Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind


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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.

 


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How She Knew: The Fugitive Epistemologies Intensive #spill

How She Knew: The Fugitive Epistemologies Intensive

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-11-48-19-amWeds-Friday, January 4-6, 2017  6pm-9pm Eastern 

*epistemologies = ways of knowing

The Spill Series is a  group of 10 webinars activating the literary archive, technology and text of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity as a resource for our far-flung community of freedom seekers.  (You don’t have to have read Spill to participate, but you might as well read it anyway 🙂

Fugitive Epistemologies is based on the first chapter of Spill “How She Knew” and honors black women’s intimate ways of knowing.  Drawing on the chapter’s literary influences (Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks) and using the chapter itself as oracle and meditation, the purpose of the intensive is to start the new year and time of this renewed blatantly violent global regime with access to forms of knowing that go beyond the dominant news media, beyond intellectual reaction catch phrases and beyond the systemic pull of institutions to make fear fundable.

This online intensive is for freedom-seekers who are interested in intimate knowing, knowing otherwise, refusal as knowledge and trusting forms of knowledge that have been criminalized.  Some of the forms of knowledge we will explore together will include working with dreams, divination, internal and external meditation and recipes.

Registration is limited.  Reserve your spot with a $50 deposit here: 

Full tuition is sliding scale $185-225.  Payment plans are available.  Your deposit goes towards the full tuition.

Email brillianceremastered@gmail.com with your goals for the course by Monday January 2nd.


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Dig: Womanist Archeologies Intensive

avocadolane_1_e213bf-1Weds-Friday, January 11-13, 2017 6pm-9pm eastern

This Brilliance Remastered intensive is for anyone interested in deepening their knowledge of womanist practice, expanding their idea of the archive, and finding ways to research and listen without reproducing patriarchal and capitalist values.

Drawing on Alice Walker’s work, her concept of work, her digging for Zora and her poetic invention of womanism, this intensive looks at Walker’s work itself as a planting, excavating and harvesting ground for generations of long-memoried, ready-to-be-nourished seekers.  Celebrating the work of Cheryll Greene, Kai Barrow and more, this online intensive will be a place where we reconceptualize mothers, gardens, and the dirt that has (not yet) been done.   Come ready to get virtually dirty and to dig deep.

Registration is limited.  Reserve your spot with a $50 deposit here: 

Full tuition is sliding scale $185-225.  Payment plans are available.  Your deposit goes towards the full tuition.

Email brillianceremastered@gmail.com with your goals for the course by Monday January 9th.


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We Let Go: Revolutionary Release from the Evidence Intensive

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Last night was the first session of The Evidence Intensive: Futurists Beyond Fear.  We gathered together as evidence of our ancestors and the legacies of movement work that have made us possible.  We called in our communities of accountability.  We described the insides of our hearts and what we found there. We time traveled through our own lives unearthing wisdom, trauma, and longing from the different past and future ages of our own lives.  We offered ourselves the archives of our own lives and reached for wisdom from our future elder selves to provide wisdom for this moment.   We chanted, sang, hum, scatted, drummed and stomped “love is the most important thing” until every part of our bodies knew it and every age remembered.   Here is the group poem we made about letting go.  Can you choose one of these ways of letting go to focus on today?

If you want to participate in next year’s webinars and intensives join the Brilliance Remastered email list here.

We Let Go

 

By the participants in The Evidence Intensive: Futurists Beyond Fear

 

“We did it. We shifted the paradigm. We rewrote the meaning of life with our living. And this is how we did it. We let go.” –from “Evidence”

 

letting go of feeling like there is never enough time

letting go of victimhood

letting go of missed opportunities

letting go of the pain in our backs from previous betrayals

letting go of the grief held in our bodies for all those who have passed

letting go when/where my ancestors could not

letting go of every shred of doubt that we make a difference in the world

letting go of every single temper tantrum

letting go of the old dust that has settled on our fire and is choking out our breathing

letting go of not breathing and fear of not breathing

letting go of fear of missing out

letting go of fear of being abused

letting go of fear, FOR REAL THIS TIME, I am taking fear off the pedestal I’ve had it on and replacing it with FIERCE POWER

letting go of not knowing

letting go of judging people who we feel aren’t as ‘enlightened’

letting go of anger at people who are so flaky

letting go of being right

letting go of playing small

letting go of needing others’ approval

letting go of guilt and shame

letting go of having to prove anything to anyone

letting go of apologizing (especially as women)

letting go of pretense

letting go of preconceived notions

letting go of tight constriction

letting go of the happy ending

letting go of resolution

letting go of self-recrimination

letting of trying to do everything and ending up exhausted

letting go of having to do it all

letting go of every message inside me head that contains the word “should”

letting go of control

letting go of this bra

letting go of capitalist expectations (girl, bye)

letting go like #sorrynotsorry

letting go of doubting our own brilliance and capabilities

letting go of regret

letting go of others’ expectations of me, even when they are people I love so dearly

letting go of those who will not meet me on the bridge, I can love me and them too, and still let go

letting go of what “never was but could have been” between me and all those lovers

letting go of the story about how i am always and will always be misunderstood

letting go and loving who and what is right in front of me

letting go of the need for proof, my soul is evidence

letting go of belief systems rooted in a perspective of lack

letting go of limited visions defined by consumerism

letting go of measuring the worth of a day by how “productive” i have been

letting go of linear time

letting go of that capitalist clock

letting go of nice, in exchange for deep kindness

letting go of neoliberal, neocolonialist imaginings to welcome revolutionary possibilities

letting go of survival, embracing liberation

letting go of my old selves, holding onto only the parts that serve me well

letting go of the story that I gotta earn love, remembering it is already all here

