“Necessary as Water”: Queer Black Ceremony and the Depth of Listening

November 7, 2019

When Alexis Pauline Gumbs and her partner Sangodare traveled the US in a Winnebago to listen to Black LGBTQ elders, they used every technology of listening they could imagine.  They used their bodies, their words, praise poems, dance, food, garden weeding, dishwashing and more to create fields of resonance beyond the tired project of recognition.  What if oral history could move beyond the reproduction of a recognizable narrative and offer a deeper approach to the healing work required to be in relationship with communities harmed by the trauma of systemic misrecognition, exclusion and disrespect.  Inspired by Audre Lorde’s poetics of water and relation and drawing on her experience as co-founder of the Mobile Homecoming Black LGBTQ Experiential Archive and Living Library, Alexis Pauline Gumbs will lead the gathered community in a series of interactive listening activities designed to transform the possibilities of intimacy, intergenerational learning and presence in your own practice.  Come with what Cab Calloway called “a heart as big as a whale,” i.e. ready to (be) transform(ed).

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is the co-founder, with Sangodare of the Mobile Homecoming Living Library and Archive, which has activated listening ceremonies with Black LGBTQ elders across the continental United States, hosted 10 intergenerational retreats in the Southeast United States, shared a model of transformative archive practice at over 50 colleges and universities and is now in the midst of stewarding land in Durham, North Carolina for the Living Library, a growth and transformation center and all ages assisted and independent living community of intergenerational love, listening and care.  Alexis has been recognized by the Advocate’s 40 under 40 list, the UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World list, the Bitch 50, Colorlines LGBTQ Leaders Transforming the South list, the Too Sexy For 501-C3 award and more for her work with the Mobile Homecoming Project.

For the past 25 years, Alexis has been using poetry as a resource to nurture listening across difference and distance through visual, sonic, site-specific interactive art.  Her living room school Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind has brought generations together to learn about the lives and work of Black feminist writers. Alexis is also a widely recognized author and Black feminist scholar.  She is the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (Duke UP 2016), M Archive: After the End of the World (Duke UP 2018) and the forthcoming Dub: Finding Ceremony (Duke UP 2020).  She is also the co-editor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press 2016) and has written essays for dozens of edited collections and scholarly journals.  Alexis was the first researcher to do work in the Audre Lorde Papers at Spelman College, the June Jordan Papers at Harvard University and the Lucille Clifton Papers at Emory University during her dissertation research for her PhD in English, African and African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies at Duke University.  Alexis is a Lucille Clifton Honoree, Firefly Ridge Honoree, Pushcart Prize Nominee and her poetry was included in Best American Experimental Writing in 2015.  She is currently creative writing editor for the journal Feminist Studies.

This event is part of the INCITEment series and was created in partnership with the IDS Lecture Series at Cooper Union and the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

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