Monday, August 27, 2012

Lex wants to be your revolutionary doula!!!!

from Lex and her mom's new project:  Dynamic Dou: A Mother/Daughter Doula Team
"54. everyone is waiting
to see what great thing
you'll do next." -from Wishful Thinking by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Following in her mom Pauline's footsteps, Alexis will be participating in the International Center for Traditional Childbirth's Full Circle Doula training Nov 1-4th in Dallas, TX.  Yay!!!!
From Lex:
When I was born my mother, like many young mothers of color, was forced to have an unnecessary c-section.  This was an act of disrespect by doctors who put their convenience over my family's wishes and it did not honor the way my mother and I wanted to come into each others lives.  What would have been different if there had been a black feminist doula (or two) at the scene of my birth affirming my mother's power?   My journey to become a doula and especially to do doula work together with my mother is a major act of healing.  
It is my intention that every child will one day be born into a world where the magic and power of black women is revered and respected at every moment!  It is also a necessary act of revisiting my own birth that I see as a crucial part of my journey to become a mother someday soon! :)

Becoming a community supported doula is a dream coming true and a wish about to be fulfilled.  DO you believe that the world will be better with our mother/daughter doula project?  Do you believe in the power of a black feminist love evangelist poet facilitator in the birthing room?  Then YOU are part of the community that I am accountable to!
I am looking for 57 people to donate any amount that feels right to them as an affirmation of the necessity and power of this work we are doing together to rebirth the world!  Each donor will receive an original collage based around the 57 wish poem  Wishful Thinking.   I appreciate your support and your love!  Spread the word!  And donate here:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Birthing Behind Bars: A National Campaign for Reproductive Justice Behind Bars

Birthing Behind Bars:
A National Campaign for Reproductive Justice Behind Bars

Twenty years ago, as Mercedes Smith went into labor, guards shackled her in chains and handcuffs for the ride from the jail to the hospital. At the hospital, they handcuffed her to a bed rail. Smith was shocked by the astoundingly cruel treatment: “I couldn’t understand where they thought I was going, in so much pain." But it wasn't unusual.

Each year, thousands of pregnant women enter jail or prison, and many of them give birth behind bars. And as they struggle through the pain of labor and the stress of delivery, some find themselves wrenching at restraints. As of March 2012, only sixteen states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have passed legislation that limit or ban the shackling of women during labor and delivery. "I have never heard a woman tell the story of wanting to run during labor," says Tina Reynolds, co-founder and chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH). "It's just not on their mind. Giving birth to our children in prison does not make them co-conspirators to our crimes."

To call attention to this gross injustice, WORTH is launching Birthing Behind Bars--a national campaign to address pregnancy and other reproductive justice issues in prison. Partnering with media justice group Thousand Kites, we've developed a website that shares women's experiences with prison pregnancies via video, audio and plain text. The site,, also points to a hotline where visitors can record and share their own narratives.

We'll utilize these jarring accounts to push a state-by-state analysis of the intersection of reproductive justice and incarceration. In 2009, members of WORTH, other formerly incarcerated mothers and their allies took up the fight to outlaw the shackling of women in labor in New York State. Formerly incarcerated women spoke about being pregnant while in jail and prison, being handcuffed and shackled while in labor, and being hastily separated from their newborn babies.Their stories drew public outcry and put human faces to pending legislation. Later, New York State became the seventh state to enact legislation limiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners.

The fight is already roiling in Georgia and in Massachusetts, where reproductive rights advocates, prisoner justice activists and formerly incarcerated women are currently pushing for legislation to prohibit the practice of shackling of incarcerated pregnant women during transport, labor, delivery and recovery. Stories and testimonies of women's pregnancies and birth experiences behind bars are powerful tools to have in hand when educating the general public and confronting legislators to support such bills.

To share your story, go to:  or call 877-518-0606 
(NOTE: you'll get a recording hotline, not a live person, but we do edit the stories so youmake a mistake or want to back up and add a detail or something, feel free to do so. You don't say your story perfectly when you call.)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chilean girls 5-month-long occupation of school

to demand the return of free public university education:
It began early one morning in May, when dozens of teenage girls emerged from the predawn darkness and scaled the spiked iron fence around Chile's most prestigious girl's school. They used classroom chairs to barricade themselves inside and settled in. Five months later, the occupation shows no signs of dying and the students are still fighting for their goal: free university education for all.

