This is a spiritual journey full of lust and discovery. This is immersion in legacy. This is a celebration of how boldness survives the moment of its need. This is an intimate embrace with a living herstory that traces pathways between our lungs, called laughter, called stillness, called sigh. This is a dance, a prayer, a baptism in hope. This is how we know who we are. This is how we live forever.
Mobile Homecoming is an innovative and loving response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection. A craving that lives in the hearts of queer black same gender loving elders and visionaries. A craving that has taken over the minds of two young queer black women. Julia Wallace of Queer Renaissance and Alexis Pauline Gumbs of BrokenBeautiful Press have decided to dedicate the next phase of their lives to collecting and amplifying the social organizing herstories of black women, trans men, and gender queer visionaries who have been refusing the limits of heteronormativity and opening the world up by being themselves in the second half of the 20th century.
We believe that the stories of how trans and cis-gendered women, trans men and genderqueer black people grew their own bravery and created community are priceless resources for our communities and the communities of the future. We want to know how these warriors nurtured their deviant selves, we want to know how they raised their children, we want to know how they supported each other, we want to know how they created a culture of love and inclusion despite facing multiple oppressions and social stigmas. We believe that these stories should live forever in our open mouths and our hands reaching for each other. We believe that these herstories are the seeds of a necessary transformation in our culture where deviance is acknowledged as creativity and every member of our communities is lifted up and supported for fulfilling their vision. We see the need to reinvoke submerged traditions of gazing at each other in wonder and taking care of each other diligently.
We understand that the modes of survival in our black queer communities which include:
– social support organizing
- artistic creativity
- spiritual transformation
- revolutionary interpersonal relationships
are our key resources as we transform the meaning of life.
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So here we go. Alexis and Julia have committed to living in an environmentally sustainable mobile home and traveling into the lives of the visionaries who’s bravery and creativity has made our lives possible. And as much as we have chosen this journey, we have also been called. Our folks have grabbed our hands and faces, seeing themselves. Our elders are spilling with the details of how they got ovah, of what we need to know. This is hunger, this is need, in both directions. We need to know that we come from somewhere, our elders need to know that all their lives transcend their own bodies.
Our people deserve to be honored for who they are and who they have been. We are dedicated to amplifying the herstories we learn by creating an experiential archive in which an intergenerational community can relive the brilliance of these visionary warriors, a hands on method for teaching history, a truly live model of community education. We will also be documenting this shared journey using video technology, new media, blogs, and scholarly articles and collecting artifacts to supplement existing archives that honor the sacred herstories of our elders. Quiet as its kept, none of us became the queer radical gender transgressing community building norm-busting world transformers we are by ourselves. We know that the grit, striving, brazen-ness, and foresight of our elders already lives in us.
We will use this process of study, interview, and collaborative creativity to make it plain.
This project is about affirming and producing family on the queer terms of choice. Just as much as our biological ancestors and elders have shaped our organs by providing us with their DNA, our chosen ancestors, elders and mentors have also created us. By being themselves, by refusing to accept the limits imposed on their love, by believing despite everything that love and transformation were possible and by creating a future worthy of themselves they have built a world in which it is possible, and easier for us to be our wild and growing selves. We know that family doesn’t flow in one direction. We know that the past, the present and the future recreate each other at each moment of encounter. We know that nothing is as natural as it seems. We understand that everything is contingent, so we take nothing for granted. We therefore choose our people with as much tenacity as they chose themselves. We choose ourselves with the same force with which they chose us.
We also understand that the choices of our elders to transform the meanings of life, family and community have come with consequences. Many of our elders have been excluded from institutions such as their birth families, their religious communities, and the healthcare and social services institutions that have traditionally marginalized people of color whose family forms do not conform to any codes. Our elders have often been denied the emotional, spiritual, and financial support that they need. Just as our elders created alternative institutions of mutual support, we know that it is our responsibility to embrace and care for these warriors and to mend and dress any wounds they have incurred along the way. We are responsible for the physical, spiritual, emotional and financial well-being of our elders. Our heroes and heroines need not become martyrs before they earn our praise. Thus the urgency of our project. They deserve to be lifted up, body, soul and spirit RIGHT NOW.
This is why our project moves through and beyond oral history and ethnographic modes of research and reaches towards family-making. We are not old school anthropologists. We are immersing ourselves into the lives of these visionaries, not in order to merely observe kinship, but instead in order to BECOME kindred. We know that we will be transformed by this journey, we know that every time we create community there will be new demands on us, and deep expectations. Our elders are not objects of study. In fact, we are their servants because this was their idea. How long have they been asking us to sit with them and listen. To come over and learn. This is less than what we owe.
So this is a journey based on faith. This is how we submerge our full-selves into the mystical context that created us. We will emerge transformed, into what we cannot know. We understand that this has something to do with eternal life, a lot to do with sacrifice, we know that this is concerned with the false limits of skin and gender. We know this has to do with the magic of longing. We know that this is a step towards ancestor worship. We know this is a reunion of spirits. We have taken the “mobilehomecoming approach” because we believe that it is important to live with our elders in order to develop the lasting and life changing relationships that are necessary for the transfer of legacy. This is as much about energy as it is about words. This is about shared meals, caressed photos, difficult memories, silences and work. This is about taking out the trash and weeding the garden. This is sacred because it is mundane. It is finally time to acknowledge how necessary we are to each other in every aspect of our lives. This is full immersion. A mobilehomecoming.
