SISTORIES Issue 3: The Hereafter

Page 1


The Hereafter Issue iii

contents section 01 DENIAL SAMONE Tiffany Grantham 7. section03 haint blue bottle trees Joanne Godley 16. EDITOR’S NOTE 6. section02 The Pastor’s Wife Leah Whitcomb 18. ANGER Belle’s Boy Julia Mallory 24. enigma Lluvia Bello 30. ya heard? kaj lindberg 31. BARGAINING High Risk Birth Danteryia Murray 34. “By going to the future you bump right into the past” : Time-travel with Octavia Butler and Malidoma Somé Sara Makeba Daise 38. Time Bending Imani Harmon 48. What Might Be/What is my Wealthy Place B Carrie-Yvonne 45. SISTORIES - 4 -



contributors 88. section 06
Octavia Butler and Our Survival: A Q&A with Kim Nickens Ashley Nickens 77. DEPRESSION
the Bones Sonia McCallum 54.
Vision Patrice Wilson 58. “talkin’ ‘bout heaven” Dkéama
62. The Last Word Jessica Griffin 66. section05
72. Jubilee
Purification of Desctruction Natalie
Robinson Young
Camille Ross 70. The
Capsule Fola Onifade 76.
Just Like My Mama Samiah
75. artists + plates 92. workbook 80. SISTORIES - 5 -


Octavia Estelle Butler died on a Friday in February of 2006 at the age of 58. Her death is believed by many to have been caused by a fall, that was caused by a stroke, that was caused by the severe hypertension she’d been battling for several years. She left no immediate survivors, but many progeny nonetheless.

How many of us have pored over her stories, novels, and prophetic affirmations in search of that “thing” that kept her going? Kept her thinking, and creating, and building new worlds despite the realities of poverty and undertreated illness which colored her own? Perhaps it was her mother’s gift of a typewriter for her 11th birthday, despite receiving criticisms from family for being overly indulgent of the child’s impractical ambitions, that sustained her will to survive an artist’s life.

When I was around that same age, I was also gifted a token of conviction by my mother to encourage my writerly aspirations—mine in the form of a laptop—so I understand how powerful a force the transference of Black motherly belief can be. But what is the weight of a Black mother’s faith in the face of a crumbling empire?

Butler faced these ever-present conditions with the help of community and the safe space of her journals, where she returned over and over to reaffirm her ability to achieve the future she saw for herself.

“I write best selling novels,” she wrote. “So be it, see to it.”

Fourteen years after her death, during the earliest days of the Covid-19 pandemic one of Butler’s prophecies was fulfilled. Amidst global crises, mass death, and petrifying uncertainty, people flocked to the works of the prolific sci-fi author, making her 1993 novel, “Parable of the Sower,” appear on the New York Times bestseller list for the very first time.


We are about halfway through 2023 now, nearing the year in which Butler’s prescient best seller is set. Looking around, it is hard not to believe we are living through another of her prophecies made manifest, especially for those of us rooted in the South. The prevalence of climate disasters are steadily increasing, economic strife abounds, white christian nationalists threaten and gain power, there is a war waging against our trans kin, our babies are being stripped of their right to an honest and just education, and the attacks against birthing people’s bodily autonomy continues to threaten our lives.

Whether or not the next few years will unfold as Butler foretold, it seems we are at a critical inflection point (see U.S Pluto Return for my astro folks). As we began planning this issue, we thought about what all of this meant for those of us living and working through the now. What lessons around change, interdependence, and birthing new worlds were we being called to learn from Butler? How are we dealing with our Covid-19 grief and the pain of living through a dying world?

I’d like to think that we are charting something here. Creating a future of sorts. Leaving something necessary to be found by those who will surely come after. This is a world-building collection of fiction, essays, poetry, photography and art by southern-rooted Black women and femme folk. It is an offering. A testament to our presence, our perseverance, and our survival. It is a prophetic proclamation that no matter what may lie in the wake of this end, we will be here after.

We hope you enjoy The Hereafter Issue.

Daisy Artist: Dionna Bright Plate 1



Clang, clang, clang

“At birth, I was given a Christian name and a middle name. Shortly thereafter, I was also given a “basket name,” not to be confused with a nickname. Nicknames have no inherent connotations or power; a basket name does. Only one’s family and closest friends know one’s basket name, and they use it only around each other.”

“She’s coming mama,” I yelled between smacking the pots together.

Clang, clang, clang

All morning I took to banging Mama’s pot together to drown out the noise I’d been hearing. “I’d set you outside for anyone to take if I wasn’t in my right mind.”

I heard Mama yell in-between my banging.

“Now put my good pots up before you dent them and I’ll have to put a dent in you.”

I froze with the pans in the air midswing. Mama never served empty threats. I dragged my feet over to the cabinet to put them away. “Mama, you never believe me. She is coming.” Just as I was closing the cabinet, I was met by Mama standing over me untying her apron. A proud, slender woman with deep-set brown eyes. ‘You can make a blind man see and a deaf man hear.’ I once heard a man say to Mama walking by.

“Cassie, you’ve been at this for weeks now. Whoever she is ain’t coming.” She turned away to hang her apron on a hook by the door.

“A haint, Mama, she’s a haint, “ I protested. “She can’t tell time like us. That’s why it’s taking her so long.” I watched as she kicked off her shoes.

“Cassandra Rose James, that is enough. I’ve had it with this haint talk.” She said facing me, standing akimbo. I squared my shoulders to match my mother’s stance.


“Grandma Eve would believe me.”

There was a moment of stillness and I braced myself for her response. Or hand.

Grandma Eve and I were very close; always trading secrets and stories about visions, and ghosts, and knowing things without really knowing how or why. The same stories she would tell Mama but, ‘her mind wouldn’t make much room to keep my stories, even at a young age,’ Grandma Eve once said. I was only left with the little memories I had of her since Mama didn’t talk about her much, if ever.

No pictures, family bible, or family traditions. Nothing. Except for an apron she wore even when she wasn’t cooking. Once white with bright yellow and pink flowers, it was now yellowed from years of cooking. And after all the years of wear and washing it still smelled of cinnamon and bay leaves.

“Well, ya grandma ain’t here is she? Neither are those damn haints.”

I started to answer her back but I was quickly reminded of my place.

“Utter another word and you’ll meet Grandma Eve and Jesus for tea,” she warned.

I nodded knowing I’d gone just a bit too far and yet relieved that my straightening came only in words.

“Now get your coat. We’re going into town.”

The walk into town was a long one but it was always an adventure. I liked seeing the men working on the railroad singing together like one voice. So much so, I started to walk in rhythm to their singing in my black Mary Janes.

“Ba bum be, huh, rails coming up, huh, rails going down, huh.”

“What are you doing back there?” Mama asked without slowing her pace.

“Singing with the men, mama. I have to say it from down deep to let them know I’m working just as hard.”

The air was still and a bit cloudy but there wasn’t any rain in the air. The railmen were long behind us but I kept humming; I liked my song but it was mostly to quiet the voice I was hearing.

At the edge of town, Mama stopped and called me closer, “Come here Cassie,” gathering me softly by my coat collar and smoothing out wrinkles that weren’t there.

“I know Mama, I know,” sighing heavily,“I’ll mind myself.”

Mama rubbed her hands across my two braids until she was satisfied.


Everyone was a giant to seven-year-old me. Brown giants, high-yellow giants, and white giants. Mama said never to look the white giants in the eye for too long but I did anyway. They always looked at me strangely; twisting up their faces and sometimes turning red, but I didn’t care. They looked strange to me. Like walking ghosts. Just before any of them could say something to Mama, I’d put on my best smile and proper voice and say ‘Good afternoon ma’am, sir. Fine day ain’t it?’ I always got a rough ‘humph’ back and watched them storm off as I covered my mouth to muffle my snickering.

The door to Mr. Daniel’s Grocery opened and a bell jingled. That was new. Mama walked off down the aisle and I stood by the door to watch folks come in and out the ringing door. Mr. Daniels was a big man with pudgy fingers; a peculiar white man. Mama said that was a nice way to say someone was strange. Peculiar in the way he talked to Black folks like he talked to white folks.

“Hey there Cassie. Come sit and talk with me while your mother does her shopping.” Placing a wooden stool by the register.

“When’d you get that bell, Mr. Daniels?” I asked while climbing the stool, careful not to show my underside.

“You like that bell? I put it up this morning. Had it for a while but today just felt right.”

I straightened out my dress to look smart at everyone coming to the register.

“What about today felt right?”

“Can’t rightly say, but where I’m from when you get that feeling, you don’t ask questions. You just do.”

Mr. Daniels thanked a lady as he placed her items in a paper bag. She smiled at him and rolled her eyes at me before making the doorbell ring.

“Where are you from?” I asked. He smiled as if a memory of his home flashed in his mind.

“I’m from the North, but my people are from the South down by the Bayou. Where the food is plenty, people of all tongues and bells can be a celebration or a warning.”

Ding Ding

Another person walked in.

“Afternoon Mr. Reid,” the man tipped his hat, looked up at the bell scratching his head as if it would fall out at any moment.

“Well, did you put the bell up today to celebrate or warn us?”

“Hasn’t come to me yet, but I’m sure it will.” Mr. Daniels answered .

Mr. Daniels was starting to sound like Grandma Eve.


“How–” before I could finish my question a red-haired lady with matching lipstick was clearing her throat for his attention. A pound of sugar, a small cut of ham, and half a pound of salt.

“You were going to ask me something, Cassie?” he asked while still checking out the woman.

“How it come to you?”

He packed up the last of her things and thanked her.

Ding Ding

“Sometimes I hear things, other times I see things.”

He was just like Grandma Eve. Finally, someone who would understand me. I didn’t feel alone.

“Like haints,” I whispered to him. “Mama says they’re not real, but one is coming. The voices told me so.” He smiled at my excitement and began to scratch his head again.

“Well now, Miss Cassie.”

No one ever called me Miss before.

“Haints don’t do any warning, but ancestors do” he whispered back.

Could it be Grandma Eve’s voice I’ve been hearing? If it was, why wouldn’t she tell Mama? I froze just like a bird in winter at the thought.

“You really are peculiar Mr. Daniels.”

“Cassie!” Mama heard us before we ever saw her and was shocked that I repeated something she said.

“I think you’ve spent plenty of time bothering Mr. Daniels for today.” she said, guiding me off the stool.

“She’s alright,” he assured Mama. “She isn’t wrong though. Besides, I’ve been called worse things that weren’t true.”

“See Mama, I’m no bother.”

“Maybe not to him.” As she handed Mr. Daniels money, and gave him a warning of her own, “But maybe you should be mindful of the rest of your customers.”

His smile faded a bit before saying good day.

Ding, Ding.

The bell continued as we left with people going in and out.

“Mama, I told you so. Even Mr. Daniels believes so.”

Her grip on my hand was so tight my fingers started to fold like a cone.

“Just what I need, some strange white man agreeing with a Black child. They’ll lynch you both and make me watch.”

“Mama, don’t say that.”

Tears started to well up as I tried to open my hand but Mama’s grip just tightened and my little legs were doing all they could to keep up with her stride. Gusts of wind started to shoot dirt in my eyes. It even made Mama slow down. Ding, Ding.

I could still hear the bell even though the men were still singing on the tracks. The wind blew against us like a mini tornado. Mama freed my hand and clasped my wrist to help fight against it. The ringing got louder, drowning out the gale of wind, and making the faint voices I’d heard for weeks become clearer.

“Come on child, we’re almost home.” I felt Mama tug on my wrist, but the wind, the ringing and now this voice was beginning to hurt my head.

They’re coming. Samone. They’re coming. It started as a whisper and became louder with each ring. They’re coming. Samone. Samone, They’re Coming. SAMONE!

I tried to cover one ear with my free hand and the other with my outstretched arm, but the wind proved to be a greater force than my balance and I stumbled to my knees. The last ring was so high pitched, I snatched my wrist from Mama so fast, I fell backward.

“Stop, stop, stop” I yelled, clawing at my ears hoping to scratch out the voice and ringing. I kicked and dug my heels in the dirt and felt the wind blow it back over my dress and hair. Why was it hurting so bad? Would this happen every time? I could hear Mama calling me but I kept screaming over and over wishing for an end.

“Cassie?” Mama called, nearly stumbling herself. “Cassie!”

She grabbed my hands and saw small traces of blood coming from my ears. When I looked up, Mama was looking at me with wide eyes. Somewhere between worry and fright.

“What is it, Cassie? Tell your mama what’s the matter.” My tears were pushed back towards my ears from the wind. The salt stinging the open scratches. I didn’t want to upset her but it was too much for me to carry alone.

“I can hear her Mama. It’s not haints. It’s Grandma Eve,” I finally push out between cries.

“It was her this whole time. Her voice is louder now. I can hear her. She keeps calling me–”

“Samone.” Mama finishes for me.


How did she know? Was she only pretending not to hear the voices? Mama kissed me softly on the cheek and gathered me with the groceries.

“Who’s coming Mama?” I asked quietly.

Mama’s mind must’ve been racing with more questions than answers like mine as long as it took her to answer.

“I don’t know,” she finally said . The wind continued to push against us the rest of the way home. It was then I realized every porch or door we passed was painted blue.

Grandma Eve’s voice and the ringing were quiet when the evening came. I felt tired in the way old folks are after working all day. When I woke up, the house was silent except for the wood crackling in the fireplace. The glow from the fire revealed Mama standing at the window.

“Mama, what you looking at?” I asked, walking up beside her, wiping the sleep from my eyes. She didn’t answer. Instead, she kept her eyes on something out the window. I watched her eyes travel back and forth slowly down the street. The street was empty, houses covered in darkness with shaded lamps in window sills and windy shutters flapping against the houses. Suddenly, her eyes became fixed on an empty space outside in front of the house. She gripped her mug tighter. That’s when I saw the smudges from her fingers on the mug. A bluish-green color. Haint Blue.


“I could still hear the bell even though the men were still singing on the tracks. The wind blew against us like a mini tornado. Mama freed my hand and clasped my wrist to help fight against it. The ringing got louder, drowning out the gale of wind, and making the faint voices I’d heard for weeks become clearer.”

Imagine that you are now an ancestor. What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your present life, that you’d want your descendants to know and why?

