Theorizing the Politics of Interconnectivity for Transformative Grassroots Organizing (Lenora Knowles)


Cause it do be about living. It be about all of us living together.

Dealing with each other. Loving each other.

-Sonia Sanchez, a/needed/poem for my salvation


I returned to the academy to elaborate, clarify, and work through questions concerning how we, queer working-class womyn of color, are to organize today given our current political moment, the conditions of our communities, and the state of resistance and liberation movements in the United States. I yearned for the time and space to be able to rigorously, thoughtfully, and unapologetically engage knowledge creation to build my own analysis—or to delve deeper into what Gloria Anzaldúa named as conocimiento[1] in this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation. Moreover, it is important to me to create knowledge that travels, reaches, and forms connection with other creatures. This is to say, I aim to formulate knowledge that is rooted in my own experiential specificity but extends through and beyond my identities to build bridges, and bolster a shared analysis and vision for larger radical and transformative grassroots movements. Anna Tsing offers in the introduction of Friction: an ethnography of global connection,“The knowledge that makes a difference in changing the world is knowledge that travels and mobilizes, shifting and creating new forces and agents of history in its path” (p.8).I would posit the value of knowledge that also organizes, not only mobilizes. I see my current task to be one of becoming a more effective, self-aware, mindful and informed facilitator of local grassroots social movement building based in Baltimore, MD.

Engaging in this task in the space of the neoliberal public university such as the University of Maryland, I acknowledge that the academy, like all institutions, is ridden with problematic and death-dealing practices and ideologies. Nevertheless, I trust that I can carve out a space and forge relationships for love, meaning, and justice making. Therefore, perhaps, it is not surprising that this semester’s readings implore me to transverse on familiar and new paths (for instance, notions of inter-being and erotic) for theorizing grassroots organizing to collectively undo state-sanctioned violence and collective holistic liberations.

The sources that we encountered in this course along with the guiding question posed at the start of our class experience, “why didn’t you just fix it anyways?” are generative for collectively thinking through, our shared—entangled predicament within a society in economic/social/political/ecological crisis, and the particularities of how our existences are lived out and/or challenged from within and without. This corpus of sources and guiding question offer a way to critique and rethink the fundamental methodologies, energy, and assumptions that often undergird our performance of grassroots organizing tactics, strategies, and visions. More specifically, these texts curate a type of interconnective praxis vital for reconceptualizing the very work of prevailing forms of grassrootsorganizingsituated within the non-profit industrial complex. That is, they call forth a reorientation in our relationship to self, other beings, and the spiritual in a manner that challenges dominant (nonprofit)organizingmodalities.

Prior to a more intentional engagement of the content of this course it is vital to posit that grassroots organizing for social change can take many forms and is certainly a contested subject as various interlocutors, subjects, and agents imagine and perform various definitions, modalities, ethics, and visions for organizing. Moreover, what organizing means and looks like varies according to: geography, undergirding ideologies; identities and positionalities of those organizing; social-political-economic forces and contexts in which communities organize; and the visions of what communities deem as politically possible; and the very language evoked to make such claims. Furthermore, there are intrapersonal and inter-personal dynamics and conflicts that emerge as power, agency, and hegemonic power structures are evidenced in the very nature of grassroots organizational formations and the people that construct them.

All things considered, there is no monolithic definition of organizing across time and space because there is no one way of organizing.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of this conversation I suggest that grassroots organizing can include any one, combination, or none of the following: direct action or civil disobedience, healing practices, consciousness formation, policy advocacy, leadership development, relationship building, production, community based research, political education, campaigns that target a specific gatekeeper for a particular demand etc. Going further I argue that any grassroots organizing effort must engage the lived realities and embodied experiences of real people to somehow begin to shift or transform oppressive, exploitative, and death-dealing power relationships, practices, and institutions into ones of love and meaningful and equitable co-existence.

