Social Justice Institute History

Since 2005, BCRW deepened its commitment to scholar-feminist praxis through series of collaborative partnerships with activists, activist-scholars, and community-based organizations and coalitions in New York City and beyond. 

Our collaborations with these groups and our projects’ outcomes have provided crucial legitimacy for campaigns in their earliest stages. These collaborative projects draw on the resources that BCRW can provide, including research, infrastructure, and resources for activists to explore new approaches that are not yet or not otherwise fundable, outside the constraints of a non-profit organizational structure.

In 2014, thanks to generous support from an anonymous donor, BCRW had the honor of awarding four two-year fellowships to Katherine Acey, Amber Hollibaugh, Reina Gossett, and Dean Spade (BC ‘97).

Building on the success of this pilot project, in 2016 BCRW launched the Social Justice  Institute, which initiated a new stage of our activist-academic collaborations with inaugural Social Justice Institute Activists-in-Residence Reina Gossett, Cara Page, Tarso Ramos, and Dean Spade, and Researcher-in-Residence Andrea Ritchie. Katherine Acey and Amber Hollibaugh remain our Emerita Fellows.


Building a New Queer Agenda:
A Partnership with Queer Survival Economies

From 2005 to 2007, BCRW partnered with Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ) to host “Desiring Change,” a series of activist-academic convenings culminating in a day-long convening with 21 social justice organizations on the importance of coalitional and multi-issue organizing strategies and the value of re-centering sexuality in progressive organizing. Organizations that joined the 2007 convening include the Labor/Community Strategy Center, the LGBT Community Center, the Western States Center, Q-Team, the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Audre Lorde Project, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Generation Five, South Asian Network, Women’s Foundation of California, Social Justice Fund, Center for New Community, QEJ, and BCRW.

In 2011, BCRW and QEJ published “A New Queer Agenda,” an issue of the Scholar and Feminist Online, co-edited by Lisa Duggan, Joseph DeFilippis, Kenyon Farrow, and Richard Kim, and with contributions from Richard Blum, Terry Boggis, Reed Christian, Debanuj DasGupta, Joseph DeFilippis, John D’Emilio, Áine Duggan, Lisa Duggan, Kenyon Farrow, Marcia M. Gallo, Che Gossett, Reina Gossett, Tom Hill, Amber Hollibaugh, Richard Kim, AJ Lewis, Syd London, Rickke Mananzala, Robert McRuer, Anya Mukarji-Connolly, N. Ordover, Susan Raffo, Laura F. Redman, Catherine Sameh, Svati P. Shah, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), Jessica Stern, Kay Whitlock, and Miriam W. Yeung. he issue is available online at

In 2011, BCRW published Desiring Change, a New Feminist Solutions report written by Amber Hollibaugh, Janet Jakobsen, and Catherine Sameh and synthesizing the contributions to SF Online and the results of the “Desiring Change” colloquia. View the issue online at http://

In 2014-15, BCRW awarded Amber Hollibaugh with its one of its first-ever Senior Activist Fellowships to establish Queer Survival Economies, a project carrying forward QEJ’s vital work to address the intersections of sexuality, poverty, homelessness, labor, and the criminalization of survival.

In 2015, Queer Survival Economies partnered with the Murphy Institute to convene Queer Survival Economies: Invisible Lives, Targeted Bodies, a public conference bringing together organizers, activists, scholars and community members to discuss overlooked and often invisible economic justice issues at the intersection of class, race, gender, immigration, non-traditional families, sexuality and the law. The conference led to the publication of “Queer Precarity,” by Amber Hollibaugh and Margot Weiss, in New Labor Forum.

In 2016, Queer Survival Economies presented a day-long workshop at the Creating Change Conference, the annual conference sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to support change for social justice and a plenary panel at BCRW’s 41st annual Scholar & Feminist Conference.