Paradigm Artist: Dionna Bright
Plate 2

haint blue bottle trees

sunlight scintillates on blue bottle faces high-pitched whistling with the rising winds bottoms up bottles hang from naked tree limbs upside down cerulean glass Christmas trees

ghost spirits coming as the moon is ripening announced by smells of sea breeze and lilies chortling at bottle trees, fingernails plucking them ‘pinging’ sounds peal against blue bottle glass

spirits pull you from your bed, a-wailing-with serpentine masks of monsters and things bulging eyes stare at you-snouts where the chins should be gold, mossy-green, blue, blood and tar

feathers and hairs and hide of all kinds haunts that teach you to shape-shift and howl growl / yammer / yowl / hiss / razz / boo / cry breathless, you gyrate through rainbow-smoked hoops

Mama brings soup as the last smoke wisps lift asks you to eat since the haunts have moved on drained, you lie under blue bottle trees letting the brown grass caress your brown calves

next day, you’re back in school–unaware a spell’s been cast lunch with your BFF: sandwiches and laughs black wing-nubs hidden from prying eyes sprout under your oversized lavender tee

walking from school, images worm your mind, exhaling brown girl-inhaling grey-haired fox exhaling brown girl-inhaling large Black crow

Mama’s planted another blue bottle tree


spirits pull you from your bed, a-wailing-with serpentine masks of monsters and things bulging eyes stare at you-snouts where the chins should be gold, mossy-green, blue, blood and tar

“ “
title: the haircut
3 SISTORIES - 17 -
Artist: Dionna Bright plate

The Pastor’s Wife 03

A week before Chanel’s wedding, I dreamt that her husband would be the death of her. In the dream, he chased her down a dark alley, eventually cornering her, leaving her with nowhere to go. When he put his hands on her, everything went black. I woke up.


I didn’t think it’d come true. It had been many years since I’d seen Chanel, and many more after that dream when I’d see her again. I saw the wedding announcement in the newspaper. Her joy was visible even from that still image.

My clairvoyance was new then, and I was untrustworthy; I didn’t want it to be true, but here Chanel laid, twenty-eight, dead in this white casket. The after-death bloat brought back a bit of vitality to her body. Her face was soft now instead of gaunt. As people filed into the church, my heart tightened watching her lay there. She was finally at peace, but we weren’t.

She was my cousin. Only a few months younger than me, we went to daycare, elementary, and high school together. At family reunions, we would run off together and gossip about school

and boys. A decade ago, when we were teenagers on our way to college, we sat in her car after the morning service. Her golden face gleamed with possibility as she told me about her college plans. She was going to State with Brian, and after college, they’d get married and start a family. It was the blueprint for all girls our age so I wasn’t surprised when she asked me if I’d marry Darrell, my high school sweetheart, after college. I wasn’t sure, but I was excited to leave the state. She said she respected my decision as I searched for something more promising, something more ancient. I promised her that once I left, I’d never step foot in this church again.

I lied.

After the choir sang and the prayer was prayed, her husband eulogized her. He stood behind the pulpit but kept his head bowed. Thinking, searching for the right way to lie, “We’re gathered here today to celebrate the life of my beautiful wife, Chanel Leroy.” His hands on the top of the podium, he shifted trying to force or hold back tears, “You know, Proverbs 18:22 says, ‘Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.’ I was a lucky man,” he nodded with red eyes. “Chanel was every good thing God could give me: loyal, honest, submissive. Her faith in me made me a better man.” He twisted his mouth.

I shifted in my seat and started

“The love spell I gave her to be the recipient of all of her husband’s affection was wearing off; she needed something stronger.”

fanning myself. I looked at the pew directly in front of Pastor Leroy. Where Chanel’s family and closest friends should have been, sat some congregants wearing their good brassieres. When the Pastor’s eyes would shift their way, they’d lift the scarfs from over their skirts. He’d bow his head again and blot the sweat from his forehead.

“I heard she got cancer,” a woman in the pew in front of me whispered behind her fan to the lady next to her.

“She probably got a hold of that stuff,” the lady whispered back to her.

“Mmmm, Lord have mercy,” the woman replied, fanning herself. “How long you think before the Pastor has a new wife?” she asked.

“You know him.” They stifled their giggles behind their fans. I sighed. My dear Chanel, was it worth it?

When Pastor Leroy finished his eulogy, her mother gave her remarks. A few girls from high school gave theirs. They cried that they hadn’t seen Chanel in so long, how much they missed her, and how she was gone too soon. I sat there. I had no words to describe how my own insecurities failed her. How if I had trusted myself, maybe she wouldn’t have been in this position. A tear fell from my eye. I paid it my respect by letting it linger instead of rushing to wipe it away.

The deacon stood next to the altar and said the closing scripture. “Can everyone turn their Bibles to Ecclesiastes chapter three?”

It was Chanel’s favorite verse. Pages flipped in the church before the deacon cleared his voice and spoke, “Ecclesiastes chapter three, verses one through eight

Title: Her Fidelity

Artist: Dionna Bright Plate 4

reads as follows: ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a

time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.’ That is the word of God for the people of God.”

And the congregation said, “Amen.”

“Now, may we all stand and sing Amazing Grace before we lay Chanel in her final resting place,” Pastor Leroy commanded.

We stood. He started the song with his shaky baritone, rocking behind the pulpit until his eyes met mine. He gulped and averted his gaze, but mine never left his face.



After he prayed the benediction, half the church readied themselves for the procession. I stayed for one last look at Chanel. I followed the giggling behind me and saw that Pastor Leroy stepped out from behind the pulpit. One of the women from the front pew rubbed his arm while another offered to cook him dinner. Once he saw the eyes on him, he shooed them away and walked towards me.

“Sister Simone, I’m surprised to see you here,” he said.

“I don’t see why not. I grew up with Chanel. With you.”

He didn’t budge. “Well you’re

always welcome back here. It’s never too late to get right with God.”

I stared at him. My jaw clenched. “It’s not my soul you need to worry about, Pastor.”

“Well,” he backed up, “I guess I’ll be seeing you at the burial.”

“I guess so,” I sucked my teeth and caressed Chanel’s cold, puffy face.

It had been a month since I last saw her alive. She rushed into my house on a Tuesday afternoon. The love spell I gave her to be the recipient of all of her husband’s affection was wearing off; she needed something stronger.

“He has a child on the way,” she cried while pacing in front of my couch. “I…I don’t know what else to do.”

“Can you sit down?” I tried to calm her. “Are you hungry? Can I get you anything?” The stress ate the meat off her bones. Her clavicle protruded from the blouse that enveloped her. The skirt she wore threatened to fall off at any second. The tangled wig sat sideways on her head.

“I’m not hungry,” she said, still pacing and biting her nails. “Can you sit, please? All your pacing is making me dizzy.” She sat beside me, but now her leg bounced. It’d do for now.

“Simone,” she held my hands,

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“ “
“When I’d see our future, I just saw black. I thought it meant that it was still forming, that the possibilities were endless, but now,” she sighed again. “I don’t know what to think.””

“Is there anything you can do to make this baby go away?”

“I can’t,” I told her. I couldn’t imagine doing such a thing. “Did you ask your husband about it?”

She looked betrayed that I even asked her. “He lies about everything. Everytime I confront him, he say it’s the devil driving us apart.’” Her lip quivered in frustration. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”

“You can leave,” I offered.

“And go where?” She was up again, pacing. “I can’t just leave my husband, the church. I have an image to uphold. You wouldn’t understand.”

“And why wouldn’t I?”

She shook her head and sat next to me, “You’ve always been brave, Simone. I haven’t. I wish I could do half the things you do.”

“I’m not brave,” I confessed. “I have fears and insecurities too.”

“But not like me.”

I sighed and shifted my body towards her, clasping her hands. “I didn’t leave Darrell because I didn’t love him. You know how they raise boys here. I left because I was afraid of losing my freedom if I married him. I was afraid that I wouldn’t survive that kind of life.” I was afraid that I’d end up like you is what I didn’t tell her.

She sighed, tucking her head in her hands, “You know, Mother Denuit told me that this is just how men are. That real women stick by their men, and if I was a real woman, I wouldn’t make a scene.” Tears fell from her eyes as her hands trembled.

I rubbed her back. Mother Denuit would know. Deacon Denuit was the father to my cousin Letitia and a host of other kids that were not Mother Denuit’s. “You can choose differently.”

She clasped her hands and shook her head. Through tears she confessed, “I can’t.”

Looking at her cry, she was a shell of her former self. In high school, Chanel was the It Girl. Everyone wanted to be like her, dress like her, act like her. Boys groveled at her feet. It was I who was envious of her, the way she walked through the world with the power to make life happen, but the power she had was given, not innate. She had all the choices in the world, but like most girls in our small town she wanted to be a wife and a mother. By thirteen, she had planned her ring, dress, and season. At twenty, after Brian dumped her, she only entertained potential husbands. And at twenty-two, when half the girls from high school were married, she was single and desperate. Within the year, she married Pierre Leroy. Five years later, she sat on my couch crying over him.

“You know,” she sniffed; the tears sobered her up a bit. “When we were younger, I could imagine a future with every boy I ever dated. But Pierre? Pierre was different. When I’d see our future, I just saw black. I thought it meant that it was still forming, that the possibilities were endless, but now,” she sighed again. “I don’t know what to think.”

She was right. When we dreamed of our future, we dreamt of possibility. But the blackness itself was a possibility, albeit an absolute one.

“Can you help me?” Her eyes were sunken and red.

My chest tightened knowing that the strongest spells had the highest cost: blood. “I can.”

“Will he love me?”

I wanted to tell her that a man that didn’t respect her would never love her, but she had dedicated her life to him so instead I offered her hope. “He will,” I said. And she took comfort in the lie.

image you siti.

title: compassion
Artist: saronda v. plate 5

Belle’s Boy 04

April 2, 1968


April 3, 1968

Ma Belle knew he was gone soon as she saw the detectives on her front stoop. Zeke left the collards in the garden to they own business when he saw them walk up. A dying bee threw its body into him yesterday and he knew it wasn’t a good sign. Now the sign flashed furiously in front of his door. Ma Belle couldn’t move. Her wide eyes tried to find a cloud to land on or a bird to move her mind

from the shock that locked her body in place.

“Hank Hall’s body was pulled from the Ohio River this morning near McKees Rocks,” they repeated.

Zeke’s heart slid to his stomach. He felt Ma Belle move against his side. She needed to be off her feet. The detective on the left reached into his baggy olive-green suit pocket and handed Zeke a card.

“If you can’t get a hold of me, someone at the precinct can assist you. The coroner will need his next of kin to go down and identify the body as soon as possible.”

Zeke placed a hand on each side of Ma Belle’s arms as he guided her inside.

“Zeke?” She asked like he might not answer. Like she needed a witness for what she could only say

“Her wide eyes tried to find a cloud to land on or a bird to move her mind from the shock that locked her body in place.”

untitled Artist: saronda v. Plate 6 once.

“My boy’s gone.”

“I know, baby. I know.”

He never heard someone cry so hard without sound. Her body moved like it was caught in an undertow. It tossed her until she shook herself slack in his arms as he anchored his feet on the deep wood floorboards.

“Somebody needs to get a hold of Big Ma,” Ma Belle said. Her voice, flat and clear, like it was coming from outside of her body.

Zeke had thought about it but was too focused on her.

“Do you want to lie down? I think you should rest some.”

She couldn’t understand why he was telling her to rest in the middle of the day like she ain’t have nothing to do. His tenderness made her wail.

April 4, 1968

“Belle, I think it’s time we get a hold of somebody at the precinct. You want me to call Detective Petroski?”

Zeke was holding the business card, rubbing his thumb over the bent edges. Belle was in the bed with her back to him.

“Isabelle, baby, you gotta eat something.” Big Ma was standing in the doorway with a tray of food.

“Zeke, y’all call them people yet?”

“No ma’am. I just asked her if she was up to it.”

“Don’t talk over my head. Her can hear just fine.”

“I’m sorry, Belle. Ain’t mean nuthin by it.”

“No. I need to go. They need to know my baby belonged to somebody.” *

Big Ma was people-watching on the bus and inching her heels back in her shoes. She tried to buy some space to keep the leather from rubbing against the top of her tender toes. She rocked in her seat to raise her body in preparation for exit.

“Mike Taylor is who we needed!” Lenny, the bus driver was trading sports talk with another passenger as he glanced in the mirror to see who had requested a stop.

“You have a good evening Ms. Sarah. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Lenny nodded in Big Ma’s direction. “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.”


“I know that’s right.” The football talking passenger chimed in.

“You be easy, Lenny.” Big Ma smiled at Lenny’s sincerity as she turned sideways and slowly eased her body down the steps while holding the handrail.

She was about three blocks from home when a boy who couldn’t be no more than 12 almost knocked her over.

“Chile, what got you in such a hurry that you ‘bout to knock an old woman down to her death?!”

“Sorry, ma’am! Aint’ you heard? King’s dead.”

April 5, 1968

Ma Belle had been dialing the precinct’s number so much that day, she could do it with her eyes closed. A few neighbors managed to bring a dish or two, then all they wanted to talk about was King. And poor Coretta with all those babies to raise by herself.

Coralee was the only one that seemeed to remember how Big Big Ma and Ma Belle took in folks and fed them. Or took in extra wash when a husband overplayed his hand in the gambling house. How Zeke kept them babies full, delivering fresh food from

his garden. He never took credit, but they all knew it was him. They couldn’t fix her broken heart, but their kindness was supposed to fill in the cracks. It’s what they did for each other. Now their absence had her wondering why she didn’t deserve her share of tending to.

“Zeke, try that line one more time.”

“I’m still getting the busy signal.”

Coralee ran through the front door.

“The Shine Parlor is on fire!” King had said that riots were the

In an anti-black world, what is justice? What does it look and feel like to you?

“ They couldn’t fix her broken heart, but their kindness was supposed to fill in the cracks. It’s what they did for each other. Now their absence had her wondering
why she didn’t deserve her share of tending to.

language of the unheard. Seem like they had heard Black folk but wasn’t nobody listening.

April 1, 1968

“They say you Artie’s muscle. Just make sure you not being used, son.” It sounded like Ma Belle was asking Hank a question, full of worry and warning.

“Ma, Artie raise hell to these white folks and they can’t stand him for it. He making sure us in the union are paid fairly.” Hank’s passion propelled him to his feet.

“Mmm, hmm.”

“I know you read the paper, Ma. When they ask Artie how they should pay for our increase. He told ‘em ‘Soak the rich!’”

Ma Belle repeated the lines. Quietly at first. Then proudly. “That’s alright. Soak the rich. You just be careful, Hank.”

“Ma, these people won’t let me forget my mistakes. I was a child, running around acting like I wasn’t raised right. I paid my debt. If they think my past can keep me from fighting, they got another thing coming. I’m a man, Ma. You see what they doing down in Memphis. We on the right side of this fight!”

September 27, 1948

Big Ma looked around the empty house and out the front windows towards the lawn. She had her eyes on everyone except, Isabelle.

“Isabelle! C’mon, girl. It’s time to hit this road, lest we miss this train.”

Isabelle walked towards Big Ma, wearing her widow’s black. Big Ma had tried to talk her into something with more color to signify the new beginnings waiting for them in Pittsburgh. Isabelle caught the end of her mother’s disapproving look.

“Ma, it ain’t been but three months since Lou been gone. I know you was wearing that widow’s veil for at least six months when daddy died.”

“Belle, that ain’t the point. I didn’t get a fresh start like you getting. Wasn’t no leaving behind my sorrow. I was sleeping in the bed with it. Packing yours up and taking it north feel like a choice to me.”

May 17, 1949

“How I look, Ma?” Isabelle held out the hem of her dress and twirled for her mother’s approval.

