Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

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Outlasting Everything: Breathing Affirmation in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey

pedagogies-picLast week during Brilliance Remastered‘s  When Wind and Water Got You Online Intensive, the seven of us who gathered and the nine of us who held the space had no idea what wind and water would do in the next few days.  As we closed the session and I packed to fly to Texas, I certainly didn’t know.   As we logged in from our various locations we noticed wind and rain communicating with us.  We noticed patterns from our past coming full circle.  We noticed the transformations we had dreamed of and worked for coming to fruition.  We noticed that we had new and deepened ways to describe where we had been and what had gotten us through.

Drawing on a poetic intergenerational map of Anguilla I made for the current issue of Ecotone, we created a sacred circle that allowed us to imagine a decolonial reclaiming of space, a space sacred enough that we could be in place without being entrapped in capitalist narratives, a circle wide enough to include named and unnamed ancestors, a circle deep enough to birth futures.

At the end of our time together we created a poem in honor of that which outlasts empires and lies.   We want to offer this closing poem to those whose lives are being most impacted by Hurricane Harvey (one of the names for what is happening).  We know that those most impacted are those people who we are accountable to, whose access to stability, shelter and safety is already undercut by the daily practices of the state.  We are dedicating this to ourselves and other survivors for whom each so-called natural disaster reveals the true costs of the ongoing social disaster that treats us as if we are expendable.   We are not expendable.  The indigenous, immigrant, queer, black, people of color, poor loved ones in Houston and other areas who are navigating this storm and the resulting floods are necessary.  We offer this as a mantra and a chant to honor the part of them and each of us that capitalism and doppler cannot see.  This is for the eternal in you.  Outlasting everything.


Outlasting Everything


by the participants in Brilliance Remastered’s When Wind and Water Got You Intensive


“there was us. there was only us. meaning water and blood and bone and stone and sun and change and we remain. outlasting everything.”

-from “Map of Anguilla” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs (in Ecotone 23)



outlasting everything.

ancestral brilliance.

outlasting everything.

intergenerational love.

outlasting everything.

revolutionary commitment.

outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.

blueprints of wind and water.

outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


outlasting everything.


To stay updated on Brilliance Remastered’s online and in person intensives join our email list


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What Rain Can Do: Becoming Turquoise


Photo by Michelle Lanier

Happy Anna Julia Cooper Day everyone!! This past Sunday, not so far from Anna Julia Cooper’s birthplace we gathered for a Sunday dinner celebration of intergenerational wisdom.  Of the blues, and growth and overcoming.   We ate ancestrally-sourced, and newly invented recipes with local and far-flung ingredients.   Special shout out to Mariel Eaves for a delicious vegan mango cake!!!!  We blessed the food with an original blessing song by Sangodare/ Julia Roxanne Wallace.

The theme text for our gathering was my poem “Xiuhatl or Becoming Turquoise” recently published in the anthology Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzalduan Borderlands.

Turquoise is created over centuries of interaction with groundwater, copper, iron and calcites and is sacred to many groups of people.  In Navajo tradition it is about communication with the rain maker (a key connection in the desert).  When my grandmother passed away, I was given her turquoise necklace, she was not Navajo (her indigenous ancestry is Algonquin, Shinnecock specifically) but was she was believed to be able to cause rain on the (at the time) drought beset island of Anguilla where she and my grandfather participated in the 1967 revolution.  (My grandmother designed the revolutionary Anguillian flag.

When my grandmother passed away I began to wear her jewelry as a way of keeping her close to me and in order to continue our conversation.  Her guidance is an important part of my daily life.   I especially wear the turquoise necklace an as any one who knows me has seen, it has had a decisive impact on my wardrobe.  I wear the color turquoise almost every day and my grandmother continues to have a healing impact on my life, supporting my commitment to use my voice as a portal for generations of love and to support other people in trusting their inner voices.


