A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender

When choosing a topic for our project, we originally were going to cover the gender wage gap. As we started to look into the wage gap we felt that taking an artistic approach would be hard to accomplish. Therefore, we decided to change our topic to the hyper-sexualization of women of color, stigmas around women sexuality and norms present in our society. As a result, we decided to shift to a wider world view and ended up choosing to focus on India. India is a specific example that helps us paint an extreme picture of how women are sexualized in their environment. The extreme examples allow us to tap into deep emotion that could promote individuals to become activist on this issue. Our goal is to raise awareness as some of the stigmas and norms concerning women and their sexuality are deeply rooted in society. By shedding light on this hopefully will make people feel comfortable enough to begin discussing it with each other and ultimately start putting forth changes which solve these problems at the roots.


Initially, most of us believed that activism implied getting involved in protests, rallies, etc.  Activism is a common word used to refer to many outspoken members of society, however, none of us had truly grasped what activism really meant. After taking this class and working on our project we have learned what activism truly is. We have realized activism can be of any capacity. From day to day activism to philanthropic pursuit. Now after taking the class and working as a group to understand what activism meant to us, we learned that activism doesn’t always require a lot of involvement. Many forms of activism take place in our everyday lives it can even be as small as starting a conversation with somebody on that issue. Activism does not always have to be conducted in a generic protesting way. Activism can be expressed through art, music, dance, literature, etc. Feeling inspired by the power of video making and activism, we decided to create a poetic video. We felt that if we expressed our beliefs and thoughts through a poem it would be a very intimate and emotion evoking. By spending more time on the syntax of the message, it helped us convey an extremely powerful message that may usually be associated with much larger forms of activism. We were able to incorporate what we love, art and video-making, to deliver a message about what we believed in – Brilliant!


If we had to do this project again we really wouldn’t make any major changes. The biggest change would be to create posters/graphics that we could display across campus to help reach a larger audience. We would also include a QR code that will include our video in as well as more resources for anyone wanting to take part as an activist.

Important links:




The Sterilization of Black Women

Coerced sterilization was used in the United States as a method of controlling “undesirable” populations such as poor people, disabled/mentally ill people, immigrants, unmarried women, and (most disproportionately) people of color. It was commonly “driven by prejudice notions of science and social control, these informed policies on immigration and segregation” (Ko). We decided to use this as our project due to the strong activists that rose from this oppression.

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Colonization and Slavery Leads to Reproductive Sterilization

In the three year period from 1973 to 1976, 3,406 American Indian women were surgically sterilized (Staats 1976). Hysterectomies have occurred as young as eleven-years-old for American Indian girls (Carpio 2004). These non-consenting sterilizations of marginalized groups such as American Indian, African American, Mexican, and Puerto Rican women in America have been happening for years, but became well known in the late 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s (Volscho 2010). Surgical sterilization, also known as tubal ligation, is when the fallopian tubes are cut, tied, or blocked in some way to permanently prevent pregnancy (Mayo Clinic 2018). For minority groups, especially African American and American Indian women, this is thought to occur through coercion (Shreffler et al. 2015). This pressured surgical sterilization of marginalized women originates from several corrupt ideologies such as racism, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.

Racism in the Americas (specifically North America) stems from the colonization of the Americas by the Europeans who utilized African people as slaves and forced American Indians out of their land and homes so they could colonize and develop the land of America for themselves (Volscho 2010). African women, when forced into slavery, were also forced to “breed” to produce children who the Europeans could utilize as slaves in the future. The control that slave owners had over the reproduction of African women later led to the mentality that people had when forcing sterilization on African American women (Volscho 2010). There is also speculation that sterilization of African American women originates from images in the media, specifically the Jezebel image of women during slavery (Volscho 2010). This image of promiscuity links to the belief in sterilizers that these women are objects, not people, who need to be controlled. The sterilization of American Indian women stems from the American image of the women in media as Squaw, which is a derogative term insinuating “dirty, subservient, abused, alcoholic, and ugly” (Volscho 2010) women in need of sterilization so not to further contaminate the population in America. This image may have also developed from the Europeans belief that Native Americans were savages in need of taming and segregation from the civilized population. While racism is the main reason that marginalized women are sterilized, several of the aforementioned ideologies also play a role in the twisted reasons why women are coerced into sterilization. Capitalism, industrialization, and patriarchy has increased the interest in prevention of the “lower-class,” or the marginalized groups, from having children (Carpio 2004). Once again colonialism by Europeans of American Indians and enslavement of African people has a correlation with this need for control of American Indian and African American women’s fertility. Therefore, as a result of the colonization of the Americas and the enslavement and segregation of both African and American Indian people, the surgical sterilization of women has become a silent scourge on women of color.

