Based on the groundbreaking work of both of the Forum’s principal directors, our program pays special attention to the often overlooked interactions between different kinds of discrimination. We similarly draw attention to constituencies within communities whose needs are unaddressed, as well as to unrealized opportunities, to build cross movement projects and messaging that strengthen efforts at hand. In an upcoming funders forum on Cross Movement Building, Kimberle Crenshaw will take up these issues and set forth productive ways to grow awareness and useful interventions between advocacy sectors using intersectionality as a frame.

Over the past months, the Forum’s intersectional work has featured a partnership with Eve Ensler’s V-Day, to address dimensions of domestic violence that are linked to both gender and race. This partnership grew out of a past effort to bring the domestic violence movement together with activists against mass incarceration policies, to talk about how vulnerability to violence is an unacknowledged risk factor that obscures the prevalence of abuse survivors in the prison complex. This collaboration resulted in a one-night performance at the Lincoln Center in New York City, that featured the reading of works by incarcerated women who wrote movingly about their simultaneous struggles against the violence in their families and the violence of the State. Featured performers included Rosie O’Donnell, Phylisha Rashaad, and survivor Kemba Smith.

Moving forward to address other issues that fall between the cracks of various social justice projects, we noted that one of the topics that rarely appears in the public debate is the way in which minority politics tends to focus on men while marginalizing the concerns of women. This is particularly troubling in the context of anti-violence work, that sometimes unfolds under the rubric of “men and boys” interventions when the violence that is addressed focuses on male-male transgressions, rather than inter-gender violence.

With these concerns in mind, we pursued the project “Brother-to-Brother: Race and Gender Across the Diaspora” in New Orleans in preparation for the 10th anniversary of V-Day. At the suggestion of the Policy Forum, Dr. Denis Mukwege, a courageous Congelese doctor, received the first V-Day award in recognition of his heroic work saving the lives of thousands of women who have been raped and mutilated by armed soldiers in the Congo. In this setting, we took advantage of the opportunity to reflect seriously on the challenging issues that relate to gender, violence and power across the African Diaspora, from the Congo to New Orleans. In the process, we linked the leadership that Dr. Mukwege exhibits to efforts by other men of color to stand against sexism, violence and abuse in their own communities.

Board member Devon Carbado and Program Director Luke Harris led a workshop for Black men at this event. Luke Harris explained that "Our goal with this project was to model an effective way in which to talk about gender issues within the Black community." To accomplish this objective, each of them talked about the journey they had embarked upon to confront the sexism that informed their own priorities and predispositions. They both spoke about how they had moved from a vision of community interests that was centered exclusively on men to a vision that had both men and women at the center. They reflected on how they had become sensitive to the concerns of the women who were important to them in their lives—for Devon, his two daughters and for Luke, his two mothers—by realizing that the priorities they exposed had excluded the challenges that they faced. Harris and Carbado thus invited a conversation that engaged the on-going discussions targeting Black men and boys to insure that such dialogue did not reinforce the marginality of Black females.

This workshop launched an initiative designed to encourage men of color to fight against sexism within their own communities. Other roundtable programs are now being organized and a contemporary art installation that reflects these concerns is being planned. In this installation, letters from fathers to their sons will demonstrate examples by which a sensibility to issues pertaining to gender within our various families and communities is conveyed.



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