A Lesson on Intersectionality from The Radical Lesbians

If you were to think back to the major feminist movements in American history, what images of women come to mind? Do you think of women of color from various gender, sexuality and class backgrounds? Or is your initial image of middle to upper class, straight, white women? If your answer was the latter, don’t feel bad.

You’re right.

The Women’s Rights Movement of the 1970s  saw primarily white, straight middle class women at the forefront of the movement.

Throughout all of the Women’s Rights Movements in American there has been a noticeable lack of diversity among the women. For the most part, the issues brought fourth by the marches affected primarily whitestraight, upper-class women and excluded issues affecting women of color, lesbian women and women from lower economic classes.

While all women should be commended for standing up for their rights in the face of injustice – we need to remember that many of the women involved in the leadership of the Women’s Rights Movements in the 1920s and 1970s used the same tactics as their male oppressors to silence the voices of their fellow marginalized women.

The January 21st 2017 Women’s March on Washington

And that was their biggest mistake. Silencing the voices of women across gender, sexuality and economic backgrounds led to the movements problem with inclusivity that follows the movement today. It’s the voices of the collective woman who will propel  us forward toward equality for all women.

While researching this topic, I was interested to hear the complaints  from the women who were silenced and hear their perspective on the issue of diversity within the movement. And that led me straight to the Radical Lesbians.

In 1970, a group called The Radical Lesbians distributed a letter “The Woman Identified Woman” to declare how angry they were about lesbian speakers being excluded from the Congress to Unite Women in New York City and the social structure of lesbians and people of color from being excluded from a movement that directly affected them.

The “Woman Identified Woman” pamphlet distributed by the Radical Lesbians in 1970

The letter came out in the years following the civil rights movement when women were empowered by the social and political change they had seen happen for the African American community. But at the time, the voice of the women’s movement didn’t include women of color or women from various sexual and gender identities. And the  Radical Lesbians had enough. 

“It should first be understood that lesbianism, like male homosexuality, is a category of behavior possible only in a sexist society characterized by rigid sex roles and dominated by male supremacy,” the letter read.

The letter was a call to arms for women to stop excluding lesbians and people of color from the movement and to break down the barriers men created to tear apart women because lesbians weren’t seen as “real women.”

“For women, especially those in the movement, to perceive their lesbian sisters through this male grid of role definitions is to accept this male cultural conditioning and to oppress their sisters much as they themselves have been oppressed by men.”

Reading the letter forced many feminists re-evaluate their intentions and the broader role of their mission – to make major changes to society that sought to oppress all women. One could argue that this is the exact reason the Radical Lesbians chose their name because they believed that the feminist movement would not be successful if they played by the rules and continued to exclude women from the mission.

“It is the primacy of women relating to women, of women creating a new consciousness of and with each other, which is at the heart of women’s liberation, and the basis for the cultural revolution.”

Just as the Radical Lesbians said,  women relating to women and coming together to be a voice for change is the heart and soul of the women’s liberation movement. It is my hope that in the years to come, when we see more women’s rights movements popping up around the county that women from all backgrounds choose to empower the voices of their sisters who have historically been silenced by men and women alike.



Reflecting on Black History Month

As Black History Month comes to an end, our acknowledgement toward the struggles of African Americans should not. We must continue to appreciate and honor those in the African American community who have fought and continue to fight tirelessly for the basic rights of personhood within our societal fences of white supremacy. It’s my personal belief that we need to learn from black voices not just during this month but all year long.

In that spirit, I’ve compiled a list of 12 stories, one for every month of the year, from African Americans, past and present, whose achievements I’d like to acknowledge for their unabashed commitment to civil rights. Many of their accomplishments have gone underreported in the media. We have a lot to learn from the black experience in America and these are just a few of their stories.

1. Claudette Colvin – The First Rosa Parks


Colvin, 15, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama nine months before Rosa Parks did the same. On March 2, 1955, Colvin was taking the bus home from high school when the driver ordered her to give up her seat, according to NPR.  Colvin refused, saying she paid her fare and it was her constitutional right, but was then arrested by two police officers. Colvin later became the main witness in the federal lawsuit Browder v. Gayle, which ended segregation on public transportation in Alabama. 

(Original biography Marie Claire). 

