Author Archives: annieshields

October Update


UPDATE, 10/21: The #FreeMarissa t-shirts are available now! Order yours here. All proceeds go to Marissa Alexander’s legal defense. These shirts were hand-screened with love by our collective in a small Brooklyn apartment—and each is unique! Check out our store and get yours while the getting’s good!

It’s been a while! As a collective we’ve been working mainly offline over the past few months, but we are excited to unveil our latest project: Justice for Marissa t-shirts. We hand screened these last night and will be selling them to help raise funds for Marissa Alexander’s legal defense. Stay tuned for details on how you can purchase one (or more) soon.

Also, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We recently attended “Prison is a form of violence against women,” a panel discussion on women’s prison issues with Cecily McMillan, Amy Meacham and Sharon Richardson, moderated by Victoria Law. There we learned about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), a bill in New York state that seeks to establish more compassionate sentencing guidelines for domestic violence survivors and provide DV survivors currently in prison the opportunity to apply to the courts for re-sentencing, granting much-deserved relief for incarcerated survivors who pose no threat to public safety. You can read more about the act here, and if you live in New York, you can help advocates pass the DVSJA by signing this letter.

October is also the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. 75% of women in New York state prisons suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner during adulthood. 67% of women sent to prison in 2005 in New York state for killing someone close to them were abused by the victim of their crime. The Free Marissa Now campaign is making connections between domestic violence and mass incarceration with its October action. You can download this brochure and circulate it to raise awareness about Marissa Alexander’s case and the links between domestic violence and state violence.

ShinetheLight2014[1]Finally, there will be a Domestic Violence Awareness walk next week in Harlem, on October 27th at 5:30pm. For more information call 646-422-3100 or email at

We’ll have info about purchasing t-shirts up very soon. In the meantime, check out and the #freemarissa hashtag on Twitter for updates on the case and more ways to help.


Marissa Alexander: Update & how to help

1390606_462278620553564_536067193_nLast month Kathleen wrote about Marissa Alexander, an African American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to stop an attack by her abusive ex-husband, even though no one was hurt. The guilty verdict was overturned in September and Alexander has been granted a new trial, now set for March 31, 2014. She has already served almost 2 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander’s bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13th. The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is working to organize demonstrations at the courthouse on Wednesday, and is also raising funds for her legal defense. To make a donation, click here. For more info on the movement and ways to get involved, check out the Free Marissa Now campaign on Tumblr and Facebook.

Race, Gender and Allyship in the Fight for Justice for Trayvon

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week Roz posted a great roundup of reactions and reflections in the wake of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. The ten days following Zimmerman’s acquittal have been a time for processing, organizing and mobilizing, and there has been much discussion among activists and bloggers about race, gender and allyship within the movement for justice for Trayvon.

In a Facebook post, the Crunk Feminist Collective called out white feminist silence around the verdict, prompting discussions about good and bad allyship in the comments.

Calling all white feminists allies: Where are y’all? <looking far and wide> Your silence around the Zimmerman Trial speaks volumes. Six white women (some say five) decided that a young Black man was responsible for his own murder, and they believed that a young Black woman could not be a credible witness. Where is your (OUT)RAGE?! Where is *your* intersectional analysis about white privilege, that not only calls out the operations of racism, but the particularly gendered operations of racism in the hands of these white women jurors? Where is the accountability? Where is the allyship? Why AGAIN do we have to ask you to show up? It is time for y’all to do the work. We refuse. We are tired. We are choosing to take care of ourselves and our communities.


Crunk Feminist Collective

From Feministing (and included in last week’s roundup): “White womanhood, protectionism, and complicity in injustice for Trayvon

But I am ashamed, and women like these women on the jury ARE white women’s problem.

They are our mother’s friends. They are our neighbors. We are in social circles with them. Many of them may be reading this now and think I’ve taken it too far. But we should be ashamed at our core.

We shouldn’t be too afraid and ashamed to act, though. We shouldn’t be afraid and ashamed to speak. We will misstep. We will mess up. And perhaps we can hold each other accountable for that so that once again feminists of color don’t have to bear the burden of teaching us the ways in which we hurt them.

Do not be the safe white woman that people can talk to about their racism. Strive to be something better. Follow the lead of people of color. Stand up. Even when you don’t do so perfectly. And above all else, listen.

Juror b37 and the racist complicity of white womanhood

Juror B37 is the monstrous specter of white womanhood, the plantation mistress, the mother who said My child’s school will not be integrated!, the woman who puts her whiteness over her humanity again and again.

I say this as a white person who generally reads as a woman and who cares deeply about gender equity: this is the failure of empathy that Black women, genderqueer people and other WOC/TWOC/QPOC have been telling us about for forever and a day. There is a history of white women in the Klan and other racist organizations. There is a history of white capital-F feminist organizations ignoring the specific stories, histories and contexts of women of color. It is something that persists to this day and beyond.

