Amorous Ebony takes a deep breath and smirks as she starts to explain the inspiration for her new music video, “Lovely Mess.” The video features Ebony shrouded in blue and red lights as she sits on a throne. She dances slowly and sensually in sheer lingerie and sings about getting undressed while a piano riff loops in the background.
“It’s a mediation. A memory, a dichotomy,” she trails off. The West Baltimore native could use those same words to describe herself. Ebony is an artist, musician, light worker, educator, and community organizer who also does a great many other things. What doesn’t she do? She does not tolerate the neglect and disrespect of Black women. And that fierceness in her femininity started with herself.
When Ebony was a little girl, she was targeted by bullies because of her weight, her dark skin, and her ineffable pride. “It did not stump my confidence because the older I got, the more I realized that people’s perceptions of me had nothing to do with me,” she tells me.
She credits her mom with helping her understand this, as well as Black feminists like Audre Lorde who “made me realize that my silence would not protect me,” she says. “Whether or not people were listening, I had to make a choice about how I showed up into this world. Showing up is the best thing I could have done because I can’t be stopped and I can’t be silenced.”
Image by @urunuru
And show up, she certainly does. Perhaps the most bodacious way Amorous Ebony has shown up was her involvement in #MeTooBaltimore, an anonymous Facebook page that blew the whistle on alleged sexual predators and their supporters in Baltimore. “My concern has never been to keep my mouth shut when the lives of Black women and girls are on the line,” Ebony says. Ebony was a lead organizer in the movement, using her voice to stand up for victims of sexual harassment in Baltimore.
Some thought the anonymous page was an “attack” on the Black community, made by bitter women who wanted to see the downfall of prominent Black male leaders. But the page was created by local Black women who were victims of sexual misconduct like coercion, assault, and emotional abuse, at the hands of those in their own community. And unfortunately this is not a new story. Choosing to speak up about intra-racial sexual abuse in the community came with consequences, but for Ebony those consequences were bearable. “Losing support from the community who shamed and disparaged those who chose to come forward and those who remained anonymous is the least of my worries,” she says. “My purpose is clear and I am very intentional. I do not hide behind a computer or phone screen, I support Black women and girls at all costs. Black women and girls don’t need victim blaming, they don’t need think pieces, they need support.”
Image by Tiffany Jones
Due to the stifling nature of anti-blackness literally written into the laws of the city, Baltimore is a place that forces its residents to become activists. Ebony says that in this city, freedom isn’t granted, it’s taken. And she credits the babies and femmes in her life as sources of inspiration. As a teaching artist at organizations such as the Creative Alliance, the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric,* and the Baltimore Office of Promotion and Arts, Ebony has worked with youth of all ages. Collectives like Black Womyn Rising, FORCE, and Not Without Black Women ground her in community as she works to fight against oppression. “My sistas lift me up, and let me know that I am not alone in the struggle,” she says.
“The Bruja Series,” an ongoing, occasional workshop that Ebony leads, finds her teaching black women how to find their own voice through teaching spiritual rituals, creating communities of skill-sharing for other Black brujas in the city, and helping Black women remember their ancestral practices. Ebony is taking her healing art to the next level and pursuing a practitioner’s certification in the Somatic Arts in Boulder Colorado. There she will learn to use her natural gifts of artistic self expression with her fine-tuned skills of “the mystical” to help people to feel at home within themselves.
She takes the following quote by late poet Ntozake Shange as a personal mantra: “This is mine! this ain’t your stuff. Now why don’t you put me back & let me hang out in my own self.” Healing through the exploration of deep femininity, pleasure, and sensuality are central themes in Ebony’s life and work. This means her healing and creative work can’t exist without each other. “I led a session entitled ‘Uncovering the Love Within.’ I spoke about the importance of remembering that you do not exist outside of ‘your work’—the work is you,” she says. “It’s like when people say, ‘you have to separate the art from the artist.’” At this Ebony scoffs, “I am my art, I am the art, these things exist because of me, they don’t exist without me.”
Image by @radiantxprophet and edited by Jarae Holieway
Amorous Ebony‘s upcoming shows include the Indigenous Art Show on Sept. 27 and Sisters Who Can Cook at the Eubie Blake Center on Oct. 19. More info can be found on her website amorousebony.com.
Images courtesy of Amorous Ebony.
*A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as one of the institutions where Ebony has worked as a teaching artist.