While events often feature folks from different generations, we don’t often hear conversations about the the challenges, experiences, and gifts of intentional intergenerational work. This Saturday’s #SF41 workshop, “Bridging the Generations: Carrying On…,” will do just that. Our featured guests, Trishala Deb, Frances Kunreuther, Krystal Portalatin and moderator, Katherine Acey, will address the challenges that arise due to generation differences and discuss ways of moving forward. To dismantle myths and assumptions through dialogue is how we strengthen individuals, communities and movements intergenerationally. Speakers will also invite members of the audience to contribute to the discussion as a way of bridging the generations within the workshop.

Some work by our speakers:

The Coming (and Present) Funding Crisis in LGBT Work from BCRW Videos on Vimeo.

  • For her powerful work as a co-founder, member, and staff of FIERCE!, a membership-based organization building the leadership and power of LGBTQ youth of color in NYC,  Krystal Portalatin, was featured in the Huffington Post’s Greatest Woman of the Day series.
More information about the panelists:

Katherine Acey

Katherine Acey is a Senior Activist Fellow at the Barnard Center for Research on Women. Prior to BCRW, Acey was the Executive Director of GRIOT Circle, a people of color LGBTQ elders organization based in Brooklyn, N.Y. From 1987 to 2010 Acey served as the Executive Director of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and holds the title of Executive Director Emeritus. Prior to Astraea, Acey served as the Associate Director of the North Star Fund in New York City. She helped create and shape the Women’s Funding Network in the mid 1980s serving on its first board and as Board chair. She is a founding member and past board chair of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and has served as a board or advisory member to countless organizations including: Women in the Arts, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, New York Women Against Rape, MADRE, Women Make Movies and the International Network of Women’s Funds. Acey is past chair of the National Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, and was a core member of the Arab Women’s Gathering Organizing Committee. Acey serves on the Boards of Political Research Associates, Center for Constitutional Rights and the Advisory Board of Open Society’s International Human Rights Initiative.

Trishala Deb

Trishala Deb is the Regional Director, Asia at the International Development Exchange. Trishala has worked at the intersection of a variety of issues, including immigrant and refugee rights, gender justice, anti-violence and militarization, community organizing based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and supporting the capacity building efforts of emerging grassroots organizations. Previously, she worked at Caring Across Generations, bringing together home care workers, consumers, and families. She also coordinated a program for immigrants at the Audre Lorde Project, a community organizing center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two Spirit, and trans people of color in New York City; and has worked with the Arcus Foundation and Public Interest Projects. Trishala was on the Advisory Board of the National Network of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and worked with Migrant Rights International as well as the Steering Committee of Grassroots Global Justice to connect issues of migration, sustainable development, and economic justice with organizations in the Global South as well as the United States.

Frances Kunreuther

Frances Kunreuther co-directs the Building Movement Project (, which works to strengthen U.S. nonprofits as sites of civic engagement and social change. She is co-author of two books, From the Ground Up: Grassroots Organizations Making Social Change (Cornell, 2006) and Working Across Generations: Defining the Future of Nonprofit Leadership (Jossey Bass, 2009).  Frances was a senior fellow at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University for five years and is currently affiliated with the Research Center for Leadership and Action at NYU where she also teaches. In the 1990s, Frances headed the Hetrick-Martin Institute for LBGT youth and was awarded an Annie E. Casey Foundation Fellowship for this and her previous work with homeless youth and families, undocumented immigrants, crime victims, battered women, and substance users. She writes and presents frequently on issues related to nonprofits, leadership, and social change.

Krystal Portalatin

Krystal Portalatin is a Queer Femme Latina, born and raised in New York City. As a youth she co-founded FIERCE and worked to fight against the impacts of gentrification and policing in the West Village. After graduating from the University of Hawaii at Manoa she worked in the areas of domestic violence, HIV/AIDS prevention, and youth development in Hawaii and San Diego. Longing for her political home, she returned to NYC in 2008 to work at FIERCE, where she held various staff roles, concluding her 7 years of service as a Co-Director. Currently, as an independent consultant, she supports grassroots groups one-on-one in various areas, including program development, organizational development, financial management, and fundraising. Outside of her commitment to social justice and work life, Krystal enjoys reading, cooking, and perfecting her winged eyeliner!

For a run-down of the entire Scholar & Feminist 41: Sustainabilities, please visit the BCRW event page!


