tv Book Discussion on Florynce Flo Kennedy CSPAN February 14, 2016 7:15pm-8:51pm EST
new york library of autism created for children with autism. when my my son was diagnosed there is nothing in the city. i had to make a home program, had i had to create it from scratch, i had to fight to get the services. i was not even able to get the money back from the state because the people i was working with did not believe in what we were doing. we have come so far in understanding the needs of children with autism, not far enough, but we really are starting to try to support them. part of that again is because parents fought the system and they fought the school system. it is a cycle that we keep doing, how else do they do it? >> last question. >> i've a child that's on the spectrum is 12 years old. at what point do parents stop
wondering how they're going to make it in the real world? [inaudible] [inaudible] >> when do you know? >> went to know how capable they will be to be dependent? >> i watch karen watch work this question through and i will like to take it but i have seen you go from is going to be great to i've got to get realistic, to where you are today. >> i think you don't lose hope. [inaudible] other specific indicators?
[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] >> it is a great question. i do not have the answer. i am still working on it. my son is 21. i felt in the early years that they were all the steps i could take because their people before me had taken him so i was always on the five year plan. now that he is 21, i'm okay, now what am i going to do for the rest of his life. you do not know how much more they will continue to grow, how they will change.
adolescence for kids with autism is much later, 12 years old, you have like five or six years before you hit adolescence. that changes everything. so i don't think anybody can answer your question right now. >> it has been a great conversation. >> and i say one thing before. >> i was just about to say and john would like to say one thing. [laughter] >> have you worked with john before? i i want to thank you for doing this for us [applause]. the other thing is i don't know if everything is away about barnes & noble this is what they call a book fair and barnes & noble donates a portion of the proceeds of everything they're selling tonight, not just our book but the eyeglasses and coffee and everything else to benefit to organizations that we respect a lot. one is known as q sack, it's
been around since willowbrook was shut down and all the young adults came out. q sack stepped in, and again parent starting in organization quality services for the artistic community. they are our friends and we respect what they do a lot. so we encourage you to step up for them and by 10000 books tonight. and if you want to talk about. >> and the new york autism who started the first charter school in the country for children with autism. and who is now working on adult services and adult homes, and adult education. new york collaborates for autism. >> 10,000 books everybody. everybody. thank you all very much [applause].
>> this is book to be on c-span two, television for serious readers. here's. here's a prime time lineup. starting shortly, sherry randolph discuss the right of civil rights and civil activist lawrence kennedy. at 9:00 p.m. on afterwards, criminologist, criminologist talks about violent crime in america. that is followed at 10:00 p.m. with jacob weisberg's examination of ronald reagan's presidency. we wrap up wrap up book tv at 11:00 p.m. with greg who highlight some of the social movements throughout history. that all happens next on c-span to book tv. first up, sherry randolph and gloria steinem. >> what is the center?
>> and where it is now a world-class institution. >> it holds over 10 million items. [inaudible] schomburg to me as one of the when i started the journey of finding out about harlem and other places. >> researchers from around the world can use what we have here. i cannot have written any of the books without have using schomburg's resources. >> is much more than a library, it's lifelong learning and exploration.
[inaudible] learning about my history is important because it teaches me who i am. >> the schomburg program will be uplifting. >> so many talented implant people have walked to the corridors of this amazing institution over the years. toni morrison, james baldwin, and harry belafonte,. great man marries, it is a gift to us in our community. [inaudible] what is the schomburg center? i'm standing here which holds
the ashes, on an evening where it was dedicated people and to my amazement they asked maia angela and they started to dance on top of the ashes. >> the schomburg center is a research institute and library but it is so much more than that. >> there's something going on every day. >> so many amazing people come here to talk about their creative paths, to share what inspires them. the schomburg center collection has stories beyond the walls. >> the schomburg center here is a one-way ticket, we depend on the resources of the schomburg to enable us to tell a story.
thinking about the implications of the past on the presence, it is absolutely crucial for understanding the next step. understanding what we have to do to go forward. >> we have the responsibility of making sure that new artists and activists, new followers and poets know that this place, now in its 90th year as a resource of inspiration. >> the schomburg center's knowledge and. >> at this schomburg center to me is education. >> the schomburg center is home, it is a is family, it is foundational. >> it is community. >> the schomburg center is you. and and we invite you, everyone of you to find your schomburg center. >> [applause].
good evening everyone. welcome to the schomburg center. it. it is a delight to have you here this evening. i know we have a blizzard on the way so i'm grateful that it is not here just yet. my i am the director. you saw this video that we put together for 90th anniversary. if you seen it a lot, it's going to the movies and some animated character comes out like an eminem or something it says don't talk during the movie or don't spell your popcorn, that's kind of what it is. so you just have to bear with it, were celebrating our 90th anniversary and we are very proud of that. [applause]. we want to be sure to tell the story in a way that will stick
to the next 90 years. with that said, i want to also welcome our c-span and lifestream viewers to tonight's program. as you seen schomburg is a one-of-a-kind research library and tonight's event between the lines is one of our many program series that feature literary art artists and so many others that have stories to tell to inspire us to new chapters in our collective journey. i invite you back for our winter season. we have just released our winter program guide. be sure to pick a copy up if you have not done so already. that is your invitation to return. i also want to thank our schomburg society members, these are our supporters come our donors, they not only support with their financial contributions, free programming switch represent about 95% of 5% of what we do for the schomburg center, they also are counted on our roles.