A tour of the school is a trip into the wired reality of a generation that boasts the communication tools that feisty young rebels of history never dreamed of. When police forces move closer, the students use restricted Facebook chat sessions to mobilise. Within minutes, they are able to rally support groups from other public schools in the neighbourhood. "Our lawyer lives over there," said Angelica Alvarez, 14, as she pointed to a cluster of nearby homes. "If we yell 'Mauricio' really loud, he leaves his home and comes over."

For five months, the students at Carmela Carvajal have lived on the ground floor, sometimes sleeping in the gym, but usually in the abandoned classrooms where they hauled in a television, set up a private changing room, and began to experience school from a different perspective.

The first thing they did after taking over the school was to hold a vote. Approximately half of the 1,800 students participated in the polls to approve the takeover, and the yays outnumbered the nays 10 to one.

Now the students pass their school days listening to guest lecturers who provide free classes on topics ranging from economics to astronomy. Extracurricular classes include yoga and salsa lessons. At night and on weekends, visiting rock bands set up their equipment and charge 1,000 pesos (£1.25) per person to hear a live jam on the basketball court. Neighbours donate fresh baked cakes and, under a quirk of Chilean law, the government is obliged to feed students who are at school – even students who have shut down education as usual.

So much food has poured in that the students from Carmela Carvajal now regularly pass on their donations to hungry students at other occupied schools.

Municipal authorities have repeatedly attempted to retake thhe school, sending in police to evict the rebel students and get classes back on schedule, but so far the youngsters have held their ground.

"It was the most beautiful moment, all of us in [school] uniform climbing over the fence, taking back control of our school. It was such an emotional moment, we all wanted to cry," Alvarez said. "There have been 10 times that the police have taken back the school and every time we come and take it back again."

Full story is here:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

there's been more than one occupation in NYC

In August 2011, immigrant mothers in East Harlem (NYC) occupied the office of Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito to protest her ongoing promotion of displacement and negligent landlords in our community. In the face of police presence and hostility from office personnel, these luchadoras fearlessly speak truth to power and denounce Mark-Viverito for her profoundly anti-democratic attacks against her East Harlem constituents, our homes and community.

With all the buzz about the Wall Street occupation, these mothers' actions and struggles risk being overlooked.

Please circulate widely.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Don't Have to Do Nothing: Be Free (and still) Be Loved

Y'all. Don't get sick of Lucille Clifton on my account but I swear she just don't run out of brilliant life-saving gifts. So here is another one. In 1985 in the special 15th anniversary issue of Essence Magazine coordinated by Cheryll Y. Greene, Clifton wrote about the true freedom that women can give to each other: "to fail and not be a failure."

When Lucille Clifton, who stunned audiences with the stark clarity of her poetry from countless stages during her lifetime, was a little girl assigned to recite a poem for the Christmas program at her church, she choked. It was not foreshadowing, it was formative. As she stood unable to remember the poem in front of all the church mothers encouraging her and expecting her to perform her mother stood up for her. She felt pressured. She said "I don't wanna." And her mother stood up in front of God and everybody and smiled at her child and she said one small sentence that changes the meaning of life for black girls growing up in patriarchy and capitalism: "She don't have to do nothing she don't want to do."

Can you imagine? Decades later when we were celebrating Lucille Clifton's birthday with her (we didn't know it would be her last) at the Furious Flower poetry center all of us black feminist poets, teachers, daughters gushed with open jealousy at the power and freedom of that statement. Imagine! She don't have to do nothing she don't want to do. So many negatives adding up to the positive clarity that black girls are inherently valuable, love-able, period. When had someone ever stood up and said that for us? When in a world of forced labor, coerced sex, billions of expectations? When had anyone even dared to suggest that we were not valuable because of what we produced, what we created, who we entertained, how well we pretended to be happy? When had we said it for ourselves? don't have to do nothing.

Now I was raised to know that I only have to do two things: stay black, and live. But my interpretation of "stay black and live" has been contorted by internalized capitalism and a system that still judges me based on what my being produces for the market. The refrain that I thought was my heartbeat said "do something do something do something do something" interrupting any stillness with the imperative to produce, to prove, to perform. But here comes Lucille Clifton's mother: she don't have to do nothing.

And how much do we crave that freedom... in the eyes of black people we love who want us to perform blackness in a way that they can more easily consume, in the eyes of non-black people who want the same thing, in the faces of well meaning would be mentors who think we will only be happy with ourselves if we do it their way, in reflections we catch of ourselves in windows thinking we look lost because there is no name for where we are going.