Considering Community in Black Art: Sustaining Harlem

Sustaining Harlem: Art, Community Activism and Black Women’s Leadership will be a panel presented by Pat Cruz, Thelma Golden, Virginia Johnson, and Sade Lythcott during the 41st annual Scholar & Feminist Conference this Saturday, February 27. This panel is presented by the Harlem Semester, a new public humanities initiative of the Barnard Center for Research on Women and the Department of Africana Studies at Barnard College in partnership with Harlem’s historic cultural institutions, including the Studio Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Harlem Stage, and others. 

Girl Pointing, 1983/2009

Girl Pointing, 1983/2009

The Harlem Semester grapples with and explores questions of Black art, politics, and culture by viewing Harlem “not as an inert site or abstract object, but instead as an intensively ‘peopled place’ of complex interaction”. With this layered and complex understanding of Harlem, I have approached sites such as the Studio Museum for deep engagements with art and knowledge that are mobilized within communal contexts of resistance and futuristic claims to survival.

Such art is produced within the precarious context of national politics and cultural representation, where it must endeavor to account for and recover undermined narratives, offering itself as an insurgent force against practices of erasure and domination.

For me, the Studio Museum in Harlem is evoked when thinking of art, activism and Black women’s leadership. As a cultural epicenter for the display of art driven by the concepts of activism and community, the Studio Museum is a crucial site for the sustenance and vitality of Harlem.

Lorraine O’Grady’s installation, Art Is…, on display at the Studio Museum in Harlem, is a collection of images captured during her performance at the 1983 African-American Day Parade. As part of O’Grady’s performance, attendees were invited to pose in gilded photo frames to complete their portraits, resulting in a series of joyful photographs depicting community and celebration. These portraits are part of ongoing image-making, storytelling, and archiving traditions as they pertain to the legibility of Black livelihood.

They enact the impulse of capturing communal joy and beauty as mundane articulations of resistance and survival.


Girlfriends Times Two, 1983/2009

Art that is created or displayed within Harlem must contend with rich and complex histories of Black resistance, survival, and transformation. 

In considering the present role of Harlem in our academic imaginations and political investments, art is useful for contemplating material and cultural conditions, past and present, of Harlem as a community. Such considerations of community and survival, as they are undertaken in Lorraine O’Grady’s performance, will be crucial during Scholar & Feminist 41: Sustainabilities.

 © 2015 Lorraine O’Grady/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York  


Next Saturday 2/27: Sustaining Harlem at #SF41

On Saturday, February 27, 2015, join Pat Cruz, Thelma Golden, Virginia Johnson, and Sade Lythcott on “Sustaining Harlem: Art, Community Activism, and Black Women’s Leadership.”

Each of these visionary black women has made significant contributions to sustaining Harlem through their leadership in its signature arts institutions. They will offer their perspectives on what it means to work collectively and collaboratively on the project of sustaining Harlem, the under-acknowledged role of black women, and the resources they draw on to sustain their work.

Sustaining Harlem

About the Speakers

Patricia Cruz began her term as Executive Director of Harlem Stage in 1998. Ms. Cruz is a member of the Board of Directors and is responsible for overseeing Board Development, long range planning, fundraising, and program development. The highlight of her tenure has been the renovation of the Gatehouse for use as Harlem Stage’s new home. Cruz serves on the board of The Urban Assembly and the CalArts Board of Overseers. She is a past board member of The Andy Warhol Foundation. She is also past president of The New York Foundation for the Arts and ArtTable.

Virginia Johnson returns to Dance Theatre of Harlem as artistic director having been a founding member and principal dancer. Born in Washington, DC, Johnson graduated from the Academy of the Washington School of Ballet. She briefly attended the School of the Arts at New York University as a University Scholar before joining DTH in 1969. During her 28 years with the company she performed most of the repertoire, with principal roles in “Concerto Barocco,” “Allegro Brillante,” “Agon,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Fall River Legend,” “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” “Voluntaries,” and “Les Biches,” among others.

Thelma Golden is Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem where she began her career in 1987 before joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. After a decade at the Whitney, she returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs, and was named Director and Chief Curator in 2005. Golden was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Obama in 2010, and in 2015 joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors. She serves as the 2015–16 Chair of New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group and was appointed to the Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission by Mayor Bill de Blasio. Golden is the recipient of the 2016 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. Born in St. Albans, Queens, Golden currently resides in Harlem.

