My past, / is a testament beyond erasure, beyond myth / or narrative revisioned.
-Airea Dee Matthews

For the penultimate issue of our Omens volume, we invited Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, cofounder of MFON: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora, and Philadelphia Poet Laureate Airea Dee Matthews to produce an ekphrastic collaboration around a focal point of their choosing.

The Recurring Dream of the Water Mothers is a meditative ten-part series that weaves mythic portraiture and epic poetry to visit with the water spirits of the African diaspora and transmit their healing properties to the living wounds of captivity, displacement, slavery – wounds that have defined the limits and possibilities of selfhood in America. In defiance to the policies and politics of “progress,” Barrayn and Matthews insist on a visual and lyric incantation of preservation, resilience, and transformation, refusing to separate pain from ecstasy, revolt from tenderness, death from return, then from now. They do so in a time of escalating book bans that disproportionately target queer authors and authors of color; of denial and distortion of Black history led by a presidential hopeful; and a malignant reactionary movement to silence critical discussions of race, particularly for new and future generations, in the United States.

This special series is being released two parts at a time, and we encourage readers to check in daily for the next five days to experience its full narrative, political, and emotional arc. We also invite you to join Adi in conversation with the artists at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 30, 2023.

-Cynthia Dewi Oka, Editor-in-Chief

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