Afterword: Toni Cade Bambara’s Living Legacy

The Black Woman (new)#BambaraOnTFW Sixty-nine essays, remembrances, love notes, poems, and videos and thirteen days later, my sister co-curator and co-editor, Heidi Renée Lewis and I are closing The Feminist Wire’s online celebration in honor of daughter, mother, sister, writer, organizer, filmmaker, activist, and cultural worker Toni Cade Bambara‘s 75th birthday anniversary year.

#TFWPraisesTheLorde Heidi and I started our Bambara journey together at the end of our work on The Feminist Wire’s forum in honor of Black Lesbian Feminist Mother Warrior Poet Audre Lorde in March 2014. As Black feminists who are straight and lesbian, Heidi and I can’t help but invoke Audre Lorde’s essay “I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities.”[1] Our work on this forum underscores that we are each other’s sister, regardless of any differences on the apparent level.

Deep sightingsWe are both explicitly clear that our individual work is rooted in the communities from which we come in this lifetime. We strive to be committed to do the challenging work in the trenches with ALL (straight, LGBTQIA, Cis, Trans) of our people in Black communities. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we’re not committed to multi-racial feminisms and by extension, all of humanity, because we are. Similar to Toni Cade Bambara, there isn’t a contradiction in our stance:

I don’t find any contradiction or any tension between being a feminist, being a pan-Africanist, being a [B]lack nationalist, being an internationalist, being a socialist, and being a woman in North America. I’m not sensitive enough to people caught in the “contradiction” to be able to unravel the dilemma and adequately speak to the question at this particular point in time. My head is somewhere else… — Toni Cade Bambara in an interview with Beverly Guy-Sheftall[2]

The Seabirds (new)We know firsthand that it takes an intimate volunteer village to keep The Feminist Wire (TFW) moving. Simultaneously, we uplift our sister, TFW Co-Managing Editor, and Black feminist scholar Tamura A. Lomax, for her shared vision, along with Black feminist literary critic Hortense Spillers, which wo/manifested into The Feminist Wire almost four years ago. We believe that TFW’s Black feminist origins are a part of the continuum of Toni Cade Bambara’s living legacy. To be clear, though, TFW is a multi-racial collective and site that works, struggles, and loves across multiple differences, as our sister and brother, TFW Co-Managing Editors Monica J. Casper and Darnell L. Moore, wrote eloquently about in their “Love in the Time of Racism” essay.

Dr Hubert Ross and Toni Cade Bambara at NBAF, 1988 ©Susan J. Ross

Dr Hubert Ross and Toni Cade Bambara at NBAF, 1988
©Susan J. Ross

Heidi and I are infinitely grateful for the hard work of every single contributor. Without their offerings in the name of Toni Cade Bambara, this forum would not exist. Period. We extend additional gratitude to Susan J. Ross, Sarah and Jane Poindexter, Michael Simmons, Andrea Benton Rushing, Monica F. Walker, and Nikky Finney who gave us permission to use their wonderful Toni Cade Bambara images repeatedly throughout the forum. We are grateful to Spelman College archivist Holly Smith, who helped us secure a gorgeous photograph of Toni and Karma that is featured in Beverly Guy-Sheftall‘s love note. We also deeply thank Royal Sharif, who helped us secure Christopher P. Moore’s wonderful photograph of our sister the late Cheryll Y. Greene. We know that if she were with us in the physical form today, she would’ve contributed to this forum. Her spirit made it explicitly clear that she needed to join the chorus, and she did. Her name was invoked, and her image is featured in both Malaika Adero’s and Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ essays. The same is also true with several of our ancestors whose names were invoked and faces were visible in this forum. Heidi and I both adopted “Cuzzin” Carole Brown who was in our corner every step of the way with her hand written notes and cards. Last, but certainly not least, we also thank Linda Janet Holmes for her unending support of this forum.