Born and raised in New York City, Sade Lythcott is the daughter of Dr. Barbara Ann Teer, founder of the National Black Theater (NBT) and legendary champion of African-American culture in New York. Following her mother’s death in 2008, Sade was appointed CEO of the NBT. She is also co-chair of the Coalitions of Theaters of Color, which represents the oldest theaters of color in New York State. A graduate of New York University with a BA in art history, Sade lives in Harlem, NY. Prior to joining the NBT staff, she performed with several Off  Broadway theater companies, including appearances as Gail in Ron Milner’s “Urban Transition: Loose Blossom” at the New Federal Theater directed by Woodie King, Jr and as Dorothy Dandridge in “Dorothy Dandridge: Before, After & Now” directed by Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. In 2012 Lythcott wrote & produced the highly-acclaimed musical “A Time To Love,” garnering 3 AUDELCO award nominations and the Key to Harlem for her excellence in the Arts. Sade is the recipient of the 2015 Black Theatre Network’s LLH Legacy Award, 651 Arts Rising Star Award, Castillo Theatre progress on stage award. She is a contributing artist and cultural organizer for Arts in a Changing America.

Schedule for Scholar and Feminist Conference: Sustianabilities

This year we at BCRW are implementing the framework of sustainability for our 41st Annual Scholar and Feminist Conference. As a community of activists and scholars, we would like to ask and discuss how we can sustain the material, creative, cultural and critical resources necessary to maintain the vitality of our communities, movements, and scholarship. The conference brings together feminist scholars, activists, artists and community members to address the obstacles we face–including biomedical models of health and wellness; anti-black police and state violence; and the far-reaching tentacles of neoliberalism shrinking public resources and expanding the prison industrial complex. Panelists will address the creative and courageous responses they have developed to sustain their work as activists, scholars, artists and visionaries working toward achieving social, gender, economic and racial justice. Visionary activist and thinker Reina Gossett will deliver the keynote address.   Here is a run-down of the schedule for the event:
10:00 - 10:30 AM Welcome
Tina Campt Event Oval, Diana Center
10:30 - 11:30 AM Keynote Address: Making A Way Out Of No Way Reina Gossett, BCRW Activist Fellow, Activist, Filmmaker Event Oval, Diana Center Reina Gossett will discuss the uses of art, representation, and other creative strategies trans and gender nonconforming people are using while living and loving under the shadow of heightened violence.  

11:30 - 12 PM Lunch pick-up Lunch is provided. Attendees are invited to bring their lunch to the afternoon sessions. 5th Floor Lobby & Event Oval Lobby, Diana Center  

12 - 1:30 PM Session I - Concurrent Panels PANEL: Fat Activism and Intersectionality at the Edges: Making Movements Sustainable LL 103, Diana Center This panel brings together artists, activists, and thinkers who are working at the interstices of fat activism and intersectional feminism. They will discuss challenges to and strategies for refusing single-issue approaches, while showing how fat activism is already intersectional and central to left movement building. Panelists will discuss how fat activism is part of the broader struggle for bodily autonomy, how their work struggles to address questions of left political horizons and legitimate political aspirations, and how ending fatphobia is central to collective liberation.   Presenters: Naima Lowe, Jamal Lewis, Tara Shuai & Rebecca Weinberger  

PANEL: Sustaining Harlem: Art, Community Activism and Black Women's Leadership Event Oval, Diana Center How have the arts served as an essential resource for sustaining Harlem's vibrant and diverse communities of color? How have the arts and arts organizations helped to shape and reshape Harlem's changing identity over time? How have Harlem’s arts institutions served as a catalyst for activism and change throughout their long history serving this community? This panel brings together four visionary black women, each of whom have made significant contributions to sustaining Harlem through their leadership in its signature arts institutions. Each will offer their perspectives on what it means to work collectively and collaboratively on the project of sustaining Harlem, the under-acknowledged role of black women, and the resources they draw on to sustain their work. Presenters: Pat Cruz, Thelma Golden, Virginia Johnson & Sade Lythcott  

