In the Nov./Dec. issue of Utne Magazine, Alexis Pauline Gumbs was recognized as a "media activist" in an article entitled "50 People Who Are Changing Your World." I initially discovered her work in a November 2009 op-ed piece, "The Revolution Will Be Blogged" for Wiretap Magazine, a re-envisioning of Gil Scott Heron's famous 1970's poem/song The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
I have to admit, forty definitely feels old when people are recognized for things that you haven't even heard of (media activism?), but then I'm sure Gil Scott Heron can relate. Who could even have imagined the immediate and pervasive power of the internet back in the 70's when the only mass medium was television, and the only roles for Black people were either based on or touched by minstrel stereotypes (remember Jimmy Walker's Kid-a-Dy-no-mite?).
In her Wiretap piece, Gumbs writes,
"If capitalism slept, it would have nightmares about us. ... But capitalism doesn't sleep. So neither do we. We stay up all night, or wake up early and refresh the screen. We live on each others' words and prove the lie of the hourly news story about our worthlessness. We speak for far-flung intimate audiences, and when we wind up wounded, we don't stop because slowly we learn that these words are salve. We stay up, stay connected, send love letters every way we know how. These words are salve. Halfway to salvation."
What I've learned from Gumbs is that blogging is the 21st century version of "consciousness raising groups." Consciousness raising groups were pioneered by Women's Liberation groups in New York City, and quickly spread throughout the United States. In November 1967, groups began meeting in apartments. Meetings often involved women going around the room and "rapping" about issues in their own lives. Forty-two years later, Gumbs has gotten on the internet highway to embrace Queer Black women and their allies.
Why is this important? Heteronormativity dominates America in general and Black communities in particular, so much so, that one of the only ways CNN talks about Black women is in relationship to marriage, the box office thinks we are Precious, but not precious, and Disney has cast us more as frog than princess. In the midst of distortion and hysteria, Gumbs has created the School of Our Lorde, a series of courses that allow participants to deeply engage and build on the work of Audre LordeGumbs focuses on the poetics, teaching practices, political implications and publishing interventions of Audre Lorde's work. For those who can attend sessions in Durham, NC, engaging, interactive poetic childcare is provided at every session. For those out of state, Gumbs is providing framework for a virtual classroom.
Alexis can be found at MobileHomeComing, BrokenBeautiful Press, and the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind. She will be defending her dissertation, "We Can Learn to Mother Ourselves": The Queer Survival of Black Feminism 1968-1996" next month at Duke University.
I can't think of anything more important for Black women in 2010, than to focus on Lorde's mantra: "We can learn to mother ourselves." This, in and of itself, is a revolutionary idea, and we can create the supportive communities needed to actualize this vision online. We are not separated anymore, by class, by state, by distance or ideology. If you're a Queer woman, you can create a space that embraces women loving women. If you're a straight woman, maybe you need an emotional support network so that you don't lament your single status, or obsess about your man if you do have a partner. The true power of the internet is that it gives us the chance to do something different - focus on ourselves for a change. That indeed, would be visionary.
It is Women's Week on Race-Talk. Cross-posted from Race-Talk.