Red Summer

A digital zine by Rasheedah Phillips and Moor Mother of Black Quantum Futurism

Red Summer Zodiac

Battlefield Replica Symmetry Retrospectra

Moor Mother

The idea is to travel throughout the race riots
from 1866 to the present time
a speedy dicaptation
by time, musk and thickness
sacrificing blood for hate
making it to the front line with ease
like how mamma made biscuits outa nothing,
all while having a dope needle in her arm.

The blueprint provided by a black cemetery
of hopeful dead rattling their coffins with cheer.
A new type of happiness
a black happiness
that's filled with grief.
somehow ending up at the portal in time
with just your torso nothing else
no mind just the innate wiring, of your dna,
the processes of your chromosomes,
systematically forming to prevent
one's own annihilation.

I mean extermination.
The labor of existence.

reconstruction error/horror

the first time
you heard the whisper of death
/the death that has always been lingering/here with you
/since the day you were born.
heard it telling you/
that you must be both /dead and alive

want us to be
dead when a man wants to beat us
when they wanna rape us
dead when the police kill me
alive when the police kill you
alive when it's time to be in they kitchens
when it's time to push out they babies
living a double conscience/both dead and alive

I've been bleeding since 1866
dragged my bloody self to 1919
and bled thru the summer
being slaughtered by whites

A klux of chaos came after
an influx of terror from German and Irish immigrants.
amerikkkan imperialist wasted no time
joining mobs of riots even the descendants of the pilgrims still licking knives
clean from the trail of tears joined in to slaughter and rampage.
All because of a feeling
an emotion/ fear

by the time I got to watts
I was missing most of my limbs
still had enough blood in my throat
to gargle up 9 words
I resist to being both the survivor and victim

but I know the reality
and some of us did just die
under a boot
/under a pounding fist
in the back of a car raped
/our vagina mangled guts
some of us did just die

while giving birth /(past oure)
while protesting for the freedom of our sons/ (future hora)
only god knows
how I made it to Ferguson

Renisha didn't make it
Rekia didn't make it
Aiyanna didn't make it
Yvette didn't make it
Pearlie didn't make it
Shantel didn't make it
Tarika didn't make it
Tyisha didn't make it
Kathryn didn't make it
Gabriella didn't make it
Miriam didn't make it
Shereese didn't make it
Sharmel didn't make it

I was sure I was dead
in Oakland
after being dragged by a pickup truck
in jasper texas
where 81 pieces of me/my body
was scattered across a back road.

The white men dropped me off at a black cemetery
/see that's how I got over. here.

the same place I was in 1866.

A bleeding black body
blowing in the wind
dripping a ironic thickness of things never changing.

time is a balancing act
that encompasses all things
suspended in illusion.

(reconstructing errors)

The Telescoping Effect, Part One

I. Charleston, SC : May 17, 1919

Shirley Ann almost didn’t make it to Ma Belle’s house because of the riots last Saturday, and she wasn’t about to be sorry for it. Her mama had to work anyway. Even though the city was on something called a “martial law,” the white lady was making mama come in to help with cleaning up the stores, so there was nothing Shirley Ann could do to avoid the trip. The rest of her brothers and sisters were old enough to stay home by themselves. But Shirley Ann, the baby of the house, had to be “babysat,” and had to walk the two miles over there with her mama being her grumpy self.

Usually the only fun part about going to Ma Belle’s house on a weekend was when she took her afternoon nap. Every Saturday and Sunday at noon, when her house clock chimed, Ma Belle would sit on the front porch of her house, smoke a cigarette, sip her fresh-squeezed lemonade, and pass out in her rocking chair, rain or shine.

It was then, and only then, that Shirley Ann could climb the seven creaky steps up to the dusty attic, where Ma Belle kept all her old heels and lab coats from her time working as a scientist, way back before Shirley Ann was born. She would try on the clothes and twirl in the big, heavy full-length mirror propped up against the wall, pretending she was in some white, shiny lab in a big city up north. Shirley Ann’s mom sometimes told the story about how Ma Belle had been one of the first blacks, and one of the first women, to work in a science lab all the way up in Philadelphia.

But Ma Belle never talked much about that herself, or what she did now. A lot of it was just secrets and whispers, and her mama seemingly upset with her grandmother about one thing or another when she dropped Shirley Ann off to be minded.

This weekend was different, though. Instead of passing out on the porch at noon, Ma Belle and Shirley Ann had gone to the park not too far from her house to take some pictures up on the hill top.

And it seemed like it was going to be fun at first because she finally got to see Ma Belle’s camera telescope thingy, which she kept locked up in a wooden box with the words NORTH STAR TRACKER carved on it in fancy gold lettering. Shirley Ann always saw the box tucked away in a dusty corner of the attic behind a curtain. She’d asked about it a dozen times, but Ma Belle always said it was too dangerous and delicate to touch, and then fussed at her for playing in the attic while she was napping.

But now Shirley Ann was getting bored waiting for something to happen. They had been out in the park up on the hill top, and in the sun for what felt like hours. The box was on the ground over by her grandmother with the lid off, its contents assembled into what looked like a big box camera with a tube sticking out of it. Not that she had seen too many cameras in her nine years of life, but the ones she did see looked nothing like this. They were usually small enough to hang around your neck and carry around.

