Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind


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BlueBellow: A New Work of Underwater Afrofuturism by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

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© 2017, Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy “Memory Seas”

Sistering is science fiction. Sistering is fantasy. The queer belief that we can reach each other across everything. The decision that we can make the world better for each other. I am excited to announce the publication of my short story “BlueBellow” in the current issue of Strange Horizons, a special issue on resistance.  This newest work of underwater afro-futurism was inspired by my sister Ariana Good and a post she wrote on facebook some years ago about transatlantic #twinning. And I am deeply honored that the pieces is published in conversation with an original commissioned work of art by my beloved sister-comrade Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy. Read it and let me know what you think.http://strangehorizons.com/fiction/bluebellow/

Or if you want: I will read it to you:http://strangehorizons.com/podcasts/podcast-bluebellow/

And PLEASE check out this interview with Soraya about her transformative art praxis!

http://strangehorizons.com/non-fiction/articles/artist-interview-soraya-jean-louis-mcelroy/

 


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See You on the Other Side: Journey Poems for Fugitive Intellectuals

be8d1fc926e01b60141982944e8c123cAs we closed our How She Knew: Fugitive Epistemologies Intensive last week at Brilliance Remastered, we meditated on the queer distance between here and free.  Is it time?  Is it space?  What other forms of materiality and relation grace the distance?  Using writing as a reflective surface, sound as a place to go and poetry as a skeleton architecture (ask Audre Lorde about that) we looked across.  Using actual mirrors we looked in, we relearned the frame, we time-traveled and teleported to earlier and future possible truths.   Between here and free?  It seems like a distance charted through triangulation (but that happened already), maybe more like a circle.  Probably technically a sphere.  Ask Zora. It’s somewhere (here.)

We offer our closing poem as a map and journey-song for our fellow fugitives.  And of course if you want to see if all there is between here and free is layers and layers of attenuated meaning (ask Spillers about that) and dirt (ask Alice) join us this week for Dig: Womanist Archeologies.  Today is the last day to sign up.  ❤

See you on the other side.

Love,

Sista Docta Lex

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See You on the Other Side: Journey Poems for Fugitive Intellectuals

by the participants in the How She Knew: Fugitive Epistemologies Webinar

  

the voice that never died

see you on the other side

deep seating knowing, never forgotten

see you on the other side

being here for you and me and all at the same time

see you on the other side

heart’s wanderings

see you on the other side

togetherness

see you on the other side

new limits

see you on the other side

more questions

see you on the other side

the story of Ferdinand

see you on the other side

all bills autopayed from an account that never overdrafts

see you on the other side

joy in the morning

see you on the other side

my bald and brilliant brain

see you on the other side

smiling brightly

see you on the other side

exercises of freedom

see you on the other side

sunshine on my belly

see you on the other side

baby foreheads

see you on the other side

new flesh

see you on the other side

freedom’s free child

see you on the other side

Alaina’s dreams

see you on the other side

creative presence of praxis

see you on the other side

Ouida’s farm

see you on the other side

graduation day

see you on the other side

great grandma’s story

see you on the other side

generationing

see you on the other side

all my people and the people they bring

see you on the other side

beautifully aging

see you on the other side

love and life from the eyes of an 11 year old

see you on the other side

sweetness everlasting

see you on the other side

the free and naked future

see you on the other side

the food that feeds us fully

see you on the other side

us whole

see you on the other side

the gathered grateful generations

see you on the other side

everyone who ever lived helping to free us

see you on the other side


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Above Everything, Despite Everything: A Love Poem for Our Fugitive Knowing

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“Waves in the Ocean” by Viv Logan.  On the cover of M. Jacqui Alexander’s Pedagogies of Crossing

Last night we swam deeper into the How She Knew: Fugitive Epistemologies Online Intensive.  We dedicated lines of our first group poem to our loved ones.  We shared about our journeys of creating criteria for our own boundaries, allowing our fears to ask for love, allowing our dreams to teach us generations.  We experimented with hot water, quilt pieces and greens, creating catalogs of cleansing for what we are ready to release, inventories of freedom patterns worn by the people we love and storehouses of practices that nourish and feed our spirits.  So much clarity and abundance.  For me, the major lesson was about a shift in tone.  What happens when I free myself from what “i know i need to do” and open myself up to what “i know is there for me, when i need it”?  Everything.  That’s what happens!

