In 2017, a wave of local and national events regarding gender violence against Black women we know poured new violence—faster, harder, simultaneously—into our work. These stories, and our interventions, have made our relationships and work experience a greater sense of urgency than ever before. In this light, we felt it important to share some key learnings from our last four years of organizing in Montreal as a call for our local community to do better in addressing the ceaseless sexual violence that disrupts the lives of so many Black women who live with and around us.
(The French version can be found here)
“What kind of society have we created for ourselves?”
Stella Gibson, Tambourine Army
Since 2012, we have been working to make our homes and communities in Montreal safer, more accountable, and more love-filled for Black women and our children. Being consistently asked to witness and share platforms and stages with known Black men who rape and harm our sisters, has compelled us to issue this statement. Sadly, even in Black activist and intellectual communities, sexual assault remains the issue that folks are unwilling to challenge.
We are a collective of survivors, led by Black women and supported by the beloved work of transformative justice practitioners in our wider community. We are mothers, sisters, daughters, god-mothers, other mothers, aunties, birth practitioners, community workers, and scholars. We stand on the shoulders of our Black feminist foremothers and sister-ancestors who have shown us how to do the work that we do in our communities. We honor those in death with our lives and our work in the present.
Importantly, we closely study the work of Black women—such as Marie Vieux, Barbara Smith, Pumla Dineo Gqola, Beth Richie, Nefertari Bélizaire, Stella Gibson—who have worked to develop an intersectional analysis of gendered violence and state violence. We depend on this canon of work as a way of knowing in the world, as our embodied Black feminist epistemology. Undergirded by this collection of work by Black feminist thinkers, we build upon Black feminist histories and theories that are instructive for those of us who work close to the ground.
Yet, we are clear about the shortcomings of Black feminism in North America historically in failing to develop an analysis of the histories of gendered violence that have infiltrated our Black radical traditions for the last 50 years. Black radical cultural and intellectual traditions are inherently spaces where Black freedom is both imagined and theorized, and we acknowledge our intellectual and spiritual kinship with these traditions. Yet, as radical Black feminists, we also note the glaring, normative historic silences pertaining to our lives, bodies, and spirits within these traditions. We note the ongoing violence against us within these traditions. As such, the Third Eye Collective pays particular attention in our activism and work to the histories of complicity within our formal and informal learning spaces in sustaining violence against Black women. With this activist spirit, we offer the following statement as a manifesto of naming, truth-telling, and change-making so that our work as Black intellectuals and activists can proceed unimpeded by the trauma of violence that continues to plague us whenever we step into a classroom, lecture hall, conference space, or reading group and encounter Black men, unchecked, who have harmed us.
Simply, we have had enough.
Writing in her 1993 memoir A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, former Black Panther Party (BPP) chairperson Elaine Brown revealed that in her time as a leader in the party, women were perceived as an “enemy of the black people.” “Nobody said it,” wrote Brown, “but a Panther was a man.” Her political commitments situated her as “a comrade with pussy.” Not long after her memoir was published, Brown’s BPP co-activist, Angela Davis, disclosed that “many of our former comrades – women and men alike – are expressing disgust that [Brown] would ‘air so much dirty laundry’ after all these years.” But Davis, like Brown, also exposed the details of the misogyny embedded in the politics of Black nationalist organizing. No matter women’s position or contribution, Davis wrote, power “was sexualized so that women’s place was always defined as unalterably inferior.”
Vous identifiez-vous comme femme[i] noire ou d’origine africaine?
Avez-vous personnellement été l’objet ou témoin de violence de genre/sexiste ou d’abus sexuels[ii]?
Si vous avez répondu oui à ces deux questions:
Le Collectif du Troisième Oeil vous invite à participer à cette enquête anonyme sur vos expériences personnelles avec les services publics et communautaires à Montréal dédiées aux victimes/survivantes/résistantes de violence à caractère genré et sexuel. Continue reading
Do you self-identify as a girl or woman[i] of Black and/or African origins?
Have you personally experienced or witnessed gender violence[ii] and sexual abuse?
If you answered yes to both questions, the Third Eye Collective invites you to participate in this anonymous survey about your personal experiences navigating Montreal-based public and community services directed to survivors/victims/resisters of gender violence and sexual abuse. Continue reading
The Third Eye Collective is a survivor initiated intergenerational grassroots collective led by self-identified women of Black/African origins. This collective is dedicated to healing from and organizing against sexual, gender-based, intimate partner, and state and institutional violence, as well as incest. Our intention is to end intergenerational violence and transform communities of African descent by prioritizing the safety and self-determination of Black women survivors through the lens of transformative justice.
Mothering has the capacity to be an empowering, challenging, and rewarding experience. However, this article reviews some of the ways that mothering as a survivor of sexual assault or/and having a child who is the result of intimate relationship rape can be all of the above while also traumatizing, triggering, mind-numbing, terrifying, silencing, painful, and heartbreaking. Additionally, co-parenting with someone who has sexually assaulted you is a lifelong trial that requires negotiation between taking care of yourself and taking care of your child(ren).
All community accountability work is science fiction, because it calls us to create that which has never been created. At least, not yet.
–inspired by Octavia’s Brood
I don’t trust an activist who does not take care of herself.
My mother was raped for the first time when she was a teenager. My mother, a small-town girl from a booming industrial village in central Pennsylvania, was sodomized by a local college boy with her body pressed into saliva-moistened leather seats of a red convertible my grandparents could never have afforded. There was another and more sexual violence during her heavy using years before she got clean, but it was the experience of being a young woman– drunk, aroused, deeply curious, and losing her body for the first time–that she wanted me to know about first. I was 15 or 16 when she first shared this history with me.
“That which is not just, is not the law.”
William Lloyd Garrison
I have been thinking often, of late, about the function of law, the way it is utilized by those who need it and the ways it is used with the intent to wound, particularly by those who critique it most rigorously. Too often both in and out of the classroom, I have found myself facing folks—activists, anarchists, abolitionists–I have least suspected to invoke the law as weapon against loved ones, against friends intentionally and at times, most carelessly.
A few months ago, I found myself in a glowing disagreement with a co-worker about the design of our classroom. It was not, he argued, suitable for our youngest student. I countered that it was wholly appropriate and compliant, in every way, with safety standards designed for such an environment. I offered a few concrete examples. He—a brilliant, committed educator, anarchist/activist/queer/white—growing increasingly frustrated in our conversation, blurted out, “You know, I have already accepted that I work in an illegal place, but…”
I stopped him immediately, “Wait. You just said illegal. There is nothing illegal about my school, this classroom, regarding safety or otherwise. Absolutely nothing.”
“Yeessss,” he insisted, stretching his words. “Yes, it’s true, yes…”