About The Words of Fire Conference
In April 2017, Black Women’s Blueprint and the Spelman Women's Research and Resource Center will co-convene a conference at the historic Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia to recognize the first anniversary of the groundbreaking Black Women’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Sexual Assault (BWTRC) which propelled to center stage Black women and girls' experiences with sexual and reproductive violation in an outcry against the lack of recognition and justice, and in a process of truth and healing for Black women and girls.
On the One-Year Anniversary of the BWTRC we will honor the work of the contributors to Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought edited by Beverly Guy-Sheftall, as well as the Black feminist shapeshifters and waymakers whose words helped survivors give life to the Commission and its groundbreaking Tribunal in 2016
We therefore invite all truth-seeking, fire-breathing, soul-searching activists, grassroots artists, and academics of the U.S. and formerly so-called Third World to gather in this special summit honoring Black feminists who've made it their life's work to create language to inform a practice of decolonizing and decommodifying the connections between Black women's power, their agency, their choices and their pleasure, making these issues inherently racial justice concerns.
We aim for the conference to be provocative both politically and sexually, this conference will offer inspiring accounts by a cross-section of women, girls, queer, trans women of African Descent in order to deconstruct patriarchal ideologies that women and girls are to be taught consistently and often violently, that their bodies are corrupting, imperfect, violable and volatile harbingers of immorality. Celebrating, reclaiming and engaging in memory work, political dialogue and action which centers Black women's traditions, as well as various spiritualities as well as healing modalities, the conference will combine visioning workshops, panels, debates, art and interactive speakers committed to empowering and cultivating new generations of Black girls and young women with revolutionary Black feminist politics. Building on the words of our foresisters, we are the offspring bringing Black feminism into the future. Join us.
Words of Fire
Aishah Shahidah Simmons
award-winning Black feminist lesbian documentary
filmmaker, activist, cultural worker, writer and
international lecturer. An incest and rape survivor,
she created the Ford Foundation-funded,
internationally acclaimed and award-winning
feature length film NO! The Rape Documentary.
Ph.D. is a writer, lecturer, academic activist and emerita professor (University of California, Santa Cruz), whose work focuses on the literary and social representation of U.S. women. Her book All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, co-edited with Patricia Bell Scott and Barbara Smith and originally published in 1982, helped
launch Black Women’s Studies.
Alexis Pauline Gumbs
is a queer black troublemaker, a black feminist love evangelist and a prayer poet priestess, Alexis Pauline Gumbs has a PhD in English, African and African-American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies from Duke University. Alexis has published widely on Black Feminist literary practice and Caribbean Women’s Literature. Her scholarly work is published many journals including Obsidian, Meridians, Symbiosis, Feminist Studies.
Angela Y. Davis
known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. She is a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era. Professor Davis came to national attention after being removed from her teaching position in the Philosophy Department at UCLA as a result of her social activism and her membership in the Communist Party, USA.
Anita Faye Hill
an American attorney, a University Professor of Social Policy, Law, and Women's Studies at Brandeis University and a faculty member of Brandeis' Heller School for Social Policy and Management. ). She is the author of two books: Speaking Truth to Power, which details her life before, during, and after the Supreme Court confirmation hearings, and Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home, an exploration of what home means in America following the mortgage crisis of 2008.
She co-founded the Combahee River Collective in Boston, Massachusetts in 1974, which was best known for its Combahee River Collective Statement (1977), which she co-authored with her twin, Beverly, and with Demita Frazier. This document is one of the earliest explorations of intersecting oppressions, including racism and heterosexism, critiquing both sexual oppression in the black community and racism within the wider feminist movement.
Dr. Beth Richie
is Professor of African American Studies and Criminology, Law, and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her book, Compelled to Crime: the Gender Entrapment of Black Battered Women, is taught in many college courses and is cited in the popular press for its original arguments concerning race, gender and crime.
is a Black feminist scholar, writer and editor, and currently is the Anna Julia Cooper
Professor of Women’s Studies and English at Spelman College, in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the founding director of the Spelman College Women's Research and Resource Center, the first at a Historically Black College or University.
Dr. Bonnie Thornton Dill
Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities and professor of Women’s Studies. Her recent publications include an edited collection of essays on intersectionality with Ruth Zambrana entitled Emerging Intersections: Race, Class, and Gender in Theory, Policy, and Practice (Rutgers University Press, 2009), and numerous articles.
Bré Anne Campbell
the Executive Director and Co- Founder of the Trans Sistas of Color Project in Detroit, making her the head of the first organization led by transwoman of color. Her organization provides support for transwomen including a program with facilitates their name changes and reintroducing them to society via a debutante ball.
Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University where she teaches courses on Black feminist theory, Black intellectual thought, hip hop, gender and media. Cooper is Co- Founder and Editor in Chief of The Crunk Feminist Collective, as well as a widely sought-after public speaker at universities throughout the country and an in-demand commentator for radio, podcasts, and television.
Byllye Y. Avery
founder of the Black Women's Health Imperative, formerly the National Black Women's Health Project, and the Avery Institute for Social Change, has been a health care activist for over 30 years, focusing on the specific needs of women. Byllye has combined activism and social responsibility to develop a national forum for the exploration of the health issues of Black women.
Dr. Cheryl Clarke
is a poet, essayist, educator and a Black feminist community activist. She received her B.A. from Howard University and Ph.D. in English from Rutgers University, after which she became pivotal support for LGBTQ students as the founding Director of the Office of Diverse Community Affairs and Lesbian/Gay Concerns. She also taught courses on contemporary black women's writing, the black freedom movement, and queer black writers in the age of AIDS.
Darci E. McConnell
President and CEO of McConnell Communications, Inc. in Detroit, has 26 years of experience in communications strategy, crisis management, media relations, marketing, advertising and political consulting. She currently serves as the vice president of the African-American 490 Challenge of Enough SAID, a campaign to fund rape kit processing in
Detroit that has raised over $420,000 since its launch in October, 2015.
JD, is an unrepentant life- long Black feminist, social justice activist, theorist, writer and teacher. As a founding member of the Combahee River Collective, she has worked on the issues of reproductive rights, domestic violence, the care and protection of endangered children, urban sustainability issues affecting food access in poor and working class communities, and a host of other important issues affecting communities of color.
is a black, trans, freedom fighter who hails from Columbus, Ohio. In 2014, after the murders of Cemia Dove, Brittney Nicole Kidd-Stergis,Tiffany Edwards, and Betty Skinner, Elle turned pain into action by organizing black trans women from Ohio to have safe spaces to build and collaborate on ways to better their lives.
Elsa Barkley Brown
Associate Professor of History and Women’s Studies and Affiliate Faculty in African-American Studies and American Studies at the University of Maryland. Barkley Brown is the author of pivotal articles in African American, cultural, urban, and southern women's history.
Dr. Fania Davis
a leading national voice on restorative justice, a quickly emerging field which is based on a desired set of principles and practices to mediate conflict, strengthen community and repair harm. She is a long-time social justice activist, Civil Rights trial attorney, restorative justice practitioner, writer, and scholar.
As Executive Director of Women, Action, & the Media, the former YTH Executive Director, TED Prize Storyteller, and former Vice President of
Programs at The Women’s Media Center, Jamia has been a powerful force in the social justice movement for nearly a decade. As a leading voice on feminist and
women’s rights issues, her work and words have appeared in and on several outlets such as New York Magazine, The Today Show, and The Washington Post.
President of News and Men’s Programming for Interactive One, where she spearheads the editorial re-development of NewsOne.com.
She is a renowned cultural critic focusing on race, gender and sexuality and was Senior Editor at EBONY magazine, prior to joining iOne.
Dr. Julianne Malveaux
a noted labor economist, noted author and colorful commentator.
Described by Cornel West as “the most iconoclastic public intellectual in the country”, her contributions to the public dialogue on the issues of race, culture, gender and their economic impacts are shaping public opinion in 21st Century America.
a Policy Associate for Michigan Future, Inc., where she contributes research, policy analysis, and writing to MFI projects. A former print journalist, Kim has served as a top aide to several prominent elected officials. Most recently, she was Director of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s southeast Michigan office, a cabinet-level position in state government.
founder and editor-in-chief of For Harriet, a multi- platform digital community for Black women with millions of visitors a month. Founded in 2010, For Harriet is a leading voice for Black women’s journalism and storytelling. . Kimberly has written for The Guardian, Newsweek, Quartz, and Fortune. She has appeared on Huffpost Live, NPR, MSNBC’s Shift, BET.com, and many local radio stations across the
country commenting on culture and current events.
