cultural writer | data futurist | Visual artist | Hood Feminist | The Baddest
"Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist."
- bell hooks
Ashleigh Shackelford (she/ they) is a Black fat cultural producer, multidisciplinary artist, nonbinary shapeshifter, hood feminist, and data futurist based in Atlanta, Georgia, with roots in Richmond, Virginia. She is the creator and director of a Southern body liberation organization, Free Figure Revolution, which focuses on decolonizing antiblack body violence. With bylines in Wear Your Voice Magazine, For Harriet, Buzzfeed, and Black Girl Dangerous, Ashleigh illustrates the relationship between Blackness, fatness, desire, queerness, afrotechnology, and popular culture.
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Ashleigh's work focuses on popular culture, the body - specifically Blackness and fatness, personal narratives on surviving, identity politics, and dismantling antiblackness. Her work has been published in For Harriet, Wear Your Voice Magazine, Telesur English, Black Girl Dangerous, Everyday Feminism, and Ravishly.
"As we continue to examine and enjoy Lemonade, I search for the stories of fat Black femmes and women who have been raped, sexually exploited, beaten, politically ignored and are expected to remain strong, resilient — and silent– in their pain and experiences. I continue to search for the fat Black girls who are always the shoulder to cry on for the Beyonces of the world. I continue to question where the Aunt Jemimas (read: fat black women/ femmes in servitude) are, the fat black women and femmes who are tired of servin’ everybody, feeling like it’s them vs. everybody, feelin’ overwhelmed with people needing them and draining them.
I wonder where the Sheilas (Jill Scott’s character in Why Did I Get Married?) are — the fat Black women who are married to ain’t-shit ass niggas who continue to drain you of love and apologies while giving you nothing but self-hate in return. I wonder where the Big Mamas are at — the grandmas and nanas who always find ways to make Sunday dinner, who are berated for their physical health but never get asked about their mental health and grief from life in a world that was never created for their survival. I wonder where the little Black fat girls are who get told no one will ever love them or hold them or adore them — the Precious's of the world who have experienced more trauma than care."
"In looking at both Amber Rose and Blac Chyna’s stories of survival and thriving, there is a structural context of anti-Black misogyny framing them as exploitative gold diggers and attention whores too consumed with their ex’s rather than their own lives. We’ve seen both women compared to their ex-partners’ current love interests (who are also white women). In these comparisons, we see that Kanye West is praised for “upgrading” to Kim, because while she emulates Blackness as cultural currency and relevancy through her body and relationship to Blackness, she cannot be separated her from whiteness. Kardashian is seen as white acceptable—never Black and therefore undesirable—though her perceived racial ambiguity differentiates her from other white women as exotic. Kylie has been put on a beauty standard pedestal for young girls (read: white girls) through her appropriation of Black culture and Black features, while still maintaining whiteness enough to hold all the cultural positioning and power it confers.
These direct comparisons reinforce that Black women will always be the baby mama, but never the wife, and that Black women ain’t shit unless someone else deems them worthy."
"What about the trap queens, the squad up girls, the round-the-way girls, the freak hoes, thotties, and the bald-headed scallywags with no edges to speak of? Are they capable of being carefree? Do we permit the identity of carefreeness to Black girls that aren’t rocking fros, riding bikes, and wearing flowers? Do we give license to carefree identities to be loud, poor, unpoetic, fat, permed, scowling, no formal education, unkempt, ain’t shit, or ratchet?
If we’re not praising and uplifting Black girls that wear quick weaves, have three kids, impoverished, selling rock, doing drugs, do not look like afrocentric-beauty standard Tumblr models, or don’t smile because they just don’t want to, then we’re not giving empowerment to all sides of Black girls. Some of us embody qualities of these stereotypes we’re denouncing. It doesn’t mean we’re failures or one-dimensional in our identities the way anti-Black misogynistic institutions have made it seem. But it does mean that we are complicated and it’s okay to be a Black woman who happens to be angry. Yes, we need to see more than just the Angry Black Woman archetype played on repeat. But what about the complicated nature of Black women who are angry who can also be carefree in those same moments? The sexually liberated Black woman who fucks unapologetically? Or the carefree boss ass bitch who sells drugs to survive and provide for herself? Or the Black girl who works at a fast food restaurant and listens to trap music while she waits for the bus?"