ten synonyms for liberation
by Taylar Enlow
I. the moment when love
demands no blood
demands no suffering
demands no sacrifice
II. the feeling of water
pressed against Black
skin, in no rush to drown
anything but dirt
III. imagining that God lives
in your father’s
bones and knowing
where to find them
IV. remembering the moon
cradled your grandmother in light
through pain and now
holds her space for you*
V. falling in love in Babylon
despite the memory
of memories lost*
VI. his touch in daydreams
where we have been taught
not to quiver, have been
taught to stay
VII. the realization that
pain is just—
pain just is
VIII. looking out from the other side
of darkness’ heart and shining
full of laughter, still*
IX. Tupac’s Keep Your Head Up and
Burna Boy’s Spiritual vibrating
through the same airways
X. knowing that reconciliation cannot be stopped
by bloodshed, knowing that it is
Black and it is brewing
and rituals for resistance
In conversation with Taylar Enlow pertaining to AS A FORM OF:
Where were you mentally / emotionally / spiritually / physically when the thought of this piece manifested?
When I wrote the majority of this piece, a series of 10 micro-poems, I was on a bus headed to New York. I’d dragged myself out of my bed on about 4.5 hours of sleep in order to make the 8:30 AM bus from Philadelphia’s Chinatown to Manhattan. I’d been up until 3:30 the morning of my trip messaging one of my best friends, who had come to my emotional rescue when he saw me tweeting about how nervous I was, and how I thought I was going to miss the submission deadline. He pulled me out of my nerves, and back into the present, as he always seems to do. He asked, “what do you feel has been the most liberating thing recently for you? What does liberation feel like to you?” For a moment, I shifted out of my head and into my heart. I tried to think of all of the moments recently when I’d felt at peace, moments when I felt liberated. Immediately, I began to focus in on the time I’d spent with my friends. When I think liberation, I think first and foremost of love. When I consider the purest forms of love I’ve experienced in my life, friendship emerges immediately. In truth, this year was extremely destabilizing for me, and it’s taken a long time for me to return to myself. I truly believe that discovering the love and intimacy in pure friendship has been the most significant element in delivering me from the darkness. When I wrote this piece, I wanted all of this to be evident. I wanted to convey how my grief and salvation by way of friendship that subsequently followed have informed my perception of love, and thus, liberation.
"When I think liberation, I think first and foremost of love."
What does liberation look like? Feel like? Can liberation take the shape of resistance or vice versa?
To me, liberation always has and always will look like love. There can be no liberation without love. When we begin to understand that love can take on many different forms, beyond that of the romantic love that we are consistently told to believe is the key to life’s happiness, we unfasten the gateways of possibility, and begin to free ourselves. I think resistance can most certainly take the shape of liberation. As a Black person, and a Black woman specifically, I know that there are times when resistance is the only road to liberation and that the two are intimately tied. While I do believe that there can be liberation without resistance, I also know that our specific experience with liberation is inextricably linked, both historically and presently with resistance. As a Black woman, resistance appears as an old friend on the road to achieving liberation.
"As a Black person, and a Black woman specifically, I know that there are times when resistance is the only road to liberation and that the two are intimately tied."
Can liberation and resistance be considered revolutionary acts?
I thought long, and intently about the answer to this question. I think it’s both yes and no. The word revolutionary itself is ascribed to have two meanings:
involving or causing a complete or dramatic change.
Synonyms: complete, total, absolute
engaged in or promoting… revolution.
Synonyms: rebellious, insurgent, subversive
I believe that liberation and resistance can be effective modes of change, that are also “rebellious” or “subversive” without necessarily forcing a complete or total shift. Just because an action is small, does not mean that it is not revolutionary.
"Just because an action is small, does not mean that it is not revolutionary."
In what ways can we collectively amplify and embrace the forms of liberation and resistance that are often overlooked? The everyday practices, the subconscious acts, the small steps that also feel liberating?
We can collectively amplify and embrace the forms of liberation and resistance that are often overlooked, by holding space for each other. We can check in with our friends when we notice them missing. Something as small as that is an act of love, and thus it is an act of resistance and liberation. In a world where Black people are consistently socialized as less than human or second-class, we can recognize the humanity in one another and resist objectification until ultimately, liberation is achieved.