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Welcome: Day 1 August 26, 2007

Posted by alexis in Uncategorized.

Greetings All! Welcome to “To Be A Problem: Outcast Subjectivity and Black Literary Production”. I look forward to working with you all to create a democratic and dynamic space of learning.

While during the course I hope we will be practicing (and defining) “literary production”, my intention is NOT to reproduce the other topic of the course, “Outcast Subjectivity”, through our new and growing relationships to each other.

To that end in addition to introducing yourselves, I would like for everyone to read over the following “ground rules” that poet/teacher/journalist/activist June Jordan created for her course “Poetry for the People”.

It is copied below, but if you’d like to print your own copy (for reading purposes…or to use in your communities) click here: p4p-groundrules.pdf
Comment and let us all know how you think these ground rules may or may not apply to this online course. How is what you hope to do here similar to the vision of Poetry for the People? How are our circumstances different? What ground rules will be necessary for you to participate fully here? Looking forward to hearing from you soon!


Poetry for the people is a program for political and
artistic empowerment of students. It is motivated by
the moral wish to mitigate the invisibility and the
imposed silence of those less privileged than we.
Originating inside a public institution, and enjoying
full academic accreditation, there are certain ground
rules that must be respected inside this experimental
and hopeful society:
1. “The People” shall not be defined as a group
excluding or derogating anyone on the basis of
race, religion, ethnicity, language, sexual
orientation, class or age.
2. “The People” shall consciously undertake to
respect and encourage each other to feel safe
enough to attempt the building of a community of
trust in which all may try to be truthful and
deeply serious in the messages they craft for the
world to contemplate.
3. Poetry for the People rest upon a belief that the
art of telling the truth is a necessary and healthy
way to create powerful and positive, connections
among people who, otherwise remain (unknown
or unaware) strangers. The goal is not to kill
connections, but rather to create and to deepen
them among truly different men and women.
All teaching and writing within this program shall seek
to honor this belief.
-June Jordan, Poetry for the People, 2000



1. lou jent-clough - August 27, 2007

First, I will address the guidelines as discussed above. I think they are beautiful and encapsulate a brilliant ideal for our communications during this course. They leave me wishing I had taken June Jordan’s course and grateful I am taking this one from you, Prof Gumbs, who is invoking such a serious, rich infrastructure of respect that we can wrap with our words.
I think our circumstances are slightly different than those in Poetry for the People in that we are not only seeking to honor those who we are writing with and beside, but those who wrote and produced literature before we came along. I’m sure June Jordan utilized the strength of the ancestors, too, definitely. But it’s powerful to me that we could apply the above guidelines of respect, truthfulnes and deepening connections to the folks whose eyes first watched their words forming on the page.

As far as introducing myself, I am a writer/ autism therapist & educator/ creatively-sustained&fueled 29-year-old student. I live in Durham with a partner & an ever-growing menagerie. I know & love Professor Gumbs from UBUNTU and I am honored to have been invited to share in this experience. I hope to get to know each of you through the lenses of learning and love.

2. Me, beth - August 28, 2007

Hey y’all-
okay, so… my name is beth and putting words down on paper and blogs frightens me, so it is good that we are here.

these ground rules look brilliant – no less than what we’d expect from june jordan 🙂 i also appreciate Lou’s comment of including authors in “the people” and our community of trust.

demographically speaking i am female and white and queer and 34 and of mixed religious upbringing and from Durham, and action-wise i am a part of Ubuntu, the Lesbian Resource Center, TCW/ASPYN, and PHAT LOVE. more details will come, but this is the start.

i am truly looking forward to this class- to learning, and to creating, deepening and honoring connections – i find that part of the ground rules especially appropriate, and i do believe in the power of loving truthtelling.

3. e. golden - August 29, 2007

thanks for creating this space sista professa alexis. i agree with the groundrules above written in perfect communal fashion.

im ebony golden/ daughter on betty and harry/ daughter of bertha and bud/ daughter of ocean and sun/ daughter of aganju

im a student a teacher a lover a warrior a traveler a poet a dancer a pecan tree a ghetto breeze…

thanks for being my hero!!!! love, e

4. kriti - August 31, 2007

i feel really blessed to be in this class! just winding down a long week, and happy and tired from the bike ride home. i’m kriti. my name means “a work of art” in old hindi – some days, i feel like one. other days, i want to live up to the name. i’m in my 20s. i’m cinnamon skinned. i love people in many different bodies. i speak english, french, and hindi, and languages i cannot name. i don’t have children, though i care and fear for those younger than me. i do have ancestors, or rather, they have me.

june jordan, as usual, “is not wrong. wrong is not [her] name.”
i think one difference between her “Poetry for the People” project and what we’re creating here might be the difference between “The People” as people who experience one another sensually, and “The People” as people who communicate with one another through printed words. i’m new to the notion and experience of “online community”. i associate community with sound and touch. i’m wary of communicating only through written words–but that’s odd, because that’s much of what literary production is, or at least that’s what i’ve been taught. i hope through this class and through our communications with one another that i learn the art of keeping words warm, not severing them from my body.

a ground rule i can think of that would be useful to me, and perhaps to others: there are many ways that words (sometimes particularly when written and not spoken) can be interpreted. if another’s words can be interpreted as either caring or condescending, either praising or blaming, our FIRST impulse, at least, can be to assume the best.

i’m really looking forward to hearing from y’all. i wish i could see your faces, and even if i can’t, i’ll imagine the warmth of your fingers as you type.

(gotta go: there’s a hummingbird outside my window!)

5. kameelah r. - September 2, 2007

i am really feeling the ground rules. i really like the idea of the art of telling the truth as both a healing and creating agent. i am also excited to explore this experimental and hopeful society. i only hope that this type of approach could be implemented in more learning environments. one thing i do want to mention is that for me creating–whether it be through writing or visual arts is a very personal, spiritual and sacred process. so…i ask that you “take off your shoes” meaning be respectful when you approach that which i say, write and create.

about me:

i am 22 and unable to sit still. i graduated from college @ 20, said no to harvard for graduate school and spent almost a year living in joburg south, africa on the us department of states dime via a fulbright research grant. got back to the states about 2 months ago and am still disoriented an confused because there are not nearly enough street vendors or angry folks calling me a confused african. i miss the languages i never understood and the stares that were hard to interpret. i miss mandela bridge and newtown poetry readings. it was an awesome time there. i went to printmaking school, managed a hip-hop group from soweto, organized with a socialist group, photo documented the largest public sector strike since apartheid, hung out with some rastas, questioned a lot, and almost got robbed 3 times.

i am back in the states and bound to bust a move(ment) somewhere.

as it says on my blog, i am a nerdy black muslimah and hijabi with an inclination toward chuck taylor high tops, punk rock, sushi, afrofuturism, latin american literature, public transportation, photography and printmaking. i am from east palo alto, ca– a small working-class town in northern california. it is not the east palo alto of my childhood as it is being gentrified and carved out for more money folks. i finally bought a skateboard a few days ago after borrowing my brother’s for a few months. yes, i fall off, but it is a good learning experience.

i am currently an ed.m and secondary credential (english and social science- history, government, politics, econ) at stanford university. i am plugged into a few projects back in cali–an artist collaboration with prisoners through the buildingbloc artist collective and just jumped on board with the bay area writing project. uh, and i just started screenprinting with calixto at the mission cultural center for latino arts.

what i want to get out of this class: i don’t want to limit what i get out of this class by coming in with a desired end goal. i am interested in seeing what happens and what i can learn from others.

i look forward to working with all of you.

6. tigera consciente - September 4, 2007

sup yall. this should be an interesting class. it def sounds more exciting that anything i’m taking at the university of rochester this semester. i’m currently seeking my credential in english ed.

you can call me tigera. my government name is just another move by the conquistadores to wipe my and my people’s identity. my family is from dominican republic, but i was born in harlem, nyc. i spent the last 6 pivitol years in my life in the bay area where i learned from some amazing mentors and had the opportunity to teach photojournalism in an east oakland high school. now i’m in rochester bound for nyc in about a year.

one thing i might add to the ground rules is the openness to be challenged to grow and the expectation to challenge others in constructive ways.. that’s of course after gaining trust… maybe that’s an idea to consider down the line and not just yet?

7. lyndsey - September 8, 2007

my name is lyndsey and i feel really lucky to be a part of this class. i left durham about a year ago for nyc and i have been missing radical/beautiful analysis, art, and thought ever since. (small confession: i still read all the UBUNTU emails every day–can you say homesick?). i am brand new to blogging and online communication. i am generally really nervous & self-conscious about sharing my written thoughts and i think this class will be a good way for me to challenge myself to do something that makes me slightly uncomfortable. i am also really out of practice, so please bear with me.

i can feel myself exhale when i read and re-read the ground rules. somehow the “art of telling the truth” is comforting and relieving for me. it seems to open up a lot of possibility to put aside my bullshit and be honest. but i am scared, too. i think kriti & kameelah’s additions to the ground rules are crucial.

i generally identify as a radical, cyborg, sick-o, queer. i used to include activist, but i haven’t been super involved in community projects in nyc. i am currently trapped in the non-profit industrial complex//nyc government funding//politician-begging hell which is rapidly draining my energy and dampening my ability to be creative. this class will be (has already been) my inspiration and motivation to start dreaming, creating, and acting again.

i am proud to be in struggle with you.

