Sunday, September 27, 2009

poetics of anger: june jordan's letters to the editor

Hey loved ones,
Just wanted to invite you to the panel I am speaking on at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies this coming Thursday. It would be really great to see you. And while the description they have below of our panel makes us all sound really smart and somewhat should know that what I am really talking about it the hilarious and powerful poetics of angry letters by June Jordan to the editors of publications she wrote for.
Should be a good time!
Would love to see you there!
love always,

Thursday, October 1
Rare Form: Crafting Queerness in Contemporary Literature

LGBTQ Panel Discussion

This panel explores contemporary queer literature and culture with an emphasis on form. Situating North American literary and theoretical texts in a diasporic frame, the panelists will analyze forms of literary expression through the generic lenses of language, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and race and will also consider richer and stranger forms of difference. One of the central questions raised and discussed will be: How do representations of difference impose formal restrictions upon or create new formal possibilities for a text? Taking up contemporary work on futurity, the body, motherhood, sovereignty, and visibility and voice, these presenters ask what difference it might make for contemporary queer studies to make questions of form and craft central.

Panelists: Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Ph.D. candidate, English, Africana Studies and Women's Studies, Duke University; Sarah Dowling, Ph.D. candidate, English, University of Pennsylvania; Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Ph.D. candidate, English, University of Pennsylvania

Moderator: Jennifer Williams, Assistant Professor of English, Michigan State University

Graduate Center
Room 9207
7-9 PM

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Buried Treasure

Hey y'all. Last night I filled in for Nia and spoke at the annual meeting of a Rape Crisis Center in the next county. I was honored to do it and affirmed by the people in the room. Feel free to participate in the prompt at the end of the speech!

Grassroots Organizing Against Sexual Violence

For the annual meeting of the Orange County Rape Crisis Center

Good evening everyone! I stand here representing Nia Wilson, director of SpiritHouse and co-founder with me and others of UBUNTU, a women of color, survivor-led coalition committed, with all of you, to ending gendered and sexual violence completely by filling our communities with sustaining transformative love.

I am not Nia Wilson, but I am proud to call her my sister, mentor, comrade, loved one, and dear friend. And some would say that we “look alike” because we have a shared vision of a transformed world full of inspired communities. And by community we mean groups of people connected by geography and affinity that truly support each member in having their physical, spiritual and emotional needs met, and their amazing priceless unique gift to the world expressed.

I am also here tonight in the legacy of Audre Lorde, black lesbian feminist mother poet warrior who also used her poetry, her life and her example to stand against sexual violence. I will be using on of Audre Lorde’s lesser-known later poems, “On My Way Out I Passed Over You and the Verazzano Bridge” in her collection Our Dead Behind Us to frame my discussion about women of color survivor-led grassroots organizing. Because I strongly believe that (as our other speaker, a high school English teacher and igniter of Scene and Heard youth poetry collective will also speak to) poetry is a powerful context for transformation.

I was asked to speak specifically about what grassroots organzing looks like from the perspective of women of color, those among us who have long held the under-rewarded task of ORGANIZING EVERYTHING often in the face of slander and disrespect…the exact kind of slander and disrespect that makes sexual violence against women of color seem normal.

Audre Lorde speaks for many when she says:

History is not kind to us

we restitch it with living

past memory forward

into desire

into the panic articulation

of want without having

or even the promise of getting

And this is often the position of women of color led initiatives like ours which do not conform to the standard of non-profit organizing. Organizations like SpiritHouse, which focuses on the soul work of healing with/as those most impacted by racism, sexism and classism, and coalitons like UBUNTU, which acts on the belief that we must create whoel communities full of shared childcare, shared, music, shared meals, collective gardents, and definitely poetry in order to grow a world where people are truly accountable to each other and sexual violence is no more….groups like ours are not always legible to foundations that value social services and policy outcomes, but which often overlook the community building work, the love work. Love is sadly undervalued in the non-profit industrial complex, but we as women of color are learning to be fierce beacons of love and finding support for that work is like planting your heart in the ground you stand on, shining your faith light and tears into your community and welcoming whatever grows up. Grass. Roots.

Even the present is not kind. We restitch it with living, past memory, forward into desire.

