- Teaching Resources Brilliance Remastered: An Interview with Alexis Pauline Gumbs
Feminist teaching is often an isolated and isolating practice because the work challenges the norms that structure so many educational spaces—that power can and should be employed to elicit student performance, that gendered dynamics are natural and should be taken for granted, that learning is best directed towards job market outcomes. Some of us are lucky to have feminist colleagues who help us disentangle institutional politics and challenge us to reimagine how our classroom can work. Others are geographically, disciplinarily, or otherwise isolated from the feminist community. In this latter scenario, how, then, do we connect with others who share our feminist vision?
Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s Web site Brilliance Remastered forges some space for feminist community. Using media like webinars, blogs, and conference calls, Gumbs aims to connect those with hopes to do work informed by a critical, feminist perspective.
Gumbs completed a PhD degree in English, Africana studies, and women’s studies at Duke University, but she continually works outside of institutions of higher education to fortify the efforts of teachers of all kinds. For example, her Juneteenth Freedom Academy for Educators gathered teachers from all over the United States, including teachers working at the Harlem Children’s Zone, yoga teachers, university professors, high school educators, teaching assistants, ministers, and life coaches to, in her words, “create practices to honor the truth that transformative education is not about transforming students. It is about being present for their inherent brilliance and assisting them in transforming their and our relationships to oppressive institutions.” Gumbs is also the co-creator of the Queer Black Mobile Homecoming Project, which she describes as an “experiential archive” documenting Black LGBTQ life.
Here, I ask Alexis to tell me more about Brilliance Remastered and about the significance of finding feminist communities to fortify us as we do this work.
Tell me about the Brilliance Remastered vision and, specifically, what inspired you to do this work in the world.
As many people know, black lesbian poet warrior mother Audre Lorde said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” However, what [End Page 165] many people don’t know or remember is that immediately after that she said, “This fact is only threatening to those who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.” Most importantly she said these words to a room filled with her fellow feminist academic colleagues who she saw replicating the oppressive practices that they were theorizing against.
As usual, Lorde’s words ring true today when there are many feminist, anti- racist, radical scholars who find themselves isolated from the communities of transformation that gave them their brilliance, all because we fear that we have to conform to academic norms because the university is the only place that will support our lives as intellectuals. We have seen generations of intellectuals that joined the academy for radical reasons feeling more and more isolated from the oppressed communities that birthed or inspired them and more and more beat down by a capitalist relationship to knowledge production.
Brilliance Remastered acknowledges that we are at a crucial moment. We have critical mass. It is time to reclaim our brilliance for its transformative purpose. There are exponentially more scholars of color, feminist scholars, queer scholars, disabled scholars, scholars from poor communities than there have ever been. Many of us embarked on our inspiring intellectual projects out of love for our communities and our desire to transform the world in the image of that love. So it is time to ask ourselves and each other: what are the alternative tools that we must use to dismantle the oppression that our communities face? What indeed are the sources of support that can remind us that we don’t have to sell our souls to the university at whatever cost it happens to demand (and for many under-represented visionary scholars that cost is our mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical health).
So I created Brilliance Remastered because I was angry about seeing some of the most brilliant community-minded people I know suffering in isolation...