that is important to document and show the evidence of those who are committed to what we do and the legacy that we preserve. this season to entice you further, for those of you whom this is the first time, we will bring a diverse set of amazing people from michael eric dyson to the cast of the color purple, to forest whitaker and bernice reagan johnson. so again, please take a look at our winter guide. as you can tell we often receive many more rsvps than people actually show up. those are the hazards of free with the city with lots going on. my advice is, if you really want something and it sold out, take out, take a chance and come anyway. if you are interested the circle back schomburg society please consider joining our membership
program. tonight is the first author conversation of the season and we are excited to share with you the work of sherry and randolph in conversation with the well-known and incredibly inspiring gloria steinem. along with the moderator nicole exit or floyd. if you do not have copies of their book already you can pick up one in our gift shop after the talk. there'll be a book signing to follow, i already have mine signed. so do not miss out on this opportunity. this evening, for those of you here in our live audience as well as online, we'll be using the # between the lines as well as our twitter hand though, # between the lines, all one word, guess you know that already in
our twitter handles are at schomburg live in at schomburg center. now to introduce our guess. sherry randolph is a professor of history at the university of michigan ann arbor. the life of a black feminist radical was published this year by the university of north carolina press. i think that deserves a round of applause [applause]. are authors here with us as well. this work examines between black power, the other movements. she is a former associate director of the women's research and resource center at stillman college. sure there someone in the audience connected but if not [applause]. sherry has received a number of fellowships and grants for her
work including the schomburg center for research and black culture where she was a scholar in residence as well as the james ellen johnson center at emory university. next, we will welcome gloria steinem she was writer, lecture of faculty [applause]. in 1972 she founded miss magazine and remained one of the editors for 15 years. in 1968 she helped found europe magazine where she was also a political columnist and wrote feature articles. as she has written many books including bestsellers, revolution from within, outrageous acts, and everyday rebellion, moving beyond words, outrageous acts, and every day rebellion, moving beyond words, marilyn, norma
jean, as if women matter. she has received a number of awards including the pending missouri journalism award, frontpage awards, national magazine awards, and most recently for the new york public library, are library lines award. she is also, in 20,132,013 every sippy of the presidential freedom of metal [applause]. evening is an old friend, known each other for 20 years and haven't seen each other and as many years, nicole axel and her floyd is a lawyer, political scientists and she is also an associate professor of women women's business study and rutgers university in new brunswick per. she integrates the study of politics, law women studies in black studies she has been actively engaged in wide-ranging political and legal
issues for minorities and general women of kohler in particular. she she cofounded the association for the study of black women in politics. she is a member of the cbc foundation on the council of academic advisors and is the author of ginger, race race and nationalism and contemporary black politics. please join me in welcoming armies and guest. >> [applause]. thank you so much for that welcome. thank all of you for being here. we have missed the snow coming this saturday they say, again i am nicole eggs and her floyd, i am delighted am delighted to be here, and quite honored to be here with jerry randolph
and gloria steinem. thank you so much for this conversation. i have a lot of questions but we have a limited amount of time. i wanted to start off at the beginning. in both of these wonderful books and i want to emphasize exactly what was said earlier. if you don't have these books yet, you need to run and get them after this. if you need encouragement, if you need role models, it is this book, both of these books, you need them. both of you talk about the influence of family and beginnings. sherry, your work really focuses on florence kennedy and goes back to how her political philosophy and her attitude begins. this wonderful brazen woman. you talk about her family and the resistance in the title,
we are political in a sense that wouldn't take any crap. so we would like you to talk about that and a similar thing area to have you talk about your family, both your father and mother in terms of how they were instrumental in the philosophy of being on the road. >> with the biography of flow her parents were central, both her mother and her father, her father she often recited the story over and over again about how he stood up to the ku klux klan. when when i was writing biography i realized they were not necessarily ku klux klan members but members of their neighborhood who do not want them there, who are racists, who did not want black people in the neighborhood and how they fought against
them. and also used their backyard to bring young woman to have sex with them, because who cares is just a black family in the neighborhood so we can use their property anyway we want to. he really fought against that and he farmed in beat up one of the men. but it also stands out, the mom also talk to them about the racist violence severs happening they went to lawyers, but what i found really is that she taught them to not hide their sexuality. to be sexually open about when they were little she let them know
>> so that was what was really positive about it. >> you also talk about in some ways she was living out to buy a dream that her mom or dreams that her mother had. >> thank you for bringing that up. so her mom had all girls, five girls. but wanted to travel at one point i moved to california without the husband and takes the girl, she has affairs and tells the girls about them. she wanted to move to new york so she is going to new york and harlem
and she kind of sees that as living out the failed dreams of her mother. so i drive that home about flow. >> so it's amazing how those experiences really began to shape when you messes someone. it is is very powerful to think about the roots of her brazenness, it's what she got from her family and her mother. >> so you talk about your work on the road and your parents as well i don't want to give a spoiler, this is how it ends. so so with what you're
describing with your father, you're an itinerant activist and that is in part because of a lifestyle that your family had. could you tell us a bit about that, my father was definitely the itinerant part but he was very proud of two things, he never never had a job and he never wore a hat. and with this generation you are supposed to do both. so what he meant by never had a job was he was always his own boss. so he was on his road selling things that he bought at auctions and therefore we're doing that in the winter time, i was not going to school and in the summer time he had a summer resource.
in political terms he was not interested at all. it was my mother, and i am also living out the life of my mother. >> flow is not that much older than me so it has a lot of comparison. but it was my mother who every time she heard the word her eyes would go up about how poor we were and so on, she would tell me, she she was semi by the radio and explain to me about the concentration camps and explained to me about race riots in detroit and she did it in such a way that clearly she was not trying to scare me but it made me feel grown-up and serious that she trusted me to tell me these things. i'm sure that has huge impact it taught me that what goes on out there
in terms of the government and voting affects our daily life. it taught me that things are not right out there, that the state police are not good people. so that is very valuable. i think it makes such a huge difference. i hope we all remember that when we are talking to children. >> incidentally i should also say for the video of people on c-span that at about noon, i fell into a pothole, now i have stitches. i mean hello, you feel like such a jerk. >> but you still showed up [applause].
but it just cause me to remember something i cannot remember before, while flow and i were on a multiple to the of travels i think this was on the midwest some place she actually slammed her hand into a door, how painful is that? she stood up for gay guys she would call it and still kept going. so we are here in her tradition. >> i want you to speak briefly about your writing process, for those of us who are writing dissertations, what is it like particularly sent some of what you deal with is very personal, very intimate, what were the kinds of strategy you used as a practical matter in terms of your writing, and how did you deal with the resistance or any form of resistance that you felt , how did you experience that? >> i have friends in the audience that it is slow
if there is an olympic team for slow writing i would be right there. i find that what happens to me is that i write something and i am seeing it and observing its and so i am describing it as best i can. then afterwards somehow i never learned this in the first instance and i realize that i have left my cell phone so i have not given the reader eyes for which to see what is going on, you need a narrative, person who represents you. then i have i have to go back and put myself in. that was also true of the personal stories because i had to stop and think where the narrative of that make it narrative started. it was so often in our childhood even though we don't think so at the time. >> it is interesting to think about.