We draw on the resources of the brilliant women of color who have come before us and who hold a light to our vision today. SpiritHouse and UBUNTU have actively used the poetic work of Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Ntozake Shange and asha bandele in our healing performances and independent publications and writing workshops.

We also ally with contemporary warriors like genius filmmaker Aishah Simmons who’s film NO! reminds us who we are and what we deserve and reminds men who are allies committed to ending sexual violence of their stake in the matter. Deconstructing male privilege means that men are not helping to end sexual violence on my behalf, they are not stopping rape from a property perspective to protect wives, mothers, daughters, etc. If you identify as a man ending rape, you are ending rape because it is not what you would want someone to do to YOU, Period.

SpiritHouse youth program which I have been involved in for the past 5 years works with some of the most criminalized members of our communities. Young black people, mostly male-identified, who have often been long-term suspended and exprelled from Durham public schools because of their involvement in gangs or street organizations. These are the people most likely to get pulled over if they drive anywhere, who have the hardest times finding jobs, who are often harassed just for walking down the street or hanging out. And no, they don’t always have the most PC gender language. We know from being accountable to and led by these young people that being treated like a criminal does not give anyone a healthier relationship to their own sexuality or anyone else’s body.

If the increased surveillance and criminalization is not the way to end sexual violence, and I strongly believe that it is not, as a survivor like most survivors of sexual violence that was enacted on me by someone in my circle of trust, how do we heal our communities?

In UBUNTU, a coalition of which SpiritHouse is a founding organizational member, we believe that when everyone’s needs are met, when we can look at each other eye to eye, when we can tell the truth about economic violence, agist silencing and sex in general, and when we can tell the even harder, rarer, riskier truth about love, we will treat each other well, we will love each other right.

The committees of UBUNTU have created poetic performances, writing groups, a community garden, a national day of truthtelling and monthly potluck dinners as investments in the belief that as Audre Lorde says:

And I dream of us coming together

encircled driven

not only by love

but by a lust for a working tomorrow

the flights of this journey

mapless uncertain

and necessary as water,

And the flights are maples. The tragic thing is that we do not know how to navigate life without violence, distrust and harmful silences. But Lorde offers us this poem:

I am writing these words as a route map

an artifact for survival

a chronicle of buried treasure

a mourning

for this place we are about to be leaving

And in the spirit of that buried treasure, that necessary digging. I have a poem that I would like you to interact with. Are you willing to interact?

The poem is called Dig (available as a PDF here:

And at the end of the poem (and for you reading in the comments) please respond to the prompt for your community, for yourself, or for any definition of “here” that you hold:

“If you dig here you will find ______________________”

(at the event each person stood and declared that we would find, “a poem” “love” “hope” “more digging to do” “dirt” “roots” “a proud father of three daughters” “peace” “a hundred dreams ready to be lived” “intertwining pathways” and more! And each person remained standing until the entire room was standing for the depth of healing that will truly end sexual violence. And I said…)

I was asked to speak about what grassroots organzing looks like from my perspective. I think this is what it looks like. Learning to stand against sexual violence with our whole selves. Thank you for your bravery.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh My Gosh! Being in this book is a dream come true!

Does Your Mama Know bookcover

does your mama know?

(revised edition)
edited by Lisa C. Moore

By turns funny, passionate, angry and joyous, does your mama know? reflects the complexity of emotions that accompany a black lesbian’s coming out. These short stories, poems, interviews and essays—fiction and nonfiction—make up a powerful collection of original and new writing. Originally published in 1997, the 2009 revised edition of does your mama know? adds 16 new stories. Booksellers, please note the new ISBN.

