At the age of seven, I found myself drawn to Tina Turner's Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), she was a black woman directly challenging the white male gaze by reclaiming her statuesque body draped in chain metal—a revision of the Dahomean Amazon. It was my first encounter with a woman who looked like me, with a body like my Auntie Linda, and a commanding voice that compelled others to obey. She was beautiful, she was powerful, and her agency was only possible in a world propagated on the destruction of my own. Still, it was my father's act of introducing me to horror icon Ben, from George Romero's zombie opus Night of the Living Dead (1968) that exposed my true fandom—post-apocalyptic zombie horror. As an eager consumer of this genre, I was continually struck by the demographics of Western society after the apocalypse where—in the words of Gloria T. Hull—all the women were white and all the blacks were men.
And then Katrina happened.
For so long, those post-apocalyptic landscapes had been a part of the fantastical books and movies I consumed as a child—or, found in a news story centered in distant lands. The Storm made the movies a disturbing reality. The days and nights dragged by as I saw members of my family, my friends and other fellow New Orleanians trapped: on rooftops, in the Superdome and later in the Houston Astrodome, and in my very own tiny graduate-student apartment as my parents and baby sister sought temporary refuge in North Carolina. I marveled at how we, as Southern Black folks, mixed the new technologies of webspace and wikihosts with our old-fashioned technologies of verbal grapevines and long-forged stubbornness to locate family members and church friends scattered all across America. It is in this Sankofa-like ability to revere the past, present, and the future that I find myself stepping into a familiar position of spiritual power garnered by the African diasporic women of the past to guide the intellectual possibilities of black woman authored content of the present and the future. I have become a Conjure Woman intellectual, laying bare the power of the Mambo, the Obeah woman, and the Santera to the spiritual reformation that girds black women's revision of the horror genre. Katrina cemented the reality for me that black women's stories are integral parts of the pre-, during, and post-apocalypse and that my authors refuse to wait until the apocalypse to talk back to what hooks refers to as their 'violent erasure' from popular cultural texts. I model my criticism upon my city's flexible identities, as a shifting space undulating amongst its African, Caribbean, European, and Indigenous influences—so goes my work, transgressive to national borders and willfully blind to oceans that can isolate and confine.
Kinitra D. Brooks is an Assistant Professor of African American and Afro-Caribbean literature at a University in Texas. She graduated with her PhD in Comparative Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008. Her upcoming monograph, Searching for Sycorax: Black Women Haunting Contemporary Horror, examines black women horror writers.