tv Book Discussion on Florynce Flo Kennedy CSPAN February 20, 2016 10:15am-11:51am EST
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to forest whitaker and bernice johnson. so again please take a look at our winter guide. as you can tell we often receive many more who show up, the hazards are free in a city with a lot going on so my advice is if you want something that is sold out take a chance to come out anyway. if you are interested, to circle back to the schomburg society, please consider joining our membership program and our brochures on the way. tonight is the first author conversation of this season and we are excited to share with you is the work of sherie randolph and gloria steinem and moderator nikol alexander-floyd. if you don't have copies of their books already, picked up one at the gift shop after the
talk and i have already got mine signed. don't miss out on this opportunity. this evening for those of you in our live audience as well as online, we will be using the hash tag between the lines as well as our twitter handles, schomburg live and schomburg center. hash tag between the lines, you know that already. and twitter handles@schaumburg -- schomburg center. sherie randolph is associate professor at the university of michigan and harbor. randolph's book, the life of a black feminist radical was published this year at the university of north carolina press. that deserves round of applause. [applause]
>> our author is here as well, double round of applause. examines the connection between black power, civil rights, new left movement, a former associate director of the women's resource and research center at elson college, i am sure there is someone in the audience with a connection. sherie randolph received a number of fellowships and grants for her work including the schomburg center for research and black collar and the james center at kimberly university. next week will welcome gloria steinem, writer, lecturer, editor. [applause]
>> in 1972 she co-founded this magazine and remained one of its editors for 15 years. 1968, she founded new york magazine, where she wrote feature articles, she has written many books including best sellers, revolution from within and everyday rebellions, moving beyond words, as if women matter. she has received a number of rewards, the missouri journalism award, and national magazine award and most recently the public library awards. medal of freedom.
our moderator. and haven't seen each other in as many years. a political scientist and award winning educator, also an associate professor of women. at rutgers university in brunswick, disciplinary scholarship, teaching integrated the study of policy, law, women's studies and black studies. she has been actively engaged in wide-ranging political and legal issues serving as strong advocate for minorities and general and women of color and particular, and the study of black women in politics and, members of the cbc foundation, the council of academic advisers and the author of gender, race and nationalism in contemporary black politics. please join me one more time in
welcoming our guest. [applause] >> thank you so much for that welcome. thank all of you for being here. we have mr. snell coming this at day. i am nikol alexander-floyd and i am delighted to be here with sherie randolph and gloria steinem. thank you for this conversation. i have a lot of questions but we have a limited amount of time. i want to start off at the beginning. in both of these wonderful books 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. you need encouragement, role
models, these books, both these books, you need them. both of you talk about the influence of family in the beginning. your work really focuses on florynce can day. part of her political philosophy, political attitude, this wonderful, brazen giant of a woman. and talked about her family and their resistance. the title is called political in the sense that we didn't take anything. that is the title of that chapter. so talk about that in a similar vein, talk about your family in terms of how they were instrumental in your philosophies of being on the
road. >> with the biography of flo her parents were central. her mother and her father. this story over and over again about how he stood up to the ku klux klan. when i was writing the biography they were not necessarily ku klux klan members but members of their neighborhood who just didn't want then there, they were racist, didn't want black people in the neighborhood and fought against them, not on the door and -- also used their backyard to bring young women to have sex with them because who cares, just a black family in the neighborhood, we can use their property anyway we went to and he really fought against that, and beat up one of the men but also the mom standout and
the grandmothers so the mom talked down much of the racist violence that was happening to them and persuaded white racists to leave them alone. they went to lawyers but what i found really kind of central to flo's family is she taught them to not hide their sexual out money, to be sexually open. there is one story in the book about when they were little she let him smell the seeds of the church and make up stories about those things. i don't have any kids that those who have kids no small kids do crazy little things, innocent things and you have to interpret than an she interpreted those experiences in a way that affirmed them and not flo talked about it that way and she let her young daughters experiment
with sex at home and this was the 1920s, not many parents in 2016 of that background so i use that experience to describe having that kind of sexual mobility, sexual openness, the ability to talk with their mother and not get punished, translates into a type of radicalism, that type of mobility that lets her move and not be hammond in by societal constraints. >> and professional power. >> exactly. to be flirtatious, that is not a power women have been able to use without being punished but the fact she was able to use it in her own kind of family parameters and not be punished for it in terms of what usually happens to women, stigma that her mother actually affirmed that, really positive about early sexual experiences.
