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little sister: A Black Speculative Solo-Performance (excerpt)

Introduction little sister is at once a solo-performance and a transgenerational diasporic memoir. It tells the story of a nomadic child spirit named little she who shape-shifts through the memories of one black/queer woman across several incarnations of being. Spanning the Antebellum South to present moment Chicago, it explores structural forms of violence that become embodied and re-produced, particularly within the black family unit and other interpersonal relationships. As performative writing, it invites the reader to encounter and accompany the text as a psycho-spiritual potential to interrupt, intervene, and reconcile the stories we tell ourselves with the stories that are mapped onto us.

This is my little sister.she be corn rolled— white linen dress.she make happy happy withpatent leather\click-clickon the inside on the out.

We beGullah/from the long time ago\with momma sweet-and daddy-bird.She be sparkle sparkleand rain\shine she bright wet—freckle freckle of time—arm. cheek. third.eye\foot.

This be my little sister— weCreole—from the long time ago/we circleneck to neckon the inside part—while mamma be on the out\flat foot at the soil cause wecrossed oooooovaa thewater— azugarin the midst.

She belly beshe center— it knowssees/hearsall kinds of things.People see she\first thing they do\touch she— pick she up—wanna watch she seethey-selves from above.

Learn she walk reeal late‘cause everyone steady touching on she—picking she up/like she begood luck charm like she besage in she throat.

She mamma say—soon as she come to her bellyshe knew she\gave she nameright then—say—she be the one \set we free.

Grew she up figuring since everybodysteady talking ‘bout she be the oneset we free. Figure only right to pass herself outalong\watch others pullforthshe sweet.beat.

she body be/ they host.

All thebig girlsin theschool/yardsay—she think she cuteSayshe don't come from nothing though—so it don't much matterhow cute she is or ain’t.

Mammadon’t likelittle she fightingsopay they no mind. And anywayit beshe sixth birthday\ pink andwhite icing-blue swirlsmaking like happyroses\withyellow on the inside part andsprinkles-red juice\purple satin\ ribbon—

fire hydrantopenupon federal street. So\ after mamma holdshe handwhile she cut the cake—gonna go get she/selfwetfrom the chest down—maybe shehair too— ‘pending on how good daddy makemamma feel.

She other daddy beshe reeal daddy—she warm daddy\\she be his little girl—daddy.he sayhehear she time she gosilent—say hear she heart golove—love love\lovelove.

Say—quiet bethe time when god speak—and say god the same-love—love love/lovelove.

She feeling so goooodfrom hearing voicecome to she\she wanna sit.downandhug on she/self all night\close she eyessee indigo bluered\\then /wetshe selfstickytween she legs—

Runshe to her mamma’s washing sink—had been told tostop\touching she-self till make she-self sticky/

What she suppose to do when stickyhappen all by itself—? closeshe eyes—pray see indigo no more—

close she eyes.Nowsee silver- wind.

Wind say breath(e)\\breath—Wet she\self sticky again. wind say—you and i be we nowyou and i bewe.

Shape shift/Testify.I see myself in the waveringstreamand itouchwhat an\odd dancebring me inloose me up\shiftdowndown down—settle. release here.Can’t tellhow longI’ve been ‘round these smiling skin and bones.I touchi feel my skin\growing scales.

Ohheaven upon me, makelight. Bless me, oh companion thy beloved-forever friend.Touch my heart and still my soulbless me\tis nigh—be with meholy-mother-blessed-daughter-/loverseat of my forever(d) spirit-twinnedsoul.

She memory—breath in trees.shape-shift— She be 1833—she mitaoffer a prayerfor she spirit-heart\sheCreole heart—she AfricansheLatin—She Boriquaheart—she sweet-sweetsheblues-bluesshebom-bom deet-deet\ she pena heart\she come from below sea level—heart.Fly shehomeFrom the west/heart.

She beslave girl—400 years forward\\800 yearsback.

In fields so green—turnthey blue and moist.Rice. rubber—cane.She makesteadyfrom behind\the eyes.Story saysome old/man took she.stole she into her mama’s womb.And feet soflatcausethey crossed oooooooooovaaa the water\where sheand shesleep neck andneck// No one hardly tell their names apart.Call one the other\wind.

At the earth’s floor she and sherubpelvis atop another.In fields so green turn the blue\ worn limbs part under linen white dress/finger crawlofwet skin\\\\\\\\Push into moist opening- pelvis at the earth—she and shepush pelvisweave breathmakea passagechest to chest— this way/ know they names—by heart.

Shape shiftshe behere now (right here)flat screen\blinking cursor arrowpagehollow light.Finger scroll of silver-white.she be right-now—gone.


At the end of last wintershe threw her hands in the sky—say she don’tknow where she goingbut she seen where she been\ wanna spilt the difference.

Say she root releasesee. know. hear. reach\ breathanchor....breathe

Part she scalp down the center—almond oilfor she flight// nextplaces two chordsat the waist\ one for this worldone- for the other—a reminder that knowing she-selfmeans saying yesto what she knows.

This be my little sister.She be corn rolled—white linen dress.she make happy happy withpatent leather\click-clickon the inside part. click-clickon the out!

We beGullah/from the long time ago\ with momma sweet—and daddy—bird.

She be sparkle sparkleand rain\shine she bright wet—freckle freckle of time—arm cheek third.eye\foot.

This bemy little sister.When she waslittle she—she and she sleepneckand neck— no one hardly tell their names apart.

They pinky-swear a bridgeheart to heart— meet when the waking eye turnsleep.

Say she/ we be the two that got away— call me‘you’and call you ‘blessed be.’

Later after she slips away-she will imagine herselfa new self— May she leavethis space in peace—Mayshe leavewith herheart in.tact\\May she accept the fullrangeof her knowing—and in thatknowing see you—see me and call to armsbrass trumpet at the lips—and incantationof yesand yes, and yes, and yes, and yes, and yes\\and yes.

Misty De Berry is a PhD candidate and performance artist in the Department of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Her research interests include performance philosophy, phenomenology, affect theory, and women of color feminisms. Her current research explores contemporary social art practices in the context of U.S. carceral regimens. Recently, her original solo-play Milkweed was published in solo/black/woman: Scripts, Interviews, Essays, edited by E. Patrick Johnson and Ramón Rivera-Servera, which received Honorable Mention for the Errol Hill Book Award from the American Society of Theatre Research.