WORKSHOP: Resourcing and Resilience: Building Alternative Models to Sustain Our Movements Room 504, Diana Center Very little money goes to LGBTQ organizations and even less goes to grassroots, social justice groups organizing around their experiences with racism, poverty and homelessness, transphobia, ableism, immigration, and incarceration. The combined legacies of white supremacy and capitalism and the limitations of the nonprofit industrial complex (NPIC) have shrunk what was already limited foundation funding for these organizations. What remains creates heavy administrative burdens for staff and members and pits communities into competition with one another. Taking the task of resourcing their movements into their own hands, the Trans Justice Funding Project (TFJP) and the Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice (MMJT) Giving Circle have developed alternative models to build the long-term sustainability of their work and communities. Through mapping exercises, small group discussions, and report-backs, participants will unpack the history of the racial and gender wealth divide, share people of color giving traditions, redefine the value and worth of community resources beyond dollars, and explore the process of building and reclaiming alternatives. Presenters: Gabriel Foster, Cara Page, Krystal Portalatin, Eva Turner & Tanya Walker
1:30 - 1:45 PM Transition between sessions
1:45 - 3:15 PM Session II - Concurrent Panels
WORKSHOP: Building Community Safety and Security LL 103, Diana Center State violence, security, and militarization are daily realities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, Two Spirit, transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer people of color. Presenters will share their experiences, tools, and resources for creating safety teams in community spaces. Through storytelling, small group discussions, role plays about common situations, and resource sharing, presenters will share tools created by Black, Indigenous, People of Color, queer/trans/Two Spirit, sex working, disabled/chronically ill, and poor and working class communities to create safer events, conferences, gatherings and neighborhoods without relying on 911 or the police, redefining "safety" and how we can create it. Presenters: Ejeris Dixon, Elliott Fukui & Joo-Hyun Kang
PANEL: Working at the Limits: State and Structural Violence Event Oval, Diana Center This panel features scholars and activists in conversation around the issues of sustaining community-centered scholarship and programs in the wake of drastically decreased funding, hostile political environments, and tenuous public-private partnerships. This session asks participants to consider how we sustain our communities in the midst of financial crisis and structural violence. Emerging from BCRW’s Transnational Feminisms initiative, participants in this session work in areas around the globe, including South Africa, Barbados, and the US Virgin Islands. Presenters: Tami Navarro (moderator), Alison Swartz, Deanna James & Charmaine Crawford
WORKSHOP: Sustaining Community: Housing and Displacement in New York City Room 504, Diana Center Neoliberal economic and social restructuring combined with a recession lasting nearly a decade has led to the displacement and dismantling of communities of color in neighborhoods throughout New York City. The typical policy response of increasing affordable housing benefits the real estate industry and big business and fails the communities it is designed to serve. This workshop will discuss strategies for vulnerable communities to sustain themselves through the constant and persistent threat of displacement that is pervasive in New York City. This workshop was organized by Pamela Phillips. Presenters: Gregory Jost, Daisy Gonzales & Ryan Hickey   3:15 - 3:45 PM Break

Coffee and snacks
3:45 - 5:15 PM Session III - Concurrent Panels

PANEL/WORKSHOP: Disability and Healing Justice: Making Our Lives Sustainable and Our Movements Liveable LL 103, Diana Center Join two visionary panelists for a hybrid panel-workshop as they discuss the connections between disability and healing justice. Participants will be invited to think through how disability and healing justice need to be central to the work of making all of our lives sustainable in the face of ableist and capitalist modes of organizing and belonging. Presenters: Geleni Fontaine & Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
PANEL: Queer Survival Economies: Invisible Lives, Targeted Bodies Event Oval, Diana Center Queer Survival Economies is a new initiative directed by Amber Hollibaugh and born out of the closure of Queers for Economic Justice. Queer Survival Economies aims to prioritize LGBTQ low-income and immigrant worker issues at a time of increasing crisis because of the on-going recession and reshaping of the global market. Participants will discuss overlooked and often invisible economic justice issues at the intersections of class, race, gender, immigration, HIV/AIDS, non-traditional families and sexuality. The goal of  this panel is to bring together and educate community members to be better able to build movement possibilities in the face of economic crises and queer marginalization. Presenters: Amber Hollibaugh (moderator), Yana Calou, Kate D’Adamo, Hamid Khan & Ola Osaze
WORKSHOP: Bridging the Generations: Carrying On… Room 504, Diana Center This workshop features four activists and nonprofit leaders who span four generations and have  diverse experiences working for social justice feminism.  Panelists will share their stories, discuss myths and assumptions about each other’s generations, and share strategies for building meaningful multi-generational relationships that sustain individuals, communities, and political movements for transformative social change. Audience members will be invited to participate in the conversation as an essential tool for "carrying on" the dialogue and generating ideas to propel us forward. Presenters: Katherine Acey (moderator), Trishala Deb, Frances Kunreuther, Krystal Portalatin

