Carrie Mae Weems, The Louisiana Project, 2003. Credit: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, N.Y.
Start here. Once you cross the threshold, you’re home. The door
is what brings you from out to in. The door:
the only unit of measurement, not how “poor,”
not four walls, not foundation or drywall or chimney or roof. A door
opens a place into home. Remember, on Gorée
Island, they walked us through that unknown mouth, the Door
Of No Return? Remember how we, unmoored,
made our own bodies a home, made doorways
out of our voices in the air, their undeniable treasure.
The homes we make of touch, how we adore
each other. How a nod can mean you’re home — home in feet planted, freely, on the floor.
My grandmothers made homes out of things that were not houses — the fervor
of their Blackmother spirits filling the Bessemer projects, the Greensboro trailer —
no fireplace but the warm TV set, no yard but the red clay. The splendor
of what lives beyond what you call welfare, inner city, blight. Don’t you know our
words are a way home? We even bend language into a liberating door.
I used to think my proper tongue meant I leaned toward
the thing that stole our culture. But we can’t outgrow our home. Or,
we have never left in the ways that matter — home in our flavors,
our dances, the languages we live. Home is in us, behind a locked door.
We bent the blue cries of this place into full-bodied song, bent frail walls into shelter.
We bent the cast-off portions into a meal, we bent two cents into a dollar.
We bent redlines and tenements into a sanctuary you can’t enter.
If you want to know how Black folks find our way back to heaven, start here. Open the door.
Ashley M. Jones is the poet laureate of Alabama (2022–2026), author of “Magic City Gospel,” “dark // thing” and “Reparations Now!” and founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.
Carrie Mae Weems is an activist, photographer, video maker, and performance artist. She received a MacArthur Foundation Grant in 2013.