Activism and Aging:
A Partnership with Katherine Acey

In 2014-15, BCRW awarded Katherine Acey with one of its first-ever Senior Activist Fellowships to research and develop a project on issues impacting LGBTQ elders, aging in the LGBTQ community, and bridging LGBTQ activist generations. Acey is currently serving as an advisor to GRIOT Circle, a people of color LGBTQ elders organization based in Brooklyn, NY, where she was previously the Executive Director.

Beginning in the fall of 2015, Acey has hosted intergenerational convenings with activists who are LGBTQ and/or women to share experiences, knowledge, and individual and collective needs to shape the next stages of this project.

In January 2016, Acey was awarded the Sage National LGBTQ Aging and Leadership Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at the annual Creating Change Conference.


Making a Way Out of No Way:
A Partnership with Reina Gossett

In 2013, Reina Gossett was awarded a BCRW Activist Fellowship for her work at the intersections of trans justice and prison abolition, and her work to document and honor the lives and legacies of trans women of color Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.

From 2013-2014, Gossett developed and participated in a video series called “No One is Disposable: Everyday Practices of Prison Abolition” with BCRW Activist Fellow Dean Spade, produced by BCRW, on prison abolition as a political framework, rather than a single issue, and why it should be central to struggles for trans and gender liberation. This series is available online at

In 2014, Gossett and Spade participated in BCRW’s first-ever online event, #NoOneIsDisposable, co-sponsored by the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, in which audience members submitted questions and engaged in dialogue on prison abolition and the ways it intersects with queer and trans justice movements. This experiment in digital learning and organizing engaged BCRW’s audiences and helped this critical work reach a broader base. A recording of this event is available online at

Also in 2014, Gossett and Spade partnered with activist CeCe McDonald to produce “‘I Use My Love to Guide Me’: Surviving and Thriving in the Face of Impossible Situations,” a public lecture and video series on trans activism and prison abolition, co-sponsored by BCRW, Office of Social Justice Initiatives at The New School, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at NYU, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School, and Transgender Youth Support Network. Recordings and original videos are available online at

In early 2017, Gossett and co-producer Sasha Wortzel will release their film “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” This film is a creative retelling of the personal, political, and collective history of the Stonewall Rebellion through the lives of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, Black and Latina trans women who organized around homelessness, poverty, racism, and gender liberation in New York City. More information about the film is available at


Documenting Queer and Trans Resistance:
A Partnership with Dean Spade

In 2015, Dean Spade, Barnard College class of 1997, 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.

In 2015, Spade and BCRW Creative Director Hope Dector produced a video series on historical challenges and strategies for anti-violence movements based on interviews conducted at the 2013 Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues Conference, co-sponsored by BCRW and the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. These videos include interviews with Angélica Cházaro, Shira Hassan, Soniya Munshi, Andrea Ritchie, Andrea Smith, and Dean Spade. View the videos online at

In 2016, Spade and BCRW Creative Director Hope Dector produced a video series called “Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues” also based on interviews conducted at the 2013 Queer Dreams and Nonprofit Blues Conference. These videos include interviews with Christine Ahn, Trishala Deb, Kenyon Farrow, Shira Hassan, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, Imani Henry, Amber Hollibaugh, N’Tanya Lee, Andrea Ritchie, Dean Spade, Urvashi Vaid, Jason Walker, and Craig Willse. View the videos online at


The Digital Shange Project:
A Collaboration with Ntozake Shange

During the academic year 2014-2015, Ntozake Shange, Barnard College class of 1970, was awarded the BCRW Distinguished Artist Fellowship for her work as a poet, novelist, and choreographer, and her innovative creation of the choreopoem, a form that links the physicality of dancing and music to the written word, beginning with her Obie-award winning theater production for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.

