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Hey folks —

THIS IS HAPPENING!! Today, even!  So here’s the text from the Wordsmith’s FB event:

“By this point, we’re certain you already know what we’re all about: putting on free poetry events for the campus community while mobilizing the student body to take part in social justice advocacy! We also run the slam team! This weekend is about bringing those things together in harmony and treating you all to an unforgettable set of shows. So, if you want more details about the slam itself, visit our tumblr page (http://uncwordsmiths.tumblr.com/). Otherwise, here’s the breakdown:

TONIGHT!! Friday Night: workshop with nationally-renowned poet and spoken word artist Theresa Davis (sponsored by Feminist Students United)  7 PM

Campus Y Seminar rooms 207 and 208

FREE

Light refreshments will be served

***Sign up at this link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Bytum-_pDWTz5ICrwDnjddl6OUc7uaplV3wfDFeeYeM/viewform***

Saturday night: IT ALL GOES DOWN! The entire slam season comes down to this one final Grand Slam to decide which 5 student poets will compete on the UNC slam team that will represent the University at Nationals in Colorado.

Doors open at 7 PM

Tate-Turner-Kuralt Auditorium (information about directions and parking here: http://ssw.unc.edu/about/directions)
(Grand Slam is co-sponsored by Feminist Students United)
FREE FOR ALL, suggested donation of $5

You read right: IT’S ALL FREE!! Don’t miss out!

This is our way of thanking you ALL for supporting us and the causes we’ve championed in the past, and those to come in the future. So please come enjoy this weekend with us!”

 

So what are you waiting for?!?!?!  You’d better sign up on that Google Doc for the Theresa Davis workshop and click here for the FB EVENT PAGE!!!

Welcome to our newest recurring blog theme: activists we oughta know!!

Now if there is one thing I have learned in the time I have spent deprogramming myself and my brain, it is that we have been offered an intentionally narrow array of heroes and role models within this great thing I will refer to as “the dominant cultural narrative.”  This cultural narrative is, as you might have imagined, fashioned and molded by the cultural ideals of the dominant forces in any given society.

“What’s wrong with that?,” you might ask.  Well, my friends, this model has a number of flaws, in my opinion. Allow me to list only some of them without explanation below:

  • reinforces current power structures
  • terms of selection are highly exclusionary to anything that threatens the status quo
  • the MLK effect (my own term – describes the phenomenon by which certain serious revolutionaries and their movements are stripped of their radical and subversive messages/beliefs and are then presented without full historical context within the history books used to “educate” our children)
  • only interests/practices of the dominant party/group are represented – meaning that experiences that do not fall within the dominant range of experiences are either actively invalidated or passively NOT validated
  • whose stories and histories are being told? and to whom?
  • WHEN IN DOUBT – ask our self: What’s at stake? Who stands to benefit?

I could go on, but this isn’t really the point of this post…so…MOVING ON

If you are familiar with the concept of the matrices of oppression or of the concept of intersectionality, it should come as no surprise that the people whose voices are most often ignored, whose stories are least often told, whose struggles are given the least legitimacy are – women of color.

I am surprised, but not really, to discover how much I have yet to learn.  AND SO WE BEGIN ——

VIRGINIA LEE WILLIAMS

Virginia Williams was one of seven people (3 women, 4 men! Doubly integrated!) to stage a sit-in at The Royal Ice Cream Co. Parlor in Durham, North Carolina on June 23, 1957 – three point five years before the famed Greensboro sit-ins.  The parlor was chosen primarily because of its location within a black neighborhood.  According to custom, whites were allowed use of the soda counters and booths while blacks ate in the parking lot.  The group, now referred to as “the Royal Seven” was arrested and charged with and convicted of trespassing by, of course, an all white jury. Their convictions were later upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court.

I would like to borrow this little exchange from the News & Observer article I have cited at the bottom of this page:

“They were very courteous and never handcuffed us,” Williams remembers about the arrest. “When we got to the station, one of the officers said to me, ‘If I was your daughter, I’d take you across my lap and spank you.'”

Without missing a beat, Williams replied: “If I were your daughter, I wouldn’t be here for this.”

This sit-in could very well be the FIRST sit-in of the civil rights era (1955-1980) if only Wikipedia would accept my article.  As it turns out, however, it is hard to cite things that were never recorded as historically significant at the time. C’mon wiki!!! This sit-in received a little local coverage, but beyond that, was mostly ignored.  The N&O covered only a brief about the arrests.

SO – Virginia Williams is a North Carolina native.  Her parents, Wiley and Elizabeth, were sharecroppers in North Hampton county.  As it turns out, her father was an active member of the local NAACP chapter throughout her childhood, though this fact wouldn’t come to light until later, as the meetings were held secretly, I assume for reasons of safety/security.

While her involvement in the sit-in sort of happened by chance, it was enough to spur her into a lifetime of activism, including nearly a decade spent fighting segregation laws and practices in North Carolina.  She also participated in the March on Washington in 1963!  Virginia Williams worked for forty years as a cafeteria worker in Chapel Hill and though now retired, she remains active in her advocacy.  She volunteered for the Obama campaign and often speaks about her experiences to a wide array of audiences – from elementary school classes to the N.C. Museum of History.  She is the only living member of the Royal Seven.

As proof of her continued action – I had the honor of making her acquaintance this month during the Civil Rights weekend in Chapel Hill. The “Still Walking for Justice” event commemorated the 65th Anniversary of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, also known as the first freedom ride.  9 women, each walking in honor  of a female activist, completed a leg of the journey from Pauli Murray’s former home in Durham to the Peace and Justice Plaza in Chapel Hill.  Virginia Williams was one of the 9 women honored that day. I was proud to wear her name – and not just because of the specific work she did.

Virginia Williams is an inspiration, an example of a long life dedicated to community engagement.  She is a reminder that, YES, you can just go out and involve yourself, and SHOULD, because sure, our schedules are busy, but what are we working towards if not a better world? Your involvement, however big or small, is a vital to THE movement – whatever that is for you.  Don’t hesitate!

P.S. – It was my lack of familiarity with most of those names that inspired this project of ours.  From the Pauli Murray project, which you should check out, on why we are still marching for justice:

“The work continues. Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Queer rights, voting rights, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, and civil rights are still on the line and require our vigilance to protect them. The Walk also shows how we can use history to activate memory and motivation for contemporary activism.”

Sources:

http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/02/21/350063.html

http://media.photobucket.com/image/recent/bragin/DE/royal1.jpg

http://www.heraldsun.com/view/full_story/20648962/article-Walk-to-commemorate-1st-freedom-ride

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pauli-Murray-Project/114283276942

Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing.

Weekly Meetings

Spring 2015: Wednesdays at 7:30 PM in Murphey 202

For a better look at events, check out FSU's Calendar

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