your story, there are so many stories, wonderful stories about the work. they they come alive. >> i could visualize myself when in a taxicab with you going to india, the confrontation that you had, the trip that you took with your dad across country selling antiques and having all kinds of things. i'm not surprised that you are still here with this situation because you are a resilient person and lots of adventure. >> i do think for all of us here struggling to write that we do have to remember that our brains are organized on narrative. now that we have not been sitting around campfires for years listening to stories for nothing. it is about narrative, about imagery. i say that say that because our media does not necessarily know that. they perceive serious
news as being facts, generalities, not narrative. and only soft news as being narrative. it is very gendered actually. i think that we need to remember that because we are hungry for narrative and i suspect that is part of the reason we are craze for celebrities. they are the only narrative in town sometimes. when writers before there was a telegraph machine, when writers were using journalists, even the young ones he was writing columns i think he used the essay form, they had narrative and then when the telegraph machine came along it was who, what, where, why, when you are supposed to cut it off
from the bottom it gave us this de- personalize pyramid style that you could keep cutting it off. now that we have simultaneous transmission with all of our great technology we need to remember how precious narrative is. that is why you talk about the talking circle and the vitality of being able to share one oh one with people you experience in different contexts. that is about hearing each other stories. that's how we know each other. it's so crucial. it is also about doing it in person. diminishing the importance of technology which is huge. but what it doesn't allow us to do is emphasize. if you are not present that magical substance, of oxytocin or whatever it is called, what allows us to not just
know but understand is not produced, as much as i love books on the page or on the screen, you do need to which is the magic of being here together. >> i was just so impressed with the way in which you got on this vision quest. besides information about florence kennedy, the image of course that stands out most in my mind is that you sitting on the floor going through all of her papers and basically making it -- tell about that process and what it was like for you. >> i think probably people in the audience who studied women of color or black women, or any subject that is not studied often are written about, that you have to often just go out there and find it.
flo started out as just a hobby. we are talking talking about this backstage about how we both thought it was on tv. before i first started she flashed across the screen, she was yelling at danielle saying you racist, sexist pig. i never found that video again and i knew he was and i thought why is he being arrested, what is going on? this woman is interesting but it is who she was but someone next to me who had worked for ms. magazine said all that's florence kennedy and she has passed away. this was in the 90s so she hadn't passed away. she did pass away until the year 2000. so the internet wasn't as popular, didn't work as well so i looked in an encyclopedia. so i found her and started after that is a hobby and the hobby was
light color me flow which was her short memoir, collecting buttons, anything anything that i could find of her and then after that her family found me through a long story and i could go through a q&a and then i just for a year sat and her sisters living room putting together the papers. they had over 17 boxes. also clothing, they had for quotes that billie holiday had, they had hats, buttons, the bangles, altogether the plus and would like flow she traveled on the road, she would write her notes on a marriott notepad or on a napkin so i would have to read them. like okay and try to find the other one. so it was a good year of putting it together and piecing it together and
creating her life through that. that is where the book comes from and also her video. she had a tv show site and found this person who had her videos, i watch the videos. it took years of working on it. i worked i worked on this close to 20 years. >> it is definitely a labor of love. i was so encouraged and also just sad really i think by learning much more about her life and do all wonderful things that she did an experienced. the pictures are fabulous to of her in law school and eventually being an attorney with only 19 other black woman. >> and just imagine.
>> i can imagine going to law school in the 90s and that time period where she was the only black woman, only black person. >> she was awesome in those situations. >> and she chose to be. i think it sharpened her politics, sharpened her breach, sharpened how she imagine alliances or the possibility of alliances when she was at columbia. so she threatened to sue columbia and i talk about this a bit in the book. she first gets into columbia during a time during during world war ii when they're opening the doors for women because the men are at war taking jobs at the government. then when the war ends they want to get rid of them and so she is not able to go to law school. but she threatens and says you're not letting me and because i'm lack. the dean of the law school says now it has
nothing to do with race, it's because your woman. [laughter] so they were not letting a lot of women in. so she then says it doesn't make a difference to me, all of my friends think it's race and i think it's both so you are in trouble. >> if there is one white man who have gotten in with lower scores than me then you're going to have to let me inches what is so interesting because that's what biographers do, then went to columbia and because it's so lovable they let you look through their transcripts and through their admission cards. all this talk about affirmative action and people of color, all of the white men, mostly c- average, mediocre, d+ from yelp.
and here she was an a+ student from columbia. it's not like you're asking any kind of special treatment and she does not get in. because of her she has some early successes with utilizing and they pushed her and she became this enchanted -- at some point. once you actually try and you're going to change the world's. >> i love her quote that [laughter] >> oh great, you remember. there's so many wonderful flow isms. there was. she said, i forgot the name of her friend with whom she was trying to get into law school who also and they also would let her friend in.
her friend never did get in because she couldn't bring a lawsuit on racial discrimination. that made flow offensive. if you began to understand what a minute, i'm sure she understood. >> tell us about how you first met flow gloria, i know you saw her on television in different contexts obviously and eventually you are speaking companions, what was it like to be on the road with florence kennedy? >> it. >> it gave new meaning to a trip. [laughter] first of all she talked to everybody. there is nobody she felt wasn't within her ability to contact, whether it was the flight attendant the president of the university, the guy who wasn't making the
sandwich right. so your in contact with the whole world. also she was incredibly generous. i tell a story in my book about we are in some university small-town, in a store like a general store, there is a young woman waiting on us who kept showing us clothing and things we might want to buy but who clearly was mostly showing us a purple pant. it was clear this young woman totally wanted this. somehow and i can explain how, flow before we left have persuaded that young woman to let her flow by her the purple pantsuit as a gesture of faith in her future. without ever taking any dignity away from her and it was she was just
incredibly generous. in terms of actual speaking on stage there is no question that i had to go first because after flow i would have been such an anticlimax. [laughter] it was a great feeling, is like a jazz improvisation in some ways to talk to flow. although when we first started to talk she was a little alarmed by the fact that i was way too full of facts. in those days you felt like you had to prove because it was supposed to be just nature or something. so i had researched all of these facts and after
we were first speaking together for a little while she took me aside and she said honey, if you are lying in a ditch with a truck on your ankle, we do not send someone to the library to find out how much the truck ways, you get the truck off. [laughter] i often thought i wish i had florence kennedy and every job i ever had. every organization i have been in. what really tickled me to was the fbi informants that were following her around, they may note about how powerful a speaker she was. it is amazing, i love how you follow her around to all of these different organizations, one of the wonderful things about your book is that you show how she really conceptualizes politics as not some kind of quest for. ideology. she is going is going in and out of these different networks
can constellation of organizations. >> for another flow as him, for anything that's off its. i think i like the notion of i would've liked to read your book first, this itinerant organizer which is also that women tend to be where you work best in a lot of different organization and i think for flow kennedy that is very much the case. her politics and ideology cannot be met with just one move, it can be met with now. it's interesting people write that now and
predominantly leave white feminism had a lot of women of color. i have seen her notes, no they don't. like three people and they would say flow kennedy, elaine hernandez, and the fact of going to the meetings, flow was the only one. she was always alone just like colombia. always columbia. always alone and these all white spaces. she cannot get all of her needs met so she would jump to black power where her needs were met in other ways, where her radicalism was sharpened. the fbi followed her everywhere and she would jump to antiwar which is also common. i saw pictures, similar stories someone writing a book on her now, black black feminists, antiwar activists, childcare activists, all consumer boycotts, just so many things. so i don't think flow kennedy story is particularly exceptional
was complicated, intersectional -- >> and confrontational. >> and confrontational. >> you know, learning how to be confrontational. and sometimes she would -- most times it didn't work, you know? but the times that it did work, it worked well. >> tell us about the black power conference that happens, that she invites some folks from now, and they try to get -- >> yeah. so flo had a habit of bringing white feminists from now or white feminists wherever she could find them to black power spaces. so at the black power conference that's all black, this is in the '60s, she brings peg brennan to a black power conference and queen mother moore, so these women have to get out of here, what are you doing. and flo refuses.