>> in some way she was really living a dream that her mom or dreams of her mother. >> thank you for bringing that up. her mom had five girls, but wanted to travel, move to california without the husband and tells her daughters about them, wanted to stay in california and wanted to move to new york so flo moved to new york, moved to harlem and flo sees that as living out the failed dreams of her mother. to drive that home about the things that pushed. >> amazing to think about how those experiences began to shape, when you look at someone, very powerful to think about her
brazenness, what she got from her family. you talk about in your book on the road both of your parents as well. it was -- don't want to give a spoiler. it is going to end -- i was in there, both indeed our incredible stories. i found myself experiencing those moments in a situation you were describing and your father, you are an itinerant activists so that was made possible in part because of the nomadic lifestyle. tell about that. >> my father was the itinerant
part because he was proud of two things, he never had a job and he never wore a hat. in that generation you were supposed to do both. what he meant was he was always his own boss. he was on the road selling china and antiques and things that he bought at auctions and doing that in the wintertime and living in a house trailer and not going to school and all of that. in the summer time he had a summer resort. in political terms he was not interested at all. i am also living the unlived life of my mother. and flo was not much older than me so it has a lot of comparison. it was my mother who every time she heard the word rosen felt tears, and how poor we were and
so on. she would tell me she would sit me by the radio and explain to me about concentration camps and explain 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 sirius that she trusted me to tell me these things and i am sure that has huge impact. it taught me that what goes on out there in terms of the government and voting affect our daily lives and and and have taught me that things are not right up there just the state police were not good people. so that is very valuable. i think we know so much to our parents.
it makes a huge difference and i hope we remember that when we are talking to children. >> incidentally perhaps also should say for the benefit of people on c-span that about noon i fell into a pothole. now i have stitches. you feel like such a jerk. [applause] >> it causes me to remember something i hadn't remembered before. went flo and i were young, this was in the midwest, she actually slammed her hands into a door. how painful is that? and stood up for our gig as she would have called it. so we are in her tradition. >> speak briefly about your
writing process for those of us who were authors and writing dissertations, what is it like particularly since some of what you deal with is is there a personal, intimate, what were the strategy's as a practical matter, how do you deal with the resistance you felt, how do you experience it? >> i have friends in the audience who could tell you about my writing method, in an olympic team for slow writing, and i was there. i find what happens to me is i write something and i am seeing and observing and want people to know about it so i described it the best i can and afterwards -- never learned this in the first instance and realized i let
myself out so i haven't given the reader eyes through which to see what is going on. you need a narrative, a person who represents you and i have to put myself in and that is true of the personal stories because i had to stop and think where that narrative of that started. so often in childhood, even though we don't think so at the time. >> interesting to think about because there are so many stories, wonderful stories in the work. they come alive. i could visualize myself in a taxicab with you, going to india, the confrontations you have, that you took with your data across country, selling antiques, having all the other -- not surprise you are still
here, you are a resilience person and a lot of adventures. >> for all of us here who are struggling to write, out we do have to remember is that our brains are organized on narrative. now the we haven't been sitting around campfires for 100,000 years listening to each other's stories for nothing. it is about narrative, is about imagery and i say that because our media does not necessarily knows that. they perceive serious news as being facts, generalities, not narrative is. and only soft news as the narrative. it is very gendered actually. we need to remember is that because we are hungry for narrative and i suspect that is part of the reason we are crazed for celebrities because they are the only narrative in town
sometimes and when writers before there was the telegraph machine when writers were using journalists, even the young winston churchill when he was writing columns he used the as a form. they had narratives and when the progress machine came along, you were supposed to be able to cut it off and the gave us the personalized pyramid style so you could keep cutting it off and now that we have simultaneous transmission with all our great technology we need to remember how precious narrative is. that is why you talk about the talking the circles and the vitality in being able to share one on one in different contests. >> that is about hearing each other's stories.
that is how we know each other. it is so crucial and also about doing it in person. i am not at all diminishing the importance of technology which is huge as we know and crosses boundaries, it is a huge but what it doesn't allow us to do is empathize with each other. if you are not present with all five senses, the magical substance oxytocin or whatever it is called which allows us to not just no but understand is not produced. as much as i love books on the page or on screen, which is the magic of being here to get their
>> the image the stand that is you on the floor going through all of the papers, making them prepared for future studies. tell us about that process. >> people in the audience whose study women of color or black women or any subject that is not study of more written about, you have to go out there, find it and it is just a hobby and we were talking about this backstage how we both saw flo kennedy for the first time on tv, she flashed across the screen, she was yelling at danika patrick moynihan saying you racist sexist pig. never found that video again. why isn't she being arrested?
