Utne Reader Visionaries share their latest projects, ideas, and visions for the future.
Radical feminist, artist, and media activist Alexis Pauline Gumbs calls herself, "the cybernetic dream of a one room black reconstruction schoolteacher." She spreads knowledge, healing, and empowerment through web-based projects like MobileHomeComing, a traveling "intergenerational community documentation and education project" that challenges our culture's heteronormativity, and BrokenBeautifulPress, which "lifts up black feminist practices throughout history and transformative community models in the present." Gumbs was named an Utne Reader Visionary in 2009. Keep up with her at Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind.
From Beyoncé and Oprah to Serena and Venus Williams, African American women are some of the most celebrated people in today's media-saturated culture. Despite the largely positive nature of this attention, misconceptions and stereotypes are often reinforced when we see these women on screens and in the pages of magazines. In a new book of poems contemplating celebrity, race, and representation, Alexis Pauline Gumbs considers "what it is possible to know about the most famous Black women alive today." Gumbs describes her book, One Hundred and One Things That Are Not True About the Most Famous Black Women Alive, as "part prayer part polemic [...] an intervention into the consumption of Black women."
Without denying the strength of the 10 women she profiles, Gumbs questions the media's representations of them and attempts to carve a space for the actual people behind those larger-than-life personas. In the video above, Gumbs notes that "there's some critical thinking that should be going on as we observe and participate in the media representation of black women that often isn't going on. For me this is about practicing and making space for that thinking and rethinking and questioning." One Hundred and One Things That Are Not True About the Most Famous Black Women Alive is available for a small donation through Scribd. Below is Gumbs' poetic introduction to the book.
Ten Things That Are Not True About This Project Instead of a Preface*
There are no risks to speak of when loving black women becomes a religion.
This is a joke.
This is a game.
The media made me do it.
I could have said it better but I didn't.
I didn't have to do this but I did.
I have a working TV. And I know what you are thinking.
Restorative justice is possible here.
Dignity is possible here.
You are ready for this.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
*After Diane Di Prima's "10 Things That Are Not True About the She-Wolf"