“If I ain’t know no better, I’d say you was tryna hook ‘em and hook ‘em, hard!”


“You look mighty fine. Where you and Coralee off to tonight?”

“We’re going to that new spot down on Wylie.”

Coralee yelled up the stairs.

“Belle! Girl you betta come on before ain’t no more seats left.”

“Cora, ain’t nobody going out to sit. Imma be dancing all night.”

She was wondering if Zeke would be there while wanting him not to be. Isabelle, how you holding one hand open and closed at the same time, she smiled as she moved down the stairs.

“Whatchu smilin’ ‘bout?”

Coralee was peering over her cat-eyeglasses at Belle.


“You heard me. Betcha you thinking ‘bout Zeke ain’t you?”

“Girl! Hush!”

“You just worry about if yo’ seat gon’ be occupied. I heard Audre’s lap is the best one in the house.”


“Don’t Belle me. C’mon before I leave you here.”

Coralee loved her spirited friend. Some days she couldn’t believe she was the same sad woman wearing black all the time who would forget to comb her hair for days on end. Then one day, just like that, she was different. Soon after, she started wearing a big, neat bun on top of her head. Rumor was, she kept a blade buried there for folk looking to play her for a backwoods country girl.

Of course, Zeke was at the cabaret. Flashing that big smile and ignoring all the eyes trying to catch his. He gave Belle a chance to settle in before asking her to dance. Just as they found the right rhythm, the music slowed to a creep and Zeke was singing along in her ear:

“…wishing you could feel what’s in my heart.”

Belle needed to leave the dance floor before Zeke opened her too wide.

“Sorry, Zeke. I gotta go find Cora.”

“Cora don’t need you watching her.”

“I ain’t said that. I need her watching me.”

Zeke kept his eyes on Belle all night. He gave her space but wasn’t ready to quit trying. He noticed they were getting ready to leave.

“Can I give you ladies a ride home?”

“Say yes, Belle. My feet hurt.”


Cora pleaded with her friend.

“You not gon’ let your friend suffer are you?”

“I can’t tell who would suffer more, you or her!”

After Cora went inside, Zeke moved in his seat to face Belle.

“Belle, I’m a good man. I mind my business and take care of it, just the same. Don’t you ever get lonely?”

“How Imma be lonely with my child and my mama close by?”

“Belle. You know what I mean. Lonely. Like the type that only a man can see about. Cuz, I get lonely. Then I see you and just the thought of you make me feel like I’m being hugged tight.”

“Since Lou passed, I try not to feel that feeling. Don’t seem to make much sense to me. Wanting after something you know you can’t have.”

“But what if you could have it? When Rosie died, I swore I’d never be able to feel for anyone else, let alone want someone else. Belle, will you have me?”

March 28, 1968

Hank turned his head to shield his face from the spring wind. When he turned it back, his eyes were on the man they nicknamed “Manny the Monster” at Morganville. He was talking to Hank from the driver’s side window of his car, parked up against the curb.

“Why are you following me?

“So, you do remember me. What else do you remember?”

“It ain’t right what you did to those boys.”

“What did I do Hank?”

“That’s between you and God, now.”

Hank ain’t sleep for three days.

April 8, 1968

Ma Belle had the sudden urge to clean. Pulling out boxes she hid from Zeke, or he’d tease that she was a packrat. I ain’t studyin’ you, old man. Somebody gotta keep the the memories. Who you come to when can’t find something? First thing she touched was a stack of letters from

Hank from when he was away at Morganville. She was prideful and still pleaded with them white folks to give her boy another chance. They sentenced him to nine months and sent them white boys he was running with back to the streets.

She slid the newspaper clippings from the trial about abuse at Morganville to the bottom of the stack she was holding. Hank ain’t sleep right for a full year when he came home. Nightmares every time he closed his eyes. Belle would tell him betta out than in and rub his back until he fell asleep.

Dear Ma, This place ain’t right. I want to come home. I’m sorry, ma. I promise never to touch nothing that don’t belong to me. They got some of us working on nearby farms.

Please can I come home?

Your son, Hank

untitled Artist: saronda v. Plate 7

She could feel him.

Ma, read the newspaper. And hear him?

“Hank, you know I loves my paper.” She released into the sweet, musky air that the old papers stirred up.

She dropped the stack. The pile of fragments gave her something to do. She reached for one of the clippings and those eyes were staring straight through her.

“Zeke! Zeke! Baby! You gotta see this.”

“Belle, what you carrying on about?

She handed him the newspaper clipping.

“Well, I’ll be damned. Emmanuel Petroski. This can’t be a coincidence, Belle. It can’t be.”

April 12, 1968

Zeke returned from the front door with Detective Petroski and invited him to sit on the deep red velvet sofa.

“Detective Petroski, thank you for stopping by, especially with the world on fire.”

“Sure thing.”

“I just want to find out what happened to my boy.”

“Trust me. We want the same thing. Did he have any enemies or was he involved in any illegal activities?”

Ma Belle raised her voice. “No!”

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Pardon my manners. Would you like some sweet tea?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Zeke, answer any questions he has. I’m going to grab the tea from the kitchen.”

When Ma Belle returned, Detective Petroski was questioning Hank’s union affiliation.

“I’ve heard that Hank and Artie Mills weren’t exactly some people’s favorites around here.”

Detective Petroski gulped his tea until there was only a single amber tear in the corner of the glass. “This tea is some-

thing special. Maybe you can give me your recipe to pass along to my wife.”

“It’s an old family recipe, but I could try and write it down before you go.”

“Would you? I can’t get enough of it.”

Ma Belle extended her hand towards Detective Petroski. “Lemme refill your glass, but I’d like to hear your questions just in case I may be of some help.”

Detective Petroski turned up the fresh glass of tea to his mouth, his slurping sent a shock to Ma Belle’s already thin nerves.

“As I was saying, the labor bosses didn’t take too kindly to their threat to drive up wages and the workers were worried about losing their j—”

Zeke caught the empty glass Detective Petroski dropped along with the end of his sentence. His eyes widened when he realized that he couldn’t move.

Ma Belle was now standing directly in front of him. “Something special, huh?”

April 13, 1968

“Hey Big Ma! When did you get in?”

“Zeke, don’t be asking me no questions.”

“Can’t a loving son-in-law worry?”

“Ain’t no law involved in what y’all doing.”

“That’s on account of your daughter! She said she jumped the broom once and that was enough.”

“You know she stubborn!”

“She get it honestly.”

They laughed deep and wide until tears flowed from their eyes.

“What you doing out here in the garden. Ain’t it a bit early to be turning over the dirt?’

“Gonna let it breathe a bit for

I put the cucumbers and peppers in the ground.”

“I’m sure you know best since you the master gardener around here.”

May 13, 1968

Big Ma was pressing out biscuit dough with a drinking glass when Isabelle entered the kitchen.

“Belle, can you turn that radio down and read me the paper while I fix these biscuits?”

“Sure, mama.”

“Whose picture is that front and center like that? He somebody important?”

“It says his name is Detective Petroski and he’s been missing since last month.”

“What in the world? Oooh, yeah. Read me that story.”



the mystery is not in what i did but what possessed me and how could i for i myself do not know why i caress death as if it were silk


ya heard?

Grandmama got an asps tongue / garlic roasting in her throat & all the men with livers twisting their way through spirits sung from endless passageways laugh:

“here to drink one!”

“here to drink two!” & not a word leaps from sealed lips into the thin space swelled with sky blue.

They sit unfettered, in a shack built of clouds & one stone.

Wait for seven long hours then begin to dance: a slow turning & a yearning touch a hostile snatch & a teased gospel & then the radio coughs a cry for batteries & her children cry a complaint for lewdness.

Still, the gospel sings as the radio breaks open then the whine loops & another serpent loses its feet.


Plate 8

title: kona disa Artist: kalin devone

High Risk Birth 07

Pregnancy had become me in the winter just passed. In the space between body and mind,

At the junction of my thighs, from deep within my womb.

A person would be born anew

Someone who’s been here before,

in this world, many times past and to come. Birthed by a stranger who became their mother.

Time and time again, out from the unknown, held by insentient palms.

This person weighed heavy in the depths of my belly.

A collection of dreams and naïve intention, laden with expectations.

Full of unsourced wisdom and knowing, at last I was giving birth to self.


First spawned by strangers who barely knew themselves, now birthed by one who knows me best.

A subconscious gestation-- complicated, early in the first trimester.

Bedeviled by a disordered dysfunctional place, attempts to develop as one foiled.

By the second trimester, no hope could be found. Miscarriage loomed over the lost soul.

I’d written and signed a letter granting you quietus, conceding to the brutal practicality of this hopeless reality.

Bereaved at the prospect of losing someone I carried within me for so long, but never got to know.

Raging at any possible plausible probable cause. I- myself was dying, within my own womb.


Before the final trimester, I was told I’d be induced to birth a lifeless child.

Unwilling to accept this reality then led me to what was already dead—

What feeds on us all when we die, I consumed while alive.

Death had taken residence in my body

I sought an early release. It was there between death and life, I felt the beating heart of a child long believed dead.

Granted a miraculous opportunity to begin, creating life.

We set out for an endless journey of healing. Learning to reparent we, who would soon fall from my womb.

Legs spread open and wide, pushing to embrace You.

IV Self. I. Me.

Life and death exist on a spectrum. What lies in between? What lies beyond?

What will you birth in the hereafter? What might it cost you? What may you gain in the process?


title: three’s peak

Artist: elle ivy green

Plate 9


“By going to the future you bump right into the past”:

Time-travel with Octavia Butler and Malidoma Somé.


I am a vocal Octavia Butler and Malidoma Somé evangelist. Deep gratitude to ancestors Dr. Consuela Frances and Grandma Myrtle G. Glasco for guiding me to their teachings. In 2017 I was pursuing a degree in Public History. My thesis - and survival - called for proof that I was magic, capable of time-travel, and that I could heal my ancestors and myself. Butler’s Kindred and Somé’s Of Water and the Spirit are sacred texts that prove exactly that. Although Butler’s story is fiction, and Somé’s is autobiographical, they both affirm non-linear time, epigenetic healing, and that we ARE


Kindred follows the supernatural experiences of Dana, a 26-year-old Black woman writer living in 1976 California. She’s married to a white man named Kevin. The book begins on Dana’s birthday. She and Kevin have just relocated. While unpacking, for reasons unknown to Dana, she is transported to what seems like a completely different world.1 There she encounters a frantic, screaming, drowning child.2

1 Octavia Butler, Kindred (Boston: Beacon Press Books, 1979), 12.

2 Ibid., 13.

“ “
into SISTORIES - 39 -
In order to heal, we must visit past timelines, addressing wounds that manifest in the present.

Instinct moves Dana to rescue the child—a young white boy. Upon pulling him out of the water, Dana is imediately accosted by the boy’s mother. The mother begins beating Dana, assuming the woman who just saved her child is actually hurting him. Suddenly, the boy’s father is also there. He points a rifle at Dana. Then, everything vanishes and Dana is home again.3 Dana doesn’t begin to understand her bizarre trip until she goes again. She is home for less than an hour before she begins to feel dizzy and disappears a second time.4 And these non-consensual, interdimensional round-trips continue throughout the story.

We learn that Dana is traveling to the home of her ancestors, the Weylin Plantation, in 1815 Maryland. The boy she saved is Rufus, her white, slave-owning ancestor. She later meets Alice, her enslaved ancestor. Dana realizes she must keep them both alive, at least until Hagar is born. Born in 1831, Hagar records their family tree in a Bible that is eventually passed down to Dana’s uncle. This is how Dana begins to recognize the names of the people she is interacting with in the past. She has seen them before.5 Here Butler notes the importance of family archives. Proof of our ancestors’ intentions. How would Dana have understood her role without these records?

In Of Water and the Spirit, Somé narrates growing up in what is currently known as Burkina Faso. He describes the magic he witnesses regularly among the Dagara people. For example, he shares a ritual that takes place after his grandfather dies. During the ritual, men in his village cook in upside-down pots that sit on the ceiling. He writes,“The out-of-gravity culinary art was a secret practice performed only when a leader of exceptional standing died. The day of my grandfather’s death was the first and last time I ever saw it. For, as things changed in our tribe, the practice passed away, perhaps along with the secret…”6

Shortly after his grandfather dies, a French Jesuit priest kidnaps the four-year-old Malidoma.7 He spends the next 15 years of his life in violent French schools. He’s beaten and whipped by instructors—forced to learn to read, write, and speak French.8 He’s subject to sexual abuse from older students and instructors.9 He is made to think linearly, and only believe what he can see, prove, or explain.

Somé eventually escapes. When he returns to his village, he is 21-years old—well past the age that Dagara adolescents go through adult initiation rites. After consulting their ancestors and spirit guides, the elders decide he must go through initiation anyway. His name, Malidoma, means “befriend the stranger/enemy.”10 To do so, he must know the secrets of his own people, as well as the secrets of the West. It is believed that he can then bridge the gap between the oppressed and the oppressor, and keep the magic of his people alive.

3 Ibid., 14.

4 Ibid., 19.

5 Ibid., 28.

6 Malidoma Patrice Somé, Of Water and the Spirit (New York, New York: Penguin Compass), 1994, 52.

7 Ibid., 87.

8 Ibid., 92

9 Ibid., 108.

10 Ibid., 4.

“If we believe we can heal backwards and forwards, we can. And do.”

Like Dana, Malidoma travels through time and space. Black life often blurs the lines between memory and imagination. While reading Somé’s book, I’d forget that it wasn’t Fantasy or SciFi. Somé’s reality confirmed that Afrofuturism is an actual magic that Africana people Be. Far beyond a genre, or literary device. We ARE Afrofutures. Many of us have just been forced to forget. Somé writes:

…In Western reality, there is a clear split between the spiritual and the material, between religious life and secular life. This concept is alien to the Dagara. For us… the supernatural is part of our everyday lives. …The material is just the spiritual taking on form…The world of the Dagara also does not distinguish between reality and imagination…To imagine something, to closely focus one’s thoughts upon it, has the potential to bring that something into being.11

If we believe we can heal backwards and forwards, we can. And do. The endless parallels made me wonder if Butler was somehow familiar with Somé’s initiation. However, she channeled Kindred 15 years before Malidoma recorded his experience. Octavia Butler was from the future.