5:15 - 5:30 PM Transition between sessions

5:30 - 7 PM Reception Event Oval, Diana Center

“Fearless in an Austere Way:” Activist in Residence Reina Gossett talks Intersectionality, Prisons, and Pinkwashing

Reina Gossett is an activist, writer, community organizer, and the 2014-2016 Activist in Residence at BCRW. She is also the co-writer and co-director of the upcoming film “Happy Birthday, Marsha.”  “Happy Birthday, Marsha” tells the story of Black  trans artist and activist Marsha “Pay It No Mind” Johnson  in the hours before the 1969 Stonewall Riots. In January, Reina spoke with Barbara Smith and Charlene Carrutherson a panel on Black Feminism at the national LGBTQ conference Creating Change. Here are some highlights from the discussion: Gossett spoke about the reality of heightened violence for Black trans women. She stated that individuals must address anti-Black racism in discourse on transphobia, in addition to other issues such as the criminalization of sex work and HIV. She focused on the relationary aspects of many of these issues stating “we can’t get rid of gender norms [or the] gender binary…without getting rid of everything that constitutes it.” LOGO-Josh-MacPhee-25 Gossett also named the  connections between anti-Black violence and the policing of queer and trans people. She called on activists to  dismantle the “white, gay assimilationist push” for one-dimensional, singular issues. Liberation for queer people is not about “making prisons and ICE gay friendly.” Finally,  Gossett addressed pinkwashing by the Israeli government. Pinkwashing is the branding strategies used by the Israeli government to market itself as LGBTQ-friendly and distract from its violent military occupation of Palestine. Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.32.26 AM   "From June Jordan to James Baldwin, the struggle for Palestinian liberation has always been a Black feminist issue…We’ve always been there.” Most importantly, she states “there can’t be pride for some of us if there isn’t liberation for all of us.”   Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.32.17 AM  

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Envisioning and Transforming: A Dialogue Between Students and Faculty

At the request of the Barnard College Department Chairs, BCRW is hosting an open discussion between faculty and students on the future of diversity on our campus. This much-needed forum will provide an opportunity for open discussion and exchange between us as scholars, educators, and students, on issues we face together as a community. From this conversation will hopefully emerge a new collective vision.

To effectuate institutional change, we must challenge and push against normative and insufficient standards of diversity. That change must determined by those who are most marginalized:

  • Students and faculty of color
  • Black students and faculty
  • Low-income students
  • Queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming folks
  • Folks with disabilities

Last semester both students and faculty expressed deep concerns in the face of disturbing incidents at Yale and the University of Missouri. Those concerns continue and we would like to begin a direct conversation between faculty and students on how we can work together to more concretely address the issues of diversity (which we conceive broadly to include race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, and sexuality, among others) we confront on our campus.


  1. Taking stock: Why are we here?
    • priorities
    • lines of communication
    • mutual support
    • coordination
  2. Aspirations: What do we want to achieve?
    • If there is one thing you could change that would impact diversity at Barnard, what would it be?
  3. Updates: What has been done so far?
    • Reporting from students and faculty on conversations with BC administration.
  4. Bridging the gap: How do we get from what’s been done to what we want to achieve?

National LGBTQ Leadership and Aging Award Recipient, Katherine Acey

BCRW Senior Activist Fellow Katherine Acey is being honored at this year’s Creating Change Conference in Chicago for her organizing on aging issues impacting LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ people of color. We are honored to work with such an incredible movement leader.

To honor her steadfast work in fighting for equity and justice for LGBTQ elders, Katherine Acey was presented with the Sage National LGBTQ Leadership and Aging Award. Acey has been a leader in movement building and organizing for social justice and LGBTQ liberation from her 23 years at Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice to her ongoing involvement with the Griot Circle. Acey has been dedicated to various organizations that are powerful sites of support, engagement, and activism for the rights and wellbeing of LGBTQ folks who face racial, economic, gender, and age oppressions. Her extensive involvement in social justice organizing extends to groups such as: Women in the Arts, the Center for Anti-Violence Education, New York Women Against Rape, MADRE and Women Make Movies, National Executive Committee of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, and the Arab Women’s Gathering Organizing Committee.

In recognizing the legacy and continued importance of Black feminism as central and informative for collective action, Acey also acknowledges the interconnected nature of movements fighting against anti-semitism, for immigration reform, and towards Palestinian liberation. For Acey, intergenerational movement building is an important aspect of organizing for the empowerment and self-determination of LGBTQ elders.Cross-generational exchange continues to be a crucial aspect of seeking transformative justice in activist efforts centralizing the livelihood and wellbeing of LGBTQ communities. Acey has shown a passion for organizing at the community level for transformation at the structural level to undo the systems by which LGBTQ elders face legal, social, economic, and racial inequities.  

For Acey, activism is a practice that is rooted in radical love and motivated by visions of collective liberation.

To hear Acey’s story of the deeply personal experience of coming up as a lesbian and feminist in the wake of the Combahee River Collective Statement, watch below.

Honoring Resistance and Survival: The Miss Major-Jay Toole Building Giving Circle

The Miss Major Jay Toole Building for Social Justice (MMJT), located at 147 W. 24th Street, is the birthplace of resistance and home to survival. MMJT  houses organizations for and by people of color, centering on the experiences of queer, trans, and gender nonconforming folks, especially those who are low or no-income and homeless. Entering the lobby of the building, you face an elevator with buttons for seven floors lit up. On these floors, in order, exist The Audre Lorde Project (ALP), Streetwise and Safe (SAS), the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), and FIERCE!. The 4th floor of MMJT was formerly the home of Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ). With public spaces in NYC for low/no-income queer, trans, and gender nonconforming people of color being eradicated rapidly, the Miss Major Jay Toole building provides a home, an organizing space, and a location for programs, services, opportunity, and resilience.

This space would not be possible without the efforts of Miss Major and Jay Toole.

Miss Major, a Black trans woman activist and community leader for trans women’s rights, was a leader in the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion in New York City, along with Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. She is also a survivor of Attica State Prison and a former sex worker. She is the Executive Director of the Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), an organization working “against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures” for transgender women of color and their families. In the past, she has also done healthcare and organizational work for people with HIV/AIDS, and continues to work against the prison-industrial complex.

Jay Toole, aka Super Butch, has been organizing around queer and economic justice issues for decades. She became homeless at the age of thirteen, exiled from her home by her father because of her queer identity. For eight years, she was homeless, after which she spent five years in the shelter system. During her time on the streets, she suffered from police violence and was abused by the NYPD, and she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. After recovery and support from her queer family, she became the Co-Founder and the Shelter Director at Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), a radical non-profit organization committed to promoting economic justice in a context of sexual and gender liberation. Today, she is working on opening Jay’s House, the first shelter for homeless queer adults.

Without the efforts, dedication, and resilience of these two individuals, many queer youth today would not have the access to community, shelter, food, leadership opportunities, resources, computers, education, and workshops that they do today. Let us give back to Miss Major, Jay Toole, and the organizations that have brought us family and are bringing us liberation.

The Miss Major Jay Toole Giving Circle was created by ALP, SAS, SRLP, and FIERCE! as a grassroots giving operation to honor the organizations and the legacies of Miss Major and Jay Toole. Without the Giving Circle, the MMJT organizations are forced to compete with each other for funding, destroying the community and partnership they are so dedicating to building. A gift to the MMJT Building for Social Justice will go to the programming and administrative priorities of these organizations. ALP, SAS, SRLP, and FIERCE! are committed to social justice by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, two spirit, trans, and gender nonconforming people of color, low or no-income people, people involved the sex trades, and youth. A gift to them will go toward resourcing these communities. The Giving Circle’s goal is to raise $67,000 and $10,000 each will go to the Retirement Funds of Miss Major and Jay Toole to honor their living legacies. The remaining funds will be divided amongst the four organizations.

Give to the Miss Major Jay Toole Giving Circle!

MMJT Giving Circle

“then I moved to Harlem”: The Worlds of Ntozake Shange

Barnard alumna Ntozake Shange (BC ’70) is both the perfect subject for a #HarlemSemester course and a vexed one. One of her most enduring collaborations began in Harlem with choreographer Dianne McIntyre at the Sounds in Motion studio, which in the 1970s and 80s was the only Modern Dance studio in Harlem. However, her best-known evocation of Harlem is of street harassment:

I usedta live in the world
a woman in the world
i hadda right to the world
then I moved to Harlem.