The normalization of the neoliberalization, privatization, and professionalization of grassroots organizing combined with an uncritical desire for state recognition (via the 501c3 status) has authorized a type of cooptation of organizing by the state and the ruling class. While I think the cooptation and assault on grassroots social justice movements with radical leftist leanings by hegemonic ideologies, practices, and institutions has long been a tension,I think it continues to be an essential topic that must be interrogated discursively and in the everyday praxis of grassroots organizing movements.

The varioustransmediawe have encountered in this course along with the writings of Gloria Anzaldúa and INCITE! proffer important insights for theorizing and practicing interconnectivity, our shared fragility (mediated through systems of power, oppression, and exploitation) and the ethical relationship between self and community or self and another. I believe these are fundamental assemblages to be (re)considered by those embarking on new grassroots organizing initiatives or by those in the thick of the doings of grassroots organizing in the context of what INCITE! and other scholar activists have named as the non-profit industrial complex.

On the trouble of the non-profit industrial complex

Donna Haraway’s text Staying in the Trouble extends an important opportunity to grapple with the meaning and nature of relationship and community for grassroots social movement building. More specifically, Haraway notes in the opening pages of the text, “Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent responses to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet place” (Haraway, 1). Haraway implores the reader to stay present to the moment of the Chthulucene, “a kind of timeplace for learning to stay with the trouble of living and dying in response-ability on a damaged earth” (Haraway, 2). That is to say, there is a need to stay present to the pain, the joy, the oppression, the complexities, the conflict, the unknowing, the humans, the objects, the creatures, and the worsening ecological crisis that make up our present. For example, Haraway stays with the trouble when she traces the origins and implications of her dog Cayenne’s synthetic estrogen medication to an extractive, exploitative, and unethical pharmaceutical industry that has caused harm to women and horses alike. This instance represents a moment of appreciating the entanglement of, “more-than-human, other-than-human, inhuman and human-as-humus” (Haraway, 101).

According to Haraway, it is the act and value of making oddkin, “rather than, or at least in addition to, godkin and geological and biogenetic family troubles important matters, like to whom one is actually responsible” (Haraway, 2).

Such theorizing challenges those committed to grassroots organizing movements for liberation to think about and dig into what and who make up our kin in a manner that goes beyond the biological, the usual suspects—or those deemed desirable within our movement spaces, to make known death-dealing and triggering interpersonal dynamics, and rethink those strategies, tactics, and practices that have become normalized fixtures as the social movement status quo. Serious considerations of Haraway’s text can open up a new space of generosity, experimentation, along with the expansion and troubling of previously conceived and hardened boundaries within our grassroots social justice work. These processes of making kin and the Chthulucene bring to the foreground the temporal boundaries and linear prescriptions and metrics that come with state co-optation, neoliberalization, privatization, and professionalization of grassroots social justice making, what some have referred to as the onset of the non-profit industrial complex.

INCITE![3], a national organization of local affiliates and convener of the “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex” identifies the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) as a system of power relations convened by the State, the owning class, foundations, and non-profit/NGO service and social justice organizations. In their book of the same title the collective cites the work of Dylan Rodriguez who argues that the non-profit industrial complex is “a set of symbiotic relationships that link political and financial technologies of state and owning class control with surveillance over public political ideology, including and especially emergent progressive and leftist social movements” (INCITE!, 8). Such relationships of control, oversight, and surveillance can work to co-opt, stifle, and redirect the workings of grassroots movement building. INCITE! specifically references the case of Sisters in Action for Power in which the organization grapples with and rejects the corporatization of their work after becoming a 501c3.

This step necessitated the development of organizing strategies within an integrated mind-body-spirit framework that respects organizing processes as much as outcomes…Aware that such approaches are often antithetical to foundations’ requirements that focus on short-term campaign outcomes, (the organization) explains why it nonetheless chose to engage in campaigns to develop leadership in young women of color through a holistic framework (INCITE!, 10).


