Can you believe that it has been more than 6 years since queer black lovebirds Julia Roxanne Wallace and Alexis Pauline Gumbs got on the road to tell the story of multiple black LGBTQ lifetimes? As we have moved through space and time together we have learned and relearned what it means to create an experiential archive, to listen deeply, and to open our hearts bravely again and again. During our initial journey across the United States we created over a hundred ceremonies, we listened intimately to individuals and communities during our listening sessions and “Where Have You Been All My Life” intergenerational community events.
Through your support and enthusiasm and all the love we received on the road we learned that our community has a primary craving: home.
You Already Know!
Over the past 6 years in response to the urgent need that our community expressed for spaces to engage each other deeply and initiate each other into shared legacy we created seven life-changing journeys and retreats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas where our queer family met itself and built lasting relationships and life-saving intergenerational collaborations.
In response to the glaring absence of the stories of queer black feminist elders and an intellectual practice worthy of the brilliance of our communities in traditional academic spaces we did residencies and workshops at over 50(?) colleges, universities and academic and activist conferences that shared footage from our journey and shared the experiential archive as a methodology for intergenerational community building and documentation.
In response to the need for our stories in multiple media outlets we published articles, book chapters and online pieces and crafted TV episodes, short videos, films, gallery exhibitions and audio pieces that have circulated internationally.
The Next Phase
Now, six years in, we are continuing to create home in collaboration with our beloved queer black community in three specific ways:
1. Mobile Homecoming Family Reunion:
Our people want to come home. Over the past six years some of the most enthusiastic feedback we have received has come from our community’s celebration of our evolving relationships with our family’s of origin and institutions indigenous to the black community, such as the black church and cultural organizations that celebrate african heritage through dance and drumming. Julia’s videos about the role of music in black queer survival and Alexis’s article about how her dad became a queer black feminist prompted Mobile Homecoming community members to express their deep longings to be able to participate in evolutionary reciprocal relationships with their families of origin and to reclaim affirming cultural traditions that have long roots in black communities.
In order to actualize this vision of coming home in our full brilliance, we are creating Family Reunion, a series of celebratory technologies for black LGBTQ folks to participate in with their families and communities. The Family Reunion project consists of three main projects: Queer Black Sunday School, Mobile Homecoming Pageants and Prismatic Drum and Dance. We are proud to announce that in addition to your ongoing support, the Arcus Foundation has provided a seed grant for this project.
Queer Black Sunday School is a technology that has evolved from Black Feminist Sermons to Exegetical Choir Practice. The Queer Black Sunday School: Lectures came from our desire and our communities desire for a space to deeply engage Black Feminist ancestors in a reverent and ecstatic space. Then we added Julia’s southern Black church tradition by mixing Sunday school with choir practice.
In these Queer Black Sunday School: Choir Practices we engage gospel and congregational songs and think critically about THE MEANING WE MAKE when we sing the words. We are reclaiming the resilience tools of our ancestors and elders (in this case song) and using them to meet the needs we have now. This is also a model of how exegesis can be applied to other texts and practices. The first aspect of the Family Reunion initiative, Queer Black Sunday School, is in motion. We have conducted Queer Black Sunday School workshops in Beaufort, Durham, Austin, Detroit and Malibu and are digging into a sustained choir in Durham and training workshops with musicians and community members this summer and fall. We are proud to announce that in addition to your ongoing support the We Shall Overcome Fund at the Highlander Center has provided a grant towards this work.
2. Mobile Homecoming: The Series
We have hundreds of hours of video and audio footages and thousands of images documenting the lives, brilliance and resilience strategies of the many people who invited us into their communities, organizations and homes during the Mobile Homecoming journey. So far, we have released small pieces of this archive on our website and presented selected pieces at conferences and film festivals. Starting in Fall 2016 we will be releasing thematic episodes featuring the lessons we have learned from our intergenerational black LGBTQ community along with online viewing parties and interactive curriculum. We are excited to show and tell and be and grow with you!
3. Black Feminist Film School: A Motherful Lens
Black Feminist Film School is a project that brings together to tradition of black feminist film that makes our lives imaginable and a queer black feminist approach to the practice of making films together that transforms what making memory can mean. Over the past several years we have hosted screenings of iconic black feminist films in our community, hosted a summer Black Feminist Film School intensive for queer black feminist filmmakers to build their skills and brought together queer black feminists and their families of origin and choice to create the short narrative film When We Free. Over the next year we intend to travel to connect across generations with filmmakers and theorists in the black feminist tradition and to create a gathering where a network is born that allows us to document our own communities and to tell stories that free us on our own terms. We are proud to learn from the groundbreaking work of Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project and to collaborate with Code Groitte, a Durham-based collective dedicated to interactive storytelling accountable to and owned by black makers.
4. A Homeful Reality: Building Home on the Ground
In all these years of travel it has been priceless for us to come home to our loving community in Durham, North Carolina. With every retreat we have hosted, we have longed for space that we could fill perpetually with the specific, expansive energy of our love. With every conversation we have had with people of ages across our community stable housing for our elders, our youth and the memories and artifacts they steward has been a consistent dream, sometimes tragically out of reach. Our newest project, in which we build a retreat center in Durham one tiny building at a time while creating opportunities for queer POC to learn the skill of building small, accessible, moveable affordable homes is about home in the most literal sense for us and our whole community. We are happy to be working with our collaborators (queer black lovebirds Unique Hullet and Genevieve Larose, Anne Wallace (Julia’s builder mama) and our regional community to make this a reality.
We are excited to see you soon! This year we will be singing together, building together, making and watching transformative images of ourselves and each other and growing as always more and more in love.
As always you can become a Mobile Homecoming sustainer here, or make a tax-deductible donation through our new fiscal sponsor Allied Media Projects.
- Combahee Pilgrimage (South Carolina): a journey to the site of an uprising Harriet Tubman led where 800 enslaved people burned 35 plantation buildings and stole themselves into freedom and which later became the inspiration for the black lesbian feminist socialist organization the Combahee River Collective
- Rest and Realness: A Space for Queer Black Beings to Just Be (Georgia): a relaxing retreat in the Georgia mountains where black queer beings practiced the art of just being, eating, talking, listening and dreaming as a healing antidote to our activist workaholic lifetimes.
- Queer Black August: (North Carolina)