In their poem Misogynoir, Sea Sharp writes, Maybe mama knows I’d rather burn my leather / than wear it another day for her, would rather / slice this skin in slivers, rip off my flesh like a grapefruit peel. In this poem, which explores a contentious relationship between mother and child, between Black skin and freedom, Sea touches upon one of the profound conflicts queer Black people can contend with when confronted with the trumpeting of the importance of coming out and LGBTQ pride: telling the world we’re queer hardly helps us if we don’t even want to live in our Black skin. Sea Sharp is a Pushcart Prize-winning poet whose latest collection of poems, Black Cotton, is a powerful interrogation and soaring exploration of the wild and vast interior of a queer Black person coming to terms with their identity, sexuality and race, against a backdrop of rural Kansas and south England. Sea’s work is emotionally-charged, confrontational and humorous, gut-wrenching and healing - all at the same - and while reading through their work, I found myself on the verge of tears or laughing in recognition or just pausing to catch my breath. I cannot recommend their work highly enough. We sat down at the Charleston Trust in Lewes on the invitation of OUTing the Past to add some much-needed visibility for queer Black people within British LGBTQ history. We open the show with a graphic account of violence against enslaved people, which some may find hard to hear, so please listen with care.
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OUTing the Past: The International Festivals of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans History is an international celebration through a series of events throughout the year and around the world, and a conference and gathering for academics and activists once a year in February.