what is going on? this woman is interesting. he didn't say who she was the some one next to me who collaborated said that is florence -- florynce kennedy and she passed away but this was in the 90s, she did not pass away until 2000. the internet was not as popular, didn't work as well. i was getting an encyclopedia and found her and just started after that just a hobby and the hobby was kind of a short memoir, collecting buttons, anything i could find of her and after it that finally her family found me through a long story i could go through in q&a and for year sat in her sister's living room putting together the papers they had over 17 boxes but also
clothing. billie holiday -- their hats, buttons, bagels, someone like flo in she traveled on the road she would write her notes on a napkin so i would have to read them, okay, and try to find the other one. a good year of putting that together and piecing it together and creating her life, labyrinth of a life and that is where the book comes from and the video, she had a tv show so the person who had her video, watched the video so it took years. i worked close to 20 years. >> it is definitely a labor of
love. i was so encouraged and sad really buying learning, much more about her life and all the wonderful thing this she did and experienced and the pictures are fabulous too of her in law school in the eventual the being an attorney, 19 other black women. and imagine going to law school i could only imagine in that period, the only woman especially, and in those situations. >> and chose to be. >> it sharpened her politics, sharpened her reach, sharpened how she imagined alliances or the possibility of alliances at
columbia. she threatened to sue columbia. she first get into columbia in world war ii when opening the door for women because men are at war taking jobs with the government and win the war ends they want to get rid of that and so she is not able to go to law school because she is at columbia but she threatened and said you are not letting me in because i am black. and the dean of the law school says it has nothing to do with race. and she says doesn't make a difference to me. and it is both. you are in trouble. one white man has gotten in with
lower scores than me and what is so interesting because that is what biographers do i went to columbia and because it is so long ago we let them go through the transcripts and their admissions cards and all this talk about affirmative action and people of color, all white men, mostly seen-average, mediocre, d plus from yale and here she was a plus from columbia, not like you are asking any kind of special treatment and she doesn't give it. >> because of her she had early successes utilizing -- pushed her, she became disenchanted at some point. >> once you actually try you are
going to change the world. >> i love that quote. >> which one? >> that the law was a one time proposition. all you had to do was stop the rink. >> there are so many wonderful -- >> there was. i have forgotten the name of her friend with whom she was trying to get into law school. >> they also wouldn't let her friend in and her friend never did get in because she couldn't bring a lawsuit on race discrimination and that made flo offended. i am sure she understood but that was part of it. >> tell us about how you first met flo, different contexts
obviously, eventually you were speaking to her companions. what was that like to be on the road with florynce kennedy? >> gave new meaning to a day trip. first of all she talked to everybody. there was 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. you were in instant contact with the whole world. also she was incredibly generous. we were in some university small town, in a general store and there was a young woman waiting on us to catch showing us clothing and things we might want to buy. but mostly a purple pants suits. somehow, before we left, flo persuaded that young woman persuaded her to the air by the purple pants suits as a gesture of faith in the future.
you had to prove there was something against women because it was supposed to the nature or something else. i researched these facts and after we spoke for a while she took me aside and said it you are lying in a ditch with the truck on your income you do not send somebody to the library to find out how much it ways. you get it off. i wish -- >> i i had flo in every job i had.
what really told me too was the fbi format following her around, made notes on how powerful speaker she was. i love how you follow her around all these disorganizations, the wonderful thing about your book is you show how she really conceptualizes politics as not a request for your ideology, she is going in and out of these different networks, calculation of organization so tell about that >> and flo. for anything that is pastasked.. i would have put the phrase
itinerant organizer. women tend to be where you work best in a lot of different organizations. with flo kennedy that is very much the case. her politics or ideology could not be matched just in national organization of women which she is an early member of. people write that now, a lot of, quote, liberal predominant feminism has a lot of women of color. i have seen their notes. three people, flo kennedy, the fact was going to meetings flo was the only one. she was always alone in these all white spaces so she couldn't get all her needs met so she
would jump, black power, where her needs were met in other ways, and the fbi followed her everywhere which is also common, you saw the picture of dorothy pigman and gloria steinem. some stories, someone is writing a book on her now, anti-war activist, child care activist, a consumer boycott, so many things, i don't think flo kennedy's story is particularly exceptional about the ways in which activism spreads through federal organizations. >> we have to refine the typology people use to talk about it. different types of leadership or what have you. you really capture that very well. was i found very intriguing was
her philosophy that she knew that half the time people were not going to necessarily get what she was saying. she says i am an educator. not just to be in the book but to rock it. she knew what you need to focus on is other issues, you have to be anti racist, you have got to deal with imperialism and other issues. she really was acting politics that truly was complicated, intersection will and confrontational. >> learning how to be confrontational. most of the time it didn't work but the times it did work it worked well.