In 2015, BCRW published a special double issue of S&F Online called “The Worlds of Ntozake Shange” guest edited by Kim F. Hall, Monica L. Miller, and Yvette Christiansë. This issue highlights Shange’s centrality to black feminism and her continuing impact on literature, theatre, popular culture, feminist, Afrodiasporic and queer movements, with many pointing to her linguistic innovations as tools that have proven vital to feminist practice. This issue is available online at

During the academic year 2014-2015, the Africana Studies Department and BCRW began the Digital Shange Project, which provides materials designed to bring the works of Ntozake Shange, archival materials, and embodied learning to the classroom. Students in the Worlds of Ntozake Shange & Digital Storytelling course worked with archivists at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture to create public digital projects that engage Shange’s relationship to the Black Arts Movement and Women of Color/Third World Feminisms, producing videos, digital stories, and Wikipedia entries. See the student projects at and contributions to Wikipedia at

More information about Digital Shange, including original videos on Shange’s legacy and artistic practice, can be viewed online at


African Women’s Rights and Resilience:
A Collaboration with Leymah Gbowee

In 2013-14, BCRW awarded Nobel Laureate and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee with the Transnational Fellowship, the same year that Barnard College honored her as the inaugural Distinguished Fellow in Social Justice.

Gbowee’s year in residence included African Women’s Rights and Resilience, a day-long symposium, addressing key issues for continental women’s movements, including the role of men in women’s social justice movements, the importance of intergenerational activism, and the stakes of transnational feminist engagements within and beyond the African continent. Materials, including video, from the day-long symposium are available online at

Gbowee also engaged in a pedagogical collaboration with Tina Campt, Professor of Africana and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Director of BCRW, in which they developed a distinctive adaptation of the WGSS Feminist Theory Colloquium. Course description, materials, student reflections, and video are available online at


Reproductive Justice In Action:
A Partnership with Groundswell’s Catalyst Fund and the New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF)

In 2009, BCRW partnered on a participatory action research project with Groundswell’s Catalyst Fund, NYWF, and seventeen of their grantee partners doing reproductive justice work in New York City, including the African Hope Committee, Brooklyn Young Mothers’ Collective, Damayan Migrant Workers Association, Girls Education and Mentoring Services, Girls for Gender Equity, Love Heals: The Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, NYCLU Teen Health Initiative, Red Hook Initiative, Rightrides for Women’s Safety, Sauti Yetu Center for African Women, Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research and Treatment, Sistas on the Rise, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Voces Latinas, Women’s HIV Collaborative of New York, Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, and Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition. The research focused on articulating an organizing model for reproductive justice at the intersections of racial and economic justicedocumentation of participating organizations’ best practices; and amplification of the work of women and LGBTQ people of color organizations in broader movements for systemic change.

BCRW and NYWF published Reproductive Justice in Action, a New Feminist Solutions report written by Rebecca Jordan-Young, Lucy Trainor, and Janet Jakobsen based on the coalition’s research and findings. The report is available online at:

In 2010, BCRW and NYWF sponsored a daylong conference, “Critical Intersections: Reproductive and Economic Justice,” during which the seventeen participating organizations presented organizational history, research findings, best practices, and next steps for their work. Conference presentations from the seventeen participating organizations are available online at

BCRW produced podcast and video versions of “Creating Systemic Change at the Intersection of Economic and Reproductive Justice,” a recording of a conference panel discussion moderated by Laura Flanders of GRITtv featureing Sylvia Henriquez (Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health), Lynn Paltrow (Executive Director, National Advocates for Pregnant Women), and Miriam Yeung (Executive Director, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum). The podcast is available online at http:// and the video is available at http://

This collaboration also led to the production of the documentary “Justice at the Intersections: Action for Reproductive and Economic Justice in NYC,” by filmmaker Tiona McClodden and featuring interviews with 16 organizations doing reproductive justice work in New York City premiered at the 2010 conference. The film is available online at


Building a Domestic Workers Movement:
A Partnership with Domestic Workers United (DWU) and the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)

2008 began a three-year partnership between DWU, NDWA, and BCRW in support of movements to ensure that domestic work–which has been systemically racialized, gendered, and devalued, justifying low-wages and abusive conditions for women of color and immigrant women–is visible, safe, protected and valued. Founded in 2000, DWU is an organization of Caribbean, Latina, Asian, and African nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers for the elderly in New York City. NDWA was formed at the US Social Forum in 2007, and seeks to organize the 2.5 million domestic workers in the US. DWU and NDWA work at local, national and international levels toward fair labor standards, respect, and dignity for workers, and broader movements for social justice.

