Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mother Tongue Reignites Hope at Annual Benefit

Adaku Utah, activist, artist and healer, takes flight onstage
Transnational feminists, scholars, poets, authors and activists came together for Mother Tongue 2015 hosted by the Black Women’s Blueprint as a centering of women’s voices from across the nation.

“It’s a night that sustains us in the work that we do, by both motivating us and showing us the power that we have with our words, our actions and our art,” said Dr. Mayowa Alero Obasaju, member of the board of directors at BWB. “It’s a night of unification and community building.”

Women honored on Saturday, Feb. 21, at the annual event included 2008 Vice Presidential candidate and political activist Rosa Clemente, author, Asha Bandele and the three co-founders of #BlackLivesMatter.

Asha Bandele (third to right) alongside BWB board members
Bandele, an Award-winning poet who’s worked with Audre Lorde, spoke on how crucial it is to “never forget who we came from, praise all the bridges that carried us over,” and gave tribute to the “Queens” who came before her, bringing her to the place she is today.

All women were presented with a plaque and lantern as a symbol of love, respect and appreciation for the work they have committed their lives to, serving as a beacon to women world-wide.

Black Women’s Blueprint is an ongoing effort to solidify human rights, challenge rape culture, prevent sexual assault through education and provide support through resources to the community. The membership-based organization that funds projects that advocates around issues such as sexual assault, racism and violence against women in the public and private sector. 

“Everything that we do, the triggers, the intellectual, the anxieties, the sisterhood, the work that we put in comes to this honoring each other, honoring women that have trail blazed before us,” said Sherley Accime, program director for Black Women’s Blueprint.

Poet hattie gosset performs this little girl...she
Among supporters was Lisa Gissendaner, an Ohio resident who travelled just for the event and was anticipating the performance to come.

“We speak of black boys but what about our black girls,” said Gissendaner. 

She felt as though the matter ought to be addressed more communities and schools. She also referred to the recently released Black Girls Matter report, that her friend, legal scholar and African American Policy Forum co-founder, Kimberle Crenshaw, pioneered.

“Thank you for everything that Black Women’s Blueprint does to advance the struggle of justice and freedom,” said Clemente. “Til’ the day I die, I will fight for justice and freedom and no matter how inconvenient or long it seems to people.”

Born and raised in the South Bronx, Clemente is a political activist, a hip-hop activist and freelance journalist that has contributed to Ebony, CNN, The Huffington Post and Democracy Now!

One of the quotes displayed from Clemente:
“We can start by incorporating discussions about violence in general and violence targeted specifically against girls everywhere.”

Founders of #BlackLivesMatter
At the time of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012 is when #blacklivesmatter emerged representing the state of the country concerning racism and violence. It was birthed and took life in social media, the founders did not anticipate its growth to embody the movement that it has today.

“We just happen to be the ones to help facilitate that, and it’s a gift, it’s an honor and it’s also a lot of work, but we’re not doing it alone,” said Opal Tometti, one of the co-founders.

As a first generation Nigerian-American, Tometti is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and involved with progressing for racial justice and migrant rights. Patricia Cullers-Brignac is currently involved with Building Resilience, the Arcus Center for Social Leadership Fellowship, and is the founder of Dignity and Power Now. Alicia Garza, the third co-founder, is the Special Projects Director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance and has worked to win free local public transportation for youth  in San Francisco. 

All three expressed that the work only continues.

“It was never just a hashtag to us, the moment it was hashtag it was clear this is an organizing effort,” said Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, co-founder of #blacklivesmatter and founder of Dignity and Power Now.
Words of Rosa Clemente as Exousia sang in tribute to the evening

During Mother Tongue, writings of Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde and Cherrie Moraga were all celebrated in conjunction with original works by the poet performers.

Proceeds raised at Mother Tongue 2015 goes towards anti-rape advocacy on campuses and communities. More information on BWB can be found at www.blackwomensblueprint.org.

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