated to join in the misogynoir violence without knowing it.

my existence as a petty bourgeois class traitor in the making black trans wayward girl fundamentally frames things differently for me, but this art dreams of a new existence for the wayward. one where we don’t crawl out from one boot to be crushed by one we didn’t see. one where we know the permanence of power and can always recognize it, especially when its *our own.* i imagine an existence for the wayward where we know power doesn’t take the world, it grows out the barrel of a dilemma.

power is “do not touch me and walk away or me and my girls will beat you senseless.”

power is “pay us what we deserve or your business will not operate.”

power is “house this trans girl or we will not pay rent.”

these all require collective power and a community that can practice solidarity.

power is “take your money out of caterpillar until they stop supporting isr**l or we will stay in this building forever.”

i imagine a collective wayward. a wayward that doesn’t let girls be singled out by a man, a pimp, a landlord, or the state, a wayward that knows the power structures around them as well as their own power and is not scared to use it to not just “live as if they were free,” but to demand what they deserve from the world.

-kousy louis


More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth