9 Takeaways from the Gloria Steinem & Sherie M. Randolph Talk About Florynce Kennedy

It was 2003.

I wanted to be cool, okay?

And being cool meant, you know, being a camp counselor. And being a camp counselor meant reading nightly devotionals to 5th graders from Gloria Steinem’s Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.

Cut to 2016. On Thursday night, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Gloria Steinem, author of My Life on the Road and Sherie M. Randolph, author of Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: The Life of a Black Feminist Radical, restored cool. They contextualized the activism of Steinem and Kennedy and talked about intersectional feminism.

For the Flo Kennedy uninitiated, Kennedy was a lawyer, activist, civil rights advocate and “infinitely quotable and charismatic speaker,” as Gloria Steinem recalls of her in her memoir.

And just as Flo Kennedy and Gloria Steinem touted the importance of intersectionality in the female-centric dialogue, I found myself thinking​ that having The Conversation without this conversation seems dishonest.

So, I find myself.

Sharing the Gospel of Gloria Steinem.

Once again.

On the parallels of oppression: “I think it helps if we understand that sexism and racism function together. They intertwine. It affects different women in different ways; not every woman will experience it in the same way, and you can not uproot them separately.”

Sherie M. Randolph on bridging the gap between black and white feminism: “Flo had a habit of bringing white feminists to black power spaces and at the Black Power conference in the ’60s, she brings Ti-Grace Atkinson and Peg Brennan along. Queen Mother Moore didn’t approve and told the white women to leave and Flo said, ‘No, they’re here to learn and they’re staying.’ What’s really important about this story is that sometimes we imagine white women as so powerful that they’re going to take over our organizations and Flo didn’t see white women that way — she saw them as potential students and potential allies.”

On how to stop talking about it and start being about it: “We just have to know each other better. Black Lives Matters has the great organizing principle. I mean, it has more than one, but the greatest is ‘Move at the speed of trust.’ Nothing replaces trust. So we need to know each other to make it work.”

Where Gloria gets her feminism: “Ms. Magazine’s first poll of women’s issues: The result was that about 30 percent of white women and more than 60 percent of back women were in support of the women’s movement. It was a national conscience. Overall, black women were experiencing discrimination in more ways and once you experience discrimination for one reason, you recognize when it comes at you for another reason. I disproportionately learned feminism from black women.”

On women’s studies: “I do worry that academic versions of feminism are sometimes not available off the page. It comes out of women’s lived experience so it needs to be applicable to women’s lived experience. I do at times threaten to put a sign up on the way to Harvard and Yale that says, ‘Beware: deconstruction ahead.’ The problems get aerialized and so they lose their narratives and individual truths.”

On connecting outside of LinkedIn: “For all of us here who are struggling to write, we do have to remember that our brains are organized on narrative. We haven’t been sitting around camp fires for hundreds of thousands of years listening to each other’s stories for nothing. I am not at all diminishing the importance of technology which is huge, HUGE, but what it doesn’t allow us to do is empathize with people. We need to remember how precious narrative is.”

On her life on the road with Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: “It brought new meaning to ‘it was a trip.’ She was incredibly, incredibly generous. It was kind of like a jazz improvisation in some ways to talk with Flo. If there was a guy in the back of the room at a small town, as there occasionally was, who would say, ‘Are you lesbians?,’ she would reply, ‘Are you my alternative?'”

Gloria doing Gloria: “The best people in politics came from movements. They do not hold their finger to the wind. They become the wind. It’s not just going with the current public opinion poll. It’s changing those public opinion polls.”

Some wise shit: “There’s only one thing worse than having to stand up and find your voice and that’s not finding it. Don’t worry about what you should do. Do what you can. I’m telling you, it is fun. It is so much more interesting and fun than not doing it.”

Audra Rhodes is a photographer living in Brooklyn, NY. Check out her Tumblr here and Instagram here.

Original photographs by Bernard Gotfryd via Getty Images and Richard Avedon/UNC Press via Los Angeles Times; collaged by Elizabeth Tamkin.


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