In light of Black History Month, our Communications Coordinator Beverly Mtui has shared some of her knowledge and experiences with us concerning her activism. Alongside her position at WAVE, Beverly is an activist in the field of violence protection, women’s rights and gender equality, intersectional feminism and the empowerment of Black people and People of Colour in Austria.
We first asked Beverly how her activism relates to feminism. She told us that she has always been passionate about feminism, more specifically intersectional feminism. It is her belief that all women should be empowered and embraced, and given the space to express their lived realities and experiences. This is what she wholeheartedly stands for, she told us – and it is something that anyone working with her can confirm.
Beverly has the feeling that her activist work is also reflected in her environment and that she is having more and more conversations about feminism, for example, with people of whom she never would have thought it possible to talk with honestly and openly, or to be able to consciously deal with it together. Exchange, open communication and a willingness to learn, both from her side and her counterpart, give Beverly a lot of strength. Precisely these conversations have an unbelievably strong effect, she says, because they multiply, and the exchange is carried further.
“If we talk to each other and I then talk to another person about it, you talk to another person, and our conversation partners then pass on their knowledge, this creates an ever-growing exchange and an ever-growing awareness, which, in the best case, changes society for the better.”Beverly Mtui
Knowing that every single conversation can entail an activist component that multiplies when the person takes it further out into the world, gives Beverly an incredible amount of strength because she is constantly reminded of how accessible activism is and that we can all be activists.
We also asked Beverly who she looks to as inspirational figures within the BPOC community. She talked about Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality in 1989 to describe how race, class, gender, and more, overlap with one another, which to her also highlights the complexity of social injustice. Crenshaw explains that “Intersectionality draws attention to invisibilities that exist in feminism, in anti-racism, in class politics, so, obviously, it takes a lot of work to consistently challenge ourselves to be attentive to aspects of power that we don’t ourselves experience.” Beverly also mentioned Maya Angelou, a poet, writer, civil rights activist, and so much more, telling us she lives by her following words: “I am grateful to be a woman. I must have done something great in another life.”
“And that is precisely why I, as a woman, aim to work towards a world where all women can live a life free from violence and with equal opportunities, chances and treatment.”Beverly Mtui
We then asked our Communications Coordinator why she believes it is so important to have an open discussion about BPOC perspectives on feminism. She answered that when looking at feminism, it is important to draw attention to the question “who speaks for whom?” Women, as an entity, are not homogenous – we all face different lived experiences. It is thus crucial to represent and amplify those differences, Beverly explained. As Audre Lorde said: “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” However, if we only put at the forefront one experience, we not only silence the voices of so many women, but we also disregard, exclude and negate their lived realities. Beverly also gave us some recommendations for resources for people who might want to learn more about intersectional feminism and the BPOC perspective.
- Kimberlé Crenshaw: The urgency of intersectionality | TED Talk
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story | TED Talk
- Chandra Talpade Mohanty: Feminism without Borders. Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
- Angela Davis: Women, Race and Class
- Bell Hooks: Ain’t I a woman, Black Women and Feminism
- Audre Lorde: Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Finally, we asked Beverly what she believes people can learn from BPOC activists. She told us that we can all take away that in order to facilitate and encourage the empowerment of all women, it is essential to deconstruct existing power imbalances, rooted in colonialism and upheld by patriarchy, which allow for marginalised groups to be pushed into this marginalised position and remain there, and that it is therefore important to give space to BPOC activists to share their realities, experience and knowledge. Knowledge and knowledge transfer play key roles here. Particularly in activist spaces, we have to not only question which people are (not) given space to, but also which knowledge is conveyed, Beverly explained. If Eurocentric knowledge remains at the forefront, if only experiences and knowledge of white women or white feminists are highlighted, if only white voices are being amplified, she says, it gives the impression that realities and knowledge do not exist outside this lens and perception, outside this realm, which is awfully wrong.
“If we aren’t intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, are going to fall through the cracks.”Kimberlé Crenshaw
Written by WAVE Intern India Stotesbury, based on answers provided by WAVE Communications Coordinator, Beverly Mtui
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