Ave Ameena Long (@keep_it_diasporic) is a black, queer photographer born in Berkeley, CA and raised in both Oakland and Miami. Her family has been rooted in the East Bay Area for over three generations. Her work is centered around elevating the images of both black and fat bodies in spiritual and transcendent spaces.
Our resident astrologist Astrosagas sat down with her to discuss her chart.
Ave Long (AL): “Growing up in Miami was very tropical and Caribbean black, and around Haitian and Afro-Latinos that were a totally different culture to Oakland. So it was a really good experience. Like I had yucca fries in my cafeteria. And ceficito and Cuban bread. That is totally different than out here.”
AstroSagas(AS): “And what was it like being there?”
AL: “I actually struggled with it a lot personally because I actually did go to Catholic school with a lot of white passing Latinx people, so I experienced a lot of racism. A lot of anti-blackness. From middle school through high school, so I didn’t have a good experience in Miami.”
AS: “Yeah I mean it’s well known that the anti-blackness in the Latinx community is really intense. What did that feel like? If you don’t mind talking about it.”
AL: “I don’t mind talking about it, it’s actually really good to remember where I’ve come from. It was really hard. Especially in High School, I’m wearing braids right now and I liked to wear braids a lot in high school and to get called down to the office and be told I couldn’t wear my hair like this. In 2004, you know. Like really, we’re still doing this? Be asked by computer techs if I flushed my weave down the toilet because the toilets are clogged.”
AL: “[I was denied] Caribbean and Afro-diasporic art project because no one talks about African history in my school and being told that we don’t need diversity training at school. So it was really hard. And they were all wealthy, white passing Latinx folk, mostly Cuban, and I didn’t have very many other black friends or indigenous people or any other POC people in my school. So it was isolating at home, and it was isolating at school.”
AL: “So I left as soon as I could. One week after I graduated I was back in Oakland. But I still like to visit because the water is so magical, and I wouldn’t have understood the beauty of water if I hadn’t gone to Miami. And I got to experience so much delicious food that I crave all the time. And I still think there’s a lot of African rootedness that exists outside of Miami that I think is really beautiful and magical, like little Haiti, cuz I spent a lot of time there.”
AL: “ But I’m such an Oakland girl at heart, so I’m really glad I came back.”
AS: “I’m glad that you got back too. Ok, so let’s look at your chart a bit.”
AS: “You have this really great kite formation, so that usually means a really good reciprocal energy for being able to build a lot if you can tap into the juxtaposition: wherever the kite is trying to fly off to. And so it is literally being driven by Ceres in Pisces, Black Moon Lilith in Virgo, your Sun in Scorpio, and Chiron in Cancer. And so it looks like it’s a lot about renovating feminine archetypes. Specifically the ones related to Virgo.”
AS: “Virgo is actually related to the keepers of the temple, and the women who decided to step outside the heteronormative wheel of reproduction and dedicate themselves to a god or goddess. They were virgins because they are self-contained and self-defined. They belonged to no one.”
AS: “I really feel like defining yourself as someone who is dedicated to renovating the energy of the goddess here on Earth would do very well for your practice and for your art. And for your self-healing, this Chiron in Cancer is really about feeling a very big disconnect from feeling loved. Probably by your mom. Because it’s in Cancer.”
AL: “My mom is a cancer.”
AS: “Yeah and so having Chiron in Cancer is like ‘I don’t feel loved. I don’t feel loved for a really long time, and I also don’t feel like I deserve that love anymore, because I never got it. There’s a part of me that isn’t lovable, and that’s what my mom made me feel, and now I believe that I am not lovable. There is a part of you that rejects what your mom rejected, and so even in relationships where people are like ‘I Love You,’ you’re like ‘I don’t know, no one’s ever done that though. And so that’s part of your kite as well, to bring back the parts of you that have been rejected. And so to redefine yourself as a manifester of the goddess on this realm, and to find that love that you’ve been missing through that. ”
AL: “Just reading my life.”
AL: “I had a really hard time with my mom and her husband in Miami, I was abused emotionally a lot, I was called fat all the time, and told all these things that are hard to deal with now, so as somebody who has reclaimed the word fat and identifies as fat, it is important to me to take pictures of all bodies. All bodies are beautiful, but especially highlighting people who identify as fat or thick. Or considered ugly. I still struggle with finding that to be beautiful, even with myself.”
AL: “I started taking selfie pictures too, and was able to overcome that and have an art show of me and my body, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. So I started with the body thing because even now, it’s still hard to see my mom. She still comments on my body, and at 30 years old, it still bothers me.”
AL: “I actually started with traveling and taking pictures of black people where I travelled, I started in Colombia. And that was the premiere of my mission and my art life.”
AL: “My mission is to keep it diasporic, and is also my handle on Instagram and creating this website, and thinking about how radical it is to be able to be this black queer person and travel and get the history that I’m denied of that is black history, that is queer and revolutionary history that I have to go seek myself. So the ideal of keeping it diasporic is that I’m traveling everywhere, because black people are everywhere, and I’m seeking this history. I’m also seeking this queer history, because again we everywhere too.”
AL: “The idea is that I want to inspire people to creatively explore their history too, and to not be limited to being here, in America. And that means traveling, and it’s so righteous to be traveling as a queer person of color, that’s radical in and of itself. But, how can you creatively connect with your community there and not just like take from it, but also what can you offer?”
AL: “I think photography is such a good way to preserve that [history]. In my next life, or in the next universe, my imagery will still be here.”
Ave Ameena Long was interviewed by Astrosagas, aka Celia Sagastume, in Oakland California on Friday, March 8th, 2019. This interview has been edited for length.