And so today. I need Lucille Clifton's mother, audacious and willing to stand up in front of anyone and say you do not need to stand on a stage to honor God. You do not need to say or do anything in order to be a reflection of divine love. You already are. Even in a puddle at the foot of your bed you are already supreme beautiful unlikely priceless example of the abundance of life. And you know what? Life if so abundant that it places refractions of that same brilliance in all of us, and so there is no need to do it all, there is no need to own brilliance, there is no need to prove and show and compete because life is so abundant that it happens in our honor even when we don't wake up and make it happen.

Who knew Lucille Clifton's mama circa 1940 was an anti-capitalist? Because capitalism would have us believe that we only deserve to be here because of what we produce, and even in our counter-cultures, even in our movements we reproduce the same idea. We only deserve to be here because of what we can produce that other people will buy with their money, time or attention. Our experience of our own lives is secondary, it is only the means of production, it is the products that matter, and unless we make ourselves into both factories and widgets we are not valuable. We believe that. I know I push myself past that belief about every hour on the hour. One of the major lessons of the Mobile Homecoming Experiential Archive Project has been that because of the steep lean (and lien) of capitalism on even our visionary hearts the tendency is to emphasize the documentary film, the photographs, the podcasts, the archived interviews, the presentations...the products over the experience, the priceless opportunity to be present with each other, which is not for sale. Which documents can only gesture towards. Which cannot be sold.

But luckily Lucille Clifton listened to her momma and told us what she said. We can be free and still be loved. We can be still and still be a movement. We are not failures even when we fail. We are life. Miraculous irregardless.

Maybe we can institute Lucille Clifton's mama moments for ourselves and for each other. Maybe we can step in and affirm each other just because. Maybe we can stand up for each other when even our own communities say to us how dare you not be superwoman every second of the day. Maybe we can save the day in our own way in our own language. Nuh-uh. She don't have to do nothing she don't want to do. She don't have to do nothing. And she is still fierce fly and worth of all praise. All of it.

So here is a spare one for each one of you in the time when no one is there to say it, remember that I already said it: you don't have to do nothing to earn my love. nothing to earn all the blessings of the universe. nothing to earn a symphony in ever pore of your skin playing the song of you. nothing to deserve my deepest gratitude for your existence. nothing to earn a place in my heart that you can always come home to. nothing. you already have it. all praise. you have everything.

love always and already,

P.S. Get ready for a summer filled with opportunities to see the faces of those of us who will scream at the sight of you and open our arms:

*TONIGHT: Young Black Gift: A Birthday Toast to Lorraine Hansberry (@ the Inspiration Station in Durham)!/event.php?eid=145740925499014

*Sunday May 22nd 5pm (@ the Inspiration Station in Durham) Rainbow Reclamations: (Blue) Once I Was Pregnant: Abortion, Miscarriage and Rebirth

*Friday, May 27th (@ the Rush Center in Atlanta) THE GEMINI JAM/FIST PUMP FRIDAY featuring a performance by the LOST BOIS, gemini juice and dancing all night long!!/event.php?eid=215303695165893

*June 9-15 INDIGO DAYS in Durham, NC

*June 23-26 ALLIED MEDIA CONFERENCE in Detroit (featuring the Shawty got Skillshare, the Generations of Brilliance Track and the Visionary Sci-Fi Track)

*Thursdays in June 6pm (@ the Eleanor on Rigsbee in Durham) Lucille Clifton Shapeshifter Sessions:

*August 15-19th Juneteenth Freedom Academy Week-long Intensive: Rituals for Educators

*September 1-4th Queerky Black Girls, Mobile Homecoming and ZAMI NOBLA Black Gay Pride Healing and Connection Retreat!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Musings on Parenting and Protest: Then and Now

Taking New Clear Vision editor Randall Amster up on his challenge to dig up and dust off an old piece of writing, I recently found this essay that I wrote a month before the Republican National Convention was due to hit town in 2004.

I had been feeling paralyzed by the news, by the draconian security measures promised by Mayor Rudy Giuliani, by the added fears as the mother of a small child. I had also been invited to read at a political cabaret in Baltimore that summer. Putting pen to paper reminded me of the importance of struggling to transform the world, especially as the mother of a child who will inherit and live under the policies made (and left unchallenged) now. It also inspired me to push past my fear and, with my daughter in tow (or rather, in stroller), join the week of protests once the Republicans came to town.