Photo by Sangodare (Julia Roxanne Wallace)

On Sunday our conversation led us to think about how rain transforms us, and how the blues in our lives are related to our growth.   My grandmother, permanently impacted by her mother and sister’s struggles with mental health and their institutionalization in asylums, was committed to raising her voice and breaking the silence about mental health in West Indian communities.  She was a founder of the Caribbean Mental Health Association.   And at the same time that she worked to expose the underside of cultural silences and the locking away of women in order to keep up appearances, she also took a stand for beauty.  She founded the Anguilla Beautification Club, an organization devoted to growing beautiful flowers all over an island with hardly any rain.

On Sunday we talked about the connection between our blues, our loss and longing and the possibility of growth, even when it seems unlikely.  We talked about our grief.  Those people who we are missing, those experiences from the past that we long for, those necessary spaces and resources that are missing from our lives and the lives of those we love.   We sat with our loss and the ways that it opens us.

What are your blues right now? What have you lost?

We also talked about what we are growing our healing, our homes, our truth and our poems, our abundance and independence and peace.   We noticed that the longing, loss and lessons we experience also offer us clarity and urgency when it comes to our creative dreams.  We shared how the suffering of our ancestors inspires us to reclaim our pleasure.

What are you longing for? What are you growing? What are you reclaiming?


Photo by Sangodare (Julia Roxanne Wallace)

We blessed a special carnelian stone for Eden who is on her way this coming week to her new educational journey at NC Science and Math.  We offered congratulations and comfort for her proud mama Michelle Lanier who held her in her body and in her home and is now supporting her to move out into the larger world.     At the prompting of our youngest participant Ananda who sang “Hiyayaya” as her mama Courtney Woods rocked her to sleep, we listened to the Clark Sisters song in honor of the wisdom of the church mothers.  We sang along and recognized this sound as an intergenerational sound of overcoming and elevating.  And Sangodare/Julia recruited us to create an ecumenical Clark Sisters Cover Band beyond religion.

Feel free to respond with what you are blue for, what you are growing, what you are singing, what instrument you want to play in the band and more.

Much love,


P.S.  Do you need space like this in your life? Next week is the last Brilliance Remastered Q&A. Sign up here if you want to participate.  And sign up closes a week from tomorrow for the last online intensive of the summer: When Wind and Water Got You: Place, Purpose, Past and Presence sign up or find out more here.



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M: Message from the Trees

A giant Tulip Poplar tree in Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest


Tomorrow (Thursday July, 27th) an important event will be happening here in Durham.  Check out Stories Happen in Forests at Motorco at 6pm. (Scroll down for details or click here.)  In honor of this event and with apologies for the fact that I will not be able to attend, I am posting an excerpt from my forthcoming book M Archive: After the End of the World that is in the voice of the trees.

excerpt from M Archive: After the End of the World

(forthcoming from Duke University Press 2018)


when they cut us down they found our layers, obvious as orbit. there was the year with the blood in the groundwater. there was the year of the sulfur in the sky. there was the year of bark turned blue with freezing (in the middle) in the middle of july. there was the time we focused on waiting. there was the time we warned them with lines. there was the season of not enough ozone and way too much sunshine.

when they cut us down they found us open to what they easily could have known if they had paid attention to any one of those seasons through which we had grown. we offered ourselves to their breathing. we offered ourselves to their homes. we offered ourselves to their dull admiration, their need for protection, their forehead intuition, the walks they walked thinking they were alone.   we chipped into pieces to soften their playgrounds, we bent in strips to ferment their drink. we made every component of their housing except the kitchen sink.

we watched and grew thick with the knowing, we bent with the load of their love. it’s not easy to be resilient when you feel from below and you see from above. we broke in the middle so often we thought we’d evolve past hearts. and we’d offer ourselves for release (but we want to see the next part.)



[i]“Trees remember and will whisper remembrances in your ear if you stay still and listen.”  Jacqui Alexander in “Remembering This Bridge Called My Back, Remembering Ourselves” 



Stories Happen in Forests: A Live Storytelling Event

Join Dogwood Alliance at Motorco on July 27th, for an evening of storytelling and community-building in the spirit of forest protection and community justice. The night will feature 10 LIVE true, personal stories.

