Donna Edwards, Marissa Alexander, and Vilissa Thompson

March 21, 2017

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Here’s our pick of news, writing, and research this week that investigates political questions at the intersections of gender, race, and region. 

1. Donna Edwards Was Democrats’ Rising Star. Now She’s Podcasting From An RV.
For the Huffington Post, Amber Ferguson profiles Former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), the first Black woman to represent Maryland in Congress: “Edwards brought a compelling backstory and progressive cred to the House. She was a military brat who attended Wake Forest University, and was one of only six black women in her undergraduate class. She got her law degree at the University of New Hampshire and went on to serve at Lockheed on NASA’s Spacelab project, first as a technical writer and then managing a team of engineers. She was also the first executive director at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She was also a single mom, and was open about her financial and emotional struggles when her son was young. ‘Juggling bills and putting food on the table really shaped how I thought about what I wanted to do in Congress,’ Edwards said. […] ‘I’ve been described as too aggressive,’ Edwards said. ‘I don’t know what that means when it comes to fighting for your community. I see things and I call them as I see them. I think there’s little tolerance in the political frame for people who are direct and say what they mean.’ […] ‘Ultimately it’s not just that she’s an African-American woman,’  said Prince George’s County school board member Edward Burroughs III. ‘It’s that she’s an African-American woman who will vote her conscience, that will do whatever she believes in. Whenever you have that sort of combination, that makes it very difficult for one to advance.’ ‘The good old boy network has no problem with elevating an obedient African-American woman that does what she is told to do,’ he continued. ‘That is not Congresswoman Donna Edwards.’”

This Thursday, Donna Edwards will be speaking at Wake Forest University in an event that is free and open to the public.

2. Can You Be a Zionist Feminist? Linda Sarsour Says No
Collier Meyerson for The Nation: “Since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency, millions of women across the country have become active in a newly resurgent feminist movement. But, like in all feminist movements before it, tensions between groups of women are bubbling to the surface. The latest fissure making its way into public consciousness is about the role of Zionism in feminism […] The International Women’s Strike, an international day of action ‘by and for women who have been marginalized and silenced,’ took an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist position, calling for the destruction of walls ‘from Mexico to Palestine.’ Organizers of the strike wrote in its platform that the decolonization of Palestine is ‘the beating heart of this new feminist movement.’ [Sarsour said:] ‘When you talk about feminism you’re talking about the rights of all women and their families to live in dignity, peace, and security. It’s about giving women access to health care and other basic rights. And Israel is a country that continues to occupy territories in Palestine, has people under siege at checkpoints—we have women who have babies on checkpoints because they’re not able to get to hospitals [in time]. […] You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it.’”

3. After Seven Long Years, Freedom: An Interview With Marissa Alexander
Victoria Law for Truthout: “As the clock struck midnight on January 26, Marissa Alexander was finally able to pull off her ankle monitor. The Florida mother of three was officially done with her two-year sentence of home confinement and electronic monitoring. […] Alexander is [now] free to advocate for changes in the system that punished her for defending herself. In February, she spoke before the Senate Rule Committee in favor of Senate Bill 128, which would shift the burden of proof from the defendant to the state in Stand Your Ground hearings. […] In early March, she flew to New York City to speak on a panel examining women, violence and incarceration at the Beyond the Bars conference at Columbia University. During her two years of home confinement, Alexander wrote a book manuscript about her experiences. She also started the Marissa Alexander Justice Project, an organization that will work to end domestic violence, the criminalization of abuse survivors, mandatory sentencing, sentencing disparities, the school-to-prison pipeline and the adjudication of teenagers as adults, for which Florida has the highest rate in the country. Alexander already has connections with social justice advocates and groups that have supported her through her legal ordeal. She’s planning to utilize these connections to see how the Project can fit in with and bolster existing efforts. ‘I’m going to be part of what’s already out there and use my experiences and my name to bring more to it,’ Alexander said. ‘I’m not separate from anybody. This will be my contribution in solidarity.'”

4. Ramp Your Voice: An Interview with Vilissa Thompson
For the African American Intellectual History Society’s Black Perspectives, Dr. Trimiko Melancon, Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Women’s Studies Program at Loyola University New Orleans, interviewed Vilissa Thompson. Thompson writes and consults on disability rights, produced a “Black Disabled Woman’s Syllabus” and is the founder and CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization that “promotes self-advocacy and empowerment among people with disabilities.”  On the organization, Vilissa says “I created Ramp Your Voice in 2013 to bridge a gap I saw—the lack of voices from disabled people of color, particularly Black disabled women. […] On Ramp Your Voice, I have discussed a myriad of topics—sex, dating, religion, politics, racism, education—all of which have allowed me to be viewed as a well-rounded writer and voice. The mission of Ramp Your Voice is simple: be the space where disability issues are discussed from an intersectional, personal lens.” On her “Black Disabled Woman Syllabus,” she says “I am unapologetically Black, and being Black has influenced my life journey in ways I cannot dismiss. When I look in the mirror, I see Black first, then a woman, and lastly disability. When I go out in the world, they see a Black woman in a wheelchair and make assumptions about my humanness and abilities without knowing my name. Being multiply and visibly marginalized has shaped me in ways that I did not realize until I became an advocate. The erasure and invisibility of Black disabled people, and Black disabled women specifically, led me to this work—why wouldn’t I prioritize us in my activism?”

5. No one really knows how many trans murders there have been
Andy Martino for The Outline: “Seven transgender women, all people of color, have been reported murdered already this year. As The Daily Beast put it in a recent report, 2017 is on track to be the most violent year on record for transgender people in the U.S. There’s a problem with that prediction, though, and one that shows that this crisis may run even deeper than statistics indicate: Numbers for murders of trans Americans have never been officially tracked. That makes it impossible to truly compare 2017 to other years, or even understand the scope of how many murders of transgender people there have been in history. The New York Anti-Violence Project, which in its annual reports produces numbers on anti-LGBTQ violence, took The Outline inside its process. While there is a legitimate sense of crisis in the trans community, any attempts to quantify it fall way short, as the AVP acknowledges. This itself presents a problem in trying to raise awareness in the general public and push for helpful policy. ‘We know that our numbers are most likely incomplete, because not every homicide is going to get reported in the media in a way that will rise to even local attention,’ Beverly Tillery, executive director of the NYCAVP, told The Outline. ‘Secondly, some people I’m sure start out as misgendered in the media, and that never gets fixed. So we are not able to track those.’ Because the U.S. government does not compile any statistics for murders of trans people, as it does for other groups like women and African-Americans, the AVP is left to do this work on its own. Tillery’s organization in New York coordinates a national coalition of 54 programs that do similar work around anti-LGBTQ violence. Its data is a combination of information gathered through those partner organizations, media reports, social media, and direct communication with friends and family of victims. Each of those methods presents challenges to producing comprehensive numbers.”