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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2

Waterbearer: A Reading From the Book of...

Constance Collier-Mercado




Constance Collier-Mercado is an experimental writer and artist whose work examines nuance within Black dialectical, multilingual, and equivocal spaces. Consumed by ideas of global Blackness as polyamorous Church, she weaves this aesthetic into her practice via an irreverent Black feminine divine. 

Born in Chicago and raised in the Bronx, her writing takes on a broad range of styles but is especially inuenced by the formally and politically innovative poetry of the Black Arts Movement, the Beat Poets, cycles of repetition and revision, and the romantic yet fierce lyricism of certain modern poetics. Published in FIYAH Magazine, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, The Auburn Avenue, Kweli Journal, The Believer, and elsewhere, her writing typically embodies some aspect of womanist thought and/or the Black spiritual-fantastic-ecstatic. 

Constance lives in Atlanta and views the attached submission as a culmination (and continuation) of time spent over the past year trying to capture some rooted thing among a constantly shape shifting Black existence. Her hope is that it might offer a lifeline for herself and others. 

In the following piece, I examine the relationship between color and water (Baby Suggs and Beloved) in Toni Morrison's novel, Beloved, as a type of synesthetic coping mechanism meant to disrupt the encroaching normalization of an anti-Black world postslavery.


Early in the text I posit two questions:

What if Baby Suggs’ appetites shifted, not as some kind of woeful trauma response but as a very deliberate solution to the problem of a world where everyone else’s senses lie askew?


What if Beloved likewise rose up from the water, not as a vengeful haunting but a haintful reminder for those living who had lost their way?


Building upon this theory, I expand its reach to establish a continued relationship to water and the sensory which Black people have inherited today as our own surreal legacy - one which requires a constant mental reorientation toward freedom. In constructing my thesis, I reference Beloved but also several other critical works of Uction, nonUction, poetry, visual art, Ulm, and sound, each framed as meditation on a particular color and liturgical text ("a reading from the book of... ") to create a mixed media ekphrasis that mimics the surreal in both citation and physical form. The Unished product can be described, at its simplest, as a braided creative nonUction essay or, at its most complex, as a hybrid blend of cultural commentary, personal essay, poetry, and scholarly article.

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