The co-founder of the Women’s March dis­cusses the power of an in­ter­sec­tional move­ment.

VOGUE Australia - - Contents - Tamika D. Mal­lory will be a guest at the An­ti­dote Fes­ti­val of Ideas at the Syd­ney Opera House, Septem­ber 2– 3. Go to an­ti­dote.syd­ney­op­er­a­house.com.

That’s what it takes to be truly in­ter­sec­tional: to lis­ten, to care about other peo­ple who don’t look like you … to treat them with hu­man­ity and see their strug­gle as bound in yours

In­ter­sec­tion­al­ity. A buzz­word. A so­ci­o­log­i­cal the­ory cre­ated by fem­i­nists of colour and brought to the fore­front by Amer­i­can civil rights ad­vo­cate Kim­berlé Cren­shaw. And a back­bone to the suc­cess of the Women’s March on Jan­uary 21.

It was on that day that we made his­tory, not only for the vi­sion of hun­dreds of thou­sands of pink beanie-wear­ing women and chil­dren (and the men sup­port­ing them) march­ing for gen­der equality, women’s and hu­man rights. But also for cre­at­ing a new move­ment, at the core of which is in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity: en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to un­der­stand each other’s in­jus­tices – whether they be through gen­der, race, sex­u­al­ity, so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus or abil­ity – and to work to­gether to erad­i­cate these dis­crim­i­na­tions.

As they marched, spoke and lis­tened, peo­ple saw them­selves in the midst of so many is­sues that we fo­cused on for the march, and that was in fact the se­cret to peo­ple feel­ing com­fort­able, feel­ing that even if they did not un­der­stand or even agree with some of the is­sues, that they could find ar­eas that re­lated to their par­tic­u­lar con­cerns, things that ac­tu­ally tugged at their heart­strings.

I am pas­sion­ate about in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity and what it re­ally looks like at this point in the move­ment. It is about how so many of our is­sues from dif­fer­ent places and dif­fer­ent back­grounds in­ter­sect at dif­fer­ent points and how that’s some­thing we can learn from. How, for in­stance, peo­ple from Amer­ica can learn from peo­ple in Aus­tralia, and vice versa, about the best prac­tices for be­ing a part of a re­sis­tance and show­ing that the voices and the will of the peo­ple is heard.

As an or­gan­iser of the Women’s March, it was in­cred­i­ble to wit­ness the cre­ation of such a pow­er­ful new move­ment. It was amaz­ing to see that it worked – we could ac­tu­ally get peo­ple to think and talk about is­sues that weren’t nec­es­sar­ily spe­cific to their in­ter­ests. That they were able to set aside their par­tic­u­lar is­sues to at­tract the con­cerns of other com­mu­ni­ties was some­thing we strived for. And it was a very re­ward­ing feel­ing to know we were able to push peo­ple be­yond some of the bound­aries they had cre­ated for them­selves.

In Aus­tralia, I will be meet­ing and vis­it­ing grass­roots or­gan­is­ers – peo­ple who are of­ten out­side the realm of ma­jor me­dia cov­er­age – to get an un­der­stand­ing from them about what it ac­tu­ally looks like to work on these is­sues within an Aus­tralian con­text. That’s what it takes to be truly in­ter­sec­tional: to lis­ten, to ac­tu­ally care about other peo­ple who don’t look like you, who don’t nec­es­sar­ily come from your com­mu­nity, to treat them with hu­man­ity and see their strug­gle as bound in yours. Your own love and re­spect of hu­man­ity drives you to want to sup­port those who need you. I think that the best way for any­one in­ter­ested in re­ally truly learn­ing from an­other par­tic­u­lar or­gan­i­sa­tion or coun­try is to work with those peo­ple and grass­roots groups who are not nec­es­sar­ily in the news but who are do­ing the real work.

To have been at the fore­front of this whole new so­cial move­ment feels good, but it can some­times be a bur­den. We want to use what­ever ves­sel God puts on our heart and gives us the power to use to en­cour­age more peo­ple to get en­gaged. It’s bur­den­some to be in a space where you have such a heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­gage peo­ple who are un­likely to get in­volved and are not nec­es­sar­ily in­ter­ested in our move­ment.

For ex­am­ple, it’s very hard to get some­one who speaks of re­pro­duc­tive rights solely from an abor­tion per­spec­tive to ac­tu­ally un­der­stand that black women and brown women liv­ing in cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties don’t want to have chil­dren at all be­cause they’re afraid their chil­dren will not live safely; they’re afraid they don’t have the re­sources to ac­tu­ally feed their chil­dren. So when we talk about re­pro­duc­tive rights, a white woman may see it from one par­tic­u­lar per­spec­tive: “We want to be able to have abor­tion, we want our right to choose, we want qual­ity health care” … all those things mat­ter. And women of colour care about the same is­sues but have an­other layer, and that is that their com­mu­ni­ties are not safe. This is also known as re­pro­duc­tive jus­tice. In Michi­gan we’re drink­ing poi­soned wa­ter; in other com­mu­ni­ties poverty is rip­ping apart our lives. So if you see it from those two per­spec­tives and de­cide we can fight on all fronts, that’s when an in­ter­sec­tional move­ment will re­ally be suc­cess­ful and when we will be­gin to build power to­gether be­cause we are able to cross lines and think about an­other woman’s or man’s is­sues as if it is our own.

Our move­ment is also about leav­ing a bet­ter place for our chil­dren and re­build­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. We re­cently marched against the US Na­tional Rifle As­so­ci­a­tion (NRA) and against the US Depart­ment of Jus­tice in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., call­ing for the NRA to de­fend the rights of black gun own­ers the same way they de­fend them for white gun own­ers. But they have not, in any way, in­vested in the so­cial causes that will help our com­mu­ni­ties thrive, there­fore in­creas­ing safety. What we want is a re­sponse to vi­o­lence that is not more vi­o­lence, but a re­sponse that will ac­tu­ally save lives and build stronger com­mu­ni­ties.

There has been a trickle-down ef­fect through cul­ture where the mes­sage is be­ing heard. I think peo­ple all over the world are con­cerned about what’s hap­pen­ing in Amer­ica, which in many ways re­flects what’s go­ing on around the world. There­fore, you’re go­ing to see ex­pres­sions in the form of art, in the form of en­ter­tain­ment, on the po­lit­i­cal land­scapes, in ev­ery single area that peo­ple, hu­mans, are func­tion­ing in, there’s go­ing to be some form of re­sis­tance. The fact that even the fash­ion in­dus­try has en­tered the space by us­ing its plat­form to up­lift the move­ment and up­lift the images that are needed in or­der to get the mes­sage to peo­ple who may not nec­es­sar­ily be lis­ten­ing to me, or lis­ten­ing to a mo­ti­va­tional song – that is a suc­cess, and that’s what we need.

De­spite the cur­rent pres­i­dency, I have hope for the fu­ture. The only way I keep get­ting up ev­ery day to do this work is to deeply hope that at some point we will break the lev­ees and that jus­tice will pour into our com­mu­ni­ties.

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