ISBN-10: 0-9786251-6-1
ISBN-13: 978-0-9786251-6-0
Specs: Softcover, xx pp.
Price: $19.95
Pub. Date: May 2009
Cover art, design copyright © 1997 by Kamela Eaton


  • Donna Allegra
  • Martine C. Barbier
  • L.K. Barnett
  • Samiya Bashir
  • Gwendolyn Bikis
  • Becky Birtha
  • Sharon Bridgforth
  • Tonia Bryan
  • C.C. Carter
  • Staceyann Chin
  • Cheryl Clarke
  • Tonda Clarke
  • Alexis De Veaux
  • Olive Demetrius
  • Gale “Sky” Edeawo
  • Tiffani Frazier
  • Roxane Gay
  • Lena-Nsomeka Gomes
  • Jewelle Gomez

  • alexis pauline gumbs
  • Imani Henry
  • Kiyana Horton
  • Michele Hunter
  • A. Naomi Jackson
  • Terri Jewell
  • Ana-Maurine Lara
  • Renita Martin
  • Hope Massiah
  • Tiona McClodden
  • Liz Messerly
  • mistinguette
  • Lenelle Mo├»se
  • Denise Moore
  • Letta Neely
  • Ekua Omosupe
  • Tonya Parker
  • Kimberly “Q” Purnell
  • Almah LaVon Rice

  • Mattie Richardson
  • Brigitte Roberts
  • Makeda Silvera
  • Sheree Slaughter
  • Sherece Taffe
  • Selly k. Thiam
  • Karen Thompson
  • Nailah Tulinegwe
  • Hanifah Walidah
  • Laura Irene Wayne
  • Liza Wesley
  • Michelle Wilkinson
  • Arlene Williams
  • Shilanda Woolridge
  • Eva Yaa Asantewaa
  • Shay Youngblood
  • akhaji zakiya
  • Fiona Zedde
    Kortney Ryan Ziegler

Praise for does your mama know?

“These voices are varied as are the tales they tell. Haitian, Jamerican, Afro-Canadian, biracial, Southern U.S., London by way of Barbados. Ages 14 to 90. …It is extremely rare to see a book of any kind that reflects the diversity of black people in North America, not only economically, but ethnically.”

—R. Erica Doyle, Women in the Life

“When I held this book in my hand for the first time it shook me to the core. I dreamt about it all night. Thinking, ‘if only I had had this fourteen years ago,’ because Lord knows I looked for it. If only I had known I was not the only one, what pain-filled places would I have left behind? The voices in does your mama know? share the stories of black lesbians making the proverbial ‘way out of no way,’ on the edge of self-definition. It is a catalogue of our longing, our grief, our innocence, our triumph, and, above all, our love.”

—R. Erica Doyle, Women in the Life

“…an excellent expression of tenderness and pain as womyn share their coming-out stories.”

—LaJaunessee Jordan, Outlines

does your mama know?… does a terrific job adding a voice that’s missing from the collective gay expression. This gathering of essays, stories and poetry captures black lesbians like a prism reflects the sunlight, throwing back a thousand divergent lives. There is rich lore here for gay history, as well as black history…”

—Emma Hayes, HX for Her

does your mama know? is a welcome addition to the history of our communities…”

—Deborah Peifer, The Bay Guardian

“Few…voices have been raised to sing the history of African American lesbians. Editor Lisa C. Moore noticed that and has set about to begin to correct the omission, and she has done a masterful job of it. …[These] are beautiful poems and stories, yes, but more than that, they are proof of our existence and show how essential it is that we have a literature of our own.”

—Dale Edwyna Smith, The Lesbian Review of Books

“Lisa C. Moore does the community a service by not censoring her anthology [does your mama know?], by allowing black lesbian voices to be heard in rich and varied ways…”

—Barbara I. Bond, Lambda Book Report

Eye to Eye: A Poetic Exercise

Greetings loved ones! This is a talk that I did at the very first LGBTQ school-wide program yesterday at Bennett College (a historically black college for women in Greensboro, NC).

To watch a video of the entire program see:

For the class of 2013 at Bennett College

Good morning Bennett Belles! My name is Alexis Pauline Gumbs and I am a queer black trouble maker, an afro-Caribbean grandchild and love embodied. I stand here this morning in the legacy of Audre Lorde, black feminist lesbian poet mother warrior, doing our work. I bring you an interactive embodied poetic exercise called eye to eye. Are you ready to interact? Are you awake? If you can hear me say “Audre Lorde lives!”

