Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought Launch at Charis
February 26, 2021
- 7:30 PM
Charis Books & More

Charis and The New Press welcome Briona Simone Jones for a launch of Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought with Spelman College's Holly Smith and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, and contributors Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, Bettina Love, and Cheryl Clarke. A groundbreaking collection tracing the history of intellectual thought by Black Lesbian writers, in the tradition of The New Press's perennial seller Words of Fire. This event is co-hosted by the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History. 

African American lesbian writers and theorists have made extraordinary contributions to feminist theory, activism, and writing. Mouths of Rain, the companion anthology to Beverly Guy-Sheftall's classic Words of Fire, traces the long history of intellectual thought produced by Black Lesbian writers, spanning the nineteenth century through the twenty-first century.

Using "Black Lesbian" as a capacious signifier, Mouths of Rain includes writing by Black women who have shared intimate and loving relationships with other women, as well as Black women who see bonding as mutual, Black women who have self-identified as lesbian, Black women who have written about Black Lesbians, and Black women who theorize about and see the word lesbian as a political descriptor that disrupts and critiques capitalism, heterosexism, and heteropatriarchy. Taking its title from a poem by Audre Lorde, Mouths of Rain addresses pervasive issues such as misogynoir and anti-blackness while also attending to love, romance, "coming out," and the erotic.

Briona Simone Jones is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at Michigan State University. She is a Black lesbian feminist of Jamaican and African American descent from Rochester, New York, and the editor of Mouths of Rain: An Anthology of Black Lesbian Thought (The New Press).

Holly Smith is the College Archivist at Spelman College. She received a B.A. in History and Black Studies from William and Mary, an M.A. in History from Yale University, and an M.S. in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archival Management from Simmons College. She is passionate about community archives and archival advocacy related to collections for underrepresented groups.

Beverly Guy-Sheftall is the Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and the founding director of the Women’s Research & Resource Center at Spelman College. She is also one of the founding co-editors of Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women. Her previous publications include Who Should Be First?: Feminists Speak Out on the 2008 Presidential Campaign (co-edited with Johnnetta B. Cole) and Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies (co-edited with Frances Smith Foster and Stanlie M. James).

Mecca Jamilah Sullivan, PhD, is the author of the short story collection Blue Talk and Love, winner of the Judith Markowitz Award from Lambda Literary. She holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Pennsylvania, an MA in English and creative writing from Temple University, and a BA in Afro-American studies from Smith College. In her fiction, Sullivan explores the intellectual, emotional, and bodily lives of young Black women through voice, music, and hip-hop-inflected magical realist techniques. Sullivan’s short stories have appeared in Best New Writing; American Fiction: Best New Stories by Emerging Writers; Prairie Schooner; Callaloo; Crab Orchard Review; Robert Olen Butler Fiction Prize Stories; BLOOM: Queer Fiction, Art, Poetry and More; TriQuarterly; Feminist Studies; All About Skin: Short Stories by AwardWinning Women Writers of Color; Baobab: South African Journal of New Writing; and many others. 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. Her forthcoming book, The Poetics of Difference: Queer Feminist Forms in Biographies 359 the African Diaspora, explores the politics of experiment in Black queer and feminist literary cultures. She is currently completing a novel. Further information about the author is available on her website,

Bettina Love, PhD, is an award-winning author and professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia. Dr. Love is one of the field’s most esteemed researchers in the area of hip-hop education. Her research focuses on the ways in which urban youth negotiate hip-hop music and culture to form social, cultural, and political identities in order to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice. Dr. Love’s work is also concerned with how teachers and schools working with parents and communities can build communal, civically-engaged schools rooted in intersectional social justice for the goal of equitable classrooms. Dr. Love’s work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, the Urban Review, and the Journal of LGBT Youth. She 352 Biographies is the author of the award-winning book We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, as well as Hip Hop’s Lil Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Further information about the author is available on her website,

Cheryl Clarke, PhD (1947–), is a Black lesbian feminist, poet, and author of Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women (1982), Living as a Lesbian (1986), Humid Pitch (1989), Experimental Love (1993), the critical study After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement (Rutgers Press, 2005), and The Days of Good Looks: Prose and Poetry 1980–2005 (Carroll & Graf, 2006). Clarke has written many essays over the years relevant to the Black queer community, such as “Lesbianism: 342 Biographies An Act of Resistance,” which first appeared in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color (Anzaldúa and Moraga, eds., 1982), and “The Failure to Transform: Homophobia in the Black Community,” which was published in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (Smith, ed., 1984). Clarke continues to write poetry and essays. Her latest manuscript, By My Precise Haircut (2016), was selected as one of two winners of the Hilary Tham Capital Competition, sponsored by the Word Works Press of Washington, DC, and judged by noted poet Kimiko Hahn. Most recently, Clarke published a chapbook titled TARGETS. Further information about the author is available on her website,

This event is free and open to all people, especially to those who have no income or low income right now, but we encourage and appreciate a solidarity donation in support of the work of Charis Circle, our programming non-profit. Charis Circle's mission is to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices.

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