Our standing forests are awe-inspiring, critical for our well-being and survival, and hold an untold number of tales. Come listen to inspiring storytellers discuss forest protection, community action, and human connection to wild places.

For all you wanderers of the forests, stargazers, lovers of wild places, forest defenders, and folks that speak up for your community, this night is for you.

Tickets will be a suggested donation at the door for $10.
Donate $10/month for a special “Forest Defenders” t-shirt and membership.

Visionary storytellers include:
– Gary Phillips, poet laureate of Carrboro
– TC Muhammad, Hip Hop Caucus
– Dr. Thomas Easley, Forestry professor and Center for Diversity at NCSU
– Reverend Leo Woodberry
– Danna Smith, Dogwood Alliance
– Jodi Lasseter, Climate Justice Program Director, NC LCV
– Cole Rasenberger, youth activist
– BJ McManama, the Indigenous Environmental Network
– Margaux Escutin, Bear Afficionado and Durham Activist

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Accountable to You: A Cosmic Commitment Poem

Yesterday was the first day of this month’s online intensive Becoming Turquoise: On Intergenerational Accountability.  We created an altar that transcends space and time, we reclaimed and renamed who we are and what and who has shaped/is shaping us.  We wrote, we laughed, we remembered.  We taught each other about our ancestors given and chosen.  We playfully called to the future.  We drew on the wisdom of generations of texts by women of color . We theorized the embodied and non-binary work of the word “her.”  We activated the oracle.  We looked in the mirror.   We learned new words and honored the power and pull of what we don’t know.   And together, we wrote this expansive poem about our accountability to give an account to you.   Enjoy.  Again it is best read aloud and even more divinely read together.

P.S. Don’t forget to send your questions and or sign up for tomorrow’s Q&A for Current and Future Grad Students!  You can get your questions answered even if you can’t log on tomorrow night.  Sign up here:


accountable to you


by the participants in Becoming Turquoise: Intergenerational Accountability


accountable to the oceans

accountable to the sea snails

accountable to horses

accountable to trees


accountable to night

accountable to moonlight

accountable to breathing

accountable to being


accountable to the moment

accountable to this moment

accountable to the bigger mysteries you will never fully understand

accountable to little mysteries

accountable to the land


accountable to Elders

accountable to truth-telling

accountable to the little people

accountable to ancient transformers


accountable to those who died in revolutionary struggle

accountable to the smiles of all the children

accountable to petals

accountable to rain


accountable to heartbeat

accountable to the places where turquoise happens

accountable to stewards of the land

accountable to the beauty and silence and wisdom of caves


accountable to dolphins

accountable to whales

accountable to coral

accountable to birds


accountable to chasms

accountable to wind

accountable to salt

and all other crystals


accountable to the not-yet-born who are waiting

accountable to dreams

accountable to you

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that is all: final words from the beginning

tyson-mic-dropLast month’s cosmic online Brilliance Remastered Intensive “Begin: Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist” was on some Alpha and Omega intensity.  Yes.  Because of the Solstice.  Yes. Because it was during Octavia Butler’s birthday.  Yes. Because it invoked the recent afro-futurist issue of Obsidian. And also because we committed to be reborn and renewed.  We created a chorus of affirmations for each other out of our deepest and most nagging fears. And we emerged from the intensive with some clarity we want to share with you.   So we are offering our final poem to you.   Once again, it works best out-loud. It works even better out-loud with a group of people repeating the refrain.   But if it’s the middle of the week and you are already ready to drop the mic, this is the poem for you either way.

P.S. Sign up closes FRIDAY for next week’s online intensive “Become Turquoise: Intergenerational Accountability” you can find out more or sign up here.

that is all

by the participants in Begin: Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist

“it meant that life was precious and could spill. it meant spirit was sticky and could stay.

and actually that was all i was trying to say.”

