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Black History Month

Angela Davis: Activist, Author, Professor

We continue to highlight the achievements and foundational work of many historical figures for Black History Month, especially those connected to anti-oppression work. We will now look at the contributions of Angela Davis.

Angela Davis is a political activist, author, and professor. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. Angela experienced racism at a very young age. Birmingham was one of the most segregated cities in the country. Her neighborhood was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill” because of how often the Klu Klux Klan targeted the homes. Angela believed that capitalism and racism were dangerous for America. Angela joined the Black Panthers which was created to unify Black people. The Black Panthers fought against police brutality against the African American community. One of the Black Panthers’ many achievements is that they helped provide medical clinics and free breakfast to children. Angela fought for economic, racial, and gender equality. She came out as being lesbian and fought to tackle the oppression for the LGBTQ community. While Angela did spend 18 months in jail, she was able to understand how mistreated women were in jail. Musician John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono recorded a song about her called “Angela.” She has published nine books. A couple of her books are Women, Race, and Class; Are Prisons Obsolete?; Women, Culture and Politics; and Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and The Foundations of a Movement. She also spent time lecturing around the world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America.  

 

Watch John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s song Angela:

 

To learn more about important Black History Month and important historical figures please see the attached resources. 

 

 


Written by Denisse Ochoa, BA Sociology Candidate at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, ZCenter Outreach Intern 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

LGBTQ+ Center Lake County: Community Partner Highlight

This month, we are proud to highlight the great work of one of our community partners, LGBTQ+ Center Lake County. This organization has collaborated with ZCenter on Pride events, a staff Safe Zone Training, and referrals for youth support, just to name a few of their great services. We are fortunate to have this agency in our community and we offer you here more information from a recent conversation with their Executive Director, Nikki Michele.

 

  1. Please share what your organization offers and how people can access your services.

Just like so many other organizations, we have had to pivot our services during the most recent Omicron wave. Currently we are running two virtual support groups (one for adults, one for youth), and a book club. We are working on setting up a parent support group (fill out a survey here). We also host two monthly social events: Queer Happy Hour on the 4th Thursday of the month, rotating venues around Lake County, and an LGBTea & Coffee on the first Wednesday morning of the month. We are also busy providing SafeZone trainings to a wide array of organizations around Lake County. We are looking forward to our second annual Lake County PrideFest, June 4th, in Waukegan. We also have a Discord server to serve as a virtual “drop in space.”

 

  1. Can you tell us about where you are located?

As a nonprofit that was established during COVID, we’ve had to delay getting a brick and mortar space. However, we have been strategizing an ideal location, and are currently considering one of the more eastern Lake County townships. They tend to be home to more marginalized communities (People of Color, low income, homeless) who have less access to services and transportation. Having a community center in eastern Lake County would make it easier to reach this vulnerable demographic. 

 

  1. During Black History Month, we often share statistics on how People of Color are more vulnerable to sexual assault (RAINN.org). Could you share how you reach out to People of Color who are also LGBTQ+? Also, how would you describe the unique experiences that you see for LGBTQ+ People of Color?

The LGBTQ+ Pride movement owes its very inception to Black trans women. QTBIPOC individuals have always been on the frontlines of the charge for equality. From Bayard Rustin in the Civil Rights movement, to activists like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, and Stormé DeLarverie at the 1969 Stonewall riots, to the Black Lives Matter movement founders Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi and Alicia Garza, QTBIPOC people throughout history have driven enormous advancements in media, the arts, sports, activism, advocacy and politics, which have enhanced the lives of people everywhere. Despite these amazing triumphs, QTBIPOC consistently experience widespread discrimination and violence in every realm of society. AntiBlackness and anti-LGBTQ attitudes have created systems of oppression with real consequences: Black LGBTQ people face some of the highest risks of violence, workplace discrimination, homelessness, HIV and AIDS, and healthcare disparities and mistreatment in America. Moreover, women of color, who must also contend with sexism prevalent in our society, are even further impacted by these issues. In short, being a Black trans woman in America means you’re far more likely than most other people to experience serious roadblocks and harms, in the form of everything from extreme poverty to violent murder.

 

  1. For any readers who want to know more about how to be an ally for LGBTQ+ folks (and for People of Color), what do you recommend? Are there resources you can share?

I truly believe one of the most impactful things we can do is also one of the simplest: listen to marginalized people’s experiences. In the wake of George Floyd’s brutal street execution, I was personally challenged to follow Black social media content creators, keep my mouth shut and LISTEN. This simple act has begun rewiring my perceptions of the Black experience. Because we live in an inherently bigoted society that actively promotes cisgender heterosexual white men at the expense of all other groups, we have been imbibing societal discrimination and bias daily along with our tap water. We must intentionally push back against our hardwired mindsets. As we listen to others’ experiences, we gain valuable insight into their very humanity, which deepens our ability to empathize and, in turn, transforms us into effective advocates. So, my challenge to anyone seeking to do better is to seek out QTBIPOC content and amplify their invaluable contributions. 

 

  1. Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about your work for social justice and your services for the community?