This group poem is about our dedication and commitment to the continued journey of knowing what capitalism don’t want us to know and slavery don’t want us to remember.  Use it as an affirmation and invitation that your deepest knowing may rise and know you are calling for it.

And again, if you want your own opportunity to dig deep, join us next week for Dig: The Womanist Archeologies Intensive.

Love,

Sista Docta Lex

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above everything, despite everything: a love poem for our fugitive knowing

 

by the participants in the How She Knew: Fugitive Epistemologies Intensive

“i couldn’t see anything but I understood there was something above everything. above everything despite everything I would find fresh air and breathe again. Above everything despite everything I would free you. my best idea yet.” 

-from Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity

above everything

despite everything

you are still here

above everything

despite everything

you are here for me

above everything

despite everything

you will not be thrown away

above everything

despite everything

you already know

above everything

despite everything

i still know you

above everything

despite everything

i can still hear you

above everything

despite everything

i will find you

above everything

despite everything

i am here for you

above everything

despite everything

the water wont stop me

above everything

despite everything

i am listening

above everything

despite everything

i hear your voice

above everything

despite everything

i trust myself

above everything

despite everything

i would choose you

above everything

despite everything

i would choose me

above everything

despite everything

the sky is witnessing

above everything

despite everything

love renews itself

above everything

despite everything

freedom is free

above everything

despite everything

joy remains

above everything

despite everything

God might not want to be called that

above everything

despite everything

color can create but can it hold all of you?

above everything

despite everything

we are still here

above everything

despite everything

we are gathered

above everything

despite everything

we are breathing

above everything

despite everything

we are singing

above everything

despite everything

make love

above everything

despite everything

follow your desires

above everything

despite everything

bring your magic

above everything

despite everything

ask them why

above everything

despite everything

be reliable

above everything

despite everything

let go

above everything

despite everything

make the time

above everything

despite everything

love love love

above everything

despite everything

tell it. TELL it!!


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Gratitude: The Barnard Library Wall

unnamed-1I was in the Barnard library at a desk facing the window when I decided that was where I wanted to go to college. I wrote my first paper at another desk facing the window in the library. It was about June Jordan and Phillis Wheatley (I handed it in, but clearly I never stopped writing it.)

When the Barnard College archives used to be one room in the basement I spent hours and days in there looking for pictures and information about Black women at Barnard to share and remember. That library was always my favorite, even while it was in deep need of renovation.

I always visit the library when I return to Barnard’s campus. One time I even visited the alumae authors shelf and imagined where my book(s) would go someday. https://www.instagram.com/p/atE-hNCTA4/

All that is to say, that being honored this way on the wall of the Barnard Library, with my words about how we can love each other to liberation alongside Zora Neale Hurston, Grace Lee Boggs and Ntozake Shange is making me cry because it is a physical manifestation of something that has been true for a long time. I am always in the Barnard Library. When I first saw it, I knew I had been there before.

The Barnard students who decided to put this on the wall did not do it because of the feelings it would make me feel. They put it there because they know what I know. We create sacred space with words, and we must create sacred space for words. We need desperately to see writers, because we need urgently to be writers. They put this there because they thought it would make their own words and worlds more possible.

And that’s why I’m feeling it all. Everything.unnamed-2

My mom gave me my first copy of Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls…” She said: “This is important to me.” I read it as a sacred text. That text, Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo and Betsey Brown were books that shaped my experience and understanding of my own black girlhood. Ready or not.

When I was a first-year at Barnard College I went to the archives to make a timeline of the presence of Black women at Barnard for BOSS’s celebration of Black Womanhood Week. I looked through the year books of the time when Ntozake Shange and Thulani Davis were at Barnard and the beautiful poetic spreads they made in protest of the limits of the institutions and in brave celebration of themselves and other Black women. I plastered my dorm room wall with quotes from “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enough.” In the summer I went home and looked at Thulani Davis‘s papers at Emory to see how she and Ntozake documented their time doing the same things I did at Columbia. Fighting for black studies and ethnic studies, using poetry as a tool for clarification, struggling to build unity between black folks at the different colleges within the university, loving each other as sisters and comrades.

The summer before I graduated from Barnard I went to Berkeley’s Bancroft Archive to write my writing sample for my grad school applications, a study of the dynamics of Ntozake Shange’s early work with Shameless Hussy Press and other experimental groups in California. (It worked! I got into grad school!)

