Both Jamal and Ashleigh’s work consistently goes viral, making digital movements not unlike their own geographic movements from, to and throughout the American South. What does it mean for these two major cultural producers to be from the South even as the South is considered a space of lack and without production, unable to account for these identities considered to be new and cosmopolitan? Does it matter at all? Here we explore critique as a means of production, geography’s role in shaping their work and the limits of our collective “American” political imagination.
J.L.: Right. A lot of my work as a media maker is responding to that failure. I realized early on that pop culture has a large affect on how people shape themselves and how cultures around them see those people. Companies shape how they produce things around the ways that people respond. It’s a cycle. This kind of media is produced, folks watch and ingest it and then make themselves in response to it. So what then happens next is that more media is produced, kind of like around that experience, or in response to how those folks have made themselves. It is this cycle that I recognize and realize has a large impacting factor in how folks respond to my body in gay/queer dating scenes. I thought about No Fats, No Femmes many years ago and I would only write about it in a journal and tell friends, because I think I was afraid to speak about that and make work around sex. I had internalized so much [second hand] shame around sexuality and my body. Also because people would tell me that I'm bitter and just complaining too much because nobody wanted to fuck me. This, for many years, impacted how I believed in my work and I'd always retreat to a defensive place, which would only be used against me later.
So it took for me to keep reading and keep studying to feel confident one in my own thoughts and my ability to read a thing. It also took an active commitment to decolonizing my thinking, my doing, and my imagining. It changed many things around me starting with me giving the love I thought I deserved in the world, and from the world, to myself.
L.G.: To trust your analysis…
J.L.: Right. And my intuition about the world around me, and that’s something that nobody can take from me. Pop culture is a very dominant space and that’s why it’s a space that causes so much tension on the web because for people like me. I’m not always looking to be reflected back, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a thing to say about it.