black feminist thought
on call-and-response

“the widespread use of the call-and-response discourse mode among African-American illustrates the importance placed on dialogue. Composed of spontaneous verbal and nonverbal interaction between speaker and listener in which all of the speaker’s statements, or “calls,” are punctuated by expressions, or “responses,” from the listener, this Black discourse mode pervades African American culture. The fundamental requirement of this interactive network is active participation of all individuals. For ideas to be tested and validated, everyone in the group must participate”
Patricia Hill Collins – Black Feminist Thought

In music, a call and response is a musical pattern, or structure, in which two distinct phrases follow on from each other, the first a call, often made by the lead singer, the second a response from a wider congregation. This pattern permeates through black music. Rock and roll, trap, dancehall… hip-hop, gospel, reggae… etc etc
Call and response is communication. Between artist and crowd, individual and community.

Ranking Ann – Kill the Police Bill

Ranking Ann performed predominately as a DJ with London’s Black Rock soundsystem in the 80s. In ‘Kill the Police Bill’, a studio recording, Ranking Ann tells of the demeaning Police stop and search practices that were bolstered by the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Amongst many other disgusting measures, this bill permitted vaginal and anal searches which could take place solely on the basis of suspicion and without a warrant.
Ann calls for the destruction of the racist act throughout the song. Amongst her verses that reveal the deeply personal problems at play, Ann reiterates the phrase “Kill, kill, the police bill”. By the end of the song sirens race through the air, and the only word that remains is the repeated phrase “kill”. Listening, you can image the furious communal response  

Kill kill
            the police bill

So, the response of the community transforms individual problems into community level issues. Collins positions this communication as an organising principal for Afrocentric-feminist-epistemology. Black feminist thought is active, it is boundless and it travels with a beat.


                          exhale communally

Alexis Pauline Gumbs – M Archive p7
they thought escaping the dark feminine was the only way to earn breathing room in this life. they were wrong.
you can have breathing and the reality of the radical black porous- ness of love (aka black feminist metaphysics aka us all of us, us) or you cannot. there is only both or neither. there is no either or. there is no this or that. there is only all.

This porousness is my response. For me, black feminist thought calls for openness, and fluidity, to allow others in, to break down my individual understanding of the world and to breath with the whole. In relation to my work this means a radical re-centering of myself in the social whole.
In talks with Harvi, my response found some kind of actualisation. We spoke about artistic ownership and the individual’s relation to the whole: present, past and future. About how when we create, although the production comes from the individual, we are holding arms with the past and present, and must (and naturally do) acknowledge and reflect this. For Alexis Pauline gumbs to understand black feminist thought is to engage and to engage is to live beyond one lifetime, beyond one body…

bell hooks


[left uncapitalized despite autocorrects attempt]

the Lorde of their understanding had taught them. this work began before I was born and it will continue . . .
the university taught them through its selective genocide. one body. the unitary body. one body was not a sustainable unit for the project at hand. the project itself being black feminist metaphysics. which is to say, breathing
Alexis Pauline Gumbs p.6

Ranking Ann – Kill the Police Bill
Ranking Ann – Liberated Woman
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey – Trust no man
Georgia Anne Muldrow Keep it Real
Jean Binta Breeze – Aid Travels with a Bomb
noname - Blaxploitation
Jean Grae - OHSH
Little Simz - Venom
Quay Dash – Wilin’