M. Jacqui Alexander is a writer, teacher, creator, and founder/director of the Tobago Center for the study and practice of Indigenous Spirituality. She's a feminist who speaks and is heard far too rarely in the United States. Producer Anna Barsan got to talk with her. Here's that report.
Jacqui Alexander: Ok so well I think that it's a really interesting moment to think about questions of location and subjectivity, who are you? How you got to be who you are, where you are... A lot of what foregrounds my scholarship and activism, I think has to do with, the things that formed me. I grew up in the Caribbean, in Trinidad and Tobago at a time of a lot of great anti-colonial struggle. So it was a time for movement and independence, of course which now we recognize, didn't quite happen, or wasn't quite complete. But nonetheless it was a very formative time. It was a very formative time in which we had a sense that another world was possible.
So we were the first black children to benefit from nationalist education, which was a very important thing in the context of a kind of rewriting the world, in perhaps the same ways the world is being rewritten right now. A rewriting. But a rewriting in India, Latin America, the Pacific, the Caribbean, in Africa, where folks were saying that the old terms of organizing society - those are going to be put out of the door, in favor of something called self-governance.
So the answer that I've given you is somewhat diffuse because we never quite know who we are because we're always making and remaking ourselves. We know some of the inheritances that we have, and one of those inheritances for me is the anti-colonial inheritance. Another one is feminist. And queer movements, particularly women of color movements and particularly here in the US. And I feel kind of another part of the inheritance is finding a way to meld all of those things together. Because they don't necessarily rest easily just by themselves.
The source of our connection is a deeply spiritual one. It's the divine connection, it's that mirror reflection that Audrey talks about a lot, too. The fact that you are reflected in me, and I in you. And the source of that, I believe, is a source that is divine. It is that source is the source of spirit. That source is the source of what we can call the sacred and we can call it anything. And for folks that don't necessarily want to call it divine, that's fine too. But at the very least, I think, if we recognize that interconnectedness. That sense in which we meet at a certain place, that that meeting place is crucial for who we are, how we think, what we do. And that there is a lot at stake in that meeting, right? There's a lot at stake in that meeting.