she says, no, they're here to learn, they're my guests, they're going to stay. and it shows you how much power she actually had in the space that the women are able to spay. >> one less. >> peg brennan said, i get the hell up out of there. [laughter] the black power people said they don't want me, i'm leaving. but t. grace, who was young, flo said, you stay where you are. [laughter] but i think what's really important about that story and i think sometimes in the history and the retelling, we imagine white women as so powerful that they're going to, you know, usurp our organization. flo did not see the nascent, predominantly white feminist movement as powerful in that moment. she saw them as potential students and potential allies. >> uh-huh. >> so if they sat in that meeting, they could learn, and what t. grace later says is she felt the wind on her back, that here was an organization and a group of black people starting a
movement. how could we do the same. >> right. >> how could we model that. and flo often took on to, you know, mentees like gloria steinem, like t. grace atkinson and purposely mentored them, like emily goodman, i'm not sure if she's in the audience -- >> [inaudible] >> right here, yeah. all these women to purposely mentor in in hopes they would st their own revolution and lead it. >> see, and this is one of the parts that i really love about this book. >> right. >> you know, i'm a straight shooter, so i would tell you that you did not. >> thank you. that would be embarrassing right now. >> because, you know, we have these myths about feminism still, right? that it's a white thing, right? black women, chicano women, others, develop feminism in different spaces. what your books highlights, it joins a body of work that does this, right? that highlights the importance
of black liberation politics -- >> yeah. >> right? to feminism across time. and so you see, obviously in different ways, i don't want it to be transhistorical in terms of that understanding, but you see in a very practical way how, you know, florynce kennedy is really disturbing all of those myths. >> yeah. >> i think that's one of the real, really powerful parts of your work. what have been the reactions that people have had? talk about that a bit more and your thinking about how significant her profile and her history is and what has been the reaction to that. >> well, so those of you that haven't read the book, so the major myths, one, that black power is inherently sexist. and so that black women come to feminism because of the sexism of black men who are black power activists. and so i challenge that and other historians and scholars
are challenging that because we know so many black women come to feminism through black power, as black power activists themselves. so denise oliver, flo kennedy, fran bill -- >> exactly. >> and they sharpen their analysis of revolution and radicalism through it. and through staying in connection with it. the orr myth is that -- the other myth is that black women weren't involved in predominantly white feminist os and that they were just a few of them -- shirley chism, polly murray, flo kennedy. and the myth is they're there, but we really don't know what they did. and so what we see with flo is not only is she there, she's a founder. she's a theoretical impetus for many of the ideas, many of the theories that we think of predominantly white. much of the organizing, much of the tactics, much of the shock tactics, classic no.
much of the, many of the slogans. you know, that's flo kennedy. so it helps to even though they're not lots of black bodies, there were enough black bodies that changed the politics. because what they were pushing. and so flo changes the myth about the kind of invisibility of black women in creating kind of a feminist theory. >> incredible influence, right? >> exactly. >> outside the numbers. i loved, too, how you really frame her as a political theorist. >> yeah. >> right? because we don't often understand black women, political actors in terms of how it is that they're, how they are intellectuals, i mean, the work that you talk about her doing through your lawyering is amazing. the ways in which she's interacting with these organizations, her tactics, etc., this is political theorizing in action. >> or even, and this gets -- or influencing. because i remember someone, i did a talk at politics & prose,
and they actually introduced me, and they said -- and it was on their web page -- the book was about how gloria steinem and other women influenced flo kennedy. [laughter] we couldn't imagine -- [laughter] that flo was mentoring a whole group of women that we know much more about -- >> consciously doing it. >> exactly. >> that's interesting. >> yeah. >> gloria, speak to that, if you will. in many ways you learned your feminism from women of color feminists and black feminists like flo kennedy. ec pound on that -- expound on that for us. >> i was just thinking while you were talking that one proof of this is that i think this magazine did the first national poll of women on women's issues, and the result was -- i mean, it was black women and white women,
not asian women, latino women, you know? it was a lou harris poll. and the result was that in support of the issues and the idea of a movement it was about 30% of white women and more than 60% of black women. so this is not just a few people, you know? this is a consciousness, a national consciousness. >> exactly. >> and in my life, i mean, i think besides flo and dorothy and my lecture partners, the first time i ever heard a feminist analysis of social policy was the national welfare rights organization. and they had taken the welfare system which at that point was not viewed as a women's issue, but as entirely a poor or racial issue, and they had done an analysis of it. and it was so funny and so sharp about, you know, it's like a gigantic husband, the welfare system, that looks under your bed for the shoes of other men -- [laughter] it gives you just enough money
to barely get along. i mean, you know, it was the first feminist analysis of a social policy that i'd ever seen. it was unforgettable. >> right. >> so it was just, it was just there. it was just there. i mean, and i don't know why. there are different reasons, but, i mean, i think the overall reason is, first of all, black women were more likely to be in the paid labor force than white women and experiencing discrimination. and also if you've experienced discrimination for one reason, you recognize it when it comes at you for another reason. >> yeah. >> and also the culture itself was not as patriarchal. it couldn't afford to be in terms of there were more white guys who could afford to have a patriarchal structure. but for what other -- for all kinds of reasons in my experience i weigh
disproportionately i learned feminism from black women. >> and some of those lessons people need to go back and learn, right? i think flo kennedy would probably still be saying folks are talking a bit too much about crotch control. that's flo, that's a flo-ism. [laughter] we could talk about the p penta-gonorrhea. >> right. [laughter] >> across the planet. i have so many questions, i know that we can't get to them all. i guess one of them just to bring things to kind of, the kind of current situation that we have to deal with, i'm thinking about, okay, what would -- you know, as many times as i say you can't ask yourself what would mlk say, but what would flo say about it, you know? >> in 2008 -- well, you talked about your participation in that election. and, you know, your support of
