white space-is? is a research project, a reparative project, a de-disillusionment project, dis-illusion project that tries to define what white space is, and make conscious the ethereal, atmospheric, vibe-y qualities of real racial violence and racial trauma, so I can consciously and subconsciously do my part in opting-out, of that-those spaces, that-those vibes. And do my part in curating the vibe of wherever I am.

This is a year-long project, with interviews, gatherings (to share stories, cypher, eat) and group recovery sessions and support groups/resource sharing groups.

Hoping to find a coherent way to share the research at the ‘end’ of this project, also hoping to find a way that honors the incoherence of this subject. Until then I wanna engage, improvise, and gather with people. Looking at ways to do that, remotely and in person. Grateful for infinity to the Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Initiative, Dancing While Black Digital Journal, and the ASU Herberger Institute Projecting All Voices Fellowship for supporting this work so fully. Throughout this year, and with the help of the DWB Digital Journal, I’ll be sending out prompts and ways to engage with and contribute to the research remotely, through social media, and in-person.

Once I started getting deeper into my spiritual, reparative, creative practice, and concurrently deeper in my relationship with institutions and material resources, the need to define white space rang, loud. I started realizing the unresolved racial trauma in my body and central nervous system and also the unnamed, atmospheric racial violence that is happening in many spaces I am in and have been in and in between, oftentimes feeling like I had to be in; seemingly dependent on material resources and access to something I thought I needed.

Golden Hearts with Ghost Heart Earring with Hand | Art by LaKela Brown.

I’m calling these spaces white spaces for now because of segregation, the nature of policing, my indoctrination into the racial binary, the invention of racial categories as a tool of global domination, and because ya’ll know what I’m talking about. And then the Starbucks incident, Yale incident, the lake in Oakland incident, the Waffle House incident(s) that all happened in a span of two weeks, throwing in our faces the relentless nature of white space defining itself, the violent protection of space, as if owned, the myth of owned space…it was a triggering reminder that public space/natural space, is surveilled and enforced as white space, 100%, today.

Also, I feel it. I tense up. I over-smile. I feel the pulses, triggers of my ancestors whenever I am in white space. I feel their coping mechanisms living through me. I feel the ancestors who ran and kept running. I feel the ancestors who killed. I feel the ancestors who stayed, who negotiated the intersections of assimilation and resistance. I feel the ones who accommodated. I feel the ones who lost their minds. I feel violation and disrespect. I feel the actors and the performers. I feel the terror of debt. The terror of losing your house, your land, the grief and rage of having lost your homes, your land. Of undervalued work, unpaid work. I feel the teachers having to teach another’s tongue, the another’s rules, another’s history. I feel the coding, the secret languaging, the need to get something else across. I feel the fear. I feel the exhaustion. The being drained dry. I feel the ancestors who were killed. I feel the ones who bucked, who blacked. I feel the ones who gave in, who buckled. I am not yet healed. It is still tender and very raw. They tell me to tread lightly, to notice, they tell me to ground, they tell me to know. They tell me to better recognize my worth. They tell me to see. To trust myself. They tell me that I belong. They tell me to be gentle with myself. To chill, to rest, to restore. They tell me me it’s time to open again. They are telling me I am ok, I am safe, I am innocent, and I am free. They are telling me to get out of the thing, and make another thing, with other people. Turn around. There are options, many many many many options.

The main goals of this research project:

  1. Get some qualitative definitions of what white space is.
  2. Get some new practices and ways of gathering with community.
  3. Gather information on the other options. Other ways of presenting and making work, tapping into resources.
  4. To move intentionally toward healing and resolving racial trauma.
  5. To free up my energy to be able to co-create and co-build and co-curate vibes and spaces and systems that feel good.


Prompt 1: Fill in the blank. – Featuring Babay L. Angles and Orlando Hunter.

Prompt 2: Move. Breathe. Feel. – Featuring J. Bouey and Joya Powell

Prompt 3: Imagine Radically. – Featuring Jonathan González

About the Author: Marguerite Hemmings
About the Editor: Paloma McGregor