As a result of many of the women being coerced into this permanent surgery, Dr. Connie Uri fought to protest the duress that American Indian women were under when pressured to undergo the sterilization. Dr. Uri brought a case to the attention of the 1976 General Accounting Office (GAO) and Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota where an American Indian woman, at the time 26-years-old and an alcoholic, was given a hysterectomy and sterilized, while the doctor told her she could get a womb transplant when she was ready to have children (Carpio 2004). The GAO reported that there was “no evidence of IHS [Indian Health Services] sterilizing Indians without a patient consent form on file” (Carpio 2004). Carpio points out that a consent form alone is not an adequate way to investigate this allegation; this investigation ignored the possibility of abuse or coercion of women into having this sterilization process (2004). The investigation only looked at documents and did not talk to staff or any of the sterilized women, so this investigation was most likely biased (Carpio 2004). Dr. Uri actually said in a radio interview that many women were medicated when given consent forms, many didn’t know that tubal ligation was irreversible, and many were afraid to argue with the doctor and were not advised on other birth control methods (KPFK 1974). Dr. Uri therefore organized a protest outside the hospital with the nurses, which eventually helped lead to more stringent laws regarding tubal ligation surgeries (KPFK 1974).

In conclusion, racism, which stemmed from the colonization of the Americas and enslavement of African and American Indian people, led to the reproductive surgical sterilization of marginalized women. Dr. Connie Uri helped to fight against this injustice by protesting the coercion of patient consent forms to perform this surgery. Ultimately, though sterilization of marginalized women still occurs (Reuters 2013), through the activism of Dr. Uri and the nurses of that hospital, there are more resources to help prevent coerced surgical sterilization from happening.

Works Cited

Carpio, M. (2004). The Lost Generation: American Indian Women and Sterilization Abuse. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/29768273.pdf?refreqid=excelsior:80c6f1b81cd21325444eeb758113dd4eb

Indians and medicine : Sterilization and genocide / Dr. Connie Uri ; interviewed by Jim Berland. (1974, September 25). Los Angeles, California: KPFK Pacifica Radio.

“Ligation Images.” Shutterstock, http://www.shutterstock.com/search/ligation.

Reuters. “California Bans Sterilization of Female Inmates Without Consent.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 9 July 2013, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/womens-health/california-bans-sterilization-female-inmates-without-consent-n212256.

Shreffler et al. (2015). Surgical sterilization, regret, and race: contemporary patterns. Social Science Research. 50, 31-45.

Staats, E.B. (1976). Report to Senator James Abourezk. Investigation of Allegations Concerning Indian Health Service. Released November 23. Washington, D.C.: General Accounting Office.

“Tubal Ligation.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 29 Mar. 2018, http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/tubal-ligation/about/pac-20388360.

Volscho, T. W. (2010). Sterilization Racism and Pan-Ethnic Disparities of the Past Decade: The Continued Encroachment on Reproductive Rights. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/380293/pdf

Clinic Escorting with Planned Parenthood

Volunteering at Planned Parenthood has always been a goal of mine. Many things got in my way at my old college and hometown, mainly transportation. Moving to a city taught me how to take public transit and soon, taking the bus anywhere became second nature to me. This led me to eventually signing up for escort training at Planned Parenthood. I had finally overcome my biggest obstacle, leading to being able to live out the dream.

