Ami Worthen and Tangie Bowman at the YWCA in Asheville, cultural diversity and community action.

intersections on my path

Intersectionality guides me. Collective liberation requires undoing all systems of oppression. If our movements lack intersectional awareness we will fail. And failure is not an option, for, as Assata Sakur said to her fellow black freedom fighters, “it is our duty to win.”

For the past two decades, much of my work has been focused on exposing the dynamics of racism, and implementing strategies to dismantle it. My awareness of the unjust ways racism has benefited me and my ancestors motivates me to act. Knowledge is responsibility. The deep love I have for my friends of color fuels me to fight. We are interconnected and I am grateful to be in solidarity with them, and with others of all demographics.

Love is the why on every level.

Today for some reason I am compelled to share some of my personal history with you.

My passion for social justice began in junior high and high school in Hendersonville, NC in the 1980s, where I was fixated on the art and activism of the 1960s, which I idealized. My school was fairly balanced between blacks and whites, and I had friends and teachers from different races. My observations led me to write a paper entitled “White Privilege” (a topic I came up with). Justice was my beacon.

Community action in college
All for forests! At a protest in college (early 1990s).

As a student at Guilford College, I had Women’s Studies and Spanish minors and was a leader of the campus “Women’s Awareness” group, which advocated for women’s rights. My activism also included environmentalism and protests of U.S. b.s. in Latin America. Luckily, my professors at Guilford introduced me to intersectional feminism, starting me on that journey. One of my favorite classes was “Black Women Poets,” taught by Linda Beatrice Brown, a wonderful black female professor who guided us through works by Audre Lorde, Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, etc. It broke open my heart. The remarks I gave at graduation (1993) where strongly political (earnest idealism is clearly a through line in my life).
Ami Worthen Guilford College graduation speech, 1993
My first job out of college was at Planned Parenthood of the Triad, which further fueled my feminist fire.

In 1997 I began working at the YWCA of Asheville, whose mission at the time was “empowering women and eliminating racism.” The 16.5 years I spent at that organization shaped me in more ways than I can even introduce here. During my time at the YWCA my feminist stance stayed strong, and my antiracist orientation got much much stronger, leading me to be called to work outside of an institution.

Ami Worthen and Tangie Bowman at the YWCA in Asheville, cultural diversity and community action.
With Tangela Ballard-Bowman at the YWCA of Asheville (2000s).

My current projects have been mentioned along the way on this site. Primarily I write and collaborate on projects that illuminate, amplify and fortify leaders of color.

These days, I tend to concentrate on the areas where I am oppressor, and put less thought into my own oppression. (Even though you can’t really separate cis white supremacy from patriarchy.) While I often think about how sexism specifically impacts women and femmes of color, I spend less time considering how it impacts all of us.

Can I make more time to examine this? Am I exhibiting internalized oppression? What groups do I need to learn how to be a better ally to? While I honor the environment in my personal choices, can I be a more radical advocate for Mother Earth? So many questions.

Don’t worry, I am not going to analyze myself to pieces here. My intent in this personal sharing is to let you know me better, and to perhaps spark some introspection for you. Plus I want to name that I hope to bring more intersections into these writings.

That said, two recent articles that poke at pieces of the patriarchy are:

The female price of male pleasure,” The Week
Excerpt: “our entire society has agreed to organize itself around the pursuit of the straight male orgasm. This quest has been granted total cultural centrality — with unfortunate consequences for our understanding of bodies, and pleasure, and pain.”

The Boys Are Not Alright,” New York Times
Excerpt: “America’s boys are broken. And it’s killing us.”

To close, here is an interview with Erin Byrd at the CoThinkk leadership series from JMPRO TV. JMPRO TV has a lot of great content already up on their community channel (including the full talks from Michelle Alexander and Patrisse Cullors when they each spoke in Asheville), with more being posted all of the time.

More soon. As always, thank you.

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