Jennifer Abod

“The Movement Made Me Braver and Bolder.”

Interviewed by Kathy Rand, VFA Executive VP, August, 2020

JA:  My name is Jennifer Lynn Abod, I was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1946.

KR:  Before you got involved in the women’s movement what was your life like?

JA:  I left my suburban home in Illinois when I got my bachelor’s degree in Speech Pathology and Audiology from Southern Illinois University. Then I drove my mother’s pink Buick to Connecticut where I had my first teaching job at the Mary L. Tracy School in West Haven. It was a long trip, the longest trip I’ve ever taken by myself in the car, and I arrived in New Haven in 1969. I found a school to teach at in West Haven, as a learning disability specialist and I taught there for a while.

I had had a proposal of marriage before I left and my entire family wanted me to marry him. He was a nice Jewish boy who wanted to be a high school teacher in Wisconsin. The last thing I wanted to do was repeat the life that my mother and grandmother had. I didn’t know about my great grandparents, being Jewish everybody was kind of wiped out beyond that. I didn’t know what else was out there so I took myself to West Haven, Connecticut, started teaching, and made some choices that led me to the New Haven Women’s Liberation Movement and the rest of my life.

KR:  You mentioned being Jewish. What was your family’s background like?

JA:  My father was almost first generation Jewish. He came over from Tulchin Russia with his brother, sister, mother and father on the last boat that got out of Ukraine, Russia and arrived at Ellis Island. My grandfather was a tailor. My mother was first generation born to Max and Jenny Braun. He owned a paint company, the Braun Paint Company in Maywood, Illinois. My grandmother on my mother’s side came from Lithuania, she escaped on a hay cart with her sister. My grandfather, Max Braun, was maybe nineteen or something and left his mother in Poland. They both came over because of the pogroms but it was well before the Holocaust. They were able to establish themselves and met in Chicago on my parents’ side.

KR:  What was your childhood like?

JA:  My childhood was protected. It was protected in the way of Jewish would-be middle class parents who were really lower class. My father was a broker at the South Water Market with a lot of other Jewish guys. My mother loved her pink kitchen, she loved her pink. She loved her pink cars, she loved her kitchen. She was a lady. She was also incredibly sheltered and stuffed down like most women in that era.

So my upbringing was by people who were not particularly political, but felt the responsibility for taking care of children, providing for them, dressing them, caring for them, feeding them and just being whatever model of American mother and father is supposed to be. It was a fairly vacuous childhood from them. There was not a lot of input to my sister or me. My sister’s five years younger than me. It wasn’t a rich childhood, intellectually or culturally, but both my sister and I are very creative and found our ways to do things for ourselves that helped us survive a rather boring and uninspired childhood.

KR:  When you got to New Haven, how did you get involved in the women’s movement?

JA:  I had this proposal from this guy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I thought about it, I thought it could maybe be protective. Finally I said, no, this is not going to work. I can’t do this. Whatever happens, happens. And then I went to look for a boyfriend in a bookstore. I was in New Haven right near Yale. I found a Yale grad student and he took me to a party. He did me the biggest favor of my life because I said something in a group of guys and I said something fairly mouthy and he said something like, “Oh, you sound like one of those women libbers.” And I said, “What’s that?” He pointed out a woman with long hair who knows all about it and “warned me” they’re really crazy.

I walked right over there as soon as I could. It was a really wonderful experience. As she was talking to me – the smart, intelligent, long haired, long legged woman – a guy came up and asked her to dance and she said, “No thank you, I’m having a conversation.” He called her a snob, stuck up, and implied something was the matter with her. I was so pleased that she stuck up for the conversation, that I took some kind of priority over the guy. Then he said, “Well, what about you?” And I said to myself, that’s it. I asked about when the next meeting was and I went and have not turned back since.

KR:  What year was that?

