BCRW Spring 2017 Newsletter: Upcoming Events on Black Feminism, Ethics of Being, and More

Director’s Note

Over the past few months we have witnessed a heightened sense of fear, shock, and vulnerability about our families, friends, and communities. Yet this moment has also amplified critical research and analysis, creative forms of resistance, deep strategizing, and a recognition of the power and resources we have at hand. While the political transition we face may seem unprecedented, we also know that in troubling ways, it is a legacy of the longer, uncomfortable history of our country. Focusing our attention on both the broader history we have inherited and the collective work we have ahead of us, BCRW’s spring programs use the critical frameworks of Black feminism, disability justice, and trans liberation politics to highlight the creative and intellectual projects we find critical to understanding our current political contexts and building the world we need.

In February, our annual book salon pays tribute to Christina Sharpe’s work on the afterlives of slavery and the survival of Black subjects despite relentless violence and negation through a rigorous engagement with Sharpe’s groundbreaking new book, In The Wake: On Blackness and Being. Later in the month, renowned Black feminist theorist Hortense Spillers hones in on the legal categorizations of race, gender, and family in 18th century U.S. history to illuminate the enduring traces of these definitions in systems producing and extracting value, life, and death. Finally, Award-winning historian, writer, and longtime activist Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement, will give the 2017 Natalie Boymel Kampen Memorial Lecture in Feminist Criticism and History.

Our 42nd annual Scholar and Feminist Conference, Haptic Bodies: Performance, Embodiment and the Politics of Touch, assembles a group of artists, theorists and activists to think about how a focus on affect, embodiment and the senses/sensation might offer a path toward new practices of creating the society we want to live in. In April, we expand our exploration of embodied and performative practices by hosting a screening and discussion with filmmakers from Global Action Project, Trans Justice Funding Project, and Black Trans Media that showcases media made by and for trans people of color as an organizing and resiliency strategy. In May, BCRW will host an event in Oakland in collaboration with Sins Invalid and the Trans Life and Liberation Art Series focusing on art and politics at the intersections of disability justice and trans liberation.

We look forward to thinking, working, and building with you this semester and in the years to come.

With appreciation,

Tina Campt, Director

Activism in Context


Christina Sharpe, In the WakeIn the Wake: A Salon in Honor of Christina Sharpe
Christina Sharpe in conversation wih Hazel Carby, Kaiama Glover, Arthur Jafa, and Alex Weheliye
Thursday, February 2 | 6 PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center

Christina Sharpe’s paradigm shifting new work, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, interrogates literary, visual, cinematic, and quotidian representations of Black life that comprise what she calls the “orthography of the wake.” Invoking the multiple meanings of the term “wake”—the path behind a ship, keeping watch with the dead, coming to consciousness—Sharpe details how Black lives are swept up and animated by the afterlives of slavery, and describes what survives despite insistent violence and negation. Formulating the wake and “wake work” as sites of artistic production, resistance, consciousness, and possibility for living in diaspora, In the Wake offers a way forward. Join us for a captivating conversation with the author and three distinguished interlocutors.

 

Hortense Spillers

Shades of Intimacy: Women in the Time of Revolution
Helen Pond McIntyre ’48 Lecture by Hortense Spillers
Thursday, February 16 | 6 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall

In her trenchant analysis of U.S. history, literary critic and Black feminist scholar Hortense Spillers considers the aftermath of the notion of partus sequitur ventrem—the “American ‘innovation’ that proclaimed that the child born of an enslaved mother would also be enslaved.” In this lecture, Spillers will engage the idea of the “shadow” family as one of the tectonic shifts in the concept and practice of social relations in the New World from the 18th century forward. Her critical examination of this period of profound contradiction and change illuminate how dangerously hegemonic definitions of race, gender, and family took hold in ways that carry forward into the present.

Professor Spillers will also participate in an afternoon Graduate Student/Faculty Theory Salon from 12–2 PM at the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Columbia University. Space is limited and reservations are required.

 

Haptic BodiesHaptic Bodies: Perception, Touch, and the Ethics of Being
The 42nd Annual Scholar and Feminist Conference
Featured speakers include Grisha Coleman, Carla Freccero, Kim Hall, and Gabri Christa Reid
Friday, March 3 | 6 PM and Saturday, March 4 | 10 AM – 6:30 PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center

hap·tic

ˈhaptik/
adjective technical
of or relating to the sense of touch, in particular relating to the perception and manipulation of objects using the senses of touch and proprioception [relative perception].

How are we, as global citizens, accountable to each other? This year’s Scholar and Feminist Conference explores the haptic—the perception and manipulation of objects using the sense of touch—as an ethics of being in the world. Feminist scholars, artists, and activists come together in this utterly unique two-day conference to examine the many ways in which touch helps us better understand the politics and aesthetics of embodiment, situatedness, and performance. Through a series of panels and artistic encounters, we consider how our senses—not only touch, but taste, sight, and sound—situate us as bodies in political and economic contexts (such as labor), as well as in personal and sensory ones.

