Witness and Archive

By Marvin White

September 16, 2020, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE
Performers dancing in a parking lot
Photo by Robbie Sweeny
[Image description: Group of performers clothed in different variations of white dresses, pants, shirts, and skirts dancing in a parking lot between several cars. One woman with big curly hair, in a white pantsuit with a black tie steps up onto a box in the middle of the circle.]

There, don’t nobody question you sittin’ between another woman’s legs when she plaitin’ your hair. There, she ain’t gotta be “My cousin. My roommate. My soror.” She can be “My baby.” She can be, “My familiar.” She can be, “My Harriet. My Nina. My Audre.” She can be, simply and finally yours. There, not every woman undressing you with her eyes is somebody you gotta beat down or measure up. There, if you can just get back there, everything is “it’s just how women are here.”

Erica Wilson in a car with her fist raised
Photo by Robbie Sweeny
Pictured: Erica Wilson
[Image description: African-American woman wearing all white, hanging halfway out of the passenger side of a car with her fist in the air. The driver and two others are inside the car dancing.]

There, ain’t a devil or a God telling you how wrong your urges are. There, ain’t no preacher tellin’ you what God want you to put in your thing. There, what comes out of your thing is not a lie, it’s a life. There, it’s the potential of life. There, it’s the reminder of life. There, it’s the remainder of life. There, ain’t no bottles of gin reparative therapy. There, ain’t no hair falling out. There, ain’t like pulling teeth to get a honest answer and ain’t no question you should acquiesce to someone else, the answer to yourself.

There, we machetes. There, no red tape. There, cut to the chase. There, freedom close to the quick. There, we pencils. There, we archive and witness. There, our bodies journal. There, every name of every women called is an offering to every woman. There, there, there, ain’t no fallen woman. Just a woman pushed down when she wasn’t looking.

There, she ain’t askin’ you to love him, make a baby with him, or make his dreams your dreams. There, you ain’t even gotta be up under him in a way where the rest of the world know you taken. There, he took you. There, he took you there. There, you don’t get taken if you don’t take. There, is a way. There, is something about you. There, there girl. There, we are.

Marvin K. White standing and speaking
Photo by Robbie Sweeny
[Image description: Marvin K. White is a dark-skinned, bald, African-American man with papers in his hands, standing in a room with blank walls with two large bookshelves behind him. Several older white women are seated around him on brown leather couches and recliners.]

There, we are conjoined. There, we not bled. There, we blood. There, we are made family, we are a family. There, we choose who. There, we a spice rack. There, we are a blended family. There, now. There, can be more than one woman in the house. There, we can open each other’s pots. There, we don’t say what’s missing. There, we say what’s missing out. There, to let it all go to seed, to return to stillness, to knowing stillness not being the same as waiting or feeling overlooked or impatient, or inanimate, or thinking born better than formed, there, wanting to be born so bad, and forgetting that nothing in the earth is imprisoned or gone, there, is to stand up to God and say, possibly, impossibly, “I ended up a black woman. Better yet, I ended up in a House/Full of BlackWomen. And I won.”




This article appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of In Dance.

Marvin K. White, MDiv, is currently serving as the Full-time Minister of Celebration at GLIDE Church in San Francisco. He is a graduate of The Pacific School of Religion, where he earned a MDiv. He is the author of four collections of poetry: Our Name Be Witness; Status; and the two Lammy-nominated collections last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. He was named one of YBCA's “100” in 2019. He is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through his work as a poet, artist, teacher, collaborator, preacher, cake baker, and Facebook Statustician.