Below you  will find an example of Gumbo YaYa taking their process to a larger audience.  We call these art actions becuase they are a way we use art to make statements about the community we live in.

Take a look, and leave a comment.

ebony is free

ebony is free



Tuesday February 26, 2008

12:30 pm

Tisch School of the Arts, front Lobby

Today Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group and GumboYaYa/ or This is Why We Speak in Tongues took Art to the people in our first body installation-Black Women’s Deaths Are not Newsworthy.


As we have been matriculating as graduate students, we have noticed to overt invisibility of black women at NYU. We have discussed this in our sista circles, over long dinners, at conferences, over phone calls, etc. We have talked about what a safe space looks like for black women students/scholars, activists, artists and black women in general. We have been silenced within and outside of this institution as well as other “liminal” spaces. Our voices have been challenged. We have been underfunded, underadvised, we have been ignored.

In one of our recent sista circle sessions, we decided to activate our training as scholars, activists, and guerilla artists to create dialogue about the “silence of violence” surrounding black women at NYU and abroad.

We give thanks to the women who have come before us in order to make this work speak to our “lived experiences”. We give thanks to the spirits who guide our paths and enliven our souls.

This body installation was inspired by Audre Lorde. We read Need a Chorale of Black Women’s Voices and Asha Bandele’s Everybody Need a Cool Breath Sometime in one of our sista sessions and decided to create a work that explores silence, death, need/lack, invisibility/visibility, security, subversion and much more!

Here is a pdf link to Audre Lorde’s Need. Expect a pdf of Asha Bandele’s poem soon.


Before this picture was taken, I passed out on the floor on the first floor of Tisch School of the Arts. There was no warning or preparation, I just passed out. After a moment, one black male security guard and a theatre professor approaced me and asked me if I was ok. After I regained consciousness, I responded “No I am Not ok” and let me tell you why. I then began to tell the professor, by then the black male security guard left, why I wasn’t ok. I told him that I needed help. I told him that I needed spiritual help, help within this society, with in this institution. I asked him if he could help me. He asked me if this was a demonstration and I said yes. I am demonstrating how we need help. Will you help me? He walked a way.


photo credit: mychael g. chinn

The main focus was to get me off the floor. The next “security guard”, a puerto rican fellow was not interested in helping me either. I asked him to help me as well. he responded, “how can i help you?” i told him he could dance with me, write a poem with me, sing with me, listen to me. he said he could not, but kept asking me how he could help. i kept to my script but nothing, no help from him either. Eventually, he became upset and frustrated. another participant will talk about this in a future post.

break: this installation is about how security is possibly a fallacy for black women. this installation is about what it takes for us to be visible. none of these people attempt to help me on the daily basis. i had to pass out on the floor to get some attention. but really the intention behind this “help” was to get me to vanish again. this help was to make sure they/ the institution could not be implicated in any way in my “passing out”. this help was an attempt to again silence me, situate me in my liminal space, and get me to quite literally shut up.

thoughts on subversion of time and space- so i am convinced that our biggest asset/resource is time. time. time. time.time. time. time. time. time. time. time. time. so a major focus for me, at least, is how to get some more time to attend to my black woman self. time is of the essence. time is essence. much of our experiences as beings in this realm are relegated and framed by time. so. i am meditating on recouping and circumventing institutional time though the gumbo yaya process.

After the puerto rican “security” officer decided he had enuf of me the chief of security approached me. He asked me if i was ok, to which the puerto rican officer whispered something about “bullshit”.


photo credit: mychael g. chinn

so. the chief of security approached me and asked me if i was ok. i told him i was not ok and i needed help. he asked me what kind of help i needed and i told him that i needed spiritual help, help within this society, within this institution, i need many things. the issue is….i have (black women have) clearly expressed what we need. but who is listening? this is the serious question. who is listening? who is listening? who is listening? are black women listening to each other? i know i have written poems to express my need. i have danced to express my need. i have sang to express my need. i have. and we as sistas of gumboyaya have expressed our need. but who is really willing to listen with the possibility of action in their hearts? with my healing, spirit, creativity, and wholeness as a main focus? i really need to know this.


photo credit: mychael g. chinn

after much coercion, i was able to get the chief of security, a white male, to write a list poem with me! he wrote numbers 1, 3 and 5. I wrote 2, 4, 6.

untitled:/ What I Need as a black woman in this society

1. treated with respect

2. put an end to racist stereotypes

3. providing equal employment

4. more dance

5. improve socio-economic status in general

6. the world to take more time to listen

by ebony and the chief of security


photo credit: e. n. golden

so soon after we finished two white women from the wellness center walked up to asess my mental stability. they asked me if we could talk. they said we needed a quiet place to talk.

break:  here is where i broke character. i told them i was a graduate student working on black women’s performance methodology. i let them know this was a body installation to create dialogue about violence practiced on black women. i let them know that this was highly choreographed and successful. i let them know that it is unfortunate that i had to “pass out” in order to get some help. i let them know that i am actually quiet sane, eventhough i feel the fatigue my sistas experience on a cellular level.

after that they still were not convinced of my mental health because the “security” told them I WAS VOMITTING AND CONVULSING ON THE FLOOR which of course was untrue.


photo credit: mychael g. chinn


i am not a project

i am not a problem

i am not an issue

i am not the other

i am not other

i am not endangered

i am not a month

i am not an installation

i am not a statistic

i am not a hole

i am not an issue

i am not a mouth

i am not unworthy

i am not a phase

i am not a second choice

i am not a new story

i am not a rag doll

i am not suspended time

break:  this breath is for myself  gumboyaya practices this multivocal space where black women live and flourish.  in the instant i passed out  and layed there on the floor  i knew it was a possibility no one would help me.  i knew that some would be unaffected, or affected to a point of ambivalence. 

we are worthy of news we are worthy of news we are worthy of news     extra extra    read all about us!