It was Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumb’s instagram posts about whales and other marine mammals that first got me and many others excited about Dub: Finding Ceremony. These were posts and poems, not from Dub, but in the same spirit of singing a rich spiritual and ancestral connection to these beauties of the water. Atlantic Right Whales are a sacred animal to the Shinnecock people who Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a descendent. Whales as well as Shinnecock ancestors are two of the voices that shine through in the book of oracles called Dub.
Dub is the 3rd in a trilogy of works by Gumbs based in communing with and channeling ancestors. This book explores her Black (Ashanti), Indigenous, (Shinnecock and Arawak), and White (Irish) ancestry as well as cross species ancestry such as whales, and microscopic lifeforms.
Just before the release of Dub I did a writing workshop with Gumbs that was based on sections of the book including a writing prompt based on whales diving deep into the ocean where their lungs are actually crushed and not functioning. The only oxygen being used is from the current reserves in the blood stream. In the introduction Gumbs asks, “What if you could breath like whales who sing underwater and recycle air to sing again before coming up for air?” This was a relatable feeling for many of us in the workshop. I related to feelings of heartbreak and that crushed-lung feeling of breathlessness from personal and political loss. It spoke to grief related to recent and distant ancestry, to a history of colonization on this land, and to the species extinction in waters surrounding us. Deeply moving and relatable passages like this are common throughout the book, helping to unlock intergenerational pain and lead to healing.
The book’s main inspiration is Sylvia Wynter’s work on decolonization through language. Part of the challenge of the book is its break from traditional western writing styles. Often times leaving the reader without a map for who’s voice and where the voice is coming from. It was helpful for me to re-read the introduction half way through reading the book to remember that part books power is re-imagining ways of communicating and understanding the world outside colonial constructs that manifest through language. Another part of the power of this writing style is to allow for finding commonalities while honoring differences across race, gender, ability, species and time.
The book gives visceral feeling to what social justice activists talk about as mutual interest and collective liberation in ending colonization and white supremacy. That all are affected differently, but in the end, life across species and spirit are all harmed by these systems and histories. Learning from this work of intersectional Black feminism can lead us all to healing and freedom.
Sista Docta Alexis Pauline Gumbs is a literary, spiritual, Black feminist, time traveling gift of our generation. This book is a must read for anyone who cares about the liberation of all beings impacted by colonization and white supremacy. It is a dub music inspired magical serum for connecting with and healing ancestral trauma. It will help us build the future from absorbing the brilliance and learnings of individual and collective ancestry. Read Dub, heal yourself, heal your ancestry, and break free from a colonized future.
Out now! Purchase here, any major outlets, or your local book store: https://www.dukeupress.edu/dub