‘Creation Is Everything You Do’: Ntozake Shange, The Sisterhood, and Black Collectivity

Monday, February 10, 2020  6:30pm Barnard Hall, James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY


Free and open to the public

First come, first seated


Barnard Center for Research on Women

The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities

‘Creation Is Everything You Do’: Ntozake Shange, The Sisterhood, and Black Collectivity

with Patricia Spears Jones, Kimberly Springer, Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, and Courtney Thorsson

In the 1970s, Black women writers began gathering in Brooklyn and Manhattan, forming themselves into a group who came to be informally known as The Sisterhood. Uplifting each others’ lives and honing their craft, they were central to an explosion of 1970s and 1980s literature that included for colored girls who have considered a suicide when the rainbow is enuf. Today, the photo of these literary legends enjoying each other’s style and presence is iconic. 

Join our invited writers for a discussion of Shange’s place in this and other collectives. Where does literary organizing fit into histories of Black feminist activism? What lessons can these earlier groups offer young women today about organizing and cultivating artistic communities? And how can they claim space for radical voices?

This event is co-sponsored by the #ShangeMagic project and BCRW. For more information, email [email protected].


This event is free, open to the public, and mobility accessible. RSVP is preferred, not required. Seating is available on a first-come, first-seated basis.

About the speakers

Patricia Spears Jones is a poet and winner of the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets and Writers. She is author of A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems which was a Finalist for the PSA’s William Carlos Williams Prize and the Patterson Poetry Prize and featured a Pushcart Prize winning poem. She has 10 additional publications: poetry books, chapbooks and works in anthologies such as Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin; Truth to Power: Writers Respond to The Rhetoric of Hate and Fear; and Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She is a Black Earth Institute senior fellow emeritus and organizer of American Poets Congress.  

Kimberly Springer is Curator for Oral History for the Oral History Archives at Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library and Adjunct Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College. Her research and publication areas are digital culture, archives, social movements, and cultural studies. Dr. Springer’s publications include Living for the Revolution, Black Feminist Organizations, 1968-1980,  Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African-American Women’s Contemporary Activism, Stories of Oprah: the Oprahfication of American Culture and articles in several journals and edited volumes.

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan is an Assistant Professor of English at Bryn Mawr College, where she teaches courses in African American poetry and poetics, black feminist literature, and creative writing. She is the author of the short story collection, Blue Talk and Love, winner of the Judith Markowitz Award from Lambda Literary. Her fiction explores the intellectual, emotional, and bodily lives of young black women through voice, music, and hip-hop inflected magical realist techniques. Her forthcoming scholarly book, The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in the African Diaspora, explores the politics of experiment in black queer and feminist literary cultures.

Courtney Thorsson is an associate professor in the English Department at the University of Oregon, where she teaches, studies, and writes about African American literature. Her first book, Women’s Work: Nationalism and Contemporary African American Women’s Novels (Virginia 2013) argues that Toni Cade Bambara, Paule Marshall, Gloria Naylor, Ntozake Shange, and Toni Morrison reclaim and revise cultural nationalism in their novels of the 1980s and 90s.


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