>> tell us about the black power conference, she invites some folks who try to get -- >> flo had a habit of bringing white feminists wherever she could find them to black power spaces so at the black power conference in the 60s, of grace thatkinson to black power conference, they are here to learn, they are my guests, they will say, shows how much power she had. okay, black power people said they want me out, i am leaving
but grace was young and she said you stay where you are. but what was important about that story and sometimes in the history and retelling, we imagine white women as so powerful that -- flo did not see the nation's predominant feminist movement as powerful. she saw them as potential students. if they sat in that meeting they could learn and she felt the wind on her back. he was an organization, black people starting a movement, how could we do this thing? how could we model that? gloria steinem will -- the purpose amended them. i am not sure, in the audience right there. all these other women to
purposely mentor in hopes they start their own revolution. >> this is one of the parts i love. i am a straight shooter. we have these myths about feminism still that is a white thing, black women, and others developed feminism in these spaces but what your book highlights, a body of work that does this that highlights the importance of black liberation politics to feminism. so you see the different ways of understanding. you see in a practical way how florence -- florynce kennedy is
disturbing, that is one of the powerful parts of your work. what is the reaction people have? talk about that a bit more and thinking how significant her profile, history is? what is the reaction to that? >> the major myth, one that black power is inherently sexist, black women come to feminism because of the sexes and of black men who are black power activists so i challenge that because we know some black women come to feminisms through black power as black power activists themselves. denise oliver, flo kennedy, and they sharpen their analysis of radicalism for wet. staying in connection.
the other myth is black women were involved in predominately white feminist organizations and ferret just a few of them, flo kennedy, they were there but we don't know what they did and so what we see with flo is not only is she there but she is a follower, theoretical impetus for many of the ideas, many of the things we think of as predominant. much of the organizing, much of the tactics, shock tactics, many of the slogans, that is flo kennedy. it helps even though there are not lots of black bodies there were enough black bodies that changed the politics that they were pushing so flo changes the myth of invincibility of black women in creating a feminist theory, an incredible influence.
dorothy him a lecture partners, the first time i heard a feminist analysis of social policy was the national welfare rights organization, and they've taken the welfare system which at that point was not just as a women's issue but entirely a poor or racial issue. they had done an analysis of it. it was funny and so sharp about it's like a gigantic husband welfare system that looks under your bed for the shoes of other men. it gives you just enough money to barely get along. it was the first feminist analysis of the social policy that i've ever seen. it was unforgettable. it was just there. i mean, 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. also if you've express discrimination for one reason he recognize it when it comes that you for another reason. and also the culture itself was not as patriarchal. it couldn't afford to be as patriarchal. in terms of the 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 weighed disproportionately eminence and black women. >> people need to go back and learn. i think flo kennedy would probably still be seen folks are talking a bit too much about crotch control. that's flo. we could talk about pentagon a
real, red military disease across the planet. i have so many questions i know that we can't get to them all. one of integrate things, one of the things, i'm thinking what would come as many times as they can ask yourself what would mlk say, but what would closely about that? in 2008, you talked about your participation, that election. you supported clinton, some of those couples met with folks, melissa harris pairs and your support for barack obama. one of the things also that is interesting is they had a black female who ran for president during that time. flo kennedy was also supportive of shirley chisolm.
what kind of better time to you think that the black female candidate would've had if flo kennedy was supported? to you think her platform was, what do you think her thoughts would have been about speak with you or think about cynthia mckinney? it's interesting, i think cynthia mckinney, that running with rose clemente, that was very much classic flo kennedy. classic flo kennedy is black led, black feminist, multiracial. antiracism, anti-imperialism, and that's, that was their platform. even now cynthia mckinney has been the peace that freedom party. the peace and freedom party is still around?
flo was a part of that in the '60s and '70s in critiquing the work. time and think of she was constantly, i thought about the political process that we been thinking about that a lot with this election and with the last. she was always involved with political, with electoral politics. cheashe was very supportive of e outside candidate no matter what. so that shirley chisolm, that jesse jackson. she said that's the candidate you should always get behind. for her it wasn't the goal to win. a lot of time she's like you're not going to win but trying to grow our base and isn't issues out. i think she would've been supportive of the cynthia mckinney, rosa clemente. >> there was no, we understand how important shirley chisolm was now but there was less understanding at the time.
she was only on the ballot and went 14 states? yes, flo and i, we were running answer delegates here. we knew we weren't going to win. but she probably if she could've run as the delicate for cynthia mckinney she probably would have. >> exactly. enforce and wideout as she called it. >> when the media just didn't pay attention to those, and the methods. i think that's what was so powerful about what's happening with the black lives matter movement is that they're getting in front of the media enforcing a dialogue, changing the dialogue. know, just to pay attention to a growing police state. can't ignored. get rid of rahm emanuel. >> say that again. >> c-span, get rid of rahm emanuel. >> old country.
