Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge

The F-Word: For Fred and Fannie Lou

Alexis P. Gumbs

This poem is a ritual of connection between the formative narratives of violence in Frederick Douglass's Narrative and Fannie Lou Hamer's testimony to the credentials committee of the Democratic National Convention of 1964. These documents have much in common in audience, intention, and form. They also have much in common in their content and details (both describe witnessing violence against another person that foreshadows violence you will experience, the sexualization of violence, combinations of violent force and violent language and even the actual violent acts that occur against Douglass and Hamer and the order in which they occur.) The acts of violence that Fannie Lou Hamer and Frederick Douglass witnessed, experienced and recounted were arbitrary as much as they were/are part of a system built on the violability of black flesh. Their acts of narration were designed to reveal the pervasiveness of these forms of violence in the reproduction of the racial state in arenas they believed could disrupt that reproduction. So, instead of reproducing the acts of violence that Douglass and Hamer testified about here in order to prove or ponder on their connection, I employ a poetics of arbitrariness to create a soundscape of connection for Fred and Fannie Lou to speak to each other, using the appearance of the letter F as it appears in order in each text. I have made poetic decisions about the order of the readings, the line breaks and prepositions. I leave it to you to reflect on what the relevant f-word is.

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