Issue 08: Letter from the Editor

I spent the past few weeks revisiting the twenty-nine videos Sandra Bland posted to her YouTube account between January 25 and April 28, 2015. Her nonchalant documentation of a Black quotidian disarmed me—I had to remind myself repeatedly that this woman, born, like me, in 1987, is no longer alive. Perhaps out of habit, I found myself transcribing fragments of her speech: moments of uncanniness, language that moved me. It wasn’t until I reread those fragments of Sandy Bland’s transcribed speech—it wasn’t until I tried to assimilate her message, and mission—that I felt the weight of her absence. In July, Sandra Bland’s mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, asked during a press conference, “What happened to my daughter?” A day of retribution is coming when the fog of speculation around Sandra Bland’s death will dissipate, and her murderers will stand in their truth. What follows are fragments of Sandy Bland’s voice as she speaks to the objects sitting on her heart; I encourage you to read her words aloud:

1.25.2015

“Laugh all you want to. Say what you want. But I am here to change history.”

“This thing that I’m holding in my hand, this phone, this camera, it is quite powerful. Social media is powerful. We can do something with this. If we wanted change we can truly make it happen. We sit out here and we talk about how we need the next so-and-so and this and that. No you don’t. No you don’t. No we don’t. … Start with you.”

2.7.2015
Sandy Bland’s birthday

“I thank God for another day, I thank God for another year. And I just thank God for the new me… It is my pledge…to be a new Sandy, to be a better Sandy.”

“You are a king. Go out and do something to establish your kingdom today.”
“You are a queen. Go out there and do something to establish your queendom today.”

2.15.2015

“Hear me clear… If it bothered you just like it bothered me, we need to voice our opinion and say something. Sandy is speaking, what about you?”

3.1.2015

“I’ve got to be honest with you guys, I am suffering from something that some of you all may be dealing with right now, it’s a little bit of depression as well as PTSD…I been really stressed out over these past couple of weeks, but that does not excuse me not keeping my promise to you all by letting you know that somebody cares about you, someone loves you, and that you can go out there and do great things. But [pauses] I want you guys to know that I am a human.”

4.7.2015

“I think we need to question… if the way to get into politics is through discrimination, how can we expect our laws to be any different.”

4.28.2015

“You can stand there, surrender to the cops and still be killed.”
“Show me in American history where all lives have mattered….If all lives mattered, would there have to be a hashtag for black lives mattering?”

“But that is because there are uneducated people who are hell-bent on self-extermination; I am not one of them. I am into building up my kings and queens.”

Massacre, murder, the ongoing and violent erasure of our QTPOC kin, black bodies regularly gunned down in the street by law enforcement––this has been another grievous year, one in which we have felt called to and exhausted by action. Apogee’s Issue 08 continues the labor of featuring poets, writers and artists whose work, we believe, is haunted by the political realities of today. Raquel Salas-Rivera utilizes refrain in a way that echoes with repetitive force, when they write, “¿quiénes lloran por SOPHIA ISABEL MARRERO CRUZ?” | “who among you cries for SOPHIA ISABEL MARRERO CRUZ?” Sophia Isabel Marrero Cruz was a celebrated trans activist and a puertorriqueña who was violently murdered in her home.

Gary Copeland Lilley’s, “The Smalltown Daily, Metro Section, Page 8, Black Lab Mistaken for Coyote” from his Coyote Proem, riffs on metaphor and allegory as commentary on both the reality of social media’s role in increased visibility, and the ongoing dehumanizing, mythologizing of blackness. The poem appears in the format of a news clipping. The mimesis of print media draws attention to the consumption and spread of information and news. In

“Hummingbird Effect”, a poetic hybrid in five sections, Justine el-Khazen chronicles a somatic awareness originating in the heart, as she witnesses—and evaluates the trauma of witnessing—the video of Eric Garner’s violent death via social media. Section 2 begins, “It takes your breath away to hear him say, I can’t breathe, eleven times, no one listening or noticing he’s dying.” One of Kemi Alabi’s two poems in the issue is titled “Mr. Hotep Says #BlackLivesMatter and He’d Kill a Dyke” is––despite the length of the poem’s title––a slick poem; lines short, its pacing slow enough to communicate a specific fatigue. She writes, “Same blood, same alley, / wrong hands, / wrong headline, / wrong barking pack / circling the same / hellmouth.” The poem roots itself in the ongoing truth that misogyny, heteronormativity and transmisogyny still plague our movements and kill members of our communities. In the poem, Alabi fixes her scrupulous focus on the paradox of the hashtag in “#BlackLivesMatter.”

Apogee Issue 08 also features work that echoes the shame and alienation of assimilation to one norm–to one nation or another. In Miriam Kumaradoss’s short story “Sugar Toad,” church bells chime and Ammamma’s prayers echo in the mind of a young narrator realizing her queer sexuality, and learning its affiliated guilt. Transience, heritage, sexuality, and estrangement also appear in “Días de los Muertos: A Oaxaca Journal.” In the piece, Rigoberto González reflects on the terms of his estrangement while visiting Oaxaca—not his home state—during Day of the Dead festivities. He writes, “What was I holding onto then with that altar in Queens? To the never was? To the could have been? A sure sign that what was, what had been, had left me wanting, dissatisfied.” In Sueyeun Juliette Lee’s “Daylight, No Grief,” from Relinquish the Sky, she writes, “I began my inquiry into day, simply: can I decipher a similar capacity to translate and speak the light with my living human body? / And by doing so, can I relinquish the intensities of orphan grief?”

We at Apogee Journal are honored to produce and share this sample of literature, when we live and work at a time when tomorrow isn’t promised for those of us farthest from the epicenters of institutional power. Thank you, reader, for uplifting the artists, writers, and poets in these pages. We only hope that, through our labor, those who are no longer with us speak still.

Joey De Jesus
Poetry Co-Editor
October, 2016

Image: E. Jane, Sandra Bland is Not Alive and Someone is Responsible

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