>> to give enforcing that and i think that's classic flo kennedy tactics. forcing the media to pay attention to your issue, to change the dialogue and force candidates to now bring up the prison industrial system, please violent and so forth. >> gloria, you talked about how you never travel alone, right? your experience in india really give you a sense of wanting to begin community and to also be in dialogue with people. i'm convinced after reading that portion of your book that people need to get a pulse. they actually need to 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 but also --
>> sarah palin just endorsed donald trump. [laughter] you know, the moon is in a certain phase. a bit russian idm. [laughter] >> the big thing that's different is crazy people are in control of one of our two political parties, so -- [applause] these are not the old republicans of rockefeller or, you know. they are just not, in fact, there's nothing in the republican party platform that most republicans support. so what's dangerous is his crazy people who are brands from television are in control of the nominating process. which means they tend to nominate people who couldn't 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 been there just vote for the other one to vote for. so they are crazy people last [laughter] >> we need to get a speedy we need to take back the republican party. i think the women would be well-suited to do this. we could put on our nice dresses and our plurals and go to the precinct meetings and, you know, like in four years it would be a bloody convention and eight years it would be a good convention. >> or we can actually have an independent party. that's something we can push forward. >> as long as we don't -- but we know the problem. >> we have other things. >> by any means necessary, as low would say.
>> i thought two of the relevant parts of her life really to push but she did, in her lawyering to protect creative work, artists, and again, interesting she was able in some way to make more headway for people who were deceased, like billie holiday spirit charlie parker. >> charlie parker. but really just finding creative ways. what i like about her if she didn't stop. you cut me off this way, i'm going to figure out another way. >> she also defended the woman's strike to kill andy warhol. this was really, probably her most controversial case. >> i agree. that edge also defended the brother of the man who shot martin luther king. so she would take on all of these cases.
on top of being a member of the national organization for women. definitely come and she's complicated that becomes rolled into roe v. wade. she was everywhere, very much fighting for billie holliday at one point and then -- that she should have the right to shoot andy warhol. [laughter] >> no. even flo didn't say she had the right. what she would argue -- >> good lawyering. >> the argument would be under argue this in the book because it's an activist argument that 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 is willing to defend themselves against sexism. the argument would be that andy
warhol was trying to steal boundaries work, dismiss her, her product. the problem, and a talk about this in the book, when flo is trying to defend her and argue against, we would never make despite a court, valerie wanted to defend herself and automatically the court is saying you are insane. he should just be in an insane asylum. there'there is no way a woman wo this that would pick up arms and shooting if you're not crazy. and what kind argued no, you can't just make it one in saint issues the oppressed or so forth. this is a feminist issue and valerie made the point am they got into trouble because she actually did have some mental problems. and so, but they argued which you wouldn't argue no, no, she should go to prison. which we wouldn't make that.
i have pictures in the book that make this point about when flo was depending age rap brown, he's covered under allegedly starting a rally and we don't know if it really happened where valerie when she is arrested that don't even put cuffs on her. because it's imagining of how we imagine certain women. we imagine even in the court records as fragile as if she did commit this type of violence because she was crazy. walk around. what was it the same way black power movement. it's more than we think radicalism means that you have to be viewed as oppressively by the state a black power. that's the problem with that analogy but still the greater argument is that women are willing to stand up against
oppressive come and take up arms against and up against their oppressors. she is trying to make that message more clear. >> i have a gazillion questions. i want to make sure we are mindful of the time. are we ready for q&a? then i'll shut up. >> people have questions. sending them in. >> i can read these. i'm going to go right in line. how about that? first of all let's give them a hand. [applause] >> kind of get these books. ms. steinem has been vocal and insisted that women of color have been part of the feminist movement throughout history get the division between corporate white feminism and all other forms of feminism process. how do we erase old the
imaginative visions that white feminism is a 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] >> i think it helps if you understand that sexism and racism function together, that they are intertwined. it affects different women differently. not everybody experiencexperienc es at 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 a racism new project to maintain some different sort of the system goes. that means you have to control reproduction. you have to control the bodies of women.
this will affect different women differently. traditionally white women would be on a pedestal, though as a black woman said to white women and the suffragist era, a pedestal is as much a prison as any other small space. they are sexually deprived and they're on a pedestal to keep the white race. women are exploited. you cannot have racism in the long-term without also having sexism. i think once we get a grip on the fact that these are utterly entwined 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. who do you go to the movies with? who do you have lunch with? belloc says absolutely great
political rule which is if you buy shoes together, you can do politics together. >> a friend of mine who's a feminist conflict resolution expert which she became a running two women senators such became a conflict resolution expert, she was asked to help, there was a major jewish women's organization i don't know which one, and 100 black women, and they were trying to work on something together. they were having a hard time. they asked my friend of the conflict resolution expert, and she said to them do you presidents know each other? and actually they didn't. so she said just have lunch together a couple times a week for a few weeks and it will work, and it did. is both understanding the mega picture over there, and you do we know?
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. we need to know each other to make it work. >> in that connection, i think that part of what flo talked about about being a vanguard, right? i don't know, in some way she sees them as connected but thanks that racism is kind of foundational, and really replicates the different forms of oppression. but to be sure, century and women of color in traditionally white feminists context is one way to help. i mean, th the association i thk
has really transformed the center. >> we can have all the adjectives we want but that's just the way it is. >> let's look at this other question. can you explain how flo's family contacted you? >> okay. inquiring minds. and as you can imagine someone like flo when she was getting older a lot of people were pulling to her papers and so forth. answer the was a lot of turmoil over who owned her papers, who owned flo's product when she passed away. this is going to sound crazy. the family, i called flo went i had her, i saw on tv and wanted to interview her, and there was something comforting to people that use the yellow pages and white pages.
[laughter] you could look people up. so i looked it up, and in her color me flo, that was her same phone number. when i called her she picked up and said flo kennedy. she said you can have my papers because she's so giving. you, stranger, on the phone, you can have them. so i said okay. this is how it work. i was in grad school then and i contacted the schlesinger library and i said flo kennedy said i could have her papers. did you pay for rental car for me to go get it, get some boxes. i stayed with my friend who's in the audience, and, of course, when i showed up at her house, her nurse was like a she says this to everyone. you cannot have her papers. i was like, damn. and this was like in 96, 97. i was just going to write a paper on it, my civil rights paper for a class.
i left the letter at the library. and then when flo passed away, there was a lot of turmoil over her papers. a woman that i got in contact with who is one of flo's friends, i tried to work for her because this is my hobby. now it's like i'm going to do this. which was crazy at my age nothing would never do this. when you are young you can do stuff like this. a lot of energy. there have been a court proceeding, long story short there was a court proceeding and she mentioned that i worked with a. the family been contacted me when they remembered the letter from harvard and the fact that she said i had worked with and so they just called in instead we would like to speak to share randolph babbitt call them back and they said we of the papers. you're writing a dissertation. you want to see them? this is great. then i started for a year, over a year and have gone to the house organizing the papers,
organizing her clothing, all of it. and helping them to finally get the papers at and your library whether open to the public now for whoever wants to see them. >> tremendous. >> can you speak about how flo worked with sex workers? is the work to be done now with his community? >> so people might know about flo's sex work spent she worked with coyote, call off your old tired ethics. she thought sex work should be legalized, regulated when the organization was starting there was some debate over whether, there's still debate about that, get sex workers off the street, find other legal jobs, and flo was against the. she said no, the point is that we should actually unionize them, make sure that they are not harassed by police, not
harassed by john's and so forth. she was really interested in seeing that as a value valued in high-paying form of work that is opened when, when most work that is high-paying is opened when the. she said into the can change the and we need to 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 into unionize sex work. >> and then there was pony here in new york. >> exactly. >> however she did not want to legalize pimps, brothel owners, traffic owners. that was another story. >> speaking of white feminism and black feminism, where do you see other racial groups into
this equation, asians, latinos, native americans, et cetera? how should we incorporate these groups into the movement speak with however they want to. it's not up to us. look, the one thing that all these various systems of androcentric power don't have is wounds. and, therefore, it's all about controlling women's. if we didn't have wounds we would be fine. if the facts different groups in different ways. but it's kind of clear that monotheism and religion, a lot of religion is politics in the sky. this patriarchal politics in the sky. and about saying, taking away the mythic power of giving
birth. yes, we're going to control you, the catholic church, whatever, you know, all of the 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 will sprinkle imitation birth fluid over your head and give you a new name and we're going pashtun have you ever read about church architecture? it's a trip, i'm telling you. some church architecture historian i registered for just saying this like everybody knows it, that churches are built to resemble the body of a woman with an outer entrance and an inner entrance, lady, best to go in between, a vaginal auto, to
-- >> when i go to church i'm not thinking about all that. >> then the altar where the miracle takes place. >> this is what's going on. >> it affects different people in different ways but it is the same ballgame. it is all about controlling reproduction. if women are going to be free we have to be able to control our own values from the skin and at least. so however that struggle happens and whatever different group, it's a shared struggle. >> just going back to thinking about flo, it's also multifaceted in terms of thinking about her flo-ism of crotch control. can't be about just that. next question, girls of color are increasing in numbers in the prison system. how do we move the conversation
toward juvenile justice and the prison and osha complex? >> i think that conversation is moving in that direction. the work of so many activists and scholars from kim crenshaw, you know, say her name, what's going on today, and i've been here so have heard about this, what's going on with the police officer in oklahoma -- [inaudible] >> how many years? 200? right, so he got sentenced to 270 years? 263, which i think is great. you know, so making those cases where public. also i think so much of what is going on with activists bring all that to the floor. we see this with the black lives matter movement that some of the activists are black women, and it's not just, they're bringing
up issues that are beyond heteronormative way of understanding the issues. so the question was about juvenile justice, about women of color also in the prison pipeline. i think i feel like activists are saying that now, organizations like outcome x. grassroots movement and some other organizations are girls for gender equity, are making that -- making this an issue. so i think in an upcoming years we'll see even more so. >> this next question connects with your response. it says how 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 criminal justice?