In Kindred, Dana can remain in the Antebellum South for months at a time, becoming further indoctrinated into the normalcy of slavery. Each time she returns to the present, she learns it is the same day as the day she left. Butler writes, “I went back into the house and turned the radio on to an all-news station. There, eventually, I learned that it was Friday, June 11, 1976. I’d gone away for nearly two months and come back yesterday—the same day I left home. Nothing was real.”12

Similarly, when Malidoma recalls aspects of his initiation process, the time spent in different dimensions always feels longer than time is perceived in the present. The elders create a portal out of buffalo skin that will transport the initiates to the underworld.13 The boys line up, and one by one are told to jump through the portal. For those waiting on the boy ahead of them to return, only a few minutes seem to pass. However, the time Malidoma spends in the underworld feels much longer. Although it’s unclear how long Malidoma is gone, his descriptions of the underworld suggest he is there much longer than a few minutes. Malidoma writes:

When the flames were finally extinguished and I was somewhat recovered from my crashing return, I realized that the boy behind me had already been sent through the gate, and that I was being regarded enviously by those who were still waiting. The elders either did not care or else were too busy to notice me. Even though it felt like I had spent the whole afternoon in the light hole, the sun had not moved an inch from where it had been when it was my turn to jump.14

In order to heal, we must visit past timelines, addressing wounds that manifest in the present. My mother described spiral time to me while I was surviving undergrad. Plainly stated: Time is relative. What is perceived as a few minutes to an adult seems agonizingly long to a child. But the same amount of time has passed. And time seems to move faster the older we get.

Ancestrally speaking, the sooner we grapple with our pasts, the sooner our presents align with the freedom we desire. You might repeatedly find yourself in what seems like the exact same point in time. You’re not, though. You’re actually at another point in the spiral. Time isn’t linear at all.

Both authors describe the physical and spiritual scars we carry across time. During the two-month visit to 1819, Dana secretly teaches some enslaved children to read. When the plantation owner discovers this, Dana is whipped for the first time. Butler writes, “Weylin dragged me a few feet, then pushed me hard. I fell, knocked myself breathless. I never saw where the whip came from, never even saw the first blow coming. But it came—like a hot iron across my back, burning into me through my light shirt, searing my skin…”15

Dana is always transported back home when her own life is threatened. She passes out from the pain. After coming to, she realizes she’s home again. Butler writes:

…I went into the bathroom and turned on the water to fill the tub. Warm water. I don’t think I could have stood hot. Or cold. My blouse was stuck to my back. It was cut to pieces, really, but the pieces were stuck to me. My back was cut up pretty badly too from what I could feel.16

She carried the scars from slavery back to the present. Malidoma shares a related experience. As the male initiates return through the portal, many of them are still covered in bright, violet flames. He writes:

I was covered with small flames. Though I fought hard to put them out with my bare hands, I was not doing a good job. I needed to work faster to fight the fire that was consuming me…

11 Ibid., 8.

12 Kindred, 115.

13 Of Water of the Spirit, 234.

14 Ibid., 246.

15 Kindred, 105.

16 Ibid., 113.

41 -

…I lay on the ground, exhausted. I got up and took a look at the body that had been invisible to me for so long. There were scattered burns all over it—I still carry the scars—and the burns were stinging from the sweat that began to pour from my skin.17

According to Dr. Keisha Ross, “Historical trauma is most easily described as multigenerational trauma experienced by a specific cultural group… As a collective phenomenon, those who never even experienced the traumatic stressor, such as children and descendants, can still exhibit signs and symptoms of trauma.”18 This is true regardless of if we name our trauma, the causes of our suffering, or acknowledge the harmful ways we’ve learned to survive harmful environments. And yet, the sooner we initiate all the above, the sooner our ancestors step in.

Somé writes:

When a person from my culture looks at the descendants of the Westerners who invaded their culture, they see a people who are ashamed of their ancestors because they were killers and marauders masquerading as artisans of progress. The fact that these people have a sick culture comes as no surprise to them. The Dagara believe that, if such an imbalance exists, it is the duty of the living to heal their ancestors.”19

17 Of Water and the Spirit, 246.

18 Keisha Ross, “Impacts of Historical Trauma on African-Americans and Its Effects on Help-Seeking Behaviors, ”accessed September 9, 2017, (presentation)

19 Of Water and the Spirit, 10.

title: choosy

Artist:kalin devone

Plate 10


If this is not done, we should expect to perpetuate and pass these unhealed wounds down to future generations. Somé goes on to explain that when we take on the important work of healing those who came before us, we are actively healing ourselves in the present.

I’ve always believed in supportive, omnipresent ancestors. But if we carry their trauma, that means they haven’t healed. What would it look like to heal their trauma as well as our own? How far and wide would that healing ripple out?

In Kindred, Dana physically nurses two of her ancestors back to health. Both Alice and Rufus would die without Dana’s care. Dana even encourages Rufus to free his last two children, including Hagar.20 Would Dana’s ancestors have been freed without her? If infinite timelines simultaneously exist, and time isn’t linear at all: are we to understand that Dana went back in time and changed the past? Or is it that those timelines always converged? Was this just another version of reality, as Somé suggests? What I mean to say is: what if the existence and survival of that family always rested on this descendant? Dana didn’t change the past. The future and the past were one in the same.

The liberation of the ancestors always depended on the descendants. An intergenerational, interdimensional healing circle across time and space. We are healing backwards and forwards.

So be it. See to it.

May our ancestors add blessings to the reading of these words.

20 Ibid., 235.

If you were given a chance to visit one of your younger selves, which one would you choose and why? Would you attempt to change the course of their life, thus changing your present? If so, why?


title: fuschia holler

Artist: elle ivy greene Plate 11



What’s more fluid than water?2

Venus as is3

hear like you never left, what you wasnt able to tell me in flesh you do so in my dreams.

Little B’s4 Black garden turn anchored vessel set free on solace streaks zero to three5 stroke color match gravity taken top of gravel.

I dont wait for the sky to turn blue, Light lays me down in white. Cousin Dororthy’s accent grooms me to good condition

I tend to Emezi’s spine6 herringbone7 knots flaked out chrome perimeter hanging off flesh belonging tethered inside a carcass-buoy8 figure 8s shaded gray

Sweet Suite B,9

Wake me up on 3rd.10

I love when the currents carry me home11

1 First heard the phrase and song Wealthy Place by Lashun Pace at Death To The Black Superwoman: A Sermon by Logan Shanks on May 2, 2022 via Zoom

2 Roxie sharing there’s more ways to be soft on facetime on May 1, 2022

3 Corine Bailey Rae, “Venus As A Boy (Q Covermount)”, Corinne Bailey Rae (Deluxe Edition), Virgin Records Limited, February 24, 2006. (see second planet from Sun)

4 Bobby Hutcherson, “Little B’s Poem”, Components, Blue Note, June 10, 1965.

5 Brown, Douglas. Zero to Three. The University of Georgia Press. October 15, 2014.

6 Emezi, Akwaeke. Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir. Riverhead Books. June 8, 2021.

7 Inherited Cousin Dorothy’s herringbone

8 Learned my wealthy place looks like me floating in water under the sun at Logan’s sermon

9 Fit for a Queen of Atlanta, dress store for prom and pageants

10 Moved on 3rd St June 10, 2022

11 My spirit team visits me in the form of whales on October 1, 2021


What does your wealthy place look like? Does it have a smell or a sound? Does it exist right now?


title: kalin

Artist: kalin devone Plate

12 SISTORIES - 47 -



One thing that has become evident in exploring the history and on-going political legacies of the United States through an Afrofuturist lens is that linear time is only the surface level construction of time used by this country. Much of what has been experienced in the present, and has been inflicted on Black people in the past, is the result of calculated time bending. In Counter Clockwise: Unmapping Black Temporalities

From Greenwich Mean Timelines, Rasheedah Phillips of Black Quantum Futurism (BQF) talks extensively about how time, as shaped by the Prime Meridian Conference (1884), has been weaponized against Black freedom and life. The work of BQF, and its April 2022 Prime Meridian Unconference worked to deconstruct Western timelines and establish localized Black

temporalities. As an Afrofuturist astrologer, I have attempted to do this as well, by way of electional astrology and the use of what I call “retrocurrent elections.” The overall goal of experimenting with time bending was to examine and construct astrological events that served as acts of refusal and to “undermine categories of the dominant’’ as Tina Campt states in her definition of fugitivity. I specifically sought to elect the opportune time for an ancestor to kill their enslaver and escape.

Electional astrology is a branch of astrology that is used to “elect” or select a time, date, and location for an event to occur or an action to be initiated with astrological reasoning. It is an artform that is contingent upon the selection of astrological transits that

reflect the intent of what is being elected; as the starting point to explore how electional astrology can be used as a tool of intentional time bending as means to continue the prophecy of Black freedom, survival and joy to establish a hereafter.

One of the most profound realizations that came out of Phillips’ piece is her observations of facticity and how it is used to control Black temporalities through space and time. She defines facticity as follows:

“Facticity means a thing can only take on the feature of being a fact, of being real, of being truth or a part of reality when it has been pinpointed to the linear timeline and assigned a date.” (2021)

The gist of her observations is that


through facticity via the Western linear timeline, the State establishes a reality where Black freedom isn’t real unless it is attributed to a defined time and date. Facticity thus delegitimizes the personal seeking of Black freedom and Black resistance prior to emancipation.

We can begin to examine time bending as not just a magical thing, but as a practical tool used frequently by the State. Phillips, through BQF and PolicyLink, talks extensively about various forms of “temporal and spatial inequity” as commonplace in housing laws but it does not stop there. Roe v Wade’s overturning led to the enacting of trigger laws across the nation that had immediate impacts on abortion access. Some of these laws were made hundreds of years in the past, and never removed or corrected after Roe v. Wade; they lay in wait as dormant seeds awaiting this moment to sprout and bare poisonous fruit yet again. In Arizona, ARS 13-3603 a law established in 1864, bans virtually all abortions was reenacted after its overturning (Stern, 2022). A single decision turned these spaces of relative safety to places where bodily autonomy is criminalized. But within the relative safety lies the illusion of progression on a linear timeline away from legacies of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and the like when it is only “a matter of time” for timelines to re-enliven draconian laws and practices that never truly went away. And while these legal repercussions are a reality in the construction of time and how it is weaponized, it is not the only reality.

Time is a tool that belongs to no one, but it’s shaping is a duty we must actively take part in. Within the African diasporic tradition there are an abundance of words that describe how we connect to time and the many forms it takes beyond linearity. This idea is also expressed in the Iroquois principle of Seven Generations, in which they are working to create the material conditions for those seven generations into the future and to honor those seven generations in the past. After reading Counter Clockwise, I couldn’t help but think of ancestors who interacted with time outside of this weaponized use and the farce of facticity.

In adherence with the principle of Sankofa, it is necessary to retrieve lessons, traditions and history of the past to inform our futurebuilding. What does it mean to shape history in the present? Not only in the direction of the future, but the past as well? To think about these questions I explored successful and unsuccessful acts of flight: the Combahee River Raid, Frederick Douglass freeing himself (as rectified by astrologer Amir Bey), The Pearl Incident and many others. I also utilized the astrological protocol of 13th century astrologer Guido Bonatti’s electional considerations for “going to war and defeating enemies.” In what follows below, I engage electional astrology and African nonlinear time, or retrocurrent elections, to explore the Combahee River Raid, Frederick Douglass’ Escape, The Christina Elections, and the killing of a slave master, examining the

ways astrological/planetary placements influence and indicate a(n) atmosphere(s) ripe for refusal.

What I found most interesting about the Combahee River Raid and Douglass freeing himself was the planets indicating the querents (people of whom the election concerns) is that they were located in what I would refer to as places of fugitivity. These planets are circled in the chart examples. Mars as representative of Douglass is in the water sign Cancer in the 9th house of long distance travel. Douglass escaped by disguising himself as a sailor on a ship in Baltimore. While in the Combahee River Raid, we can see the enslaved as represented by both Mercury and Venus escaping, as a phasis Mercury is sneaking into the 3rd house of short distance travel onto riverboats.

“Electional astrology is a branch of astrology that is used to “elect” or select a time, date, and location for an event to occur or an action to be initiated with astrological reasoning.”

In on-going research and study, the cadent houses (3,6,9,12) have appeared to be places of fugitivity mainly because of their symbolism. Cadent houses are “falling” away from the angular houses which are indicative of visibility and thus easily accessible. In electional astrology, we can place planets we would like to be obscured from view or influence in cadent houses. In horary astrology, significators in cadent houses symbolize a person or object that is long gone and unlikely to be retrieved. Here I extend this logic for the interpretation of these events and creation of the elections. Combining the Bonatti electional protocols with what I observed in fugitive acts of ancestors, I created an election to kill a slave master as “a time capsule sent backwards and a prayer of synchronicity; that some ancestor through divine will used an auspicious time to free themselves from bondage” (Harmon, 2022).

The chart was then presented in the electional astrology course led by Sam Reynolds. The year of 1851 was intentionally chosen because of the enacting of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1851 which provided additional incentive and protection for enslavers to retrieve ancestors who freed themselves. The chart focuses on the power of a cadent Mars squaring Jupiter and the Ascendant to inflict a retributive act of justice to secure Black freedom and futures. In my description of the election to this unknown ancestor I state:

“A cadent ascendant ruler makes for an enslaved person with audacity and ultimately, a freedman. The day of the Moon helps to fortify the Moon, but also makes for a day to pursue the enemy and leave one’s home. The Moon is in the Sixth mansion, which is good for pursuing enemies, seeking justice, and travel. The hour of Mercury will make you difficult to retrieve.”

Reynolds and my classmates checked to see if this election corroborated any historical events that were recorded. What was discovered is that it was relatively close to the court case for the Christiana Rebellion, in which a group of Black people who freed themselves were being hunted by Edward Gorsuch, the slave master from whom they had escaped. They were armed resistanceagainst those who sought to re-enslave them. They killed Gorsuch and the other slave catchers. These freedom fighters were able to flee to Canada. While some others did remain, charges were brought against them on November 14th, however they were charged in absentia and ultimately were able to get away with their act of resistance.

In the chart we can see the Mars square Jupiter is a mainstay and echoes the violent killing of the enslaved at the hand of an “enemy” or the freedom fighters. We find the Jupiter that was on the ascendant of the election representative of our unknown ancestor fleeing in the 9th house of far away places. While we do not have the exact time the indictments were sent

out, symbolically it remains at least interesting. With our freedom fighters as an open enemy/fugitives (7th house) represented by the Sun in Scorpio on the ascendant, and beyond the scope of the State (Mars in Leo) and those pressing charges (Saturn Rx in Aries) it was a day to “get away with murder.”

This led to the creation of four additional elections to add to a complete zine. And a term that emerged from this synchronistic confirmation of the election’s power was retrocurrentelection. A retrocurrent election is an astrological election that is cast for the past or distant future. Based on the term retrocurrences, it is used intentionally to reach back and forward in time to intersect with moments reflective of the election’s intent. It can be checked for accuracy via horary, historical searches, or seeking omens.

Part of this project was about establishing the astrological facticity of Black freedom as imposed by our ancestors. In this instance, facticity is used as testimony and planning rather than fabrication of timelines to weaponize. It is not about proving anything to anyone about our history, but rather considering the celestial patterns of our ancestors’ resistance, refusal and other possibilities. It is also about reclaiming where and how we have the power and agency to shift time for the future of Black people.


