The internet was alright this week. Highlights: The mothers of iconic civil rights figures, Chloe x Halle, AOC, I May Destroy You was snubbed, decoloniality and queer studies, higher ed is very online, SOPHIE, what really happed at Bon Appétit, offloading online, and whiney rich people.
I often think of a sentence from Elaine Scarry’s On Beauty and Being Just. In the second section of the book, “On Beauty and Being Fair,” Scarry posits that perhaps “reverence is due not only to a beautiful god but to the god’s mother or to nearby angels; that it is not just the poet’s best poem that should be published but even the penultimate, nearly-as-beautiful draft, that the flawed political debate should be perpetuated for posterity as part of the large public record of great and lapsed moments of assembly.”
I think about this sentence in a lot of different ways, intuitively understanding what it means, but not particularly being able to give language to the feelings it engenders—ironically not being able to give language to language.
In her book, which is excerpted here, Anna Malaika Tubbs pays reverence to “Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little, the mothers of Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, and Malcolm X.” I hesitated to include Scarry’s quote, as Black women are rarely given their own space, and Alberta King, Berdis Baldwin, and Louise Little are more than a “god’s mother,” to borrow Scarry’s language, or a “nearly-as-beautiful draft” but complete poems on their own. I think I included the line from Scarry as it speaks to lineages—of knowledge, beauty, and care. Of the three women, Tubbs writes:
“Although it seems that none of the three women cared deeply about formal recognition whether within their families or outside of their homes, each was intentional in passing on her views to her children. All three were aware of the need to share what they’d gained over the years. They did not write books or keep a close record of their own lives, but they cared more about passing on their lessons to their children and grandchildren directly. Even though Berdis never published her writing, she gifted her family members with letters filled with lessons on how to live. Louise was not presented with the same opportunity as her husband to speak in front of audiences, yet she held class in her kitchen for her children on a daily basis. Out of the three, Alberta had the most opportunity for public exposure, but she was still known as the ‘quiet one,’ who preferred to gift her knowledge through her closer connections with her children at home and her students.”
I wonder to whom these women paid reverence.