This introduction appears in the issue “Undisciplined Archives: Dreaming Across Black Geographies” (Volume 10, Number 2). Click here to subscribe and download the entire issue.
When I began my doctoral studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I took a course titled “Black Geographies” taught by Dr. Camilla Hawthrone. After the quarter concluded, Dr. Hawthorne, a few Black faculty at UCSC, and the Black graduate students from that class formed a study group we called The Black Geographies Lab.1 This is how I first met Dr. Naya Jones, then a new faculty member at UCSC and in our lab. When I started working for The Arrow Journal, I invited the faculty in our lab to consider guest editing an issue in the journal; Naya graciously responded.
I came to know Naya, and her work reclaiming Black diasporic botanical knowledge through reconnection to landscapes, in our shared lab studies. We found further connections when Naya formed another “lab” focused on craft, arts, and ecological praxis: “Crafting Black Ecologies.” In this new space I witnessed her profound spiritual practice.
When Naya shared with me the quote, “I dream a dream that dreams back at me,” from Toni Morrison’s book A Mercy,2 I recalled a quote from Zora Neale Hurston that also spoke of her experiences with dream visions. In her life, Hurston at times lamented this unique gift—a chapter in Dust Tracks on a Road reveals how her childhood visions left her with a sense of isolation. She felt that others wouldn’t understand these “strange things” or would see her as a “story-teller,” and, yet, she believed that her dreams compelled her—“I must go where I am sent.” Her conclusion seems ambiguous: “It is one of the blessings of this world that few people see visions and dream dreams.”3 I linger on the words blessing and few, wondering if Hurston means to spare others from the alienation of such sight, or if she implies a change of heart, calling others to trust the blessings of dream visions.
In Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston asserts, “The dream is the truth,” and, therefore, we must “act and do things accordingly.”4 I take this to mean that dreams bear action, if we are brave enough both to see and share them. This issue, “Undisciplined Archives: Dreaming Across Black Geographies,” and the words and artwork within, answer this call with valor and vision.
Thank you to our Associate Editor, Ashley Wilson, and our Chief Editor, Gabe Dayley, for their time, energy, and commitment to seeing this issue come alive. Much appreciation is also due to our peer reviewers, our copy editors, and our illustrator, Star Barker—their efforts make this work more beautiful and complete. Of course, I offer another hearty thank you to Naya for trusting our team to hold this capacious issue. Your care, attention, and intention with every aspect of this issue was deeply felt by all who worked on the issue, and I hope, the readers as well.
This issue feels like home to me in so many ways. The essence and aśe within these pages—from the words of authors, to visions of artists and poets, and even the names of ancestors and scholars invoked herein—remind me that our work can fulfill our dreams, and our dreams can be our homes.
shah noor hussein
The Arrow Journal
- The Black Geographies Lab at UCSC website: https://blackgeographies.ucsc.edu/. There are a few Black Geographies Labs and study groups across the country and notably one at UC, Berkeley as well. ↩
- Toni Morrison, A Mercy (New York: Random House, 2009), 131. ↩
- Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road (New York: Harper, 1996; first edition 1942). ↩
- Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God (New York: Harper Collins, 1998; first edition 1937). ↩