Alexis De Veaux

Black Women Writers at Work edited by Claudia Tate

I am happy to see that “Black Women Writers at Work” has now been republished by Haymarket Books.

The original publication – 1983

“Black women writers and critics are acting on the old adage that one must speak for oneself if one wishes to be heard.” —Claudia Tate, from the introduction

Long out of print, Black Women Writers at Work is a vital contribution to Black literature in the 20th century. 
Through candid interviews with Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alexis De Veaux, Nikki Giovanni, Kristin Hunter, Gayl Jones, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, Ntozake Shange, Alice Walker, Margaret Walker, and Sherley Anne Williams, the book highlights the practices and critical linkages between the work and lived experiences of Black women writers whose work laid the foundation for many who have come after.

Responding to questions about why and for whom they write, and how they perceive their responsibility to their work, to others, and to society, the featured playwrights, poets, novelists, and essayists provide a window into the connections between their lives and their art.

Finally available for a new generation, this classic work has an urgent message for readers and writers today.

“When this classic collection was published in 1984, the writers Claudia Tate interviewed were engaged in the creative work that produced new Black feminist terrains. Today Black Women Writers at Work serves as a much-needed reminder that the imagination always blazes trails that lead us toward more habitable futures.”
—Angela Y. Davis, author of Freedom is a Constant Struggle

”This is a gorgeous and essential collection of writings from a group of the most important Black women writers. I have turned to repeatedly over the past thirty years and I’m thrilled that Haymarket has republished it for another generation to treasure.”
—Imani Perry, author of Looking for Lorraine

”[A] rare, rich source books for writers, readers, teachers, students—all who care about literature and the creation of it… This collection transcends its genre. It becomes a harbinger book, a book of revelation, of haunting challenge, opening on to central concerns not only of writing, but of life, of living, today.” 
—Tillie Olson, from the Foreword
“Tate’s probing, provocative and insightful questions set a new standard for the interview as a genre.”
—Valerie Smith, Princeton University

Global Queer Read-In

Global Queer Read-In: June 2020

“On June 25th, 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown, Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri, actor Alfre Woodard, playwright Charles Busch, writer/poet Alexis De Veaux, singer/songwriter Sophie B. Hawkins join a list of over 30 LGBTQI writers, playwrights, activists and artists joined us on camera reading passages from their favorite and influential works of queer literature and poetry for the first marathon”

“THE LOSTFOUND: Catastrophe and Memory in Paper Works by Valerie Maynard”

Memory and the Archive 1619-2019 Past/Present/ Future was the theme for the 2019 Black Portraiture event held at New York University.

The Afterlife of Slavery: Visual, Textual, Sonic Arts and Archives of Catastrophic Memory featured presentations by Alexis De Veaux, University of Buffalo, Professor Emerita and Independent Scholar, Cheryl Clarke, Poet and Jenna Wortham, The New York Times Magazine

Dr De Veaux, Jenna Wortham, Dr Cheryl Clarke ©Sokari Ekine, 2019

The panel, “‘The Afterlife of Slavery:’ Visual, Textual, Sonic Arts and Archives of Catastrophic Memory” is set against the backdrop of Saidiya Hartman’s articulation of “the afterlife of slavery” as the enduring calculus imperiling present-day black life. This focus is nourished by Kara Walker’s visual and sonic reading of domestic slavery in the United States as indicative of “a Catastrophe for millions.” Thus the panel forwards critical discussions of visual, textual, and sonic works by black artists engaged, across time, with the practice of re-rendering and re-imagining the impact of transatlantic enslavement as a catastrophic archive of persistent black memory. 

Alexis De Veaux, Professor Emerita/ Independent Scholar will offer a critical reading of visual artist Valerie Maynard’s “un-named” spectral series of visual renderings of the Middle Passage as a “lost” archive of both catastrophic memory and catastrophic belonging, ‘Lost Found: Catastrophe and Memory in the Work of Valerie Maynard’. This paper offers a critical reading of the iconic visual artist Valerie Maynard’s “un-named” spectral series of visual renderings of the Middle Passage as a “lost” archive of both catastrophic memory and catastrophic belonging.  

In “One,” the artist draws our attention to a barrier, a gate like structure, that symbolizes this ancestral enslavement. And she draws attention to three figures foregrounded against it. With them, she informs our memory of what enslavement did. Enslavement turned captured Africans, humans, into hybrid creatures. It denied and brutalized their humanity, without question. It deformed and dismembered them. Maynard narrates this hybridity, framed by abject brutalization, in two small figures, especially. 

