djenneba drammeh saw her star rise in the astrology community for all the wrong reasons. When she got into the discipline, the very first webinar she attended featured a white woman presenting a chart wheel for George Floyd—along with the disturbing images of his murder. In an essay drammeh wrote about the experience, she described this usage as preying on Black trauma. She wrote, “Let us just be extremely clear. This was a lecture about planets. Featuring snuff porn.”
drammeh’s essay attracted lots of support—and grew her Twitter following overnight—but the origin of her public profile didn’t sit right with her. “I was, albeit, very passionate about it, but it was hard to extract myself from that,” she says.
So she started organizing a next move that could offer a more positive, joyful epilogue. That has become Mercury’s Brood, a forthcoming anthology of astrology essays, criticism, creative writing, and art that drammeh is currently editing and raising money for on Kickstarter.
Breaking out of the trauma narrative
Over the years, drammeh has become unfortunately familiar with what she calls, “exclusion under the guise of inclusion: being invited into a space, but also being told that you’re different in a very pointed way.”
Another instance of this dynamic that stood out as drammeh got into astrology was the “diversity scholarship” for a major astrology conference. “When I went to check out the scholarship to see what they needed, I was really disappointed,” drammeh says. “I was disappointed in a familiar way. I felt like the application was asking me to pimp out my story for the chance to have a spot for people who are disadvantaged. I’m expected to talk about the deepest and darkest parts of me for the chance to win this special prize one can win by simply swiping a credit card, that my economic status is simply barring me from. And I’d rather just come across the money some way somehow than go through this process that I personally find demeaning”
“When that’s the case, it’s very hard to feel integrated in the room, you’re carrying that with you. And I just don’t like that. That’s what I’m pushing back against.”
drammeh wants to replace those kinds of situations with stories that flow naturally from within the context of marginalized experiences. “When I write an essay about Black hair, specifically braids, as a Saturnian practice and the archetypes associated with Saturn, that’s something that was a natural thought,” she says. “It flowed to me, it made sense. I’m speaking from within the context. Basically, I just want more natural stories. And I want stories about Blackness or stories about marginalized experience to not be cherry-picked stories about trauma, because we’re so much more than that.”
And that’s why she feels a need, a responsibility even, to create a Black-led project, “as opposed to just featuring Black voices or marginalized voices, having that editing framework where we can say, ‘Okay, I know how to hold this story because I understand, and I’m not going to create this air of exclusion around it.’”
A community buoying each other
As she started working on the anthology, drammeh quickly saw the importance of leading, rather than participating, in a project.
“My peers are so brilliant, and I hate to see any of us undersell ourselves,” she says. “. So I wanted to create a safe space where all of these brilliant people can come together and share their work and their talents without being tokenized.”
There’s also an intrinsic specialness in printed work, and it’s something drammeh is excited to carve out for herself and share with peers.
“I’m a writer at my core,” she says. “And so seeing my own name in print has been a dream for the longest time. And I think that my brilliant peers deserve that joy as well. I’m also sentimental, and if I’m going to create something, I want to be able to look back at it and save it forever. It’s a sturdiness that really attracts me, a preservation, a record keeping with an eye for justice and accountability. I want to be able to look back at this work in five years and say, ‘Oh, that’s where we were. Here’s what we did right, here’s where we failed, and here’s where we can move forward.’”
drammeh’s mission is at its heart a community exercise. “Collaboration is everything,” she says. “It’s why I chose the name Mercury’s Brood, aside from the nod to Octavia Butler. Mercury signifies collaboration, community, learning, learning in multi-directional ways. Not just via one type of writing, but through all modes of communicating with others and anything we can place on a page. I need people to bring me down to Earth when ideas start flying, and I also need people to encourage me to dream at the same time. And just people to look over logistics. I wouldn’t have been able to get half this work done, even just determining perk tiers, if I didn’t set up a team. So the collaboration worked on all levels as, again, that theme of multi-directional learning and engagement. I had to be open to listening to everybody because, again, what is the point of a project like this if you’re just going to exist in your own silo, so to speak, you need to be open and engage.”
This blog post was created in partnership with Kickstarter.