Electional astrology is vast in its potentialities as it is used for events or actions, including the use of astrological magic and other forms of spell work. Within our history there are many instances of ancestors looking to the stars for guidance. Many were guided by the North Star to freedom–Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner both used eclipses to foreshadow revolutionary action. I visualize a present and near future in which elections are helping to form community protection and anti-gentrification talismans. Enacting spells to return stolen artifacts to their sacred homes on the Motherland. Creating tinctures for community health and healing embedded with planetary magic. Casting elections for labor strikes and publicizing unions. Securing the perfect dates to rewild barren land, to seed community food forests, and enliven mutual aid campaigns.

We are the hereafter for our ancestors.


Harmon, I. (2022, September). elections to kill your slave master and other considerations for liberation. Black Speculative Astrology Zine.

Phillips., R. (2021, June 21). Counter Clockwise: Unmapping Black Temporalities from Greenwich Mean Timelines. THE FU NAMBULIST MAGAZINE. gazine/they-have-clocks-we-have-time/counter-clockwise-u nmapping-black-temporalities-from-greenwich-mean-timelines Stern, S. U. B. A. R. T. (2022, September 24). Arizona’s 1864 law banning nearly all abortions is in effect, judge rules. Usatoday. s-in-effect-judge-rules/8097102001/

ဗ SISTORIES - 51 -
title: untitled Artist: Arielbriana Plate 13


“They say she’s a very good writer,

she is very good at what she does, but she

doesn’t write anything...”

11 SISTORIES - 54 -

What about my career?

She gathered the bones in both hands, shook them, and tossed them on the floor. She giggled a little.

They are complaining. They say she’s a very good writer, she is very good at what she does, but she doesn’t write anything. She’s not writing.

Of course, they know.

And my love life?

She gathered the bones in both hands and tossed them. The women are protecting you. You are like a child looking out of the window at the other children playing outside. And they won’t let you out.

Then she performed a visual I’ll never forget.

Here is the space for you to add anothers subline text for your title ipsum space lore and for last line here information...

This slim, lovely, brown-skinned woman with a chiseled face, buzz cut, and long, elegant hands held out both index fingers and thumbs to form the bottom of a square, stuck her face between the window frame she created with her hands, and cocked her head to the side. Her eyes spoke sadness and longing. The South African afternoon sun poured in at an angle through the small window frame positioned eight inches above her head and landed in three heavy slices on the wall behind her, like a graphic design completing the picture.

A few moments passed.

A mirror.

My reflection.

I swallowed back a deep sadness I didn’t expect and kept my composure.

She continued.

The men available to you do not measure up. This is tribal. Your ancestors will protect the tribe. These are not your recent ancestors. They won’t allow you to marry any man that cannot uphold the tribe.

Gut punched and quiet, I looked away from the screen where she sat waiting. An hour hadn’t passed, and I wanted to get my money’s worth. I sat trying to think of something else to ask. Here I am in a direct question and answer session with my ancestors, I thought to myself, and I can’t think of anything else to say.

My mamma. I’m concerned with raising my daughter without my mamma. I don’t have her to talk to. How do I raise a girl in this world without my mamma?

She nodded a little, gathered the bones in both hands and lifted them slightly, poised to toss them again. She stopped.

I just heard a voice; I didn’t even have to throw the bones.

Just talk to me. I’m right here.

Stunned again. I blinked a few times, then a few more.


I thanked her, quickly ended the zoom call, and went downstairs. A small light peeked out from under the bookcase in the corner. I got down on both knees to fish it out. It was before 6 a.m. in the US and there was nothing but silence and darkness, inside and out, except for this flameless, plastic tealight with a natural looking flicker. I stood, stared at it for a few seconds, then smiled. The sadness melted away with every breath.

Ok, mamma.


I don’t completely understand how my mamma could nurture me from the other side, but I know. She was present. She held me close. She answered my question.

I haven’t felt the need for another reading since.


Imagine you are give the opportunity to engage in a question and answer session with a chosen ancestors. What are the questions you wish to have answered today?

If you engage in any type of divination practice, take these questions to your ancestors. What do they have to say in response?

If you do not engage in divination, simply meditate or reflect on the questions you’ve written. You can choose to think of this as a character building/uncovering activity. Based on your understanding of yourself and/or your lineage, how might they respond?



I admit sometimes

It’s hard to see when it’s pitch black all around me. So instead of using my eyes, I use my voice

To get someone, somewhere to come to me.

I may be in the dark, but I will not be silent about it. I may be in the dark, but I will not be ashamed of it. Light and dark exist on the same spectrum. So I push a little bit further.

I find a way out of the tunnel vision, the abyss, the depression. I use my voice, I feel my chest fill with warmth, My ears remember The sound of my desire.

I hear the footsteps of another, pit-pattering— I have not seen their face, but the sound alone reminds me: I am not alone. So, Die?

Nah, not me. Not now.

Shit, I’m liable to develop night vision in this bitch.

12 SISTORIES - 58 -

title: Octavia told me

Artist:mariah webber

title: sealuna sancutary
Artist: afiya sunflower
Plate 14

“talkin’ ‘bout heaven”


you heard that?

sure did

roll of thunder so long, sound like God was dragging sumn across the sky yup, had sumn a lil too heavy in His hands, i guess maybe it was a garbage can and He was putting it out on heaven’s curb ooh! i think it coulda been a dead body now, what kinda body you think is too heavy for God to lift? depends — what kinda trash you think He can’t throw away? mm, you right well lemme get off this phone while the storm going on outside, gotta save my battery too aight, later Nessa, love you bye sis, love you too, stay safe

we originally planned for her to come by me during the hurricane, but it showed up earlier than expected. the rains swelled the river in two hours flat and the bridge gave out before she could make the drive. to make up for the distance, we texted with the slightest updates: how we were feeling, what food went bad, reports of the dead or disappeared. we knew many of them, called them friends, neighbors, family. practically all of them were on her side of the river, where the tilt of the earth causes the water to spill first and fastest during any kind of storm.

we promised each other to start and end our days with a call. we wouldn’t talk long, careful not to drain our phones while the power was out. on the second night, i was getting ready for sleep when i heard it: thunder so loud, so powerfully deep and vast, it shook the walls of my building for what seemed like an eternity. it wasn’t raining as heavily as it had been, so the sound stood out even more in the witching hour. i wondered if any of my neighbors who had stayed behind were awake to feel its might, if they heard the clattering of silverware in their drawers and picture frames on their walls like i did. the roar eventually trailed off, and “Aquemini” blared from my phone, the galactic chorus disrupting the delicate silence. Nelle. i sat up to grab my phone from the opposite end of the couch, and i tapped the green button on my screen, cutting her custom ringtone short. “horoscopes often lie/

-62 -

she bypassed a formal greeting, already knowing we both had the same thing on our minds. we mused on the earth-rattling sound for no longer than a minute before i ended the call. i sat and stared into the darkness of my living room for a moment before lying back down, swaddled by the only dry blankets i could salvage from the leak that had spread across my bedroom ceiling. somehow, the fatigue of trying to survive this emergency overpowered the bone-deep ache i felt from being so far from my sister, and unconsciousness consumed me almost immediately, our guessing game a silhouette shrouding my dreams.

the following morning, howling winds and pane-battering rains ripped me from my slumber. my phone had fallen off my portable charger and died while i slept, so i scrambled with trembling fingers to reconnect it, anxious to hear Nelle’s voice again. finally, my screen lit up, then my blood ran cold. nine notifications waited for me: seven missed calls from her starting an hour after we said goodbye. one last “i love you” text. a news update that the river swallowed her entire side of town overnight after the storm picked back up, chances of survival slim. i called and i called and i called until my battery was in the single digits. nothing. my baby sis was gone from me. just like that. in her sudden absence, i realized a long roll of thunder sounds a lot like a house torn asunder, like a heart breaking, like a person becoming a corpse becoming debris.

i can’t sleep through the night anymore. i haven’t been able to ever since i shuffled my way through those doors, a lone phantom among crowds of fellow drenched and displaced souls. anytime my eyelids get heavy, the guilt cuts my heart wide open and grips my lungs in a vise. the first time this happened, i clawed at my heaving chest, haunted by the memory of abandoning my sister when she needed me most. my neighbor to my left got up and sat with me, gracious and still, until my wheezing slowed to a quiet pant. when i finally settled, they suggested i try visualizing putting my demons to rest. they won’t stay down forever, but maybe they’ll leave you alone long enough so you can get some rest of your own, they said. since then, i have tried taking their advice with fitful success. when the lights shut off and grief begins to choke me, i squeeze my eyes tighter and try to envision different versions of a last conversation between us. one where we stayed on the phone until dawn broke on our faces, or at least one where she wasn’t left alone in her last moments.

i know what it was, His stomach was rumbling

or He coulda been cussing somebody out under His breath

i know God can get angry and have a nasty appetite, but the God i remember from scripture has less to do with the recent years of floods and famine and plague across the globe. as far as i’m concerned, this is the work of gods of wealth and war, their Revelation-type beasts marked by bloodlust and bellies full of our people. my sister. all waterlogged and out of reach.

when the Delta ended up underwater in ‘27, blues flowed up from the deep hollows of those left behind. over a century later, as their descendants, we have been forced to watch thousands from our generation rot as the rich fled to higher ground. by now, our blues so blue, they’re damn near a different color. if we touched them, guitars would bloat under our hands. if we tried to sing, it would sound a lot like sobbing.

nah, the gate probably caught on the concrete when St. Peter opened it, lotta people coming through these days

tuh! they got concrete on the streets of gold?

funny enough, we were never much of a churchgoing family, thanks to Mama. she said she’d seen enough corruption on behalf of the cross for a lifetime, but she made sure we got the spirit in other ways. she taught us how to make worlds move with a psalm, a faithful tongue, and a candle — magic she learned from her Mama before her. she had me and Nelle read the Bible till we knew it backwards, forwards, and upside down. sometimes, she’d even have us watch a televised sermon off one of the local channels while she fixed us breakfast. still, you would find us leaving a pack of cigs at the four-way stop for the Man in Red and Black before you ever caught us in somebody’s pews.

girl, ion know! but i do know: “i got a robe...”

ha! “you got a robe...”

“all god’s chillun got robes”

“when i get to heaven, gonna put on my robe”

“i’m gonna shout all over god’s heavennn”


and sometimes—”

every Sunday when we were growing up, Mama would take us grocery shopping for the week while the saints were tucked away at morning service. no matter what, she always started our trip with that song, and we never got sick of the ritual. the crisp, even harmonies moved us every time, and we’d act up in the backseat of our ‘03 Suburban, choreographing dances behind our seatbelts as we cycled through the rest of the song. we went harder anytime we caught glimpses of Mama’s eyes beaming back at us in the rearview mirror. those mornings felt like a slice of Paradise we didn’t have to die for, like we were in our own chariot getting called up to the clouds.

when we scattered Mama’s ashes in the river two summers ago, we tried to play the song off Nelle’s phone, but the signal kept cutting out. strange since it was a clear, muggy day. it felt like Mama was already trying to send us a message from the beyond, telling us to do it for her just like we used to as kids turning our backseat into a mobile sanctuary. we held each other and sang through our tears as we watched Mama’s speckled remains drift downstream. it could have been wishful thinking, but it seemed like the sun shone even brighter as we ushered her departure with our voices.

it has been a week since the floodwaters took Nelle, six days since the floodwaters started coming for me, five since i made it to this temporary shelter. we solemnly pass snacks, gauze, and prayers across the aisles of cots while officers stalk the perimeter, their fingers caressing their trigger guards. imagine treating a weapon with that much tenderness and attention in the face of those who lost everything. odds are we’ll be left to lose again, waiting or wandering with no end until the end rushes in to meet us. for now, i bide my time picturing Nelle, her smile like spinning wheels of light as we work our way through the verses and name everything within our heavenly inheritance. but when the sky parts and sends the downpour that calls me home to my kin, i will awaken into the dream of our reunion, humming our song with thunder at the back of my throat.

What does heaven/the afterlife/the hereafter sound like?

What does the sound of thunder make you feel? Powerful? Afraid? // Can you relate to the sound of thunder? Have you ever felt a roll of thunder within yourself?

title: convergence Artist: nancey price
Plate 15

The Last Word


The lump in her throat hardened and refused to go away. She watched as her father lay in that hospital bed, connected to all those tubes, his chest heaving up and down arrhythmically. The sight of her father in such a state crushed Jasmine. She didn’t know whether to focus on the machines or him, so she looked at the floor. She wanted to say something, anything, but she couldn’t think because of all the machines beeping. She wanted to comfort him, do something, but what? Could he even hear her?

“Dad, you know how thankful I am for everything, right?” she started, but the words formed an even bigger lump in her throat and now she was fighting back tears. No, she thought. I will not say goodbye, this is

not how it ends. Just stay positive. “I’ll see you in the morning,” she said and rubbed his hand. The machines started beeping erratically. The nurses rushed in and started barking orders at each other. One of them nudged her out of the room.

Jasmine was sprawled across her bed when her alarm went off. She rolled over, and shut it off. She scrolled through her social media for a bit and got out of bed. It was Saturday morning, so she was in no rush to get dressed. She had no plans for the day, no plans to go anywhere or meet up with anyone. Shuffling around in the kitchen in her sweats, she made breakfast and sat down in her half-finished kitchen. Two of the four walls were painted, some of the cabinets were painted, and others were missing doors. A drill, paintbrushes, cans of paint, a tape measure and other miscellaneous tools littered the island countertop. There were boxes of tiles for the backsplash sitting unopened on the table, stacked on top of each

other. She pushed the boxes to the side and sat down to eat. Maybe I’ll finish painting the walls today, she thought to herself.

Jasmine found painting to be therapeutic. The feeling of creating something new brought her small moments of joy, reasons for hope. Plus, being focused on getting the corners right and painting in even coats helped her forget the fact that her heart was breaking, even if it was only for a few hours a day. She looked haplessly out of the window. The birds outside were exceptionally chipper this morning. She looked out and spotted a red bird perched on the large branch outside. He seemed to be peering into her kitchen. He sat there as elegant as he could be, taking up all the space


on the branch with his large tail feathers. He cocked his head to get a good look at her before flying away.

Jasmine slumped down in her chair to scroll on her phone while she ate when she heard a car pull up. She ignored it until she heard the car doors slam. She perked up and waited. The doorbell rang. It was her favorite cousin at the door..

“Liz!” Jasmine said. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“We’ve got a surprise for you.”

“Who else is here?”

Jasmine saw her other favorite cousin step out of the car.


She hadn’t seen Teddy in years. He was traveling the world, exploring some god-forsaken jungle. He loved being out in nature and hiking through some of the harshest and most dense jungles in South America. They had talked briefly while her dad was in the hospital. He lamented that he couldn’t be there for her, but he was here now! She started to run towards him when he opened the door to the back seat to let someone else out. It was her dad. He stepped out dressed in a suit. He stood tall and gaunt, almost unrecognizable.

“Look who we found,” said Teddy.

Jasmine stopped dead in her tracks. She spun around towards Liz.