From Black Girl Dangerous, “We are NOT all Trayvon: Challenging Anti-Black Racism in POC Communities

This murder and this verdict are very specifically about anti-black racism – about the power of White supremacy and about what it means to have a black body in a White supremacist society.

And our inability to acknowledge these facts are hurting Black folks and African descended folks right now. This is not solidarity. This is not what solidarity can ever look like. It shouldn’t be that fucking hard to sit back and listen to the grieving voices of black people in this moment. It shouldn’t be this hard to not get defensive and keep your mouth shut and just listen.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Feminists and Trayvon Martin

Racism and sexism are intertwined, and we must fight them both.

Despite this, White women have traditionally been absent from the fight against lynching. Instead, we sometimes feed into the ideology of needing protection from violent Black men. Susan Brownmiller, a White second-wave feminist who wrote the famous Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, portrayed Black men as sexually violent and targeting White women. This type of discourse and lack of feminist attention toward lynching exposes some White feminist activism against gender-based violence as naïve and hypocritical.

From The Feminist Wire: ““We’re” Not Raising Trayvon: The Difference Whiteness Makes

On the heels of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin, I am again worried about white feminists’ silence in the face of brutality driven by racism (in the form of Zimmerman’s assault on Trayvon, delayed arrest, and sickening trial). But I’m deeply concerned about what white feminist non-silence in these moments often sounds like too.

“We’re feeling this exactly like you are.”

“Can we talk about how I can be a better anti-racist right now?”

“But not all white people see it that way.”

White feminist silence and bad allying are two sides of the same coin. Both responses are shaped by the very same problem. White feminists’ indifference and/or anxiety produces silence at the exact moment that solidarity is needed. And white feminists’ egoism and/or lack of empathy drives bad allying when deep listening is what is called for. In both cases, the perspective, emotion, or interests of white feminists trump Black women’s pressing needs.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Female Jurors and Florida Justice

If you are thinking “like a white female”—which would mean that you do not think you need to be self-conscious about this limitation for seeing and hearing and listening to the facts about an assault that involves racial profiling—then you are not able to see the difference between reasonable doubt and racism.  If you see “racially” to begin with, “like a white female” with no recognition of white privilege, then you won’t see the racial motivation in the killing.

(The above links from The Feminist Wire are part of a weeklong forum in the aftermath of the trial. All of the pieces in the forum can be found here.)

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: The Time Isn’t Right, But It Is Now: Processing Our Anger for Trayvon the Black Feminist Way

I know it may seem selfish for sisters to even suggest that our struggles matter in this moment. But if the treatment of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, has taught us anything, it is that we are in this shit together. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, has been an exemplar of Strong Black Womanhood throughout this ordeal. What other choice did she have? But while many folks may admire her strength and resolve, We Black feminists know that those regal robes of superwomanhood are much too heavy a load.

From The Frisky: “Mothers Of Sons Respond To The George Zimmerman Verdict

I agree that allies need to be willing to have the hard conversations and again be willing to be raggedy. That said, I think allies have to walk a fine line to make sure they don’t become the story. That said, for me the greatest thing an ally can do is speak up. If you see injustice, don’t let it slide. This may be painful because it can involve calling out people near and dear.

From XOJane: “Southern Trees Bear a Strange Fruit: Why People of Color Aren’t Surprised by the Trayvon Martin Verdict

A number of my very dear, liberal, white friends expressed the same sentiment as a result of the verdict; “Who would have thought that you could still be killed just for walking black?”

The answer is: black people. If you are black, you can be forgiven for adding “duh” to the end of that answer. We all thought that. We all live that. We have to. If we don’t live that way, we could die.

From RH Reality Check: “Eve Ensler Is Wrong That for Women and Trayvon Martin, ‘Our Struggles Are One’

With all due respect to Ensler, I don’t think a letter to Martin was the right place to push an agenda about her campaign to end violence against women, especially without first acknowledging the fear many people are taught to feel about men of color—a fear that is just as present in the women’s movement as it is in each of the United States of America. For many, the case against Zimmerman and his acquittal represented a symptom of the nation’s “unaddressed racism.” Ensler, then, had an opportunity to address this issue of race, particularly in the women’s movement, but she blew it.

Finally, check out this Justice for Trayvon Action Kit for white allies from Showing up for Racial Justice.

ICYMI: The Feminist Wire’s forum on race, racism and anti-racism within feminism

The Feminist Wire just wrapped up a ten day forum on race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism. If you haven’t already, the forum is really worth delving into. In the introductory post, Aishah Shahidah Simmons and Heather Laine Talley explained its origin:

Perhaps in this twenty-four hour news cycle culture, the horrid sexist and racist sexualization of nine-year old Quvenzhané Wallis both at the Academy Awards and in Twittersphere is now old news. And maybe for her sake, it should be. 

