Alexis Gumbs and Julia Wallace, two young ladies who met and fell in love while in Atlanta, have been traveling the country in a RV to record interviews of Black gay women, gender queer and transgendered people. The resulting documentary entitled the “Mobile Homecoming” is in “response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection,” as they put it. Their travels have taken them to over 25 cities thus far.
PRIDEINDEX: What do you want the community to take away from the “Mobile Homecoming?”
ALEXIS & JULIA: We would love for every community: to be inspired by this project, to take listening seriously, to make intergenerational spaces in their own lives, to prioritize connection and transformation as survival skills and sacred practices. We know that we are part of an inspiring legacy of generations of LGBTQ Black brilliance and we want everybody else to know that too. Act like you know!
More than a documentary film project the “Mobile Homecoming” is our quest to build and maintain family. We want people to know that we – all of us and our relationships to one another – are our biggest resource. We have a responsibility to our ancestors, elders, ourselves, and all those that will come behind us to get connected and stay connected. Collectively we have everything we need to thrive.
PI: Per your website, the “Mobile Homecoming’ project is “an innovative and loving response to a deep craving for intergenerational connection.” what exactly does that mean?
AJ: Well, simply put for us as queer Black women-loving people it means we love older women. (SMILES) Just kidding. (Kind of.) What we really mean is that we have noticed that LGBTQ Black folks of all ages really want to be connected to LGBTQ Black people of different ages. Elders want to know that the work they did is recognized and carried on. Young people like us (and younger than us) want to know the lessons our elders learned through their bravery. We know we are part of something bigger than ourselves and we want to intentionally honor that connection with all the love we have.
PI: Give us some background information on how did you ladies became acquainted and who came up with the idea to travel the country in a mobile home to conduct in-person interviews of African American LGBTQ people?
AJ: Great question! We met and fell in love in Atlanta, GA in a series of inspired encounters at events thrown by organizations that we love, belong to and support Quirky Black Girls (groups.quirkyblackgirls.com) and Critical Resistance (criticalresistance.org). As we began to grow our lives to live in Durham, NC and Atlanta, GA we helped to document a conference in Durham called the We Are 1 Women’s Conference. And we were the youngest people there by decades. We were so inspired by listening to the elders at that gathering that we decided it was urgent and necessary to spark a project of listening, loving and honoring black LGBTQ elders all over the country.
We have always been doing this work in some sense. Alexis has done extensive research by posting up in archives, reading and listening to folks all around the world – those that have come before us. Julia has been committed to connecting with elders in a number of ways and making meaning and sharing meaning through multimedia art and music. The same love that binds us to one another binds us passionately to this work of getting and staying connected to a priceless legacy of Black LGBTQ organizing.
PI: What has been the response of the LGBTQ community since you began this endeavor?
AJ: The response has been amazing! Our communities have supported us financially, with infinite love, with meals, prayers, blessings, crystals, sage, rubber glove, gasoline, tire stops, and especially with their amazing stories!
PI: How did your parents and families react when they found out about what you were doing?
AJ: Honestly. I think our mom’s wanted to put lo-jack on us. Both of them have been nervous about traveling the country, and worried about ignorant or hateful people that we might come across in this journey and just the unexpected technical and logistical challenges that come up some time. But at the end of the day our families have been our strongest and most consistent supporters and they talk about the project and how important it is everywhere. We even have a “Mamas for the Mobile Homecoming” web series where they talk about what the project means to them. Our moms are very intentional about sending affirmation and positive energy despite their concerns.
PI: Can you tell us about some of the people and places the Mobile Homecoming Project has visited?
AJ: So many! We have been to over 25 cities and towns with our nosy questions and our spirit of adventure. One memorable visit was to Ms. Vera in Apache Junction Arizona. Ms. Vera is 88 and one of the founders of Old Lesbians Organizing for Change and she lives in an all lesbian modular home/RV park where the streets are all named after women and you have to be 55 or better (as they say) to even stay overnight! (We had to camp 45 miles away.) Ms. Vera cracks herself up and speaks her brilliant political mind with every sentence. It was definitely worth driving through a scary national park filled with Elk to meet her!
In Austin, TX we were so thrilled when Matt Richardson told us about the amazing performance troupe he was a part of decades ago. It was especially inspiring because Julia just initiated a Boi Band in Atlanta. The sexiness lives on generation after generation!
When we went to San Francisco we got to spend time with one of our favorite writers Jewelle Gomez who told us about the amazing play Waiting4Giovanni that she just wrote about James Baldwin and about being mentored by Audre Lorde and about when she and Cheryl Clarke interviewed their elder Mabel Hampton, a great precedent for what we are doing right now!
The best things have been getting to instigate events with groups of people like the “Everyday Brilliance” event we did at the Stone House in Mebane, NC and the “Where Have You Been All My Life” events we have done in Georgia, Florida, New York and North Carolina, and the “Queer Black Sunday School Event” we did at the South Dallas Cultural Center! It has truly been “a spiritual journey full of lust and discovery” – to quote the website.
PI: How do you come to an agreement regarding which stories to cover?
AJ: There is so much brilliance in our community we feel like we are just at the tip of the iceberg. And the more we learn the more we realize is out there. Our amazingness as a community is so abundant that it would take lifetimes just to point towards it. So we are happy to be inspiring many people in our community to take up the task of listening to each other and sharing their own stories.
We are aligned and often times go where there the opportunity presents itself and it works for our schedule.
PI: If I were interested in participating in the Mobile Homecoming Project what should I do?
AJ: The best way to reach us is to email us at email@example.com. If you visit our website and click on the donate page there are a number of ways to show support.
PI: Have you considered selling the final product to a television network such as Logo or HERE-TV? Why or why not?
AJ: We certainly want to share the documentary it by every means possible. So, we look forward to festival screenings, living room screenings, projecting it on the side of a building and opportunities to license the film to public and non-public media outlets in ways that maintain our prioritized accountability to our community and elders in particular.
PI: Is this an ongoing project or do you have goal to complete a certain number of stories?
AJ: Since we see it as building family it is definitely a life long journey. We imagine ourselves and our children in the RV visiting folks for birthdays, celebrations and Kwanzaa celebrations around the country in the future. These relationships are unbreakable! We are excited about how our family and family ties will grow and strengthen as we and others continue this work. However the feature length film will cover the first two years of this process of family-making and community building. It’s hard to believe that we are already half-way to that benchmark.
PI: Are there any plans to make the final product available for purchase? If so, when?
AJ: Yes! We intend to make the archive available to the public by collaborating with accessible libraries, archives, institutions and online venues. The Mobile Homecoming documentary will also be for sale. We have not devised a specific plan for distribution but it will certainly be clear on our website www.mobilehomecoming.org Stay tuned! We will be moving to post-production in 2012!
Also our project is completely supported by the love of our community! We have received hundreds of individual donations and are proud to be the first recipient of a grant from the Kitchen Table Giving Circle which is created by lesbians of color! If you would like to become a supporter please check out our donation page at: www.mobilehomecoming.org/?page_id=22