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The Black Panther Party

1st May 1969: Members of the Black Panther party demonstrate outside the Criminal Courts Building one month after 21 Panthers were charged with plotting to dynamite city stores, a police station and a railroad right-of-way, New York City, (Photo by Jack Manning/New York Times Co./Getty Images)

When you think of the Black Panther Party, you may think of only negative things. Unfortunately, thanks to the media and the U.S. government, this is far from the truth. In 1966, the Black Panther Party (BPP) was founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland California to help their communities better themselves, as well as defend themselves and low income, minority communities against police violence. A description of the party’s clear mission statement is outlined in Beyond Radical Chic: The Black Panther Party by T. A. Davies:

“The Panthers saw the urban black ghetto as a kind of internal colony within the United States and police brutality as an extension of imperialist violence. The Oakland Police Department was the white coloniser’s armed force sent to keep local blacks, literally and metaphorically, ‘in their place’. The Panthers were a paramilitary liberation force that aimed to protect people from that oppression. Arming themselves with shotguns, they began conducting regular patrols, observing and recording police conduct in their neighbourhood.”

T.A. Davies, Beyond Radical Chic: The Black Panther Party

Those with legal open carry licenses would patrol their streets armed with guns, ensuring that unwarranted police violence would not go unmet. To counteract the media focusing on violent police interactions, those who weren’t allowed to legally open carry also patrolled, but they were in charge of filming any and all police interactions within their community – a practice which is still done by many today. They made a 10 point program for these communities that had things like free breakfast for kids, free legal aid, and free medical clinics. Although their main focus was on low income, minority communities, they also supported other “radical” movements such as the women’s rights movement and “gay liberation” movement.

Members of the Black Panther Party stand behind tables and distribute free hot dogs to the public, New Haven, Connecticut, late 1960s or early 1970s. (Photo by David Fenton/Getty Images)

What led to the Black Panther Party’s eventual disbandment in 1986 was a combination of two factors: lack of clear internal organization, and the FBI COINTELPRO surveillance program. When Eldridge Cleaver rose to leadership, he wanted to change the party focus to being more violent against police acts against them. There was conflict over what they should focus on as a movement: should they be focusing on the original mission statement of building up their communities? Or should the focus on “fighting the power” and reacting to police violence? This conflict led to disorganization, a split within the party, and was the ultimate downfall of the BPP.

The FBI COINTELPRO surveillance program only instigated this divide by proclaiming their acts as evidence of communism, infiltrating the headquarters to gain evidence for prosecution of members, and made a case to make it illegal to advocate for violent overthrow of the government. The police were also working against the party’s efforts, taking action against members. They assassinated known BPP members, raided known meeting places, and arrested as many as they could. This quickly became the norm and incited more violent actions by certain members, which also helped instigate the divide within the BPP.

Emory Douglas’ art counteracting the media’s reaction to the Vietnam war, shown in the Black Panther Party newspaper. “The tears in the image reflect the pain and suffering that I heard when I talked to people in the struggle, or in the military.” – Emory Douglas.

This is a great example of activism because it wasn’t based on social media or media at all, its message was spread throughout lower class communities via word of mouth. The Black Panther Party was proactive in their activism, and it started as a grassroots movement to simply help their communities. Before the party ended, chapters of the party were spread throughout the U.S. and even in Europe. Links to further learn about the Black Panther Party and their mission can be found below.




Stonewall Riots of 1969

Stonewall Riots of 1969

On June 28, 1969 in Greenwich village, New York at the Stonewall Inn violent riots broke out by members of the LGBT community in anger against the police raid that took place there. People were angered by the blatant discrimination they were being treated with by society and had finally had enough. 

Some of the most prominent figures of the riots included, Storme DeLaverie, a butch Lesbian and Drag Queen credited with throwing the first punch at cops during the riots. Other prominent figures include, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. Johnson was a Genderqueer and self-proclaimed Drag Queen often credited with throwing the first brick at the police. However, the historical accuracy of this is often debated. Rivera was a Trans Activist and also a self-identified Drag Queen who, like Johnson, was also credited with throwing the first brick at the police. Rivera was cited to be friends with Johnson as well. There has been a continuing debate on whether either of them were there at the riots at all in the first place.