“What’s he doing here?” Jasmine asked. That lump was back in her throat again. Jasmine looked back at her dad, petrified. Dad paused for a moment, taking in her reaction. He motioned Teddy over to talk for a bit.

“I’ll explain inside. Come on,” replied Liz.

“A stroke of luck, I guess.”

Jasmine sat at the table with Liz. She was stunned. “Liz, please help me understand. What’s Dad doing here? Why is Teddy here?”

“You just don’t know how loved you are,” Liz replied. “Your dad really was

the one that got us together.”

Jasmine paused for a minute. “So, wait a minute, is Teddy…”

Liz shook her head. “He’s just visiting.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Look,” Liz started, “we’re here because you two need to talk. You need to figure out what you’re going to say to him.”

Jasmine sighed. “I don’t know what to say. Every time I try to talk lately, the words get stuck. It’s like my brain wants to say a million things, but my mouth won’t cooperate. The words just get in the way.”

Well, you have to have a conversation. Otherwise, he made this trip for nothing,” Liz said.

“Yeah, he’s waiting for you on the back patio, so, you gotta say something,” Teddy jumped in and sat down next to Liz. “He came a really long way to get here. Hell, all of us came a really long way to get here.”

Liz turned towards Jasmine and looked into her soul. “Jazzy, you’ve been given a rare opportunity.”

“I don’t know,” said Jasmine. “What if he’s angry with me? What if…”

“He’s not angry, Jazzy,” Liz replied. “He wouldn’t have come here if he was.”

“You gotta use this opportunity while you have it. Otherwise, things could go horribly wrong,” Teddy warned.

“How so?” Jasmine asked.

Teddy and Liz exchanged worried glances.

“He’s already been through the worst thing that could happen…” Jasmine started.

“That wasn’t the worst. And that’s not the end,” Teddy said.

“Look, Jazzy, we both know you need this time just as much as he does. So, for heaven’s sake, you gotta talk to him.”

“So why are you here, Teddy?” Jasmine turned towards him.

“Let’s take a walk,” he said. “What about Dad?”

“Are you ready to talk to him?” Teddy asked. Jasmine shook her head. “So come on, get some fresh air with me and Liz. It’s been a minute since the three of us have had a chance to talk,” he insisted.

Jasmine wandered through the woods enjoying the crisp morning. There was a slight breeze in the air that swayed the tree branches, coaxing the red and golden leaves to fall to the ground. The sky teased various hues of gray, with small patches of blue peeking through. The three of them walked through the woods in silence. The last time she visited her father in hospital, it was still warm, and the days were long, but now the leaves were starting to turn. The three of them talked and laughed and it was like old times. It was like being back to when everyone called them the three amigos; back to a time before they grew up and took separate paths. Before Liz got sick and Teddy ran off to the jungle. Jasmine thought back to when she last saw Liz. It was at the hospital, too. She seemed to be getting better, until suddenly she wasn’t. But she was here now and so was Teddy. Jasmine smiled. It was the first time in months. She tried to snatch off Teddy’s beanie, but he ducked and ran off, disappearing into the trees. Liz seemed content with feeling the morning breeze on her face. Jasmine left Liz and went after Teddy. She knew he would be difficult to find because he was more or less in his element. She picked up the pace and lightly jogged through the wind. She felt free. In this moment she wasn’t bogged down with handling expenses, making decisions, canceling insurance policies, closing bank accounts, notifying friends and family, or making funeral plans.

“Teddy! Teddy?” she called out. She suddenly felt all alone and slowed down to a walk, looking all around her. She rested against a tree when Teddy appeared out of nowhere


swinging upside down from the tree branch next to her.

“Looking for me?” he laughed, startling her. He swung there for a bit before he jumped down.

“You scared the hell out of me!” she playfully punched him in the chest. He grabbed her wrists and couldn’t let go. They held hands for a moment.

“Can I ask you a question?” she asked.


“Don’t you miss home?” He chuckled. “There are so many things I wish I could tell you. I’ve been through some shit. I’ve seen some serious shit. Some shit that will make you question everything you were ever taught about God. About religion or whatever they call it. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep at night. You know what’s wild, though? One night, I went out for a ride. I was going so fast, and the world melted away. And that night, I was finally able to sleep. I had these wild, amazing dreams. More like memories. I dreamt about mom and dad, I dreamt about you, Liz, and me at the county fair as kids eating candied apples, my first kiss, my first motorcycle ride…I hate that we stopped talking, Jas and I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”

“And I hate that I didn’t come out to see you that time. Please come home, baby bear. It’s time for you to wake up.”

“I wish it were that easy,” he smirked, rubbing his forehead. As he rubbed his head, he pushed up his beanie, revealing a deep gash on his forehead. He walked off. She watched him as he drifted away. Then she heard someone walking up behind her.

“He’s so damn stubborn,” Liz said. Jasmine nodded.

“I’ve told him he can’t stay. It would hurt too many people. But

he’s struggling to forget something. It’s easier to just sleep.” Liz paused for a moment. “You figured out what you wanna say?”

“I think so. Can you walk me back?

“Yeah, we should go. We have to go before sundown.”

They walked through the woods together in silence. Jasmine gathered her thoughts as they approached the house. She had so many questions, but more than that, she was consumed by regret. Her heart was filled to brim with regrets—for things left unsaid and things that were said out of anger and frustration. She wasn’t sure how much time they would have together and didn’t want to waste it all spilling her heart out, but she desperately needed to get some things off her chest. They walked back to the front of the house.

“Go ahead. Tell him I’ll be waiting in the car.” Liz said.

Jasmine started to walk up the driveway, but then she turned around to look at Liz one last time.

“Lizzy, what’s it like being with the ancestors?”

She thought for a minute before she replied. “It’s like sitting down to Sunday dinner, everyday.”

Liz slipped into the driver’s seat of the car and Jasmine walked back up the walkway. Then she saw the majestic red bird again, sitting in the tree by the window. When the bird saw her, it flew around to the side of the house. She followed it to the backyard where Dad was sitting, waiting for her. She sat across from Dad as the big red bird flew away. They looked at each other for a bit before either of them spoke.

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” Dad said as he looked around the yard.

“It was time for a change.” They sat in silence for a bit.

“Did you enjoy seeing your cousins?”

Jasmine laughed. “Yeah. It was great to finally see them again.”

“I knew you would.”


More silence.

“It’s good to see you again, Dad.”

“I just had to see you again. I hate the way things ended.”

“I’m glad you came. I had so many things I wanted to tell you.”

“Me too.”

“I just can’t believe…”

“I know, me neither. I just… no, go ahead.”

“No, no, you go ahead.”

All this time, she had been so worried about what she would say, but she never thought that he could be struggling with what to say. She never thought he would have regrets, too, but the look on his face showed that he had left a lot of things unsaid as well. She had thought that this moment was for her, but maybe it was for him, too. They both needed to move on. She realized that they had literally wasted a lifetime with superficial conversations. Everyone had considered her a daddy’s girl, but the truth was that they knew very little about each other. How could she have been so blind to what he may have been feeling? How could they cram a lifetime of conversation into one afternoon?

“I just want to let you know that it’s ok. Everything is ok,” he said.

“I should’ve come by sooner or made the hospital run the tests sooner…”

Her eyes filled up with tears.

“It’s ok. Just let it go,” he said.

She sobbed for a minute. He wanted to reach out to her and comfort her, but things were different now. He couldn’t communicate with


his loved ones the way he used to. This transition would take some getting used to. All those times he saw her cry herself to sleep at night or melt into tears at the slightest mention of his name made him feel so powerless knowing there was nothing he could do. He shuddered each time he saw her push well-meaning family and friends away. He remembered how when his own father died, how closed off and resentful he became. He wouldn’t let that happen to her.

“You remember that time we took those swimming lessons?” he asked. Her sobs turned into chuckles.

Think of a notable ancestor in your lineage. If you had the opportunity to spend 24 hours with them in the flesh, what would you say to them? Is there anywhere you would take them? If so, where and why?

“You were holding on for dear life,” she managed to say with a slight laugh.

“Yep, but not you. You were scared, but you kept pushing. Kept trying and bam! You were swimming.”

She wiped away her tears, remembering that day at the pool.

“I couldn’t believe it. You did great that day and I was so proud of you. You always swim through the rough times, and you’ll get through this,” he said.

“This is all new to me, too, but one thing I do know is that we’ll get through this together. And don’t worry. I’ll be around, admiring you as always.”

Jasmine couldn’t believe her ears. She never knew he admired her. She sat up a little straighter, wiping the tears away. The muscles in her neck and shoulders started to relax. They smiled at each other..

“You’re amazing, you know that, right?”

Dad was beaming now. He was at peace. He stood up and turned to walk away. Jasmine watched him disappear toward the front of the house. Then she heard the car start and pull off. She wanted to run to the driveway to wave goodbye, but she couldn’t bear saying goodbye to them again.

“ “ SISTORIES - 69 -


Like poets before me whose given names have grown thorns and pricked them, I’m reaching ungloved hands into bushes and flower beds, feeling around a tangle of stems and branches for roots I can cling to; fruit I can sink my teeth into and feel the sticky sweetness gloss my lips.

Like the conjure women of the swamps and rolling hills of my homeland, I’m looking for roots I can work with.

I’ve grown tired of imperial pet names. Here’s to names that ring with warmth, pulsing life in our throats! Let the names we callin this and every passing yearLet them be spells cast with the solemn hope of prayers.

Let them be songs sung to fill our bodies with fervor and joy. Let them stand as lions adorning the gates of our homes.

Let them fill our bodies like a good meal, a good night’s restany good thing that satisfies. Let them shout Jubilee!

15 SISTORIES - 70 -


Divine intervention is happening right now, looking quite different than most have imagined.

Creation is far too intelligent for meaningless chaos. Far too intelligent for a meaningless anything. Creation is just that-creating and expanding.

I praise as the off springs of capitalism crumble into a mere nothingness. I watch in the light as the purification of the fire burns and clears with its smoke,

The greed and competition.

I hear everywhere loud bangs and clanks of an old terrible system rotting at its roots.

The shake felt around the world comes from the body of the earth. It is uprooting rotten seeds that have been planted for generations. These seeds

Which have produced poisoned fruit in nearly every garden. These seeds of the old system shall be swallowed at the core of earth and should they produce fruit they will burn under the light of our sun. You may think that you hold only the traumas of the pillaging, the genocides

And the enslavement of your ancestors

But you hold their power too.

You are the fruit and the seeds of your honorable ancestors. You are the purifying fire of change. You are the intelligent plan.



In the Multiverse, where multiples of my mother exist, one of them came back 24 years later. She was with me again and it was all that mattered. She called me on the pink princess phone, and I held the receiver to my ear, listening over layers and layers of other conversations on a party line. Still, I caught the message: I could even see her again, could meet in the vestibule at Mount Calvary Baptist, face to face again, lay my head in her lap as the preacher droned. To have her back, just when I thought it was over in this life.

I am Dream Walking again: standing at the nocturnal doorway where dead ones come to visit but never resurrect.


title: you see me

Artist: afiya sunflower

Plate 16



Braids stacked to the sky. Bound by a tight scarf — because these trust issues are intergenerational + this hair cost money.

Draped in her favorite shade of red I pass storefronts moved by my reflection wondering when she passed these curves down to me.

When the width of me became so womanly. Curving like the soft shape of my lips. Today, they are red too.

A rusty earthy hue.

Like the shades she used to wear.

I moisturized my hands at the cross walk and found time standing still — massaging cocoa butter pools into the heat of my palm. Smelling like her Sunday best.

A glow on the skin.

Vaseline to lock it in.

Slick as 7 AM on a school day

I almost missed the bus for.

I remember that this my 23. She was 19.

Had me…

And no time

to remember her mother’s favorite color

Or stack her braids with the tightest scarf fresh out the hair salon, because they would’ve cost money she didn’t have. There was no storefront to see herself in on a walk to nowhere in particular. No power to stop time for magic tricking cocoa butter into moisturized skin.

Or imagining the life she would’ve wanted to live at 23. She just had me.

Like I do now.

On this walk to nowhere in particular.

Thinking maybe I should buy something red for her. Maybe then she’ll remember her too.




Power. Peace. Prosperity. That’s what I pray for my people when I go to sleep at night. I dream a sisterhood that does not encourage sameness and uniformity, But celebrates difference, elevates uniqueness and calls it unity.

I dream of my brothers growing old, Planting gardens with their stories, Leaving legacies of love—the kind that heals generations.

I dream of babies’ laughter

Bubbling from healthy stomachs, Eyes as wide as the Earth they’ll inherit.

I dream of their inheritance, What we’ll leave behind for the future:

The moringa, the indigo, the palm oil, the yam, the rice, the cotton, The High John, the kola nut, the playing cards, the cowries, The stories whispered over salted waters, The hope of a people birthing themselves on new land, The wisdom caught with the tip of the tongue, The drum, the boom bap, the sample echoing a voice from the great beyond, The music of a people with a song to sing, The recipes, the green books, the scriptures underlined with secret meaning, The routes mapped out to freedom—

I dream the babies taste a liberty so sweet, they’ll know, they’ll just know Somebody loved them, And some where in time, we pray for this.




Q&A with Kim Nickens

I’ve always known my mommy as a sci-fi girly and history buff. We grew up watching all the futuristic, apocalyptic flicks and holding “freedom passes” to historical Jamestown and Williamsburg (we can unpack the implications of colonial recreation sites another day). I think it is because of her love of science and history that my mommy is also so passionately matter-of-fact about what it is going to take to survive in her words, “an impending disaster.” Akin to how when asked about her ability to predict futures, Octavia Butler would simply state that she is a student of history and a believer in science. She studied the past and paid attention to the present which allowed her to make predictions about the future.

Sometime during 2021, I remember speaking on the phone with my mom as she recounted the plot of a sci-fi book she’d checked out on Libby (a free app that allows you to borrow ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, and more from your local library) which centered a Black girl protagonist tasked with saving the world from an apocalypse. Immediately, I thought she must be reading Octavia Butler. As it turns out, she’d only ever heard of the author in passing and had never read any of her works.

Here I was, walking around with an “Earthseed” tattoo, transformed on a cellular level by Butler’s works, and I had never considered asking my mom if she knew about the queen of sci-fi. So, I introduced them. I gifted my mommy a copy of the Parables, and she devoured them. In this Q & A, we discuss her reactions to Butler’s works and her keys to survival.

ASHLEY: What were your initial impressions of the Parable series and Octavia Butler?

KIM: I thought it was a well written and excellent series. Definitely much needed since there is a lack of African American science fiction authors. Loved that it was a Black girl who became a leader.

ASHLEY: Can you talk about the timeliness of Butler’s works? What similarities struck you the most and why?

ASHLEY: The timelines of the Parable series should serve as a wake up call to the world, especially the United States. It demonstrates how a combination of climate change, political upheaval and economic crisis can lead to dire consequences that we have already began to see.

