Arts & Culture / Politics / The Reading Room / Vol. 2 No. 4

Signifying Blackness

Yashua Klos, God of The Ghetto

Image Credit: Yashua Klos, God of The Ghetto, (2015). Paper construction of woodblock prints and graphite on archival paper — 35″ x 45″. Courtesy of the artist.

I remember reading Black feminist scholar Audre Lorde’s essay “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference,” and I was captivated by her use of the capitalization of Black, Color/ed, Black women, Black lesbianism, and Black men throughout the essay, while at the same time demoting “white” and “america” to lowercase/caste status. Her centering of Black people moved us from the periphery. She foregrounded what it meant to highlight and give Black visibility.

I cried.

I laughed.

I screamed.

I exhaled.


Audre Lorde had given me license, the okay, the confirmation that I, too, could capitalize Black without penalty. I learned from Lorde that Black spoke to, and for, an affirmation of identity, a person, a people, a location I had not found the voice to articulate. She claimed it, owned all of the capital-ness in Black, and walked us line by line with illustrations of why Black is important, purposeful, love, and moreover, a people.

Audre Lorde reminds us, “For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” If we are to move toward equality, equity, acceptance, and change, then we cannot use the master’s tools to ask to change the capitalization of the “B” in Black. We, the people, the representatives, spokespersons, stakeholders, and operators of Blackness demand and will henceforth use the capital “B” in all instances, cases, and purposes in our scholarly writings. It is ours. Making use of Black in all its glorifications and significations marks a historical shift and change of symbolism. Black is not a lower-case/caste status. Black is large and vibrant. The academy has to see this and take note that Black writing, and writing while Black signals moves, movement, and life. Black is capitalized.


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