Witnessing the Blues: The Black Body In Perpetual Motion

Max S. Gordon
9 min readJul 19, 2021

by Max S. Gordon

(“Run to You” by Kerream Jones, used with permission from the artist)

(This essay originally appeared in “Imagining: A Gibney Journal, #5”, published by the Gibney Company Community Center on May 5, 2021.)

I got the key to the highway,
Billed out and bound to go
I’m gonna leave here running
Because walking is most too slow…”

— Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee


In 2015, my brother-in-law married a woman from Cartagena, Colombia. During the wedding ceremony, the guests stood in a large circle while the bride’s sister performed a dance in a flowing white dress, her hair worn in an Afro with a wreath of wildflowers.

I see her, even now, traveling through the space, her brown arms lifted–free, exuberant and inviting, while her feet took measured, careful steps, barely moving at all. I was touched by her dance, the celebration in every gesture. Shoulders hitched, hands on hips, she was, by turns, sassy, rapturous and very much alive. I was later told that the dance she performed originated in slavery. Her arms rejoiced because her legs could not. When the dance was originally performed hundreds of years ago, the dancer’s feet had been shackled, bound with chains.



Max S. Gordon

Max S. Gordon is a writer and activist. His work has appeared in on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally. Follow Max on twitter:@maxgordon19