I am teaching an action workshop to 9th and 10th graders this summer. This experience was originally publicized as a 'performance art workshop', but the term feels too restrictive as an accurate descriptor. My students and I are being challenged to re-think our mundane actions into opportunities for evolution, while contemplating the impact of our movements in the physical realm. Okay, I got a little deep there, but that's where the path leads... Today we were speaking about notions of beauty and I looked around at my students cobbling together messages, that they are practically force-fed, into costumes of coolness, of personal celebrity, of color and of gender. I hurt a little bit when I saw the hap hazard weave of one, the impossible eye color of another, as evidence of the earnest yearning to fit their black and brown bodies into a prescribed mold. I remember these efforts. I still have to extract my own self concept from its clutches to feel beautiful. But then I think about the performance of being beautiful and how it can actually nurture a healthy self esteem. I recall my line sisters. I am an unlikely sorority girl. I still get a kick out of revealing my AKAtude to new friends. It's like a wade through water, throwing off would be trackers, attempting to locate my personal history. But of course it's much more than that. Being with these women, and still being with them 15 years later, albeit in a different fashion, as life and responsibility hurls us farther from the convenience of proximity, I acknowledge one of the wonderful gifts we've managed to give each other - a haughty arrogance of our physical selves. And, by default, our feminine powers. It was like I didn't have to shoulder the responsibility of feeling pretty all alone (my mother doesn't count - she was obligated). I now had 12 other young accomplished women who agreed, or at least proclaimed in unison, when the occasion warranted, that we were pretty, elegant, sophisticated, conceited and intense(!). Even in the morning, after waking up, we're pretty, and of course, a veritable magnet to the opposite sex. Now I am sure that you don't need to pledge a sorority to engage in this manner of performance, but it doesn't negate the value of a collective support system of self esteem. This kind of posturing still feels necessary as a Photoshopped ideal is increasingly distributed as the real.
Alpha Kappa A-L-P-H-A
We are the elegant ladies of AKA
We are so pretty, so cute and oh so fly!
(Sorors, repeat. Much love to Spring '97 | 13 Triumphs at The Twelfth Hour)