Thank you! This exercise is about healing. About what it means to love ourselves and to love each other as black women. Raise your hand if you have ever heard a black woman say some version of this: “I don’t really like to be around too many females. Too much drama. Women are shady. Can’t trust them. We can be associates, but I don’t really have to many female friends.” Raise your hand if you have heard a black woman or girl say that. Picture her in your mind. Close your eyes. What did she look like? How did her face look when she said that? Did she look peaceful? Resigned? Disappointed? On the verge of laughing? On the verge of telling someone off? What did she look like? Keep your eyes closed and raise your hand if you, yourself have ever said or thought something like that. “I can’t really let too many females get close to me. They talk behind your back, they try to steal your man or push up on your girl?” Keep your hand up if you have ever said or thought something like that yourself. Open your eyes, and look at me. Everything I say about black women, is true, about myself.

The other day a beloved comrade of mine told me that a young woman in a workshop he was leading about self-love and self-esteem said something to him the other day that is ridiculous enough to be funny, but is actually a logical extension of this thought about other women that many of us have had: “Love myself?” she said, with a disgusted look on her face. “Eww. That’s gay.” I laughed out loud when I heard my friend, a gay man, tell me this story. But at the end of the day, this is not a rare belief, and the costs are to cruel to be funny. We are taught so vigilantly not to love black women, we are taught, through violence and racism and sexism daily that black women are not worthy of love, we are taught that it is an amoral, disgusting thing to love a black women, and we have learned the lesson so well that we have forgotten how to love and affirm the black woman we know best. We have forgotten how to love ourselves.

I am talking about this to you because you might have the occasion to interact with a few black women over the next few years. Like everyday, all day, in class, in the dorm, in the hall, in the dining hall, in your own imagination. You have chosen brilliantly to be in a community created every day by and for black women. I am a proud graduate of a women’s college, but the power in this room, the singular majestic power of a college that is about one thing, the genius of black women, is miraculous to me. And I envy you. But that’s because I love black women. I love myself fiercely. If you are in here, surrounded by black women and you are fighting feelings of jealously, mistrust, judgement about your sisters your choice to be here at Bennett College for women is inconvenient at best. But this is also an incredible opportunity to learn how to love all different kinds of black women, and it matters that you LOVE black women, which is different than dealing with, smiling in the faces of, or tolerating other black women. The extent to which you love your sisters here at Bennett is the extent to which you can and will love yourself.

In the early 1980’s in Essence Magazine Audre Lorde, warrior poet mother icon, wrote about exactly this issue:

“We are African women and we know in our blood’s telling, the tenderness with which our foremothers held each other. It is that connection which we are seeking. We have the stories of Black women who healed each other’s wounds, raised each other’s children, fought each other’s battles, tilled each other’s earth, and eased each other’s passages into life and death. We know the possibilities of support and connection for which we all yearn and which we dream of so often. But connections between Black women are not automatic by virtue of our similarities, and the possibilities of genuine communication are not easily achieved..”

“Often we give lip service to the idea of mutual support and connection between Black women because we have not yet crossed the barriers to these possibilities, nor fully explored the angers and fears that keep us from realizing the power of a real Black sisterhood. We cannot settle for the pretenses of connection, or for parodies of self-love. We cannot continue to evade each other on the deepest level s because we fear each other’s angers, nor continue to believe that respect means never looking directly, nor with open-ness into another Black woman’s eyes. I was not meant to be alone and without you who understand.

Okay. Here comes the interactive part. What better time to interact intimately with another black woman than now. We are about to experiment with how difficult, uncomfortable and unfamiliar it feels to look directly into another black woman’s eyes. Please choose a black woman sitting near you who you do not know well, maybe someone sitting in the row in front of you or behind you. Does everybody have someone. Work it out y’all…everyone needs a partner. Someone you do not know or someone you are just getting to know.

Okay. So now look into that sisters eyes. Directly. It’s not a staring contest. You can blink, just don’t look away. Keep looking. Keep looking. Breathe. Let your eyes settle on your sister’s face. Think about how much she reminds you of yourself, think about how different she is from you. Do not look away. For 30 more seconds just chill. Look into your sister’s eye and breathe.

