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.
Watch the episode trailer now.
UPDATE: On June 29, 2020, the Madison School Board voted to remove police from schools, a decision largely driven by the Black Lives Matter movement, including Freedom, Inc.’s advocacy.
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.
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.
Vision Spring Initiative
"Movement building is fundamental because collectively women’s voices can transform the world."
Vision Spring Initiatives fights for gender justice in Nigeria. Part of their work includes mentoring girls and creating“circles of learning” to help enable young people to find their voices. Vision Springs Initiative launched the #mybodymyright campaign, led by young people, holding government stakeholders accountable,and demanding comprehensive sexuality education and services.
"Feminism is fundamental because we dream of feminist futures and realities that embody revolutionary love."
UHAI EASHRI is Africa’s first indigenous activist fund supporting LGBTQI+ and sex worker human rights. They fund LGBTQI+ and sex work-organizing in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as Pan-African organizations working across the continent. UHAI EASHRI believes that change can be made by bringing together sexual and gender minorities and sex workers to fight for their rights collectively. They work to end discrimination against LGBTQI+people and sex workers, be it at their workplaces, homes, schools, or religious institutions.
Point of View
"LGBTQI+ rights are fundamental because no one should have to hide who they are and who they love."
Despite laws affirming some rights for LGBTQI+ people in India, many queer and trans people live without basic rights and freedoms. Point of View is a leader in queer digital activism, showing how technology is used for coming out; providing information and support; making the queer visible; amplifying trans rights; building communities; and mobilizing allies. In their trainings and curricula, they raise awareness about gender and sexuality based on women's and queer and trans people's realities, experiences, and perspectives. They also support LGBTQI+groups and individuals by offering trainings on digital security, and use art, storytelling, and social media to create campaigns and powerful counter-narratives showing how #QueerLivesMatter and #TransLivesMatter.
Insight Public Organization
"Fighting for equality is fundamental because no one should live in a society where people are treated as second class citizens."
Insight Public Organization is a feminist organization that fights conservative, anti-gender movements and opposes ultra-rights groups in Ukraine. Their mission is to protect LGBTQI+ people from violence and discrimination and win legal rights for LGBTQI+ people in Ukraine. Insight Public Organization takes an intersectional approach in their work, believing no one should be left behind.
Dalit Women Rights Forum
"A discrimination-free society is fundamental because children should live a dignified life with their rights secured.”
Dalit Women Rights Forum (DWRF) works for the protection and promotion of human rights, particularly the rights of Dalit women (considered as “impure” and “untouchable” in Nepal) and other marginalized women, by helping them to get justice for caste-and gender-based-discrimination. The group has launched the“Women Human Rights Defenders Empowerment Project,” which aims to protect and promote women human rights defenders, who are at high risk in Far West Nepal.
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