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Black Feminist Bookmobile Coming to Durham

Sarah Willets Nov 24, 2017 9:51 AM
Julia Roxanne Wallace, Alexis Pauline Gumbs and Courtney Reid-Eaton want to create a Black Feminist Nerd Haven in Durham.

They plan to do it early next year, and on wheels.

Wallace, a multimedia artist and preacher also known as Sangodare Akinwale; Gumbs, a scholar and author; and Reid-Eaton, director of exhibitions at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, are currently raising money to create a black feminist bookmobile. Through a fundraiser and merchandise sales, they've already got forty-two contributions toward the $10,000 they need to buy an old Airstream trailer, fit it with shelves and stock it with a collection of nearly one thousand books that has been cultivated over years and continues to grow. 

"We envision the bookmobile as a revolutionary vehicle that transforms space. The bookmobile itself and the book installations we create will have the capacity to transform any space into a reading room connected to generations of Black feminist brilliance," Gumbs told the INDY.


From their home, Wallace and Gumbs already run the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Lending and Reference Library. Gumbs says the collection grew a few years ago when artist Kai Barrow was evicted after turning her home into an art installation and asked the library to take on her books.

"We also have collections of books from Black feminist visionaries from around the United States who have passed away or been displaced from their homes," says Gumbs. "But right now, those books are only accessible to folks who come to our home during educational events or for social reasons. We want to honor the fact that Black Feminist brilliance is a shared, shareable and renewable community resource, not private property. We realized that we had to take a big shift to make sure that this collection which is community sourced could also be truly available to community. "

In addition, Reid-Eaton has her own "life-long collection of Black feminist books and books of work by Black image makers," Gumbs says.

The Durham County library system already offers its own bookmobile that serves neighborhoods throughout the city , but has decreased its capacity recently.

"At this time, while the main branch of the Durham Public Library is under construction and while our nation seems to be facing newly issues that Black feminists have spoken out about again and again we decided to collaborate to make our own bookmobile as a traveling exhibition for our community in Durham and beyond," Gumbs says.

There will be some "classic titles" the Black Feminist Bookmobile will keep on hand, including Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters, Barbara Smith’s Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua’s This Bridge Called My Back, Toni Morrison’s Sula and The Combahee River Collective Statement, which is marking the fortieth anniversary of its publication this year. They recently added to the collection Marita Golden’s The Wide Circumference of Love, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior, and Kevin Quashie’s The Sovereignty of Quiet, Tisa Bryant’s Unexplained Presence and Anastacia-Renee’s Forget It.

"We realized that the people who will be our most enthusiastic collaborators on this project are people who love Black feminist books. And those people actually are Black feminist bookmobiles already," Gumbs says. "Check on it. They are carrying around bags with Black feminist books in them. Literally, there are Black feminist books in their cars, and homes, they share Black feminist books with other people. But on a deeper level, because of their love for the Black feminist tradition in letters they also carry Black feminist books in the minds, hearts and spirits wherever they go."

To that end, they've created shirts, hoodies, tote bags and mugs reading "I am a Black feminist bookmobile" that can be purchased online, with proceeds going toward the project.

You can learn more about the bookmobile and the people behind it at an event this afternoon at the Center for Documentary Studies.