ASHLEY: You’ve also been called “prescient” in ways similar to Butler. I remember back in January 2020 when you began sounding alarms about a deadly virus spreading across China. On the day SISTORIES hosted our first workshop in late Feb, you left early to run to grab water and essential items for me and encouraged Cidney to do the same, forewarning of potential closures or supply-chain breakdowns. Can you share how you were so aware of Covid-19 before the general public? What had you been consuming that led you to believe this was going to be a problem for all of us?

KIM: I always try to monitor what is happening around the world, so that’s what I was doing. Many people in the United States refuse to believe we live in a global community. What happens across the globe will indeed have an effect on the US I saw what was happening


in China and how it was impacting them. I knew it was only a matter of time before we were affected. From there I sought out unbiased information sources regarding the CoVid 19 virus and lockdowns instead of just relying on one news source.

ASHLEY: When I think back to our closest encounter with a natural disaster that significantly impacted our daily lives—Hurricane Isabel in 2003—I don’t remember you being as prepared as you are now. I remember packing up valuables and pictures and preparing to hunker down at your sister’s. Either myself or my brother asked if we’d be safer in Newport News than Chesapeake, and you were honest that technically no, we wouldn’t be since we’d be even closer to the water, but we’d be with family. In what ways did that experience affect the way you thought about natural and/or environmental disaster? When, how, and why did you begin taking disaster preparedness seriously?

KIM: That experience definitely taught us all a lot about being more prepared for things like extended power outages and food shortage. At the time they were predicting the impact of the hurricane to be even worse than it was. I didn’t really begin taking prepping seriously though until 2011 after the 5.9 Earthquake in Mineral, VA shook the east coast. That really kickstarted my disaster preparedness.

ASHLEY: Did the survivalist courses you’ve taken play a role in how you understood the potential implications of a global pandemic? In what ways? Can you share which courses and trainings you’ve done?

KIM: I joined the community emergency response team in Apex, NC. CERT trains volunteers in basic disaster response skills, such as: Fire safety. Light search and rescue. This was a very educational experience. They take you through disaster simulations and everything.

ASHLEY: If you could distill all of your survival information down to three essential tips, what would they be?

KIM: 1) prepare for the worst 2) pray for the best and 3) visit—they give practical information on preparing for disasters.

ASHLEY: Why do you encourage everyone to have an emergency to-go bag? What should be inside?

KIM: I am a big proponent of having an emergency to go bag. You never know when you have to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice. I made sure you and your brother had one when you went off to college. You should have at the minimum 3 days of food and water. Any prescription medications that you take. A change of clothing, flashlight, first aid kit, radio and copy of important documents. There’s a full list that you can print out on

“Reproductive Justice [is] the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children , not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
- Sistersong, A Reproductive Justice Organization

Emergency Backpack Checklist

□ Water and non-perishable food for several days

□ Extra cell phone battery or charger

□ Battery-powered or hand crank radio that can receive NOAA Weather Radio tone alerts and

□ Flashlight and extra batteries

□ First aid kit

□ Whistle to signal for help

□ Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic

□ Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation

□ Non-sparking wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

□ Can opener (if kit contains canned food)

□ Local maps

□ Prescription medications and glasses

□ Infant formula and diapers

□ Pet food, water and supplies for your pet

□ Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a portable waterproof container

□ Cash and change

□ Emergency reference material such as a first aid book or information from

□ Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person. Consider additional bedding if you live in a cold-weather climate.

□ Complete change of clothing including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes. Consider additional clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate.

□ Fire Extinguisher

□ Matches in a waterproof container

□ Menstrual products, personal hygiene items and hand sanitizer

□ Mess kits, Paper cups, plates and disposable utensils, paper towels

□ Paper and pencil

□ Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children



“We have lived before We will live again We will be silk, Stone, Mind, Star, We will be scattered, Gathered, Molded, Probed, We will live, And we will serve life. We will shape God And God will shape us Again. Always again Forevermore.”
Butler, Parable of the Talents




First Name:

Who is _____ ________ ______ (describe yourself)

Who comes from _____________ (from who/where do you come?)

Who loves _____ ________ _______

Who feels _______ _______ _______

Who has feared _________ ___________ ___________

Who has won_________

Who wants __________

Who lives in _________

Last Name:


Finish the prompt. “I so want to _____ (write, sing, paint, dance, etc.) I…”


I feel _____

I see _____ I want _____

I am _____

I will ______


IN 5 YEARS ...

Set a timer for 3, 5, 10 or more minutes. Free write in your journal without lifting your pen from the page. The journal entry does not need to be coherent, profound, or grammatically correct. Allow your thoughts to flow.

When the timer goes off, put your pen and journal down. When ready, whether one minute or several days, re-read your entry. Describe what comes up for you as you read, including any physical or emotional sensations. How does your reaction to your journal entry make you feel?

I feel _____ I see _____ I want _____ I am _____ I will _____
IN ___ YEARS … I feel _____ I see _____ I want I am I will


The Houses:

1st House: Self, identity, physical appearance

2nd House: Material possessions, money, values

3rd House: Peers, communication, siblings

4th House: Home, family, origins

5th House: Creativity, romance, children

6th House: Health, wellness, routines

7th House: Partnership, contracts, marriage

8th House: Inheritances, sex, transformation

9th House: Philosophy, travel, higher education

10th House: Career, legacy, reputation

11th House: Activism, technology, humanitarianism

12th House: Intuition, secrets, spirituality

The Planets:

The Sun (circle with dot in middle): Identity, purpose, ego

The Moon (crescent moon): Emotions, innerworld, security

Mercury (circle with two “horns” and cross underneath): Communication, expression, the mind

Venus (circle with cross underneath): Values, taste, sensuality

Mars (circle with arrow pointing diagonally): Motivation, action, sexuality

Jupiter (curvy number “4”): Expansion, abundance, luck

Saturn (curvy letter lowercase “h”): Responsibilities, lessons, maturity

Uranus (curvy letter uppercase “H” with circle underneath): Innovation, rebellion, eccentricity

Neptune (trident): Spirituality, dreams, illusions

Pluto (circle framed by two arms and cross underneath): Transformation, metamorphosis, rebirth

The Signs

Aries (letter “V” with curved top): Bravery, passion, spontaneity

Taurus (circle with two horns): Loyalty, commitment, practicality

Gemini (roman numeral “two”): Curiosity, communication, play

Cancer (horizontal “69”): Sensitivity, protection, creativity

Leo (circle with curly tail): Performance, courage, pride

Virgo (letter “M” with curly tail): Organization, structure, pragmatism

Libra (half circle with arms and line underneath): Balance, harmony, justice

Scorpio (letter “M” with pointed tail): Intensity, power, depth

Sagittarius (arrow pointing diagonally): Adventure, exploration, discovery

Capricorn (curvy letter “G”): Ambition, responsibility, success

Aquarius (two zig-zag lines): Innovation, rebellion, activism

Pisces (curvy letter “H”): Imagination, psychic powers, mysticism

Source: Kelly, Aliza. “Astrology Birth Charts 101.” The Cut, 22 Aug. 2022, article/astrology-birth-chart-meaning-analysis.html

Get your birth chart at




In Our Mothers’ Gardens by Shantrelle P. Lewis

TEXTS: Southerly Magazine

Octavia’s Brood:Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

edited by adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha

M. Archive: After the End of the World by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Revolutionary Mothering by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Lose Your Mother by Saidiya Hartman

In the Wake on Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe

A Handful of Earth, A Handful of Sky: The World of Octavia Butler by Lanelle George


Tarot for the End of Times : A Podcast With Sarah Cargill

Alive at the End of the World : Hoodoo Plant Mamas Podcast


Memos & Medicines for the End of the World by Cherise Morris - substack

BEAM’s Community Care Support Plan

Black Ecology Bilphina’s Library


GGE’s Reproductive Justice Memo

The Beautiful Project’s “Her Testimony” Report



Adapted from The Novel Factory

Use the following questions to begin building out the world of your next story. Instead of trying to answer each question in order, allow yourself to jump around and follow where that prompt leads you.

1. Are there forests?

2. Are there tropical areas?

3. Are there grasslands / plains?

4. Describe the night sky.

5. Describe the sky during the day.

6. Are there multiple suns / moons?

7. How are the continents laid out?

8. How are the countries laid out?

9. What is the climate like?

10. Is the climate consistent or changeable?

11. What natural resources are available in different regions?

12. Which natural resources are scarce?

13. How many seasons are there? What are they called?

14. How long are the seasons?

15. What is the weather like?

16. Is the weather consistent or changeable?

17. How does the weather affect people’s way of life?

18. Are there any unusual animals?

19. What are the plants like?

20. Are there many plants or just a few types?

21. Are there non-human sentient species? Describe them.

22. Did the people evolve on this planet or come from elsewhere?

23. What is the relationship between the different species? 24. What is the total population (of the planet / the country / the city, etc.)? 25. What titles / formalities are used? 26. What is the system of government?

long has the system of government been in place?



What is the
27. How
28. What calendar is
29. Does the government
social assistance? 30. Is there any centralized healthcare? 31. Is there public transport? 32. Are there publicly run communications systems? 33. Do
government? Why or why not. 34.
taxation? 35. Are
people diverse or uniform? 36. Is there a gap between rich and poor? How is the noticeable? 37. Do most people live in rural or urban areas? 38. Is there a class system? Different levels of citizenship? 39. Is social mobility easy or hard? 40. Is there any formal education? 41. At what age do children start school? 42. Is education available to all or only certain groups?

43. Are there any magical creatures? Describe them.

44. Are most people literate or illiterate?

45. What are schools like?

46. What is a highly desirable job?

47. What is a lowly job?

48. What are some common jobs?

49. Are there any domesticated animals?

50. What are the main crops?

51. Are crops mostly consumed locally or traded?

52. Is agriculture mostly local or industrially scaled?

53. What is the monetary system?

54. Are there multiple currencies?

55. Is there widespread trade?

56. What goods and services are traded?

57. Is there a form of police?

58. Is there a formal army?

59. What cultural contracts exists?

60. How are wrongdoers dealt with?

61. Are relations with neighboring regions friendly or hostile?

62. Is there any risk of civil war?

63. Is there widespread conflict?

64. How long ago was the most recent war? What caused it?

65. How damaging was the most recent war?

66. What does a family unit consist of?

67. Do people marry? For love or other reasons?

68. What genders (if any) exist? Are the genders treated differently? 69. Who raises the children?

70. What is a gesture of respect (bowing, saluting)? 71. What is considered a rude gesture? 72. What topics of conversation are controversial? 73. Which topics of conversation are safe? 74. What constitutes a social faux pas? 75. Do people live in happiness or fear? 76. Does the culture value strength or compassion more highly? 77. Does the culture value wealth or generosity more highly? How is this evident? 78. What does a feast look like? 79. What does a basic meal look like? 80. Do people eat together or separately?

What do people drink?

Is the water generally clean enough to drink?

83. What forms of art are there? 84. Do people value art? 85. What subjects does art concern itself with? 86. What (if any) religious and/or spiritual beliefs are common? 87. Is there more than one religion? 88. What languages do people speak? 89. What are the cities like, if any? 90. What are the houses like? 91. Describe the architecture.
What do people wear? 93. What is in fashion this year? 94. What’s the most popular form of entertainment? 95. What are the major festivals?
Describe a wedding.
Describe a funeral.


Dkéama Alexis (she/they/he) is a Black trans— writer, diviner, and dreamtender based on Mvskoke and Tsalaguwetiyi land (metro Atlanta, GA). Their work is a bricolage-borne expanse that draws connections between Black feminisms, Black/African/Indigenous spiritual technologies, wake work, tarot, music, film, and more.

My names are Lluvia and Bastet. I am a Biracial trans fae (Black and Indigenous to Turtle Island). I grew up along the Rio Grande and have stayed near the water. I am a multi-disciplinary artist using my eyes and hands to put on paper what we have heard in our nightmares but have no name for. I write about subversion because it is the only way I know. I write about what I witnessed surviving abuse with tears and laughter to reveal the absurdity of it all while recognizing evil for what it is. I am my own muse. There is nothing pure about me. That is on purpose. I clean up nothing. I subdue at once the belief that the stories of survivors should be obscured and lay it all bare. My intention and hope are that my sharing opens a portal to connect us to a future where pleasure exists without threats. I speak of a very distant past before violent ideologies called for the destruction of the erotic. In my writing, righteous rage and despair have a home. I trust that the tears on the pages I fill can nourish worlds even if they are worlds I only dream of but don’t live to see in the flesh.

Carrie-Yvonne’s creative interest lies in the intersections of Black Southern space-time, memory work, and archival documentation. This practice of theirs relies on poetry, film photography, and music as technology. By weaving rhythm, sound, and imagery in meter, Carrie-Yvonne’s footnotes become visual markers for language. It is here where they make memory tangible and find spirit, this embodied space being in arms reach. Carrie-Yvonne’s process of citational politics (e.g footnotes) serves as both a bibliography and record of home – experiences, geographies, language, and state of being.

Sara Makeba Daise aka Geechee Gal Griot (she/her/hers) is a Black, queer, fifth-generation Gullah Geechee woman, Griot, Afrofuturist, space & time-traveler, dimension-hopper, gatekeeper, Cultural History Interpreter, Writer, Singer and Healer from Beaufort, SC.She received a B.S. in Communication and a minor in African American Studies from the College of Charleston. She received an M.A. in Public History with distinction from Union Institute & University. Her creative thesis: “‘Come on in The Room’: Afrofuturism as a Path to Black Women’s Retroactive Healing” was a 2018 recipient of the Brian Webb Award for Outstanding MA Thesis in History & Culture from Union Institute & University. Her acclaimed 2020 essay “Be Here Now: The South is a Portal”, explores the South as a portal for Africana and Indigenous ways of knowing. Sara currently consults as a translator, advisor, and Cultural Accuracy and Sensitivity Reader for numerous creative projects relating to Gullah Geechee and Africana history & culture. She also assists folk in facilitating their own healing and connecting with their ancestors.



Joanne Godley is a retired physician, writer, and Pushcart-nominated poet who, until recently, resided in Alexandria, Virginia. She now lives in Mexico City. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kenyon Review, Juked, the Massachusetts Review, and Memoir magazine. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Kosmos, Mantis, the Bellevue Review, the Poeming Pigeon, FIYAH, among others. She attended the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, VONA, and the Kenyon Writer’s Workshop. She received a Voice of Color Fellowship from the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing and scholarships for the Poetry of Resilience workshop and an MWPA fiction workshop scholarship. Her poetry chapbook is entitled Picking Scabs from the Body History. She is a member of the Poetry Witch Community and the Author’s Guild.

Tiffany Grantham is a contributing writer of Black Powerful, a book enthusiast, and the creator of Creatiffwriting. com. A North Carolina native with a love for coffee, new adventures, and good music.

Jessica Griffin holds a B.A. in French language and an M.A. in translation. She works as a subtitle editor and lives in Atlanta, GA.

