The Womanist Liberation Movement

By Grace Lee Boggs March 15th-21st

Last week I celebrated Women'ss History Month by telling the story of how the feminist struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries have won high level positions for professional women like Condolezza Rice and Hillary Clinton but have not transformed the lives of the billions of working class women living in poverty in the United States and around the world.

To transform these lives, I said, will take a radical revolution in our values and new ways of thinking not only about race and male-female relationships but about the ways we all need to make our livings by caring for each other and for the Earth in the 21st Century.

Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, has coined the word "womanist" to describe this new movement which begins with a profound critique of how industrial society has degraded not only women and the Earth but all living things.

Women from many different backgrounds are creating this movement.

Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabekwe Ojibwe) and Kathy Sanchez (Tewawa) are enriching environmental activism with their Native American legacies. "Three Pillars of Oppression" by Andrea Smith ( Cherokee) has helped people of color understand each other better by explaining the very different historical roots of African American, Native American and Hispanic oppression.

Eco- Feminists Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva have explained how the nurturing Work of Women and small farmers differs from the Labor of industrial society. Women and peasants, like artists, do not judge the value of their efforts by the time clock.

In "Burning Times" (1982) Starhawk told us how Western industrial society began with the 17th century witchhunts which not only expropriated the land from the peasants but also replaced the intuitive knowledge of women with the Scientific Rationalism of Bacon and Descartes. Starhawk conducts permaculture workshops for young people, organizes transformative and spiritual demonstrations that involve poetry, dance, singing and fellowship, and helped create the affinity groups which closed down the WTO in the 1999 Battle of Seattle.

In cities around the country women plant community gardens to reconnect urban youth with the Earth and give them a sense of process. Professional women like Philadelphia's Donna Jones return to inner city communities to create caring, learning environments for young people. As the coordinator of Detroit Summer, Shea Howell engaged young people in caring for community gardens created by elders.

In Milwaukee, Sharon Adams returned to her neighborhood near the Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch plants which had become infested with crackhouses and crime. Planting community rain gardens with the help of Will Allen's Growing Power, Sharon and her husband have restored pride to her "Walnut Way" neighborhood.

"In this exquisitely connected world, it'ss never a question of "critical mass." It's always about critical connections."

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