 

Barbara Ransby Featured

An Evening with Barbara Ransby 
Natalie Boymel Kampen Memorial Lecture in Feminist Criticism and History
Monday, March 20 | 6:30 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall

Award-winning historian, writer, and longtime activist Barbara Ransby joins BCRW to give the 2017 Natalie Boymel Kampen Memorial Lecture in Feminist Criticism and History. Ransby is Distinguished Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and History at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she directs the campus-wide Social Justice Initiative. Ransby is author of the highly acclaimed biography,Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision, which received eight national awards and international recognition, and Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson. As an activist, Ransby was an initiator of the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves campaign in 1991, a co-convener of The Black Radical Congress in 1998, and a founder of Ella’s Daughters, a network of women working in Ella Baker’s tradition.

 

Harmattan WindsHarmattan Winds: Disease and Gender Gaps in Human Capital Investment
A Lunchtime Lecture by Belinda Archibong
Thursday, March 23 | 12 – 1 PM
BCRW, 101 Barnard Hall

Research on gender-based educational disparities in the Global South has focused on differential investment in the education of boys versus girls, higher costs and lower educational attainment among girls, and factors leading to these realities. In this lunchtime lecture, Belinda Archibong will extend this conversation to share her research on ways that public health and epidemics impact these gender-based disparities, focusing on the 1986 meningitis epidemic in Niger when investment in girls’ education decreased dramatically. Archibong will also share insights into what an intersectional analysis of gender, health, and educational disparities can offer in a time when climate change is expected to worsen the disease environment.

 

Shannen Dee WIlliamsThe Real Sister Act: Black Catholic Nuns and the Long Struggle to Desegregate U.S. Religious Life
A Lecture by Shannen Dee Williams
Tuesday, March 28 | 6:30 PM
Sulzberger Parlor, 3rd Floor Barnard Hall

Shannen Dee Williams, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, is a historian of the United States and Black Catholic diaspora. Her research chronicles the epic journey of Black Catholic sisters in the United States from their fiercely contested beginnings in the 19th century to the present day. It also unearths the largely hidden history of Black sisters in the fight to dismantle racial and gender barriers in the U.S. church and wider American society.

 

Our Voices: Trans Stories, Trans Justice, Trans ResiliencyOur Voices: Trans Stories, Trans Justice, Trans Resiliency
Film screening and discussion with Luce Lincoln, Marin Watts, Sasha Alexander, and Olympia Perez
Tuesday, April 4 | 6 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall

In a time when transgender and gender nonconforming communities remain under attack, it is crucial to lift up stories of trans resiliency and power. This film screening and panel will highlight ways trans communities fight back, build community, and center the intersectional work essential to survival. Luce Lincoln of Global Action Project, Marin Watts of Trans Justice Funding Project, Olympia Perez and Sasha Alexander of Black Trans Media, and other social justice trans and gender nonconforming media makers will share work that highlights the legacy of trans leadership, organizing, and activism during this historic moment.

 

We Move TogetherWe Move Together: Disability Justice and Trans Liberation
Thursday, May 11
Oakland, CA

More information coming soon

 

Alicia GarzaAn Evening with Alicia Garza

More information coming soon

Letter to Zora Neale Hurston

Ntozake ShangeThis letter was written in response to Katherine Acey’s work and research on inter-generational activism as a BCRW Senior Activist Fellow. It follows the tradition of inter-generational building by engaging in the practice of forging bonds across generations, with the vanguards of an ever-transforming movement. 

Dear Zora,

At twenty-one, by back is already perpetually sore. Every bend, twist, and turn ignites a dull pain deep in my bones. I have lived with this pain for a while now. Each year it has grown in intensity, reaching a new dimension, developing a new expression. I imagine a hole being dug at the base of my spine, gradually expanding with passing time. This pain is a reminder of my physical essence. It reminds me that I am alive and inhabiting this body. To chart the passage of time with pain is odd, but it offers an organizing principle for understanding the maturation of my body and spirit. This physical pain I live with is allegorically tied to my understanding of my spiritual pain; both pains are constants in my conscious understanding of self. I can trace trauma along the currents of pain that run through my body and in the more cerebral realms of myself. Because I cannot expend the energy to recall and name my trauma daily, it is as though my body has taken up the burden, practicing release and mourning on my behalf. With each ache and knot is a resounding cry of defiance. If I listen close enough to the creaks in my joints and tears in my taut ligaments I can tune in to my own grieving. I rely on my body to perform this release. And some days, the pain will not let me tune out. When it becomes impossible to ignore the cries, I am prevented from getting out of bed. Then I must slow down, lay beside my broken body and tend to her, listen to her frustrations. Other days I dance, giving full range of motion to my pain, letting my joints sing that raspy tune.  

At times I have been frustrated with the impediment of chronic pain. My body’s refusal to comply with my desire to move has brought me to tears. I have tried to pinpoint an explanation for this plaguing affliction. To what measure should that slight spinal curvature render me so feeble? Why should I be constantly reminded of my physical fallibility in such youthful prime? This dissonance between dauntless youth and pangs of incapacity have made up my world–politically, emotionally, and physically. My pain is not tethered to a single, clinical explanation, it encompasses a collective of institutional and personal repression as well as generational trauma. All of these have converged at a single point in my body, latching onto my flesh, to say they will not be forgotten or ignored. I wonder, dear Zora, if you suffered with chronic pain your own lifetime, if you struggled to find respite from pain through creative expression. I wonder if your pain became more pronounced as you aged, or if it was always present in your bones, urging you to tell stories about Black folks’ endurance of terrible pain.

Stretching, in the morning marks the beginning of my daily struggle against my very own body. Some days, I am filled with gratitude because I know I will be able to move, without reservation or difficulty. Those cherished days are filled with minute moments of joy, when I put to use every ounce of my energy into committing all sensations to memory. Those other days, when I labor under the strain of movement, I reach into this arsenal of archived joy in an attempt to recover some of what I fear may be at stake. Dance and writing are both practices of constantly reaching into that arsenal. When I move, I must be prepared to remember what joy is, even in pain. Janie Crawford knew the power of memories too, having learned that we must “remember everything [we] don’t want to forget”, and the importance of recollection to the project of survival.

My most treasured moment during the practice of dance is when I begin to feel as though a movement or a rhythm has sunk into my bones. In writing, it is when I can no longer see where I begin and where the story ends. In those moments, I know that closing my eyes will allow me to see better, to experience physical expression more deeply. Some days, I am not able to arrive at this moment; I have been too focused or too distracted, too rigid or too pliant. Usually, this occurs when I have been mentally or emotionally preoccupied with some grievance or dilemma. When I am able to make the most use of a quiet or reflective moment, I find myself easing into the moment of blind euphoria of creativity.  What moment alerted you that you were arriving at a stage of euphoria when you wrote, Zora?

Knowing that generational and institutional traumas are carried through the body, I must also acknowledge that my own pain is situated in a broad historical order that dates back to the slave trade. So what can creative expression offer in the face of the constant disintegration of Black flesh under the crushing weight of pain? Ntozake Shange teaches us that all creative impulses are connected to the body. Thus, my writing and dancing are inseparable from my physical pain. My relationship to dance is deeply tied to emotional and physical sensation and state. For me, dance serves a function that parallels that of writing. As with dance, writing is an expressive tool. It is a way of acknowledging my fears and apprehensions, of documenting moments that bring joy, and setting intentions. In a creative capacity, I write stories that speak to all of those things. Storytelling captures some of what I am afraid to lose–memories–while iterating new possibilities for existing beyond the limited expanse of pain. Eisa Davis wrote a letter to Shange, like I am writing to you now, interrogating the capacity of the poetic and creative imagination to offer hope and resistance. In response, Shange wrote: “poetry brings us to our knees…and the joy of survivin’ brings you to your feet” (196). This is one articulation of the possibilities that creative expression can offer through the body’s impulse to dance and write. Was Shange’s philosophy a refashioning of what you taught her in Their Eyes? After all, you were a Barnard woman too, as they so love to claim in your absence. In writing and dancing, I find it possible to affirm survival, even with pain as a constant, inflicted on my body and spirit by dejection, apathy, and trauma. Through dance, I declare my survival in rising to my feet, commanding all physical and emotional senses, attending to all aches and bothers. Through writing, I mobilize a similar set of motions, setting off an internal dialogue. In both expressions I hold space for communing spiritually, with the shadowy figures that survived what I too am charged with surviving. Zora, the world is full of young people like me, aching and sore, looking back on your writing, sometimes out of desperation for an answer, sometimes seeking peace and an affirmation for survival, an acknowledgement of the source of our pain. What stories would you offer us in moments like these? What are your thoughts on the possibilities of healing through art?

Gearing up for 2017

A NOTE FROM OUR DIRECTOR

As we come to the close of a challenging semester, I am reminded of the inspiring conversations, critical insights, and crucial resources the BCRW community has provided over the past few months. I want to thank you for the part you play in this community. Thank you for joining us at our lectures, conferences, film screenings, and activist dialogues; for sharing our videos, Scholar and Feminist articles, and other resources with your communities. Thank you most of all for asking questions, sharing insights, challenging us, and contributing to our collective work. All of this is critical to the work we have ahead of us in the months and years to come.

Below you will find video recordings from some of our major events this semester, as well as a selection of recent BCRW initiatives.

We look forward to reconnecting in the new year as we work together to build a better world. Wishing you a warm and restful holiday season!

With appreciation,

Tina Campt
Director, Barnard Center for Research on Women

Activism in Context

Image from Activism in Context: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Organizing in the Shadow of the 2016 Elections


VIDEO

FALL 2016 EVENTS


CENTER HIGHLIGHTS

SOCIAL JUSTICE INSTITUTE

This fall, BCRW was thrilled to launch our next chapter of activist-academic collaborations: the Social Justice Institute. The inaugural cohort includes Activists-in-Residence Reina Gossett, Cara Page, Tarso Ramos, and Dean Spade, and Researcher-in-Residence Andrea Ritchie. Read more about the Social Justice Institute here.

