Standing in line at a small, crowded bookstore in San Francisco nearly 30 years ago, I held the book close to my chest, giddy at the prospect of meeting Alice Walker, a hero of mine as an aspiring writer. The book was actually an advanced galley copy of Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems — a long, slim paperback with a blue cover that had come to the magazine where I was doing a journalism internship at the time. I’d read through the volume more than once, and the pages were dog-eared, folded in places I wanted to revisit.

One poem in particular called Reassurance had resonated deeply with me, and ends with “… and in the hourly making/of myself/no thought of Time/to force, to squeeze/the space/I grow into.” I didn’t exactly understand what those words meant, but when I reached my turn to meet Alice inside the store that night, she looked up at me, a soft, ethereal sense of joy spilling out of her into the room. I watched her write dark, elegant-looking letters across the inside flap of my galley copy, and smiled when she handed it back to me. Outside, I opened the book to see what she’d written.

Dear Rebecca,Thank you. In love and struggle, Alice Walker

My heart burst open, because everything we do, everything we are as black women — regardless of time, whether there is space for us or not — is in love for ourselves and each other, and in struggle for what we grow and have grown into.

It wasn’t until long after my encounter with Alice in San Francisco that I discovered that the phrase “in love and struggle” has its roots in the work of Chinese American author and feminist Grace Lee Boggs. And it struck me that as black women, women of color, and white women too, we have all sewn ourselves into the fabric of history with a thread of shared words.

On this weekend, though, and in this momentous political year, we are sewing a patch of history for black women.

—Rebecca Carroll, February 2020


Rebecca Carroll is a writer, cultural critic, host and managing editor of the podcast “Come Through with Rebecca Carroll” at WNYC Studios. Her memoir, Surviving the White Gaze, is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.