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.
“wishful thinking” or “what i’m waiting to find in our email boxes”
(with Mendi and Keith Obadike in mind)
dedicated to the black women at Duke and North Carolina Central Universities and you
1. you wake up each day
as new as anyone
there is no reason to assume
you would be supernaturally strong.
there is no reason to test your strength
through daily disrespect and neglect.
you don’t need to be strong.
everyone supports you.
2. if you say ouch
we believe that you are hurt.
we wait to hear how we can help
to mend your pain.
3. you have chosen to be at a school,
at a workplace, in a community
that knows that you are priceless
that would never sacrifice your spirit
that knows it needs your brilliance to be whole
4. your very skin
and everything beyond it
is a miracle that we revere
5. we mourn any violence that
has ever been enacted against you.
we will do what it takes
to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
6. when you speak
we are so glad that you
are here, of all places.
7. other women
reach out to you
when you seem afraid
and they stay
until peace comes
8. the sun
how much they love you.
9. people are interested
in what you are wearing
because it tells them
what paintings to make.
10. everyone has always told you
you can stay a child
until you are ready to move on
11. if you run across the street
naked at midnight
no one will think
you are asking
12. you do so many things
because it feels good to move.
you have nothing to prove
13. white people cannot harm you.
they do not want to.
they do not do it by accident.
14. your smile makes people
glad to be alive
15. your body is not
a symbol of anything
16. everyone respects your work
and makes sure you are safe
while doing it
17. at any moment
you might relive
the joy of being embraced
18. no one will lie to you,
scream at you
or demand anything.
19. when you change your mind,
people will remember to change theirs.
20. your children are safe
no one will use them against you.
21. the university is a place where you
are reflected and embraced.
anyone who forgets how miraculous you are
need only open their eyes.
22. the universe conspires
to lift you
23. on the news everynight
people who look like you and
the people you love
for their contribution to society.
24. the place where knowledge is
has no walls.
25. you are rewarded for the work you do
to keep it all together.
26. every song i’ve
ever heard on the radio
is in praise
27. the way you speak
is exactly right
for wherever you happen
28. there is no continent anywhere
where life counts as nothing.
29. there is no innocence that needs your guilt
to prove it.
30. there is no house
in your neighborhood
where you still hear screams
every time you go
31. no news camera waits
to amplify your pain.
32. nobody wonders
whether you will make it.
everybody believes in you
33. when you have a child
no one finds it tragic.
no map records it as an instance of blight.
34. no one hopes you will give up
on your neighborhood
so they can buy it up cheap.
35. everyone asks you your name.
no one calls you out of it.
36. someone is thinking highly of you
37. being around you
makes people want to be
their kindest, most generous selves.
38. there is no law anywhere
that depends on your silence.
39. nobody bases their privilege
on their ability to desecrate you.
40. everyone will believe anything you say
because they have been telling you the truth
41. school is a place, like every other place.
no one here is out to get you.
42. worldwide, girls who look like you
are known for having great ideas.
43. 3 in 3 women will fall in love with themselves
during their lifetime.
44. every minute in North Carolina
a woman embraces
45. you know 8 people
who will help you move
to a new place
if you need to.
46. when you speak loudly
everyone is happy
because they wondered
what you were thinking about.
47. people give you gifts
and truly expect nothing
48. no one thinks you are
49. everyone believes
that you should have all
the resources that you need,
because by being yourself
you make the world so much
50. any creases on your face
are from laughter.
51. no one, anywhere, is locked in a cage.
52. you are completely used to knowing what you want.
following your dream is as easy as walking.
53. you are more than enough.
54. everyone is waiting
to see what great thing
you’ll do next.
55. every institution wants to know
what you think, so they can find out
what they should really be doing,
or shut down.
56. strangers send you love letters
for speaking your mind.
57. you wake up
Alexis Pauline Gumbs penned these words of affirmation in April, 2007, but they are helping her achieve her dreams in the present. Gumbs has committed to training as a doula in an effort to support mothers as they bring life to earth, and as part of her own healing journey. In parallel to this poem’s 57 wishes, Gumbs is asking that 57 people contribute toward the cost of her doula training. Each donor will receive a collage based on one wish expressed in the poem.
“Becoming a community supported doula is a dream coming true and a wish about to be fulfilled,” writes Gumbs. To read more of Gumbs’ story or contribute to her tuition, visit Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind.