THE STARS ALIGN FOR A MASTER’S STUDENT INTERESTED IN BLACK FEMINIST LITERATURE AND ACTIVISM
By Lida Tunesi
Master’s student Kayla Reece (Women’s and Gender Studies) has a passion for storytelling, whether it’s through tarot readings, the physical stories told by practicing yoga, or the written word.
Reece recently accepted a position as an editorial assistant intern at WSQ, a peer-reviewed journal that publishes both academic articles and creative pieces about women, gender, and sexuality. WSQ is published by the Feminist Press, or FP, a book publisher housed at the Graduate Center.
The Graduate Center spoke with Reece about her internship and her intersecting interests in Black feminism and sharing stories with the world.
The Graduate Center: What do you do in your new role at WSQ?
Reece: We are working on two upcoming issues. The first is going to be released in the spring of 2022, and it’s a special issue called Black Love. It’s going center around radical solitary based in love, and love not just as theory but as a practice and part of Black feminist activism. Then later in fall 2022 there will be a 50th anniversary issue that celebrates 50 years of WSQ, 50 years of feminism at the journal, and 50 years of feminist archives.
I support the general editors, who are both great professors, Professor Red Washburn of Kingsborough Community College and Professor Brianne Waychoff of Borough of Manhattan Community College. I support them in facilitating communication with the guest editor for each issue, receiving submissions for each issue, going through manuscripts, assigning peer reviewers to the papers, and staying in touch with FP. It’s the whole process from beginning to end, making sure everything stays on the production schedule.
It’s interesting because I interned at FP about a decade ago, when I had just finished undergraduate studies, so the environment and pace are not totally unfamiliar to me. But everything is virtual now, so learning how to do everything remotely has been a new skill.
GC: How did you become interested in editorial work?
Reece: I’ve always been interested in language and writing fiction and prose. When I discovered FP by reading some of their publications — some really canonical Black feminist texts and fiction — I thought, this is the culmination of everything I’m interested in. Let me get into this and see what this intersection looks like, and what it has to do with feminist activism. If these things aren’t published then they can’t be spread, and the stories can’t be told. I think it’s essential to the movement.
GC: You’re also pursuing a master’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies. Is there a specific topic you hope to study?
Reece: I haven’t settled on a particular thesis topic, but I have a lot of interdisciplinary interests. In previous studies at the graduate level, I’ve done a lot of research on violence against Indigenous women and girls in Guyana’s gold mining spaces. I was looking at specifically the recolonizing effect of the extractive industry and how that produces spaces where Indigenous women and girls become vulnerable to abuse. That was about seven years ago. Since then, I’ve also become really interested in Black maternal health in the United States, I’ve done doula training, and I’ve been certified as a prenatal yoga teacher. I’m seeing a lot of intersections between different parts of feminist theory and action, and how that correlates with some of the things I’m interested in exploring.
GC: What brought you to the Graduate Center from Guyana?
Reece: I was born in the U.S. but my family is Guyanese and I grew up in Guyana. I did high school there, and then when I was 17 I decided I wanted to move to New York. I went to St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights and studied communications arts, public relations, and advertising. When I was 24, I moved to London and did a postgraduate diploma in gender studies and law at the University of London. I lived there for two years then moved to France and lived in Paris for a while. Then I moved Kingston, Jamaica, for about two years, and then I moved back to New York! It’s been a journey. I’ve been studying and working remotely from Guyana because of the pandemic, but my Scorpio new moon news is that courses for spring 2022 are going to be in-person; I’ll be getting on a flight by the end of the year.
GC: You have so many fascinating interests. Can you tell me a little about your work outside of academia?
Reece: I’ve been reading tarot since I was 15 years old. When I moved back to Brooklyn in 2018 I started a small business called Totowosu Tarot and started reading for folks in my community. It really got me thinking about tarot as a storytelling device. It’s become a big part of my feminism and my thinking about archetypes and how structures are created, how they transition or transform, and how they’re demolished.
I am also teaching yoga twice a month online via Zoom for new and full moons. We do a bit of movement for 30 to 45 minutes, and in the remainder of the class I integrate tarot. It’s been exciting, and it’s a beautiful way to find my voice as a teacher and as a student. I love the integrating of the storytelling of tarot with the storytelling of yoga.