2. Ella Baker – The woman who propelled MLK into the national spotlight


Baker was a civil rights activist who worked for a number of civil rights organizations throughout her lifetime. In 1957, she was asked to help organize Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and also helped form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC, which became one of the biggest human rights advocates in the country. “You didn’t see me on television, you didn’t see news stories about me,” Baker said of her role in the civil rights movement, the Times reports. “The kind of role that I tried to play was to pick up pieces or put together pieces out of which I hoped organization might come.”

(Original biography Marie Claire). 

3. Miss Mary Hamilton – The Honorific Leader


In the Supreme Court Case, Hamilton v. Alabama,  the court held that an African-American woman, Mary Hamilton, was entitled to the same courteous forms of address customarily reserved solely to whites in the South and that calling a black person by his or her first name in a formal context was a form of racial discrimination. Miss Hamilton was the spearhead for the way our court system was to use honorifics for all persons.

(Original Biography Wikipedia.)

4. SIDNEY POITIER – The Award Goes To…


Born to poor farmers in the Bahamas but later moving to New York, Sidney Poitier came from nothing, but achieved the unimaginable for black actors of his day he became a leading man in Hollywood. Sidney was determined to make opportunities for African-Americans and did so by performing outstandingly as an actor, gaining a respected reputation. Eventually he went on to become the first black actor to win an Oscar for a leading role in “Lilies of the Field.”

(Original Biography).

5. Daisy Bates – The Little Rock Nine + Ms. Bates


Bates became president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and played a crucial role in the fight against segregation. In 1957, she helped nine African American students to become the first to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, who became known as the Little Rock Nine. The group first tried to go to the school on September 4. A group of angry whites jeered at them as they arrived. The governor, Orval Faubus, opposed school integration and sent members of the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the students from entering the school. Despite the enormous amount of animosity they faced from white residents of the city, the students were undeterred from their mission to attend the school.

6. TA-NEHISI COATES – The 21st Century Leader


Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates is an American author, journalist, comic book writer, and educator. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly regarding African Americans. His raw and engaging essays about the black experience in America sets him up to be a James Baldwin in the making.

7.  JAMES BALDWIN – The Writer

Baldwin, an acclaimed writer and novelist, broke literary ground with the exploration of racial and social issues in his works. He was known for his essays on the black experience. As a child, he cast about for a way to escape his circumstances. As he recalls, “I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I would use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” By the time he was fourteen, Baldwin was spending much of his time in libraries and had found his passion for writing.

(Original Biography).

8.  SHIRLEY CHISHOLM – The Congress of the United States of Shirley

9. Fannie Lou Hamer – The Summer of Ms. Fannnie Lou Hamer 


Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights activist whose passionate depiction of her own suffering in a racist society helped focus attention on the plight of African-Americans throughout the South. In 1964, working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Hamer helped organize the 1964 Freedom Summer African-American voter registration drive in her native Mississippi. At the Democratic National Convention later that year, she was part of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, an integrated group of activists who openly challenged the legality of Mississippi’s all-white, segregated delegation.

(Original Biography).

10. THURGOOD MARSHALL – The HonorablE Judge Marshall


Thurgood Marshall  was an American lawyer who was appointed as an associate justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. He was the first African-American to hold the position and served for 24 years, until 1991. Marshall studied law at Howard University. As counsel to the NAACP, he utilized the judiciary to champion equality for African Americans. In 1954, he won the Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the Supreme Court ended racial segregation in public schools.

(Original Biography).

11. JESSE OWENS – The One Who Humiliated Hitler 

Jesse Owens also known as “The Buckeye Bullet,” was an American track and field athlete who won four gold medals and broke two world records at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. When Owens finished competing, the African-American son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves had single-handedly crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy.

(Original Biography)

12. RICHARD PRYOR – The Comedic Relief 


Pryor was an American stand-up comedian, actor, and social critic. Pryor was known for uncompromising examinations of racism and topical contemporary issues, which employed vulgarities and profanity, as well as racial epithets. He reached a broad audience with his trenchant observations and storytelling style and is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most influential stand-up comedians of all time.

(Original Biography).

Parkland Florida Mass Shooting: No More Thoughts and Prayers

On Valentines Day, the United States proved yet again that the second amendment is more important than the safety of American school children.

We let 17 high schoolers die because the backbone of the American government refuses to take action on gun control reform in a country that has the highest rate of mass shootings in the world.

