Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

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Heavy Swimmers-for Ebony Wilkerson

“…some days we just cannot

we cannot live here

we cannot give our babies

to this world that eats our bones

like centuries of salt.”

-from Heavy Swimmers for Ebony Wilkerson who tried to drive herself and her children into the Atlantic Ocean, saying she was taking them all to a better place.

On the Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines episode of the Laura Flanders Show.




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Nobody Mean More to Us: Every Time (from Artists/Scholars/Teachers Responding to Police Violence)

Screen shot 2014-10-31 at 8.38.15 PMLast night a hopeful, anxious, heavy, urgent, connected, inspired group of artists, writers, scholars and teachers gathered to collectively tap into the legacy of June Jordan and Audre Lorde as we respond to police violence in this moment.

We called in our folks, lifted up our communities of accountabilities, honored our feelings, learned about the specific ways that June Jordan and Audre Lorde were impacted by and worked to respond to police violence, looked at the complex ways we are connected to police violence and our communities of accountability, recommitted to and recontextualized our daily creative praxis, activated the Lorde Concordance Oracle, held each other in process, shared our fears, hopes and lessons and created poetry together.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 7.27.39 AMWe chose the letter b (for brave for #blacklivesmatter for the bold act of listening our intuition) and we were blessed and broken open by the Lorde Concordance offering from the poem “Power” that spoke so directly to our process in the moment.   We reached for ways to ground our actions and decision making in legacy, ancestral guidance and profound purpose instead of reaction, scarcity, ego and panic.  The poems below are in the tradition of June Jordan’s “Nobody Mean More to Me Than You and the Future Life of Willie Jordan” and her “Poem About Police Violence.”  We place them here in honor of the communities we love and towards the world we deserve.

P.S. If you are interested in going deeper into this process of drawing on ancestral depth for this time of urgent change check out our upcoming 3-day intensive Breathe Underwater: A Baptismal Intensive for Ancestor Accountable Artists, Activists and Intellectuals.   And if you are interested in applying the wisdom of June Jordan and Audre Lorde to your work of solidarity against police violence, in support of transnational liberation movements, as and with precarious intellectual workers in the adjunct movement, as students and faculty of color confronting anti-blackness in the Ivory Tower consider coming to the in-person Brilliance Remastered Retreat Nobody Mean More in Durham, NC this September.

Nobody Mean More to Us

a roll call poem by the participants in Nobody Mean More

Nobody mean more to me than black & brown folks, black queer folks, haitian folks, young folks.

Nobody mean more to me than Black mothers

Nobody mean more to me than elders and ancestors

Nobody mean more to me than brilliant black women

who refuse to give up or go unheard

Nobody mean more to me than black mothers and babies

birthing and living free

Nobody mean more to me than queer youth of color

breaking through to love

Nobody mean more to me than sick disabled injured queer trans brown black broke and healing friends

Nobody mean more to me than black elders

Nobody mean more to me than my invisibly disabled community

Nobody mean more to me than black and brown folks

not only surviving but thriving

Nobody mean more to me than crip queer poc

sick and surviving still

Nobody mean more to me than babies

bringing light and blackness

Nobody mean more to me than all of the students of color at our school

and all of their communities and loves

Nobody mean more to me than students

who refuse to belong

Nobody mean more to me than anyone

willing to learn

Nobody mean more to me than poor folks

hustling daily

Nobody mean more to me than crip brown & black youth

teaching us

Nobody mean more to me than young people

who bring energy and passion to their despair and confusion

Nobody mean more to me than all people of color

excluded from home yet still resist

Nobody mean more to me than Black diasporic GNC Queers

coming up from nothing and claiming a right to their ancestors and culture

Nobody mean more to me than Black disabled femme folks

who can’t get out of bed sometimes

Nobody mean more to me than God

the orisha, ancestors and the lukumi community

Nobody mean more to me than us

Black and Brown folks

who hold us close and set us straight

and remember us on the days and nights we might forget us


every time

by the participants in Nobody Mean More: Artists, Intellectuals, Educators Responding to Police Violence