JA:  Right at the beginning of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Movement. It grew out of the left, the American independence movement. I got to New Haven in the fall of 1969. I met people and it was not long before I started to use all of my creativity that I had naturally but had never been schooled in.

KR:  How did you get involved, what activities, what did you do in the movement?

JA:  All of the written material, those mimeograph sheets of paper were the Bible. It was hierarchies, the myth of a magical orgasm, the politics of housework, very accessible mimeograph things. As somebody who was in her early 20s, I was right where it needed to hit because I did not want any of that. But I had no analysis to understand what the culture had done to me to shape me into where I was supposed to go, not where I wanted to go. It was mind blowing.

I was released and went to the meetings and listened to these brilliant women. It was a combination of women from the community, working class women, schoolteachers, librarians, and all these first year Yale students, grad students. It was the first year that women were going to Yale. I met these Yalies, whether they were musicians or academics, who eventually helped to craft the law that led to Roe v. Wade. The first round of it was from these women at Yale. I met these wonderful women and got involved in things that I gravitated toward naturally.

The New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band was formed. I worked on a thing called the Liberation of Lidya, which was the first feminist community soap opera. I was Lydia. I fell in love with radio. Anne Hill had a program called “Up from Under” at Yale University, and she played Blues women and the tradition of the Blues. I was a feminist activist, political, cultural person and she interviewed me because of the band. I found my way to working on community radio at the University of New Haven. At Yale University I founded two radio programs, so I found my way to the rest of my life. I got a job at the country western station.

I had to get my FCC license so I was a radio broadcaster. I was a radio engineer, I wasn’t on the air in commercial radio. I was on the air in community radio. I did all kinds of feminist programs. One was, “Say It Sister” and the other was “Once You Get Started”. I would go to record stores to try to find women musicians to play on the radio because there were no women’s voices. The absence of the presence of women was blatant on my car ride to Connecticut, I heard it.

I got to New Haven and got all this information and realized there was nothing there. How could I fail if there was nothing there? No matter what I did it was better than what existed, which was nothing. The model for me was Susan Stamberg on National Public Radio. She was my generation’s Barbara Walters: I loved her storytelling and I patterned myself after her. I found my way to radio and my first relationship with Virginia Blaisdell, who was the drummer in the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band. She had an incredible brain and she was an incredible photographer. The woman who started the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band was Naomi Weisstein, a total brainiac, a fabulous scientist and a very funny woman in Chicago. They were really good friends.

I had very little confidence in myself, although I had a lot of hutzpah. That combination meant that when people started to notice and shower me with appreciation, it made me braver and bolder. I felt like I had a right to do it. The analysis helped me realize what I’d been carrying and it made me angry at the messages that I got from my father, from my uncle, my grandfather and my cousin. The messages about who I was were totally incorrect, it was the wrong mirror. But it took the women’s movement and personal relationships with people who showered support and adoration to make me realize what kind of love felt like from both sisterhood and an emotional of a recognition that I was lesbian, that I had been for a very long time.

I had been a lesbian since probably by the age of 10 had there been any way to identify it at that point. I hear kids now when they talk about transgender stuff and it scares me to think that’s a whole body change, not just a mental change, but I understand it. I can understand it is very complicated, it’s beyond my comprehension. Nevertheless, I buried what I was and who I was in relationships until I was 24. That’s a long time. Some kids are finding stuff now in high school. There’s a lot of misery in that burial because you’re not really fully yourself. You can’t possibly be yourself if you don’t fit into that stream.

I had things to claim, as we all did, we had to claim who we were and that hasn’t stopped. I’m 74 years old, I have a voice. I’m proud of what I accomplished, all the things that I’ve done and the things that I’ve shared because of feminism. I did radio for 19 years: public radio, community radio, commercial radio. I was the first talk show host in the state of Connecticut to have her own program for six nights a week, four hours a night, for four years.

KR:  Wow. What kind of show was it?

