Enough: Affirmations that Sustain Sistorians

27 09 2013


Last night was the LAST NIGHT of the Brilliance Remastered Sistorian Webinar.  I’m not ashamed to say I teared up.  Also I kinda sang Boys II Men’s “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.”  None of us wanted to get offline.  It was truly a ‘you hang up, no you hang up’ situation.  I am so grateful for this space and to each of the amazing sistorians who participated.   As part of our process of moving forward affirmed and empowered to continue to act on the insights we came to together we collected quotations from geniuses (from Gwendolyn Brooks to Rob Base) to carry with us…post in our offices, keep in our wallets and to turn to as mantras when we need them.   We hope they can affirm you too!!

“I am who I am, doing what I came to do.” Audre Lorde (Eye to Eye: Black Women Hatred and Anger)

“for we are the last of the loud, nevertheless live. conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.” –Gwendolyn Brooks “The Second Sermon on the Warpland”

“come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.”
–Lucille Clifton

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde

“I love myself enough to be who I am.” Essex Hemphill

“I have hopes for myself.” Gwendolyn Brooks (Interview in Sturdy Black Bridges)

“Black women are inherently valuable.” -Combahee River Collective Statement

“I have everything I need within myself.” -Rah Goddess

“I got an idea that I want to share. You don’t like it? So what. I don’t care.” Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock (It Takes Two to Make a Thing Go Right—especially useful in a racist academic/activist workplace)

“Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”
― Zora Neale Hurston

“Anyone working to resist white supremacy has to be a visionary..”  Bekezela Mguni

For more affirmations check out this post we love from Crunk Feminist Collective’s Robin Boylorn: http://www.crunkfeministcollective.com/2012/10/25/overcoming-a-stigma-tism-an-affirmation-for-blackgirls-who-have-considered-suicide-when-closed-eyes-are-enuf/

Want to sign up for the October Webinar—Bright Black: Ending Slavery in Contemporary Black Intellectual Practice?  There are a few days left to get on board! Sign up here.


When In Rome (Finding Poems): An All Day Retreat on June Jordan’s Architectural Poems

21 09 2013


10am-4pm Saturday September 28th, 2013

Durham, NC

Join Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind for an all day retreat inspired by the poetry June Jordan wrote while on her Architecture fellowship in Rome!   (This retreat also includes a walking meditation on the architectural structure of LGBTQ parades complete with box lunches!  We know June wouldn’t want to miss it!) We will also have a video guest appearance by Cheryl J. Fish, the first scholar to publish in June Jordan’s architectural work!!!

Sign up and share food preferences: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1xhhFfoiCjlI1hLT0veAVOooiEU-ogRjEeKsuSABIDKs/viewform   

Offer your retreat fee here at a rate you can afford.  (Keep in mind comparable one day retreats cost about $155.00)


Did you know that acclaimed black feminist poet June Jordan was an architect?   Not only that, she won the Prix de Rome in architecture in the 1970s.    This retreat asks us to find the poems in the built environment around us in conversation with the poems that June Jordan wrote while in Rome (some of her less studied work).  For more by Alexis on June Jordan and the poetics of architecture see:http://pluraletantum.com/2012/03/21/june-jordan-and-a-black-feminist-poetics-of-architecture-site-1/

On the Finding Poems Series:  This set of 6 one-day community writing retreats over a six month period is designed to offer writers at all levels an opportunity to find the poems speaking to them everywhere and to deepen their poetic practice by drawing inspiration from black feminist poets.  Each retreat will be all day on a Saturday and will include meals, inspiration, nerdy contextualization and loving support from an exuberant educator who has been creating transformative writing space for over 15 years.

Sister is a Verb: Clarifications from the Sistorians

20 09 2013

Toni Cade and books

This week during the third session of the first ever Brilliance Remastered Sistorian Webinar we talked about the hard work of sistering, how it causes us to grow, how sometimes it takes us apart and puts us back together.  We read Audre Lorde’s essay “Eye to Eye: Black Women Hatred and Anger” and talked about how institutional oppression and trauma continually challenge our ability to believe that we are “enough” to love each other and ourselves.   We find ourselves repeatedly challenged by the work of sistering, but Toni Cade Bambara says “sister is a verb” and it is what we do.  After a collectively challenging week that has tested our health, our relationships, our spirits and our resolve we put together this clarification about sistering that displaces “sister” as a simple name and deepens our understanding of sistering as an intentional practice.