INCITE! concludes that in many ways the NPIC promotes models for organizing that are unsustainable and driven by quantifiable outcomes and “wins” that do not adequately account for the complexity and intimacy of the trouble we have inherited. They make the connection that the drivers and funders of such a system are also the perpetuators of the very hegemonic power structures they are attempting to dismantle. In such a paradigm holistic frameworks, care, and personal development become appendages to more “important” social justice successes (such as policy concessions and reforms, a succeeded corporate target, a line item in a public budget, acknowledgement by the state, etc.).

In thinking about my own testimonio I can personally attest to the ways in which the non-profit industrial complex promotes (or, at the very least, does not actively acknowledge or work to undo) unhealthy, inequitable, exploitative, and unethical organizational practices and ethics among communities of individuals seeking to bring about a more just and equitable society. By and large, U.S. non-profits and organizing collectives participate in a status quo driven by outcomes that necessitate the purchase and leveraging of the narratives of those understood to be the most “vulnerable” or “impacted” by systems of oppression and power on the grant market. In addition, in many ways, the norm has become, long hours, overwork, unspoken guilt, unhealthy and unchecked interpersonal relationships, power and resource imbalances among paid organizers and volunteer members (who are more often than not those who are most directly impacted by the organization’s work), the surveillance of campaign goals and strategies by corporate funders and philanthropists, the siloing of social justice “issues” separated into representable and recognizable entities, and the hyper preoccupation with the survival of the organization that can prevent transformative and creative possibilities for grassroots. I do not present the aforementioned critique only to demonize and undercut all non-profit organizations or individuals who choose to work within them. Instead, I seek to recognize how the mainstream non-profit system and (arguably) even more left leaning organizational formations are implicated in the process of hegemony. The non-profit system is entangled in the trouble—particularly if we were to look at the histories of corporate and individual funders and what issues get the most funding, political legitimacy, and state authorization. Such a system not only contributes to the trouble, but prevents us from stepping outside of it to even recognize that this system too is entangled within the trouble of hegemonic power structures and complicity. The principles and practices of hegemony and complicity impact what we can even understand to be the real work of grassroots organizing. What narratives, epistemologies, frameworks, strategies, questions, memories, and bodies are privileged? Which ones are silenced? How does the NPIC thwart particular articulations of community, meaning-making, or what Chela Sandoval named as differential oppositional consciousness and activity[4]?

Interconnectivity and the politics of impurity in grassroots organizing

In her book Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times Alexis Shotwell argues for a politics of relationality that earnestly considers how each of us exercise complicity and compromise in a system that is causing harm to humans, nonhumans, and earth life around the globe. Shotwell refuses a facile understanding of living a life of purity arguing,

“Being against purity means that there is no primordial state we might wish to get back to, no Eden we have desecrated, no pretoxic body we might uncover through enough chia seeds and kombucha. There is not a preracial state we could access, erasing histories of slavery, forced labor on railroads, colonialism, genocide, and their concomitant responsibilities and requirements. There is no food we can eat, clothing we can buy, or energy we can use without deepening our ties to complex webs of suffering. So, what happens if we start from there” (Shotwell, 5)?


To begin or continue to negotiate this reality within our U.S. context is to navigate the pervasive implications of white supremacy, the necessities of this U.S. consumer culture, an unsustainable neoliberal political economy, and a global U.S. imperialist presence that has become a pretext for our so-called U.S. democracy. It is important to note that such an awareness might look different depending on how one and one’s ancestors is/has been situated in everyday and large scale power dynamics and trauma (Shotwell, 179) without entering into what Loretta Ross, co-founder and National Coordinator of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, terms an oppression Olympics[5]. Shotwell’s charge requires a type of radical intra- and inter- truth-telling and honesty about the world we have inherited, our positionality within it, and our relationship to others who occupy it. Such transparency and honesty are vital as it allows people committed to building grassroots movements led by the questions, experiences, and needs of those situated on the underside of power, to move toward exercising a “politics of impurity” and away from a self-righteousness as well as explicit and implicit discourses, strategies, and visions underpinned by an individualist politics of purity.