Social Justice Institute


VIDEO

THE PERSONAL THINGS


JOURNAL ISSUE

THE SCHOLAR & FEMINIST ONLINE 13.3-14.1: TRAVERSING TECHNOLOGIES

Enigma Symbiotica Still

This issue of The Scholar & Feminist Online, edited by Patrick Keilty and Leslie Regan Shade, investigates the complex entanglement of technical systems with the human and non-human elements they were built by, for, within, and against. Recognizing the visible roots of dominant technologies—from biological waste removal to internet infrastructure—in the demands of the state, the military, and the corporation, these authors surface and incite alternative engagements.

As the editors write in their introduction, these essays navigate “issues of equity and social inclusion, race and racialization, intersectionality, the discriminatory impacts of surveillant assemblages, and the fate of feminist and queer techno-futures”—with important repercussions for our present decisions. Drawing on decades of feminist work in science and technology studies, these authors mark a new path through shifting terrain.

The full issue is available free online.


For more information about BCRW, please visit our website.

BCRW event Q&A

BCRW Launches the Social Justice Institute

Social Justice Institute

The Barnard Center for Research on Women is thrilled to announce the launch of the Social Justice Institute building on the success of the 2014-16 Activist Fellows Program and BCRW’s history of activist-academic collaborations. The inaugural Social Justice Institute Activists-in-Residence are Reina Gossett, Cara Page, Tarso Ramos, Andrea Ritchie, and Dean Spade.

Taking seriously the critiques of the academic and non-profit industrial complexes that have emerged from the left in the last few decades, BCRW designed the Social Justice Institute with a unique structure intended to reduce the barriers that often come with maintaining a non-profit organization, such as the infrastructural costs and dependencies that often accompany foundation funding. The SJI will provide support for a cohort of five activists to deepen their thinking; connect with new collaborators; begin or continue their projects; and build a broader platform for their critical perspectives and on-the-ground movement building work.

Meet the 2016-2018 Cohort

Reina Gossett, Activist-in-Residence

Reina GossettReina Gossett is the former membership director at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and director of the Welfare Organizing Project at Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ). An activist, writer and filmmaker, she is a recipient of the George Soros Justice Advocacy Fellowship by the Open Society Foundation for her work with LGBT people navigating criminalization. In 2009 she was the Stonewall Community Foundation Honoree for her collaboration with Sasha Wortzel on Happy Birthday, Marsha!, a film detailing the lives of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. In 2013, Gossett was awarded the BCRW Activist Fellowship for her work at the intersections of trans justice and prison abolition, and to support her ongoing work to document and elevate the histories and legacies of trans women of color.

As an Activist-in-Residence, Gossett will continue her work producing videos and other activist-educational resources, as well as organizing and hosting a collaborative art exhibit featuring work on disability justice, prison abolition, and queer and trans liberation in collaboration with Sins Invalid, a disability justice organization that centers the work of queer and trans artists of color, and the Trans Life and Liberation Art Series, which amplifies the struggles and resiliency of trans femmes of color.

Cara Page, Activist-in-Residence

Cara PageCara Page is the Executive Director of the Audre Lorde Project. Over the past three decades, she has worked within movements for queer & trans liberation, reproductive justice, healing justice, and racial and economic justice. She is co-founder and former Coordinator of the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective and former National Director of the Committee on Women, Population & the Environment. For her outstanding achievements in community organizing around the arts and social justice, Page has received awards and fellowships from the National Center for Human Rights & Education and The Rockefeller Foundation.

As an Activist-in-Residence, Page will deepen her study on historical and contemporary  eugenic practices and medical experimentation to shape a public discourse on the historical and contemporary role of eugenic violence as an extension of state control and surveillance on Black & immigrant communities; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming people; people with disabilities; and Women of Color. Through creating political writings, cultural performance and communal forums on these issues she will gather a cohort of healers/health practitioners, cultural workers, organizers, scientists and service providers to transform institutional eugenic practices; and memorialize sites of eugenic practice to bear witness to these atrocities and begin to organize and heal.

Tarso Ramos, Activist-in-Residence

Tarso RamosTarso Ramos is Executive Director of Political Research Associates. Under his leadership, PRA has expanded existing lines of research documenting right wing attacks on reproductive, gender and racial justice by launching several new initiatives on subjects that include the export of U.S.-style homophobic campaigns abroad, the spread of Islamophobia, and the Right’s investment in redefining religious liberty toward discriminatory ends. Before joining PRA, Ramos served as founding director of Western States Center‘s Racial Justice Program, which works to oppose racist public policy initiatives and support progressive people of color-led organizations. As director of the Wise Use Public Exposure Project in the mid-’90s, he tracked the Right’s anti-union and anti-environmental campaigns.

As an Activist-in-Residence, Ramos will convene a group of movement leaders to discuss and document intersectional approaches to movement building in the context of growing right wing attacks against reproductive, racial, gender, and economic justice. This group will identify best practices and develop models based on the work of Political Research Associates to highlight the effectiveness of intersectional work and provide resources for progressive, people-of-color-led base-building work.