>> gloria. [laughter] >> all are good, no doubt about that. but i do worry that academic versions of feminism are sometimes not available off the page to -- i mean, it comes out of women's lived experience so it needs to be applicable to women's lived experience. i do threaten sometimes to put a sign on the way to harvard and yale that says beware, deconstruction ahead. 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 this. the problems get area lysed and
so they lose their narrative and they're kind of individual truths. we need to keep those connections. black studies, women's studies, gay and lesbian, everything came out of the movement, came into academia from the movement, those courses were not there before. we need to keep that connection. >> i agree with that. >> 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 floor, i agree with that spirit when you have your introductory courses i would certainly hope, how do we get here, right? that should be at the beginning
of those conversations. the history is important. the development is important and it's tied to what people theorize and to research people produce. so this is for both of you. can you talk more about the relationship between activists and politicians? what can politicians learn from activists methods quick specifically i'm thinking about talking circles. how do we agreed talking circles in our bipartisan politics? so we want to -- president obama try to have some talking circles. >> i think the best people in politics came out of movements. because people like shirley
chisholm and barbara mikulski, just, maxine waters, so many. i mean, i can't even, they came out of movements. they do not hold their finger to the wind. they become the wind. they understand that it's not just about 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. then at the other end of it i think because of social justice movements have more credibility than political parties or than politicians probably altogether, which is sometimes not there, but it's true, that activists need to campaign not only to the campaigns but on our own. you know, to go out there and
talk about the issues and say what bill is going to be in our daily lives. and that we need to organize within the political system on our own as autonomous, independent people saying what the issues been. if kids on campus are graduating in debt, we need to explain but that's because of state legislature. 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 and the state legislatures. >> cannot add to that? when i was doing my research on
flo, i did a talk i think at texas a&m and flo was good it does where you sit around a list and said who's going to run for, if you have problems not just with your campus community budget problems with the city you live in, someone should run for mayor, so it should run for city council. i always thought a lot of these college towns, you are sometimes the majority of the people in them. you're in middletown, connecticut, or whatever and you guys are successful in getting people to run for sometimes little offices and putting pressure on those local governments. and i think, god to come as a student i never thought about doing that, like running for office based on the fact that there's enough of us to change the politics in our actual community. suppressing those issues i think was like such an interesting strategy that you and flo had back then spirit do you think you become hyper focused on
voting? in this respect, in your book, gloria, you talk about, i'm asking another question, you talk about how voting, our election, the most you can do legally is the least you can do, right? but then you go on to talk about how of course the process is important. apart that i think resonates with me in terms of the connection with what she thought about flo kennedy is that she really was anti-establishmentarian. she had that particular persona. so the idea was it just a change the bodies in the office, but to actually change -- >> the very questions that they were asking a program spirit sometimes we assume that when we
have people make different type of demographic makeup of certain bodies that we'll get a different result. that doesn't always happen. >> but what she recognize was that the one place on earth where the least powerful have as much power as the most powerful is the voting booth. so she absolutely included that as a form of power. >> right. [inaudible] >> yes. [inaudible] >> what's my favorite memory of flo? this is my friend, irene. [laughter] >> so hard. i have many memories.
