MORGAN POWELL: “QUEER-BLACK-FEMINIST”

"It's an incredible feat creatively to try to capture all of that truth and liberation in something, and that’s the goal, to just put every group that I identify with and help put them on a platform."

IN WHICH ORDER DO YOU SEE YOURSELF? ARE YOU A BLACK-WOMAN-FEMINIST OR A WOMAN WHO’S BLACK AND A FEMINIST? HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE EACH?

I strongly identify with being a queer black intersectional feminist. So being black to me is literally someone of the African Diaspora, I think coming from the diaspora there are so many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds that you can identify with now, so being black is the one that ties us all together.

Being a woman – There are so many ways to define a woman now, but I would say that being a woman is someone who is feminized or someone who is with the feminization of humans, it can mean being born with certain reproductive parts, but it’s also beyond that.

A feminist is someone who seeks for the equity in all facets of human existence, political, social and economic equity between all genders and sexes.

FOR YOU, ARE EACH OF THESE THREE THINGS ALWAYS CONNECTED OR CAN THEY BE EXCLUSIVE OF ONE ANOTHER? IS THERE EVER A TIME THAT YOU CAN CHOOSE TO TURN THEM OFF?

I can’t turn them off because of the way society is set up, but I also don’t have any interest in turning either of them off. I’m very much existing as all three at once always.

HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR JOB AND WHAT DO YOU DO ON A DAY TO DAY?

I’m an Arts Fundraiser. I basically galvanize funds and resources from donors and people interested in contributing to the Cultural Arts Institution. In exchange for funds, we give them experiences and include them in our family. It’s really about community engagement and also just being able to dabble in the Arts.

It’s an incredible feat creatively to try to capture all of that truth and liberation in something, but that’s the goal to just put every group that I identify and help put them on a platform.”

DO MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN THAT SPACE LOOK LIKE YOU?

The organization that I’m currently at, no. But within the Art industry, there are definitely people that I can identify with that look like me, sound like me, and act like me. Are they popular yet? Not always and sometimes they’re work is being exploited.  Are we on a genuine front to successfully own and self-sustain ourselves? No yet, but it’s coming.

HOW DOES BEING A BLACK WOMAN WHO IDENTIFIES AS A FEMINIST BRING CULTURE INTO THE WORKPLACE, ESPECIALLY WITH YOU BEING IN ART AND CULTURE, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOUR CONVERSATIONS? DO THEY GET IT?

It’s a little difficult because even as an adult in and out of the work space, I’m still gauging how I can get people to see things from my perspective without jumping down their throats or seeming too harsh, but also not come off in a calm and digestible way. It’s difficult finding that balance. Representation wise, it’s like you’re fighting the good fight, but sometimes there’s a lot of failures. There’s this self-masturbatory way people look at things and can’t see where you’re coming from unless they literally imagine themselves as you. The human component often lacks the ability to have empathy for anyone else. It’s more than just putting yourself in their shoes; it’s an altruistic dream of wanting everyone to have this peace and equity, freedom and liberation. It takes a lot just trying to get inside of someone’s mind and share those thoughts with them and having them realize how we’re all the same.

CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THE WOMEN’S MARCH? WHAT MOVED YOU TO DO SO?

The women’s march was very interesting.

I decided to march because a colleague of mine had the idea to have our President and CEO of the organization that we worked with a sponsored charter bus to take us down to the march. I originally wanted to go by myself or with a couple of friends in NY and stay with friends in D.C, but I was even more invested when this idea came up. We then gauged interest throughout the organization and gathered all the resources needed.

I was also motivated to go because I was feeling politically frustrated at the time, and it seemed like the most impactful thing that I could do. In retrospect, I’m not sure I would’ve agreed with that sentiment. (Can you explain that?) There were 16 of us who were interested in going. I work with generally all white female identified people. I sort of knew what I was getting into on the way there, but it was made clear before we got there after we made a stop at the Delaware bus station. There were all of these women that looked alike, all cis white women. That was the first sign things were going to be strange.

So, after that stop, I tried to keep my hopes up, but when we actually got into D.C and started marching, I realized this was not a movement that was my own or a movement that was inclusive of me. This was really disheartening because there was an absurd amount of people there and I found it amazing to see something/someone galvanize this great population of people for all the wrong reasons. I’m not really sure anyone had any motivation to be there besides a very shallow just “Oh we have the seeming dictator that hates women.” Even the chanting, it was evident this movement lacked variety.

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN THE NEAR FUTURE?

This is more of a life goal or legacy, but it’s ultimate to liberate all oppressed groups and minority groups. This obviously can’t be carried out just through me. Where I see myself capable of doing that is in representation through the Arts. I’m an aspiring filmmaker and storyteller and I think the stories are what help build compassion and helps people understand at the basic level how we can accomplish things. If you understand someone’s story and their origin, then you are more likely to help them out and see that there are gaps and spaces that can be improved upon. So the reason I’m in the Arts is that I think art, specifically the role of the artist, is, to tell the truth, or tell the truth that the historians and everyone else isn’t telling.

 It’s an incredible feat creatively to try to capture all of that truth and liberation in something, and that’s the goal, to just put every group that I identify with and help put them on a platform. Right now my focus is on Black Trans Women. I think if you liberate them you can liberate everyone else. I think at the core you can find who is the most oppressed, not that this is like an oppression Olympics, but who experiences the most societal isolation. When you start from there and see the whole spectrum and see who’s at the end of it, then you can realize all of the work that needs to be done. Yes, it’s going to take time, but you need to look at the entire picture and then you can see the little things you can do throughout. 

HOW DID YOU GET INTO FILM?

I got into film through my partner who has long been a film fanatic and is already invested in it. I was reading Gil Scott Heron’s “The Vulture”, which was like reading a script, and I was like how has this not been turned into a movie?

I’ve been very invested in creating black queer stories because there’s not enough of them. I grew up around so much television and cinema centered around white queerness. After “Blue is the Warmest Color” came out, which I can’t stop watching, I said I have to do one for myself and people that I know look like and think similarly to me. This looks like a mix of “Blue is the Warmest Color” and James Baldwin’s “Giovanni’s Room”. It’ll be about a black bi female stuck in a situation

AS A COMMUNITY, WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP GET US TO THE NEXT PHASE?

I’d say the first thing we need to do is encourage and advance the dialogue and take action. It’s beyond conversation, it’s what you’re doing to push things along, literally pushing the envelope.

WHEN YOU THINK OF THAT SPACE AFTER WE HAD THE DIALOGUE AND TAKEN ACTION, WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE?

That’s a good question because I’m not sure. I’ve never seen it or heard of it or read it. I think it may be very utopian, which may be unrealistic. But it would be very beautiful and peaceful.

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION

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