Andrea J. Ritchie, Researcher-in-Residence

Andrea RitchieAndrea J. Ritchie was most recently a Soros Justice Fellow at the Open Society Foundations, where she documented policy reforms and litigation strategies that address the specific ways in which discriminatory policing impacts women of color. Through research, writing, legal services, and organizing, Ritchie has dedicated the past two decades to challenging abusive and discriminatory policing against women, girls, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of color. She is the co-author of  “Say Her Name: Resisting Police Brutality Against Black Women” (2015),  A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations For Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People Living with HIV (2014) and  Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States (Beacon Press)

As a Researcher-in-Residence, Ritchie will focus on deepening public understandings of the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and criminal justice through the completion of her book Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color. She will also publish a series of articles on policing of race, gender, sexuality, and criminal justice, and conduct public engagement on these topics with activists, academics, and policy-makers. Ritchie will also conduct research to develop a framework for the philanthropic community to support and sustain the innovative and intersectional models that challenge the violent policing and criminalization of women, LGBTQ immigrants, and people of color.

Dean Spade, Activist-in-Residence

Dean SpadeDean Spade ‘97 is Associate Professor at Seattle University School of Law where he teaches Administrative Law, Poverty Law, and Law and Social Movements. He founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project in 2002, a non-profit law collective that provides free legal services to  low-income transgender, intersex and gender nonconforming people. SRLP also engages in litigation, policy reform and public education on issues affecting these communities. He is the author of Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of Law (2011, Rev. Ed. 2015). In 2015, Spade was awarded a BCRW Activist Fellowship for his work on trans liberation, prison abolition, and the limits and tactical uses of legal strategies for left organizing. As an Activist Fellow, Spade co-produced a number of activist and educational videos on anti-violence activism and the impact and limits of the non-profit industrial complex on contemporary social movements. Spade is also the recipient of the 2016 Kessler Award from CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies and Gay Studies for his transformative impact on the field of LGBTQ Studies.

As an Activist-in-Residence, Spade will collaborate with Activist-in-Residence Reina Gossett to develop videos and other activist-educational resources focusing on the critical intersections of disability justice, prison abolition, and queer and trans liberation in collaboration with Sins Invalid, a disability justice organization that centers the work of queer and trans artists of color, and the Trans Life and Liberation Art Series, which amplifies the struggles and resiliency of trans femmes of color. Spade will also collaborate with Activist-in-Residence Andrea J. Ritchie to produce a series of activist-educational videos on police violence targeting girls, women, and LGBTQ people of color.


A History of BCRW’s Feminist Praxis

BCRW is the nation’s oldest feminist research center and, since its founding in 1971, has brought scholars and activists together to advance intersectional social justice feminism. BCRW serves as a facilitator of exchange among different sites of feminist knowledge production, including work among artists, activists, cultural workers, policy makers, and educators.

As part of this commitment, BCRW established the Activist Fellows Program in fall 2014 with the support of a generous anonymous gift. The program created residencies for two visionary activists, Katherine Acey and Amber Hollibaugh, whose work has crossed many movements, including LGBTQ, HIV/AIDS, women’s, economic justice, and racial justice movements, and has shaped new analytic and organizing frameworks for social justice.

As a Senior Activist Fellow, Katherine Acey focused on aging and activism across generations. She conducted research and multiple interviews, and organized and spoke on panels, lectures, and one salon to gather the stories of intergenerational activists and encourage conversations across generations.

Amber Hollibaugh’s work as a Senior Activist Fellow allowed her to establish her project Queer Survival Economies and host a day-long conference of the same name, working at the intersections of queerness, sex work, immigration, poverty, policing, and survival.

BCRW also created fellowships for a number of cultural workers and activists. Ntozake Shange ‘70 collaborated with BCRW-affiliated faculty, students, and staff to produce a Digital Shange Archives project and a special double-issue of The Scholar and Feminist Online: The Worlds of Ntozake Shange. Nobel Peace Laureate Leymah Gbowee  convened a day-long symposium on African Women’s Rights and Resilience. Dean Spade ‘97 produced a series of videos developed out of the Columbia Center for Gender and Sexuality Law’s Queer Dreams and Non-Profit Blues conference. Reina Gossett, with Dean Spade, produced “No One Is Disposable,” a series of activist-educational videos on trans liberation and prison abolition. Ali Rosa-Salas ‘13 produced “NO SUCH THING AS NEUTRAL,” a symposium about the contributions of Flex and Lite Feet to the contemporary dance landscape. Nicci Yin BC ‘14 researched the intersections of art and social justice, culminating in a visual art piece called “The Octopus: Cognitive Capitalism and the University.”

Visit our website to learn more about these projects and a more complete history of BCRW’s activist-academic collaborations.

 

Black Escapism in Arthur Jafa’s “Dreams are Colder than Death”

Dreams Are Colder Than Death

The escape artist flashed by on a metallic blue motorcycle, pursued by a blur of pulsing red and blue lights. Drawn together by a sentiment exceeding mutual compassion, the sidewalk spectators stood inert, breaths and bodies taut with anticipation. For a moment, parts of us took flight alongside the fugitive, our lives reaching beyond the limits of our bodies; the moment did not last long. Soon he was on foot, bobbing and weaving past the threat of capture, circling the block, boxed in but refusing to surrender. The choreography of escape was altered as his body crashed onto the concrete, sustaining the friction of tense blue cloth, the pressure of cold metal, the bitterness of heated blood and antagonized sweat. There might’ve been a collective exhale, as we all stood watching, witnesses to our own fall and capture.

