Dr. Alexis Gumbs’ SPILL

Spill: Stirring the Evolution and Freedom of Black Women Unleashed

By Patricia Corbett


On January 20, 2017, I was invited to a gathering of women at Duke University to hear Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Dr. Hortense Spillers engage in a conversation based on Dr. Gumbs book, Spill. Hosted by the Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies department, the timing was both brilliant and serendipitous. Receiving this invitation of the date of the 45th presidential inauguration was most welcomed and indeed highly anticipated. It is a rare treat to be a part of a discussion about a book and then to witness it reimagined as a performance piece. The discussion entitled, Spill: Black Feminist and Fugitivity in Conversation and Performance, was the antidote to an otherwise challenge to one’s intelligence and sensibility to watch the news of the day unfold. The poignant dialogue about intimacy, practice, and protest became a perfect prelude to the first performance of Spill by SpiritHouse, a local Durham theater company.

The Spill performance was robust and sometimes schizophrenic. Black women unabashedly ‘spilling’ emotion everywhere. The play managed to capture the reality of the black woman’s burden, pain, confusion, and her transcendent ability to claim herself amid the madness both self-inflicted and inflicted upon her. The performance was so intriguing that I wanted to know more about the incantations and the revelatory mix of words that created rifts of struggle and freedom that push back against a society that diminishes the value of black women.

I sent Dr. Gumbs the following questions and knew once I began reading Spill, that I would want to explore more of her 21st century black feminist terrain. For now, a brief Q/A with Dr. Alexis Gumbs based on her discussion, “Spill: Black Feminist and Fugitivity”, the SpiritHouse performance, and her new book, Spill: scenes of black feminist fugitivity.

How is Spill and act of intimacy, practice, and protest?

Spill came out of my desire to be with the archive of Black women’s literary and the critical work of Hortense Spillers, one of the Black feminist theorists who has influenced me the most as a scholar.  I wrote it as a daily practice of being with the tradition that produced me without having to explain it or sell it right away.  I wrote the passages in Spill early in the morning, like about 4 or 5am which is before my fear wakes up (my fear wakes up at about 8am most days).   So yes.  It is intimate because I wrote it from a vulnerable place, and because it addresses intimate violence.  It is practice because it was my daily practice for more than a year, and now it shapes my ongoing practice of activating Black feminist brilliance in public with my communities.  And it’s protest because Black women’s freedom requires a completely transformed world.  Everything must change. Read more in TRIBES Spring 2017 Issue 37. 


Introducing Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi

By Patricia Corbett

A Black Woman Speaks of Art, Identity, and Ancestry

I’ve known Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi personally for more than 10 years. When she granted me this interview after two years of interaction only via social media, I was ecstatic to hear her warm and spirited voice again. As we shared pleasantries we segued into a transcendent interview that far exceeded my expectations. There was something different about Lady Dane. Something powerful. She exuded her usual colorful confidence, but she was so vividly clear about who she is and her walk in the world. Our conversation was mixed with a landscape of emotion. We laughed and cried. Lady Dane was no longer the little girl who years ago auditioned for my play. In our absence from each other, she waded into the deep ocean of identity and emerged the female embodiment of who she had been all her life.

Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is a Nigerian, Cuban, Indigenous, American Performance Artist, Author, Teacher, Choreographer, Oracular Consultant, Priestess, and Advocate self-described as an Ancient zz Priestess of Mother Africa. She is a force in the world of art, trans advocacy, and the spiritual realm. Her art and passion for issues that impact trans people globally is a testament to a legacy handed down, cultivated, and inspired by her family and the ancestors. Allow me to introduce to you Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi.

“My father is Nigerian and my mother is Cuban and Indigenous. I come from a family of performers. They were loud and talkative. My Mother and her sisters sang. So I was expected to sing. I was very introverted. I read Langston Hughes and history books about Africa and America. I would write my own books and poetry. I was told I needed to be smart and educated. If I want something I had to fight for it. Nothing would be handed to me.” . Read more in TRIBES Spring 2017 Issue 37. 

Feature Event: Sexy Dancer: A Burlesque Celebration of Prince, April 29, Durham, NC

Dearly Beloveds, we will gather on April 29th, 2017 to get through this thing called life.

Garden of Delights has assembled a cast like no other to celebrate the life of the Purple One, His Royal Badness, the Artist Forever Known as Prince. So bust out your Diamonds and Pearls, put on your Raspberry Beret, and drive your little red Corvette down to Monkey Bottom Collaborative for Sexy Dancer: A Burlesque Celebration of Prince! https://www.facebook.com/events/436462123357566/

Caza Blanca
Jo’Rie Tigerlily
Lottie Ellington
Murphy Lawless
Kayy Lovely
Ophelia Hart
Sally Stardust
Miss Blue Bell
Zadora Zaftig

Doors: 9 pm, Show: 10 pm. Tickets on sale now!!!  https://www.facebook.com/events/436462123357566/

Art: PHREE, Swept Away to Uncharted Territories

By Leslie Cunningham

Freedom can only be achieved when we stop resisting and accept our lives as an accumulation of our experiences and the connection to our ancestors. This is what Dina Mccullough’s art represents to me.