JA:  I interviewed everybody: Phil Donahue, Shirley Temple Black. I did a show called “La Traviata” in which I would do trivia with people on Saturday nights and have them answer phones. I was laughing and I enjoyed people, I enjoyed talking to them. New Haven was a small enough market, I think it was 69th market in the country, and I started out as an overnight D.J. I wouldn’t talk, just read the public service announcements and run the records and I was so bored. I started at one o’clock in the morning – it was the overnight shift.

I turned it into a talk show, brought people on – I actually had a transgender man on. I did feminist programs, they didn’t seem to mind too much. Then I did controversial programs. I interviewed David Duke from the KKK. These were not in person, there was a lot of online stuff because this is New Haven. I interviewed musicians like Marian McPartland the jazz pianist who is a wonderful, wonderful woman. I had the opportunity to talk to people that I wouldn’t otherwise. I changed Saturday night to be a trivia night and I would have people do trivia stuff.

By that time I had broken up with my partner who I had been with for nine years, and I was pretty much on my own. I taught in a public school and then I taught special education with kids who were autistic in a small school for children. I worked at the Yale drug dependency unit as an educational coordinator, providing educational programs for the adults who went to the methadone program and the teenagers who lived in a house in order to kind of kick the dope habit.

I was the education coordinator and provided that stuff, this was before I started doing the radio. On that job, I was outed and brought before the tribunal because they were worried that as a lesbian, I was going to basically assault or abuse the teenage girls in the program. I was full of piss and vinegar – I had feminism. I handled it however the hell I handled it and I stayed on there for about a year or two more. I can’t remember why I left, but I left. They didn’t fire me.

The women that I was working with decided to do an academic study on the treatment of women in drug treatment programs and the sexism that they experienced. We called ourselves the Women’s Health Advocates and we wrote the first research paper called the ABC’s of Drug Treatment for Women. I was doing interviews before I was involved with radio. I started working at a country western station and there was a job opening at WELI the station. That’s when I took the overnight job and turned it into a talk show that eventually got to be in prime time at nine o’clock at night.

I was on the front page of the New Haven Advocate and people did articles about me. I was a beloved talk show host and people were really sad to see me go. One of the reasons I left was because I was being outed on the air. This was not the time to be a lesbian in radio, let alone discussing feminism. It is now a right wing station, by the way. They tolerated feminism, but when the station manager left, he left somebody else that was not OK. I was getting calls at night trying to out me.

There was a guy from the drug dependency unit who knew that I was a lesbian because I was outed and he would call and play along with the trivia and then he would sneak in I was a lesbian and I’d have to do the delay. That started to get on my fucking nerves. I couldn’t do this job and be intimidated, but there was no lesbian movement to speak of that would help me out. Nobody was lesbian and gay on radio that I could think of in the whole fucking country.

Remember, I was an insecure person, even though I had a lot of hutzpah. I was not raised to buck the system in a large way. Maybe in a small way, because I’m Jewish, but not in a large way. I had broken up with my lover, I felt alone. Being in the closet and being absolutely a feminist, no question about it. No question. But being a lesbian and being out was not something that I decided to do. If I went back again to that particular place, I think that was the right decision.

KR:  What year are we talking about?

JA:  About 1977- 1980.

KR:  What did you do then? What did you do next?

JA:  I got a big job in radio in the fourth largest market in the country at WWDB in Philadelphia. I was there for nine months. That was really hard. There was a Boston talk show host there named Jerry Williams, who was a real prick and very popular. I had no support in Philadelphia at all. They said, if you want to make it here, you shouldn’t do any feminist programming. Even though it was a woman who hired me, Dolly Springer hired me. They were Republican women but they wanted me to succeed. But how am I going to succeed if I can’t do feminist programming?

So I tried. I had done news, I did political stuff like the Love Canal and other kinds of things, but I was really miserable. Angela Bowen, the love of my life, was in New Haven still. I did some good shows. I looked at some of those shows that I did and they were really excellent, but I was really miserable. I had no support and I left and went to public radio which was WHYY. Terry Gross was just getting started as an interviewer back then, and I was a snob and thought to myself, I’m a better interviewer than she is. I heard Terry Gross on “Finding Your Roots” with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. She was talking and she admitted when she first started she really didn’t know what she was doing. She wasn’t very good. And she wasn’t. But look what she is now.

I was happy to hide behind news and features. I didn’t want to be a public figure as a lesbian and a feminist. I felt I needed to go behind the scenes, behind the doors. In New Haven it was different, I knew the movement that was there. I didn’t know the women in Philadelphia. There was no movement that met me or greeted me or nothing. It was very scary. And I didn’t have my rocks, I didn’t have what I needed. It was very difficult. I had to choose between did I want to be a star in the world or did I want to be a commercial broadcaster? Did I want to be famous? The next Barbara Walters? Skill wise, I was in a position to think about that question. I realized it was just not who I was.

Going into public radio was great because I could do feature reports, news, I could sit over a tape recorder and do real editing and make stories and documentaries. I liked being part of the news department. It gave me free rein to go out and find stories and meet people and put the stories together. My creativity was in full force: I could use music, I could use talking, but I wasn’t the center of it except in my stories. One of the features I did was the search for the Hoagie or something like that. I did features that were fun and funny and personable that allowed me to meet people in Philadelphia on a street basis. That was really great for me, I loved it.

But Angela was in New Haven. She was planning on moving to Boston in 1982. I didn’t want to live in Philadelphia and that was not the city I wanted to wind up in. Her children’s one grandmother and a brother and a sister lived in Boston; she grew up in Roxbury. I made my way from Philadelphia to Boston and to the women’s movement in Cambridge. I began doing radio at the public radio stations in Boston, WGBH. At the time there was a feminist and lesbians who were working at WGBH. It was great. And then I worked at WBUR. I was the Susan Stamberg of Boston, I was the news and feature host for the five o’clock news hour in Boston, and I did news and feature stuff and it was really great.

The Boston Cambridge feminist community was different than New Haven because it wasn’t as close. We didn’t need each other quite as much. People had already begun finding their ways into their relationships in their homes, with their children or other kinds of things. I was older then too. It wasn’t the beginning of the women’s movement anymore. People were settling into jobs and professions and trying to make their way in the world with the consciousness of feminism. The Women’s Health Book Collective was in Boston. I met them and it was really great. Being a lesbian and being hidden just wasn’t working for me.

When I went to WGBH, I was able to be out, not on the air, but in my programming. I was able to do Pride and Prejudice being lesbian and gay on the job and in school. I did a whole panel discussion with people in the radio studio that was broadcast live. I did a series of programs that said the word along with everything else, the computer era and everything else. But it was another thing that was able to be interrogated. I was able to interview feminism and I did work on community radio and interviewed Black women and feminism because I was changing too.

Angela was a Black lesbian feminist who had come from the arts world and had committed almost 40 years of her life to dance as a Black woman with a family and in a community. I was learning how to be an ally as a white woman and also learning I needed to open my eyes to seeing through hers in the world. And I was learning how to be a partner with a woman with children. On a personal level my growth and my relationship with her was more important to me than anything else. At the same time, I loved radio and I used radio to share what I knew and to examine what I didn’t know. I had the skills and the experience to do it.

I was very lucky. I was in broadcasting and radio for almost 19 years. Angela met Audre Lorde before she left New Haven. One of the things I haven’t talked about was the New Haven of Liberation Rock Band, that’s the only thing that I left out of New Haven. In 1970 I was part singer and songwriter of the New Haven Women’s Liberation Rock Band, and we played all over the place. Because I was in radio and met Audre Lorde through Angela, I created what is called the radio profile of Audre Lorde in which I interviewed Alice Walker and Adrienne Rich and other people that aired on WGBH.

