This Thread of Gold author Catherine Joy White on celebrating Black voices

This Thread of Gold author Catherine Joy White on celebrating Black voices

by Suswati Basu
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Catherine Joy White talks about her new book This Thread of Gold

“We are all part of weaving this tapestry and weaving this thread of gold” Catherine Joy White, the distinguished gender advisor to the United Nations, told the audience at The Trouble Club in London. White joined the team at The Ned, where she discussed her new book “This Thread of Gold“, which brings together positive and inspiring disruptors throughout history. From acts of defiance having taken place in secret, in kitchens, churches, through trusted networks, White interweaves tales about Audre Lorde, Aretha Franklin and many other trailblazing people.

“For grandmother, mother and daughter. For you and me; for us. They are in each of us. They are us and we are them. We are this thread of gold.”

Catherine Joy White, from This Thread of Gold

Who is Catherine Joy White?

Catherine Joy White is an English actress, producer, author, and gender advisor for the United Nations (UN). White later lived between Paris and Geneva intermittently, having obtained degrees in English and French at the University of Warwick from 2012 to 2016.

The writer began her career with the UN as an intern whilst studying at university, later becoming a contracted advisor for them. She then made her debut as an actress in 2019, and set up her own production company, Kusini Productions, which saw her receive an accolade at the British Urban Film Festival for one of her short films. She has appeared in several films and television shows, including Fifty-Four Days, Ceres, and Threesome. This year, aside from releasing her debut book, she was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30.

What is This Thread of Gold about?

In “This Thread of Gold: A Celebration of Black Womanhood“, Catherine Joy White embarks on a unique journey of self-discovery, weaving her path from Alice Walker to Beyoncé, Audre Lorde to Doreen Lawrence, Aretha Franklin to Zendaya. This vibrant tapestry of Black joy takes inspiration from extraordinary women, mirroring the spirit of Angela Davis’s Women, Race and Class, Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, and Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives. In “This Thread of Gold,” the legacy continues, breathing fresh vitality into the narrative of Black women’s resistance.

Women’s lives are a patchwork quilt made up of different stories

During the event, White spoke about the power and strength inherent in every woman’s narrative, weaving together stories of courage, defiance, and transformation. The author delved into various aspects of her book and the inspirations that fuelled its creation. She said: “[I] ended up coming back to this idea of womanhood and what gets passed down through generations, which is what the book is about […] Whoever picks up the book feels that they’re a part of creating this tapestry 100%.”

Read: Joanne Harris on Broken Light: menopausal rage is ignored

“This Thread of Gold” radiates with a sense of regality, reminding readers of their inherent worth, regardless of their identity. White shared her desire for the book to exude beauty and elegance, emphasising its celebration of womanhood and the diverse voices that contribute to the melting pot of human experience.

One of the stories White recounted was that of Chiara Vigo, a remarkable woman who harvests sea silk and weaves it into exquisite tapestries. This ancient tradition, passed down through generations of women, symbolises the legacy and interconnectedness of womanhood. White’s account of Vigo’s story beautifully encapsulates the theme of the book, which highlights the significance of collective contributions and the unique strength of individual voices.

“And it gets passed on from [Chiara Vigo] to the next generation to the next generation only through womankind. And it can’t be sold. That’s part of its mystery. She’s the last woman alive on Earth who has that secret and does that.”

Catherine Joy White

Empowerment through adversity

The conversation continued with a focus on the experiences that shaped the author’s own journey. She spoke candidly about her time at drama school, where she navigated challenges to her identity and voice. Her own path mirrored the struggles many women face in male-dominated spaces, and her ability to emerge stronger underscored the book’s message of empowerment and defiance in the face of adversity. She talked about the strength in staying silent and speaking when necessary “where actually they’re figuring out their next move.”

“Messages I’ve received from women in all walks of life, particularly women who have spoken about how they’ve almost beaten themselves up for staying silent in situations where actually they’re figuring out their next move.”

Catherine Joy White

White’s reflections also extended to the theme of self-care and resistance, drawing inspiration from figures like Audre Lorde, who had famously said: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” But she acknowledged much of the self-care rhetoric these days is geared towards bitesize “Instagrammable” content. But in Lorde’s own case, where she was battling breast cancer, she was “also dismantling structures of racism and sexism and being a queer woman.”

Read: She’s In CTRL author Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon: women erased in tech

The discussion highlighted the power in both vocal and silent acts of resistance, urging individuals to find strength and healing in their own ways. For White, it was about redefining what a warrior really looks like and it doesn’t always have to be “the strongest person”.

Black and white image of Audre Lorde and Hattie McDaniel, spoken about by Catherine Joy White in her book This Thread of Gold
Audre Lorde and actor Hattie McDaniel on the right (1939). Credit: Lena for Audre Lorde.

The actress also explored women who have paved the way for change, such as Hattie McDaniel, the first Black person to win an Oscar. As a result, she delved into McDaniel’s complex legacy, highlighting her ability to resist and transcend societal expectations. McDaniel’s story, like those of other women featured in the book, emphasises the importance of recognising and celebrating multifaceted identities – even if it doesn’t always fit the narrative as McDaniel was criticised for playing up to the “mammy” trope in numerous films.

“When she wins the award, which no one necessarily was even expecting, she gets up and just says, “I hope that I will always be a credit to my race and to the motion picture industry.” It is so moving because that is exactly what she did.”

Catherine Joy White

Shifting the narrative away from tragedy

White’s engagement with the stories of mothers who have lost children to violence, such as Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin, emphasised the need to shift the focus from the tragedies to the resilient women leading movements for change. The mothers told weeping crowds that “what are you going to do with your tears?” as actions speak louder than cries, and for White, she felt we know everything about their children – but nothing about the people who raised them and the women deserved respect. These mothers, often overlooked in the broader narrative, embody the spirit of resistance and determination central to “This Thread of Gold.”

Read: No Offence, But… author Gina Martin on challenging victim blaming

The author also left the audience with a powerful message: “It is okay to say no.” This simple yet profound statement encapsulates the theme of the event and the book itself. Her final words served as a reminder that each individual possesses inherent worth and the right to prioritise their well-being.

In conclusion, Catherine Joy White’s conversation at The Trouble Club event was a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of her book “This Thread of Gold.” Her insights shed light on the strength and resilience of Black women and girls, serving as an inspiration for all to recognise their value and contribute to the tapestry of change.

The Trouble Club is a special society, hosting talks on everything from politics to fiction. They all happen to be women, however, both men and women are welcome to attend events. We’ve previously seen Broken Light author Joanne Harris, She’s In Ctrl writer Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon, as well as more recently, No Offence…But editor Gina Martin. We talked about boundaries with The Joy of Saying No author Natalie Lue.

This article contains affiliate links in which we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. We have not been commissioned to review books and services.

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