White feminists’ silence in the face of racism is old news too, but feminism’s troubled relationship with race and racism is something to keep talking about. It was the reaction to Tressie McMillan’s analysis of white feminists’ response to the attacks on Quvenzhané Wallis that ignited our interest in hosting this Forum on Race, Racism, and Anti-Racism within Feminism. To be sure, The Feminist Wire has been engaged in these conversations since our founding, but what McMillan’s piece noted was the yawning vacuum of public response to misogyny directed at a Black girlchild.

Many white feminists jettisoned the opportunity to think about silence as racism. Instead, they cited examples of white women’s response to defend against the critique of white silence. While it is true that some white feminists publicly responded, the very impulse to deny a pattern of silence sidesteps critical feminist and anti-racist work. The legacy of feminism has taught us to ask: in what ways am I oppressed and marginalized? In thinking about race, racism, and anti-racism within feminism, an equally important question is: in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?

Following the forum with that critical question in mind—”in what ways do I oppress and marginalize?”—has been both challenging and enriching. Here is a (non-comprehensive) collection of some of the pieces, but the entire forum is highly recommended reading.

The Tragedy of a Failed Politic By Farah Tanis, Kalima DeSuze, and Nikki Patin

When have Black feminists been able to rely on their white comrades in earnest?  When have we been able to rest assured that white feminists would show up fully armored, ready to challenge even the most egregious forms of racialized-sexism?  Has there ever been a time in history when Black women have not had to pull themselves from real-on-the-ground battles to defend human and civil rights, including the right to bodily and personal safety, in order to step away, to educate, and to ensure our white feminist comrades engage in authentic alliances on our behalf?

You Become an Anti-Racist Feminist By Cori Mattli

And then one night, there is a dinner and discussion at your house–a class project about immigration and the media. You arrange copies of magazine covers, like place mats, on the dining room table for discussion–they show Latino people, the shadows of their eyes dark. The illustrated faces squished into hard stares and grimaces. Their creators, through ink and gloss, try to communicate to you (you young white American woman you) that these faces wish you harm. You think that this sort of media does not affect you.

Un-Raced in Transit : Colorblindness and the Stakes of Speaking Up By Marlaina H. Martin

My reality is that this world remains one in which my black skin and feminine attributes connote almost every move that I make as spectacular. There have been many times in which I have felt trapped by the paradox of liberalism – on the one hand, I am framed as an ‘equal stakeholder’ at the table of social (mis)givings, able to determine my own destiny and to assume access to the same possibilities and resources as anyone else. On the other hand, gasps and whispers swirl around me as I walk into many of those very places claimed to be open for those willing to work hard and persevere.

Black Feminist and Dominican: How Black Male Writers Shape My Practice By Rosa Cabrera

I count up the strikes I have against me. Female. Daughter of immigrant parents. Survivor of domestic violence, sexual manipulation. Queer. I think about the way all of these markers inform each other, intersect. I am told by some self-proclaiming feminists and critical race theoreticians that in more ways than others, I’m nearing the top rung in some form of oppression olympics. But instead, it feels somehow, like I’m losing.

Building a Racial Justice Praxis By Lisa Weiner-Mahfuz

Maintaining a rigorous racial justice praxis that is based on learning, self-reflection, action and more self-reflection; valuing the necessity of discomfort when the struggle is honest and accountable; understanding that political alignment is almost never based on identity but rather on shared values and a commitment to collective liberation.

Silence Does Not Equal Absence: Lessons from Arizona By Wendy Cheng

I do think that there are moments and situations when we are obligated to act and speak out, and can understand why many people felt that Wallis’s degradation by The Onion was one of them. But I interpret reactions to the treatment of Wallis as an instance in which we cannot assume that silence equals absence and consent.

Tilting at Windmills By Rebecca Miriam

No, goddamnit, I’m pissed. I’m not a special snowflake who clutches her pearls because someone has hurt her “feelings.” This is not about personal comfort zones. I’m freaking angry because someone is a racist. And so should you be. This is not a personal wellness issue.

No Easy Walk to ‘Total Freedom’ By Josh Cerretti and Theresa Warburton

What does it mean for a white person living in a white supremacist society to label themselves an ‘anti-racist feminist’? Does it surrender control over the meaning of the term ‘feminist’ (unmodified) to those who tacitly support white supremacy? Does it again re-center the good intentions of white people and their need to be validated by the people of color in whose oppression they are complicit?

You can check out the entire forum over at The Feminist Wire.

For The Birds Joins Storify

In an effort to get our social media ducks in a row, we’ve taken the exciting step of joining Storify, which will allow us to aggregate social media content from around the web, and highlight the conversations we’re following. Here’s our very first “story.” We hope that this will serve as a tool that allows us to curate and share the online discussions around feminism and activism that we’re following, among other things. Enjoy!