The Society for the Study of American Women Writers joins with the academic community to express our heartbreak and our outrage at the acts of racist violence and police brutality being perpetrated against Black and people of color in many areas of the nation. We recognize that this type of violence is not a recent phenomenon but has been commonly experienced by Black and Brown communities throughout American history. We also condemn the violence of rhetorical “domination” and the vigilantism it legitimates. We recognize that the use of institutional force against protests, whether by the military, the National Guard, or the police, are violations of civil rights, liberties, and human rights.
We stand with the protestors, insisting that perpetrators of racist and related brutality be held to account. We call for the structural changes which alone can put an end to the interlocking forms of oppression of which this brutality is a manifestation. We repeat the names of those most recently killed by acts of police murder and other forms of racist violence—including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Monika Diamond, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Pamela Turner, and Tamir Rice—because to remember the names is to remember the individuals, and to keep them alive in our hearts and minds. As an organization especially committed to women’s works, histories, and lives, we amplify a call to #SayHerName, and we recognize police violence as a crime that disproportionately affects women and men of color. Black Lives Matter.
As educators and scholars, we are dedicated to understanding the roots and histories of racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and related forms of oppression. We also know that exploration and comprehension cannot be ends in themselves; they must inform behavior and action. In that spirit—and in the spirit of many of the women writers we read, study and teach, including Ida B. Wells-Burnett, Frances E. W. Harper, Toni Morrison, and Cherie Moraga-—we commit ourselves to action and we urge others to do so. To that end, we list on our website names and descriptions of some of the organizations committed to creating change. If you would like to add to that list, please send your suggestion to the SSAWW Vice President of Publications, Jordan Von Cannon, at firstname.lastname@example.org
We wish to acknowledge the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition, whose letter was an inspiration for ours and whose list of organizations we have adopted. We invite you to circulate this letter and ask you to urge organizations and societies of which you are a member to issue statements as well.
For justice and peace,
Executive Officers and Advisory Board
Society for the Study of American Women Writers
Partial List of Organizations with brief descriptions
(We invite you to view the list from the Coalition of Feminist Scholars here)
- Center for Black Equity – The vision of this organization is to “build a global network of LGBTQ+ individuals, allies, community-based organizations and Prides dedicated to achieving equality and social justice for Black LGBTQ+ communities through Economic Equity, Health Equity, and Social Equity.”
- Color of Change— “We design campaigns powerful enough to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward. Until justice is real.”
- Circle of Mothers— “Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, created the Circle of Mothers as a way to empower women. The purpose of the Circle of Mothers is to bring together mothers who have lost children or family members due to senseless gun violence for the purpose of healing, empowerment, and fellowship towards the larger aim of community building.”
- Dream Defenders—”The Dream Defenders was founded in April 2012 after the tragic killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. That Spring, young Black, Latinx, and Arab youth marched from Daytona Beach Florida to Sanford Florida where Trayvon Martin was killed. With that fire in their bellies, they then went back to their communities and campuses to organize. Dream Defenders is a multiracial group of young people who are organizing to build power in our communities to advance a new vision we have for the state. Our agenda is called the Freedom Papers. Through it, we are advancing our vision of safety and security – away from prisons, deportation, and war – and towards healthcare, housing, jobs and movement for all.”
- Know Your Rights Camp—”A free campaign founded by Colin Kaepernick to raise awareness on higher education, self- empowerment, and instructions on how to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios.”
- National Coalition on Black Civic Participation—”The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation is a 501 (c) 3 non-partisan civic engagement organization that strives to cultivate institutional base-building capacity and intergenerational leadership models at the local, state and national levels. NCBCP is committed to nurturing a climate where new thinking, innovative and traditional strategies of empowerment are respected and freely expressed; and strategic partnerships and alliances are welcomed. By educating, motivating, organizing and mobilizing our communities, the NCBCP seeks to encourage full participation in a barrier-free democratic process. Through technology, educational programs and civic leadership training, the Coalition works to expand, strengthen and empower Black communities to make voting and civic participation a cultural responsibility and tradition.”
- LIVE FREE – “With over 118 million people attending weekly services in over 350,000 congregations across the U.S., we believe that a social justice revival within our faith institutions would transform our nation’s hearts and minds, and ultimately, the policies and practices that perpetuate these evils. With hundreds of congregations as well as countless leaders and movement partners throughout the country, the LIVE FREE Campaign is working to end the scourges of gun violence, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of Black and Brown bodies that tears at the soul of our society.” This group is currently running a “Masks for the People” campaign, “a humanitarian effort to address the lack of preventive care and resources being made available to our loved ones in jails, urban neighborhoods and poor rural communities. Every $10,000 dollars create 5,000 kits that include masks, hand sanitizer, garments, PPE, etc.”
- Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition – https://cfshrc.org/in-response-to-racial-injustice-and-white-supremacist-violence/
- The Center for Critical Race Studies at the University of Houston-Downtown whose mission is to produce scholars/citizens who are equipped to critically, actively and effectively engage the issues confronting a technologically changing, postcolonial, capitalist world, email@example.com
- Say Her Name: “A movement that calls attention to police violence against Black women, girls, and femmes, and demands that their stories be integrated into calls for justice, policy responses to police violence, and media representations of police brutality.”