Archival Futurity

TWWA Archives_Page_23 (2)

MEI SUET LOO

IMG_6924Visions Through the Archives of Third World Women’s and People’s Collectives

“Third World struggles formed the groundwork for the cultivation of an anti-racist feminist consciousness in the United States.”Tamara Lea Spira

Two organizations in particular, the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) and Third World Communications (TWC), conceptualized justice and liberation to include ending racism, sexism, imperialism, capitalism, etc. In the era of the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power Movement, anti-war (Vietnam) movement, and second-wave feminism, these Third World Women and Peoples’ spaces were radical and novel in the intersectional approach they took.  

This project, Archival Futurity, brings women and gender non-conforming people of color in conversation with each other and with the Third World Women and Peoples’ of the 70s to continue learning and building with their work. Over two semesters, I collected archival materials from the TWWA and TWC from books, archives, and digital archives. I found fliers, poems, publications, missions, dreams, photos – evidence of badass women birthing new movements, spaces, and ideals for themselves.

The project is not to construct a timeline or a story of what these women accomplished because we can never fully retell the stories and work these women have done through pieces from the archives. But we can use these archival materials as building blocks and tools for our imaginations.

In early April of 2016, I hosted two events, titled after an anthology published by the TWC, “Time to Greez,” calling for women and gender non-conforming people of color to gather for an evening of collaborating, creating, and of course – greezing. With copies of the archival material / scissors / glue / construction paper we set to create a collaborative zine. A zine – an independently published booklet – allowed us to cut / paste / and mark up archival materials that are usually tucked away into history textbooks and archives. In this way, we are at the same time burying our dead twice as well as creating new visions.

Below – is the collaborative zine that came out of my warm warm room by the many many hands that continue to do anti-oppressive work through an anti-racist / anti-sexist / anti-imperialist framework.

“It was important that we could do it on our own. It was very important to us that we publish it ourselves. That people of color had done it on our own. It was important to us that women did it.”Ntozake Shange in regards to her work with the Third World Communications

This idea came into fruition after engaging with Shange’s poems and stories – she is constantly destabilizing past / present / and futures as a way to articulate diaspora, resilience, and daughterhood. As Nadia says, we are all daughters of Shange. We are all daughters of the Third World Women who worked/ cared/ and fought before us. Evidence of this disrupted multi-nodal lineage is in the rituals that are passed down through recipes (if i can cook you know god can), spells and healing ways (sassafrass, cypress, and indigo), movement (for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf), and more. This project hopes to collapse the past/present/and future, even if for just a moment, to give us a chance to grapple with diaspora, resilience, and daughterhood.


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Photos taken by MLoo.

“I was raised on a segregated street and at that time it meant that any people of color had to live together. On my street, there were East Indians, Puerto Ricans, Chinese, Filipino, Togo, Japanese, Nigerian – people of all Third World countries lived on my street because they weren’t white. We had no other place to live. So we had to live together. So from a very early age, I was aware that there were other people of color and that we all had something in common – that we weren’t white.” Ntozake Shange in response to when she identified herself as a Third World Woman

The Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) formed in 1968 and operated until 1980. The original organizers were black women who broke off from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to form the Black Women’s Liberation Committee in response to the lack of critical engagement with sexism within the anti-racist movement. In 1970, Puerto Rican women of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party joined the black women and therefore they soon became the Third World Women’s Alliance. Frances M. Beal, a founding member of the Black Women’s Liberation Committee, shares that, “We became known, particularly in New York, as a group who had an anti-racist, anti-imperialist, pro-women consciousness.” It was this strong anti-imperialist stance that facilitated the shift towards a Third World Women’s Alliance. Identifying the main pillars of oppression to be racism, sexism, and imperialism, they organized through consciousness-raising, political education, and information-sharing.


Third World Women’s Alliance Papers, Smith College Archives, Box 3, Folder 9.


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“You didn’t have to speak any particular language to be able to read your poetry and you didn’t have to paint in any particular style in order for your paintings to be seen.”Ntozake Shange in response to her experience with the TWC

Third World Communications collective was formed in 1971 as the result of the disbanding and regrouping of the Pocho Ché collective. TWC is a collective of Third World peoples who saw a lack and a need in their communities to have access to stories and creativity produced by their very own community members. Its members included Janice Mirikitani, Ntozake Shange, Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn, Serafin Syquia, Geraldine Kudaka, George Leong, and Victor Hernandez Cruz. In the prologue to Time to Greez, they exclaim that “we must be able to see, hear, feel, smell, taste portraits of themselves.” As a collective, they published the first anthology of Third World Women writers in 1972 titled, Third World Woman’s Book, and followed with another anthology of Third World writers in 1975 titled, Time to Greez!. They believed that they were “cultural workers and not just strictly poets” so they also organized many readings.

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