It will surprise you to hear such wisdom and presence come from this tiny woman of only 19 years.
After sharing our disgust with media's lack of black beauty and not so kinky hair on natural hair blogs for woman of color, I've decided to feature this lovely lady on the Sweet Tea Bee's blog and share what she's about.
Bre: A Church Beneath The Bulldozer, where did you get such an alluring title?
Kush: I’m a poet, haha. I speak in poem most days. The title was born in a poem I wrote for a workshop during Young Chicago Authors’ Saturday writing program about who I am and, in few words, how I want to be remembered. I recycled the line in a diary entry when I was sad and had to remind myself who I was. A Church Beneath the Bulldozer is how I would best describe myself today. My girlhood leading up to my 20-year-old threshold has been a process of dismantling, of stripping away what was sacred and unbreakable and seeing what was left. An absolute necessary deconstruction.
B: What are some common themes of your book?
K: Spirituality, water, the human body, coming-of-age, vulnerability, introversion, loneliness, triumph… Life in a nutshell. I used my own diary, as well as The Diary of Frida Kahlo (something like my creative doppelgänger –“I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best.” ), for inspiration. The book is, quite literally, a publication of my diary.
B: What was most important or what did you feel needed to be addressed in your first ever publication?
K: The “So, what?” of the book is in its dedication. I dedicated it to my three nieces because I feel that the biggest lesson I can give is in the example of woman I am. I feel that, too often, girls and women are shamed for their tenderness; black women especially. Too often, you hear women being described as “melodramatic”, “emotional”, or “crazy” for not feeling in silence. So, we harden ourselves with a “strong (black) woman” armor and dare our tears to fall in public. I need my nieces to know that there is wild strength in vulnerability; in allowing yourself to soften.
B: Are there any talks of book number 2?
K: There is definitely a book number two that was actually in the works long before Church. It’s still very much in development, but is basically an observation of interracial (black/white) relations/hips in a “post-racial” society. It’s mostly an opportunity for me to treat Sandra Bullock and mayonnaise feminism, doe.
B: Describe your journey as a Black Womanist?
K: My journey as a blk womanist ain’t hardly started yet, haha. Nah, but it really just began 3 years ago with what was just a love for women and combat against Bad Girls Club and “girl-hate” which blossomed into an indebtedness. I attached myself to the word “womanism” (a term coined by Alice Walker, but lived long before she was thought of) my senior year after reading and studying black feminist literature, including the incredibly revolutionary At the Dark End of the Street which recounts the untold womanist fight for bodily integrity, and finding the absence in works by many popular non-women-of-color feminists. As a black woman, I am the poster-child for the word “target” in America. My feminism has no room for exclusivity. My feminism means blackwoman is one word. I am as indebted to black freedom, black man freedom, and all people of color as I am to any woman.
B: What about society do you want to see changed the most?
K: First and foremost, I need them to put Gullah Gullah Island back on Nick, Jr. That’s a helluva loaded question, though. What don’t I want changed about society? I suppose what encompasses all societal struggle is a lack of love. I think it really is that simple. We don’t love each other enough to struggle for each other; we don’t love each other enough to not be each other’s struggle. Granted, racism, patriarchy, and each of bigotry’s million names complicate this, and it could never be as simple as it sounds. But if love is wanting what is best for someone, and justice is what love looks like in public, then the heart of this society must be sitting in a jar somewhere.
B: What in your self interest help lead to this change?
K: I think it was you who said, “as long as my every action moves in a love ethic”. I believe that I live in love with the world, and in that, is a fight to change it. From my work as a teaching artist, to being a poet whose voice echoes Westside and womanism, to the organizing of The Lady Church, I’m striving for the betterment of what and who I love. There is a quiet activism in simply doing what you were sent for.
B: What lead you to live a vegetarian lifestyle?
K: At first, it was puberty. Being a sixth grader with a twisted assortment of baby fat and hips and an admiration for the “never too rich or too thin” tabloid glorification led me to seek a diet instead of a therapist. A big component of that was giving up red meat. Eventually, I was so malnourished, even the smell of chicken made me nauseous. It really wasn’t until 8th grade and freshman year when I copped a subscription to PETA (they can kick rocks, doe.) I remember watching a video of cats, chickens, and dogs being skinned and boiled alive and “something fell off a shelf somewhere” (as Jamila Woods would say.) Since then, it has never not been about peace and animal welfare.
B: How long have you been vegetarian?
K: I’ve been craving a fat tuna fish sandwich and drooling over the smell of Wingstop for the past 5 years.
B: What are your views on natural hair and napturality (black folk wearing their hair the way it grows out of their head)?
K: (#TEAMNATURAL #ALLDAY #ERRYDAY) Lemme tell you, I go hard for some natural hair. Haha, the other day, a rapper friend of mine told me he heard I was like the guru for blk hair. I did not deny this, at all. It’s gotten to the point where no non-black-owned product will even scrape my scalp. It’s still amazing to me that the act of wearing your hair as it grows out your head is revolutionary. These are crowns, forreal, and the moment we recognize that, the moment we remember who we are in spite of the cul-de-sac of history we’ve been cursed with as a people who don’t know their own language –like a blizzard calling forth a dead memory, we are threatening the structure of white supremacy. Obviously, I can go on for the rest of my life. That’s what “napturality” is to me. It’s being washed over with knowing. It is urgent. When I could Google the words “beautiful women” and not find my face. When afros are reduced to costume wigs and school suspensions. It is necessary. Now, of course, there are queens who prefer to be whipped god and those who keep their gold tucked under lace caps and remy, and I ain’t mad at that. As long as you know what you’ve been born into and work to nurture it, by all means, werk. Nayyirah Waheed sums it up best, “’I love myself.’ The quietest. Simplest. Most powerful. Revolution. Ever.”
B: Because we are the most amazing humans on earth, what do you love most about being a black woman?
K: I love being the soul daughter of fighters and womanists. I love being the greatest thing the world has ever slept on. I love that I can only get darker.
Kush's book will be released January 31st, 2014 :)
Follow ya girl on twitter and learn more about her and how you can get your hands on a copy of A Church Beneath The Bulldozer.
Kush Thompson is a 19-year-old poet, author, avid As Told By Ginger watcher, and emerging teaching artist for the Young Chicago Authors organization. In 2010, Kush was honored with the title of team captain for Orr Academy's slam poetry team whom she led through the 2010 & 2011 festivals of Louder Than a Bomb; later advancing as an individual finalist and joining Team YouMedia Chicago in 2012 as co-captain and assistant coach in 2013. Thompson's performed across stages within the Chicago, Steppenwolf, Vic, and Victory Gardens theater, TEDX Chicago, and Chicago Jazz Festival among many others. Other partnerships include performances with The John F. Kennedy Center’s What’s Goin’ On Now tribute to Marvin Gaye featuring John Legend and Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings for First Lady, Michelle Obama. Kush is the co-founder of The Lady Church organization where she hosts monthly meetings centered around female empowerment and healing. A Church Beneath the Bulldozer is her first collection of poetry.