>> p3. top to? >> the thing about the pantsuit is right up there i have to say. >> we've heard that one. >> you are friends. >> i guess, you know, whenever we were speaking together it would be a press conference usually of some kind, local press. should we just wait because she knew that the reporters were going to ask me about the women's movement and are about the civil rights movement. she would let me go on for a while and then she would let them have it, you know, about how why were they defined it as they were both here for both. spent i didn't put this in my book but you did if someone would ask you guys were lesbians. >> all, yes. 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 so on. the idea that a white woman and a black woman were speaking together was like, seemed bizarre to some people, not all people by any means but some. so if it was a guy in the back of the room as there was occasionally it would say something like, are you lesbians aren't she would say, are you my alternative? [laughter] and it was so the perfect answer because, i mean, we didn't want to say we worked because we felt if we said we weren't we were betraying all our friends. it got a laugh and it was perfect. is that not a perfect answer? >> any others? actually were going to go ahead and begin wrapping up.
[inaudible] >> after your one quick question. [inaudible] >> anrepeated the question. >> if i understand you correctly you are saying they talk about the importance of family to both flo and glory and what happens when you're in a society that doesn't value how do you speak your mind? >> how do you find your voice. >> how do you find your voice if it does not in the context of family. >> that's the whole ballgame. and in my case the reason i
started speaking with -- i could not speak alone. i was terrified. i have devoted like 30 some years of my life and never speaking in public. and so in some ways you just have to go with whoever you are. because i couldn't get published articles about what i thought was politically important about the women's movement, i was getting a few invitations to speak, but i couldn't do it by myself, then it worked because, because we have more fun doing it together, because we got more diverse audiences than either one. i think it's kind of organic. you just have to follow from where you are. but also i would say to this only one thing worse than having to say what you don't want to sit and get up and speak and
find your voice and then not find it. because of in you always wonder what if i'd said something maybe that would've been different. what if, what if? so no matter how scary it is, it's better than not. and you would want, if they were, i mean, i think i try to save myself okay, if i was growing up i would want someone to tell me. so i should please tell this person who's been unfair and try to do anyway that they can hear it and then if they can't. you can escalate later and do more, right? but just try to say it and don't worry about what you should do. do whatever you can. because a little this thing can turn out to have the most enormous influence. i just got an e-mail, a wonderful e-mail today from a young woman. i mean, you know, she's now in
her 30s but she had been a teenager in the south someplace, who asked me a question about the draft, what i thought about should women be drafted or something. and apparently i said to her, what do you think? that was the first time somebody had trusted her, and she's writing the now 25 years later. so you really don't know what is going to have an impact. so you might as well do it. >> it's fun. [laughter] >> so much more interesting and fun than not doing it, i promise you. >> if we can segue very quickly, what kind of interesting and fun things you have in mind next? tell us. what do you have in the pipeline in terms of your next research project for going on the road.
>> i'm hoping, because this book has pushed it to be a part of the documentary on flo kennedy because she is so visual. [applause] yes. and been working on my next project which is on african-american women political exiles in cuba. that's my next project. >> looking forward to that. what about your self? >> well, before wilma mentor died in the you all know the momentum was the chief of the cherokee nation? we were working on a book together and under 1% sure i can do this by myself. i don't know. but i'm going to try because it was looking at features or practices of indigenous original cultures all around the world that we could learn from now. trying to make a bridge really practical inspirational bridge
because one thing it helped i think you know that th there wee all these cultures that didn't have even gender pronouns. people were people. there was no, he or she. what a concept didn't have a word for nature because we were not separate. didn't have a word for race because they didn't believe it. the cultures that were organized on the circle, not a pyramid that really saw, as linked rather than ranked. it leads into those cultures and also i think we can get very practical ideas. for instance, talk about the prison industrial complex, thank you, angela davis, she gave us that phrase, it is, in sum, or as far as i know, in many original cultures, if somebody did an antisocial destructive
thing, they were indeed punished with isolation. because we are a communal creatures suppressed isolation is the universal punishment. not like our solitary confinement, some degree of isolation. but when that person was brought back into the culture, the society, there was a long which will amount of time which everyone told that person and a good thing they ever did. i mean, we do the complete opposite. we continue to punish and you can't vote and you can't work. we understand positive reinforcement with children, i think, at least i hope we do. but anyway, so our idea was to take features of the original cultures which after all we are 95% of human history. the last 5% are screwing up.
and bring them forward. now i don't know if i'd be able to do that but many of you know of something that should be brought forward, i hope you will tell me. >> are right. i think i'm should and what else will say that we are looking forward to what comes next, and i'm grateful for this deposit that you've left on the earth in this project. and again go get these books. if you do not have them then -- [applause] >> thank you all. >> we will have a book signing for these authors. [applause] >> thank you. >> thank you.