The refrain “then I moved to Harlem” in for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf captures the dilemma of black women caught between the special promise of belonging for blacks in Harlem and the gendered estrangement and depersonalization we often face in its streets. To have Harlem in mind while studying Shange is to bring her loving attention to black womanhood, gender, space, and movement to a place—like so many—where black women’s concerns are overlooked.
ICP & Books

Our first official Harlem Semester class was actually held in midtown as part of our partnership with The International Center for Photography (ICP). While conducting archival research at our Harlem partner, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the students will learn the basics of photography and digital editing at ICP. Bradly Treadaway, an artist and my ICP co-teacher, introduced us to the photographic traditions behind Roy DeCarava/Langston Hughes’ Sweet Flypaper of Life (1955) and Ntozake Shange’s collaboration with the Kamoinge collective/Frank Stewart, The Sweet Breath of Life: A Poetic Narrative of the African-American Family (2004). These works, dialogues between photography and image set in Harlem, launched what will be a semester long conversation about how one combines text and image to “make” art and scholarship. When we chose Sweet Breath of Life to start the semester, we had no idea that at this very moment Kamoinge would be experiencing a resurgence of public attention. The week before class, ICP was gifted Timeless, the first major catalogue of Kamoinge’s work, and next week the Schomburg is hosting Visually Speaking: The Timeless Art of Kamoinge, an event devoted to their fifty-year history of black image-making.

We were extremely fortunate that Bradly has been much influenced by photographer Roy DeCarava who he says was “grossly under-recognized” by the art world for much of his life. Born in Harlem in 1919, DeCarava was the first African-American to win the prestigious Guggenheim award to document a year of Harlem life. His images revel in the beauty of everyday black life, ranging from the now-iconic sight of boys playing in open fire hydrants to the intimacy of a women enjoying a moment of solitude in a window, to a couple at a house party. Looking at them now, we can see the brilliance of his artistry, but to understand why his focus on the ordinary was so remarkable and so misunderstood, it helps to remember that his images existed against a background of the popular black stereotypes and images of black poverty even more dominant than now.

DeCarava was not able to find a publisher for his work: it was only when Langston Hughes agreed to lend his voice to the photographs that Simon and Shuster agreed to publish an inexpensive edition. Out of the images, Hughes creates a story told through the voice of Sister Mary Bradley, a transplanted South Carolinian living at 113 West 134th Street at the dawn of integration. She is called “home” to heaven, but refuses the message because “I might be sick, but as yet I ain’t no ways tired.” The images are in dialogue with her ruminations about her family and Harlem life: we meet Rodney, the troublesome grandson, “Ella’s mother,” and her “middle boy.” Hughes text makes visible in DeCarava’s photographs an idea of Harlem as an extended family in the black diaspora (something James Baldwin also noted as an “almost African” quality of Harlem (I Remember Harlem).

If Sweet Flypaper of Life is bracketed by transitions from South to North, segregation to integration, and life to death, Sweet Breath of Life is literally framed by black girlhood, a state of beauty and possibility that drives Shange’s art. The first pairing of text and image foregrounds two major themes: the significance of black girlhood and the need for black adornment/self-creation:

a girl needs quiet to get to herself
my made self decorated with my braids

Ntozake Shange

Shange’s work always makes space for black girls: she knows how often the world forgets their need to “get to herself”–to dream, ponder, imagine– away from outside definitions (and the catcalls) that come with black womanhood. As with Hughes’ dialogue with DeCarava’s photographs, Shange gives us a lens for seeing qualities that might be hidden to the inattentive. If we couldn’t see the girl’s momentum, her multiple positions, her connection to family and Harlem history in the Lon Draper photograph, we know from the poem that the everyday black girl is a sacred creature, full of possibility: she is a “grand lil girl in all of her glory.” The playful typography projects variation and movement, unique like her:

grand ol’ houses that have seen better days
but never anyone like me.

She is, as much as the ivy embellished walls, rooted in Harlem:

my dreams
ivies up the walls of this grand ol’ house /rushin’
out the corner of my eyes / do you see
something out there for me?

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