As an educator, Alexis Pauline Gumbs walks in the legacy of black lady school teachers in post-slavery communities who offered sacred educational space to the intergenerational newly free in exchange for the random necessities of life. She honors the lives and creative works of Black feminist geniuses as sacred texts for all people. She believes that in the time we live in access to the intersectional, holistic brilliance of the black feminist tradition is as crucial as learning how to read. She brings that approach to her work as the provost of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind, a transmedia- enabled community school (aka tiny black feminist university) and lending library based in Durham, North Carolina.
A queer black troublemaker, a black feminist love evangelist and a prayer poet priestess, Alexis has a PhD in English, African and African-American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies from Duke University. She was 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.
Alexis’s edited volume Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines (PM Press February 2015, co-edited with Mai’a Williams and China Martens) follows in the footsteps of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color and offers and important intervention into the significance of mothering as visionary activist labor featuring never before published writing by June Jordan and work by a wide range of essayists, poets and visual artists involved in social movements that center the radical potential of mothering.
Alexis is also the author of Spill: Fugitive Scenes an experimental and poetic work of literary criticism based on the work of Hortense Spillers and the literary archive of freedom seeking black women.
Alexis has published widely on Black Feminist literary practice and Caribbean Women’s Literature. Her scholarly work is published many journals including Obsidian, Meridians, Symbiosis, Feminist Studies, Macomere, SIGNS, Feminist Collections, and American Literature. Her black feminist theory is also featured in several edited volumes including innovative works such as The Black Imagination, Mothering and Hip Hop Culture, The Business of Black Power, Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy, The Imperial University, Near Kin and many more. Her work also appears in classroom standards including The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Literature and Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions.
Alexis is a Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Honoree and is featured in Best American Experimental Writing 2015. Her poetic work has been published in many of the most cutting-edge poetry journals around including Kweli, Vinyl, Backbone, Everyday Genius, Turning Wheel, UNFold, Makeshift, Proud Flesh, Sinister Wisdom, ElevenEleven and more. Her chapbook Good Hair Gone Forever, has been a success on the road and her limited run of Ogbe Oyeku: Black Feminist Book of the Dead and Unborn sold out on its first day in print. Alexis is the author of a critically acclaimed online collection of poems called 101 Things That Are Not True About the Most Famous Black Women Alive which has more than 9,000 reads and downloads online.
Alexis is also a visual mixed-media artist. Her current series of Black Feminist Breathing Collages is touring the United States.
Alexis is a widely published public intellectual and essayist on topics from the abolition of marriage to the power of dreams to the genius of enslaved African ancestors. Her work appears in publications like Make/Shift, Left Turn, The Crisis, Ms. Magazine, The Feminist Wire, Obsidian and she has essays in many academic and activist books including The Revolution Starts at Home, The Black Imagination, Abolition Now!, Does Your Mama Know and the Women’s Studies classroom staple Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions. Her work has been celebrated in national publications such as Curve, The Advocate, Bitch, Huffington Post, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly and she and her partner Julia have graced the cover of their hometown Durham Magazine!
Alexis has edited a special issue of American Book Review on Women of Color Publishing, co- edited a section of Left Turn on Spirituality and Activism and edited a special section of Make/Shift Magazine on the legacies of Feminist of Color Letter Writing. She serves on the editorial collective of wide-reaching online news source The Feminist Wire and as editor of several successful websites including Quirky Black Girls, Black Feminism Lives and Come Correct. She also works as a contract editor for selected projects that she believes will change the world including Renina Jarmon’s recent book of essays Black Girls are from the Future and a forthcoming novel by Bianca Frisby.
In 2002, at the age of nineteen, Alexis founded BrokenBeautiful Press, a grassroots publishing initiative inspired by Kitchen Table Press and Redbone Press. BrokenBeautiful has published several poetry collections, educational zines, transformative workbooks and online projects. Her interviews with Kitchen Table Press Founder Barbara Smith play a major role in the forthcoming book from SUNY Press Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith.
Alexis and her mother Pauline McKenzie-Day created the Dynamic Duo Doula Team as an intergenerational healing project that supports people giving birth with holistic support.Alexis and Pauline also collaborate to create 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. Alexis and Pauline have a chapter in the forthcoming collection Black Women Birthing Justice (from Routledge).
Alexis recently completed successful western hemisphere tours with her interactive oracle project “The Lorde Concordance,” a series of rituals mobilizing the life and work of Audre Lorde as a dynamic sacred text and is currently touring the United States and her “Black Feminist Breathing” project which activates black feminist mantras as technologies of transformation and presence, through poetry and meditation. In the first four months of 2013 she brought this work to venues as varied as the Martin Luther King Center in Cuba, Brooklyn Friends School, and universities including University of Arizona, Depaul University, Duke University and Guelph University in Canada. This summer 600 people participated in the online Black Feminist Breathing Chorus a 21-day online meditation experience facilitated by Alexis with music composed by her partner Julia Roxanne Wallace (Sangodare). July 4-6th 12 Black Feminists gathered in Magnolia, Mississippi for a Black Feminist Breathing Intensive Retreat in honor of the revolutionary Civil Rights actions of Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and so many others 50 years ago during the Mississippi Freedom Summer and Freedom Democratic Party movement.
Alexis was 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 was awarded a Too Sexy for 501-C3 trophy in 2011, was one of the Advocate’s top 40 under 40 features and one of Colorlines 10 LGBTQ Leaders building a new politics in 2012 and 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.
Traveling the country on the Grassroots Media Justice Tour, the Mobile Homecoming journey and as an itinerant speaker on the good news of Black Feminism, Alexis has shared her social media skills, intimate rituals and educational expertise at schools, universities and community organizations all over the United States. She has spoken alongside legends like Ntozake Shange, Angela Davis, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Mandy Carter, Sonia Sanchez, Gloria Steinem and Julian Bond. Her Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind curricula, podcasts and videos are currently being used around the world by organizations from Chennai, India to Nairobi Kenya, 143 countries in all.