Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues:

Healing and Creative Expression

By Ebony Noelle Golden, MFA, MA


Ayanna Williams leads us in meditative movement to honor Yemonya~~

Ayanna Williams leads us in meditative movement to honor Yemonya~~



Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues is an artistic and spiritual work conceived by Ebony Noelle Golden, creative director of betty’s daughter arts collaborative, members of the Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group at New York University, and women in Durham, NC. Gumbo Yaya seeks to highlight black women’s cultural production in relationship to community, self, legacy, spirituality and womanism.

Gumbo YaYa is a process that did not begin with me.  The process has many origins.  It began when my ancestors were born.  It begins every time another baby girl is birthed.  It began the first time I recognized the power of blood.  It begins every time a group of African women share space.  It begins where is quilting, and poetry and pain and laughter and honesty are unearthed. 

It began in DeBerry, TX, Fort Worth, TX, Shreveport, LA, Houston, TX, Durham, NC, New York, and beyond.  I began as an extension of the cultural and political activism that happened in the wake of the Duke Lacrosse scandal in Durham, NC.  As Durham and surrounding communities came together to organize around violence against African women we recognized the need for more safe space where African women can process in a way that fits in our mouth, on our bodies, and in our palms.

When I moved to NYC I decided to spend a year meditating on how African women’s ritual processes inform creative and holistic healing practices.  I undertook this journey with women scholars and activists in New York City, Durham, NC, Atlanta, Georgia, and Houston, TX.



Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues draws on the rich legacy of Womanism as articulated by Chikwenye Okonjo Ogun-yemi and Alice Walker among others. Additionally, this process shapes and defines the practice of womanism as it performed presently by younger generations of black women. By galvanizing the energy of our fore mothers, we intend to “make something new” as it is suggested through the artistic production and scholarship of Anna Deavere Smith.

The Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group was created by Ebony Noelle Golden, Ayanna Williams, Geneva Thomas, and Joi M. Sears during their graduate studies in the Department of Performance Studies and Gallatin respectively. The Work Group has created and connected to a network of Black women scholar-activist-artists who are serious about womanist performance methodology and black feminist social theory.

Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues has performed at the Tuesday Night Forum Series at NYU in March (08), the -ISM Gala at NYU in April (08) and the Master’s Symposium in Performance Studies in May (08).    

Gumbo YaYa is currently in its second cycle in Durham, North Carolina.  We are generously sponsored by SpiritHouse-NCHealing with CAARE,  and the North Carolina Humanities Council for a 12-week process that will culminate in a multimedia performance and teach-in.  As the journey continues, I appreciate your prayers, creative offerings, and donations to keep Gumbo Yaya floating easy.