“Tell me something

what you think would happen if

everytime they kill a black boy

then will kill a cop

everytime they kill a black man

then we kill a cop

you think the accident rate would lower


-June Jordan, “Poem about Police Violence”


what if every time was the last

what if every time

we killed the part of us that did this

what if every time

the dead returned to reckon with us

what if every time

we outsmarted our fear

what if every time

every one else had to hold and feel the pain of the mother for one day

what if every time

we were believed

what if every time

whiteness choked on its own violence

what if every time

the sun went out

what if every time

the water turned to blood

and we couldn’t drink one drop without tasting it

what if every time

all of the tears shed were collected in a vessel

and transformed into the power to dismantle institutions

what if everytime had already happened

and this was a question for historians

what if every time

we rush the road with 10,000 beating hearts

running perpendicular to the Mississippi

what if every time

videos of black bodies being murdered

were not played on a loop

what if every time

the TRUTH was broadcast far and wide

and false media messages were laughed at and discarded

what if every time

we dislodged the cold stone in our throat so we could speak

what if every time we loved each other more

what if every time

we admitted how hopeless we actually are

what if every time

we chose to continue to have hope in spaces of collectivity

what if every time

we knew there would be justice.

what if every time

we were allowed to grieve without any shame

what if every time I asked for one day when I do not have to think about being Black

but just being human

I got a day

what if every time

we had a national day of mourning

what if everytime police sacrificed black life

white people just went out and sat all over every police car in the whole country so they couldn’t drive out get out of the car for a day a week

what if every time

the “good” police officers

stood up en masse denouncing their colleagues

what if every time the police murder someone

a week’s pay of every police employee is withheld

what if every time

a politician chosen at random lost their position

what if every time a black body is shattered

a thousand more were loved into existence

bathed in joy, shown the power of our own wings

what if every time

we were allowed to feel Black Joy

what if every time

we could feel free to stop proving our right to exist

and get to the business of feeling the joy our existence

what if every time

we intentionally breathed into our bellies

what if every time we were afraid

we danced

what if every time

we allowed ourselves the space to cry outside

what if everytime

we put a bowl of water under the bed and ask our ancestors to dream us a way

what if every time

we were raptured away to a new dimension

to start again

what if every time

no one had electricity

and our news was our talk between stoops

what if every time

we read all day aloud while standing on corners

what if every time

we lost the language

and had to make a new one from scratch

what if every time

we would communicate without words

but make sounds from deep down

what if every time they kill black folk

everyone lays down in a grave


and rises up with dirt to do

what if every time

we planted a garden

what if every time we must create hashtags

we open the borders for ten days and allow 1000 refugees places to stay

what if every time

we gave a scholarship to a student of color

what if every time

we put a love poem into the pocket of every black child we know

what if every time

we made space to be gentle to each other

what if every time

we stole our days back

what if every time

we took a broomstick to the stained glass

what if every time

we centered in our dignity

what if every time

we allowed ourselves to be

what if every time

we remember how resilient we are

what if every time

we dreamed

we created new worlds with new possibilities

what if every time we hurt

we gain direct access to healing ancestors

with remedies to soothe our pain

what if this time

police were disarmed

and trained as midwives and doulas

and the midwives and doulas

became the keepers of safety

you think the “accident” rate would lower


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i love my own: affirmations from the free enterprise writers


Sitting by the river. Photo by Dannette Sharpley

For the past three days I have had the healing, transforming, invigorating honor of facilitating 9 black and brown femmes (including myself) in a love-filled intensive inspired by our recent ancestor Michelle Cliff and her magical realist historical novel Free Enterprise.   We drew on the militant legacies of Mary Ellen Pleasant and other participants in a plotting to arm enslaved people and create a free black state to clarify our relationships to our own writing lives in these urgent times.   We spun and unraveled the stories of our names, created aliases to live into, cultivated our relationships to necessary refusal, found our concealed weapons,  made bottle tree monuments to our memory and healing and gave ourselves permission to love the communities of accountability, visions of freedom, daily practices and physical tools that make our freedom-seeking and freedom-producing creative lives possible.   The following is one arrangement of our closing blessing and affirmation of the deep love that fuels our work.   I encourage you to repeat the refrain “I love my own,” aloud as you read the poem.

P.S.  If you want to sign up for our next intensive, Breathe Underwater: A Baptismal Intensive for Ancestor Accountable Artists, Activists and Intellectuals click the link for more info.

i love my own

“I don’t hate you and yours.  I love my own.” -attributed to Mary Ellen Pleasant by Michelle Cliff in Free Enterprise: Novel

(by the participants in Free Enterprise: Towards a Sustainable, Autonomous, Accountable Writing Life)

i drink water

i love my own

i listen to whales

i love my own

walking up early to be with the beautiful thoughts that arise with me from dreams

i love my own

visiting ancestors while dreaming

i love my own

remembering my dreams

i love my own

i love my own


all the fabrics

i love my own

watercolor paints

i love my own

things to collage other things with

i love my own

feathers and stones

i love my own

rose quartz, black onyx, lapis

i love my own

sewing machine and old clothes

i love my own

bodily integrity

i love my own

freedom of form

i love my own

reciprocal relations to earth

i love my own

refuse scarcity

i love my own

define accountability

i love my own

Abolition now!