Primarily known for creating mixed media installations and sculptures, Dina is a 47-year old African American self-taught contemporary artist who revels in making multi-dimensional spaces of speculation, imagination and human experience. Her work “The Free Wall”, a multimedia work of copper, plaster, clay and tile that depicts slaves and their lives, is now in permanent collection at the Myers House in Albany, New York.

Originally from Philadelphia, Dina didn’t choose art, it found her at a time when she was embracing sobriety, melting wax for candles, and putting the pieces of her broken life back together at Extended Stay outside of Atlanta. “Before I found out who my real father was in 2015, I felt like something was missing in my life,” shares Dina. Today, under the moniker Phree Spirit Abstracts, Dina creates what she wants, without restraint. Provocative, confrontational and at times obfuscous to ingest all at once, Dina’s art mostly addresses issues around feminism, politics, and history, putting her in the ranks with of other bold expressionists such as Kara Walker and Xaviera Simmons. Dina says she was inspired to create “The Free Wall” after reading the story of a reburial project that honored 14 African slaves after 200 years. “After reading about the Schuyler slaves, “I wanted to celebrate they were finally getting a proper burial.”

An offering to the ancestors, Dina’s latest work is called “The Scales of Injustice”. In this work, Dina sheds light on the torture and pain experienced by African women during slavery. What started out as an art piece about slave blocks has morphed into a beautifully disturbing multimedia installation comprised of six women who are impregnated with cotton, coffee, rice and indigo – products that highlight how these commodities fueled America’s dependency on slave labor. In her art journal, she writes:

Over four hundred years ago,
we were beaten kidnapped, murdered and raped
the most fervent prayer was our children could escape
the land of the free
of tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton
no life mattered
our essence was forgotten

In Scales, Dina uses heavy chains for hair around a mold of her own face on each model. “Throughout the process, the ancestors spoke to me. They didn’t want to be seen as slaves, they were African queens who deserved to be honored and respected. Read more in TRIBES Spring 2017 Issue 37. 

Visit phreespirit.com.

Black Art Don’t Dance No More

A Review of Dasan Ahanu’s Everything Worth Fighting For: An Exploration of Being Black In America

Words by Michael Herriot

Blackness was once a soft spot. A vulnerability. Black people have always been strong, but “blackness” was once a collective Achilles Heel. It was strong enough to withstand a middle passage and resilient enough to bellow slave songs of freedom, but it whispered when “Massa” came around. It looked up to the heavens, but cast its eyes toward the floor when White women walked past. It stood up for freedom, but simultaneously sat on the back of busses.

But Blackness is armor now. It is frustrated and unsmiling. Lately Black art has reflected this. It is unflinching obstruction with arms folded. It is the defiance of fist raising and unapologetic noncompliance. Any art labeled “conscious” or “woke” has become grizzled and hard. Works like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly,” Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me or Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric find their beauty in the sour matter-of-factness that stares you in the eyes and dares you to…whatever. Black art don’t dance no more, all it does is hiss.

…we’re all just balloons
Strung to existence on earth
but desperate for the heavens.

When I received a copy of Dasan Ahanu’s Everything Worth Fighting For: An exploration of being Black in America, I didn’t know what to expect. Although I knew him as a spoken word artist, I was also aware that he was a scholar and researcher of hip hop holding the Nasir Jones fellowship at Harvard. I knew he was an English professor and had sat in one of his workshops on the fundamentals and contextual literary devices used by–wait for it… Lil Wayne, Beyoncé and Kanye. I didn’t know if Everything Worth Fighting For was a work of scholarly critiques, an autobiography, or a series of essays. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a collection of poetry examining Blackness from a unique perspective.

Everything Worth Fighting For is Black-skinned but not scowling. It shares the pain and the forlorn wistfulness of the Black experience without feeling hopeless. It is Blackness, once wounded, and still pink from peeling off the scabs–healing but not yet healed. What sets it apart from a lot of art that explores the Black existence is that he doesn’t contextualize this actuality as existing in a White world, he simply writes of existing, which makes this collection extremely human.

The poetry begins with personal fragments of Black lives that lay bare hope, sorrow, joy, and despair. It is the syrupy reminiscences of passed-down wisdom in “Grandfather’s Parable” that instills confidence but reminds that “the devil is watching. Read the full review in the Spring 2017 Issue 37.  

Visit dasanahanu.com.