For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edge of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of use
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid.
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
While I've been researching the history of Black women's groups in Los Angeles, I ran across this 1935 photo of the Phy-Art-Lit-Mor Club in Shades of L.A., an archive of over 10,000 photographs representing the contemporary and historic diversity of people in Los Angeles that was organized by the Los Angeles Public Library.
The Phy-Art-Lit -Mor Club was founded in 1913 by Vada Somersville, the first Black woman licensed to practice dentistry in the state of California. She practiced alongside her husband, John Alexander Somerville, and the couple went on to build the Dunbar Hotel in 1928, which was the focal point of the Central Avenue Black community in Los Angeles during the 1930s and 1940s.
Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much information about this group, at least online. So far only brief mentions about the group in a California Eagle article from 1950 and in Delilah Beasley's book The Negro Trail Blazers of California. Ms. Beasley describes the Phy-Art-Lit-Mor Club as "the leading culture club among colored women in Los Angeles" in 1919, which is when her book was published.
However, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to uncover more information about this group and perhaps there's even some archival materials or historic documents floating around out there, perhaps tucked away in someone's garage in Los Angeles. I'd love to help document and preserve the history of this group along with others just like it.