letting go of thinking our way to the revolution

letting go of worry, but embracing wisdom, intuition and deep knowing

letting go of pressure to finish the resource guide, it is done and it is wonderful and they all love me even more

letting go of the idea that this dissertation has to be smart, so it can be love instead

letting go and falling backward into a pool of cool, deep water that cleanses all the toxins and toxic energies, leaving me light and ready to receive

letting go so I can embrace the depth of me like oceans, the flow of me like rivers

letting go for peace

letting go firmly in touch with the reality that we’re all in this together

letting go to be grounded and sure

letting go of the weight/the heaviness, making space for that love to come in

letting go to feel again and again

letting go so I can feel lighter, feel what lightness feels like for once

letting go to embrace the lightness

letting go and falling into my dreaming

letting go while being FULLY present with every particle of my body, my spirit, m soul, backwards and forwards

letting go and embracing full and total love

letting go with laughter

letting go with grace and gratitude

letting go with pride in who we are

letting go to the sound of drums

letting go for my grandma and them

letting go for the babies

letting go with the babies!

letting go while dancing the dances of my ancestors

letting go with both hands open, my heart open and my feet stomping

letting go for the futures of those I love but can’t see

letting go with joy and delight

letting go while twerking

letting go while lusting, loving and learning

letting go into orgasmic joy

letting go with TRUST. trust in my intuition, trust in my ancestors, trust in what is to come

letting go with full trust in everything that holds me, including me

letting go sitting on handlebars and enjoying the ride downhill

letting go and never picking it up again

letting go everyday

letting go and arriving in this moment


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Free-er Than We Knew We Could Be

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Stone from the beach near Audre Lorde’s house  butterflymade by the Sisters of the Black Doll in Havana. 

This past Saturday we gathered to consider Cuba.  After the passing of Fidel Castro some of us thought first of Assata Shakur.  The Without Bridges: US Based Black Feminists Reckon With Cuba webinar was an opportunity to bring the writing and relationships of US based Black Feminist writers, editors and activists (especially Toni Cade Bambara, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Cheryll Greene, Assata Shakur, Alexis De Veaux and Audre Lorde) into our process of reflection.  We noticed that like generations of Black women we have strong desires, forms of longing and vulnerability attached to Cuba. We used those reflections to clarify our sistering in this moment.  Here is the poem we made.

If you want to participate in the last online workshop of the year The Evidence Intensive: Futurists Beyond Fear, check it out here.

Free-er Than We Knewlorde We Could Be

By the participants in the “Without Bridges” US-based Black Feminists on/in/around/with Cuba Webinar

“Sister is a verb.” Toni Cade Bambara

After “Sister in Exile” the first interview with Assata Shakur after her escape by Cheryll Y. Greene in Essence.

 (Inspired by Toni Cade Bambara, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Cheryll Y. Greene, Assata Shakur, Alexis De Veaux and Audre Lorde)

 

Sister in trust

Sister in listening and holding space

Sister in unconditional acceptance

Sister in distance

Sister in showing up

Sister in living healthy and free

Sister in loving ourselves

Sister in seeing and freeing ourselves from our prisons

Sister with egos aside

Sister in showing our scars

Sister in learning from the ugly

Sister in discernment

Sister in more freedom than we used to

Sister in real rest

Sister in honoring the invisible work

Sister in sweetness

Sister in joy

Sister in gratitude

Sister even in silence

Sister in love

Sister in silliness

Sister in survival truths

Sister in finding our purpose

Sister in availability to purpose

Sister in places we never thought we would be

Sister in life in collaboration

Sister in a way that teaches me to be better to my own heart

Sister in telling each others stories

Sister in shareable salvation


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The Evidence Intensive: Futurists Beyond Fear

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  Thurs-Fri, December 8th and 9th 6pm-9pm Eastern

The last online intensive of the year is especially for those of us brave enough to envision a visionary liberated future during a time when the present seems bleak. Based on her short story “Evidence” from the collection Octavia’s Brood, Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs will facilitate a guided intensive that allows us to vision seven generations into the future and to grapple with the time we are living through now:  the time of the silence breaking.  Using meditations, letter writing, listening, ancestral and futuristic connection and legacies of earlier Black feminist futurists including June Jordan and Audre Lorde, we will close 2016 with the energy of multitudes, with a profound connection to those who have crossed over during this time and with revolutionary availability to the future generations are calling for from us.

Reserve your spot with a $50 deposit here:

The full tuition is sliding scale $175-225. Payment plans are available.

Email brillianceremastered@gmail.com with your intentions for the course by Tuesday December 6th.


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Without Bridges: US Based Black Feminists and Cuba

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 Saturday Dec 3, 2-4pm Eastern

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/without-bridges-us-based-black-feminists-oninaround-with-cuba-tickets-29808524098

At this moment, many of us are thinking about Cuba. We are thinking about Assata. We are thinking about what it means to be in solidarity with, in critical accountability with, in revolutionary reference to, contemporary Cuba. This one-session online course is inspired by writing by US based Black Feminists (including US based Black Feminists of Caribbean heritage) about Cuba as inspiration, challenge and context. Based on work by Toni Cade Bambara, Alexis De Veaux, Audre Lorde, Assata Shakur, Farah Jasmine Griffin, Cheryll Greene and more, this is a space to draw on earlier Black Feminist writings and praxis as we individually collectively face this moment. This is not a strategy session, it is an interactive writing workshop designed to offer a space of reflection and historical references to take into collective and organizational work on this issue. There is no advance reading required for the course, but all participants will get a bibliography for further reading.

This course is not only for US based Black Feminists. All are welcome. However the source texts will be drawing specifically from US based Black Feminist writing and activism

Register here.