That is why I am incredibly comfortable saying that member of congress who voted against gun reform is complacent in these violent, senseless and all too familiar murders.

Students walk in line after being evacuated from Parkland High School

A common rebuttal to this argument is that the problem isn’t the amount of guns but the mental stability of the people pulling the trigger.

You’re right, guns can’t shoot themselves.

But without the unprecedented access given to terrorists to buy guns at high quantities with unchecked amounts of magazines used in mass shootings – America wouldn’t be synonymous with this kind of unspeakable violence.

Addressing the “mental stability” excuse commonly used after mass shootings – a study referenced in Politico found those with serious mental illness are responsible less than 1 percent of all gun-related homicides annually in the United States and 14.8 percent of all of the mass shootings.

Blaming mental illness when talking about mass shootings is a copout.

We need to address the real and ugly issue at hand.  America is complacent in these mass shootings due to the unprecedented access to firearms for practically anyone who wants to buy a gun.

If we had stricter gun control laws, there would be no Sandy Hook. There would be no Columbine. There would be no Las Vegas. There would be no Parkland High School.

Graph from L.A Times showing Parkland, FL in relation to America’s worst mass shootings

As humans first and Americans second , we can no longer fuel our moral high ground by simply spreading “thoughts and prayers” on social media in an effort to prove to our friends and family that we care about these kids lives.  If you are serious about your empathy and disgust at these mass murders then you need to combine your thoughts and prayers with action.

If you actually care, you will show up and vote in 2018 elections for candidates who support gun control reform. You will write to your congresspeople, everyday, and demand they take action on this epidemic.  You will support non-profit organizations, like EveryTown, that work to end gun violence and build safer communities.  You will not forget this mass shooting next week when the media coverage slows down. You will speak up about issues that matter.

If you remain silent, I will take your silence as complacency and that the mass murder of American children isn’t an important issue to you.


The Cultural Importance of K-Pop

Warning: I’m about to geek out really hard on this post about my love for K-Pop.

For the last year or so I’ve been listening to music, watching Youtube videos and consuming media in a language I don’t understand – and I love every second of it.

I’ve always loved branching out in all areas of my life and consuming media outside of my cultural bubble here in the Midwest. I had heard about K-Pop through acts like PSY and his record-breaking song “Gangamn Style” in 2012. But it wasn’t until one day when I was watching a Buzzfeed video where people were reacting to Korean Pop, commonly referred to as K-Pop, music videos that I began to fully understand the enormous impact Korean music has around the world.

In the video,  “Call me Baby” by EXO was one of the featured songs people were reacting to. And I was completely enthralled. If you’ve never seen a K-Pop music video you are in for the ride of your life.

The amount of time, money and synchronized choreography was something I’ve have yet to seen in Western music. The video was a collection of what seemed like a million beautiful, well-dressed Korean men dancing their hearts out to a song I genuinely enjoyed. I played that song on rotation for weeks and it was the entrance into my journey into the world of K-Pop.

These past few months I’ve been obsessed with the K-Pop band BTS who have broken records as one of the most successful K-Pop groups to break America.

BTS, a seven-member group of Korean men in their mid-twenties, were the first K-Pop group to win a Billboard Music award in 2017 beating out acts like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez and were the most tweeted-about artist of 2017 on social media.

BTS: J-Hope, Jin, RM, V, Jungkook, Jimin and Suga

That is unprecedented.

So, this begs the question: How does a K-Pop group like BTS that has only one member who speaks English, tap into the hearts of fans around the world?

One word: Their ARMY.

That is what their fans are called. Online they live up to their name with millions of dedicated fans who help translate their music videos, lyrics, interviews and tweets so fans around the world can enjoy their music.

My love for this genre of music has made me reflect on the importance of music to allow fans to get a outlook on a culture and country they may not have otherwise been interested in learning about. The cliche that music has no language is incredibly pertinent in the world of K-Pop.

It’s not uncommon for their fans to learn Korean, educate themselves on the culture and Korean way of life in an effort to better understand the members of their favorite band. It’s something you didn’t see many fans doing when other popular boybands like One Direction were at the height of their popularity.

Maybe it’s because the customs and culture of the U.K are more prevalent around the world. Regardless, international fans have been introduced to much more than the music of Korea – they are educating themselves about the culture and customs of a population that is wildly different than their own.

