A street in La Marina, Matanzas, Cuba. Photo by Cindy García, 2018.

Introduction to Contours: Arts. Activism. Pathways

by Maxine Nwigwe and Cindy García

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Contours: Arts. Activism. Pathways is a digital publication that highlights scenes of neighborhood-based art and activism and invites a global dialogue over the aesthetics, politics, and rhythms of everyday life. The Contours project entails a process of relationship-building among collaborators of each edition so that we can collectively write-with in an attempt to undo extractive, objectifying methods of writing-about

Each edition of Contours is a gathering of activists–artists, scholars, and practitioners–who co-create and theorize aspects of their worlds through textual, imagistic, and other sensory illustrations. It invites entry to a particular place, space, and activity of activist practice and opens up new possibilities to connect and interact across the multiple dimensions within it.

The collection of essays, original artwork, poetry, and other artifacts of creative analysis/synthesis is curated across the following categories:

  • Aterrizajes: the terrain covered in the edition
  • Contextos: the structures, histories, worldviews 
  • Activaciones: the interactions and relationships within the contexts
  • Reflexiones: contemplative reflection on the themes of the edition
  • Refracciones: the everyday impact of the anti-racist, decolonial techne and praxis

We live in a colonized world that exists in relation to the as if space of liberation (i.e., as if // we are free). Contours interfaces with this subjunctive space and expounds on the histories, aesthetics, relations, and movements as we try to connect the as if to our everyday lives. As a whole, Contours is forged by the interplay of the imaginary, real, and ideal, that renders the decolonized world, and its promise, legible.

Influences: Conditions, Traditions, and Choreographic Currents

Sylvia Wynter | Stuart Hall | Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism aesthetics

bell hooks | Audre Lorde | adrienne maree brown

Frantz Fanon | Kelly Oliver | Kevin Quashie

Chinua Achebe | Gayatri Spivak | Hélène Cixous

Kim Case | Intersectionality & Higher Education (text)

Emma Pérez | Yvonne Daniel | Gabriel García Márquez

Marta López Garza | Paulo Freire


For Harmony and Vivi
And Black girls of the past who have opened pathways
For Black girls of the future

For Cordy and Stacy
And Black women of the past who have opened pathways
For Black women of the future


by Maxine Nwigwe

We pay homage to our familial ancestors from whom we’ve inherited our corporeal and visceral realities. We pay homage to our intellectual ancestors who animate our (r)evolutionary and liberatory ideals and imaginaries. 

We express gratitude to all the collectives in and around all our spatial-temporal contexts. The openness and wisdom of your structures and models contour our understandings of who and how we are. 

We pay special tribute to the spectra of black (w)holes whose reach spans our consciousness and cosmos. These black rainbow entities are the source of our inspiration. 


By Cindy García

This is about making the world a more hospitable place for my Black daughters. 

As their fair-skinned Chicana feminist parent, I will never know the kinds of racism they already know and have known since before they were born. As a parent, more than ever I have turned to my Black feminist friends, to Black feminist writers so that I can learn from them. They’ve been working on creating a world where Black girls can flourish much longer than I. Abolitionist pedagogue Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom (2019) insists on nurturing, anti-racist educational practices. I have also returned to familiar Chicana feminist texts to see how their meanings may have shifted over time and how they theorize Black and Latinx alliances – collaboratively working towards the undoing of gendered racism. I have long been inspired by Cherie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua’s This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (1981), as have the editors of Revolutionary Mothering (2016) – Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams – who inspire me anew. These anthologies bring together radical wisdom from BIPOC writers who collectively stir openings towards new pathways and remind readers of pathways forgotten. 

In the United States, anti-Black racism has emerged from White Supremacist foundations situated in racial capitalism. How do the embodied experiences of racist and anti-racist acts enunciate differently when studied through a local and translocal neighborhood lens? When my youngest daughter was two, the first words she read were “Black Lives Matter” on a sign in our South Minneapolis neighborhood. The kinds of anti-racist practices we come to know living in our neighborhood are informed by the local Black femme leaders who call us into protest and call on us to re-imagine. My daughters have participated in marches and witnessed the strength of collective action in denouncing the unjust police killings of Black people. Their madrinas visit our home with books and ideas to feed them. They still experience the structural and everyday life kinds of racism that Black girls do in our neighborhood, in the Twin Cities, and beyond.

This publication attempts to collaborate in crafting a world in which Black girls can do more than survive – they can thrive.