i love my own

sun and moon blessings

i love my own

clean water free healthcare

i love my own

writing while Black

i love my own

beautiful brilliant black

i love my own

concealed weapons

i love my own

making magic

i love my own

we have the tools

i love my own


i love my own


i love my own.


i love my own

saying what i mean

i love my own

saying i love you

i love my own

what can we do together today

i love my own

what would the Ancestors say

i love my own

the ancestors who mean our freedom

i love my own

space and time to grow food

i love my own

my time in the sunshine with you

i love my own

staying free

i love my own

ancestors, blood and chosen

i love my own

my mentor and teacher

i love my own

my mothers (all of them)

i love my own

black women regardless

i love my own

if she hears you, does she feel your words?

i love my own

poet homies

i love my own

black girls in white spaces

i love my own

children who need to learn their histories

i love my own

youth organizers

i love my own

black and brown femme artist theorists who are unafraid

i love my own

a movement that came from deep within me

i love my own

living with our spiritual gifts in the open, without fear or shame

i love my own

do you want to know the meaning of your name?

i love my own

Swahili names!

i love my own

The African Diaspora

i love my own

choosing to uproot

i love my own

our selves always in relation to others

i love my own

always with intention and integrity

i love my own

we have everything we need to be FREE

i love my own

no police to make me anxious

i love my own

kissing my daughter without fear that it will be the last time

i love my own

black babies, safe here and there, always

i love my own

spirit and goddess manifested in the vulnerable and oppressed of the world

i love my own

sun kissed/ never burnt/ moon held/ always revealed/ glowing expanded lives and spirits/

i love my own

dancing warm bodies alive

i love my own

sing, dance and love our entire, beautiful and difficult selves into fiery existence

i love my own

capacity, agency, space, and discipline to create media and art for the revolution

i love my own

freedom is where each of us gets to be our full selves, always and all ways

i love my own

i love and care for for Earth, my universe home

i love my own

being held and nourished by my own

i love my own

laugh with a cousin every day

i love my own

black music for any mood

i love my own

i love us

i love my own

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Breathe Underwater: A Baptismal Intensive for Ancestor-Accountable Activists, Artists and Scholars

pedagogies-picBreathe Underwater: A Baptismal Intensive for Ancestor Accountable Artists, Activists and Scholars  July 25, 26, 27  3pm to 5:30pm Eastern.

There is so much to react to in this moment.  The media and the ongoing triggering reality of intersecting oppressions has us frantic.  We have to do something.  We feel we aren’t doing enough.  Haven’t we been doing this forever? Why isn’t this over yet?

Breathe Underwater is designed to wash us clean, reset our clarity, renew us for the long-term.  Recognizing the unsustainability of reaction-mode alongside the urgent need for meaningful action in this moment, we call on the ocean as the oldest place we know and as a repository of resistance, memory and rebirth.

This online intensive uses a curriculum informed by June Jordan’s Who Look at Me, Jaqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing and M. Nourbese Philip’s Zong along with guided meditations, writing exercises and facilitated conversation to immerse participants in the peace, urgency and depth of ancestral accountability.  Building on the work of the Guardian Dead Retreat, this online experience will provide tangible ways to root your action steps, creative decisions and intellectual offerings in a profound connection to legacy and power.

Hold your spot with your $50 deposit here:  

registration for the whole intensive is sliding scale $175-300.  (Installment payments available upon request.) Email and let me know your goals for the course by July 23rd.

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Nobody Mean More: Online Workshop for Writers/Artists/Scholars Responding to Police Violence

june-168We are out in the streets.  We out of words to describe this.  We are walking in circles.  We are out of our minds. We are out of our bodies.  We are everywhere.  And we are nobody.  And it hurts.   This course is for those of us who are scholars, writers and artists who are figuring out our role in a moment characterized by (a need for) drastic change.  This one night workshop draws specifically on ways that June Jordan and Audre Lorde responded to police violence as poets, university teachers and public intellectuals.   We need the depth of their legacy right now as much as we ever have.

The class will draw on Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s chapter “Nobody Mean More: Black Feminist Pedagogy and Solidarity” in the book The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent (eds. Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira.)