-from “Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in Obsidian Vol 42 Speculating Futures

that is all

by the participants in Begin: Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist

let play move through you like prayer

that is all i was trying to say

all truth comes out in the cipher

that is all i was trying to say

we didn’t arrive here all greedy

that is all i was trying to say

we have three billion years of knowing in our bones

that is all i was trying to say

the function of all our organs is love

that is all i was trying to say

water your spirit regularly

that is all i was trying to say

trust your heart

that is all i was trying to say

you always get to keep yourself

that is all i was trying to say

redevelopment for whom?

that is all i was trying to say

home is where the homies are

that is all i was trying to say

the ancestors have instructions for revolutionary social change

that is all i was trying to say

love is the reason and the remedy

that is all i was trying to say

love wins

that is all i was trying to say

magic momentum movement manifestation

that is all i was trying to say

black feminism lives

that is all i was trying to say

black girls keep making art even when no one gets it

that is all i was trying to say

listen to sly and the family stone and all will be revealed

that is all i was trying to say

you already earned the stars

that is all i was trying to say

if you allowed your brilliance to shine it would power the world

that is all i was trying to say

Mama Octavia said “but there are other suns”

that is all i was trying to say

we can’t not deal with emotions in trying to make a revolution

that is all i was trying to say

there is so much more beneath the commodification

that is all i was trying to say

vanilla, sugar, rice and breathing are brown

that is all i was trying to say

poems and pyrex are both containers. fill them up. pass them around.

that is all i was trying to say

there is enough food and poetry for everyone

that is all i was trying to say

let prayer move through you like play

that is all i was trying to say

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begin: a renewal poem

bigstockphoto_Reading_On_The_Beach_589631Last month I had the honor of facilitating the online intensive Begin: Seven Possible Futures for Black Feminist Artists and what do you know?  We were all being reborn.  Was it the demand of the Summer Solstice? Was it the moon in Cancer?  Was it Octavia Butler’s birthday?  Maybe it was all of that.   Or maybe that’s just the nature of showing up. We are all at the end of something important, and at the beginning of something that makes us vulnerable.  What a joy and a resource to support each other in that.  During the intensive, I revealed that I am at the beginning of a relationship to my creative practice that requires MUCH more trust.  I am at the end of series of patterns that have led to me to believe that I had to make everything happen by myself.   Some of us were at the ends and beginnings of relationships, new career paths, transformed relationships to community, embodiments of love.  What about you?

We know this Summer is transformative for you because you have reached the end of something that used to seem to work just fine and you are opening yourself up to something possible, based in your beliefs, that may also be challenging and scary.  So today, we offer the poem that we created to guide ourselves through our process.  And if you want to join us for this month’s online intensive:  Become Turquoise: On Intergenerational Accountability, there are still some spots left.  The intensive is July 24-25 3-6pm eastern.  Sign up here by Friday (July 21st).

Enjoy the poem.  It works best out loud.


Sista Docta Lex

“this is the dark water of renewal. offering only one message:  begin.”-

“Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist” by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in Obsidian


by the participants in Begin: Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist

prayers unlocked and loaded


early morning everything


shining alchemical desires


connection to the earth, connection to the sun


knowing happens in the dark


black body radiance all love all directions


harvesting goodness from the shadows


harnessing ancestral magic


unhesitant confident musings


root work, root chakra, root vegetables


reciprocal relationship with my creative self


purple crown energy clearing


love as lifeforce simply sustained


green heart chakra lights


peacefully profound precise presence


quenching confidence. radiant being


being breathing becoming


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Full Moon Recipes for Creative Renewal


“Though the world forgets me I will say YES and NO.”

-June Jordan

On July 9th, June Jordan’s birthday and the full moon in Cancer ten creative spirits gathered in love.  We reminded each other that NO is a love word and that YES is sacred.

IMG-5367Our Sunday dinner gathering was based on Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s recent publication in Obsidian “Seven Possible Futures for the Black Feminist Artist” from the recent Speculating Futures: Black Imagination and the Arts issue of Obsidian.


