I first met this amazing young woman when she was in high school. She might’ve been a junior. She was already busting people’s heads in poetry slams all over the city of Cleveland, though. Her poetry was so breathtakingly real, I was either laughing, crying, or hallowing whenever I heard her.
Eris’s gift was – and still is – her genuineness. She is herself to a capital-T. She is unflinchingly honest. She boldly calls out her various communities for their willful faults, and she confesses her own flaws and fears with formidable – yes, at her young age – bravery, vulnerability, intelligence, and wit. She is witty as fuck.
In the years since high school, Eris has made herself into an all-around presence in our city. It wouldn’t shock me if – in the next few years – she ended up in a government office. She has so many of the qualities of a true leader.
Eris is under 35 and already a storyteller, organizer, event planner, promoter, logistical coordinator, trainer, public speaker, coach, curriculum developer, activist, advocate, media, integrator, graduate student, marathon runner, and jewelry designer.
Though she is considerably younger than me, I admire her greatly. I look up to her ambition, commitment, confidence, and authenticity. I adore her writing, and I have a deep affection for her spirit. I respect her candor and refusal to be silenced or shamed.
In a recent blog post, Eris wrote, “The climate of today’s world would lead you to believe that love should not be a priority. I’ve felt pressure as a queer black woman to let my activism and advocacy take priority over love, intimacy, and joy. In doing that, I’ve done myself a huge disservice.”
See what I’m saying?
This woman gets it. She knows what she needs to know.
BABE ALERT Q&A WITH ERIS EADY
WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
Eris Venia Eady
WHAT ARE YOUR ORIGINS?
My Grandma Alabama, my Granddad Louisiana . . . you mix that Negro with that extra Negro makes a . . . Cleveland girl.
HOW DO IDENTIFY YOURSELF RACIALLY/ETHNICALLY/NATIONALLY? HOW DO YOU IDENTIFY YOURSELF IN TERMS OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY?
A. I consider myself African American. I feel as though it is important to make the distinction that I did not immigrate here. We were snatched and rooted here.
B. I am a Cisgender Bisexual/Queer Woman.
ARE YOU A FEMINIST? IF NO, THEN WHAT TERM DO YOU USE TO DESCRIBE YOUR COMMITMENT TO WOMEN’S ISSUES?
Ehhhh . . . not so much. I do consider myself a Womanist. Feminism is dredged in privilege and founded in academia; it perpetually leaves out black, brown, poor, and, most importantly, trans women.
I also think it is important to note that I don’t like the word “female.” It is often used as an abrasive term that is essentially one “step” up from “bitch.” It’s a dog whistle word that resonates the same way as when white folk say “thug” when they really want to say “nigga.”
WHEN DID “BEING A WOMAN” BECOME POLITICAL FOR YOU? HOW WERE YOU POLITICIZED AS A FEMALE CITIZEN OF THE US?
I was born this way. In fourth grade, a white boy called me “Grease” the entire school year. Also, that year, my teacher threw my spelling book at me. For as long as I can remember, who I am and how I exist in this world has been a problem for the powers that be.
When I was about 26, I was pulled over and arrested, then held for hours while I menstruated on myself. I didn’t fight back. I will always remember that I survived this interaction with the police, and Sandra Bland did not.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES THAT AFFECT WOMEN THAT ARE CLOSEST TO YOUR HEART?
Self-love. Reproductive justice, including sexual assault, domestic violence, intra-racial violence, access to abortion, infant mortality (Ohio is literally the worst state in the country for African American infant mortality), and women that are shackled during birth. Economic stability. The life expectancy of trans women of color (it is 33-years-old).
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS YOU DO TO MAKE YOUR LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHER WOMEN IN THIS COUNTRY BETTER? DO YOU HAVE A “PASSION PROJECT” THAT RELATES TO BEING A WOMAN? WHAT IS IT?
I’ve chosen to love myself. Especially when it’s hard. Especially when I’m feeling most unlovable. I am kind to myself. I love my body at every phase and stage. I’m working on a project called “Black Girls Be . . .” It’s a space where black womanhood can exist without borders. Stay turned . . .
WHO ARE SOME OF THE WOMEN THAT HAVE BEEN MOST INFLUENTIAL TO YOU? WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE LESSON EVER TAUGHT TO YOU BY A WOMAN?
My mother and grandmothers.
Grandmother taught me to always have a safety pin in my bra.
Big Ma taught me that “you might not have what you want to eat, but you have something to eat.”
Mother taught me to “do what [I] know is right” and “fuck ’em and feed ’em Froot Loops.”
Zora Neale Hurston: “You heard me. You ain’t blind.”
Amy Rosenbluth. Amy taught me the two things that have remained constant in my life: poetry and community service. Without these two things, I’m uncertain who I’d be in this world.
My Golden Girls: my three best friends – Kisha/Rose – a poet’s poet, Jessica/Dorothy – my perfect complement, and Danielle/Sophia – my ram in a bush. She saved me when my high school years were scary and lonely. (I’m Blanche for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons.)
My niece Nijah and sister Eriane. Nijah taught me patience, gifted me joy and laughter, and showed me how to explain the vastness of the world in a way that is accessible to tiny humans. Eriane gave me Nijah, which allowed me to truly put into action my love for her.
WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR 13-YEAR-OLD SELF ABOUT SURVIVING THE PROCESS OF BECOMING A WOMAN, IF YOU COULD GO BACK AND TALK TO HER?
As my best friend Jessica always says, “It doesn’t get easier, but it will get better.” [I would tell my 13-year-old self] love yourself unconditionally and without apology.
NOTE FROM EDITOR:
Thank you so much, Eris, for taking the time away from your busy schedule to do this Q&A. Thank you for being one of the beautiful, badass black women that I get to know and from whom I get to draw inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for your art, and thank you for your light.
READERS–You can learn more about Eris and all the amazing work she does at http://www.eriseady.com/about.
You can pre-order Eris’s book Journey to Whole: Excerpts, Essays, and Exhales by clicking on this link.
You can watch Eris read her poem “Dear Tamir” (dedicated to Tamir Rice) by clicking on this link.