Vanessa Rochelle Lewis is organizing some of the best intersectional political analysis and resilience building, through the lens of Reclaim UGLY.
Through naming uglification, she touches into some deep wounds of shame, that get into nuances of white supremacy, colorism, transphobia, ableism, and fatphobia. And by naming it through uglification, she dreams us a space to build affinity and resilience across many dimensions of identity.
So when she asks me to do something, I say yes. That’s also because she’s hot as hell and fun to play with.
Glory: The Fattest Love of All turned into an online Valentine’s performance for the ages, filled with gorgeous fatties storytelling, dancing, and scheming about love. You can watch the whole performance below! In my performance, I explore what it means to build loving movement community amidst harm and violence, what June Jordan called “a homemade field of love” when honoring the legacy of her friend and mentor, Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer (starts at minute 34, my script is below as a rough transcript).
“Is there a medical reason you can’t lose weight?”
This is what a mediator asked me, trying to resolve conflict between me and a co-worker at my last social justice job.
For those of you who know me as a dragon …. I wish I could tell you I roared out a response. Or used my huge dragon legs to stomp out of the room in a complete refusal to engage.
But instead I reverted to my most familiar conditioning as a white person raised as a girl.
I burst into tears.
You might be wondering: How is this a story of fat love?
Nine months later, I got my fat liberation crush Max Airborne an early birthday present: Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays.
Max got excited. “I want to read this with other fat people!”
Now, like me, Max had their own experience in a social justice organization that could not acknowledge fat oppression, even when it was pointed out directly.
So when this dream sparked about fat people coming together not just to talk about our fat bodies, but to center our politics on fighting white supremacy and capitalism, to fight for abolition and disability justice … our hearts swooned. We sent out a survey to see who was interested, and 100 people said yes. Talk about new relationship energy!
And this, my friends, is how the yummy and decadent Fat Rose was born. If you don’t know us, we’re organizing radical fatties on the left and figuring out our part in building an intersectional fat liberation movement.
That was two years ago. Right now, Fat Rose is studying the legacy of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, one of our ancestral Fat Roots. I’m so grateful to Alexis Pauline Gumbs for her course design — she’s got me asking myself what it would take to live my life with the integrity and vision of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer.
If you know Mrs. Fannie Lou, you know her truth telling story that sparked passage of the Voting Rights Act. How she was brutally beaten in a Mississippi jail for being a Black woman who dared to register to vote. You might know how anti-Black fat hatred was interwoven into the violence that night, how the cops called her derogatory fat names.
But I hope you also know about her generous hospitality, her Freedom Farm Cooperative, how she fed her people. In our study, we read poet June Jordan’s incredible obituary about her friend and mentor Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer in the New York Times. She described Fannie Lou as “one full Black lily / luminescent / in a homemade field / of love.”
A homemade field of love. On Valentine’s Day, we like to talk romantic love and friendship love. I want to talk about our fat collective love, what it will take to build a homemade field of love, together. I am learning, and learning more about how to live my life from the luminosity of ancestors like Mrs. Fannie Lou about how we make a home for each other that can hold our experiences of violence, our rage and grief, while also demanding that we get to live the lusciousness of our lives together.
Now … back to that mediator I started with. Part of me wants to go back in time with all of you, to show that mediator how I actually wanted to respond to his bullshit fatphobia in the middle of a fucking mediation. How I wanted to roar and stomp, and just say “no” to fatphobia.
But what I really want on this Valentine’s Day? I don’t want to spend even 1 more minute on him. Instead, what if we can spark that homemade field of love that it’s possible to build together as fatties when we demand our lives?
I think we can do that by roaring dragon fire together, feeling our collective heat and power and dignity.
If you haven’t found your dragon roar before, it starts in the fire of your belly. Just take a couple of breaths in to feel those flames. This is why fat people make such good dragons, we have the belly capacity to really stoke the flames. I’m going to count to 3, we’ll breathe in, and then let out this roar from our fat bellies, a roar of collective love for our fellow fatty dragons.
Let’s roar again, for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer and for all our fat Black activist ancestors.
And one more time, roaring our love and care for fat Black activists around us today, in this event, in our lives.
Let’s keep roaring together, fatties, building our collective homemade field of love.