So how did that feel? Awkward? Strange? Did it get less or more uncomfortable for you? Were you aware that you were looking at an amazing person? Were you afraid that she was seeing the crust in your eyes from earlier this morning? How did you feel? I did this in a middle school class once and one girl whispered loudly “I think that lady’s a lesbian” which is fine, because I am a proud queer black woman and I stand here in the legacy of Audre Lorde, black lesbian genius warrior poet. But this is not some kind of gay conversion exercise. This is about learning how uncomfortable we are just looking at other black women face to face, eye to eye, and over coming that so we can really build sisterhood with each other and love ourselves. How often have you really looked any black woman in the eye for a significant period of time. That was only one minute. It felt like a lifetime because of the lifetimes we have spend avoiding each other. Have you looked in your mother’s eyes, your grandmother’s eyes, your aunts, your sister’s, your cousins?

Why not? This is what Audre Lorde said:

“We do not love ourselves, therefore we cannot love each other. Because we see in each other’s face our own face, the face we never stopped wanting. Because we survived and survival breeds desire for more self. A face we never stopped wanting at the same time as we try to obliterate it.

Why don’t we meet each other’s eyes? Do we expect betrayal in each others gaze, or recognition?”

What is dangerous about a black woman who loves black women? What is dangerous about a black woman who loves herself? What does society get from us when we are afraid to love ourselves and each other. I want us to support the students in BRIDE in really bringing out the conversation about what everyone loses in a homophobic society and to remember that homophobia in the black community isn’t really about sex. It is really about fear. How afraid are we to love each other, even as sisters, even as friends, even as students and mentors? How afraid are we to love ourselves and what are we missing?

Thank you for your bravery. Thank you for you attention this morning, thank you for looking at yourself with love and honesty, eye to eye.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

BrokenBeautiful: Fall in Love All Over Again!

moment of arrival

Schools in! And your summer-lovin, nerdy quirky space for creation is exited to check out your new And you keep on keep on falling in love with the world we are making together! I know you are so ready to see what BrokenBeautiful Press is up to in this amazing season of transformation!

MobileHome Money!: Buy Lex and Julia this MobileHome for our traveling queer black intergenerational community documentation and education project! Read all about it and contribute via paypal if you can here! Also, all proceeds from the DVD and Lex's speaking circuit will go towards the sustainable media making love bug extreme!

the mobilehome we want!!!!

Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind EVERYWHERE!!!: Spreading the gospel of black feminist possibility and legacy by every means necessary, the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind project has a multi-media life of it's own! In addition to the in-person study group (see more details below) Eternal Summer stays portable and interactive with the new

Eternal Summer PODCAST Series with amazing music, poetry and information! Scroll down or click here to download or listen to 1979 and Meditations on the Rainbow. I just recently got word that sistas in Kenya are using the podcasts for discussion sessions. You should too!

Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist MIND TV!!!! If you have the great sense to live in Durham, North Carolina you can get black feminist goodness right in your living room on Channel 18 Monday nights at 9pm!

AND the videos!

Picture 1Eternal Summer DVD of black feminist educational videos (available on a sliding scale fee for use in your community or classroom.) Paypal a donation between $11-25 to for your copy. shipping included!)

AND the Black Feminist Poet/Speaker/Workshop Leader for hire!

4495_1148688561670_1361255849_389085_216113_nThis year Lex is using her best developed and most cherished skill-the art of the life-changing workshop-to raise funds to support her decision to spend the next year doing the MobileHomeComing an immersive intergenerational community documentation and education project based on her lust for back queer community! (It’s weird that somehow I have to be consistent with a choice to talk about myself in the third person here, but I want to interject in the first person to say that your support means everything to me and it is evidence of the fact that it is possible to be a community supported, community accountable scholar in the 21st Century. :) More details here!

soft_launch_juliaQueer Renaissance Film Screening/B-day Bash Fundraiser: BrokenBeautiful Press is partnering with Queer Renaissance to create the party of the fall! On Saturday September 19th in Atlanta, GA we'll be screening Julia Wallace's film "Until" two Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind videos, a fashion line, music dancing, ties and more beautiful madness. For more details look at the event page here! The event is a fundraiser for intergenerational technology classes that Julia will be conducting in under-served communities in Atlanta.

Love Harder: Women of Color Working it Out

This is a reading group specifically designed for women of color in different communities to respond to the complicated matrix of oppressions that face us by loving each other even harder, with more intention, focus and specificity. We will be reading, gathering locally and posting our insights at every season. Fall 2009 we are reading Andrea Smith’s essay about the three pillars of white supremacy. Comment on the blog or email if you want to participate!