Angela and Jackie Alexander did the conference and we learned the cable stations began teaching courses for women in how the cable stations got video. I began taking those classes and I had done a couple of videos. By the time they did the conference for Audre I knew that we had to document it. They didn’t want it, they thought the camera would be interruptive of the conference. One night I just wound up crying on the floor in our apartment to Angela and said, you got to talk to Jackie. This is a historic, historic moment. We have to document this. They finally decided that I could, but I couldn’t document the small groups. That’s great. That’s how the film The Edge of Each Other’s Battles: The Vision of Audre Lorde, was birthed. I’m glad it was because there’s only three films about Audre Lorde while she was alive. Some of my footage is in both of those films. Mine took 10 years to do.

KR:  Do you live in California now?

JA:  I do. I live in Long Beach, California.

KR:   How did you get from Boston to there?

KR:  Angela and I lived with the children in Cambridge in order for her to make a living. She was a fund raiser for Katsumata Vazquez, which is a battered women’s shelter. She really needed to support her daughter who was going to college and needed to make more money. Angela had stopped going to college, she went to Emerson College in the ‘50s. She left college because her mother had died and she wanted to dance. She’d been a dancer since she was 14 years old so she left college and went to Europe and also to New York. I think she had completed two years of her bachelor’s degree at Emerson.

By the time she finished the 1990 conference for Audre Lorde she needed to settle down with something else. She decided to go back to school at the College of Community and Public Service at University of Massachusetts – best decision she ever made – to finish her bachelor’s degree. We were living in Brooklyn in a really nice apartment for the first time. It was suggested that she go for graduate school, but there was a brand new program just starting up, a PhD in Women’s Studies at Clark University, and one of her mentors suggested that she try for it. She became the first woman to graduate from the Women’s Studies program at Clark University and the second degree of Women’s Studies, PhD in the whole country.

She told me that if she was going to go for a PhD, that she was not going to get one unless I got one, too, because she did not want me to feel inferior. She was a very smart woman. I had a masters at the time, but I had very little confidence in that arena. So I went for a PhD and she went for a PhD. We both applied for jobs and got jobs the same week. Her’s was in Long Beach, California, and mine in Long Island, New York. We said, well, your ancestors were Caribbean, mine were Jewish Long Island, Long Beach. What’s the difference? We wind up on opposite ends of the country because we had to work, we had to make money. We owed money to a feminist who lent the four of us who organized the conference money. We had to pay back $5,000 each, we were bankrupt.

I had to get the job and she loved Cal State, Long Beach, it was so diverse. She felt right at home there. She was the first Black woman that they had hired in the 30 year program and the first out lesbian in the program. I was in Long Island and I was the head of the Audio Radio Program in Long Island. By that time I was out of radio and into video. Radio was moving into the computer as opposed to the reel to reel. I was like a relic and I had to teach from a book. I was not meant to be a teacher but I went that route because of Angela. Teaching to me was very painful, especially in Long Island, where everybody wanted to be Howard Stern. That was very difficult. I influenced a couple of students, I was there for four years and I did not want to go anymore.

I came to Long Beach in 2000. When I joined Angela and began to make my life here, I finished my film on Audre Lorde, which I worked on when I was at Hofstra. And I began a different kind of life because we were finally in the same room at the same time trying to make a way out of it. I was on a journey with her, which is what I wanted to be all along, that was the most important to me. I went through a lot to make that happen and it was the right decision, but it was not an easy route by any means. So here I am in Long Beach, what do you want to know?

JA:  I know you’ve done some films. You want to talk about them?

KR:  I’ve done some wonderful films. They educated me, they taught me, they encompass me, they saved me. The first film with Audre Lorde, I got everything filmed in 1990. I don’t even know when I started working on it. I was working on it when I was at Hofstra, it was 1996, and I finished it in 2002. For the last two years, I was doing it here, I was supporting Angela while she was going to school, I was a house frau, terrible at it, and working and supporting her as best as I could and working on the film and finished it here. The enjoyment of seeing it screened and having it appreciated and loved was magnificent.