As she says in the chapter itself “This chapter is a meditation on what it means to be nobody in a university economy designed to produce somebody inviduated, assimilated and consenting to empire.  Is it possible to instead become nobody in the academic space? Is it possible to align with the illegible oppressed/contemporary subaltern, the falling apart abject nonsubject, inside a university English class?” (Participants in the course will get a pdf of the full chapter to refer to for the class.)

If you, like Audre Lorde and June Jordan, are a writer or teacher or a theorist or a thinker or an activist or a mother or all of these things at the same time, join us for a supportive space where we tap into the the power of black feminist legacy and empower each other (the nobodies that we are) to face this moment.

Sliding Scale Registration here.


Who should take this course?

Anyone who identifies as an artist, writer, scholar or intellectual who wants to clarify their revolutionary role in this moment by learning about the approaches that black feminist ancestors June Jordan and Audre Lorde took.

How do I log-in to the course?

Log-in information will be sent to participants who have registered for the event on Eventbrite 6 hours before the event and 30 minutes before the event, through the Eventbrite platform. Please be sure to register before 6pm on the night of the event and please check the email address associated with your paypal or eventbrite account.   We will be using a technology called Zoom which is accessible from computers and phones.

What if I just want to read about this on my own?

Please read The Imperial University: Academic Repression and Scholarly Dissent which in addition to Sista Docta Lex’s chapter on June Jordan and Audre Lorde also includes chapters by many other activist scholars.

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We Stay (We Slay): Revolutionary Mothering as Science Fiction

13581899_10102510401856352_6943246821039640244_oThis past Thursday I was blessed to spend a morning with the brilliant young activists at North Carolina’s Youth Organizing Institute Freedom School.   In the wake of horrifying violence by police against unarmed black people broadcasted on video we write about Revolutionary Mothering, the act of keeping each other alive.

We wrote about the ways that young people keep each other alive as peers and engaging in revolutionary mothering acts of sustenance and love for each other on a daily basis.

Some days being able to keep each other alive feels like Science Fiction.

Some of these poems, which we generated through an activity where the participants listened to stories about who they had been and what they had done they had been in the dreams of people who loved them, expressed the urgency of love in philosophical terms.  Some expressed the urgency of love in zombie apocalypse terms and in direct confrontation of the violence of the moment.   Here are some of the poems (curated into we stay/we slay by yours truly).


We Stay

ocean brings us life

power lives in your bones

markings lead us to freedom


Abuela calls on

the daughters of Oshun

to tell us to breath


sometimes you can feel

not through the phone, but inside

your heart, what is real.


time and space will not

make strangers of us again

i won’t give you up


she is your best friend

wanting to be together

never letting go


dreams and ambitions

goals to make it together

be lit forever


soaring through the sky

our happiness blocks all the hate

our love is a bond*


*bond: spiritual link made by love and can’t broken (definition from the poet)


We Slay


The zombies burst in

Samaiyah and Sajdah are

Ready to kick ass!


The purge has started

Jasper and Courtnei run out

2 hours later they have blood on their hands


Mafia lightning

Striking scars against yellow

The cats deadly glare


Lane just hit the gas.

Panicked, frightened, with much stress.

His friend shot his head.


The most beautiful things can

Be the most deadly

The ocean is very beautiful

And soothing but

It killed Nathalia and Joana


We freeze our zombies

You and me are wolves-always

Oh, Rahssan Rahssan


P.S. If you are looking for a place to write through the complexity of staying/slaying in this moment, check out this Thursday’s online workshop Nobody Mean More to Me Than You.

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October 7-13, 2016: Bay Area Tour


We hear Oakland is the Durham of the West.

This October Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Julia Wallace/Sangodare are bringing their film When We Free to Oakland this October.  In order to fully fund this trip we want and need to do paid workshops at your school, community center or organization!


Below are the workshops that we have available for $1000-2500.  If you want us to do a multi-event residency on your campus including classroom visits a workshop and a lecture etc. the rate is $4500-65000.

978-0-8223-6272-2_pr.jpgIf you can’t host an event, but you want to come experience the awesomeness don’t worry.  Just sign up for the email list here and we’ll let you know the final dates for  Lex’s reading from her new book Spill and the screening of When We Free at Impact Hub:


Black Feminist Film School Workshops

bffs river.JPG

Black Feminist Film School creates space for decolonized filmmaking and holistic storytelling through curated screenings, the practice of filmmaking and a range of workshops. Rituals (tried and tested processes and procedures) give practitioners access to experience that might otherwise be acquired through trial and error or as best practices over time. These rituals will center honoring, listening, sharing and accountability. These workshops are ideal for storytellers, documentarians, photographers and filmmakers at any level of experience (including no experience at all).