I am very proud to be partnering with Mayor Taylor (Waukegan) to perform the audit with the Human Rights Campaign that will assign a score to Waukegan for its LGBTQ+ inclusivity and safety. Part of this effort has included making major changes within the Waukegan Police Department to address the decades-long bias and discrimination (of LGBTQ+ folks, and Black and Brown lives) that was all too prevalent. I’m thrilled to see the Lake County seat take a lead in this way, and hope it will put additional pressure on surrounding townships to follow suit.  

 

To learn more about LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, please visit their website: https://lgbtqcenterlakecounty.com/

 

Notes on acronyms and abbreviations used:

  • LGBTQ+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual/Two-Spirit, Queer/Questioning, and Others. Also commonly used is LGBTQIA: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual/Two-Spirit, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. Learn more at Seattle Pride.
  • BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Learn more at VOX.
  • QTBIPOC: Queer, Transgender, Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Learn more from UCLA and USC.

Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Black History Month

We honor Black History Month with a look at how Black History Month started and some of the key figures who advanced racial justice from within the Black community.

Black history month began with Carter G. Woodson, known as the father of Black History. Woodson believed that Black people should be proud of their heritage. He also believed that Americans should understand the overlooked achievements of Black Americans. Woodson felt that Black history was often ignored and suppressed by authors of history books. He launched Negro History Week in the month of February to acknowledge Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Carter G. Woodson published books on Black history including A Century of Negro Migration (1918), The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861 (1919), The History of the Negro Church (1921), and The Negro in Our History (1922).

W.E.B Du Bois was an African American writer, teacher, sociologist, and activist. He became a founding member of the  NAACP. He was the first Black American to earn a PhD from Harvard University. His doctoral thesis focused on the suppression of the African Slave Trade to the United States of America. Du Bois focused on the great challenges of the Black community: poverty, crime, and lack of education. With the help of Du Bois the NAACP was known as the leading protest organization for Black Americans. One of W.E.B Du Bois’ writings included The Souls of Black Folk.

Thurgood Marshall was a civil rights leader, lawyer, and the first African American Supreme Court Justice. He fought against Jim Crow. He is best known for the Brown v. Board of Education case, which declared that “separate but equal” was unconstitutional in public schools. Another important case was Murray v. Pearson, where Marshall was able to sue the school for denying admission to Black applicants because of their race. Marshall fought for affirmative action and supported women’s right to choose an abortion.

To learn more about Black History Month and other important historical figures, please see these NAACP and PBS resources (please click on the hyperlinks). For further discussion on the role of Black Women in anti-oppression work, please see our previous posts:

Below are a few ways to contribute to Black History month all year long.

  1. Support Black owned Business
  2. Learn about important Black figures and their contributions
  3. Purchase, read, and share books by black authors 

 


Written by Denisse Ochoa, BA Sociology Candidate at University of Wisconsin-Parkside, ZCenter Outreach Intern 

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence. All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

Rosa Parks: Women’s Rights Activist

Long revered as a civil rights icon, Rosa Parks is best known for sparking the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott. Rosa Parks’s refusal to move on that iconic bus was more than an act of racial justice. She understood that women were unsafe in the back of a bus; she refused to move as an act of resistance, knowing that sexual violence against Black women was pervasive and accepted by the mainstream culture.

Twelve years earlier, Rosa Parks had joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Upon joining the NAACP, she focused on advocacy efforts for the Black community in Alabama, including efforts to make sure Black sexual violence survivors received their rightful day in court. Escaping her own attempted sexual assault by a white neighbor, she was once quoted as saying,

“ I was ready to die but give my consent never. Never, never.” 

Rosa Parks’s passion for justice in sexual violence cases brought her to Abbeville, Alabama in the fall of 1944. Recy Taylor was walking home from church when she was kidnapped and assaulted by a group of men. When the NAACP learned of the incident, they sent Rosa Parks as an investigator. Segregation and white supremacy permeated every area of life in 1940’s Alabama, a milieu not unlike many other parts of our nation. When Rosa Parks found an unfriendly welcome in Abbeville, she drew on her own resilience and co-founded the Committee for Equal Justice for Ms. Recy Taylor. Rosa Parks played a large role in bringing national attention to the case, kindling the fire of civil rights around the nation. We can draw a direct line from Recy Taylor’s case to the Civil Rights Movement and then to the Me Too Movement. We owe a debt of gratitude to Rosa Parks in the role she played in both civil rights and justice for sexual violence survivors.

Mrs. Parks dedicated her life to activism and other social justice causes. On October 25, 2005 Mrs. Parks Passed away at the age of 92. May we honor her memory with each act to end sexual violence and each act to end racial injustice. 


Written by Gwen Fayne, Advocate, and Kristin Jones, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Sojourner Truth: Activist and Orator

Sojourner Truth lived as an enslaved Black woman for most of her young adult life until a New York statute declared in 1817 that all enslaved Black people would be free by July 4, 1827. Growing up as an enslaved Black girl, and in a rural town, Sojourner was never given the opportunity to attend missionary school to learn to read and write. It was not illegal to teach enslaved Black people during this time, although it was uncommon and typically occurred in more populated cities like New York City or Albany. Sojourner never did learn to read and write, but was a skilled orator who captivated audiences. Upon legally being granted her freedom, Sojourner was an avid abolitionist whose focus was on issues such as property rights, prison reform, capital punishment, and women’s suffrage. Sojourner teamed together with other activists to help add more power to the abolitionist movement including Frederick Douglass, even though they had differing ideas on how to help newly freed Black people during the time of Reconstruction. Partnerships like this one added even more power to the work of social justice as they continued to give speeches across the United States fighting for equal rights. 

