Liberated Threads: An Homage to the Black Aesthetic during Resistance
I could never articulate the importance of black fashion and personal aesthetic until I read Tanisha Ford's "Liberated Threads" over the Summer. The thread of thoughts I strewn together while taking Africana history classes at Rhodes and, battling an oppressive student body who resisted my black presence on an overwhelmingly white campus became a narrative fabric of black women utilizing personal aesthetic as activism.
Perhaps that's why I take great pride in wearing eclectic clothing and always scream a mental "YAAASSSS" when I see Cardi B in the latest designer fashions. To my average white brethren its another black woman in weird clothes or a former stripper whose female empowerment is threatening and loud; however its the continuation of a sacred ritual our slave ancestors passed down to us. The power of personal aesthetic has always been an act of resistance and activism within the black narrative of equity and culture. Slaves subverted their 3/5 state and utilized the fabrics they were given by their slave masters to create individualistic "Sunday's Best". Once freed, though there are many who still contend we are enslaved, black women utilized church services as a ritual to create their Sunday's Best in the brightest hues and boldest cuts. This was the beginning of black style culture.
Black people have always taken great pride in the superficial as a way to manifest their faith and joy through pride in their impeccable style. Tenisha Ford argues that "clothing helped young black women express who they were and who they wanted to be in the world". She was referring to the black revolutions that were occurring on campuses nationwide, but here we are in the midst of racist uprisings and I've never related to a book more in my life.
We exist in a space where black bodies matter more than ever and how we dress them speaks volumes before we open our mouths. It's our power to be individuals when we are type-caste and given essentialist experiences and narratives through white-washed vitriol. It's the opportunity to subvert oppression and hopelessness and manifest joy and pride in how are black bodies were created. Our curves, our brown-hues, our creativity allows us to stand-out and stand-up. There's a reason why the Black Panthers emphasized personal aesthetic and a reason why people marched in suits and dresses during the Civil Rights Movement. It's a reason why we must value our aesthetic today and establish who we are through the way we dress. Black fashion communicates our pride, resistance and whose we belong to when the world silences us and attempts to voice a fallacious narrative.