That we had been standing on the corner of Adam Clayton Powell and 130th, and that everyone in sight, besides the police, was Black, stood out to me in that moment. Some of us had urged the fugitive to run–Run! Our hearts leapt toward the sidewalk with his fall; a reminder that we were fallible. That even here–Here! in informal communion, closest to the bosom of Black America–we were not safe. As a routine police chase, this mundane moment marked itself as an extraordinary one, in which I served witness to the assertion of a claim to freedom.

This notion of witnessing was re-articulated for me during the recent viewing of Arthur Jafa’s Dreams are Colder than Death and a follow-up discussion between Jafa and panelists Christina Sharpe, Reina Gossett, and Tavia Nyongo at the International Center of Photography. Though the film touches on a range of topics explored by Black theory in regard to futurity, survival, and resistance, the act of escape remained a primary point of exploration not only through the viewing of Black fugitivity through art, music, dance, but in mundane movements that indicated tension between studied, self-contained calm and external chaos and pressure.

Articulated per Fred Moten’s analysis of fugitivity, the line of escape mapped out by the Black fugitive is a mobilization of political consciousness. In fugitivity lies a futuristic impulse to claim the not-yet-forged possibilities of existence. It is a mobilization of Black vitality, in which biomechanic and metaphysical forces are deployed to activate effort; an effort that is integral to claiming survival. It is in enacting such effort that agency is articulated.

Arthur Jafa’s Dreams are Colder than Death, is made up of a collection scenes that replicate this first-hand interaction with escape and survival. Jafa’s digitized portrayals of Black movement contain a quality of nostalgia, marking the film as an archival space set up for the recollection and documentation of Blackness. This documentary impulse should not be misinterpreted as an intent to recollect the already-lost past, rather, it should be viewed as an intentional effort to archive the very-much alive present that predicates what we are becoming.  

From the opening scene, flesh and body are set up as points of interrogation. Hortense Spillers’ voice inquires about the possibilities for recuperating that which is in danger of being lost: Black culture. Visually, we encounter moving Black bodies arcing through the air, somersaulting in reverse through time and space. This retrograde action is tied into Spillers’ question, one that incites anxiety about the ephemerality of Blackness, the mark of its susceptibility.

Spillers’ insight into lost flesh and dismemberment, through an intimate recollection of personal loss, is analogous to a later question she poses around the “intramural problem of slavery”. Spillers locates the Transatlantic Slave Trade within a set of relations that posit the trafficking of Black bodies as a cannibalistic dilemma and identifies this trade in human flesh as the “original sin”. But first, we must examine the flesh itself, partly through Spillers’ own analysis in addition to the flesh exposed by Jafa’s lens.

In Spillers’ work, specifically in “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe”, flesh is a starting place for a theoretical examination of the making and un-making of the Black body within the drama of racialization. Spillers’ invocation of the Transatlantic Slave Trade is an important reminder of where the drama began. It is in the context of trade and exchange that Black flesh became marked and assigned differential subjecthood. The flesh, dismembered and reordered, preceded personhood, reduced to what Alexander Weheliye–in his own reading of Spillers–termed bare life.

Jafa’s focus on the moving body can be read as an attempt to re-engage in a dialogue of bare life. His focus upon flesh in its active and dormant states, demands attention to breath, activity, movement. He is opening up the grammar, per Spillers’ analysis, that enables Black legibility. Bare faces and flesh become the starting point for examining Blackness. Subjects are directly positioned in view of the lens, their bodies lingering on screen, not inviting examination, impervious to any set of logics that de-legitimizes their right to move, breathe, be still. In the grammar set up by Jafa, Black livelihood flourishes per a set of logics that prioritize subjectivity. Through their movements and gestures, the Black people that appear on Jafa’s screen “enunciate quotidian claims to survival, resilience, and possibility” (Campt 29). These claims demarcate a critical space in which subaltern voices can engage in self-making.

Fred Moten makes a concluding interrogation of the possibilities of survival. Love, per Moten, is where healing takes place. And like fugitivity, it offers escape and the rerouting, or the re-mapping of the enclosed landscape Blackness must navigate. Unlike fugitivity however, love holds a limitless expanse of futuristic potential; it offers space to fall down and rise with redemption.

Marriage Institutes Inequality and Violence: Lessons for Queer and Trans Liberation Movements

In October 2013, BCRW and The Engaging Tradition Project at The Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School co-convened a conference called Queer Dreams and Non-Profit blues to examine the critiques emerging from queer and feminist activists and scholars about the impact of funding on social movement agendas and formations. During the conference, Hope Dector from BCRW and Dean Spade from The Engaging Tradition Project conducted interviews with many of the speakers about their analysis and strategies related to the conference themes. These interviews were edited a series of short videos that aim to bring these critical perspectives into an accessible format for use in activist spaces and classrooms. These videos highlight the type of knowledge production that is possible when the boundaries between activism and the academy are actively traversed.

Featuring Angélica Chazaro, Trishala Deb, Kenyon Farrow, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Dean Spade, Eric Stanley, Urvashi Vaid, and Craig Willse.

