Sister is a Verb


“Sister is a verb.” This is what Toni Cade Bambara told Aishah Shahidah Simmons, narrates Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs in a very special essay in “Pleasure Activism.”

Dr. Gumbs continues: “What is the freedom and accountability that accrues when ‘sister’ is not just a static trait that you have but is something that you do or don’t do, with consequences. What happens when I apply that to all of my relationships? What happens if we replace the roles patriarchy has scripted us into with actions guided by what we want to create instead?” (p. 71)

Sistering immediately reminds me of sitting on the floor, leaning on the knees of my best friends as they massage amla or coconut oil into my hair. It reminds me of tupperwares of dal and rice they tuck into my bag after dinner. Firm feedback and loving accountability. Webs of care through words and voices.

There is so much more to keep reflecting on in this essay… and to practice!


  • 8″ x 10″ with a 0.5″ border
  • Giclée-printed on archival paper that is acid-free, 100% cotton rag with a bright, matte finish