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"Words Walking Without Masters":
Conversations on the Creative-Theoretical

The creative-theoretical is a diasporic conversation, one that has been carried across Black intellectual thought for generations. Join us for a hybrid symposium on the creative-theoretical on April 21–22, 2022 at Cornell University's Ithaca campus.



We are a group of graduate students at Cornell University who decided to activate the creative-theoretical framework and to advance it as a critical area of creative intellectual praxis. In this regard, we recognize the creative-theoretical as both the subject of Black women’s living and the methodology they enact to assert the fullness of their humanity. The creative-theoretical refuses the assertion that theory isn’t generative and that creative work isn’t critical. It is a diasporic conversation, one that has been carried across Black feminist thought for generations. It is a reading across space and time, and an inherent recognition that our prevailing methods of knowing are insufficient for approaching the depths of Black being.


Honoring Barbara Smith!

Barbara Smith is a lesbian feminist and socialist who has played a significant role in building and sustaining Black Feminism in the United States. Since the early 1970s she has been active as a critic, teacher, lecturer, author, scholar, and publisher of Black feminist thought. Smith is one of the founding members of the Combahee River Collective and the Kitchen Table Women of Color Press. Her essays, reviews, articles, short stories and literary criticism have appeared in a range of publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Ms., Gay Community News, The Guardian, The Village Voice, Conditions and The Nation. Barbara has a twin sister, Beverly Smith, who is also a lesbian feminist activist and writer.

"Words Walking Without Masters"/The Creative-Theoretical Symposium honors Barbara Smith for her life-long commitment to creative-theoretical and activist praxis


Symposium Schedule

Day 1 | April 21

10:00-10:15 AM           Welcome Remarks

10:15-10:30 AM           Ceremonial Opening

10:30-11:15 AM            Honoring Barbara Smith
                                       Carole Boyce Davies, Barbara Smith, Shacoya Kidwell, and Jehan L. Roberson

11:15 AM-12:15 PM       Featured Creative-Theorist | Alexis Pauline Gumbs   

12:15-1:00 PM              Lunch Break

1:00-2:00 PM              PANEL | Words Walking Without Masters: Liberatory Potential of the Creative-Theoretical 
                                       Carole Boyce Davies, Thomas Glave, Minna Salami, and Mukoma Thiong'o and Ngũgĩ wa                                                 Thiong'o (asynchronous)

2:00-2:20 PM              PORCH PROVOCATION | India Sada

2:20-3:20 PM              PANEL | Poetry is Not a Luxury: Necessary Lyricism
                                       Fred Moten, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Moderator: Carole Boyce Davies 

3:20-3:40 PM              PORCH PROVOCATION | Mackenzie Berry

3:40-4:40 PM              PANEL | Words Made Flesh: Black Textualities and Being 
                                        Opal Palmer Adisa, Jafari Allen, Donna Aza Weir, Amaris Brown, Moderator: Taylor Pryor
4:40-5:00 PM              PORCH PROVOCATION | Mariah Thompson 

5:00-6:00 PM              Creative-Theoretical Methodologies (Pt. I) 
                                        La Marr Jurelle Bruce, Marcia Douglas, Christopher Smith, Moderator: Meredith Gadsby

Day 2 | April 22

9:00-9:15 AM                Welcome Remarks

9:15-9:30 AM                 PORCH PROVOCATION | Esther Kondo Heller

9:30-10:30 AM              Featured Creative-Theorist | Edwidge Danticat + Marsha Jean-Charles

10:30-11:00 AM             Kitchen Table Report Back    

11:00 AM-12:00 PM      Lunch Break

12:00-1:00 PM              PANEL | We Move Between Worlds: Black Feminist Geographies
                                         Renee Gladman, Nathan Moore, Patricia Powell, Moderator: Karina Beras

1:20-2:20 PM                PANEL | Science of Word: Rhythms Between Nature and Narrative 
                                         Anaïs Duplan, Katherine McKittrick & Kendall Witaszek, Kameelah Janan Rasheed,
                                        Moderator: Lisa Camp

2:20-2:40 PM               PORCH PROVOCATION | Alyiah Gonzales and Chanté Morris

2:40-3:40 PM               PANEL | Undercommons: Institutional Intentionality and Creative-Theorizing 
                                         Gerard Aching, Jasmine Jay, and Jehan Roberson--Voices on the Underground                                                     Railroad; Shacoya Kidwell and Jessica Rodríguez--The Rememory Library

3:40-4:00 PM               PORCH PROVOCATION | Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire

4:00-5:00 PM               PANEL | Creative-Theoretical Methodologies (Pt. II)
                                         Riché Richardson, La'Kayla Williams, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (asynchronous), Eudes
                                         Lopes, Moderator: Keshia Abraham 

5:00-5:15 PM                 Closing Remarks

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a Queer Black Troublemaker and Black Feminist Love Evangelist and an aspirational cousin to all sentient beings. Her work in this lifetime is to facilitate infinite, unstoppable ancestral love in practice. Alexis is author of multiple texts, including the triptych of experimental works published by Duke University Press: Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity (2016), M Archive: After the End of the World (2018) and Dub: Finding Ceremony (2020). Alexis is also co-editor of the volume Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines (PM Press, 2016). Unlike most academic texts, Alexis’s work has inspired artists across form to create dance works, installation work, paintings, processionals, divination practices, operas, quilts and more.
©Sufia Ikbal Doucet



Barbara Smith


Edwidge Danticat

Katherine McKittrick &
Kendall Witaszek

Minna Salami

Ngugi waThiongo

Renee Gladman

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan

Carole Boyce Davies

Nathan Alexander Moore

Fred Moten

La Marr Jurelle Bruce

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Marcia Douglas

Kameelah Janan Rasheed

Jafari Allen

Patricia Powell

Eudes Lopes

La'Kayla Williams

Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Anaïs Duplan

Thomas Glave

Keshia Abraham

Donna Aza Weir

Riché Richardson

Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Opal Palmer Adisa

Meredith Gadsby

"a symposium that is clearly bound to become a watershed in literary creative-theoretical bridge-building"

Mĩcere Gĩthae Mũgo, PhD


1. Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God 

2. Audre Lorde, "Poetry is Not a Luxury"

3. Alexis Pauline Gumbs, "We Move Between Worlds"

4. Toni Cade Bambara, "Words Made Flesh"

5. Sylvia Wynter, "The Science of the Word"

6. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, "The Undercommons"

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