In challenging this inclination for purity and naming our collective complicities Shotwell calls for a recognition of interconnectedness of all species—as in our connectedness through the shared threat of toxicity, world-making, and power relationships. She offers,

Putting disability theory accounts of interdependence into conversation with some Buddhist and Indigenous conceptions gives us traction for understanding coconstitution as ontological, not merely casual. That is, interdependence can be understood as constitutive of our nation as well as arising as part of the causes and conditions of our lives. We might, then craft practices of responsibility that track how we are differently situated in relations of coproduction (179).


Shotwell explicates interconnectedness through various scientific and political case studies, as well as spiritual, philosophical and intellectual traditions, including the Zen Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. She draws Thich Nhat Hanh’s concept of inter-being and interdependence in relation to disability studies to theorize disability interdependencies as key for constructing different and more just, futures. The concept of inter-being points to a way of understanding and practicing how essential each object and lifeform are—even a cloud and piece of paper are—to the other’s existence; that we are “relationally constituted.”

Such an ethical, intellectual, and embodied orientation is essential for thinking through how we are to critically perform grassroots organizing similar to the way in which Roelvink, Martin, and Gibson-Graham speak to the possibility and necessity of performing new and diverse economies in their text Making Other Worlds Possible: Performing Diverse Economies. They posit, “the process whereby sociotechnical arrangements are enacted, to constitute so many ecological niches within and between which statements and models circulate and are true or at least enjoy a high degree of verisimilitude” (7). The dominant and prevailing performance of grassroots organizing often does not account for a profound and multivalent interconnectedness. To engage interconnectedness on a political/social level but also on a physical/metaphysical/ecological scale would perform a more radical and potentially transformative grassroots organizing. The task is to bring about a relevant interconnectedness that refuses a politics of purity while also challenging state and corporate control of our heterogeneous movements.

Spirit/The Spiritual

Gloria Wekker’s The Politics of Passion: Women’s Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese diaspora and LaMonda Horton Stallings’ Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures demonstrate in their respective work the spiritual/spirit as an important technology for understanding the possibilities of interconnectivity and collective world-building that disrupts the rigidity, prescriptive nature, and linear temporal and logical modes of the non-profit industrial complex. In The Politics of Passion Wekker takes up the role of spirituality in her exploration of the work, relationship, and agency of the mati[6]within the context of aneconomically unstable,heteronormative postcolonial Suriname society. In her study, Wekker suggestions that the winti or the Spirit is an essential framework for understanding shared existence and meaning-making among mati workerswho develop kinship and loving relationships outside of the limits of heterosexual relationships. By understanding the construction of the winti we can understand the profound and healing possibilities of a collective spirituality. The winti operates in the lives of the mati workersvia three scales: (one) asanoverarching religion, (two) the male and female gods that constitute the belief system,and (three) the state of human possession by a given god.

According to Wekker, an individual’s relationship to the gods is one of reciprocity and mutual survival. For instance, an individual’s bad luck is often assigned to the fact that “the person did not watch her ‘back’ people” or those spirits that either act as guiding gatekeepers or itinerant godparents (Wekker, 98).

Closely linked to this relationship of reciprocity and mutuality is how ritual possession of an individual becomes a tool for self-empowerment and agency in the context of poverty and disease. Wekker notes, “I read the subtext of ‘possession as a collective statement that people need all the help they can get in surviving, in warding off dangers of various kinds, and in attracting success” (Wekker, 93). Furthermore, there is the belief that an individual’s physical or spiritual healing must occur in collectivity. After attending her first ritual ceremony Wekker comments, “Presence (at a Winti Prey[7]) assumes participation: either you are in this with us, they are saying, or you should not be here” (Wekker, 89). She goes further to highlight that not only does one’s presence denote one’s obligation to participation, but how the very process of one’s individual healing occurs in collectivity. Wekker’s explication of the winti tradition and cosmology points to a spiritual, ontological, relational, and process based interconnectivity critical for considering in the construction of community and projects of liberation within the context of grassroots organizing movements. Such scholarship expands our work of grassroots organizing beyond the physical/material along with linear and progressive capitalist temporalities.

