“Now, there were a few people who kept up with many of those issues. They are very rare. Anytime you find a person showing up at all of those struggles, and they have some sense of sanity by your definition, not theirs (cause almost everybody thinks they’re sane), one, study with them, and two, protect them. They’re gonna be in trouble shortly because they are the most visible ones. They hold the key to turning the century with our principles and ideals intact. They can teach you how to cross cultures and not kill yourself. And you need to begin to make a checklist—it’s not long, you can probably count on your two hands. When it comes to political organizing, and when it comes to your basic survival, there are a few people who took the sweep from the 60’s to the 80’s and they didn’t miss a step. They could stand it all.”
--Bernice Johnson Reagon, “Coalition Politics: Turning the Century,” in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, 1983, pp. 363-364.
Barbara Smith is an author, an educator, an organizer, a publisher, a leader, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and, to me, and many others, a hero. A circle of people are coming together to ensure that Barbara has the financial support she needs to continue her work to remain healthy, and enjoy the years to come.
“Black feminist organizing built a political environment in which one could assert the importance of [Black women’s] work and not necessarily just lose everything—one’s sanity, one’s job, one’s status, one’s credibility. We were building a real life context in which Black women could, if not be free, at least be free to express what we needed to express.” -- Barbara Smith (Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around)
As one of the original founders of the Combahee River Collective, the influential Black feminist organization, Barbara has been a key figure in the creation and realization of modern intersectional feminism. The ideas first developed by the Combahee River Collective have become the foundation of countless social justice movements, including Black Lives Matter.
In collaboration with her friend and fellow activist Audre Lorde and others, Barbara co-founded the first national publishing company run by and for women of color, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press. Kitchen Table created a vehicle for the voices of women of color of diverse class backgrounds, sexualities, and ages, with titles such as, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, and I Am Your Sister: Black Women Organizing Across Sexualities.
After spending decades in grassroots political organizing against war, colonialism, racist and sexual violence, and for the liberation of all marginalized people, she brought her wisdom and experience into elected office as a member of the Albany Common Council. There she dedicated her years in service to addressing poverty, resources for youth, and quality public education. She led the effort to establish SNUG/Cure Violence which interrupts gun violence using a public health model.
Barbara continues to educate younger generations of queer, trans, feminist, anti-racist activists and scholars both nationally and internationally, through conferences, panels, workshops, and community discussions. Recently she has presented at Creating Change, the Commonwealth Club of California, the Brooklyn Historical Society, Williams College and the Underground Railroad History conference.
More than the sum of these achievements, Barbara Smith is a kind, gentle, and giving person who has lived her life with integrity and authenticity in every movement and with each breath that she takes.
Barbara Smith turned 70 in 2016. Because she has dedicated her life’s work towards liberation, and not to a career with a pension, she is still working paycheck to paycheck in order to make ends meet, pay her bills, and maintain health insurance. We hope you can help us celebrate this milestone and give thanks for all of the work Barbara has done for all of us who live at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and physical ability by taking the following action:
We are inviting you to join a circle of monthly donors to collectively contribute whatever you can afford to ensure that Barbara is able to live the life she deserves in retirement. It is up to us to ensure that she is cared for and able to live comfortably while continuing to do the work the world needs her to do. By making a commitment to a monthly donation, this circle will not only send a clear message of support to Ms. Smith but will also be an example of intergenerationally caring for our elders during what can be their most challenging years.
You can give by clicking HERE: Barbara Smith’s Monthly Caring Circle
You can give at whatever monthly level is meaningful for you!
IMPORTANT: Be sure to specify “MONTHLY DONATION”!
Thank you for taking this opportunity to honor and care for Barbara and all the ways she has supported our communities for decades. Please help us to spread the word by reposting and forwarding this campaign!
Charlene Carruthers Brittney Cooper Mark Emanatian Virginia EubanksAlexis Pauline Gumbs Alethia Jones Joo-Hyun Kang Jaime Grant Janet Mock Darnell Moore Matt Richardson Sheilah R. Sable, Queer activist and organizer, entrepreneur, and former Kitchen Table Press intern and life long friend of Barbara Smith