Because our storycollecting approach is fully immersive, we also believe that the insights and possibilities we learn about should be shared with our communities in a variety of ways. We are partnering with existing archives to create relationships wherein the records, objects and artifacts that our elders have collected over lifetimes of activity can be preserved and recorded. We are blogging about the steps of our journey, the surprising revelations, the repetitions, the advice. We are recording many of our encounters using video and audio in order to create a documentary and several new media learning modules ready for use in workshops and classrooms. We are rewriting the the literary history of black feminism reframed by the experiences of these elders. We are publishing these histories in scholarly and general readership publications. And through our community education technology called “replay event” we are bringing this history to life.
We believe that the most lasting, and appropriate transmission of knowledge is IN community through lived experiences. Therefore we host community events that re-enact the social organizing strategies that we learn about. For example, the Salsa Soul Sisters created their own reclamation of Kwanzaa in a different sisters home each night…we did it again in collaboration with the sisters who invented it so that an intergenerational community could relive this possible social life. If the elders printed t-shirts with controversial messages on them to prove a point or campaign against injustice we’ll reissue the t-shirts so a multi-generational set of people can wear them and embody history. If they used pins to identify themselves as lesbian as black as feminist we’ll do it again.
Our journey focuses on the social organizing strategies of non-conformist black women and trans men in the 20th century. This means that we are interested in how these elders socialized, how they intervened in and created social institutions for themselves and for us. This means we are not only interested in how these black feminist radicals attempted to smash the state. We are also interested in how they made strides towards REPLACING the state by creating their own methods of childcare, health and wellness, spiritual eclecticism. We are interested in how they fed each other, loved each other, raised children together, created publications, created jobs for each other, supported each other’s endeavors. We want to know how they created the societies they needed, because we believe that their inventiveness holds the seeds to the society we ALL need. This means that while we are very interested in working with elders who were involved in radical and feminist political organizations, we will want to know what happened between meetings, how people celebrated each other, what the culture of their organizing was in addition to their explicit political campaigns and interventions.
We have noticed that the social organizing history of women of color (in general) and queer black women in particular has been left out of the historical narrative and we argue that because the social lives of people impact their political analysis and access and change the possible ways they will navigate everything (i.e food, health, love, work, literacy etc.) an emphasis on social, emotional, spiritual and practical community labor is political.
We have also noticed that the spiritual work that black queer people have done, and what we understood to be the spiritual leadership of black queer people in transforming the world, has often been overlooked. Mentored by scholar-practitioners M. Jacqui Alexander and Akasha Hull, we center the spiritual motivations and strategies that live in our communities, building and understanding, and affirming a practice of community as communion.
Alexis and Julia are ambitious dreamers and this project is an innovative leap of faith. However we not only stand on the bravery of our elders, we also build on recent examples of mobile, story-collecting and sharing models that contemporary queer artists of color are engaging in. We are inspired by and advised by Randall Kenan, acclaimed author of Walking On Water: Black American Lives At the Turn of the 21st Century who traveled the United States asking strangers what it meant to black in America, Climbing Poetree a creative duo who conducted their Hurricane Season Performance Tour on an environmentally sustainable mini-bus and collected hundred of quilt patches from participants that they are using for an ongoing installation, Mangos with Chili a group of queer and gender queer poets of color who toured the country on a shoestring and a prayer, the lessons learned from these comrades are helping us to develop an affordable, sustainable and impactful model for our journey.
We know this is an idea whose time has come. We hear our ancestors urging us on and we are joyfully in conversation and collaboration with kindred initiatives and sister-scholars Maylei Blackwell and Alice Home with the the Queer of Color Oral History Collective in Los Angeles and sociologist Mignon Moore with the Black Queer Elders project. We are also inspired and advised by Ana-Maurine Lara’s We Are the Magic Makers Project and Selly K. Thiam’s None On Record Project and Yvonne Welbon’s film Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis at 100.
We have been preparing for this our whole lives. Recently Julia,along with Alexis, Moya Bailey and Beatrice Sullivan collaborated on a short documentary called Sweets for the Sweet which documented black queer people of different generations articulating their relationships to the words queer, funny, and sweet and speaking their own names for their desirable, fabulous, deviant selves. Alexis also conducted a year long listening project (www.listeningproject.blogspot.com) during which she listened to over 50 women, trans-men most of whom were people of color and working class people. Alexis created poems for and interactive collages with each of her participants creating an artistic archive of art that has been dispersed in many multimedia and print venues since. Alexis was also a featured speaker on the first ever Grassroots Media Justice Tour sponsored by Colorlines, Left Turn, Make/Shift Magazine and Free Speech Radio News. The Grassroots Media Justice Tour traveled the south learning about and building the media capacity of grassroots social justice movements.
We are excited to collaborate with each and every one of you!
email us at email@example.com to find out more!