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We Do Not Live Single-Issue Lives

In a talk delivered at Harvard University for Black History Month in 1982, Audre Lorde noted that “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” (“Learning from the 60s”, Sister Outsider138). She was reminding the students in the audience about a few things, not least of which is that we need to tell the history of struggles for justice and liberation in complex ways. She continues: “each one of us here is a link in the connection between antipoor legislation, gay shootings, the burning of synagogues, street harassment, attacks against women, and resurgent violence against women” (139). Building effective coalitions to fight the multiple injustices requires that we “commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work towards that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities” (138). Defining a just future takes all of us and requires that all of us to be allowed to participate.

Then, Audre Lorde was pushing the students to think about how homophobia and sexism work together to contain and diminish Black women’s contributions to Black liberation struggles.

Now, as we move into this year’s celebration of Women’s History Month, much of what she said then still rings true. We can see parallels in how transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and economic inequality have been used to silence and render invisible many women’s experiences and to make it difficult to survive. Look again, and we can also see the creative ways that women marginalized from the mainstream feminist movements find ways to push back, to speak, act, and be seen. As a university, our response to the organized hostility towards gender-affirming care for transgender folks, reproductive healthcare, debt relief, gun control, and just immigration processes, to name a few, tends to focus on research, classroom work, advocacy, and building supportive relationships with organizations and movements. Moving away from a “single-issue struggle” perspective remains challenging for many of us. But move we must.

As you participate in the many programs offered on campus this month, we ask that you hold Audre Lorde’s words close. We hope that you feel challenged and inspired by the many ways that marginalized groups of women—as learners, makers, thinkers, change agents—are leading contemporary struggles. They are shaping our understanding of issues about bodily autonomy, creativity, belonging, and the ability to participate more fully in families and communities. They can’t be ignored.

Here are some highlights from WLRC’s slate of upcoming programs. Check the calendar for much, much more!

Wednesday, March 1, Noon – 2 PM: Healing Mixtape, a collaboration with African American Cultural Center that creates a space for UIC’s Black students to heal through dialogue and creative expression.

Friday, March 3, 2 – 3:30 PM: Student X Parent – Putting UIC’s student-parents at the center of our conversation about community, advocacy and belonging. Dialogue with UIC units that work with student parents continues on March 30.

Wednesday, March 15, 2 – 4 PM: Sovereignty Is in the Body – A panel discussion about Indigenous communities and reproductive justice featuring Indigenous storytellers, nurse-midwives, healers, and activists.

Let us use these opportunities to move towards a more just present and future for all of us.

Take good care of yourselves and each other,
Natalie Bennett