Arts & Culture / Convergence / Politics / Vol. 2 No. 4

from A History of the Bitch (AHOTB)

Chiffon Thomas, A mother who had no mother

Image Credit: Chiffon Thomas, A mother who had no mother, (2017). Embroidery floss, acrylic paint, and canvas on window screen,
57″ x 44 1/2″. © Chiffon Thomas.

Testimonial Testify

For a time, in some places, only men could
testify. “Testify” rooted with testes testicles. Tongue tied to crotch; talk of truth as—
                 Biblical Abraham
had his servant swear a solid: “put your hand
under my thigh, and I will make you swear by
the LORD, the God of Heaven and the God of the
earth…” Biblical Israel: “Now, if I have found
favor in your sight, please put your hand under
my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me.”
Oaths by issue—
                 Banker Stanley, husband of


Rachel, testifies he and his family
have lived on Newton’s Mill Street for 20 years.
(Newton’s already 339
when Stanley and Rachel move there T is 3
years old, toddling, 1500 miles south in
a New Orleans shotgun on Melpomene St.
NOLA is 251 years old then.
It’s 1969, year of the rooster, when Stanley and
Rachel move, begin, perhaps, a family
in that neighborhood of homes, of expansive
and expensive empty lawns the eyes yawn a
cross—luxuriant space.
                                                   T, in the tight shot


                                                                                         gun, tiny, has begun to collect language,
                 words roll, rumble in her tender toddler’s mouth
ears forming-mind. Boisterous for a young one,
she is loud when she laughs when she sings when she
searches hermamadaddygrandmacousins’
faces, searches for the train her father tucks
beneath her grandparents’ front room bed for safe
keeping in cramped quarters. In dreams, years later,
T will recall reaching into that darkness
as clearly as she recollects the kitchen
stove, the unseemly window-fan pulling air


through, the narrow back lot, the orange sofa
bed, the single bath. She will recall this dark
                                                                                                    -ness as tender as a fear she didn’t know.
1969 in the Holocene. Like
T, the Black Panther Party, miles from certain
Newton luxuries (3085), miles from the N’Awlins’ mouth
of the Mississippi (2263), is just 3 years old.
Oakland’s BPP begins to feed daily
little ones like T. At three, they all remap
worlds, take in words, re-collate sentences meant
to contain and constrain them, remaking our
selves in syllabic struts. The languages we
speak speak us into place and role. Refuse. Roll
away the stones—words that hem and haw us in.


1969 in the Holocene. Say
the FBI director says that “without
question the greatest threat to the internal
security of the country” is the Black
Panther Party. Who’s a nation in this claim?
Whose internals are breached by the feeding of
children as young as ones living in southern
shotguns? Who are the invasive free radi
cals ravaging wholeness in the thicket of
the nation hood in its hooded surveillance
of love expressed by filling hungry mouths? Who


dat surveilling and saying? Years later, one,
who’s come lately, will say as she explains to
him what’s happened, “Calm down, stop crying,” as though
her tears were invalid testimony of
what done gone down. Who can
believe tears while carrying shotguns?

Tags: , ,