Audre got to see the beginning of it and she wrote me a note and she said, I love what I see, Jennifer, but don’t forget the difficult stuff. Don’t forget the difficult parts. So Mama says something, you do it. That was very instructive. After I finished the film I wanted to look around to see what else I was going to do. I loved doing the profile. My company was called Profile Productions. What I did on the radio was profile women. I did radio stories about black and white women who met after they had both been reared in a cotton mill town called Cotton Mill Girls. I’ve always been interested in women’s lives and did a series of wonderful radio programs, which are timeless. I was always interested in learning and expanding my own way of thinking about things by hearing the stories of other women’s experiences that were different from my own.

One day Angela was sitting listening to a Louis Armstrong piece, digging that music in that white T-shirt that she was wearing, looking beautiful and so into that music. She was a dancer, she appreciated music, she could get in between the rhythms. I was looking at her, we’ve been together for 20 years by that time, and I knew all of her stories and I said, shit, I need to do a film about Angela’s life. I asked her and it took her about a year and a half, maybe longer, to decide whether or not she was going to allow me to do it. She had questions for me. Why do you want to do this, what’s the reason? All this other stuff. So finally I must have said something right because I let it alone and she said, OK. I’m so glad I did that film, she got to see it and love it.

When she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2010 she was able to see the film with her new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. She appreciated being able to see where she grew up – she loved the film. She only made one suggestion about the film ever. She let me alone. Amazing woman. I had selected a piece that was good but it wasn’t strong enough, and she said to me, I think you should use this other piece. This is a much stronger piece. Make sure you use that piece. That’s the only thing for all those years about that film. I asked her to do the narration and she asked why. I said, because part of this is your story and you need to tell it in your words. I wrote it and the last half of the film, you hear her voice telling her story. She cooperated with me fully and completely.

It was my journey to go on to be able to really understand the depth of what she had been through. The racism in the Women’s Studies department at Cal State, Long Beach was fucking horrible. All the stuff that she did at Cal State, Long Beach and what she was writing and what she was working on was just phenomenal. She turned and transformed those students and helped the students that never thought that they could possibly get a PhD to go on to PhDs and are now out there in the world teaching and doing all kinds of wonderful stuff. She was race baited by the white woman, Wendy Griffin, who was the head of the Women’s Studies department who was jealous of her. She went out of her way to try to give her tenure without promotion. She went to a dean and said, is it possible to give somebody tenure without promotion? And the committee was against her, but she was the power, so she had the right to give Angela tenure without promotion.

I wanted to sue them and she said, I’m not spending the last couple of years of my life teaching and dealing with a lawsuit. I’m here to teach the students and what I leave behind is what’s more important. I really had to learn how to accept that. When I made the film about her life, I was actually able to include that story in the film. And now that I’m working on her archives for Spelman College, there’s a journal called the Journal of International Women’s Studies, and they are going to do a special online journal totally devoted to Angela Bowen’s work and life.

My greatest wish for this is to somehow get Cal State Long Beach to either create a scholarship for students of color who are LGBTQ or have a chair named for her, I don’t know. But the school owes her something when it comes to talking about Black Lives Matter. They fucked up their relationship with a Black lesbian feminist because of a white racist woman who was jealous of this Black woman who tried to bring all kinds of stuff into the department. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, I don’t know if I can find anybody to help me do it, but I’ve got to try to do it.

