RAZZ Pride Icons: Barbara Smith

“Because I came out in the context of black liberation, women’s liberation and – most significantly – the newly emerging black feminist movement that I was helping to build, I worked from the assumption that all of the ‘isms’ were connected.” (Smith)

Barbara Smith is a Black, lesbian, feminist, and socialist who radically transformed how we think today. Born in 1946, she gained both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree before becoming heavily involved in the Women’s and Gay liberation Movements. That these were not attentive to the concerns of women of colour was glaringly obvious to her, and in 1974 Smith co-founded the Combahee River Collective, which explicitly attended to the concerns of black lesbians in black feminist politics and organising. This way of viewing black feminism as a movement through which the interconnected oppressions of race, gender, sexuality, and class could be addressed was their priority and they termed this “identity politics.”

Smith put the ideas that the collective disseminated into practice through her work teaching Black women’s literature and in her critical writing, but she found that the texts she wished to teach or study were not always readily available. This led her to not only transform the academic disciplines of Black and Women’s Studies, but also the publishing industry. Along with other notable people such as Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, Hattie Gossett, June Jordan, Cherríe Moraga, and Susan L. Yung, Barbara Smith co-founded Kitchen Table: the first publishing company in the United States for women of colour. In line with her politics, the press made sure to foreground the voices of lesbian and queer women.

To this day Smith continues to inspire and educate, and is particularly critical of the extent to which the mainstream LGBTQ+ Rights Movement has strayed from its radical roots, excluding people of colour and shying away from systemic or revolutionary change.

Read More – Barbara Smith: Mother of Black Feminism, Revolutionary Publisher https://medium.com/queer-history-for-the-people/barbara-smith-mother-of-black-feminism-revolutionary-publisher-4189232e15b0 (Quote Source)

Combahee River Collective Statement http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html

Black Feminism & the Movement for Black Lives: Barbara Smith, Reina Gossett, Charlene Carruthers (YouTube) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV3nnFheQRo

Sophie Chapman

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