The Summer Recap:

How amazing was our Summer!!??? Check it out!

Black Feminism Lives...ALL SUMMER LONG!

ffsmoiseCombahee Lives!: All summer long the Combahee Survival initiative has been sparking conversation on the Quirky Black Girls discussion forums and the Combahee Survival Blog invoking the brave brilliance of the 1977 Black Lesbian Feminist Socialist Combahee River Collective with contribution and statements from contemporary movement genuises! And it don't stop! Join Quirky Black Girls or email if you want to get weekly discussion prompts!

Eternal Summer Study Groups: This summer Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist mind grew wide and deep. With intimate session on Lex's porch in Durham we discussed the poetry of Audre Lorde and Nikky Finney and we kicked of the Eternal Summer Warrior film series with a documentary about Ida B. Wells (which we screened in honor of her birthday!)


Sistas in D.C., Ethiopia, Chicago, etc, have been doing local Eternal Summer sessions. Stay posted at to see what's happening near you...or better yet...gather with folks in your own community and read along!

In MAY Lex spoke at the Caribbean Studies Association meeting in Kingston Jamaica and Lex and Julia of the BrokenBeautiful Press/Queer Renaissance MobileHomecoming Collabo attended the inaugural visioning session of the Caribbean Region component of the International Research Network, a clearing house for LGBTQQI activists, artists, scholars and community organizations in the Caribbean!

speaking @ csa

In JUNE the hotness of the annual Gemini Jam (replete with Gemini juice and love message posters and the sweet sounds of DJ Superfree) popped off in Atlanta.

gemini jam

And THEN Lex went to the AMAZING Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University in Virginia and had the honor of celebrating Lucille Clifton's birthday and her amazing body of poetry with some amazing poets and teachers (including Nikky Finney and Akasha Hull! AND in a very BrokenBeautiful way...her chosen family and community paid for her to go! Here is a link to the thank you video!

furious flower with lucille

In JULY BrokenBeautiful Press was all over the Allied Media Conference in Detroit!

Alisa shows us what's up! Julia teaches livestream!

Shawty got Skills2Share was a space created by our beloved Cyberquilting Crew that encouraged Women of Color to learn skills from each other, from digital social networking, to quilting to video livestreaming to urban foraging.

lex working it out1lex workin it out2strategize

The Cyberquilting/SPEAK/INCITE: Radical Women of Color Media Strategy Session was the jumpoff of a year of collaborativeworld changing initiatives (like the above mentioned LOVE HARDER) about to pop off in your local and cyber community!

See more pics from the AMC (taken by Moya Bailey) here!

In AUGUST the education working group of Bull City (Durham) Affiliate of Southerners on New Ground and the Queer Collective took an idea from Lex's kitchen table to the streets and created a grassroots guerilla film festival focusing on Queer People of Color in just over a week! Imagine Born in Flames, Paris is Burning and Flag Wars projected large as life on a wall in downtown Durham y'all! The fest also featured Lex's short video "So You Know" about black queer publishing!

And just now over Labor Day Weekend was the delicious delectable Queerky Black Girls Cookout in the middle of the Black Pride Exuberance!

queerky cookoutqueerky cookout 2

in short...BEST SUMMER EVER!!!!!

also feel free to share amazing videos and pictures from your transformative summer. Email links and pics to and we'll post them here!

Happy to be falling in love with you all over again!



Tuesday, September 01, 2009

"Meditations on the Rainbow": Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Podcast II

Filled with great music...rare and priceless poetry from Sapphire all presented in that quirky, interactive, meditative, writing workshop-esque Eternal Summer style!

(this is a photo of the brilliant Sapphire...but this time it's actually Lex reading Sapphire's juicy poetic set)

This podcast is dedicated to all of us, but especially to Tyli'a Nana Boo Mack, a black transwoman made early ancestor in a brutal act of violence in Washington DC.

Get your pen and your paintbrush and listen here:

Eternal Summer Podcast Two!!!!

(If you listen to the end you'll hear Lex singing the blues!)

*Sapphire is not a particularly PG poet so this podcast is for grown folks and the folks they can be accountable for sharing it with.