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.