First: the background. I am a blogger for Refuse the Silence, an organization headed by the great Morgane Richardson and the people that hosted this event. And, because I am a huge nerd, I got giddy at the idea of seeing some of my favorite bloggers speak at this event about something I really care about: race in the feminist movement.
(The picture is of me and Latoya Peterson (editor of Racialicious) after the event! Don't we look chilled out?)
Here was the set-up: the event was hosted at the amazing Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn and featured amazing beats by DJ Lobotomy Copter. There were two floors, one set up with couches suspended over what I at first thought was a great abyss because of the lighting, but was actually water! Yes, it was an intense space - I was scared at first to step over the metal bridge that connected different sections of couch seating. The second floor had the DJ and a smattering of tables where people could look down on the stage as if they were in the balcony seats at a play. The stage itself had a live Twitterfeed (#AIAW) going in the background, so people could ask questions and give a live play-by-play via cell phone. This was actually a really great application of Twitter that I don't usually think about! I met some ladies during the mixer and sat with them towards the back, where they were selling t-shirts and books.
The event itself brought together a collection of amazing feminists who identify as women of color or advocate for them. It started a tad bit late, but everyone amused themselves with drink and chatter until they finally began.
There were three panels that had two fabulous panelists and a moderator asking the questions. The 30-minute panels were followed by a couple of audience questions.
The first panel consisted of Latoya Peterson, editor of Racialicious, and Elizabeth Mendez Berry, journalist who brings feminism to hip hop. I will allow the amazing work that these ladies do to speak for itself, so click the links scattered throughout this post. Their talk centered around questions of how to bring critical perspectives of race and gender into the mainstream media and make it more accessible to a younger generation. I was honestly blown away by the answers - critiquing hip hop (and any other form of media) from a place of love rather than hatred? Fantastic. Getting rid of the rape culture in our society instead of targeting a particular group? Astonishing. Re-envisioning mainstream media as a method of access rather than repression? Whoa. I really believe in what these ladies said; media needs to be transformed to get these conversations into regular life. As Elizabeth Mendez Berry said, "I do feminism for everyone, not just feminists."
The second panel featured Feministing writer Lori Adelman and reproductive justice activist Aimee Thorne-Thomsen. They spoke about the reproductive justice movement and how it does not only involve abortion (thank you!). Other countries take this issue as a human rights one while the US does not, which is a perspective I had heretofore not heard. The panelists interwove current events, such as the billboard campaigns targeting race for pro-life means, with the fundamental issue at hand: "feminism has a race problem" (Lori Adelman). White feminist partners did not jump at the chance to assist in reproductive justice activists in communities of color - this choice disrupts our solidarity as women and just plain exposes the racism still lurking in mainstream feminist spaces. We have to pay attention to our partners just as much as our enemies in this arena - it's not our rights or theirs, but too often it is treated as such.
The final panel brought together Hunter College professor Jessie Daniels and the creator of Jezebel, Anna Holmes. Writer of multiple books on cyber-racism, Jessie Daniels brought up the difficulties and nuances of having an online persona. They proclaimed that the internet is still more democratic than the real world, but the power structures involved are still in place. Anna Holmes spoke about not being identified as a woman of color online, but injecting important discussions into the posts put up on Jezebel. Their points reiterated the need to bring these discussions into a mainstream space, but also the importance of "self-segregated spaces" where people of color can express themselves on their own terms.
There were many many more amazing points that came up in the discussion, but these were the highlights that I came away with. Everyone was encouraged to keep writing and putting themselves out there - especially young feminists! Yes, we are out here. Anyway, the party went late into the night but, as I had school in the morning, I cut out after the speakers were done. I give major kudos to Morgane for a great event, an intelligent dialogue, and giving me the opportunity to take that picture with Latoya Peterson. Keep up the great work everyone!
This post can also be found at my blog The Cowation, along with a lot of other great material from a DIY feminist. Check it out!