clinton, some of the scuffles that you had with folks, harris perry in one case, excuse me, i got her name wrong, and your ultimate support for barack obama. one of the things also that is interesting is that we also had a black female, right? who ran for president during that time. and flo kennedy was also supportive of shirley chism. >> yeah. >> so what, what kind of better time do you think that the -- [inaudible] candidate would have had in 2008 if flo kennedy -- >> was supporting -- >> -- would support her? do you think her platform was -- what do you think her thoughts would have been -- >> you're thinking about cynthia mckinney. >> cynthia mckinney. >> yeah. i think cynthia mckinney running with rosa clemente, that that was very much classic flo kennedy. classic flo kennedy is
black-led, black feminists, multiracial. anti-racism, anti-imperialism. and that was their platform, you know? even now cynthia mckinney is in the peace and freedom party. i'm, like, the peace and freedom party is still around? [laughter] you know? and flo was a part of that in the '60s and '70 in critiquing the war. so i think, you know, time and think she was constantly, and i've thought about the political process because that's, we've been thinking about that a lot with this election and with the last, she was always involved with political, with electoral politics. she didn't think you should remove yourself from electoral politics. so she was veryportive of the -- supportive of the outside candidate no matter what. so the shirley chism, the jesse jackson. she said that's the candidate
you should always get behind. for her, the goal wasn't to win. a lot of times you're not going to win, but you're trying to grow a power base. to get some issues up. so i think she would have been very supportive of the cynthia mckinney, rosa clemente. >> there was no -- we understand how important shirley chism is now, but there was less understanding at the time. >> yeah. >> and she was only on the ballot in, what, 14 states? >> exactly. >> and yet flo and i, and we -- you know, we're running at her delegates here. now -- at the convention. we knew we weren't going to win. but i, she probably, if she could have run as a delegate for cynthia mckinney, she probably would have. >> would have, yeah, exactly. >> and fought the white out, as she called it. [laughter] >> the media just didn't pay attention to those -- >> exactly. >> in their message. and i think that's what's so powerful about what's happening with the black lives matter movement, is that they're, you
know, getting in front of the media and forcing a dialogue and changing the dialogue. no, you have to pay attention to police violence, the growing police state. you can't ignore it. get rid of emanuel. >> yes. say that again. [laughter] >> on c-span, get rid of emanuel. >> get rid of 'em -- [laughter] all, the whole country. [laughter] >> so they've been forcing that. and i think that's classic flo kennedy tactics too, you know? forcing the media to pay attention to your issues, to change the dialogue and force candidates to now bring up the prison industrial system, police violence and so forth. >> absolutely. gloria, you talk about how you never travel alone, right? your experience in india really gave you a sense of wanting to be in community and to also be in dialogue with people. and, you know, i'm convinced after reading that portion of your book that people need to
get a pulse, they actually need to -- [inaudible] and talk to folks. she really gets into this, and it's interesting. so what have you been hearing as of late about the happenings in this country as you not only talk on, continue to talk on campuses -- >> you know, that sarah palin just endorsed donald trump, you know? [laughter] >> you know, the moon is in certain phase. looking at russia again. [laughter] the signs were clear. >> the big thing that's different is the crazy people are in control of one of our two political parties. you know, so -- [applause] these are not, these are not the old republicans of, you know, of rockefeller or -- you know? they're just not. in fact, there's nothing in the
republican party platform that most republicans support. so what's dangerous is that these crazy people who are brands, you know, from television are in control of the nominating process. which means they tend to nominate people who couldn't get, win in a general election. but it's really seriously dangerous for that to happen. because, of course, people are going to get mad at the democratic party, and then they're just going to vote for the other one to vote for it, and those are crazy people. [laughter] >> crazy people. >> right. >> we definitely, we need to get a platform, a pro-flo platform -- >> yeah. get rid of the crazy people. >> infiltrate and take back the republican party, you know? [laughter] >> you can do that. >> i think the women would be well suited to do this. we could put on our nice dresses and our pearls -- [laughter] and go to the precinct meetings and, you know, like in four years there would be a bloody
convention, and in eight years there would be a good convention, you know? [laughter] >> or we can actually have a true independent party, right? that is something that we can push for. [applause] >> yeah, as long as we don't -- but we know the problem. [inaudible conversations] >> by any means necessary, as flo would say. >> by any means necessary. she, yeah. i thought two other relevant parts of flo's life, really the push that she did to -- in her lawyering -- to protect creative work. >> oh, yeah. >> artists. and, you know, again, it was interesting that she was able to in some ways make more headway for people who were deceased, like billy holliday. >> charlie parker. >> yeah, charlie parker. but really just finding creative ways. what i liked about her is she didn't stop. >> yeah. >> okay? you cut me off this way, i'm going to figure out another way. >> and she also defended the
woman who tried to kill andy warhol. >> yeah. >> now, this was really, probably her most controversial case. >> very much -- yeah, no, i agree. and, well, that and she also defended the brother of the man who shot martin luther king. so she would take on all of these cases. she defended -- [inaudible] shakur, you know, on top of being a member of the national organization for women. so definitely, and she -- the case that becomes rolled into roe v. wade that repealed abortion laws in new york. so she was everywhere, you know? very much fighting for billy holliday at one point. >> even flo didn't say she had the right -- [laughter] >> no. what she would argue was -- [laughter] >> good lawyering. >> the argument would be, and i
argue this in the book because it's an activist argument, not only a lawyer's argument, is that flo kennedy was trying to argue that white feminists and the feminist movement was as radical as black power and as willing to defend themselves against sexism. and the argument would be that andy warhol was trying to steal valerie -- [inaudible] work, dismiss her product, not listening to her. the problem -- and i talk about this in the book -- the problem becomes when flo is trying to defend her and argue against, and now we would never make this argument in court, and i was talking to t. grace about this, valerie wanted to defend hearse, and -- herself, and automatically the court was saying, you are insane, you should just be in an insane asylum. no way a woman would do this if you're not crazy.