Gender Amplified hosts Dear Daughter Remix Contest

Gender Amplified, an org founded and run by Barnard and BCRW alum Ebonie Smith, is hosting a remix contest for the metal band Halestorm. Check it out and share!

HALESTORM TEAMS UP WITH GENDER AMPLIFIED FOR “DEAR DAUGHTER REMIX CONTEST”

September 12, 2016–Halestorm and Gender Amplified have partnered to present the “Dear Daughter Remix Contest,” where fans have a chance to remix the track “Dear Daughter,” off Halestorm’s latest album Into The Wild Life for a chance to win $1000 and meet frontwoman Lzzy Hale. All remix styles are welcome. For more information and to enter to win, see link below!

Halestorm

Gender Amplified is a nonprofit organization that aims to celebrate Women in music production, raise their visibility and develop a pipeline for girls and young women to get involved behind the scenes as music producers. The movement also connects passion for music with technical skills that can be used in a wide range of scientific and arts based fields, areas in which Women are traditionally underrepresented. By organizing public events that foster healthy dialogue about the role gender plays in the music making process, Gender Amplified endeavors to give voice to a subculture of women who are using music technology to create their own music and perpetuate their unique identities.

#fcg40: Calling for colored girls!

for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enufForty years ago in September of 1976, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow was enuf moved to the Booth Theater on Broadway, sparking new conversations about black womanhood, feminism and gender relations. BCRW’s Digital Shange Project and the Barnard Archives and Special Collections (home to the Ntozake Shange Collection) are celebrating Ntozake Shange (BC ‘70) and her iconic play by archiving your experiences of for colored girls.

Tell us what for colored girls has meant to you! Did you ‘find god in yourself’ by reading for colored girls? Were you one of the thousands of women who appeared in a for colored girls production? Did you see it on Broadway? We’d love to share production stills, programs and your memories during the for colored girls anniversary year (?) and then place them in the archive for researchers to use along with Ntozake’s manuscripts and memorabilia.

You can participate by:

  • Posting written, audio, or video memories using the #fcg40 hashtag on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
  • Emailing us at digitalshange@gmail.com with memories, photos or scans (please identify the source(s) of any visual materials).
  • And/or filling out the form below

Let’s show for colored girls and Ntozake some love!

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

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Your Message

A BCRW research assistant or Barnard Library archivist may follow up with you on your submission. If you have any questions please email us at digitalshangeproject [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you!

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BCRW Fall 2016 Newsletter

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

Tina CamptAs a feminist theorist trained as an historian, I believe in the time honored adage that we must know our histories to build the world we need. In that spirit, BCRW’s fall programs will explore our collective feminist archives, some more literal than others, using these histories to take inspiration from our past and imagine a more livable future.

Our journey into the archives will begin by exploring how the lives of visionary feminist leaders inform our understandings of past political moments as well as contemporary activist and scholarly work. We have the honor of hosting the New York City premiere of MAJOR!, a documentary film following the life and activism of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a 73-year-old Black transgender woman whose personal history offers a window into struggles for LGBTQ liberation, prison abolition, and police reform from the 1960s to the present. We will also host a day-long conference honoring and examining the legacy of Black feminist writer and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston in the works of contemporary scholars.

Later in the semester we will travel together into the physical archives to sort through photographs, letters, meeting minutes, and material objects, while keeping an eye on that which the archive silences and leaves out. Artist and writer Sabra Moore will guide us through the Barnard Archives and Special Collections to explore the role of art in the service of social justice movements from the 1970s to the 1990s. Later, in an intergenerational dialogue with Barnard alums, members of the Barnard College Class of 1971 and current students, we will reflect on the role of student activism on campus through an exhibit of material drawn from the Student Activist Archives of 1968-1971 and a film screening, which will take place against the backdrop one of the most important elections in US history.

This is just a glimpse of the archival journeys the fall semester has in store. I hope you will join us in rich dialogues across historical moments and generations to examine the legacies that have brought us to this time, and those that will shape how we dream, understand, and struggle toward the next.

With best wishes,

Tina Campt


FALL 2016 EVENTS

Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer SpaceBlack Hole Blues
Roslyn Silver ‘27 Science Lecture by Janna Levin
Thursday 10/20 6:30 – 8 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall

Black holes are dark. That’s their essence. That’s the defining feature that earned them a name. They are dark against a dark sky. They are a shadow against a bright sky. A telescope has never found one unadorned. Bare black holes – those too solitary to tear down sufficient debris – in their obliterating darkness are practically impossible to observe, but not entirely impossible. In this Silver Science Lecture, Janna Levin investigates the astronomer’s aspiration to detect black holes (and other cataclysmic events) that culminated in the discovery of the century: The first human-procured recordings of a gravitational-wave sound from the collision of two black holes 1.3 billion years ago.

Janna Levin is a Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University, and was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2013.