We gathered ourselves from as far as Brooklyn and Winston Salem.  We washed each other’s hands in flower water.   We fed each other with food and life-learned lessons. We wrote words on mirrors and walls.  We sang about love as lifeforce and the light of the generations before us.  We asked questions about breathing and forgetting. We redesigned our homes and our writing desks. We reminded the youngest person there a few too many times that June Jordan went to Barnard. We called on loved ones far beyond the room.  We created an eternal-life serum by finding the chemical connections between the lessons we have learned so far.  We thought about how we could share this intimate space with the beloved all over the world.   That’s you!

We invite you to start with a deep breath and a question.  What have you been breathing besides air?

We have been breathing tasks, grief, hope, forgiveness, resistance, grind, patience, worry, uncertainty, truth, intuition, self, fragile, light, trust, support&love, good grease&increase, creativity, capability and curiosity about who we’ve been.

What have you been breathing?  Whisper it to yourself or write it down.

When we started talking we realized we had a lot of lessons among us that felt like answered prayers in the room and that might serve you on your journey to keep breathing and creating:

Here they are!

Recipe #1












Be around people who see your fabulousness, who are thrilled, but not surprised by your brilliance.

7 Steps

by Julia Roxanne Wallace (Sangodare)

  1. Make a list of 7 things you want, but only after taking 7 deep breaths with your eyes closed.
  2. Look at the list and eliminate all material and physical items and ask what is underneath that item. (E.g. If you wrote “a mcmansion” –> “home everywhere I go.”  If you wrote “a Tesla” –> “peaceful, beautiful and life-giving transportation.”  If you wrote “a husband/wife” maybe “divine love filled relationship etc.”
  3. Make sure you have 7 things.
  4. Turn the list into 7 questions that begin with “Why…”  (E.g. Why is it so easy to have divine love filled relationships? Or a romantic relationship?  Or “Why do I have home everywhere I go?”
  5. Repeat the questions for 1 week.
  6. Listen to, read, write and say the questions every morning and every night.
  7. Be who you are.  One divine tranifestation of love.

In other words

Follow desire

see the shadow

Love the shadow

and set it aside


See your desire

turning to face you

present and loving you

ask it why

every day

in every way.


Be love–

the object of

your desire. 


Recipe for Revolutionary Love Cornbread

by Michelle Lanier

*corn milled in the land of an ancestor

*egg from a happy hen

*2 kinds of leavening for 2 uprising souls

*cool spring water

*oil and milk of coconut

*and honey


nana’s recipe for a good getting up morning

by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

*keep the book in reach

*start with a word

*pray for those you love

*pray for those who infuriate you

*pray for people you barely know at all

*pray for the loved, maddening, and as-yet-unknown parts of yourself



recipe for keeping on going when you want to give up

  1. take one step.  curl your toes deeply into the soil
  2. uncurl your toes and wiggle them wildly
  3. take another step
  4.  repeat steps 1, 2, and 3!


Another Reminder:  Collaborating on life together makes family at home.


Recipe for the Where and What of You

by Michelle Lanier

Just flow…then…

Be still as chrysalis. Then break free again and again…then

…celebrate your gorgeous wings…then repeat.


Please feel free to share your own recipes in the comments.  And if you want to participate in a collective process with renewal but you don’t live in Durham, sign up for July’s upcoming online intensive Becoming Turquoise: Intergenerational Accountability 

Mon and Tues July 24 & 25 3-6pm Eastern

This intensive is designed for those of us who are ready to deepen the practice of dedicated art-making, intellectual work, activist work and community building. Who is your work dedicated to? If your work is accountable to multiple generations, how do you generate practice, measures and resources that sustain that work in the moment?  Based on “Xuihatl: Becoming Turquoise” a poem by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in Imaniman (a recent anthology of poetry in honor of Gloria Anzaldua), this intensive is for old souls and young elders whose work would not be imaginable without deep relationships of longing and accountability to the very old and the very young, the dead and the not yet born.  We will use individual and collective poetry, stone and crystal work and meditation and conversation to deepen and resource our intergenerational work.  The course is limited to 9 participants.  Sign up here.