Demanding the Right to Live without Violence: Reflections on Color of Violence II
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IN CONVERSATION Demanding the Right to Live without Violence Reflections on Color ofViolence n SHARMILA LODHIAAND SYLVANNA FALCON Our children must become rigorous abolitionists ofthe slavery ofthe mind. —Cherrie Moracja The system that demonizes us unii not save us. —P. Catlin FulliDood The last time I iuas in a room this diuerse was in prison. —Kemba Smith From April 28-29, 2000, the historic conference, Color of Violence 1, convened at the University ofCalifornia, Santa Cruz. From March 15-17, 2002, the Color of Violence p was held at the University of Illinois, Chicago. A wide range ofactivists, scholars, young women ofcolor, and advocates assembled at the second Conference, which was organized under the theme "Building a Movement." The critical issues highlighted in the above quotations from Conference panelists, and as evidenced by the approximately 2000 people in attendance—double the size ofthe first Conference—suggest an urgent need for such a gathering, especially given the current political climate. We are currently doctoral graduate students in California. We became friends in 1994 as undergraduates at Santa Clara University and were reunited this year at the "Thinking Gender Conference" at the University of California, Los Angeles. Reconnecting at this stage in our lives has been a wonderful surprise, especiallyas wejointly embark on this journey [Meridians:feminism, race, transnationalism 2002, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 265-73]©2002 by Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved. 265 as burgeoning intellectuals, hoping to merge our commitment to antiracist and feminist activism with our academic scholarship and teaching. We hope this project will be the first ofmany future dialogues and collaborations . We decided to write this piece as a conversation because this format enabled us to grapple with the complex issues raised at the Color of Violence n Conference together. In this dialogue, we strive to unpack the terms "violence" and "women ofcolor," understand the issue ofviolence in the aftermath ofSeptember n, 2001, and envision what is to be done with the insightful critiques articulated at the Conference. We offer our deepest respect and admiration to the organizers of both the Color of Violence Conferences for they have provided a unique space for women ofcolor who demand a world free from violence in its myriad forms. sylvanna: How would you describe your initial impressions and responses to the Conference as a whole? s H arm il A: Participating in the Conference for the first time was a movingexperience for me on a numberoflevels. Never before in myadvocacy or academic work had I seen such a large and diverse gathering of women of color. The Conference program and the sessions I attended made it clear even the terms "women ofcolor" and "violence" were being complicated and discussed in ways I had not previously encountered. Angela Davis in her talk at the third plenary session ("Organizing Communities ofColor") invoked Chandra Talpade Mohanty's definition of women of color as a "political constituency" or an "oppositional alliance" based on "a common context of struggle rather than color or racial identifications" (Mohanty 1991). The attendees, who had traveled from abroad, domestically, and from all levels of engagement and activism with these issues to participate in the Conference, reflected this collective consciousness and shared "context ofstruggle." Perhaps one reason why so many women chose to attend this meeting was because, in organizing this Conference, the planners had set out to examine violence broadly, and notjust to discuss violence in its explicitly domestic orintimate manifestations. This broad range included state and institutional violence in the areas ofmental and reproductive health, violence and the prison industrial complex, militarism, and global economic violence and exploitation—each ofwhich has had a unique and disproportionate impact on women of color. The Conference also provided 266 SHARMILA LODHIA AND SYLVANNA FALCON critical spaces to discuss specific strategies for fundraising and organizing as well as discussions ofways in which the media and the arts can be employed as tools for mobilizing and activism. s H A R M ? L A : You were fortunate to have attended both the first and second Color ofViolence Conferences. How would you compare the two gatherings? sylvanna: I left both Conferences feeling inspired and affirmed. Let me tell you first what I...