The Spelman College Women’s Research and Resource Center is a wellspring of intellectual capital when it comes to Black feminist thought and free-thinking women. As part of the center’s Toni Cade Bambara Scholars/Writers/Activists Speaker Series, women of color in the forefront of the scholar-activism movement make their way to Spelman to lecture on a myriad of topics including politics, social justice, race and gender and women’s rights.
As its founding director, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Ph.D., C’66, is the driving force behind the Women’s Center. “Since its inception in 1981, the center has been engaged in a variety of global issues impacting women and children,” said Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies and former president of the National Women’s Studies Association. “We teach about women and social resistance movements in our courses as well as global Black feminist thought throughout the African Diaspora.”
Guy-Sheftall and Bahati Kuumba, Ph.D., associate professor of women’s studies, and associate director of the Women’s Center, regularly tap their vast network of advocates and academicians as they develop programming for the speaker series. The theme for the 2012-2013 academic year, “Women’s Rights… Human Rights… Your Rights,” underscores the center’s ongoing commitment to exploring women’s rights within a global context, explained Guy-Sheftall. “We are especially excited about our Palestinian solidarity programming since participating with a feminist women-of-color delegation to Palestine last summer. One of our [upcoming] speakers will address this urgent topic.”
In early October, WRRC hosted a lecture by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, who read from her new and seminal works, including “The Color Purple,” related the plight of the Palestinian people, and spoke of her experience as a student activist. Her advice for student activists who want to “find their place”: “You can only follow your own intuition and your own heart. There is plenty of work for everyone, but it starts within the self. If you just listen to what it is you have to give, what you believe in and what you love, the direction will come from you,” said Walker, who attended Spelman in the early 1960s.
Walker later shared a recommended reading list for budding student activists: Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and Cornell West; and AIDS, Opium, Diamonds and Empire by Nancy Turner Banks. “Those three books are as good as a college course on why the world has become what it is,” she said.
The speaker series continues when the center welcomes Nadia Ali, co-anchor of “Just Peace,” an Atlanta-based public affairs radio program, focused on social and economic injustice, Oct. 19, and Ejim Dike, executive director of the US Human Rights Network, Oct. 26. Additional speakers will be added to the roster through spring 2013, culminating with the Toni Cade Bambara Scholar-Activism Conference, March 23-24.
In keeping with Spelman’s interdisciplinary teaching and learning approach, Guy-Sheftall worked closely with Mona Phillips, Ph.D., director of the Teaching Resource and Research Center, to launch its new Ida B. Wells-Barnett Distinguished Lecture Series this past September. Guy-Sheftall was instrumental in helping to bring Angela Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, to campus as the first guest lecturer. Davis discussed mass incarceration, violence against women and immigrant rights, and eloquently illustrated how Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s life served as a model for “radical activism with transformative potential” – much like the cumulative work of the Women’s Research and Resource Center. — Audrey Arthur is a senior communications specialist for the Office of Communications.