and they were trying to argue, no, you can't just make a woman insane if she shoots her oppressor and so forth. this is a feminist issue. and valerie wasn't the best case to make this point, but it was -- they got into trouble because she actually did have some mental problems. [laughter] and so, but they actually argued, which we wouldn't argue now, no, she should go to prison. [laughter] which we wouldn't, we wouldn't make that. and i have these pictures in the book that really make this point about when flo was defending h. h.rapp brown, he's covered under allegedly starting a -- [inaudible] where valley when she's arrested, they don't even put cuffs on her. >> that was amazing. walking freely. >> yeah. because it's the imagining of how we imagine certain women. we imagine -- they imagine even in the court records as fragile, as -- if she did commit this type of violence, it was because
she was crazy. >> just let her walk around. >> right. that wasn't the same way that the black power -- >> and it's a weird morphing where you think radicalism means you have to be viewed as oppressively by the state as black power is. that's the problem with that analogy. but still the greater argument is that women are willing to stand up against oppressive -- >> take up arms. >> take up arms and to stand up against their oppressor. she was trying to make that message clearer. >> i have a gazillion questions. i want to make sure we're mindful of the time. >> yeah. >> are we ready for q&a? >> we're ready for q&a. >> then i'll shut up. >> if people have questions, send them n. >> all right, that's good. i can read these. >> there's some people here from barnard. >> all right. i'm just going to go right in line, how about that? >> okay. >> can we just give them a hand? [applause] >> thank you.
>> gotta get these books. thiess one of them's on -- at least one of them's on tame. ms. steinem has been vocal and insistent that women of color have been a part of the feminist movement throughout history, yet the tuition between, quote-unquote, white feminism and all other forms of feminism persist. how do we erase both the imagined divisions, the idea that white feminism isn't for all women, and the exclusion that women of color still feel from the traditional white feminist movement? >> just a little thing like that? [laughter] >> tell us! >> i have my pen right here. >> well, i think it helps if we understand that sexism and racism function together, that they're intertwined, you know? and it affects different women differently. not everybody experiences it the same way, but it affects everybody.
if you want to maintain racism, you have to maintain racial, at least some separation or visible difference like castes in india or racism here, you have to maintain some sort of a system or the system goes, right? and that means you have to control reproduction. you have to control the bodies of women. so this will affect different women differently. i mean, traditionally white women would be on a pedestal, though as a black woman said to white women in the suffragist era, a pedestal is as much a prison as any small space, you know? and they're sexually deprived, and they're up there on a pedestal to keep the white race pure x. women of color are sexually exploited to produce more cheap labor marked on their skin. but, you know, you cannot have racism in the long term without also having sexism.
so i think once we get a grip on the fact that these are utterly intertwined and you can't uproot them separately, it's very helpful. but also at the other end of the spectrum, i would say we just have to know each other, you know? who do you go to the movies with? who do you have lunch with? i mean, belle hook says an absolutely great political rule which is that if you buy shoes together, you can do politics together. [laughter] and a friend of mine who's a feminist conflict resolution expert, which she became by running two women's center, so she became a conflict resolution expert -- [laughter] so she was asked to help, there was one of the major jewish women's organizations, i don't remember which one, and a hundred black women here, and they were trying to work on something together. and they were having a hard
time. so they asked my friend, the conflict resolution expert. and she said to them, well, do your prime ministers know each -- presidents know each other? and, actually, they didn't. she said, you know, just have lunch a couple times a week for a few weeks, and it'll work. and it did. >> you know, so -- >> it's both understanding the megapicture over there and who do we know? because black lives matter has a great organizing principle. i mean, it has, you know, more than one, but the greatest is move at the speed of trust. nothing replaces trust. so, you know, we need to know each other to make it work. >> well, and, you know, and that connection, i mean, i think part of what flo talked about was being a vanguard, right? you know, i don't know, in some
way she sees them as connected but thinks that racism is kind of foundational, right, and really replicates in different forms of oppressions. but to be sure, centering women of color in traditionally white feminist contexts is one way to help. i mean, it's part of how the national women's association has really transformed itself. >> i mean, it's either all women or no -- >> sure. >> i mean, we can have all the adjectives we want, but that's just the way it is. >> i agree. >> right? >> okay. let's look at this other question. can you explain how flo's family contacted you? >> oh, okay. [laughter] >> inquiring minds -- >> want to know. okay, i'll say it briefly. so when flo -- and you can imagine someone like flo, when she was getting older, a lot of people were pulling through her papers and so forth. and so there was a lot of turmoil over who owned her
papers, who owned flo's product when she passed away. and this is going to sound crazy. the family -- i called flo when i had her, i saw her on tv and wanted to interview her, and there was something younger people, we used to have the yellow pages and the white pages -- [laughter] and you could look people up. so i looked her up. and in her color me flo, it was the same phone number. so i called her, and she picked up, and she said flo kennedy. we did her first and only -- our first and only interview. she said, you can have my papers. you, stranger on the phone, you can have them. she was so giving. i was in grad school then, and i contacted the schlesinger library, and i said flo kennedy said i could have her papers, could you pay for a rental car for me to go get it. and i stayed with my friend,
ena, who's in the audience, and when i showed up at her house, her nurse was, like, she says this to everyone. you cannot have her papers. [laughter] so it was like, damn. [laughter] and this was the, this was '96, '9 7? and i was just going to write a paper on it, my civil rights paper for a class. and i was in a masters program then. but i left the letter from schlesinger library. and then when flo passed away, there was a lot of turmoil over her papers. and a woman that i got in contact with who was one of flo's friends, i tried to work for her. because this was my hobby. now i was, like, i'm going to do this. which is crazy. at my age now, i would never do this, but when you're young, you do stuff like this. >> a lot of energy. >> yeah, a lot of energy. there had been a court proceeding, long story short, there was a court proceeding, and she mentioned that i worked with her. the family then contacted me
when they remembered the letter from harvard and the fact that she said i had worked for them. so they just called nyu and said we'd like to speak to sherie randolph, and i called them back, and they said, we have the papers. you're writing a dissertation, you want to see them? and i was, like, whoa, this is great. and then i started for a year, over a year and a half, going to their house, organizing the papers, organizing her clothing, organizing all of it and helping them to finally get the papers at schlesinger library where they're open to the public now for whoever wants to see them. >> that's tremendous. >> absolutely. okay. can you speak about how flo worked with sex workers. >> oh, yeah. >> is there work to be done now with this community? >> yeah. wow. so people must know about flo's sex work. yeah, so she worked with coyote, call off your old tires ethics, and she thought sex work should be legalized.
