Following our Leaders: A Series by co-founder Dr. Leonina Arismendi
“No one shows up for us like Black Women show up for us!” was last week’s theme for folks involved in the National Black Mama’s Bailout conversations. These words echoed both before and after our friends and amazing activists Kyla H. and Serena S., both leaders of Southerners on New Ground’s Durham chapter, chained themselves to their local jail’s door in protest as the judge refused to release Black moms being kept away for as little as $100 worth of bonds.
As we watched our Comrades putting their precious bodies in the line for us all over Facebook live, the pouring of love and support came in swiftly and — as always — mainly from Black and Brown women.
This sentiment is as timeless as the work that Black and Brown women have been doing for our collective Liberation.
Due to white supremacy and its little sister white feminism (which white-, pink- and rainbow-washes every effort made by our sisters and siblings of Color,) a less-informed person might assume that Feminism isn’t a top priority for WOC. If you think that it is because society is inherently 100% of the time engaging in some sort of colorism or out-right mysogynoir. The people who have no idea Feminism belongs to Black and Native Folk are surface-level liberationists, ignoring the intersections of one’s gender identity, race, sexual preference (or lack thereof), and physical/mental abilities. More importantly, how our identities running parallel to revisionist history, inform not only our world view but how the world views us. This creates the illusion of a homogenous class devoid of real nuance due to these reactionary tactics of class reductionism.
At this point in history we know of problematic faves like Susan B. Anthony, who used Black Suffragettes work and support with no intention of making voting for women something for ALL women or ALL people in general. Instead, she famously said that she’d rather have ‘her hand cut off than see Black men given the right to vote before white women.’ Anthony lived the rest of her life as a racist white woman. A more modern example is Alyssa Milano, overtaking decades worth of Tarana Burke’s Labor, highjacking her entire movement for a reality show and and peddling Washington Slurskins sport tee shirts on her website. Milano spends her white life ‘advocating’ for people who wish she would shut up, pass the mic and self crit already. Knowing all this, with information readily available, people still see feminism as a ‘white girl only sport.’
We at Saint Solaris see and feel these disrespects deeply and our deepest mode of practice is rooted in Womanism, eschewing Western (read White) Feminist notions. Particularly, to those Feminists of the Second Wave: Trans exclusion and Sex Worker exclusion is not feminism. It is harmful and rooted in ingrained, unresolved patriarchy, racism, transphobia and unchecked privilege.
We pursue the clients whom we observe and have found not just ‘unproblematic’ but radically inclusive, competent among many cultures, and socially savvy—something that the Democratic Party has been failing to do for a long time here in Virginia. Alternatively, we have clients who have pursued us in search of improving in those intentions.
When a political candidate approaches us, we give them a short questionnaire - a pop quiz of sorts - to see where their political and social practices fall. Then we have one on one coffee meetings with the potential client and, later, their team.
Our vetting process keeps the Saints safe, as our co-founders and contractors are folks of impacted communities and should never be subject to nonsense. This process also ensures that we are not leveraging our power and reputation as The Radical Agency nor endorsing people/organizations that have no business representing or interacting with our community.
We take to heart everything Mama Pat, Auntie Angela, Sister Marsha and our Lorde Audre have taught us through their analysis and praxis and from there we try to live our very lives (in and outside of ‘work’) to further The Resistance. As our path to Liberation continues, please join us in reading about incredibly rad, emulation-worthy Leaders of the Resistance here in Richmond, in our state of Virginia as well as nationally and internationally too! Our Diva Beyonce told us to get in Formation - let’s do that by first watching and following our Leaders. Together. Ready to go Rad too?