Imani Harmon is an Afrofuturist astrologer, multidisciplinary artist, and culture worker using the indigenous sciences of astrology, land stewardship, animism and herbalism to explore Black feminist thought for liberatory and fugitive practices. These ideas are explored through print media (zines, independent press, and writing), digital art, podcasts, space curation/altar building, and meditations. This summer she launched a multi-year project called black speculative astrology aimed at archiving and creating astrological techniques to envision Black pasts, presents and futures. She has published work for Earth in Color digital magazine, was commissioned by The Town Hall NYC for A Blue Moon Halloween: Sun Ra and the Comet Kohoutek, and spoke at Black Quantum Futurism’s Black Womxn Time Camp 004. She is currently working with The Omi Collective, a DC-based women-led art collective.

kaj lindberg writes to live.



Julia Mallory is a storyteller working with a range of medium from text to textiles. Descending from Alabama and Georgia folk, her stories are a practice of ancestral reverence. She is the founder of the creative container, Black Mermaids and serves as the Senior Poetry Editor for Raising Mothers and a Poetry Editor for The Loveliest Review. Their work can be found in Barrelhouse, the Black Speculative Arts Movement exhibition “Curating the End of the World: RED SPRING”, Emergent Literary, The Lumiere Review, The Offing, Stellium Literary Magazine, Sugarcane Magazine, Torch Literary Arts, and elsewhere. Their short, experimental film, Grief is the Glitch, debuted in 2022. For more information, visit

Sonia K McCallum is a writer, author, yoga teacher, and healing facilitator living in Charlotte, NC. An avid reader and art enthusiast, Sonia’s writing centers coming of age and growth stories from the perspective of women of color. She served as a contributing author to the book “Mind Your Mental Health: 21 Empowering Stories of Growth and Healing” and her poetry is published in volumes I and II of Sistories literary magazine. She has also contributed work to Engendered magazine on Visit her website, or on Instagram @pleasesaythekay and Facebook @SoniaKMcCallum.

Danteryia J. Murray was born in sunny California and raised on salmon croquettes in Mississippi. She graduated from The Texas A&M University with a B.A. in English and minor in Creative Studies. Her work ranges from existential-dread inducing poetry to speculative fiction that pushes the reader to question their own morality. She was awarded the Charles Gardone Award for Creative Writing in both poetry and fiction. She is mother to two larger-than-normal cats and enjoys spending time with her friends ruminating on the collapse of modern society.

Cynthia Robinson Young lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her family. Her writing has appeared in journals and magazines, including Grist, The Amistad, Sixfold, The Ekphrastic Review, Rigorous, and The Writer’s Chronicle. For her chapbook, Migration (Finishing Line Press), she was named Finalist in the Blue Light Press chapbook contest, and the 2019 Georgia Author of the Year Award in her category. Her novel excerpt, “Why Mama Mae Believed in Magic” appears in the anthology, Dreams for a Broken World (Essential Dreams Press, 2022).


Camille Ross is a junior Interdisciplinary Humanities major, history & math double minor at Howard University. As the proud daughter of a long line of community leaders and educators living in Georgia and Virginia, she has been dedicated to the task of acquiring and preserving the stories and ideas of Black Americans for as long as she can remember. She has trained extensively as a dancer and singer, and uses poetry and literature as an extension of that study to continue the preservation of specifically black performance and storytelling traditions.

Natalie IsaBel (Natalie Warren) is a 26-year-old writer who graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She self-published her own book in 2018 titled “Thoughts of a Born Writer”. The influence of sociology can be found throughout her works. Some of their other influences include their Afro Latine and Afro American background, their spirituality and their identity as a gender fluid bisexual femme. Natalie IsaBel intends to do just that-be a bell. For all to hear. Her poetry is meant to make readers question, think, learn, and above all connect with their most authentic selves.

Leah Nicole Whitcomb is a proud Mississippian who writes about Black folks, love and magic. A VONA Alum and WNBA Authentic Voices Fellow, her writing has been featured in MadameNoire, Root Work Journal, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Leah co-hosts the Hoodoo Plant Mamas podcast.

Patrice N. Wilson (she/her/they/them/he/him) is an educator, language enthusiast, spoken word artist and creative, from Charlotte, N.C. Patrice received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Through her educational and creative pursuits, Patrice champions diversity, intersectionality, equity, communal connection and understanding. Patrice believes that education and action, if used correctly, can be vehicles for sustainable growth and change within society. Patrice loves to write and create. Patrice believes the power of creativity and expression of it is underrated and desires to use their power of creativity and expression to foster community, growth and understanding.



Arielbriana (they/them/theirs) is a digital creator, artist, and creative writer from Birmingham, Alabama with a passion for authentic storytelling, and ethically self-archiving Black cultural data. Their primary work is an expanding archive via Instagram titled Timekeepers Data where they compile Black cultural relics pertaining to entertainment media. They have contributed to numerous events that seek to uplift artists in the South. Their most recent personal project, Secrets That Tell Themselves, is a documentary-style short film that depicts Black human observations of interpersonal love. The film is accompanied by a collection of written expressions that encompasses poetry, prose, and supernatural fantasy.


I explore black identity and existence through my lens, using a DSLR Nikon camera. A Southern Black Woman. I capture the range of our emotions and preserve my perception of the fullness of the black experience. I design scenes with intention and document black temporality throughout time and space. Photography is the medium by which I express the complexities of emotions, history, existence and potential. My work, both; in my self-portraiture and with muses, stands to empower and represent black culture individually, collectively, and generationally. Personal themes of Identity, Trauma, Reality, Spirituality and Oppression are sources that I pull from to highlight and emphasize how I feel. My work values connection with my muse and camera; through composition, manipulation of light, and the use of vibrant tones and colors, I seek to captivate the viewer to understand how unique, surreal, full and light-filled the black experience is.

Born in Wilmington, North Carolina, Kalin Renée is a multidisciplinary artist who focuses on the ideas of societal influence and social culture and is known for her use of realism to reflect popular music and movies from her culture and the era in which she was raised: the early 90s to the late 2000s. She studied at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she received a BFA with a concentration in painting in 2015. In her work, she uses a technique of layering and short brush strokes to add a sense of movement and life to her work. Though Kalin mainly focuses on portraiture, she also creates abstract pieces that combine the themes of fluidity and flux of space. Kalin curated her first solo exhibition in 2019: (Perpetual). This body of work has featured movie stars and music artists that reflected memories from her childhood, creating feelings of nostalgia. Her most notable exhibitions include Local Street, (2021 and 2022) and The Brooklyn Collective, ‘The Renaissance of Brooklyn’ (2023).

Elle Ivy Green is an abstract and landscape artist based in the High Country of North Carolina. Studying at Appalachian State University, she created an art practice focused on rest as resistance and Watauga County lands. Green creates work that not only encourages herself, but others to rest, daydream, pause, feel and digest. In the midst of urgency culture, she invites you to be self-indulgent. Green currently works in arts administration as the Director of Visitor Services at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. With help from her team of gallery ambassadors, she enjoys creating memories and engagement for the gallery’s visitors.

Arielbriana KALIN DEVONE

Nancey B. Price is a self-taught analog collage artist, writer and performance storyteller who appreciates all things Black, Southern, and imaginative. Hailing from Girard, GA and currently based in Statesboro, GA, she received her BA in Women’s & Gender Studies in 2015 and her MPA in Nonprofit Administration in 2019. In developing her work, Nancey explores how it feels to experience life in a Black body and what it looks like to exalt and celebrate that Blackness from the fields of rural America to the stars in the night sky, and everywhere in between. Her collage, CONVERGENCE, is a meditation on the past and present colliding to envision a future of vibrant life with Black women at the helm.

Afiya Sunflower is a writer, artist, astrologer, change agent and spiritual care consultant. Through her writing, empowerment artwork, one-on-one readings and self-care workshops, Afiya combines astrology, spirituality, and indigenous knowledge and practices to facilitate healing and energy transformation for BIPOC and queer/trans individuals and communities.

Saronda V. is a visual artist from Lawndale, NC who explores different styles within her art practice with culture and feminine power as constant themes.

Instagram Facebook: Saronda V. Art tiktok @just_vcreative


artist statements

PLATE 13 : Untitled

Pay Your Sewer Bill

In this family, when people cry they are alone. it’s a very isolating experience because people treat you like you’re invisible. they act like your tears are an unfixable leak from a faucet, or a corroded valve, and they’d rather have a high water bill than tend to loose screws.

A few hundred wasted gallons accumulate each month from the neglected plumbing. Gallons that multiply into sufficiency fit for a swimming pool. Pools that we supposedly can’t afford. Pools that live inside because of friction in the valve. Pools that build pressure in the throat. Now the washers are worn out from constricting tears that have reason to fall.



The sounds make their way to the hall and echo to one another. On any given day it’s my sorrow versus the blaring sound of mass media manipulation and mothers who never held their babies. Mothers who listen to the news but not each other. Mothers who would rather eavesdrop than engage. Mothers who project all of their own unrealized pain and trauma onto their youth and perceive them only as what they need them to be, while neglecting an entire human who was denied autonomy. These acts suppress the ability of one’s mind to consider alternatives, though somehow still increases their desire to be free.

PLATE 9: Fuchsia Holler

PLATE 11: Three’s Peak

Fuchsia Holler and Three’s Peak are a part of a larger series, Little Hollers. These two pieces embody the quaint and fairytale-like qualities of Boone NC. Eight years now, I have called this southern mountain town home. I became attached to the good feeling of being in nature, amongst the trees and far away from the white gaze. Rural landscapes quickly became the place I went to rest and daydream of prettier things. My work is the product of other worlds dreamt and the conjuring of black women makers everywhere.


The 8”x10” analog collage, CONVERGENCE, is a meditation on the past and present colliding to envision a future of vibrant life with Black women at the helm. Inspired by Butler’s daring to imagine a future that centers Blackness, Nancey juxtaposes an archival image of an unidentified Black woman against a backdrop of the stars, which have historically represented the future even though they’re technically a view into the past. The colorful plant and animal life that adorn the sepia-toned portrait further supports the artist’s vision of creating a horizon of sorts, where time and space meet, mingle and converge into one.

(**NOTE: Images used for collage are copyright free and/or part of the public domain. Bibliography available upon request.)


PLATE 14: Sealuna Sanctuary

PLATE 16: You See Me?

Octavia Butler created alternative futures for herself and others and used writing and specifically science fiction for creating freedom and dream spaces, safe spaces for her spirit and us. I started working on these pieces at the end of Tory Lanez’s court case. I stumbled across this tweet: “40+ pieces of evidence (including a literal text of Tory apologizing) and y’all still saying he is innocent…I know y’all hate Black women but please BFFR.” - @missf.eskm, 12/23/22. The tweet hit the nail on the head for me. Frustrated by the misogynoir constantly impacting folks’ care and concern for Black women, I took a cue from Octavia and created my own dream space/freedom space. My art aims to empower Black women because I know the world hates us. We know, and still shine; stop playing with us.

“SeaLuna Sanctuary” (Plate 14): Girl, if you answer yes to any of these questions, take a break and book a trip to SeaLuna Sanctuary! Get restored and pampered by our healing waters and iconic view of Mother Moon. Eat cake, drink tea with your ancestors, and connect with other Black women and girls who need TLC. And don’t worry; we have CHILDCARE!! With top-notch security to maintain your peace and privacy, don’t waste any more time crying, hiding, and grinding! Come on through and find the many other treasures at SeaLuna Sanctuary! Girl, WE SEE YOU!

“You See Me?” (Plate 16): Are you tired of chasing your dreams within this anti-black, patriarchal, capitalist society? Have you and/or your friends and family ignored your pain and request for help because you’re a “strong black woman”? Are you abandoning parts of yourself to align with society’s standards of success?

PLATE 5: Compaasion

PLATES 6 & 7: Untitled

I’ve chosen to submit some older pieces of mine for this theme. Plate 5 titled “Compassion” is featured a woman gripping a towel, her head thrust back. I feel she evokes many different emotions and relativity in black women. She is change, she is now, she is ever present for us all. Plate 6, a black and white charcoal drawing features a mother doing her daughter’s hair. This piece is special as it represents so many of our childhoods, it is a timeless brings smiles and even unpleasant memories but is a great depiction of a pinnacle practice passed in our culture. In Plate 7, the three bantu women are tribal, they have no eyes and wear ankhs, they are an ancestral representation with allusion to supernatural capacity. Finally, there is a mural I painted showing a supernova effect. This is simple yet endless, as galaxies (other wordly), stars, space, time are all either vastly uncharted or subjective. It represents something extraordinary without limitation.


sistories staff


Ashley Nickens (she/her) M.A., is a storysharer and educator. Born in Maryland, raised in Virginia, and made a woman in the Carolinas, her work is grounded in her southeastern roots, and seeks to continue a tradition of Black feminist storysharing that uncovers, recovers, and (re)creates models of possibility across time and space. Her writing has appeared in RaceBaitr, Black Femme Collective, and Engaging Collections.


Cidney Tiiggett (she/her), a member of Delta Sigma Theta Inc. and former host of “We See You Sis” podcast, specializes in curating conversations around Black southern femmes in an effort to normalize their shared experiences. She is a graduate from Appalachian State University with a degree in Global Studies, and a concentration in post traumatic growth.


Mariah Webber (she/her), M.A., is a writer, artist, reseracher, and performer from Waco, North Carolina. She holsd a BA in Pscychology from Appalachian state University and a MA in Sociology from UNC Charlotte. She is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara researching Black trans, queer and feminist theories, Black Southern studies, visual culture studies, and Black diasporic religions. Mariah’s past writing has been featured in touching:blackstudy(2022), Sistories: A Literary Magazine (2019; 2021), & becoming undisciplined: a zine (2019).


Danielle Buckingham (she/her), affectionately known as Dani Bee, is a Chicago-born, Mississippi-raised writer based in Oxford, Mississippi. A 2021 Lambda Literary fellow, Dani’s work has been published in Midnight & Indigo literary magazine, Raising Mothers, MadameNoir, and elsewhere.




Fola Onifade (she/they) is a staff writer and associate podcast producer for Democracy in Color, a nonprofit media organization at the intersection of race and politics. In her creative work, she explores and celebrates the realities of African diaspora women through visual storytelling, poetry, narrative fiction, and essays. She’s taking her late 20s one existential crisis at a time. You can keep up with her at


Samiah (she/her) is a black femme writer, editor, and creative director whose work lives at the intersection of the arts, community building, and social justice. She has spent the last 5+ years in creative and communications strategy working with artists, interfaith leaders, and activists to develop an identity defined approach to narrative storytelling that prioritizes authenticity.


Emiene Wright (she/her) is an award-winning journalist based in Charlotte, NC. Nigerian by birth and African-American by lineage, she mines sex, race, class and privilege to fill in the gaps of unwritten histories, and map out her portion of bright, Black futurism. She won the 2022 Green Eyeshade Award for best special news project in the Southeastern US.


Rachael Vaughan Clemmons (she/they) is a writer, visual storyteller and sour gummy aficionado. Her work largely explores the themes of sexuality, depression, and the bonds of friendship through comedy.

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