As Horton Stallings explicates the role of funk and the erotic in the formation of Black philosophy, sexual culture, politics, sexwork, and (trans)embodiment in Funk the Erotic she takes up liberative possibilities of engaging spiritual as “a new metaphysics of political struggle.[8]” More specially, Stallings renders the spiritual in a way that is both deeply personal as evidenced in her theorizing of the processes of transworld identity making and self-determination and collective as demonstrated in her accounts of the communal eroticism and revolutionary potential of the Black party scene. In thinking through the philosophizing of Alvin Plantinga Horton-Stallings explains,

Plantinga’s work asked, Why, then, should we suppose that an individual is confined to one world, that you and I, for example, exist in this world and this world only. Transworld identity—identity across possible worlds—assumed identity as more metaphysical than social. Hence, it displaces the unified social body or transgender identity that the state produces. This theory of transworld identity also challenges materialist approaches to creating transgender subjectivity in which contemporary theories about transgender writing traditions equate transgender texts as reflective of an underlying medical narrative (207).

Stallings’ transworld identity speaks to a self that inhabits and moves across physical and metaphysical planes—beyond the desirable subject of the state—a subject that is not only or even primarily defined by biological categories. This transworld identity challenges sexual and spiritual colonization (Horton Stallings, 208). A bit earlier in this same chapter Horton-Stallings turns to the autobiography of Toni Newmann, I Rise: The Tranformation of Toni Newmann, quoting, “The transformation as a black transgender was a solo journey for me and many, many other. I went deep within myself, found my spiritual identity, and rose” (Horton Stallings 211). Horton-Stallings foregrounds Newmann to explicate the personal and ongoing process of developing trans subjectivity that engages the importance of the spiritual as an essential modality for radical intervention and self-realization.

Likewise, in the conclusion of this chapter Horton-Stallings presents an elaboration of blackness and black flesh as illusive and ephemeral explaining, “So while there may not be an essential blackness or essential gender, given all of this evidence of words creating world, there can be an essential self according to the transworld identity and transaethetics” (214). Thus, a liberative transworld identity making includes a deeply personal course for an essential self that is defined by robust engagement of spiritual knowledges and a disavowal of homogenized, normalized, or an essentialized blackness, gender, biology or Western constructs of embodiment.

Going further Horton Stallings suggests the revolutionary potential of the spiritual enacted through a communal eroticism and spontaneity. Horton Stallings theorizes black block and rent parties, orgy, and carnival as a site and experiences that brings about both “social advancement” and allows for “individual transcendence.” Horton Stallings specifically turns to the album cover art (entitled “Sugar Shack”) of Marvin Gaye’s I Want to note that the painting captures the shared eroticism, neutral sexuality, that emerges in the black orgy party scene in which black bodies extend and curve in dance at the juke joint. She suggests, “While the expression of the body—sex as art—is key here, it is the shared communal expression of human with a higher power rather than each other that leads to the ecstatic moment” (p. 180). The black party scene demonstrates the transaesthetics of black bodies gathered in pleasure, ecstasy, communion, and the co-production of transcendent energy. Such a rumination is helpful for understanding expansive and multiplicitous nature of the change we can and must conjure in collectivity in our finite embodied existences.