The same thing for New Haven. When she was in New Haven, The Bowen-Peters School of Dance was the art and dance school in New Haven for 19 years in the Black community, teaching those kids. They went on to be judges and dancers, it was unbelievable what her influence was. There’s no street named after her. There’s no school named after her. It’s gone. I was with her for so many years and she made her voice known wherever she was. So I’m trying to live in that moment, to be as kind and considerate of myself as I can, but also to know that this is something I would really like to do. I want to get her dissertation published, she was the first to write a dissertation on Audre Lorde and was turned down by publishers at the time. She was a woman ahead of her time. It may take a little bit of an army to get her to live in a bigger way. I will do what I can to do that.

KR:  My guess is you’ll be able to. You’re a pretty determined person.

JA:  Well I’m 74 and we’re in Covid and isolation and all kinds of straights that we could never have possibly imagined. We are under Nazi regime proteges from the Nazi era. The president’s wife wears a costume that looks like Eva Braun, the mistress of Adolf Hitler, and is proud to get up and speak to an entire world looking like that saying what she has to say. This is what we face every day. The people in power have more money. This story is unwritten and yet yesterday I had this wonderful thing online. I was so happy they did it. It was “Women Take the Stage,” and Gloria Steinem was there and Lily Tomlin and all women and rock music.

They did this wonderful thing for about an hour that was like the old days when the rock band performed in front of the White House in front of the big marches. And we made music and we sang songs and we did it together as women. Women were playing their drums and singing songs and playing their electric music and electric guitars and people were speaking and urging everybody to vote. We need that uplift because everything is trying to push us down, every single thing is trying to push us down and as women, we’re prone to doing that ourselves.

When the culture is helping do that, they’re not going to push me down to the ground after all I’ve been fucking through. They’re not going to do that to me and I’m going to uplift every woman who starts complaining about the woman in the hairdresser who’s voting for Trump. I’m saying let her fucking vote for Trump. You’ve got other things to do. You’ve got other people to encourage and teach and be out there. And you need to uplift yourself.

KR:  Women are going to make the difference on November 3rd. There’s more of us, more of us vote. I think that we’ll be able to do what has to be done.

JA:  I want to live to see that, I really do. And then we can’t stop because that’s the danger. If Biden and Kamala are elected, we cannot stop because they’re right to center. We have to be a movement. We can’t just stop and say vote and then go back to the kitchen. You can’t do that. The young people can’t do that. The fact that the NBA and the WNBA are striking, that is very encouraging to me. This is bigger than the Black Panthers, it’s systematic racism. On the one hand, there is change in the air like never before, and on the other hand, doomsday is closer than it’s ever been before.

There’s poetry being written now that expresses it for me better than anything else and that’s what I’ve been doing a lot lately. I have two poems published in Sinister Wisdom, and I write poetry almost every day. I meet women poets who are really different from me, a lot of white women who are in a lot of pain because of the choices that they made with their lives. And there’s a lot of white women who are trying to find their own voice. They’re in relationships that aren’t giving them what they need because of the choices that they made and they’re not feminists, but they’re women who are recognizing that they need their voice.

I’m hoping that the new wave of worldwide feminism will allow them to reach out and see different ways out for their lives. I make it known that I’m a lesbian in any group that I’m in. There wouldn’t have been a suffrage movement without lesbians, there wouldn’t have been a suffrage movement without Black women. Black history is just not told. And women have suppressed it as well as men. It was 50 years ago yesterday the Women’s Liberation Rock Band formed.

Is there anything else that I want to say? I guess I just want to thank all the women who have been feminists for as long as I have and longer and for the new ones that are claiming that. It is so important to know the herstory to not take whatever rights you have for granted because the pain that you’re suffering is not your own. It’s so old. It’s so ancient. It’s so in the chromosomes and the genes of the world. Stick your head out of what your expectations are for yourself and find your allies, find them wherever they are. If it’s one person in the school, one person on the job, one person writing poetry, helping you to change your eating habits, helping you to take a run or a walk in the morning, we’re humans. We like people. Most of us like people, even the introverts. They can only be introverts for so long. So find your allies, do something important for yourself and whatever you can do for the world.