Digital Sisterhood Leadership Project Profile – Alexis Pauline Gumbs


Photo Credit: Sed Miles – photo provided by Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Meet Digital Sisterhood Leader Alexis Pauline Gumbs, a queer Black feminist troublemaker from Durham, North Carolina. Alexis Pauline established the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind educational program and co-created the Mobile Homecoming experiential archive, amplifying generations of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Black brilliance.

The Digital Sisterhood Network wishes Alexis Pauline a very happy belated birthday (June 12)! Enjoy your big 3-0!

1) How can people find you online?

2) Why did you start using social media?

I started using social media back in the days of Black Planet, but someone else created my account and my name. I think I got to college at just the moment when people decided it was easier to chat on instant messenger than to walk down the hall.  I really amped up my digital media use when I started working with UBUNTU, a women of color survivor led coalition to end gendered violence, and realized that the skills we were building and especially the publications and curricula we were creating could be useful to folks everywhere.

3) What has social media allowed you to do in your life (personal, professional, business, nonprofit, community)?

New media has infused my life with inspiring relationships across space and the ability to have a global impact. BrokenBeautiful Press and Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind have reached folks from Chennai, India to Nairobi, Kenya. That means it keeps me accountable and inspired in a way that supplements the inspiration I get from my amazing local community. It has also allowed me to leverage financial support from a larger based of like-minded people than I would have access to locally. Social media has also allowed me to be as queer and multiple as I am with input and output from millions of other geniuses.

4) In her 2011 Digital Women: from geeks to mainstream presentation that was given at the WIFT International Women Conference for Digital Women, Dr. Taly Weiss, a social psychologist and CEO/Founder of Trendspotting, concluded that “women are dominant digital users – they breathe and live digital.”  Dr. Weiss’ conclusion echoes BlogHer’s 2011 Social Media Matters Study findings.  They include 87 million women (18 to 76 years old) are now online, 69 million women use social media weekly, 80 million women use social media monthly, and 55 million women read blogs monthly. These facts illustrate the power and presence women have in the digital space. Now that’s Digital Sisterhood!

How has social media helped you carve out leadership roles as you interact online and offline?

Social media has definitely made some of the most exciting collaborations in my life possible. Co-creating the SPEAK CD with other radical women of color bloggers is one such experience. I don’t think I would have come to the idea to create a spoken word CD on my own, ever, but as a collective we were able to create something miraculous and bigger than the interrelated work we were each doing. I also think that social media allowed me to find validation at times when many people directly around me may not have been thinking about the same issues.  And don’t get me started on how many Google documents I’ve used in my collaborative editing, writing, dreaming, and organizing processes with other folks.

5) Social media has helped women become Digital Sisterhood Leaders, ambassadors of social expression who share what they are passionate about online.  In her upcoming book, Digital Sisterhood: Fierce Living Online for 25 Years (Fall 2012), Ananda Leeke, founder of the Digital Sisterhood Network, writes, “Without even knowing it, women have become Digital Sisterhood Leaders as they use their social media platforms to advocate causes; to build communities; to create apps, art, books, businesses, products, publications, services, tools, and webisodes; to curate content; to educate and inform; to give voice to their thoughts as subject matter experts, thought leaders, and brand ambassadors; to share information and experiences; to explore and experiment with new technologies as early adopters and trendsetters; to engage in social good; to influence others with their lifestyles and personal interests; to inspire and motivate; to mentor; to network; to tell their personal stories; and to promote and celebrate the expertise, gifts, and talents of others.  Based on my online and offline interactions, I have identified 12 key leadership roles they play: advocate, community builder, creator, curator, educator, influencer, mentor, motivator, promoter, social do gooder, storyteller, and thought leader.”

What other types of leadership roles do women play in social media?

Sounds like you’ve got ’em.  12 is a good number to stick with!

6) What types of leadership roles do you play in social media?

I think (like the zodiac) all 12 of the roles you mentioned describe some of the work that I do. I think different social media outlets that I have serve these different purposes. I channel my energy in each of these ways on different days. I see it as my specific responsibility to demonstrate a joyful, love-filled dynamic Black feminist ethic of transformation in action via social media. That’s what I’m advocating. That’s the community I’m building. Those are the spaces I’m curating and influencing. And the stories I’m telling etc. etc. etc.

7) What lessons have you learned as a leader in the digital space?

I’ve learned that relationships are the most important resource for making miracles happen.

8) Do you have plans to expand your leadership roles in the digital space? If so, what are they?

I definitely want to play more of a creator role, which I think requires learning a lot more about the technical and coding side than I know now. I love all of the languages that I know now and I think learning and analyzing computer languages will be a new source of poetic nerdly joy!

9) Who are your favorite social media women leaders and why?

A lot of them are on this list. There are actually too many to name…  Renina Jarmon, Moya Bailey, Sydette Harry, Mamita Mala, Firefly, Reina Gossett Sudy at My Ecdysis, Mai’a Williams at Guerilla Mama Medicine, Summer M. at Black Youth Project, the folks at Feminist Wire, Crunk Feminist Collective, Hermana Resist and Flip Flopping Joy.  I am probably missing some people, but I have so many favorites because these are the people I love to work with all the time, who make me a better person by sharing ideas, laughter, love, support, friendship and the work using our brilliance as women of color to transform this world into a loving accountable joyful place to live!

10) Share three ways women can use social media to define and express their personal leadership brand.

  • Tell people how much you love them in public, often.
  • Lift up the ancestors who have made it possible for you to exist and ensure their existence in the hearts of everyone who you touch.
  • Build deep and powerful friendships with people who share your vision.
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