The following are quotes copied out of How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective (Haymarket Books, 2017). How We Got Free is a series of interviews conducted and edited by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor with Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Demita Frazier, Alicia Garza. The book also contains an essay from Barbara Ransby.
We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face. –from the Combahee River Collective Statement, 1977
When I think about Black feminism, and I think about what we bring in terms of adding to the synthesis and creation of a new hybrid like socialism—I want to build new structures that help us to get people to feel that socialism is a juicy thing. –Demita Frazier
[T]he way affirmative action doctrine is positioned—that all the improvement in our status is based on the idea "that we are ‘evolving’ into better people because of integration,” a result of closer proximity to whiteness—and that this was about us ascending to new levels of competence, when in fact what it has really been about was a very, very, very tiny developmental surge forward on the part of white people, just beginning to confront the illusion of white supremacy. Because our competence has never been a question in my mind. Our brilliance has never been a question. Historically proven, for many, many cultures across millennia. –Demita Frazier
For me freedom is getting away from this sick Mammon-driven, nihilistic bullshit we call popular culture. –Demita Frazier
Our movements have to be composed of people from across the class spectrum and people who also have power. Right? If we want to compete for power, then part of what it means is we have to amass our power as a unit. And it also means we have to take some of theirs. That’s how you compete, right? You’ve got to break some of their folks and be like, “Which side are you actually on?” Right? And it also means that our vision for what a new society can look like has to appeal to more than just the intellectual class of activists and organizers. –Alicia Garza
What brings us together even though we don’t all share the same life? We share the same aspirations. We yearn for the same things. So what does it mean then for us to be in deep and principled relationship with each other? –Alicia Garza
[W]e don’t just want a seat at the table. We want the table. We want to decide who is sitting at the table. Right? And then maybe we want to get rid of the table. –Alicia Garza
[W]hen you attempt to dismantle a global system and a global organizing principle, there are all kinds of ways in which the state tries to discourage that. –Alicia Garza
[W]e’re in that place where we can talk as much shit about how fucked up things are, but when folks don’t know anything else they either don’t participate or they make the wrong choice because it’s safer than not knowing. You know? --Alicia Garza
When I think about political power I can’t separate it from electoral organizing. I do separate it from Democrats and Republicans. Electoral organizing is still a vehicle that most people participate in. And if it wasn’t important for Black folks to be in that, they wouldn’t try to take it from us. –Alicia Garza
The [Combahee River Collective’s] statement and the practice that surrounded it debunks the notion that so-called identity politics represents a narrowing rather than a broadening of our collective political vision. The document is antiracist, anticapitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-hetero-patriarchy. That is CRC’s Black feminist agenda. –Barbara Ransby
“Every revolutionary is motivated by great feelings of love.” –Che Guevara quoted by Barbara Ransby.
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Robert Gipe grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. He lives in Harlan, Kentucky.