Shirley Ann sucked her teeth, asking, “What exactly is we waiting on, Ma Belle?” The sky was as still as the park around them. There was nothing she could see that was so interesting.

“A signal,” Ma Belle said, not looking up from her camera, “I’m waiting for a signal, Shirley Ann. It’ll be just a few minutes now. I need to expose the plate for a bit more, and I need you to write down some numbers for me when I get that signal.” Shirley Ann watched her grandmother pull a small, clear, rectangular object out of the North Star Tracker. “I thought you wanted to help me out, girl.”

“I do! We just been out here forever, that’s all.” Shirley Ann whined. She didn’t know what “expose the plate” meant, but it sounded better than writing down some numbers like they was at school.

Earlier, she heard her mama and Ma Belle speaking in loud whispers about one of Ma Belle’s assistants, Jamison, getting hurt real bad in the riot. Mama sounded upset talking about it, saying that, “No respectable negro shoulda been caught in that mess in the first place,” and, “that’s how them other three black boys ended up dead.” Ma Belle told her that what was in the newspapers was a lie, and they always lied, and how if she read the colored folks news in Charleston, she would know the facts. “It weren’t no colored boys who started it, girl.”

Shirley Ann wanted to ask Ma Belle more questions about her assistant and what she meant about the facts, but she knew she wasn’t supposed to be listening in on her and mama’s talk. In fact, if her mama knew that Ma Belle had brought her out of the house after the riot, she wouldn’t hear the end of it. If mama got really mad, she would be sent outside for a switch.

Ma Belle had said it would be their little secret, though. Shirley Ann wasn’t going to resist a rare moment to share a secret with Ma Belle, queen of secrets.

“Child, you don’t know what forever is.” Ma Belle sighed, finally relenting to the little girl’s complaints. “Alright, come on over here for a second. Let me show you what I’m looking at. But you can’t never tell another soul about this.”

“I pinky-swear promise!” Shirley Ann wasted no time hopping up from her spot in the grass and running the short distance over to Ma Belle and the telescope, a big black tube standing a few feet above her on top of three legs spread out into a triangle.

“Slow down girl. You got to be real delicate.” Ma Belle told her, pulling down, then steadying the shaft of the telescope so that Shirley Ann could see through it.

Shirley Ann squeezed one eye shut and looked through the small hole, pointed at the sky towards the sun. It took her a second to figure out what she was supposed to be focusing on, and then she saw it. A thick, unnatural darkness quickly moved through the sky, but only inside the camera’s lens, like a little mini picture show playing just inside of it. Shirley Ann had never seen anything like it. Everything around her felt like it was far, far away from her, as she got lost in the scene playing on the camera. The middle of the hole seemed endless.

“It looks like the sun is being swallowed!” she yelled, one hand squeezing the leg of the telescope as she stood on her tippy toes to balance herself, the other squeezing her grandmother’s hand.

“That’s right, little one. That’s exactly what the ancient Maya people thought. Their name for a solar eclipse meant, ‘eating the sun.’”

Shirley Ann kept looking into the lens, her nose scrunching up. “What? That’s funny. The sun is so big! What could be big enough to swallow it?”

LISTEN: The North Star Tracker

The older woman smiled. “Well, the Chinese thought it was a dragon. But nothing’s being swallowed up, really. What it is, is the moon passing ‘tween the sun and the earth at just the right time. That black hole that you see through the telescope is the moon blocking the sun. You know, the sun has been doing that since before you was born. Since before I was born. It does it every so often.”

“What you mean, Ma Belle?”

“I mean it’s just one of nature’s way of keeping time, the cycle of things. Some things are already set in place to happen, long before they happen—we just waiting to catch up is all.”

Shirley Ann thought hard about that, wrinkling up her forehead. “I think I know what you mean,” she said, going to sit back down in her spot.

“Good. Because what you just saw in that telescope is something that hasn’t happened yet,” Ma Belle replied.

Something that hasn’t happened yet. Just like that. Now Shirley Ann was really confused. “Okay, wait … How was I able to see something that hasn’t happened yet, inside the camera, but not outside up in this sky?”

“Well, it’s a sort of magic trick I can make the camera perform. You see, in twelve days, the eclipse will happen and only people in a place called Príncipe near Africa and a place called Sobral in South America will be able to see it. But I can make my camera see the eclipse before it happens. I can make a record of it, just like it’s happening, right here. Right now.”

Shirley Ann had learned a little bit about Africa and South America in her geography classes, so she was now highly confused. As far as she could tell, both of those places was way too far away to be seen by her grandmom’s telescope, let alone into the future. It sounded like a tale straight from a dime novel or the comics her big brothers sometimes read to her.

“But what kind of a trick is that?” she asked her grandmother.

“If I told you the secret, it wouldn’t be a trick, now would it?” Ma Belle said. With a sly smile, she turned back to the camera.

Shirley Ann laid back in the grass and gazed up at the sun. She imagined a tiny point spiraling out from its center, radiating outward and growing larger until it covered the sun fully, transforming into a perfectly round, gaping black hole. She called back out to her grandmother as the spiral hypnotized her:

“Ma Belle, stop foolin!’ How you do that?”

“Stop begging me for something I’m never gonna give you. And don’t you go around thinking the future can be all the way predicted. Nor is shining a light on the future always a good thing. All magic has a touch of chaos…”

Go to Chapter II: Philadelphia, PA: May 15, 2019