Pamela Sneed. Photo by Lucas Michael. Courtesy of Henry Holt.
I remember sitting in the basement of the Whitney Museum a few years back, thinking it was a weird place for an event featuring the funky bards of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe. Then I heard Pamela Sneed’s husky, melodious voice. Cutting a straight line through the crowd with her statuesque presence and piercing gaze, she chanted her poems with a perfect preacher’s cadence. Her words seemed to spring forth from her center of gravity, catapulted into space. She didn’t recite her poems—she made them come alive as true performers do.
Pamela Sneed has graced magazine covers as a model, made many a cameo appearance in independent films, been the fiercest diva bartender at chic watering holes like Bar D’O, scattered her lines across more than a few downtown journals, and performed in Britain and Germany, as well as New York. Now she has a book of her own entitled Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery. The volume evokes mornings after, answering machines, bad therapists, and the nightmarish memories, both personal and cultural, of a black lesbian artist at the end of the century. As Pamela ponders the meaning of lovers lost and found, of Emmet Till, Harriet Tubman, or of the racial implications of Planet of the Apes, she lets us watch her shirk her fears and give voice to that powerful spirit within her.
Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom Than Slavery was just published by Henry Holt and Company.