Sojourner Truth gave her now-famous speech, Ain’t I a Woman, in 1851 at the Ohio Rights Convention. In 2021, 170 years later, we see the relevancy of her words as they echo down the streets where we see police violence towards Black bodies. Ain’t I a Woman, cries Breonna Taylor, Ain’t I a Woman, cries Sandra Bland. Ain’t I a Woman, cry the many Black women whose lives have been cut short in recent years.

 

Ain’t I a Woman?

 

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

 

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

 

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

 

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

 

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it. The men better let them.

 

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth’s words speak to women of color today, too. This speech focuses not only on sexism but also racism within the feminist movement. All women should be treated equally to each other, and equally to men. The struggle of Black women finding their place as Black women within feminism and as feminist women within the Black community is an ongoing struggle, as we see in bell hooks’ Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism. Sojourner Truth was a bold, brave woman who was not afraid to speak her mind against the injustices of the time. She overcame many obstacles in her life and made waves with her powerful words that battled patriarchy and racism.


Written by Olivia Stueben, Outreach Intern

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Frances Thompson: Honoring Black Survivors Who Forged the Path Before Us

During the Memphis Riots in 1866, Frances Thompson and her roommate Lucy Smith were attacked in their home. At the time of the attack, Frances and Lucy were formerly enslaved Black women, now living freely working as seamstresses. Both of these women, along with four other Black women– Mary Walker, Mollie Davis, Ellen Brown, and Lucy Hunt– bravely testified before congress in the aftermath of the Memphis Riots for various reasons. Ms. Thompson’s testimony was thrown out ten years later as, after an arrest and medical examination, it was publicized that Ms. Thompson was a transgender woman in The Pulaski Citizen, the daily newspaper. Unable to pay the fine, Ms. Thompson was thrown in jail and sent out on the chain gang– when prisoners were chained together in order to complete physical tasks. In the testimony provided, Ms. Thompson describes having a cancer in her foot and being unable to walk without crutches. From then on, Ms. Thompson’s identity was used to discredit her testimony of what happened years earlier during the riots.  

Sexual assault survivors too often have their stories doubted. It is not easy for survivors to provide testimony against their perpetrators, still to this day. Survivors are not believed, and it is important to take into account their identities and how this affects their ability to heal, and be believed. Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the feminist term, intersectionality, which references the way in which our identities (race, gender, class, sex, ability, sexuality, etc.) can affect one another and further discrimination or increase privilege. With Frances Thompson, there are many intersections of her identity that lead to further discrimination and we can see that in the wrongful and forced publication in regards to her transgender identity as well as her living with a disability. People no longer believed her and began to use incorrect pronouns among other forms of verbal and physical abuse. Frances Thompson was a brave woman who testified against her perpetrators in 1866, and we look toward her as a woman of strength in this fight against sexual assault. 

If you are interested in reading Ms. Thompson’s testimony, you can find it here on pages 196-197. To read the article clipping from The Pulaski Citizen, click here.


Written by Sarah Brennan, Activism and Volunteer Coordinator

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

From Memphis to Combahee: The Rape Crisis Movement Owes Everything to Black Women

Somewhere right now, there is a white girl telling a white boy no. She understands consent. She communicates clearly. She understands her rights and creates healthy boundaries. What she most likely does not know is how much she owes to Black women. 

Every day, rape crisis centers offer prevention sessions, public education, crisis support, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, and counseling, all in an effort to end sexual abuse. We fight the oppression of individuals in intimate violence situations, but we are fighting oppression on a larger scale as well. If we as a society do not abolish the oppression of the Black community, we will never abolish oppression in the form of sexual assault. Kimbelerlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality, to capture the way that our identities may combine and add to our privilege or oppression. At Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center, we strive to keep the role of Black women central in our work, as they have established and guided the rape crisis movement from the beginning.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the Black women who testified before Congress after the 1866 Memphis Race Riot, to Rosa Parks who fought to end sexual assault, to the Combahee River Collective begun in 1974, to Tarana Burke who initiated the Me Too Movement in 2007, and to countless others. The work of ending sexual violence has always been closely intertwined with class and racial justice, the intersectionality that Black women moved forward and continue to move forward today.

Join us each week this month as we highlight the contributions of Black women to the rape crisis movement, including Frances Thompson, Sojourner Truth, and Rosa Parks. 

 

For further reading:

  • How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. (2017). By Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. (2007). By Audre Lorde
  • Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching. (2011). By Crystal N. Feimster
  • At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance– A New History of the Civil Rights Movment from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. (2011). By Danielle L. McGuire
  • Between the World and Me. (2015). By Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Written by Kristin Jones, Outreach Supervisor

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

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