BCRW hosted the first NDWA congress at Barnard College in 2008.

BCRW hosted NDWA’s first East Coast Regional Congress in 2009.

In 2009, BCRW published Valuing Domestic Work, an issue of the Scholar and Feminist Online, co-edited by Janet Jakobsen and Gisela Fosado and with contributions from Eileen Boris, Christine E. Bose, Arlie Russell Hochschild, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), Jennifer Klein, Wendy Kozol, Pei-Chia Lan, Premilla Nadasen, NDWA, Leah Obias, Ai-jen Poo, Saskia Sassen, Third World Newsreel, and Basia Winograd. This issue is available at

In 2009, BCRW published Valuing Domestic Work, a New Feminist Solutions report written by Premilla Nadasen and Tiffany Williams. View this report at

On August 31, 2010, New York Governor David Paterson signed into law the nation’s first Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, paving the way towards increased recognition and protection of domestic workers. Since that time six other states have followed New York’s lead and passed Domestic Workers Bill of Rights legislation.


Work-Family Justice:
A Partnership with A Better Balance

In 2007, BCRW partnered with A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, along with the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California at Hastings and the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development to host The Work-Family Dilemma: Policy Solutions for All New Yorkers, a day-long summit on work-family issues across the economic spectrum with fifty participants, including leaders and experts (those who have studied these issues and those who advocate for better policies) and the actual stakeholders (labor, business and elected officials in New York City), as well as keynote speaker Betsy Gotbaum, Public Advocate for New York City (and Barnard alum).

Also in 2007, following a consensus among participants on the need for a comprehensive work-family policy advocacy agenda for New York City, BCRW and a Better Balance produced The Work-Family Dilemma: A Better Balance: Policy Solutions for All New Yorkers, a New Feminist Solutions report based on research and discussions from the summit. The report is available online at

In 2016, A Better Balance and their partners won the campaign for Paid Family Leave in New York, which will ensure paid time off and the ability to care for their families with job security for up to 6.4 million New Yorkers. New York now has the strongest paid family leave program in the U.S., and is the fourth state in the country to guarantee paid family leave for workers welcoming a new child or caring for an ill family member, and the first to provide 12 weeks of job-protected paid time off. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law on April 4, 2016. The law will go into effect on January 1, 2018.


Responding to Violence:
A Collaboration with Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams

In October 2002, BCRW collaborated with Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams to host Responding to Violence, a day-long colloquium with thirty activists and scholars dedicated to theorizing feminist responses to forms of violence, including war, hate violence, police brutality, intimate partner violence, and domestic abuse. The project as a whole made the argument that feminist approaches and thinking about women and gender make a difference in peace-building.

In 2004, Williams and BCRW published Responding to Violence, Rethinking Security, a New Feminist Solutions report summarizing feminist anti-violence research and strategies focusing on human security, disarmament, demilitarization, and policy alternatives. The issue is available online at

Also in 2004, BCRW published through Palgrave press, Interventions: Academics and Activists Respond to Violence, editedby Elizabeth Castelli and Janet Jakobsen with a contribution by Jody Williams and twenty other participants in the colloquium.

In 2006, Williams went on to co-found the Nobel Women’s Initiative with fellow Nobel Peace Laureates Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Betty Williams and Mairead Maguire, and later joined by Aung San Suu Kyi, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkol Karman. The Nobel Women’s Initiative continues the work of advocating for peace beyond disarmament; a commitment to equality and justice; a democratic world free of physical, economic, cultural, political, religious, sexual and environmental violence and the constant threat of these forms of violence against women and all people.

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