I’m thinking a lot about rupture right now, but truthfully I’m always thinking about it. Rupture orders my fractured diasporic identity, my coming to terms with forms of privilege that I benefit from, and my processing of trauma. This rupture was born in the hold of a ship and manifests in ways that Black folks still do not comprehend. Our current global moment bears testament to a certain type of rupture. While it may even prove to be a moment that ruptures the anti-Black, patriarchal, capitalist, carceral, settler state/world, I’m not that hopeful. With that said, I do find pockets of hope in the care I feel from Black women and femmes. Ethics of care form a deep narrative axis around which films from the women of the LA Rebellion orbit. These reparative modes of care serve as study for how to contend with rupture and carve out future worlds.
My sister and I recently discussed Alile Sharon Larkin’s film Your Children Come Back to You (1979) and Omah Diegu’s (formerly known as Ijeoma Iloputaife) African Woman, U.S.A. (1980), as two films that elevate modes of care in women/femme-centered families while representing two different types of rupture. Larkin’s Project One film1 Your Children Come Back to You positions the rupture born from the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a metaphor for the oppositional assimilationist and Pan-Africanist tendencies within Black families. The film’s protagonist, Tovi, is a young girl and proxy for Alile herself. She is being raised by her father’s partner, Lani, with the assistance of public benefits, while her father is fighting for the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Her paternal aunt Chris is a light-skinned, wealthy woman who takes pride in excess and tokenism. The first time that Chris appears in the film, Tovi asks her if she is adopted. Tovi poses the same question to Chris several times throughout the film. In fact everything that Tovi says is deeply considered and emotionally incisive, especially when she retells a story she learned in school:
Once there was a proud mother. She was rich and proud ’cause she had many, many children. One day strangers came to her home and they stole her children away from her. They took her children far away, all over the world. They beat her children. They made her children do all of their work. Many children died right away. Many died later. The strangers told the children that they were orphans, that they had no mother, that they were bastards, that they had no father. But that sun is the children’s father. He stayed with them wherever they went. He made their skin black and smooth. He beamed down into their heads until they remembered. Africa is their mother. We are her children. Me and you. All over the world strangers stole children. All over the world strangers stole the pride of mothers. He takes their houses and their land too. . . . The stranger is white, but everywhere he goes he adopts . . . Black children. And they help to keep the family divided. And the mother cries and cries for hundreds of years until the children come home and the strangers leave.
Saidiya Hartman states in Lose Your Mother: a Journey along the Atlantic Slave Route, “The most universal definition of the slave is a stranger. . . . Contrary to popular belief, Africans did not sell their brothers and sisters in slavery. They sold strangers: those outside the web of kin and clan relationships. . . . In order to betray your race, you first had to imagine yourself as one.”2 Larkin positions Chris as a Black person who relates to unassimilated Black people—those who are generally poorer and darker than her—as strangers. Tovi sees this clearly. In fact, Tovi is a proxy for Larkin herself as a young woman.3