Kym L. Worthy
a Wayne County Prosecutor and received her law degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law. In 1984, she began her legal career at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, and in 1989, she became the first African-American selected by the office as a Special Assignment Prosecutor. In 2008, Worthy charged and successfully prosecuted ex-mayor of Detroit Kwame M. Kilpatrick and his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
Loretta J. Ross
a nationally recognized trainer on using the transformative power of Reproductive Justice to build a Human Rights movement that includes everyone. She is an expert on women’s issues, hate groups, racism and intolerance, human rights, and violence against women. Her work focuses on the intersectionality of social justice issues and how this affects social change and service delivery in all movements.
the Elihu Root Visiting
Professor in Women’s and Gender Studies at Hamilton College and Professor Emerita at San Francisco State University. Her primary areas of research and activism for the past 20 years have been militarism, armed conflict, and violence against women, examined intersectionally. She has been engaging with feminist activists and scholars in East Asia, English-speaking West Africa, and Palestine.
a 19-year-old black and indigenous
woman from Brooklyn, New York. Carpenter’s activism career started at the Children’s Theater Company, where she learned about word peacemakers and performed in plays with social justice themes. She is a trained peer educator for the Center for Anti-Violence Education, where she has trained in self-defense since 2002.
Michaela Angela Davis
a writer and image activist, is the creator and owner of MAD FREE: Liberating Conversations About Image Beauty and Power, a multi- platform conversation project with revolutionary women. She was fashion director at Essence and the magazine’s first and last executive fashion, beauty and culture editor; she was editor-in-chief of Honey magazine and fashion director for Vibe magazine.
a feminist scholar, writer and educator, was born on January 4, 1952 in New York City to Robert Earl Wallace, a musician, and Faith Ringgold, a well- known artist and author. In 1978, at age 26, she published her first book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, setting off a maelstrom of controversy in the black community and beyond.
Monique W. Morris
Ed.D., founder and president of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute (NBWJI), is the author of three books, including the widely-acclaimed Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (The New Press, 2016). She collaborated with Kemba Smith on her bestselling book, Poster Child: The Kemba Smith Story, and has contributed to several public reports and scholarly publications.
Patricia Hill Collins
an active American sociologist known for her research and theory that sits at the intersection of race, gender, class, sexuality, and nationality. She served in 2009 as the 100th president of the American Sociological Association (ASA)—the first African American woman elected to this position.
a writer and an African-American historian. She is the author of When and Where I Enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America and In Search of Sisterhood. She is a professor of African-American Studies at Smith College and has previously taught at Spelman College, where she was a United Negro Fund Distinguished Scholar and Douglass College at Rutgers University where she held the Laurie Chair in Women's Studies.
an Atlanta-based writer whose work has won commercial acceptance and critical praise in several genres. An award-winning playwright whose Flyin' West was the most produced new play in the country in 1994, Pearl is also a best- selling author whose first novel, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
the woman who was brave enough to stand up and defend herself against 6 criminals who raped her in September 1944 in Abbeville, AL. The men admitted to the crime but the grand jury refused to indict them despite their confessions. Rosa Parks, already an activist, formed the Committee for Equal Justice which pressed the NAACP to help. After the NAACP successfully convinced Governor Chauncey Sparks to convene a special grand jury, the latter still would not indict the men for their crime.
is the founder and director of the Spirit House Project. She is a highly-trained, experienced, and deeply- committed social activist, scholar, administrator, manager, public theologian, and educator in the areas of Civil, Gender, and other Human Rights.
the human rights project manager at Black Women’s Blueprint, whose written work has been published in Time, Rewire and Huffington Post. She is a reproductive justice advocate for women of color, as well as a full-spectrum doula and birth worker through Ancient Song Doula Services and the Doula Project. As a survivor, she seeks to bridge the connections between reproductive justice and anti-sexual violence advocacy through her cultural work, human rights lens, and womanist frameworks.
Dr. Tamura Lomax
an educator, writer and believer in social justice. . She is specifically interested in the ways that linguistic and representational technologies of power construct and institutionalize ideas of race and gender and how these ideas not only establish notions of innate difference, but ultimately affect black women and girls in their everyday lives, sometimes igniting epistemic and/or material violence.
Teresa C. Younger
has served as President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women, the oldest women’s foundation in the United States, since 2014. Under Teresa’s leadership, the Foundation launched #MyFeminismIs, a multimedia campaign sparking a national conversation on feminism; funded a groundbreaking report on the sexual abuse to prison pipeline; joined leading women’s foundations at the White House to announce a $100 million funding commitment to create pathways to economic opportunity for low-income women.
a proud Black-feminist Mama- activist of two. She founded Parenting for Liberation, a podcast for parents of Black children to envision a world where our children are free to be their most liberated selves. She is faculty for Move to End Violence, an organization which supports leaders in the US government to end violence against girls and women and build the capacity to realize this change.
a feminist activist, writer, speaker, and digital strategist, best known for her work as a national campus anti-violence advocate. She's a founder of the anti-rape organization Survivors Eradicating Rape Culture and is a founding co-organizer of Know Your IX’s ED ACT NOW campaign.