Meet the face of our newest alum pin, Alexis Pauline Gumbs ’04. To pick up a pin, stop by the Barnard Library!
Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a “queer Black troublemaker, Black feminist evangelist, prayer poet priestess,” and “widely published author.” She is also the founder of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind educational program, co-creator of the Mobile Homecoming experiential archive, and a “21st century cyber-enabled schoolteacher running the Indigo Afterschool program” for “creative black girl geniuses in 6th grade” at the Indigo Night School.
Brief Scope of the Past
Gumbs grew up in “tokenizing spaces” where she found herself to be the only Black or queer person. As a result of her unique identity and peculiar set of oppressions compared to others, Gumbs has always been on edge, prepared to be “misunderstood” and “disrespected.” She expected people to “tolerate her at best” and “to have to fight for dignity that isn’t so freely granted to people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community. However, Gumbs’ father always managed to channel his daughter’s expectations into “transformative love,” embracing how difference challenges people to “question and re-write who we are and how we love each other.” He was her greatest support system.
At the age of 19, in 2002, Gumbs founded BrokenBeautiful Press, a grassroots publishing initiative that was inspired by Kitchen Table Press and Redbone Press. The press has published “several poetry collections, educational zines, transformative workbooks and online projects.”
Working alongside her mother, Pauline McKenzie-Day, the two created the Dynamic Duo Doula Team to provide people giving birth with holistic support as an integral healing project. They also collaboratively launched transformative mother/daughter workshops such as Thicker Than Whatever: Unstoppable Mother Daughter Relationships and Love Overflow: A Workshop for Newly Menstruating Young People and the Supportive Adults in Their Lives.
Gumbs graduated from Barnard in 2004.
After Barnard, Alexis Pauline Gumbs obtained a PhD from Duke University in English, African and African American Studies and Women and Gender Studies in 2010. Her research was heavily devoted to Black Feminism, which entailed studying about Black women, motherhood, Caribbean women’s literature, diaspora, activism and queer theory. “She was also the first scholar to research 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.” She then went on to found her two current organizations. She also edited Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (2016), “a comparative analysis of her archival research on black feminist ideas of mothering from the 1970s and 80s together with the ways marginalized mothers are recreating the world today.” She later published Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (shortlisted for a LAMBDA Literary Award) in the fall of that same year, and M Archive: After the End of the World in March of 2018.
Gumbs has been selected for Best Experimental Writing 2015, Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Honoree Award, named one of UTNE Reader’s 50 Visionaries Transforming the World in 2009, was a Reproductive Health Heroine and a Black Women Rising Finalist in 2010, and was awarded a Too Sexy for 501-C3 trophy in 2011. In addition, she was also one of the Advocate’s top 40 under 40 features and one of Colorlines 10 LGBTQ Leaders building a new politics in 2012, one of Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love and Afropunk’s Afro of the Day in 2013, and was honored to appear on PBS’s American Masters series in 2014 alongside Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Steinem and Danny Glover in Pratibha Parmar’s film Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth. Her poetic work has also been published in many of the most cutting-edge poetry journals including Kweli, Vinyl, Backbone, Everyday Genius, Turning Wheel, UNFold, Makeshift, Proud Flesh, Sinister Wisdom and ElevenEleven.
Gumbs has traveled all over the U.S., as an itinerant speaker, sharing her social media skills, intimate rituals and educational expertise, and her work alongside legends including Ntozake Shange, Angela Davis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Mandy Carter, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Steinem and Julian Bond. Moreover, her Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind curricula, podcasts and videos have reached organizations in over 143 countries, from Chennai, India to Nairobi, Kenya.
Read her interview with Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore featured in BOMB Magazine and Joy KMT featured in Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB)to learn more about Alexis Pauline Gumbs ’04 and her work.
–Aziza Rahman ’20
Brilliance Remastered. “Bio.” AlexisPauline.com, accessed June 1, 2018, http://www.alexispauline.com/brillianceremastered/bio/.
Duke University. “Alexis Pauline Gumbs.” Duke University, accessed June 1, 2018, https://english.duke.edu/alumni/alexis-pauline-gumbs
Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. “#ThisIsLuv: How My Dad Became a Queer Black Feminist.” Ebony, Ebony Media Operations, LLC, February 17, 2015, accessed June 1, 2018, http://www.ebony.com/news-views/thisisluv-how-my-dad-became-a-queer-black-feminist-403.
KMT, Joy. “We Stay in Love with Our Freedom: A Conversation with Alexis Pauline Gumbs.” Interview by Joy KMT. Los Angeles Review of Books (LARB), February 4, 2018. Summary article, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/we-stay-in-love-with-our-freedom-a-conversation-with-alexis-pauline-gumbs/#!.
Sycamore, Mattilda Bernstein. “We Are Always Crossing: Alexis Pauline Gumbs by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.” Interview by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. BOMB Magazine, March 22, 2018. Summary article, https://bombmagazine.org/articles/alexis-pauline-gumbs/.