In Durham, when brilliant Black girls asked me to create an afterschool program where they could cultivate their magic together, I knew that Ntozake Shange’s character Indigo would be our spirit guide. When grown black women needed ritual space to gather, when it was time to create a week long gathering of warrior healers, I turned to Shange’s work again and again.

I came back to Barnard the year that Africana Studies dedicated to Ntozake Shange to be part of the beautiful conference in her honor:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9XMBgIm3-4
and to contribute to this video about her legacy:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O9XMBgIm3-4

Really these are just the highlights. The point is, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have my words, name, picture on the wall of the Barnard Library alongside Ntozake Shange. Not just because she is one of the most influential artists of our time, but because her work has shaped my relationship to myself, my relationship to Barnard, my relationship to my work and my relationships to spirit and possibility so deeply.

The fact that current Barnard students looking for affirmation and reflection would put me in the same sphere with Shange, lands on me like a sacred trust. If my work can offer them a fraction of what Shange’s work has offered me, then I am keeping my agreement. Gratitude unending.

unnamedMeeting Grace Lee Boggs was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. I didn’t know about Grace when I was at Barnard, but after I graduated I met her in Detroit at my first Allied Media Conference. Grace was in her 90s and just went to the sessions and was as eager to learn as anyone. What Grace said about education in the first session of the AMC that year inspired me to create Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind as an intergenerational solution-based learning space. I am grateful for ever.

I am grateful to Grace’s family of mentees especiallyJenny Lee, Invincible Ill Weaver, Adrienne Maree Brown, and Mike Medow for giving me so many opportunities to listen to Grace, to be with Grace, to celebrate GRACE!

It wasn’t until I watched the documentary “American Revolutionary” that I learned that Grace was a Barnard alum. I excitedly shared the info and the link to the film with my sisters in the Fierce & Fabulous {Barnard College Alumnae of Color} group. And I played the recording that I heard in the film over and over again where Grace matter-of-factly tells a group of white liberals that black people don’t want to be like white people.

When Grace became an ancestor, I knew immediately that it was up to all of us to embody the values that Grace carried for us for more than a century. Every day for the month after Grace passed I started my day by Embodying Grace. I meditated to the sound of her voice. Those of you who are connected to me on social media might remember, I shared a different piece of her writing or speaking every day.

I refuse to live in a world without GRACE (or a world without CHARITY for that matter.) At this time Grace is called for, Grace is called on daily by those of us accountable to the evolution of this species.

The fact that Barnard students would put me in conversation with Grace by putting my words and face on the wall of the library alongside her is a gift, transcended only by the original gift of Grace’s revolutionary life and the gift of my comrades in Detroit who brought me into her world. I am honored to be part of the necessary multitude embodying Grace right now.

unnamed-3I was reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God when I decided I HAD to be a writer. That book showed me how with words, the dead can move the bodies of the living. That connection, through language beyond life and death shapes every moment of my work.

At Barnard, I quoted Zora Neale Hurston almost everyday. I reminded my classmates about her reflection on tokenization: “I became Barnard’s sacred black cow,” she once said. I said it so often that my friend and comrade Elodi Dielubanza (CC 04)  would quip back “How now?” I had her words all over my dorm room walls.

I was honored to be part of a dramatic rendition of Hurston’s short story collection Spunk. I was blown away when I heard Valerie Boyd speak on campus about Hurston’s life and the ancestral communication and presence she felt while writing the biography Wrapped in Rainbows. I was humbled when my advisor Monica Miller asked me to introduce Hurston’s longtime champion, archeologist and legacy builder Alice Walker at a huge gathering celebrating 75 years since Hurston’s time at Barnard: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUyOQ3DpqzM

When Ebony Noelle Golden taught at North Carolina Central University and when Zelda Lockhartannounced she would be teaching there, I thought right away YES. In the legacy of Zora Neale Hurston. I am so honored to learn from sisters who teach and have taught in her legacy right here in Durham.

Even now, today I am writing about Alice Walker’s relationship to Zora Neale Hurston’s legacy and the actual digging it required in preparation for the Dig: Womanist Archeologies Intensive next week.

I am so honored that my words, name, face appear on the wall at Barnard College alongside Zora Neale Hurston’s. Not because it means I have arrived, but because through their knowing, the current students at Barnard have manifested one of my oldest and most consistent desires.

I just want to be with Zora.

And the beautiful thing is that the students have taught me that, in a way, I am.