Those Bones (new)Where would we be without Deep Sightings and Rescue Missions: Fiction, Essays and Conversations, Those Bones Are Not My Child, the second edition of The Black Woman with a new introduction by Dr. Eleanor Traylor, Savoring The Salt: The Legacy of Toni Cade Bambara, Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara, and A Joyous Revolt: Toni Cade Bambara Writer, Organizer, Activist? How do we begin to thank Toni Morrison, Malaika Adero, Linda Janet Holmes, Cheryl A. Wall, and Thabiti Lewis for their unwavering commitment to ensuring that Toni’s words and living legacy are in print? There are no words to express our gratitude for these lasting treasures. Similarly, we are indebted to all of the filmmakers’ who partnered with Toni on documentary and experimental narrative films. They include but are not limited to: Louis Massiah (The Bombing of Osage Avenue and W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices), John Akomfrah (Seven Songs of Malcom X), Nadine Patterson (Anna Russell Jones: Praisesong for a Pioneering Spirit), Peal Bowser (Midnight Ramble: Oscar Micheaux and the Story of Race Movies), Arlene Wooley and United Hands Community Land Trust (More Than Just Property), and Frances Negron-Muntaner (Brincando el charco: Portrait of a Puerto Rican). We are truly grateful that her voice and image are and will forever be cinematic treasures.

Toni Cade Bambara’s personal papers are housed at the Spelman College Archives and under the direction of Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Spelman College’s Women’s Research and Resource Center manages them. Her papers are in Black feminist sister-warrior company with the papers of Audre Lorde and Spelman’s first Black woman president Johnnetta Betsch Cole.[3]

Heidi and I also want to thank Toni’s daughter Karma Bene Bambara Smith for donating her mother’s papers to the Spelman College Archives, for supporting this forum and most importantly for continuously sharing her mother with so many diverse people across this country and internationally. This is one of the most generous acts that anyone can do. At the end of the day, we’re aware, and we honor the fact that Toni was and will always be her mom.

Heidi R. Lewis and Aishah Shahidah SImmons, NWSA 2014 photograph: Tracy Fisher

Heidi R. Lewis and Aishah Shahidah SImmons, NWSA 2014
photograph: Tracy Fisher

One of many invaluable gifts that I’ve received through my work on both the Lorde and Bambara forums in 2014 was the opportunity to build and work closely with my sister/comrade Heidi Renée Lewis. In fact, because we are conditioned to view work as laborious, I don’t even want to use that word. I wish I could create a new word that would adequately describe the depth of the connection that we’ve built over the past eight months. The emails, texts, Facebook inbox messages, and marathon phone calls have been life-sustaining and affirming. We have been a non-stop tag team embodying Bambara’s definition of the word Sister (or Sista) being both a noun and a verb. We had each other’s back every single step of the way. We were never ever each other’s competition or pawns. We were and we are sister-friends-comrades. Our bond is a gift in the name of the Lorde and the Bambara. We don’t take it lightly.

Gorilla my loveThe ending of this forum is also the continuation of our work at TFW and beyond. Sister-warrior-healer Cara Page shared that Toni Cade Bambara’s organizing work around both the Atlanta Child Murders and the 1985 state sanctioned bombing of a residential African-American neighborhood and the massacre of many members of the MOVE organization and family in Philadelphia were precursors to the current Black Lives Matter movements. Heidi and I wholeheartedly agree.

Past is prologue.

*SAVE THE DATES* From January 15 through January 17, 2015, TFW, in partnership with University of Arizona, will host a Black Life Matters conference in Tucson, AZ. “Scholars, writers, artists, activists, policymakers, and community members will come together in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2015 to discuss WHY Black life matters and WHAT can be done about sustained racialized state violence.” We hope that those of you who are able will join us either in person in Tucson or virtually. For more information, please visit the Black Life Matters website, and connect via the Black Life Matters Facebook page.

One of the greatest afflictions in American society for both the teacher/student and the writer is the affliction of disconnectedness. The separation between the world of academia and the world of knowledge that exists beyond the campus gates, the seeming dichotomy between politics and ethics, the division between politics and art, the division between dead authors and live authors, etc., etc. It is extremely difficult to arrive at the formula for living or for defining what the [B]lack agenda should be, once you fall victim to this disconnectedness. In this society, forgetfulness is a virtue, amnesia is a virtue. We are always asked to celebrate the new and improved laundry detergent as though that which came out yesterday is already obsolete. And we carry this habit, this outlook, into our daily lives. This is extremely dangerous. So I teach about the necessity of being connected, and about the necessity of resurrecting the truth about our experiences (and revising the texts) in this place called America. – Toni Cade Bambara in an interview with Zala Chandler[4]

The Salt Eaters (new)In our ongoing effort to support our total well being, TFW will go on a critically needed break for most if not all of December 2014. The struggles for peace and justice are never ending. And yet, we know that our work can never be healthier than we are.

Are you sure you want to be well? … [W]holeness is no trifling matter… A lot of weight when you’re well.
-Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

Not all speed is movement!
-Toni Cade Bambara, The Black Woman: An Anthology

In the Hands of the Ancestors! Ase’.

The Toni Cade Bambara Index

Main Column

  1. The Feminist Wire Celebrates Writer Toni Cade Bambara’s Life In An Upcoming 75th Birthday Forum
  2. Not All Speed Is Movement”: Toni Cade Bambara and the Black Feminist Tradition by Heidi Renée Lewis
  3. Changing the Letter: TFW Celebrates Toni Cade Bambara by Tamura A. Lomax
  4. Mother of the Movement: Remembering Bambara and the “African Bones in the Briny Deep” by Chadra Pittman Walke
  5. Toni Cade Bambara—A Member of My Small Village [Video] by Sarah C. Poindexter  
  6. The Authenticating Audience by Louis Massiah
  7. The Good Death of Toni Cade Bambara by Clyde Taylor
  8. Laughing on the Other Side of the Mountain: A Love Letter to My Friend Toni Cade Bambara by ayoka chenzira 

  9. Love Note for Toni Cade Bambara by Zeinabu irene Davis
  10. Listen You Can Hear the Mothers Crying in the Universe: A Black Feminist Poet’s Requiem for Our Black Warrior Toni by Cara Page
  11. Rage and Meditation: Celebrating Toni Cade Bambara’s 75th Birthday by Aishah Shahidah Simmons
  12. The Weight in Being Well: The Salt Eaters and the Genius of Toni Cade Bambara by Steven Fullwood and Joel Diaz
  13. Exposing the Invisible Betrayal: Removing the Gag from Our Mouths and Speaking of the Police Rapes of Black Women by Farah Tanis
  14. We Remember You, Me and Us: Transgender Day of Remembrance by Kai M. Green
  15. Toni Cade Bambara’s Art of Bridging Theory and Praxis by Thabiti Lewis
  16. It’s Not the Salt, it’s the Sugar that will Kill You by Kalamu ya Salaam
  17. Toni’s Powerful Intervention: Artist Tom Feelings Talks with His Son by Kamili and Tom Feelings
  18. Resembling a Revolutionary: My Sister Toni by Malaika Adero
  19. Remembering Toni by Alice Lovelace
  20. In ‘My Solitude’ with Toni Cade Bambara by Pamela A. Hooks:
  21. Unleashing the Power of the Soul: Spirit and Spirituality through Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters and John Bolling’s The Spirit of the Soul (Part I) by Janice Liddell
  22. Unleashing the Power of the Soul: Spirit and Spirituality through Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters and John Bolling’s The Spirit of the Soul (Part II) by Janice Liddell
  23. Black Blessings: Toni Cade Bambara and Octavia E. Butler by Ayana Jamieson
  24. One Thing: Toni Cade Bambara in the Speaking Everyday by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
  25. Image Weavers: In Honor of the Spirit of Toni Cade Bambara by NaOme Richardson
  26. Becoming…  by Nikki Harmon
  27. No Doubt: Your Mission, if You Choose to Accept it, is to Make Revolution Irresistible by Nadine Patterson
  28. Fondness for Toni Cade Bambara by Miyoshi Smith
  29. On Toni Cade Bambara and the Darren Wilson Jury Decision by Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Heidi Renée Lewis on behalf of The Feminist Wire
  30. For Toni and the Sisterhood, with Love… by Denise Brown
  31. My TCB Experience 1991-1995 by Amadee Braxton
  32. The Telling of Stories by Bia Vieira
  33. A Meditation on Toni Cade Bambara by Sande Smith
  34. The Seabirds Don’t Lie by Laura Whitehorn
  35. Toni Cade Bambara: A Woman of and for the People by Michael Simmons
  36. Toni Cade Bambara Remembered by Donald P. Stone
  37. Toni Cade Bambara: The Moment In-Between by Dr. Eleanor Traylor
  38. Bambara: What She Meant To Us/Me by Haki Madhubuti
  39. And The Beat Goes On: Toni Cade Bambara by Dr. Gloria I. Joseph
  40. Love Note to Toni by Beverly Guy-Sheftall
  41. Liberation Legacy: Fifteen Years of the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar-Activism Program and Conferences at Spelman College, 2000-2015 by M. Bahati Kuumba and Malika Redmond
  42. Toni Cade Bambara: ‘…an uptown Griot‘ by Cheryl Clarke
  43. Afterword: Toni Cade Bambara’s Living Legacy by Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Personal Is Political Column

