The world is burning. Strange, though, because these fires bang and echo in our consciousness: they are ones we have seen, and been burned by, before. Déjà vu. Never fully extinguished, our dystopic reality reignites, history somehow bends back in on itself; a perverse America in boomerang. Those who came of age in an era of Emmett Till look around and exclaim, “They’re [still] killing us!”
We are in a state of reiterative emergency. Though hardly new, it is freshly sliced and twisted, dumbly disorienting, bloodied and dizzying. In times such as the now, it becomes difficult to keep sight of oneself, to delineate fact from fiction. With Apogee being a journal that presents writers—of fiction, nonfiction and poetry—and artists cheek-to-cheek, here in these pages lies an opportunity for art to answer to the terrific world that has generated it.
In “Untitled, for Michael,” poet Sade LaNay makes plain a painful truth: “This is my fear now…my rage makes me exactly what they’ve been taught to think of me.” We, too, feel the power of this rage: it is paralyzing, and galvanizing, all at once. We mourn, and we march. “I go to bed angry,” observes LaNay, naming a sensation that, though wilting us, persists and continues to bloom sickly. Holding this anger still, for those who have long since awoken to it, is toxic. For those non-believers who have been shook from the privilege of denial, the ongoing violence and their silent complicity within it sticks and stings like napalm; for them, it will scar. Bearing witness to the slippery counterfeit of liberalism and the rhetorical delusions of “post-racial” bandied about as mantra within an empty media is exhausting at best.
This rage must not immolate us, but rather spur us toward action—toward art! Angela Jackson, in her book A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life & Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks (excerpted in this issue), gives us insight into the mindset of poet, author, activist Brooks, who “…told her biographer George E. Kent, that she ‘liked people who did things’.” That doing of things is urgent, it is what will allow us to remain honest within crises despite being constantly lied to; to create coalitions as oasis at the topographic borders of a global genocide, to celebrate doers like Brooks as we round the 100th anniversary of her life. Looking backward, and forward, we at Apogee, alongside our writers and artists, imagine and transform futurity.
In her essay “The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action,” feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde writes, “…the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation… that always seems fraught with danger.” Those fraught fault lines reverberate deeply via the visual art curated in this issue. South African artist Lawrence Lemaona’s “I did not join the struggle to be poor” nods toward the strain of capitalism on bodies of color and the drive toward ascendancy, a fantasy of security that tucks itself within the illusory gauze of that abstract thing we reach for and name as justice. Elise R. Peterson and Larry Achiampong in their stills respectively provide a glimpse into the social architecture of worship, those revelatory spaces we go to for guidance; and the role these sites play in reflection—imbued with the ache of memory, charged with the promise of redemption. Clotilde Jiménez and Tschabalala Self respectively remix and vivify new bodies via the layered processes of painting and collage. On the opposite side of the looking glass, Leo Witlarge’s digital dimensions are wiped of human presence, producing a new and untouched sci-fi geography, for us and by us, ready to be pioneered.
Being seen—or not—becomes a necessary politic to meditate on in an auto-play era that, via its broadcast, strips bodies of color of agency and makes the pain of marginalized people a theatrical erotic in their unconsenting visibility. Thus, what is said in these pages is as valuable as that which remains unspoken, and what is seen must guide us to think of who remains invisible within image-making, either by creative choice, or by social force beyond. Here lie words and images that are in some part encrypted. Coded, what you will find ahead is a peradam of sorts, revealing truth to those who seek it. That searching is what we expect of you, our reader: a commitment to stay woke in the face of fire, to see through the smoke, to sound the alarm.
Visual Arts Editor
for Apogee Journal