Gumbs Talks Feminism and Personal History

On Tuesday, January 24, the Department of Women’s Studies hosted Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who moderated a presentation titled, “Evidence: A Black Feminist Archive of the Impossible.” Her presentation fused discussions about famous black feminists with personal anecdotes and histories as well as active audience participation. 

To kick off the presentation and discussion, Gumbs introduced herself as a “queer black troublemaker.” Gumbs holds a doctorate degree in English, African-American Studies and Gender Studies from Duke University. She has also participated in research at Spelman College, Emory University and Harvard University. Additionally, Gumbs has published two books and founded the grassroots publishing company called “BrokenBeautiful.”

Program Coordinator of the Department of Women’s Studies Allie Fry began the event by introducing Dr. Gumbs and expressing how excited the department was to host her. She recognized the importance and relevance of the MLK celebrations that week. As the event began, the Center for Women’s Studies was packed with students and faculty who were excited to hear Gumbs speak. 

First-year Kendall Broseman attended the lecture and was surprised and delighted by the turn out, commenting on the thoughtfulness and engagement of the Colgate community in this important MLK Week activity.

“It was really nice to see so many people in attendance. It’s good to know that this kind of community exists at Colgate,” Broseman said.

Gumbs began her presentation by reading a poem from her book “Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity.” After she read excerpts and poems from her book, she explained the importance of artifacts that bring you closer to your identity and history. These included her mother’s engagement ring that she always wears, a sweater that her “Nana” knit her and a membership card she carries in her wallet to a museum that she loves and frequents.

Next, Gumbs asked the audience to share the artifacts and items that are most meaningful to them. Some students and faculty shared items like rings handed down from past generations, family heirlooms and songs. 

Broseman thought the activity was very special. 

“It was really enjoyable and unique to hear so many students’ personal stories and to hear them share their artifacts with the room,” Broseman said.

Next, Gumbs began her second activity. Audience members who were anxious or nervous about upcoming events were encouraged to ask a question about the future in areas which they needed guidance. Gumbs carried her collection of 16 “oracle cards” that she created, each with a different feminist figure who inspires her. When an audience member asked a question, he or she would choose an oracle card out of Gumbs’ pile. Gumbs then interpreted how that particular inspirational figure could relate to and counsel the person on his or her difficult situation. Many audience members shared their concerns about the future, including questions about career paths, love lives and Trump’s inauguration and presidential tenure over the next four years. By presenting audience members with one of her oracle cards, Gumbs attempted to guide the audience members in thinking about how these issues might unfold and be dealt with productively.

The presentation was inspiring to many of the participants in the discussion and to the rest of the audience in attendance, especially amidst the inauguration and recent Women’s Marches around the country. Gumbs expressed admiration for the women who participated in the movements and shared her appreciation of the protests. 

Broseman provided insightful closing remarks on Gumbs’ presentation.

“Gumbs’ message was really inspiring, especially [following] the election and the marches,” Broseman said.

The Center for Women’s Studies hosted Gumbs as a way to inspire audience members through Gumbs’ speech and conversation. Gumbs concluded her presentation by thanking the audience and stating that this world needs more

“troublemakers” like her.