  1. Toni Cade Bambara by Paula J. Giddings
  2. bell hooks Remembers Toni Cade Bambara by Stephanie Troutman and bell hooks
  3. TCB Is What She Did and Was Who She Was by E. Ethelbert Miller
  4. Reflections on Toni Cade Bambara by S.E. Anderson and Rosemari Mealy
  5. Toni Cade Bambara of Simpson Avenue by Nikky Finney
  6. Toni Cade Bambara’s “Toni-Isms” by Carole Brown
  7. Permission [VIDEO] by Tina Morton
  8. The Art of Getting to the Point by Wesley Brown
  9. A Letter to Toni  by Pearl Cleage
  10. How Toni Cade Bambara Saved Me by Imani Uzuri
  11. Wholeness, Homeness: A Love Note to Toni by Rita Dove

Feminists We Love Column

  1. Feminists We Love: Toni Cade Bambara by Heidi R. Lewis
  2. Feminists We Love: Linda Janet Holmes [VIDEO] by Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Arts and Culture Column

  1. Photographs of Toni Cade Bambara & Friends by Susan J. Ross
  2. Re-Membering Audre Lorde and Celebrating Toni Cade Bambara by Aishah Shahidah Simmons 
  3. Dark Energy (a poem) by Samiya A. Bashir
  4. A State of Rage by Aishah Shahidah Simmons
  5. spell to save your life by Alexis Pauline Gumbs 
  6. Are we ready to be well? by Cara Page
  7. I’ve Got Something To Say About This: A Survival Incantation by Kate Rushin
  8. what is left by M. Nzadi Keita
  9. Praise to the Writer by Alice Lovelace
  10. Stroller (A Screenplay) by Roxana Walker-Canton
  11. Hunger by Kwame Dawes
  12. Remembering and Honoring Toni Cade Bambara by Sonia Sanchez

[1] “I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities” by Audre Lorde is included in Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall’s edited volume, I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings by Audre Lorde. Oxford University Press, 2011

[2]  Bambara, Toni Cade, and Thabiti Lewis. “Commitment: Toni Cade Bambara Speaks with Beverly Guy-Sheftall.” In Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 10.

[3] Sheftall, Beverly Guy. “Love Note To Toni.” in The Feminist Wire’s forum on Toni Cade Bambara,

[4] Bambara, Toni Cade, and Thabiti Lewis. “An Interview with Toni Cade Bambara: Zala Chandler.” In Conversations with Toni Cade Bambara. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 93-94.

Aishah Shahidah Simmons Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons
Photograph: ©Julie Yarbrough

Aishah Shahidah Simmons is a Black feminist lesbian documentary filmmaker, cultural worker, and international lecturer. An incest and rape survivor, she is the Creator of the Ford Foundation-funded internationally acclaimed and award-winning feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary.  Presently, she is an adjunct professor in the Women’s and LGBT Studies Program at Temple University. Previously, she was an O’Brien Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Scripps College and a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. Committed to archiving, documenting, and telling Black women’s herstories and contemporary realities, Aishah was the Curator and Lead Editor of  The Feminist Wire‘s (TFW), “Global Forum on Audre Lorde.” She is also the Co-Curator and Co-Editor, with Heidi Renee Lewis, of TFW’s “Toni Cade Bambara 75th Birthday Anniversary Forum.”  Aishah is the author of several essays  including the Foreword to the recently released Dear Sister: Letters to Survivors of Sexual Violence. She has screened her work, guest lectured, and facilitated workshops and dialogues about ending all forms of sexual violence; queer identity from an AfroLez®femcentric perspective; the grassroots process of making social change documentaries; and non-Christocentric spirituality at colleges and universities, high schools, conferences, international film festivals, rape crisis centers, battered women shelters, community centers, juvenile correctional facilities, and government sponsored events across the United States and Canada, throughout Italy, in South Africa, France, England, Croatia, Hungary, The Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, Malaysia, and India. You can follow Aishah on twitter at @AfroLez and connect via her public Facebook page. For more information, please visit: