Decolonizing The Crone And Reclaiming The Freedom Of Aging

May 16, 2019

Omisade Burney-Scott felt alone as she approached menopause. There were no resources to help guide her through this transition — nothing like the Judy Blume novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” that helped her through puberty. So Burney-Scott decided to create a resource of her own: “Decolonizing the Crone,” a multimedia project that collects the stories and experiences of women over 50.

The project includes live events featuring intergenerational conversations, a collection of advice for surviving menopause and a podcast. The podcast is called “Black Girls’ Guide To Surviving Menopause” and will feature episodes with a diverse cohort of women of color. Burney-Scott will be talking to women like Delores “Mama Dee” Eaton, Rukiya “Ma Ru” Dillahunt and Jaki Shelton Green for the podcast.

Host Frank Stasio talks to Burney-Scott about how her own experience of aging informed this project, and what she has learned so far from her fellow “crones.” Burney-Scott and artist Monét Noelle Marshall will host the first “Decolonizing the Crone” engagement on Tuesday, July 16 at the North Star Church for the Arts in Durham.

Interview Highlights

Burney-Scott shares the inspiration behind this project:

I've reflected a lot on the freedom that my mother or my grandmother or my aunts had to reinvent themselves — and they didn't have that. It wasn't afforded to them as Southern, black women to reinvent themselves. They accepted and were also relegated to roles of mothering or being a grandmother or being in the church or being of service to the community. But what did it mean for them to actually “be” just for themselves? Where was their personhood for themselves?

On her project’s connection to “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”:

This is an extension of that conversation I started with my girlfriends when I was 12 years old. The anticipation of your first menstrual cycle is like an obsession. Everybody's talking about it in some way, shape or form. Even if it’s not a conversation that folk are open in your family about, people are talking about it. Folk are not obsessed with menopause. And when it occurs, then the conversation becomes available to you. But it has to actually occur, and it has to occur to you.

On why she chose “Decolonizing the Crone” as the title of this project:

There's this pantheon that's part of goddess-based tradition or Earth-based traditions: the maid, the mother and the crone. So the crone is the third phase of a woman's life. When you're a maid, it’s all the preparation for your first cycle, right? When you're a mother, people are talking about — either you're going to have a baby, or you're nurturing people in your community … And then the crone is that elder woman who has lived life. She's experienced life … They’re also associated with moon phases. She's the dark side of the moon, which seems like a scary place. But it's also a place that holds magic [and] is still a place of exploration. And so I decided that I wanted to use Decolonizing the Crone because I wanted to disrupt and interrupt these notions around aging.