In celebration of Women's History Month, Torch Literary Arts is proud to share this heartfelt remembrance on the power of sisterhood - both blood and chosen - in honor of our dear friend and 2006 & 2008 TORCH feature, Kamilah Aisha Moon.
Photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths. L-R: Lakie, Aisha, and Niya Moon
by Elizabeth de Souza
I got to experience the storied magic of Hedgebrook, a residency for women writers, only because the dearly-missed poet Kamilah Aisha Moon urged me and urged me and urged me to apply. We'd met at MacDowell in 2019 and became close. At some point, Aisha proposed that we exchange new writing each week, if only a few sentences. She called it Fresh Flow Fridays. She always sent me hers. Me—sometimes.
One frantic Friday I sent her a flash-nonfiction piece that was far from fresh. I’d composed ”The Color of Nana’s Wish" almost a decade earlier. Writing it helped me process something unthinkably painful that another sister-friend had endured years ago. Aisha's response was lightening-quick. “You HAVE to submit this,” she said. “So many places will want it. Let me know if you need suggestions where to send.”
Her words were a balm. Catching the cross-rhythms of the piece had been tricky, and I wasn’t sure it was hitting the right notes. So when Aisha called it “a timeless portrait of humanity at its best and worst, simultaneously,” it gave me peace. I thought of her when I finally took her advice and began looking for a home for “The Color of Nana’s Wish,” just as I had thought of her a year earlier while crossing the Puget Sound by ferry, my face wet with sea-mist, headed to Whidbey Island to join the sisterhood of writers at Hedgebrook. I think of her all the time, still in disbelief that she left us so soon, not long after her 48th birthday this past September.
After the piece was accepted at Torch Literary Arts as part of the publication’s rebirth, I was perusing their website and came across a photo of Aisha, smiling at me from across time. Smiling because unbeknownst to me, she'd contributed to TORCH’s original launch more than fifteen years ago. Smiling because that’s how she always showed up to support her writer-sisters; with joy and luminescence.
“The Color of Nana’s Wish” was published in January. It ran under a section called Friday Features, which I now think of as Fresh Flow Fridays. Seeing it among other works for and by Black women caused me to reflect on the timelessness of sisterhood: how Aisha was born a few years after me, yet still counsels and guides me as an older sister would. How she shares a love with her two blood sisters, both of them younger, that is vast and expansive as the heavens above. How impossible it seems that a word we both used like currency now belongs to her: “ancestor.” And how the word “sister” carries a special meaning among Black people, managing to be at once broad, specific, historical and achingly current. As a sister who never had one growing up, I cherish those I find along with way. Which is why TORCH is the perfect place to find Aisha, along with other sisters yet unknown, again and again, as we celebrate our forever-bond; one that changes with time, but never disappears.
Elizabeth de Souza is a writer and curator with a special focus on the arts emerging from the African diaspora. She is particularly interested in the mysterious link between artistic genius and mental health. Elizabeth earned her MFA in creative writing from George Mason University and has received awards, fellowships, and grants from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Twelve Literary Arts, and Creative Capital, among others. Her essays have appeared in print and online publications such as Southern Indiana Review, Callaloo, Surface Design Journal, Solstice, and the Journal of Baha’i Studies. Her first book, Sleeping in the Fire: Reclaiming the Lost Legacy of M. Bunch Washington and Other Seminal Black Visual Artists in America, is forthcoming. She is the Director of the Bunch Washington Foundation, which she co-founded in 2021 with her brother, journalist and filmmaker, Jesse Washington, to support Black painters and sculptors. Elizabeth currently lives in the Pittsburgh area with her husband and two young children. Follow her online at her website and on Twitter and Instagram.
Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.