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Rising Power

Building an intersectional justice movement in the United States

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About the Episode

WATCH NOW! How does a grassroots movement led by people of color confront oppression and patriarchy day by day?

In an increasingly polarized and racially segregated United States, white supremacy and patriarchy are thriving. Conservative and liberal leaders alike refuse to address the outsized impact of institutional and systemic violence on people of color, women, and queer and gender non-conforming people.

“Rising Power” brings us to Madison, Wisconsin, where we meet community organizers Kabzuag and M, co-directors of Freedom, Inc. What began as a sexual assault support group has grown into an organization at the forefront of battles over education reform, police brutality, land access and ownership, women’s safety and security, and mental health. Driven by their own intimate experiences of violence and poverty, M and Kabzuag have carved out a space for multiracial, multilingual, and multigenerational community members to disrupt a broken system, equipping Black, Hmong, and Khmer women, queer, and gender non-conforming folks with the tools they need to confront oppression in all facets of their lives and ultimately build a roadmap toward shared liberation.

Meet the Activists: M Adams and Kabzuag Vaj

M Adams is a community organizer and co-executive director of Freedom, Inc., which works with low- to no-income Black, Khmer, and Hmong women, queer folks, and youth in Dane County. As a queer Black person, Adams has developed and advocated for a strong intersectional approach in numerous important venues. Adams is a leading figure in the Movement 4 Black Lives, the Take Back the Land Movement and has presented before the United Nations for the Convention on Eliminating Racial Discrimination. She is also the co-author of Forward from Ferguson and is currently working on a book about Black community control over the police. Adams contributed intersectionality theory to Why Killing Unarmed Black Folks Is a Queer Issue—including an article and a series of talks at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Kabzuag Vaj was born in Laos and came to the U.S. as a refugee child with her mother and siblings. She is founder and co-executive director of Freedom, Inc. She has dedicated the majority of her life to ending gender-based violence while building communities. Her advocacy started when she was 16 years old, assisting and housing at-risk teens and challenging abusive gender norms within her community. She is a strong believer that those who are most deeply impacted must be at the forefront of the movement. Those who are most impacted must have opportunities and resources to advocate for themselves and tell their own stories. Kabzuag is also a co-owner/founder of Red Green Rivers, a social enterprise that works with Artisan makers, most of whom are women and girls, from the Mekong Region in Southeast Asia.

United States.

Spotlight on the issue

Organizers and activists are working to advance gender justice—not just in the U.S. but around the world. Meet some of Global Fund for Women’s grassroots grantee partners who are leaders in the movement.

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