A little bit before the Stonewall Riots, there was an emergence of the “Homophile Movement,” organizations demanding equal rights regardless of gender or sexual identity in the 1950s. The term Homophile, is translated as “Loving all the same” in Greek to show that LGBT activists would rather combat hatred with love instead of fight with the same hatred shown to them. Unfortunately, the organizations were conducted and enforced by majorly white men who focused on themselves and not on other diversities, gender, etc. 

Many of the original protestors were white men.

Fact: An interesting fact on the matter is that during this time, homosexuality was illegal in all states except for Illinois 

American leftists rebelled against the so-called American values that invoked hatred inside people by creating an Anti-Patriotic and Anti-Americanist culture. Society’s inability to stop the Vietnam War (1955-1975) was a contributing factor to people rebelling against America. The Gay Rights Movement prevailed soon after the Stonewall Riots and showed that many people had not yet given up on America with their determination to fight for equal rights for all. In this way, patriotism came in a new way from the people where they did not have to simply accept the norms of society as they thought, but instead to strive and fight to change it. Many could say that John F. Kennedy’s legitimization of social activism influenced people to take action in protests and activism. The Declaration of Independence was an important tool used by protestors to get their demands across.

“In 1968 a flyer distributed by activists asked: ‘Are we guaranteeing to all of our citizens the rights, the liberties, the freedom, which took birth and first form in the Declaration of Independence?’”(Hall, 544). 

While the Homophile Movement was led and mostly focused on white men, the Stonewall Riots were organized by a diverse range of people that were angry at the treatment they were receiving and the silencing of their voices. Some of the range of protestors and riot coordinators include, but not limited to:

  • Drag Queens
  • Street Queer Youth
  • Queer People of Youth 
  • Butch Lesbians 
  • Transgender People

The riots stemmed from the police raids that took place at the Stonewall Inn, which was also a Gay Bar, when people refused to leave the area passively. These people were tired of the common raids of gay bars as they fought back against the police. The bar was damaged as it was set ablaze and calmness was not restored until 3:35am. It has been reported that many of the protestors threw shot glasses and high heeled shoes at the police. 13 People were arrested and many were severely injured. Word of the violence spread rapidly through the mainstream media and gay press and the violence continued for the next three nights as the patrons fought for their rights to remain at the bar. 

More than 2000 protestors had confrontations with the police during the Stonewall Riots, which ended in much violence and the event came to be known as “Year Zero” in the Gay Liberation Movement. 

As an aftermath after the riots, during the 1970s, queer Canadians staged many protests, almost as an inspiration from the Stonewall Riots. Notable participants started STAR – Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, after the erasure of this identity from Stonewall Stories.

The Stonewall rebellion created a new wave of groups willing to take direct action against anti-homosexual organizations and LGBT groups were able to acknowledge homosexuality more than they were before. These riots managed to greatly contribute to the Gay Liberation Movement and help push society a step forward in their fight for equal rights for all individuals.

To learn more about The Stonewall Riots and be better informed about the Gay Liberation Movement, visit the link: https://stonewallforever.org

A Heroic Change



A Powerful POSEition


The Scene is Set

Our group chose the issue of the lack of representation of minority groups in comic books and how that can affect the readers. This includes people of color, women, individuals of all shapes and sizes, and the LGBTQ+ community. To complete this project, our group held a table at the Commons Mainstreet where students could come over and hear what we had to say. To attract more people, we had a large cardboard cut out of Groot (as seen in attached photos), a large collection of comic books provided by Mehr, and free merchandise from a local Baltimore comic book store called Cosmic Comix.

Our group invited people to the table and attempted to create a discussion and raise awareness and like any activist, we collided with negative comments, arguments from people we thought would be on our side, and differing opinions. Continue reading