Sister is a Verb

After Toni Cade Bambara

By the Sistorian Webinar Participants


sistering is NOT for the faint of heart


sistering is painful

sistering makes me want to run and hide.

sistering is a constant hide and seek where searching is a necessity

sistering is not-who-i-thought-i-was vulnerability

sistering can be exhausting

sistering brings up all my anxiety

sistering is wake up in the middle of the night work

sistering is giving what i think i don’t have towards a future i’m still learning to deserve

sistering is having no clue and being willing to learn and listen

sistering is owning that sometimes all you can do is sit with and listen

sistering is not being afraid to reach out again and again for what you need

sistering is an opportunity to be reborn


sistering is about being together and also about spending time with yourself.

sistering takes practice, but it doesn’t get easier

sistering demands selflessness… sometimes when I most want to be wrapped in myself!!!!

loving yourself…through the hard days..so you can be kind on the next

sistering is nurturing and love and hugs and taking time out to be with another

sistering is about listening and remembering.

sistering means believing that there is some way to say/show what i mean and be heard

(even if it doesnt work the first time)

sistering is about TRYING.


sistering is slow sometimes

sistering is overwhelming fast sometimes

sistering is slumber parties and indulging the girl inside you

sistering is just typing “girrrrrrrrrrrrl…” sometimes… and she already knows what you mean


sistering saves lives


sistering is a technology we are supposed to forget

sistering is deep love

sistering is about showing up.

sistering is about showing out sometimes too

sistering is conscious

sistering affirms

sistering is about telling Black women they are beautiful

(there are enough compliments and adoration to go around)

sistering is salvation earned and gifted

sistering is transformative generosity

sistering is knowing you are infinite and if you share yourself…there is nothing to lose

sistering means you have to do the work of loving yourself and believing in your greatness


sistering is what we do


Are you looking for a transformative space for community accountable intellectuals?  Sign up today for the Bright Black Webinar which will convene at 7pm ET every Tuesday in October.  Sign up closes on September 27th.

We Who Believe in Freedom: A Sweet Remix from the Sistorian Webinar

5 09 2013

ellabakerLast night was the first night of the Brilliance Remastered Sistorian Webinar facilitated by Laguana (Elle) Gray and Alexis Pauline Gumbs!  After reading Barbara Ransby’s introduction to Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision we had an affirming and transformative conversation about what the technology of sisterhood teaches us about self-care, abundance and love.   Many of us remember Ella Baker’s statement (immortalized by Sweet Honey in the Rock) that “we who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”  A few years ago while doing some research at the Schomburg Library in NYC I came across a letter from Ella Baker to a friend and comrade that made that statement real in more than one way.  Ms. Ella was explaining that even though her community was begging her to take a sabbatical and had even fundraised the money to allow her to do so, she could not “find the time” to actually take a break.   When I read that letter I saw myself and so many of the organizers, educators, activists and artists that I know, and many of us in the webinar have seen the people we love work tirelessly and unsustainably.   With this poem we begin a practice of modeling abundant presence and sustainable freedom for ourselves, each other and everyone who would call us sister.

We Who Believe in Freedom

(a remix for sweet Ella and all of us)

by the participants in the Brilliance Remastered Sistorian Webinar


we who believe in freedom rest


we who believe in freedom believe in the centrality of joy

we who believe in freedom believe in the transformative power of pleasure

we who believe in freedom believe in the transformative power of silence

we who believe in freedom cultivate the faith to be still


we who believe in freedom nourish our souls


we who believe in freedom nourish our souls with deep breaths

we who believe in freedom value our breathing over our reputations, our relationships over our resumes

we who believe in freedom believe that freedom is a personal practice

we who believe in freedom listen to our bodies and take time to release what does not uplift us

we who believe in freedom allow ourselves to talk back


we who believe in freedom TAKE NAPS

we who believe in freedom kiss ourselves and jump back smiling!

we who believe in freedom SING for no or whatever reason!

we who believe in freedom dance in our seats…

we who believe in freedom LOVE!


we who believe in freedom love ourselves like we love our little sisters.

we who believe in freedom forgive ourselves as a practice of compassion

we who believe in freedom practice the power to say no


we who believe in freedom don’t gotta do it all ourselves!

we who believe in freedom believe our ancestors are helping us.

we who believe in freedom remember and share the stories of our past freedom struggles

we who believe in freedom believe in each other enough to share power and responsibility

we who believe in freedom speak in love and cultivate honesty

we who believe in freedom actualize the transformative power of sisterhood

we who believe in freedom don’t have to prove it we just live it


we who believe in freedom REST


(Does this make you want to sign up for the next Brilliance Remastered webinar?  Get the details here:   www.alexispauline.com/brillianceremastered/webinars/)