And thats a good thing. Branching outside of our cultural bubble is something we all need to do in order to expand our worldview and become more empathetic and understanding of people who are different than us. If listening to music in a different language is the entry point into an expansion of ones cultural awareness – I’m all for it.



What does “Latinx” Mean?

Hola! Last night I had the honor of attending an event on the University of Iowa’s campus discussing Latinx identity. Panelists were a mix of students and faculty and were asked a series of questions pertaining to their own struggles coming to terms with what it means to be Latinx.

Latinx is relatively new term so lets dive in a little bit about what it means before we go any further. It’s a gender neutral term used for those who identity with their Latin American heritage. It denotes the “o” and “a” traditionally used at the end of “Latina” and “Latino” to signify a persons gender in an effort to be more inclusive to those outside of the gender binary.

From Refinery 29’s article:  This Is Where the Word “Latinx” Comes From”

In 2017, NBC News did a report on the term and showed that there is mixed feelings among the Hispanic community whether or not to use the term. Quoted in the article, Roy Pérez, an associate professor of English and American Ethnic Studies at Willamette University said that the resistance to inclusivity is what turns people off from using LATINX.

“‘The underlying gender critique is what fuels hatred towards Latinx,” he said. “But why should we only have one word to describe ourselves? Latinx is just one solution to the complexity and slipperiness of labelling Latinos. And it doesn’t have to supplant other words.”

Make sure to check out the NBC article mentioned above – they do a great job of explaining the new term and getting the full scope of mixed feelings among the Hispanic community.

Now, back to the panel I attended last night. As a woman who identifies as Latina, it really opened my eyes to the diversity and mix of identities within the Hispanic community. There are so many ways to be apart of this community and not one way is the “right” way. A panelist, Danielle Martinez, used the term “imposter syndrome” to describe how she feels about her Latinx identity because she isn’t a fluent spanish speaker and said that there is a shame and guilt associated with trying to fit into a mold of what traditionally is considered Latina/o.

“There is a  shame and guilt that comes with who is and isn’t Latinx,”

When she used the term “imposter syndrome” a lightbulb went off above my head. It was the perfect term to what I had been struggling with my whole life. I identify as a Latina woman but I don’t have dark skin, my father is white so I took his last name and I don’t speak Spanish. I always felt the need to prove myself or give people a whole monologue about my Hispanic roots when the topic was brought up. I even felt embarrassed saying I was a Latina in front of people I perceived as more Hispanic than I am.

But the truth is I grew up in a very strong maternal Mexican household with the values, culture and history being passed down to me from my Mom and Grandma. My cousins may have a different experience than my sister and I because we were the only ones who lived near Grandma and Great Aunts growing up (still do) in a city with a rich Hispanic population and were exposed to our Hispanic roots more.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the parties we went to with mariachi bands or the amount of times people would tell me how proud I should be to come from the Rocha family who did so much for the Hispanic community where I grew up. I wrote a bit about my grandpa being one of the founding members of the League of Latin American Citizens in a post awhile ago which gives you more insight to where my advocacy roots come from.

What I’m trying to say is I carry my Latinx identity with me everywhere I go and this panel gave me the strength to me embrace my identity and not have to feel as if I have to prove anything to anyone.

I am a Latina woman – nobody can take that away from me.

If you want to check out some highlights from the panel – I was live instagramming it so here are some of the best moments.

Activism Quotes That Keep Me Fired Up

As the former, and iconic, President Obama use to say: Fired up and ready to go! But maintaining that go-getter attitude can be really hard.

Life gets busy, people can be mean and sometimes the world seems so doomed that you  just want to lay in bed and watch Grace and Frankie on Netflix.

In order to keep up morale and brighten up either a situation or my overall mood, I look at my inspirational board I created with some of my favorite quotes from people that have shaped my outlook on the world and made it a better place through their activism. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you today to keep you motivated and fired up and ready to take on this Monday!

Creating lasting change has never been easy. Especially for minority populations who don’t have the luxury of being able to pick and choose when they will be active members in the fight for equality.

It’s an every day job. A 24/7 gig.

Looking at these bright, colorful and uplifting images helps me maintain my focus and grounds me in the mission ahead – equality for all.