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 still-growing collection of nearly one thousand books that cultivated over years.
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.”
The Durham County library system already offers its own bookmobile that serves neighborhoods throughout the city, but it has decreased its capacity recently.
The Black Feminist Bookmobile will keep some classic titles 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. They recently added 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. “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 their 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.