An Open Letter to a Black Feminist

This letter is an open letter response to an email sent to us by a long-time, well-known Black feminist-identified organizer in our community who made a choice to side with a man, also a well-known organizer she knew, who harmed one of our collective members.  We received her email–both belittling and insensitive–shortly after the woman who was harmed met with her and shared her story, openly, for the first time.  Her response was a painful, illuminating moment for us in our community accountability organizing, and it was also one we commonly encounter.  This letter is a call for clarity in our interventions to end sexual violence in our communities. 


“I have all the guns and all the money. I can withstand challenge from without and from within. Am I right, comrade?”

–Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power, 1993

Dear _______________,

I would like to share a story with you about rape and home.

It is an attempt to make sense of your choice—as a Black woman, a community activist, and mother– to stand by a Black man who has harmed a woman he once loved and shares children with.  It is an attempt to lessen the fracturing pain of facing another Black woman’s back when sexual violence is spoken.

________________________________________

 My father was not the first man to break my heart.  He actually came much later, some years after Ari Bailey.

Ari was not a lover at all.

He was my brother with a loud and wild laugh, so sharp and sure, it could overcome all empty space in a room.  A few months ago, I told Yan, his best friend, that I can still hear Yan’s laugh—certain, puncturing all stillness, just like Ari’s—when I think of our time together in the spring of 1993.

I was 20 years old when we met.

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Why Transformative Justice: A Response to “Why Didn’t She Just Call the Cops?”

Why is the world always easier to fix/than our own homes?

–Essex Hemphill

We cannot live without our lives.

–Banner held by Combahee River Collective members protesting the sexual assault and murder of twelve Black women in the Boston area in the first six months of 1979

The Third Eye Collective is led by female-identified people of Black/African descent who are victims and/or survivors–all of us resistors–of sexual violence. Many Black girls and women who have experienced sexual violence at the hands of family, intimate partners, and community members, have also had direct, lived experiences as prisoners of punitive state institutions defined broadly to include jails, prisons, open or closed facilities, remand centres, immigrant and refugee detention centers, mental hospitals, foster care, group homes, child protective services, and domestic violence shelters. When confronted with gendered and sexualized violence in our families, communities, and institutional spaces, Black cis- and trans- girls and women have very few–if any–viable avenues open to us that we can take to effectively address this violence without further criminalizing us. Because many of us experience physical abuse and sexual violence at the hands of the police and other representatives of the state, we are reluctant to rely on the criminal legal and punishment systems for justice, redress, and response. We have good reason not to call the police when we experience violence. Our collective refusal also stems from our yearning to abolish the carceral state and create new relationships based upon mutual respect and accountability as well as decolonial forms of collective belonging, self-recognition, and sovereignty.

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With No Immediate Cause (Ntzoke Shange), Performed by the Third Eye Collective

 

In this video essay directed and produced by Lena Palacios and “MIZShama”, members of the Third Eye Collective perform Black feminist Ntozake Shange’s poem “With No Immediate Cause” while riding the Montreal metro.

Shange’s poem begins with statistics that viscerally pushes us into awareness about the endemic and unrelenting nature of intimate, sexual, and state violence against Black women and girls (“every 3 minutes a woman is beaten/every five minutes a woman is raped/every ten minutes a little girl is molested”).

Lena Palacios is an emerging video artist and was the recipient of the  SAW Video Media Art Centre‘s Cultural Equity Production Fund. The Cultural Equity fund is a production support program that provides opportunities for visible minority artists to express themselves creatively through the medium of video.

 

With No Immediate Cause

 

every 3 minutes a woman is beaten

every five minutes a

woman is raped/every ten minutes

a lil girl is molested

yet i rode the subway today

i sat next to an old man who

may have beaten his old wife

3 minutes ago or 3 days/30 years ago

he might have sodomized his

daughter but i sat there

cuz the young men on the train

might beat some young women

later in the day or tomorrow Continue reading