originally, when the organization was starting, there was some debate over whether, you know -- and this is not, there's still debate about that. get sex workers off the street, find other, you know, legal jobs. and flo was against that. she said, no, that point is that we should actually unionize them, make sure that they're not harassed by police, that they're not harassed by johns and so forth. and she was really interested in seeing that as a value valued in high-paying form of work that's open to women when most work that is high paying isn't open to women. and she said until that can change, then we need to have -- make sure sex workers can do their jobs free of harassment and violence and so forth. so she worked with coyote in the very early days of helping to legalize sex work and to unionize sex work.
>> and there was -- [inaudible] here in new york. >> yeah, exactly. >> however, she did not want to legalize pimps, brothel owners, traffickers -- >> exactly. >> that was another -- >> exactly. >> speaking of white feminism and black feminism, where do you see other racial groups fitting into in this equation, asians, latinossings native americans -- latinos, native americans, etc. how should we incorporate these races into the movement? >> however they want to. i mean, it isn't up to us, you know? and, i mean, it is -- look, the one thing that all these various systems of andro-centric power don't have is wombs. and, therefore -- [laughter] it's all about controlling wombs. if we didn't have wombs, we'd be fine. [laughter] it affects different groups in
different ways, but it's kind of clear that monotheism and a lot of religion is politics in the sky, you know? this patriarchal politics in the sky. and about saying, taking away the mythic power of giving birth. yes, you know, we're going to control you, the catholic church, whatever -- you know, all of no theism. i'm not -- monotheism. i'm not distinguishing. we're going to control you physically, but we are also going to take the mythic power of giving birth, and we're going to say we can rebirth you into everlasting life, and we're going to sprinkle imitation birth fluid over your head and give you a new name. and we're going to -- have you ever read about church architecture? it's a trip, i'm telling you.
[laughter] i mean, some church architecture historian, i read years ago, just saying this like everybody knows it, that churches are built to resemble the body of a woman with an outer entrance and inner entrance, labia, vestibule in between a vaginal aisle up the center, two curved -- >> when i go to church, i'm not thinking about -- [laughter] i bring my tambourine -- >> then the altar where the miracle takes place. [laughter] so, you know, it affects -- >> this is what's going on. [laughter] >> it affects different people in different ways, but it is the same ball game. it is all about controlling reproduction. and if women are going to be free, we have to be able to control our own bodies from the skin in at least. so however that struggle happens and whatever different, you know, group, it's a shared
struggle. >> just going back to thinking about flo, it's also multifaceted, right, in thinking about her flo-ism of crotch control, right? can't be just about that. next question. girls of color are increasing in numbers in the prison system. how do we move the conversation towards juvenile justice and the prison industrial complex? >> i think the conversation is moving that direction. >> right. >> you know? the work of so many activists and scholars, kim crenshaw to, you know, say her name, what's going on today, and i've been here, so i haven't heard about the, what's going on with the police officer in oklahoma -- >> [inaudible] >> how many years? [inaudible conversations] >> all right. so he got sentenced to 270
years? >> [inaudible] >> 263 which is, i mean, great. [laughter] you know? so making those cases more public. also i think so much of what is going on with activists, bringing all that to the fore. and we see this with the black lives matter movement that so many of the activists are black women, that it's just -- and it's not. they're bringing up issues that are beyond, you know, heteronormative way of even understanding those issues. and i think, so the question was about juvenile justice, too about women of color also in the prison pipeline. so i think that's, i feel like activists are saying that now. organizations like malcolm x grassroots movement and so many other organizations are girls for gender equity, are making -- [applause] >> making this an issue. so i think in an upcoming years we'll see even more so.
>> this next question really connects with your response. it says how can we bridge the divide between feminism and academia and working class issues such as immigration rights, low wages, economic empowerment and access to resources, environmental justice and -- [laughter] criminal justice? >> gloria. [laughter] please. >> okay. well, i, you know, all words are good words, there's no doubt about that. but i do worry that academic versions of feminism are sometimes not available off the page to -- i mean, you know, it comes out of women's lived experience, so it needs to be applicable to women's lived experience. and i do threaten sometimes to put a sign on the way to harvard and yale that says, "beware:
deconstruction ahead." [laughter] because sometimes it's just the kind of world of it, of academia. not all campuses either i don't think -- anyway, your campus is much better about. but it gets, the problems get aerialized, and so they lose their narrative and their kind of individual truths. and we need to keep those connections. i mean, you know, black studies, women's studies, gay and lesbian, everything came out of the movement, came into academia from the movement. those courses weren't there before, and we need to keep that connection. >> i agree with that. >> you wanted to comment on that? >> no. i mean, your last comment i very much agree, especially with a lot of programs getting
underfunded or faculties being pushed in several different directions, that it's important that the politics of how those departments started still be at the negotiation i agree with that. >> -- at the fore, i agree with that. >> when you have your introductory courses, i would certainly hope, i mean, how did we get here, right? that should be at the beginning of those conversations. the history is important, and the development is important, and it's intimately tied to what people theorize about and the research that people produce. >> very much so. >> okay. so this is for both of you. can you talk more about the relationship between activist and politician? what canq politicians learn from activist methods? specifically, iç am thinking about talking circles. how do we create talking circles in our bipartisan politics?
