Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind

A Spell to Save Your Life: Honoring the 19th Anniversary of Toni Cade Bambara’s Ascension

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(originally published in The Feminist Wire’s Forum on Toni Cade Bambara)

after Toni Cade Bambara

"Exhale" collage ©Alexis Pauline Gumbs Photograph of Toni Cade Bambara ©Susan Ross


eat salt
not that ocean drowning
snack to stop thinking about dying
unintentional salt

eat salt
on purpose

salt conductor of dreams
ancestor crystal portal
blood water preservation

clean it out
with your eyes


deep sight
practice living in the dark
and seeing what
the light don’t want
you to see

go on a mission
to rescue
the part of the universe
that will always be you
and unknowable


be well
want to be
well deep enough to drink from
bell ringing soul alarms
be buried mineral breakthrough


see birds
love gorillas
listen to dolphins
and do not swallow
what you know

breathe it out
the top of your head

knock on your chest
until you hear it

remember how to fly

*Listen to a guided chant meditation based on Toni Cade Bambara’s wisdom.

*Listen to a podcast celebrating Toni Cade Bambara’s impact released on her 71st birthday

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a queer black troublemaker, a Black feminist love evangelist and a prayer poet priestess. Alexis has been blessed by Toni Cade Bambara both through her published work, her archival papers at Spelman College and her impact on the lives of sister/mother/comrades Cheryll Y. Greene, Aishah Shahidah SimmonsCara Page, and Kai Barrow.  She honors the legacy of Toni Cade Bambara by taking self-care seriously, committing to “sister” as a verb, writing “out-there” short stories, creating spaces for transformative Black Feminist filmmaking and crafting a life as a community accountable scholar and artist in Durham, NC.  For more information, please visit:


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