Furthermore, this analysis of black orgy or party is brought into conversation with Frantz Fanon’s examination of the uncritical nature of the Algerian nationalist party waging a decolonial struggle for national independence from the French. “The privileging of neutral sexuality, communal eroticism, dance, and music in black orgy is a modification that ensures the strength of spontaneity Fanon sees as so necessary for revolution and allows us to overcome the pitfalls of national consciousness and the fetishizing of organization” (p. 181). The spontaneity of this communal eroticism marks a key feature in understanding how we must be able to collectively intervene in traditional modes and conceptualizations of temporality and organization in new and subversive ways if we are to bring about revolutionary social change.

On healing, collective-care, & breathing

After my nearly ten years of organizing experience within U.S. based labor movement, student movement, and poor people’s movement I have come to acknowledge the absence and realize the importance of discourses and praxes of healing as a part of the ongoing project of grassroots movement building. My current energies and efforts reside within two Baltimore based Black led collectivities one of which includes Black Womyn Rising.[10] We formed in 2015 in the wake of the uprising/rebellion that took shape after the police murder of Freddie Gray. As Black womyn and femmes, we are grappling with what it means to frame grassroots organizing work within the context of healing. How are we to imagine and engage in the practice of self-, collective, and societal care and healing? How do we account for and rethink how we operate out of a space of pain, fear, trauma, notions of scarcity, and perceived and actual finite temporalities? What does such an orientation mean for our organizing? What is the work? How are to build a united front of Black womyn, femmes, and girls in Baltimore? Anzaldúa suggests in earlier book Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera, “The struggle has always been inner, and is played out in the outer terrains. Awareness of our situation must come before inner changes, which in turn come before changes in society. Nothing happens in the ‘real’ world unless it first happens in the images in our heads” (p. 109). Gloria Anzaldúa speaks to a spiritual activism that highlights the fundamental need to engage the inner terrains of the personal and its inextricable connection to the social.

I am inspired by the work of the #LetUsBreath Collective—a grouping of artists, activists, and journalists who aim to use “creative capital” and “cultural production” as a catalyst for dismantling systemic injustice in the United States and globally. The group formed as a fundraising initiative for frontline protestors and organizers after the death of Michael Brown. They name the amplification of marginalized voices, the disruption of the status quo, healing, consciousness raising and critical conversations facilitated through performance and visual arts and direct action all to be a part of their work. Since the inception of the collective in 2014, their programming and tactics have included the celebration of Black life and freedom (#FreeDay), the creation and occupation of public spaces that have become sites of police violence (“FreedomSquare”), and creation of accessible creative spaces for being and breathing (Breathing Room).

Their work centers the importance of healing and the ephemeral, fragile, simple, and life-giving power of the breath in the Movement for Black Lives. How do we create space for Black folx to just have space to breath? As Magdelena Gorska notes in her book Breathing Matters: Feminist Intersectional Politics of Vulnerable space and the breath are deeply political and fraught.#LetUsBreath are performing a process, with their programs and strategy, similar to what Anzaldúa names when she says, “…yet I am cultured because I am participating in the creation of yet another culture, a new story to explain the world and our participation in it, a new value system with images and symbols that connects us to each other and to the planet…”(p. 103).

In conclusion,theorists and organizers/organizationsfeatured in this paper open up/continue vital conversations on how we might rethinkthe current and prevailing terms, principles, boundaries, and ethics for collectively organizing for liberation. How are we to think about and actualize the construction of a new way of being, living, and knowing that allows all life to flourish? What does it to mean/feel like to create and sustain strategies, relationships, tactics, and organizational formations for radical transformation that honor the multiplicity of what it means to be alive? In this paper, I present iterations of interconnectivity as both a fertile ground for critical inquiry for holistic world-building, and a strategy for decolonizing social justice movements and organizations. The non-profit industrial complex prescribes and is necessitated by a narrative, ideologies and financial/labor practices that both fortify systems of oppression and marginalize differential oppositional practices. Those involved in social justice making are implicated, through our interconnectedness, in the NPIC and larger structure of power and oppression, to some degree or another. We must be honest about the paradoxes of what it means to work for change from our impure politics and subjectivities.Centering a spirituality based in communal eroticism, collective-care,and self-determination mediated through collective healing offers a radical transformative intervention forgrassroots organizing thought and praxis.




Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands: The New Mestiza = La Frontera. 4th ed. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2012.


Anzaldúa Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating. This Bridge We Call Home: Radical Visions for Transformation. New York, Routledge, 2002.


“Beyond the Non Profit Industrial Complex.” INCITE!, 2014, Accessed 4 April 2017.


Haraway, Donna Jeanne. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press, 2016.


“History of Women of Color.” Makers, 2017. from women-color. Accessed 8 March 2017.


Horton-Stallings, LaMonda. Funk the Erotic: Transaesthetics and Black Sexual Cultures. Urbana, University of Illinois Press, 2015.


INCITE. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2007. Print.


Let Us Breath Collective. #LetUsBreath, 2016, Accessed 7 Apr. 2017.


Roelvink, Gerda, et al. Making Other Worlds Possible: Performing Diverse Economies. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 2015.


Sanchez, Sonia. “a/needed/ poem for my salvation.” Liner Notes. A Sun Lady for All Seasons Reads Her Poetry. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2004. CD


Sandoval, Chela. “U.S. Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World.” Genders, 10, Spring 1991, 1-24.


Shotwell, Alexis. Against Purity: Living Ethically in Compromised Times.Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2016. Print.


Wekker, Gloria. The Politics of Passion: Women’s Sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006. Print. Between men–between women; Between men- between women.











[1] According to Anzaldúa, “conocimiento comes from opening all your senses, consciously inhabiting our body and decoding its symptoms—that persistent scalp itch, not caused by lice or dry skin, may be a thought trying to snare your attention. Attention is multilayered and includes your surroundings, bodily sensations and responses, intuitive takes, emotional reactions to other people and theirs to you, and, most important, the images your imagination creates—images connecting all tiers of information and their data. Breaking out of your mental and emotional prison and deepening the range of perception enables you to link inner reflection and vision—the awareness—with social, political action and lived experiences to generate subversive knowledges. These conocimientos challenge official and conventional ways of looking at the world, ways set up by those benefiting from such constructions “(Anzaldúa, 542).

[3] INCITE! – “Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of color Against Violence is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue and grassroots organizing.”

[4] In her essay, “U.S. Third World Feminism: the Theory and Method of Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World” Sandoval lays out 5 modes of oppositional consciousness and activity enacted by U.S. feminist movements. The fifth, differential mode, weaves “between and among” these other forms of oppositional consciousness to effectively transform the other modes out of their hegemonic version (14).

[5] Ross comments on the oppression Olympics during her reflections on what it means to build cross-racial alliances in the context of a U.S. based reproductive justice movement for MAKERS online archive.

[6] While admittedly the mati are not a uniform category Wekker defines mati as “working-class women who typically have children and engage in sexual relationships with men and with women, either consecutively or simultaneous” (Wekker 172). The mati demonstrate how Afro-Surinamese women are exercising female identity and engaging in unfixed and cross-sex, sexual orientations outside of the Western paradigm of homosexuality.

[7] Winti Prey is a religious ceremony in which adherents gather for ritual dancing, possession, etc.

[8] Horton Stallings begins the seventh chapter of the Funk the Erotic with M. Jacqui Alexander’s question, “Have we developed a new metaphysics of political struggle?” (176).

[10] Black Womyn Rising is a Baltimore-based radical Black womyn’s grassroots organizing collective. We seek to build the grassroots power and leadership of all Black womyn and girls, particularly poor and working class. We work to rethink, resist and dismantle systemic oppression in all its forms in order to heal and transform ourselves, Baltimore city, and the larger society in which we live. Right a great deal of our efforts are focused on developing and strengthening our collective consciousness/analysis, building internal infrastructure, and creating publics spaces for Black womyn and girls to gather for self & collective care and strategic dialogue and key issues impacting the everyday lives of Black womyn/women/femmes/girls.