* * *

(August 2004, New York City): I have been listening to the news all day. That, in itself, is an unusual occurrence. I have a three-year-old daughter who does not allow me to ignore her for any stretch of time longer than a minute and a half. And I have a dislike for the news. I don’t buy newspapers, I don’t own a TV, I rarely listen to the radio, and I don’t look for it online. But today, my ear has been glued to the radio. All afternoon, I listened for reports from the Democratic National Convention in Denver on NPR.

I imagine vast cages of cyclone fences and razor wires — conveniently located out of sight so as to maximize the futility of protest. The newscaster confirms this: “The protesters are literally caged behind cyclone fences…. You can’t see them when you walk in or out of the convention at all.” I imagine bag searches, ID checks, police with machine guns and snipers on rooftops.

These images fill me with fear.

What will happen here in the coming month? What can we expect from a police force that feels a wallet is justification for pumping 41 bullets into Amadou Diallo, an unarmed man simply trying to go home? Now add in the hype and the hysteria over terrorism and the Office of Homeland Security, the cyclone fences and razor wire and machine guns. Is it any surprise that my nerves freeze? That it seems safer to stay inside with my baby than to be out there risking this terrifying reality?

Four years ago, I felt no such fear.

Tear gas and rubber bullets? Not a deterrent.

Possibility of a two-week detainment? I ain’t a-feared.

Then I became a mother.

And it suddenly became more important for me to build the things I want to see in this world, to raise my voice and protest and tear down the things that I don’t want my daughter to grow up with.

And it also becomes more frightening. The stakes are higher. What if my baby gets tear gassed? What if she sees her mama shoved and hit and then taken away from her? Years ago, during the funeral of Patrick Dorismond — another unarmed black man shot to death by the NYPD — the police clubbed and arrested mourners. A mother was handcuffed and taken away. Her little boy — maybe only seven or eight — was left crying on the sidewalk, along amongst a panicked crowd. No one paused to help him.

What if that mother becomes me? What if I get arrested and my three-year-old is left standing on the curb, crying for her mama whom she cannot follow? What if I get arrested and Child Welfare takes her away? What if she ends up in the foster care system indefinitely because, suddenly, my life is under a microscope and the things that I never thought I needed and never thought to obtain are now used against me?

But then I remember — I have a daughter.

One whose world, whose options in life in life will grow or shrink depending on whether the Mad Hatter or the March Hare is dictating policy.

I have a daughter who may become a mother at sixteen because no birth control is available to her. Because her body is in the hands of nine wizened men and women who have decided that she has no right to control what she will do with it. And then, if she is a mother at sixteen, she will inherit a world in which she will be shamed on street corners and held up as a scapegoat for every societal ill and tax increase while the safety net that should be catching her and her baby will have long been cut into shreds and taken away to Bangladesh for girls her age to sew into Nike sweatpants.

I have a daughter whose world might include daily disappearances, who might grow up knowing that if she says what she thinks and it is not what her teachers and her bosses and her news broadcaster and her politicians think she should think, she too may be buried behind high walls topped with razor wire and electric fences.

I have a daughter who will inherit the world I leave her.

I have a daughter. That makes it all the more crucial for me to push aside the fear, to shake off the paralysis that freezes between my shoulder blades, to raise my voice in protest, to begin building a world that I will want her to inherit.

I have a daughter who will have her own fears and doubts and reactions to the world around her. I need to show her that she can feel anxious or scared and still push past those feelings to do what is important to her.

* * *

Almost seven years later, so much has changed yet so much seems to remain the same.

My daughter is now ten. I feel less uneasy about taking her with me to protests and demonstrations, although I still would hesitate to take her to an anti-police brutality rally or an action likely to bring in the riot squad (not that it takes much these days). As a mother who has remained politically active (although sometimes on the margins), I have built a support system that I can ask to hang with my daughter when she doesn’t want to go (or when I deem it unwise to bring her). We can have conversations about the issues and I can explain why I feel strongly, passionately, about something. Raising a child to be a critical thinker, she often questions me, forcing me to explain, articulate, and defend my point-of-view. If anyone ever wishes to sharpen their debate skills, they should engage a ten-year-old raised in a social justice movement.

On the political front, it seems that, while things have changed (and wasn’t the last election won on the promise of “Change”?), many things have remained the same, if not worse.

While Lady Gaga encourages people to respect and honor themselves and all others (including transgendered people) with her song “Born This Way,” a transgendered woman was brutally beaten in a McDonald’s. The outcry about the attack focused on harsher punishment against her attackers, a fourteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old. But where is the outcry around the lack of education about gender, gender identity and sexuality that would have prevented this attack — and future attacks — in the first place? Are such conversations even on the public radar or are we (once again) falling into the trap that safety equals harsher prison sentences?

