March 26, 2012 in (Queer)note Lecture Series
By Ashley Spivey
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a queer black feminist troublemaker from Durham, North Carolina. Alexis is the founder of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind educational program and the co-creator of the Mobile Homecoming experiential archive, amplifying generations of LGBTQ Black brilliance. Alexis earned her PhD in English, Africana Studies and Women’s Studies from Duke University in 2010 and is a prolific author. She was named one of UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World in 2009, a Black Women Rising Nominee and a Reproductive Reality Check Shero in 2010, a recipient of the Too Sexy for 501C-3 torphy in 2011 and one of the Advocate’s top 40 under 40 in 2012.
Tell me about your journey with being a feminist.
I am proud to be a queer black feminist. I am proud to proclaim with my actions and my example that (as it says on a yellow button on my altar) BLACK FEMINISM LIVES! For me Black feminism is a spiritual practice that was a part of my life even before I started reading sacred texts by Black feminists like Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith and June Jordan.
The practice of Black feminism has been a source of power in my life since I first started to love myself, and since I first took on the complicated task of loving the first Black woman I met: my Mama. Which means I was a Black feminist from birth. For me, Black feminism is first the practice of holistically, relentlessly, continually, loving Black women in a way that changes the very meaning of life and second creating a world that honors the complexity that Black women’s experiences represent. That means working to create a more sustainable loving world that values difference as a creative power and honor the fact that all people and all life is interconnected and necessary.
Does being a feminist relate to your sexuality?
As a queer Black feminist, the adventure of loving myself and the transformative journey of loving other Black women are intricately tied together. So I identify as queer, not only because my romantic love exceeds the bounds and norms of heterosexuality, but also specifically because I center all forms of my love on Black women and radiate to the rest of the world from there. This is a queer thing in our society because loving Black women is not the norm in our contemporary society. It is a radical for us to love ourselves and each other as Black women, and it challenges the norms of our culture. So my queerness lives in the way I love my mother, my sisters, my community AND my romantic partner.
What social issues are you most involved in at this point and why did you get involved in them?
My work at this point is most explicitly focused on fostering intergenerational relationships within the Black LGBTQ community; ending sexual and gendered violence and developing sustainable practices to support wellness and wholeness in historically oppressed communities.
In order to share and develop sustainable practice, we NEED intergenerational connected communities and the wellness of our communities not only requires but also makes possible, the end of all forms of sexual violence. As a survivor of sexual violence and as a believer in the need for self-determination on the level of our bodies, food and water supplies and everyday life these activist focuses are a part of my own healing, visioning and an expression of who I am.
You do public speaking, what is the one message or idea do you always want the audience to take away?
I always want the people I interact with to have a profound sense of being loved, and a renewed belief in their capacity to love. I want them to leave the room believing in the power that their love has to transform the world.
What does it mean to be queer in 2012?
To be queer in 2012 (and every year) means to put love first and to let love change everything.
Photo Credit: Sed Miles.