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By Kathryn Kopchik
LEWISBURG, Pa. — Author and activist Barbara Smith will give the talk, "Black Feminist Activism: My Next Chapter," Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.
The talk, which is free and open to the public, is held as the annual Black Experiences Lecture. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, the talk is co-sponsored by the Griot Institute for Africana Studies; the Women's and Gender Studies program; the Women's Resource Center; and the Office of LGBT Awareness in honor of LGBT History Month.
Smith will discuss the connections between her decades of grassroots organizing for racial, social, and economic justice and her current work as an elected official representing a predominantly African American district in Albany, N.Y.
Smith, who was elected to represent Ward 4 in 2005, was re-elected in 2009. She also worked during this period on staff with David Kaczynski at New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty on innovative solutions to violent crime. She continues to be particularly active on the issues of youth development, violence prevention, and educational opportunities for poor, minority and underserved persons.
"Barbara Smith has been critical to the development of Black Feminist Theory," said Nina Banks, associate professor of economics at Bucknell. "This theoretical approach has been tremendously important in shaping the epistemology and methods which are now widely embraced within feminist theory."
Black Feminist Theory emerged in the 1970s as a critique of racism within the women's movement and sexism within the civil rights movement. Black feminists argued for the necessity of conceptualizing gender within the context of the intersection of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class position. They argued against the tendency in feminist theory to universalize women's experiences based on the experiences of women who were white, middle-class, and heterosexual.
"Smith and other black feminists maintained that women's liberation required dismantling multiple forms of oppression which simultaneously circumscribed women's lives. As such, Smith has always been a proponent of coalition-building among marginalized groups and she has been active in anti-racist, queer, and feminist movements.
"Her writings created a space for scholars to critically examine black women's literary tradition, black women's history, and black lesbian experience," said Banks.
Smith's publications include a number of seminal works, including the first black women's studies anthology: All the Women are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave (co-edited with Gloria T. Hull and Patricia B. Scott, 1982) and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, (first edition, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, 1983; second edition, Rutgers University Press, 2000). Her essays, reviews, articles, short stories and literary criticism have appeared in a range of publications, including The New York Times Book Review, The Black Scholar, Ms., Gay Community News, The Guardian, The Village Voice, Conditions (magazine) and The Nation.
In 1974, Smith became the first woman of color to be appointed to the Modern Language Association's Commission on the Status of Women in the Profession. This organization helped to develop the field of Women's Studies in the United States (Crass 1998).
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