8. kai - September 10, 2007

hey all,

i’m quite excited about this course, also being a nerdy, artistic-type. i find the ground rules from june jordan’s 2000 poetry for the people class necessary, with a few thoughts/additions for us to contemplate:

1) i think it is important for us to honor truth (#3) while striving to think about truth beyond a binary or oppostional construct…in other words, seek many truths…the boths and ands as bell hooks has described.

2) in the vein of binary thinking, i also hope that we eliminate the male/female binary (#3). how can we strive to be truly different beings?

3) i wanna add to the ground rules a desire to strive for accountability–community accountability. i think professor lex has provided an excellent example of copmmunity accountability by opening this class to those outside of the ivy tower. how do we within this exchange strive for and realize community accountability?

my name is kai lumumba barrow, i am an artist and organizer and activist and partner and mother and all of those other things so many black women are (whether we wanna be or not). i’d like to explore the visual arts within this class, looking for ways to merge literary and oral tradition with image… would love to hear your thoughts!

9. problematicserenity - September 13, 2007

Hi – I’m Serena, and also very excited to be in this cyberspace with you all. This is my favorite class I’m taking all semester – perhaps ever. I love the ground rules and appreciate the additions you all have made.

I am realizing as I read them how hard it is to wrap my mind around the act of defining something without an opposition – even though I think I have plenty of opportunities to do this in non-abstract ways in real life all the time. In reality, not much in my life (or probably anyone else’s) is demarcated against or in opposition to binaries – even though it sounds like it when we talk.

I am excited to think about all the new things this course – as a body of information, a practice of community accountability, and a radical pedagogy – makes possible.

I’m glad to be one of ‘the people’


10. cic - September 13, 2007

dear all,

my name is ching-in & i’m really excited to be part of this group, being a queer nerd artist:-) i’m a big fan of june jordan’s poetry for the people & i’m thankful for these guidelines — agree with the various additions/considerations/reminders about online etiquette & eliminating binary thinking. thank you to prof. gumbs for creating this space & allowing me to be part of it:-)

more about me, i’m 29 years old, grew up on the north shore in massachusetts, daughter of chinese immigrants. i’ve done various kinds of community work & organizing, both within the non-profit industrial complex & outside of it, primarily in the asian american communities of san francisco, oakland, & boston. about a year ago, i decided that i wanted to try to live a healthier & more sustainable lifestyle outside of the non-profit industrial complex & didn’t want to give up my writing, which was the beginning of a new phase in my life. now i’m currently headed out west to riverside, california to begin a 2 year mfa program & am writing from the road. i am going to apologize ahead of time for lagging behind while i’m on the road — i’m driving about 7 or 8 hours a day & having a lot less internet connection during this time period but things should be back on track next week when i stop moving & settle into my new home in riverside.

much love & looking forward:-)

11. Nia - September 14, 2007

I’m so late with my introduction, I’m not sure any of you will get a chance to read it!!! The ground rules are perfect. I’m also feeling Kriti and Kai’s additions.
I am Nia a 40 something warrior woman living in Durham. I am for the first time in my life a full time college student and very excited about that. I look forward to being pushed in this class by the brilliant prof. Gumbs and all of you.

12. Sylvia - September 15, 2007

I’m Sylvia, a 21-year-old fugitive black blogger from Ethnobloglandia. I really am excited about this course, and I’m ideally auditing and sometimes contributing as the class moves along.

13. Sydette - September 17, 2007

I’m Sydette a 23 year old teacher writer blogger and very excited to be welcomed here

14. fab - September 19, 2007

I’m fab, 26-year-old non-profit worker, mama, blogger in hiatus (always) and glad to be here taking your course Lex. Very very late intro of mine, sorry about that.

I’ll post something later on tonight responding to the first question.

15. alexis - September 20, 2007

Hey all…this post is from Kinohi. For some reason wordpress isn’t processing his comments. Please let me know if any of you are making comments that you don’t see reflected on the site. Kinohi’s going to be posting about the readings on his blog…which is linked above so be sure to check him out!
Prof Lex

Kinohi’s Comment:
This is Kinohi, 28, resident of Durham, and originally from Hawaii. Prof. Lex
and I share a deep love for the aesthetic and material forms of black-radical
meaning-making. This course is a profound extension of that love, and I thank
her for making it a reality.

June Jordan’s ground rules are prophetic: already our discussion is
inflected by
multiple voices working toward the realization of “the art of telling the
truth.” I’m honored and excited to be on this journey with all of you.

16. djesanfrancisco - July 27, 2011

Danny here. I feel a knot, then a gasp, then haste to write you all and say: I know each and every one of you, because you were and are me.


Hi, I like the feel of jutte under my feet. Hello, I can’t see your face. Oh my, you are beautiful.

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