Three Possible Worlds


First Person

In Black Imagination, a complement to the series of exhibitions of the same name, Natasha Marin curates the voices of Black individuals: Black children, Black youth, the Black LGBTQ+ community, unsheltered and incarcerated and neurodivergent and other Black people. The thirty-six voices in the book are resonant on their own and deeply powerful when woven together by Marin. The following excerpt contains three responses to the prompt “Describe/Imagine a world where you are loved, safe, and valued.”

Photo: Bureau of Land Management. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

close your eyes—
make the white
gaze disappear


You don’t talk about moving because I bought the house next to yours. You don’t try to touch my hair, without asking, without saying hello or even speaking when I walk past you. You don’t expect me to do all the work that no one else feels like doing. I’m just out in the world, being myself without fear, shimmering through a star-filled sky. —Laura Lucas, Seattle, Washington 


I imagine a world where queer babies run wild into the ocean. I imagine a world where queerness is everything and everyone. I imagine a world where pink is blue and blue is pink. I imagine a world where our pain is connected and our liberation is free. I imagine a world where peace is the origin of our hearts. I imagine a world where little boys can wear glitter dresses. I imagine a world where we slay every day. I imagine a world where black babies aren’t killed because of their flamboyance. I imagine a world where little black gay boys can prance in the moonlight. I imagine a world where we each don’t have a gender or color to represent our essence. I imagine a world where black gay boys are leaders and achievers. I imagine a world where seeing is believing. I imagine a world where glitter can stain school hallways and truly uplift those who are queer. I imagine a world where our genitalia do not define our success. I imagine a world where we each have ample opportunity to grow, prosper, and flourish. I imagine a world with pink tutus on black boys. I imagine a world where glitter falls from the sky. I imagine a world where love truly is love. —Tyler Kahlil Maxie, Chicago, Illinois


I wonder what it would be like to automatically be given the benefit of doubt; that it would be assumed that I and my opinions have merit; that my contribution is worthy of consideration, even if it is ultimately rejected: to not be dismissed out of hand, and once all other options have been exhausted, to be reconsidered, and found worthy of appropriation. I wonder what the opposite of a pariah is: a paragon, revered instead of reviled. There’s a reality where my skin is not a weapon, rather a virtue; an asset instead of armor. I wonder what it’s like to be the default. I wonder what tenderness is like, what it’s like when the world doesn’t exist to calcify my exterior, to prepare me for the blows to come, but rather cradles and protects so that the slightest scratch is unbearable. I wonder what hardness feels like when all you’ve known is softness. —James E. Bailey, Frankfurt am Main, Germany


Natasha Marin is a conceptual artist whose people-centered projects have been featured in Artforum, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and others. In 2018, Marin manifested “The States of Matter,” “The (g)Listening,” and “Ritual Objects”—a triptych of audio-based conceptual art exhibitions in and around Seattle.

From Black Imagination: Black Voices on Black Futures, curated by Natasha Marin, published earlier this year by McSweeney’s.