Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Homegrown Archive of Love: Presence and the Palimpsest

Genuis quirky and queer black grandmother scholar spiritual leader M. Jacqui Alexander introduced Moya B. and I to the concept of palimpsestic time the first summer we knew each other (at least in this lifetime). A palimpsest is a piece of material that has been written over more than once so that the old writing is partially visible through and with the new writing. Palimpsestic time draws on this concept as way of thinking about the relationship between the past and the present, like how these love letters i write to you get written on your heart overlapping on the love letters that came before that are still there!

In Jacqui's crucial book Pedagogies of Crossing she works to disrupt the colonially imposed belief in a distinction between a narrowly modern "here and now" and a backwards traditional "then and there"
and offers a framework where we can track patterns of oppression and resistance that are "here and there" and "then and now." Energy travels, and not necessarily on a linear path. Yes? Yes!

(for more details PLEASE read Jacqui's book. if you live near Durham, NC we have multiple copies for loan at the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Lending Library- which opens this Sunday! Yay! Email to reserve one!)

I am experiencing a palimsestic form of presence that is here and there and then and now, in pulses. I am feeling more ancestor held and compelled every day and yesterday I began to feel very then and now about the tradition of black women building autonomous and alternative educational spaces here and here in North Carolina. So in addition to Charlotte Hawkins Brown and the many black lady schoolteachers whose spirits speak to me through the air and ground of this sacred and stolen land accountable to the sacred and stolen bodies of our people, I add Selena Warren Wheeler, lifeblood of what was once the Durham Colored Library and is now the Stanford L. Warren (named for Selena's dad) branch of the ostensibly integrated Durham Public Library system. The library started in the basement of the White Rock Baptist Church in 1913, moved into its own wood-framed building in 1916 and now sits as a beautiful brick beacon to black brilliance down the street from the original site, right next to North Carolina Central University. Selena Warren Wheeler who still graces Durham with her living presence day in and day out directed the library from 1932-1945...extendend the hours, started the bookmobile project and opened the space for community meetings. She led the board of the library until 1966 when the library became a branch of the newly integrated Durham Public Library. And the "Negro Collection" which the library has housed and grown for almost a century now is named the Selena Warren Wheeler collection!

Yesterday I had a meeting with the beautiful folks at this beautiful library, a gorgeous space seven minutes from my porch where all the librarians know my hair, and some know my face, and some know my name and my business, a space that has become familiar because of the many community meetings all of the community organizations I roll with have there (thanks again Mz Selena!!!) I am so thrilled that thanks to the initiative of Carter Cue the library is interested in explicitly partnering with Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind and J. Rox Media for some technology trainings, poetry workshops, art exhibitions, symposia AND a YEARLONG LECTURE SERIES ON BLACK FEMINISTS!!!! Woohoo!

To have a meeting like that THIS week when I'm preparing for the tiny/grand opening of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Lending and Reference Library feels like a kiss from destiny. It feels like a reminder that the sun is not new, and that we underneath it are interconnected photosynthetic representations of a brilliance and depth that take layers and layer and all of us exploring what it means to be supported, supportive and timeless and present.

I love you each and I encourage you this week to live the palimpsest, honor the precedents known and unknown for the loop of your arm intersecting with the wrist of comrade and ancestor alike and to be present to the beautiful interconnected work in our communities that our ancestors must be thrilled to witness.

For example...

Speaking of presence check out the COME CORRECT project ( which was born out of some intense black feminist affirmation of a comment I made on the Crunk Feminist Collective ( blog in response to a crucial post by Crunktastic about how it is a major problem and sexual turn off when people who ostensibly want to be intimate with black feminists insist on defending violence against black women and social codes that act as if we are disposable, untrustable, unworthy and out of place! I mentioned that if people knew that black feminist sex was the best thing ever (it is) and how truly tragic it would be to miss out on black feminist sex we could have a whole knew meaning for "come correct." An email from Moya B. crew of beautiful black feminist sex goddesses and one lunch break later the site was born! If you have thoughts to add email us at

AND if you live in the Bay Area be sure to get ready for next weekends Safety Fest ( a gathering about creating radical safety without the police centering on queer people of color!

AND please save the dates May 19-26th to come to Durham, NC for Indigo Days a grassroots gathering for Black Women and Genderqueer folks as healers! If you'd like to facilitate a workshop about your form of healing (For example...QBG Leah will be leading a Blues Sunday School about Blues Music as divine healing...) email
Come! Everyone will have a place to stay, food to eat the whole time and the event is free!!!!

Love in indelible ink all over your heart. Always always.


Photography by Teka (we call it "black feminism in a queer frame"

1 comment:

J.Dub said...

So, glad you can see the connections and be present to the layers, love.