Rise Up: An Activist Conversation


February 8, 2017 
(4pm – 6pm, Fraser Hall 201).

A joint event of the Justice Speaks and Western Reads series,
this event will explore the contours of intergenerational movement-building and its relationship to art and protest. We are excited to welcome Alexis De Veaux, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, and the creators of Free Black Dirt, Erin Sharkey and Junauda Petrus. Centering the work of these four writer-artist-activists who bring together their brilliant visions on Black feminism, art, and literature with their commitment to a global vision of justice, this event creates the space to explore questions of intergenerational activism, art, anti-racism, sexuality, and politics in an exciting format. Rather than a traditional keynote, this event will follow an “in conversation” model, meant to give the speakers a chance to explore together the contours of their thinking.  Co-Sponsored by: Programs in Education and Social Justice and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; Social Issues Resource Center; Woodring College of Education; Departments of English, History, Theater and Dance, Health and Community Studies, Art and Art History; Offices of the President, Provost, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity, Academic First-Year Programs, and Dean of CHSS; Campus Equity and Inclusion Forum; Center for Service Learning; and the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.



Alexis De Veaux is an award-winning multi-genre writer, speaker, and activist. She was born and raised in Harlem, the second of eight children, and heavily impacted by the social movements of the 60s. The inequities of race, gender, sexuality and class are central to her work. Her recent novel, Yabo, won the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website.




Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a teacher, writer, and activist. She is quoted on her blog biography to be a “queer black troublemaker, a black feminist love evangelist and a prayer poet priestess. Alexis has a PhD in English, African and African-American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies from Duke University. She was the first scholar to research the Audre Lorde Papers at Spelman College, the June Jordan Papers at Harvard University, and the Lucille Clifton Papers at Emory University during her dissertation research”. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website.



Erin Sharkey is a poet, essayist, educator and graphic designer based in Minneapolis. She is the co-founder of an artist collective called Free Black Dirt and serves as the co-host for Black Market Reads, a weekly podcast about literature and black cultural production. Erin was a 2015 Givens Writing Fellow and is currently a Givens Foundation cultural producer-in-residence and Coffee House Press in the Stacks artist-in-residence at the Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature at the University of MN and also is a consultant with Umbra: Search African American History. Visit the Free Black Dirt website.



Junauda Petrus is a creative activist, writer, playwright, and multi-dimensional performance artist who is Minneapolis-born, West-Indian descended, and African-sourced. Her work centers around Black wildness, Afro-futurism, ancestral healing, sweetness, spectacle and shimmer. She has received a Givens Foundation fellowship, Jerome Travel and Study grant, Many Voices Mentorship with the Playwright’s Center,  Naked Stages Residency at the Pillsbury House and a 2016 Jerome Film grant to write and direct an experimental and poetic web series about Black teens coming of age in Minneapolis, Sweetness of Wild, with filmmaker Mychal Fisher. She is the co-founder with Erin Sharkey of Free Black Dirt, an experimental arts production company. Visit the Free Black Dirt website.