Ancestral Remembrance as Character Development

Screen-shot-2014-07-07-at-4.36.32-PM.pngIn the writing and directing of When We Free writer and director Julia Roxanne Wallace created a collaborative process through which the lives of enslaved ancestors (whose humanity was stolen by both their legal status and their exclusion from the historical record) were re-enlivened by the cast of the film.  By imagining and remembering what the wants, needs, minute characteristics and big dreams of these characters the community involved in When We Free participated in healing a historical violence.  This workshop will lead participants through a process of honoring their known and unknown ancestors of all backgrounds and creating scenes through which to learn more about the lessons they have to teach us.

Sound as a Documentary Form


This workshop draws on the tradition of Bernice Johnson Reagon, Wendi O’Neal and many freedom singers to embrace sound as a technology for documenting, remembering and activating change.  We will work with sound and music technology and the technology of mindfulness or spiritual attunement through a series of group and individual activities designed to provide intergenerational access to the possibility of freedom.

*If experienced filmmakers or film students on your campus would benefit from more technical workshops, please let us know.  We can customize these or other workshops for your community.

Mobile Homecoming Presents: Queer Black Sunday School Choir Practice

qbss amc

Queer Black Sunday School is a technology that has evolved from Black Feminist Sermons to Exegetical Choir Practice. The Queer Black Sunday School: Lectures came from our desire and our communities desire for a space to deeply engage Black Feminist ancestors in a reverent and ecstatic space. Then we added Julia’s southern Black church tradition by mixing sunday school with choir practice. In these Queer Black Sunday School: Choir Practices we engage gospel and congregational songs and think critically about THE MEANING WE MAKE when we sing the words. We are reclaiming the resilience tools  of our ancestors and elders (in this case song) and using them to meet the needs we have now. This is also a model of how exegesis can be applied to other texts and practices.

Brilliance Remastered Workshops


Brilliance Remastered is an initiative Alexis Pauline Gumbs created based on her archival and literary research on Audre Lorde’s in order to support under-represented community-accountable intellectuals in staying connected to community, enlivened by purpose and strategic in relationship to their scholarly and activist goals.  

Audre_Lorde-Collage-150rezRigorous Loving: Sustainable Intellectual Community Building

“Rigorous Loving,”a phrase drawn from Audre Lorde’s “Eye to Eye” is a crucial practice for visionary underrepresented scholars committed to non-competitive wellness in academic spaces characterized by competition, scarcity and tokenism.   We will use several activities based on Lorde’s concept of “mothering ourselves” to examine and practice what it means to create a sustainable, community accountable intellectual experience, beyond internalized oppression and fear.

Kinship, Memory and Movement: Empowered Mentorship

This workshop is designed to help visionary underrepresented graduate students to identify the forms of mentorship they need, the best mentors to support their visions and the best practices to get and give the support that makes sustainable intergenerational intellectual practice possible.  For an example of how this workshop transforms check out the group poem “Mentoring is More Than A Notion.”


Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 5.29.42 PMSure You Want to Be Well?: Resilience in Academic settings

The Sure You Want to Be Well? Resilience workshop is designed to help visionary underrepresented students and faculty at any stage to tap into their renewable resources for inspiration and power.  Through a series of activities and conversations each participant will develop their own self-care plan.  For insight from former participants check out the group poem “Daydreaming is a Renewable Resource.”

12248155_10102130321071292_2693960868945410264_oBackyard Politics: From Community Service to Community Accountability

Many private and public universities are becoming more and more public about “service learning,” and “civic engagement.”  This workshop is for those scholars critical of the ways in which many of these feel-good programs reproduce exploitative and colonial relationships between universities and local communities.   Drawing on black liberation theories of alliance, partnership and self-determination, I offer community accountability as a rigorous transformative alternative. The session will provide concrete steps for engaging in community accountable intellectual practice in synergy with the communities you love and the local spaces you are transforming with your presence.

For a full list of Brilliance Remastered Workshops see:


Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Customized Workshops

mobile homecoming film projects 1Alexis Pauline Gumbs loves to design experiential writing workshops based on the work of black feminist literary figures for a wide range of communities.

To view a portfolio of Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s work on campuses across the United States see:

Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines

1_9781629631103Revolutionary Readings:
Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines shares the stories of (number of) contributors, with various experiences of mothering that challenge and transform how we think about race, class, gender, justice, intimacy and the future.  A Revolutionary Reading is an opportunity for your community, organization, department to have a whole new conversation about life, how it happens and what we mean to each other.

For a full list of workshops related to Revolutionary Mothering click here.


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