so, want to open that chapter? [laughter] well, president obama tried to have some talking circles. >> i mean, i'm sure that i'm biased. >> not everybody wanted to sit in the circle. everybody wants to talk. >> i think the best people in politics came out of movements, you know? >> yeah. >> because people like shirley chism and bela and, you know, barbara mikulski, maxine waters, you know, so many, i mean, i can't even -- they came out of movements. so they do not hold their finger to the wind. they become the wind. they understand that, you know, it's not just about, you know, if there's things that are really important on principle, it's not just going with the current public opinion poll, it's changing those public opinion polls. >> yeah. >> and i -- then at the other end of it i think because social
justice movements have more credibility than political parties or than politicians probably altogether which is sometimes not fair, but it's true, that activists need to campaign not only through the campaigns, but on our own, you know? to go out there and talk about the issues and say what this vote is going to mean in our daily lives. and, you know, that we need to organize within the political system on our own as autonomous, independent people say what the issues mean. i mean, if kids on campus are graduating in debt -- >> yeah, oh, yeah -- >> -- we need to explain that's because of state legislatures. you know, those state legislatures are taking money away from universities and
giving -- and using it to build prisons that we don't need. but we haven't yet succeeded, and we must succeed in directing movement energy towards changing the faces in the state legislatures. >> right. can i, can i add to that? >> sure. >> when i was doing my research on flo, you guys both did a talk. i think it was at texas a&m. and flo was really good at this, where you sent around a list and said who's going to run for -- if you have problems not just with your campus community, but you have problems with the city you live in, someone should run for, you know, mayor, someone should run for city council. and i always thought, wow, a lot of these college towns you're sometimes the majority of the people in them, you know? if you're in middletown, connecticut, if you're wherever, and you guys were really successful in getting people to run for sometimes little offices. and putting pressure on those
local governments. and i think, god, as a student i never thought about doing that, like, running for office based on the fact that there are enough of us to change the politics in our actual community, you know? so really pressing those issues, i think, was such an interesting strategy that you and flo had back then. >> do you think that we've become hyperfocused, right, on voting? i mean, in this respect, in your book, gloria, you talk about -- i'm asking another question -- you talk about how voting, right, our election is not the most you can do politically, but it's the least you can do politically. >> right, it is the least. >> right. and then you go on to talk about how, of course, the electoral process is important. the part that i think, you know, resonates with me in terms of a connection with what she thought about flo kennedy was she really
was anti-englishmenttarian -- establishmenttarian. she had that particular persona. the idea wasn't just to change the bodies in the office -- >> right. >> -- but to actually change -- >> the very questions that these politicians were asking, the very programming. >> and the nature of people's material reality. sometimes there is this -- we assume that when we have people, a different type of demographic makeup of certain bodies, that we'll get a different result, but that doesn't always happen. >> yeah, but what she recognized was that the least power on earth where the least powerful have as much powerful -- power as the powerful was the voting booth. so she absolutely included that. >> yeah. >> as a form of power. >> right. >> [inaudible] >> yeah. >> [inaudible]
>> what's my favorite memory of flo? this is my friend, irene. [laughter] that's very hard. i have so many favorite memories. i mean, it's really -- >> okay, top three. [laughter] top two. >> well, the thing about the pantsuit is right up there, i have to say. >> we've heard that. >> you've heard that one. [laughter] >> you're friends. >> and i guess, you know, whenever we were speaking together there would be a press conference usually of some kind with the local press. and the, she would just wait because she knew that the reporters were going to ask can me about the women's -- ask me about the women's movement and her about the civil rights movement.
and she would let it go on for a while, and then she would let them have it, you know? [laughter] about how, you know, why were they dividing it? we're both here for both and, right. no -- >> could you also tell the story, i actually didn't put this in my book, about if someone would ask if you guys were lesbians? >> oh, yes, right. you know, especially because we were trying to go where other speakers weren't so, therefore, we would end up in the south on small campuses in small towns, and the idea that a white woman and a black woman were speaking together, you know, was, like, seemed bizarre to some people. not all people there, by any means, but some. and so if there was a guy in the back of the room, as there was occasionally, who would say something like, are you lesbians? she would say, are you my alternative? [laughter] [applause] and it was so the perfect answer, you know? because, i mean, we didn't want
to say we weren't because we felt if we said we weren't, we were, like, betraying all our friends who were lesbians. [laughter] and it got a laugh, and it didn't -- it was perfect. i mean, is that not a perfect answer? [laughter] >> any others? >> [inaudible] >> actually, we're going to go ahead and begin wrapping up. [inaudible conversations] >> after your one quick question. [laughter] >> [inaudible] it just seems like you're saying that, you know -- [inaudible] >> you hear that? did everybody hear it? >> repeat the question a little bit. >> do you want to repeat? >> so if i understand you
correctly, you're saying -- they talked about the importance of family to both flo and to gloria and what happens when you're in a society that doesn't value you, how do you speak your mind? >> how do you find your voice. >> how do you find your voice. >> how do you find your voice if that doesn't happen in the context of family? >> that is the whole ball game right there, i have to say. and in my case the reason that i started speaking was that i could not speak alone. i was terrified. i mean, i had devoted, like, you know, 30 some years of my life to never speaking in public. [laughter] and so in some ways you just have to go with whoever you are, you know? and because i couldn't get published articles about what i thought was politically important about the women's movement and i was getting a few invitations to speak but i couldn't do it by myself, you know, then it, you know, it worked because, because we had
more fun doing it together, because we got more diverse audiences than either one -- so i think it's kind of organic. you know? e you just have to follow from where you are. but also i would say to you there's only one thing worse than having to say what you don't want to say and get up and speak, you know, and find your voice, and that's not finding it, you know? because then you always wonder what if i had said something? maybe it would have been different. what if, what if. so no matter how scary it is, it's better than not. and you would want, if you were -- i mean, i think i try to say to myself, okay, if i was fucking up, i would want somebody to tell me, not just hate me, you know? [laughter] so i should at least tell this person who's being unfair and try to do it in a way that they can hear it, and if you can't hear it, you can escalate later
and do more, right? but, you know, just try to say it, and don't worry about what you should do. do whatever you can. because the littlest thing can turn out to have the most enormous influence. i just got an e-mail, wonderful e-mail today from a young woman, i mean, you know, she's now in her 30s, but she'd been a teenager in the south someplace who asked me a question about the draft, what i thought about, you know, should women be drafted or something. and apparently i said to her, what do you think? and that was the first time that somebody had trusted her to have -- and she's writing me now 25 years later, you know? so, you know, you really don't know what is going to have an impact. so you might as well do it. [laughter] i'm telling you, it is fun. [laughter]