The delicious Bahamian dancer Paul Meeres in 1932 photo by Carl Van Vechten.
Meeres was famed in New York and London as part of the dance duo “Meeres and Meeres”. He went on to share the stage (and his bed) with Josephine Baker.
The illustration reminds me of how unprotected black women have been and are. I continue to puzzle through concepts such as “selfhood,” “protection,” and “self-defense” as they might apply (or not) to black people living in the U.S. Years ago, I read an article about a lynching that took place in Georgia in 1919. The article originally published in the Atlanta Constitution was reprinted in the book “Black Women in White America: A Documentary History” edited by historian Gerda Lerner. The title blared “DEFEND BLACK WOMEN — AND DIE! The Lynching of Berry Washington.” From the article:
“On May 24 at 1 o’clock at night, John Dandy and Lewis Evans, white, went down into the colored people’s section of the town and went to the home of a widow by the name of Emma McCollers, who had two daughters. They knocked: but the occupants refused to open the door, and Dandy shot through the door. The ball went through the organ and the machine. That frightened the girls and they ran out to another old lady’s home. Her name was Emma Tisber and is a widow with two little children. The white men went after these colored girls; the girls ran under the porch and hid. These white men broke down the door and tore up the floor. The old widow lady got frightened ran and jumped in the well, and the children screamed for help. Brother Berry Washington, colored, 72 years old, ran out with his shotgun in his hand. When he got near the hall he met both of the white men. John Dandy, 25 years old, with a wife and two children, asked the old man what he came out for. He said: “To see what was the matter with the women and children.” Then John Dandy fired at him and said: “I will kill you, old man.” The old man fired and killed him (John Dandy) first. He fell with his pistol in his right hand and a cigarette in the other, and a flask of — liquor fell out of his pocket. The other fellow ran (Lewis Evans).”
Berry Washington turned himself in to the chief of police on the advice of an acquaintance and was incarcerated. A lynch mob descended on the jail. He was hung to a post and shot to death. The moral of the story was that if you tried to protect black women, you would be severely punished: likely killed. I am certain that these kinds of incidents played out thousands of times across the country. The threat reinforces the idea that black women are inherently violable and that we have no selves that can be defended. Moreover, the threat of “defend black women… and die” was and is integral to racial subjugation and to criminalization. If it is never possible for black women to be defended, than all claims of doing so are inherently illegitimate and all attempts must/will be punished.
In an inspiring interview, Tracey Wilson, 10, talks about her journey growing up as transgender. Share this:
I love seeing Black trans* kids :D
And no doubt, all of the catastrophes that happen on this planet, there are warnings sent. It’s just a matter of weather people listen. They can always avoid anything that’s bad, of course they can, cause they’re always avoiding something that’s good for them. So if they do one, they can do the other. … Furthermore this planet is a spaceship, too.