Photo of Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey on the right with image of the cover of the anthology This Bridge Called My Back on the left side.

[MEMBERS-ONLY EVENT] Virtual Book Club with Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey

Thursday 06 August 2020
6:30 - 8 p.m. New York Time

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Join us for a virtual book club led by activist/educator Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey to discuss the seminal feminist anthology This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (eds. Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa). This groundbreaking collection of personal essays, poems, criticisms, and more by Asian, Black, Indigenous, and Latinx women offers a vision of women of color coalition building that has inspired generations. Originally published in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back has been chosen for our virtual book club for its relevancy during a time of heightened reckoning with systemic racial injustice in America. We will revisit the revolutionary imaginings and teachings offered in the anthology to reflect on our own contemporary experiences. Asia Society members will be joined by members affiliated with NYC-based feminist collectives including our event co-hosts Asian American Feminist Collective and Black Women Radicals and our book club partners Collective Resistance and Sister Diaspora for Liberation. Feel free to register and participate in this event even if you haven’t had the opportunity to read the full anthology.

Our book club will focus primarily on discussing the following three essays: “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance,” by Cheryl Clarke; “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” by Gloria Anzaldúa; “A Black Feminist Statement,” by Combahee River Collective (Our book club host, Dr. Margo Okazawa-Rey, was a founding member of the Combahee River Collective.) Please find a reading guide below. 

This Bridge Called My Back…dispels all doubt about the power of a single text to radically transform the terrain of our theory and practice...This Bridge has allowed us to define the promise of research on race, gender, class, and sexuality as profoundly linked to collaboration and coalition-building.” — Angela Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of California, Santa Cruz

Gather with others online to reflect, discuss, and connect after diving into This Bridge Called My Back. We will start with an introduction from book club host Dr. Okazawa-Rey, followed by discussion in smaller groups of book club participants. Finally, all are invited to join in conversation and Q&A with the host.

A full description of the book can be found here. We will focus on the essays from the book so whichever edition of the text most easily available to you is fine to read. E-book copies are available for free online here and here. E-book copies may also be available to borrow from your local library.

This is a members-only event. Members must register to participate. If you’re not a member, please consider joining as a Friend of Asian Art to help us with our important work in Asian and Asian American art and culture. Please find additional information about Asia Society membership here.

About the book
“Originally released in 1981, This Bridge Called My Back is a testimony to women of color feminism as it emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Through personal essays, criticism, interviews, testimonials, poetry, and visual art, the collection explores, as coeditor Cherríe Moraga writes, ‘the complex confluence of identities—race, class, gender, and sexuality—systemic to women of color oppression and liberation.’”—SUNY press (4th edition)

About the virtual book club host
Professor Margo Okazawa-Rey is an activist and educator working on issues of militarism, armed conflict, and violence against women examined intersectionally. She is Professor Emerita at San Francisco State University. Most recently, she was the Barbara Lee Distinguished Chair in Women’s Leadership and Visiting Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Public Policy at Mills College in Oakland, California. Professor Okazawa-Rey serves on the International Advisory Board of Du Re Bang in Uijongbu, South Korea; International Board of PeaceWomen Across the Globe in Bern, Switzerland; and Board of Directors of Association for Women’s Rights in Development.

Organized by Asia Society in partnership with Asian American Feminist Collective and Black Women Radicals. Book club partners include Collective Resistance and Sister Diaspora for Liberation.

About our co-hosts
Asian American Feminist Collective engages in intersectional feminist politics grounded within our communities, including those whose backgrounds encompass East, Southeast, and South Asian, Pacific Islander, multi-ethnic, and diasporic Asian identities. Through public events and resources, we seek to provide spaces for identity exploration, political education, community building, and advocacy.

Black Women Radicals (BWR) is a Black feminist advocacy organization dedicated to uplifting and centering Black women’s radical political activism. Rooted in intersectional and transnational feminisms and Womanisms, Black Women Radicals is committed to empowering Black radical women and gender non-conforming and non-binary activists and centering their political and intellectual contributions to the field of Black Politics across time, space, and place in Africa and in the African Diaspora.

Reading guide 
Essays to cover
• “Lesbianism: An Act of Resistance,” Cheryl Clarke
• “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” Gloria Anzaldúa
• “A Black Feminist Statement,” Combahee River Collective

• What strategies and visions for coalition building were offered in This Bridge in 1981? Now reflecting in 2020, how have we been guided by or strayed from these strategies and visions? How can we continue to learn and build bridges of solidarity and understanding across differences (including across race, class, gender, and sexuality)? How can/do we initiate a process (or processes) of personal and political decolonization?
• How are relationships, intimacies, and kinships being conceptualized? To ourselves, to each other, to families? What are the challenges of creating and deepening these relationships, intimacies, and kinships?
• What is the vision presented of the future? How do pasts inform the future? (What are the roots of our radical futures?)
• In our feminist praxis and understandings, who are we not seeing, centering, and including? How can we learn from the wisdom and the mistakes of our feminist forerunners so that in the present and future, we won't leave anyone behind?
• How can we integrate and center self-care and mental and emotional health as critical tools for both personal and political transformations?
• How can we learn from family/intergenerational trauma? What are some ways we can communicate our pain and trauma in political ways?
• This book as well as the Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press emphasize the importance of having full creative ownership and control of their voices—how does that shine through in this anthology?

Additional suggestions, feminist histories
• “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick,” Pat Parker (has resonances with “Learning from the 60s,” Audre Lorde)
• “Asian Pacific American Women and Feminism,” Mitsuye Yamada
• “Across the Kitchen Table: A Sister-to-Sister Dialogue,” Barbara Smith and Beverly Smith
• “An Open Letter to Mary Daly,” Audre Lorde

Additional suggestions, fibers of experience
• “La Güera,” Cherríe Moraga
• “Gee, You Don’t Seem Like An Indian From the Reservation,” Barbara Cameron
• “…And Even Fidel Can’t Change That!,” Aurora Levins Morales
• “Letter to Ma,” Merle Woo

Additional suggestions, poems (approx. 1–2 pages each)
• “The Bridge Poem,” Donna Kate Rushin
• “I Walk in the History of My People,” Chrystos
• “When I Was Growing Up,” Nellie Wong
• “on not bein,” mary hope lee
• “For the Color of My Mother,” Cherríe Moraga
• “Dreams of Violence,” Naomi Littlebear