With an impressive resume reflective of her hard work and ambitions, Alexus Cumbie’s achievements showcase the drive she possesses and her tunnel vision of work ethic. Cumbie is trailblazing within her own right as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., lead digital strategist of Woke Vote and founder of Literary Vibes Birmingham. Aside from her list of accomplishments, the foundation of her work is very simple, “I think at my essence I am a person whose mission is to build ‘the beloved community’ through art and southern culture and Black womanhood,” Cumbie stated.
‘The Beloved Community,’ being the idea that we are all made in God’s image, reflects Cumbie’s work in speaking and advocating for marginalized communities along with giving voice to their stories. In addition to the belief of our shared image, Cumbie is driven by her belief of purpose for her work. “Honestly it’s above me. It’s something I’m here to do and I think that it’s very much one of the reasons that I’m on earth to do the work that I’ve been chosen to do.”
The beginnings of this chosen work, poetry, began accidentally when writing about her life developed into something more.
“It was kind of an accident, when I started writing poetry. What came to me naturally was writing about my experiences which just so happened to be being a Black woman growing up in the Deep South. Because of that I realized how much of a story there was to tell which was way bigger than me,” Cumbie explained.
This was expanded upon in elementary school when Cumbie was introduced to the novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham. This novel gave her a reflection of shared experiences that was void in a whitewashed curriculum. “It was the first time that I read a book that reflected the life that I lived as a child growing up in Birmingham, or even just [as] a Black child or a Black woman,” Cumbie said.
Wanting a narrative that speaks to personal experiences and gives priority to one’s own community led to the formation of Cumbie’s Literary Vibes Birmingham, a live showcase of southern artists through their music and poetry that also focuses on increasing literacy rates in underserved communities.
Focusing on the individuals and issues that are often overlooked or forgotten helped make Literary Vibes an important platform for southern artists to express their creativity and own their stories and experiences. “We have stories to tell and we’re not going to wait for people to give us a stage we’re going to make our own,” Cumbie said.
Developing a space of one’s own has been furthered in Cumbie’s personal life by drawing strength from her own girl squad. “We’re a squad of Black women [from[ all walks of life [and] all different parts of the country. Honestly I’ve seen how we all came together with our individual burdens and have slowly been liberated from those burdens and those constraints that life has given us,” Cumbie explained.
Building upon life experiences, both good or bad, are showcased through Cumbie’s work inside and outside of the academy. Each of her involvements represents her decision to speak about causes and individuals that are not given a platform. Through these interactions, she has learned the value of community and how impactful it can be when advocating for any cause. “I found that we have to build community to lift those burdens that we’re all suffering from. When you have community you have created this gathering place for shared human experience and the ability to communicate those experiences,” Cumbie stated.
Communication plays a big role in Cumbie’s work and purpose. Through her poetry, she is able to voice these concerns and emotions fully and without the worry of her message being ignored or misconstrued. “The most important thing about poetry is that it’s a reminder that audiences have to listen,” Cumbie said. “We sort of control the conversation, and I believe there’s something beautiful in that, especially for communities who have historically not had voices [and] have not had those uninterrupted voices.”
Cumbie utilizes her voice to further this narrative of the work being done in the South, creatively, politically and academically. Cumbie showcases the work of southern Black women and sends a message that goes against any misguided ideas and moves forward the goal to show others “to communicate how much Black women in the South should be appreciated and loved, how impactful we are and how much beauty lives inside of us when we’re allowed to be free.”