 

MajorMAJOR! The New York City Premiere
A documentary 
film screening followed by a conversation with Miss Major Griffin-Gracy & filmmakers StormMiguel Flores and Annalise Ophelian
Co-hosted by the Office of Social Justice Initiatives at The New School
Tuesday 10/25 6:30 PM
Tishman Auditorium, The New School
63 5th Avenue (at 14th Street)

MAJOR! follows the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, a 73-year-old Black transgender woman, a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion and organizer who has been fighting for the liberation of trans women of color for over 40 years. Miss Major’s personal story and activism for transgender civil rights, from mobile outreach and AIDS prevention to fighting the prison industrial complex, intersects LGBT struggles for justice and equality from the 1960s to today. The screening will include a Q&A with Miss Major and the filmmakers, Annalise Ophelian and StormMiguel Flores.

The screening will also feature the premiere of The Personal Stuff, a short animation about Miss Major, directed by Reina Gossett with art by Micah Bazant and animation by Pamela Chavez.

 

HurstonHurston@125: Engaging with the Work and Legacy of Zora Neale Hurston
A conference featuring Alex Alston, John L. Jackson, Jr., Meg McLagan, Adriana Garriga-Lopez, Tami Navarro, Mariel Rodney, Patricia Stuelke, Deborah Thomas, Sarah E. Vaughn, Bianca Williams, and Autumn Womack
Friday, 10/28 10 AM – 6:30 PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center

Zora Neale Hurston, a graduate of Barnard College and Columbia University, has received great acclaim for her literary work, particularly the highly influential novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. In honor of the 125th anniversary of her birth, BCRW celebrates Hurston’s legacy with a one-day symposium that brings together emerging scholars whose work builds upon Hurston’s less well-known training in anthropology and interdisciplinary modes of analysis and expression. The program will include panel discussions and a film screening of Hurston’s ethnographic work.

For more information and a full program, please visit bcrw.barnard.edu/hurston125

 

Sabra Moore straight forward 2Openings and Archives: Art-Making and Movement Building
A Lunchtime Lecture by Sabra Moore
Tuesday 11/1 12 – 1 PM
Sulzberger Parlor, 3rd Floor Barnard Hall

Artist, writer, and activist Sabra Moore will read from her forthcoming memoir Openings and share original archival materials now housed in the Barnard College Archives and Special Collections. The collection and memoir feature over 180 different art works and 79 individual artists, covering a fascinating range of topics, from the documentation of WAR (Women Artists in Revolution), Women’s Services (the first legal abortion clinic in NY), and the Heresies Collective, to the 1984 demonstration against MoMA’s lack of inclusivity in its collections.

 

OnStrike1972_WP_featuredActivism In Context: An Intergenerational Dialogue on Organizing in the Shadow of the 2016 Elections
A conversation between Katherine Brewster ‘71 and Janet Price ‘71 and current Barnard College students, moderated by BCRW Senior Activist Fellow Katherine Acey
Tuesday 11/15 6:30 – 8 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall

This year’s historic 2016 election casts a long shadow over the history of feminist activism across different generations. The first in a series of dialogues with the classes of 1968 through 1974, this event will offer an opportunity for social justice feminists to engage in generative dialogues and share resources across generations. Among the resources discussed will be the Activist Archives of 1971, now housed at the Barnard College Archives and Special Collections and in the process of becoming digitized for greater accessibility.

On the DOJ’s Decision to Stop Using Private Prisons: Detention is Prison, Too. Let’s End It.

The Department of Justice announced today that it will stop outsourcing federal prisons to private prison companies due to extreme levels of physical, psychological, and sexual violence and death in these facilities. While this is the result of decades of abolitionist organizing, activists insist that we not let this news distract us: Private, for-profit prisons will continue to operate as immigration detention centers, which is the fastest-growing area of the private prison industry. And the struggle to abolish all prisons and prison profiteering continues.

As Aviva Shen from ThinkProgress writes:

“While the decision will affect 13 federal prisons currently operated by private companies, the bulk of federal private prisons aren’t run by DOJ. In fact, the industry’s biggest client is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) — a separate agency that relies on private prisons to hold immigrants, often in appalling and unconstitutional conditions.”

DOG private prison shutdown

As Jacinta Gonzalez of #Not1More explains:

“Until private incarceration and detention is ended all together, these facilities will just be recycled between agencies.  Private companies today will be looking for new customers and the Obama administration needs to make sure that no other government agency will be their clients.”

#Not1More on DOJ decision

On the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to open a new private detention center in Texas for transgender detaineesIsa Noyola of the Transgender Law Center says:

“Authorities’ statement that one center will be safer than another doesn’t address that the system of detention is an act of violence on transgender people who came to this country fleeing it. DHS should stop its plan to open a new private facility in Texas and stop its practice of detaining us altogether. We do not simply want the violence committed by a corporation to be inflicted on us by the state. We want transgender and LGBTQ to be free and for the systems that criminalize and cage us to be put to an end.”

In an article in Truthout, Dan Berger, author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, says,

“This is another example of a more symbolic prison reform, which is what the prison reforms of the last few years have been… It makes a difference to some people’s lives, but it is nowhere near the sweeping and realizable changes that are needed.”

Below, watch “Queer Liberation: No Prisons, No Borders,” a video addressing these issues, by BCRW Creative Director Hope Dector and BCRW Activist Fellow Dean Spade:

As Angélica Cházaro reminds us:

“Prison isn’t good for anyone and detention is prison. Prison is prison. Let’s end that.”