Cheryl Clarke will explore the poetry of Natasha Tretheway as Tretheway’s work memorializes slavery by historicizing its “everlasting” effects on black culture and subjectivity. “there to here” Natasha Tretheway’s poem, “Theories of Time and Space,” from her celebrated Native Guard (2006), exposes the poet’s approach to poeticizing historical portraits and paintings (ekphrastic) of black people, specifically mixed race black women, in captivity or various forms of oppressive servitude, including prostitution. In Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002) and Thrall (2012), Tretheway’s getting from “here” (author stance) to “there” (subject/ “Participant”) is historical and personal distance, i.e.; it is the interstices of space, “the space of space.”  The cover art of both works utilize reproductions of photographs and “Casta” paintings; and images of prostitutes, metstizos, and mulattoes, pose themselves (and us) for her narrative portraiture. Tretheway sees the camera, photography, and portraiture as one of history’s tricks, with its pandering to our willingness to be fooled, its fixing of the past in the present, and its fragility. “This past week I splurged, spent a little of my savings on a Kodak . . . .” (Bellocq’s Ophelia, 28), says the speaker, Ophelia, marking the democratization of the archive. This paper hopes to travel the  poet’s distance from “there to here” in the space of slavery’s afterlife.

Jenna Wortham will make a case for examining the processes inherent to black archives primarily as opportunities to resist the ephemerality of social media and digital transactions, in order to preserve and create a blueprint for engaging the black “present” in a “future” situated in the black “past.”

2019 Keynote Address : Dr Paul G Bulgar Lecture Series, and Buffalo State’s Anne Frank Project

Author and activist Dr. Alexis DeVeaux speaking during the Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival at SUNY Buffalo State.

AFP 2019: Engage for Change, Buffalo State College’s 11th annual Anne Frank Project social justice festival, was held this week, featuring author and activist Alexis De Veaux, distinguished speaker in the Buffalo State College Paul G. Bulger Lecture Series, who kicked off the event Tuesday evening.

Dr De Veaux’s keynote “What IF: Imagination as Engaged Action” was received with a standing ovation from a full auditorium of students, faculty and guests.

“What if “race” and racism as human life has constructed them, were done away with? Imagined out of existence? What if we could agree tonight, right here, right now, without need to argue the point, that racism and white supremacy are, as Toni Morrison suggested, indicative of “a profound neurosis.” What if we had a way to imagine our intraspecies health. What if we dispensed with the notion of ourselves as “allies” to social movements, and became accomplices. Became risking something rather than sidelines. “

Author and activist Dr. Alexis DeVeaux speaking during the Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival at SUNY Buffalo State.

Dr Eric Darnell Pritchard of the University at Buffalo, New York State, attended the event and commented:

Dr Alexis De Veaux’s lecture “What If: Imagination as Engaged Action” was incredible! She was introduced by Katherine S. Conway Turner, the President of Buffalo State, SUNY, who is herself a dynamic scholar, teacher, and administrator. Here are some of the gems: “Imagination is the bloodstream to the vernaculars of freedom and love.” “Life is not about what I cannot do, but about what I want to do.” — “The opposite of poverty is justice.” —“Freedom and love are doing words. They are “We” forming and “We” sustaining.” — “Every movement for change started in someone’s imagination” — Citing @alexispauline’s #MArchive “Freedom is not a secret, it’s a practice.” — She also shared some of the wisdom from the Revival we participated in last weekend in Durham in celebration of our dear and beloved @sangodarejroxwallace. — I am so grateful for Alexis De Veaux and all my queer Black Feminist elders. For her queer Black Feminist brilliance. For her activism and art. For her queer Black Feminist elder-ing. For her legacy here in Buffalo and everywhere she calls home as a “multi-local” person. For the wisdom she shares with all. What a gift and an example of fortitude in the work of the possible!

On Wednesday 2nd October, Dr De Veaux facilitated a workshop “Activate Peace” which was again a full house with mainly students, and some faculty and administrative staff attending.

Author and activist Dr. Alexis DeVeaux conducting workshop during the Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival at SUNY Buffalo State.

Author and activist Dr. Alexis DeVeaux conducting workshop during the Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival at SUNY Buffalo State.

Author and activist Dr. Alexis DeVeaux conducting workshop during the Anne Frank Project Social Justice Festival at SUNY Buffalo State.