On the politics-as-usual front, attacks on reproductive rights have not stopped or even slowed, as demonstrated by the attacks on Planned Parenthood. Police executed Oscar Grant in Oakland; New York police fired 50 shots and killed the unarmed Sean Bell. Fahad Hashmi, a Pakistani-American charged with providing material support to terrorists after allowing an acquaintance to spend the night and store socks and ponchos at his apartment, spent three years in extreme solitary confinement under the Special Administrative Measures (SAMS), and is facing another fifteen years of never having human contact. Days before his trial was to start, the judge ordered an anonymous jury, using the call for people to attend and witness the court proceedings to bolster the fear that Fahad was, indeed, a terrorist.

Sometimes it’s hard not to become overwhelmed by all these injustices. I still have days like that day in 2004 when I wanted to bury my head in the sand (or at least under a bunch of pillows) and pretend that nothing was wrong in the world or, if there were, I could do nothing to change it. But I also have days when I realize how important it is to find the strength to keep fighting (and, these days, to remember that transforming the world is a long-term struggle and that we need to take the time to revitalize and replenish our energy as well).

And so, seven years later (and probably seventeen and seventy years later), I stand by those words I penned one fearful afternoon:

I have a daughter who will inherit the world I leave her.

I have a daughter. That makes it all the more crucial for me to push aside the fear, to shake off the paralysis that freezes between my shoulder blades, to raise my voice in protest, to begin building a world that I will want her to inherit.

I have a daughter who will have her own fears and doubts and reactions to the world around her. I need to show her that she can feel anxious or scared and still push past those feelings to do what is important to her.

Originally posted on New Clear Vision

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bootcamp Podcast: The Sound of Mothering Ourselves

Loved ones!!!! For those of you who didn't get to participate in the MotherOurselves Bootcamp in Durham NC this January here is a podcast featuring the insights of the participants and some beautiful music!!! Playlist below.


direct link:

Also know that for the next week...if you become an Eternal Summerian (monthly sustainer of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind) your first gifts will be a mixtape of the meditations of release we did during the bootcamp and the motherourselves manual so that you can bring this work into your life and your community!!!

We can make something out of anything.

Insight from Mariel Eaves and

The Revenge of Ricky Williams "Sweet Wolf Shirt"

We recognize and nurture the creative parts of each other without always understanding what will be created.

"Dear Mom" by Adele Nieves and

Climbing Poetree "I Wonder"

We establish authority over our own definitions.

Affirmations from Miya Binta

Doria Roberts "Dying Man's Wish"

We claim power over who we choose to be, knowing that such power is relative within the realities of our lives.

Estas Mujeres: Covenant by Fabiola Sandoval

Amel Larrieux "All I Got"

We provide an attentive concern and expectation of growth, which is the beginning of that acceptance we came to expect only from our mothers.

"When I Crave Mama" by Fabiola Sandoval

Me'shell Ndegeocello "Solomon"

We affirm our own worth by committing ourselves to our own survival in our selves and in the selves of other black women.

"I Am My Mother's Daughter" by Rashida James-Saadiya

Lauryn Hill "If They Only Knew"

We refuse to settle for anything less than a rigorous pursuit of the possible in ourselves, at the same time making a distinction between what is possible, and what the outside world drives us to do in order to prove that we are human.

"Mother Ourselves" by Julia R. Wallace (JDub)

Santigold "Unstoppable"

We recognize our successes and are tender with ourselves even when we fail.

"My Mother Ourselves Covenant" by Dara Montaque

Res "Bittersweet"

We learn to love what we have given birth to by giving definition to, to be both kind and demanding in the teeth of failure as well as in the face of success without misnaming either.

"Letter of Release to the Next Generation" by Miya Binta

Erykah Badu "My Life"

We lay to rest what is weak, timid and damaged without despisal and we protect and support what is useful for survival. We explore the difference together.

"Mother as Savior" by Miya Binta

Georgia Ann Muldrow "Runway"

We stand toe-to-toe inside rigorous loving and speak what has always seemed like the impossible to each other.

Truth Booth Conversation between Miya Binta and Manju Rajendran

Tata Vega, "Miss Celie's Blues"

As we speak the truth to each other it become unavoidable to ourselves.

ESG "Keep on Moving"

Infinite love,