THE VFA PIONEER HISTORIES PROJECT
“What do we bring to the table for all of us that collectively has some impact on the next generation that’s coming up?“
Interviewed by Judy Waxman, January 2022
JW: Please give us your full name and when and where you were born.
MC: It’s Mandy Carter, born November 2, 1948 in Albany, New York.
JW: Great. Tell me about your childhood and the influences that led you to be who you are.
MC: It was me and Dolores and my brother Ronnie, who is one year older than me. When I was born in 1948, our mother got up and left and never returned. Me, Ronnie and Dolores became wards of the state of New York. I was put into the Albany Children’s Home Society in Albany, Black Foster Family in Chatham Center and then back to the Schenectady Children’s Home until I aged out at 18. This is in Schenectady, New York. I always add that because I think whenever we have the conversation about who we are and what we do [it] would influence me.
The most important thing they did at the Schenectady Children’s Home was they put me into the public school system. A lot of those places don’t do that now. I graduated in 1966, so that’s ’64, ’65, ’66 and Schenectady is the home of GE. We had a high school teacher, Jack Hickey, who brought someone into our social studies class, this group called the American Friend Service Committee – never heard of it. But because of them, I’m in this conversation with you today because of that one high school class and one of the young white guys who came in and talked about the Quakers.
That was the genesis. But I would say that there’s more than that when I look back and the other one would be my Spanish teacher. I wanted to be a doctor and you had to take a foreign language. We had German, French and Spanish. The first two were not going to happen. I flunked Spanish and because I flunked Spanish, it freaked me out because I couldn’t get into a four year [school]. I knew it.
I didn’t know what I was going to do after you age out at 18 at the children’s home. Then I realized later that it was a blessing in disguise because I couldn’t get into a four year. But [I got into] that high school work camp. This is the other thing about the young gentleman who came in. The Quakers at the time were a predominantly white organization. They were figuring out how they could help the organizing down south with the civil rights movement. And even though he was, I think, a young staffer, this is Albany, New York. But he talked about the concept of equality and justice for all.
Then he said this thing about the power of one. Like we all have a moral compass. I didn’t pay attention to that at the moment, but he said, we have a high school work camp in the Pocono Mountains, who would like to go? That is what changed everything. And they still do that. But when they had the high school work camp, it was maybe ten of us. It was 1965. I was a junior in high school. The people they brought in, is what made the difference.
Well, they brought in Guy and Candie Carawan from the Highlander Center in Tennessee, and they talked about what they were doing as folk singers. They called themselves culture workers. I never heard that before and I hadn’t heard of the Highlander Center, but they said they were taking a tape recorder and they were going down into Alabama, Mississippi, and they were recording the Freedom Songs and the Freedom Meetings in those black churches. And that is now all at the Smithsonian.
But they said when they were doing that – and there were white allies, too, folks think of Baez and Dylan. But it was just the way they talked about it. And they’re real humble. They said that one of the groups they recorded was the Freedom Singers. That was Bernice Johnson Reagon with Sweet Honey In The Rock. What are the chances that would be the thing? So that was junior year in high school. I flunked Spanish. And the Home said, “Mandy, we know you want to be a doctor, and if you want to go to school, we’ll help pay for it, whatever you need to do.”
This is amazingly unusual. I couldn’t believe it. But then it was too late. I was so struck by the Quakers, and I thought, I don’t know. I went to Hudson Valley for a semester. and I said, I don’t want to do this. And you won’t believe this, but in the summer of ’67, I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor. I’m going to just go to New York and see if I can figure out what I want to do with my life.
And everyone was in New York City during the summer of ’67. And I was sleeping in Central Park. That was the summer of love. I was walking on Hudson Avenue in West Village, and there was a sign on this building that said Free Lunch. And the name of the group was called The League for Spiritual Discovery. Timothy Leary ran that little storefront, LSD. I spent my entire summer living on a mattress in that place for the summer ’67. It was one of the best summers of my life. Couldn’t believe it.
They said, we’ll let you stay here if you answer the phone at night for anyone freaking out on acid. If they have a bad trip, tell them what they can do. Niacin and vitamin B will bring you down. That was my summer. But it was like Janice Joplin in East Village and Jefferson Airplane and going down to Greenwich Village. It was one of the best summers and at the end of the summer, two friends of mine said, well, why don’t we hitchhike to San Francisco? Everyone’s going to San Francisco.
We hitchhiked out to San Francisco the summer of 1967. Went up to Haight Ashbury. You could smell the incense and people were barefoot and they had a switchboard and we walk in and said, “Well, where can we stay?” “Well, we have a Rolodex file and anyone coming to San Francisco, we will hook you up with someone.” And they pulled a card. I got Vincent O’Connor from the Catholic Peace Fellowship. What’s the chances of that?
We can make a movie. But I guess the only reason why I say that is because that summer Scott McKenzie just passed. Remember that song, If You’re Going to San Francisco? He was commissioned to do that because so many people were going to San Francisco. But that song was wonderful. Every place we stopped, there was a jukebox and we played that song. It was like the number one song and it just set such a tone.
Anyway, we got there. Vincent O’Connor, I ended up staying with him. If you remember, the Vietnam War was starting to happen and we’re in San Francisco and you have the Oakland Induction Center. And King gives his famous April 4, 1967 speech about questioning the war in Vietnam. And it turned out that Vincent O’Connor was a draft resister.
And down in the Institute for the Study of Nonviolence with Joan Baez and Ira Sandpearl and Roy Kepler, they were organizing the first ever CD (civil disobedience) action at the Oakland Induction Center in October. Stopped the draft week. I didn’t do it in October, but I ended up going to jail in December of ’67 with Joan and her mother and some other women.
That got me my job with the War Resisters League in 1969. I’m fast forwarding. But that wasn’t just me. I’m intrigued about why I was willing to do this for you, that was a generation. I’m just sitting here thinking about why, where, how, but more importantly, why are we still here? I’m still here. You’re still here, Holly’s still here. And you have another generation saying, well, who are you all and what are you all doing? And can we be a part of that? And can we be a part of you?
JW: And that’s why we’re doing this. We want to hand off the baton to the next crowd. When did you get interested in women’s concerns?
MC: I think it was a combination of two things. Being in the Albany Children’s Home which is now Mills Junior College. I know that place like the back of my hand. I think it was because having no mother and never having a family, being in orphanages, children home societies. I think one reason why I’m an organizer is because you got up at the same time. You went to bed at the same time. You went to school at the same time. It was sort of a sense of how do you move ten or twelve children in a way that makes it okay to get through the day.
But that kept in my mind about organizing. Maybe it’s because I never had a real mother. I would always look at people, like when I saw Guy and Candie Carawan, I thought there was a white woman as a folk singer and look what they were doing. Then you had people like Baez, who was a folk singer, but gosh, she was down in that civil rights movement, like at 18 with King.
I think the other part was coming out as a lesbian in San Francisco. Two things is, like in the antiwar movement, because you have the draft, it was always about the men, like what men could do, what we said. But you have a lot of women. They weren’t drafted, but a lot of women served in Vietnam. A lot of them were lesbian, you know, and having their stories to come back and hear about what was happening to them.
But I also think of the role models that I had. Audre Lorde would certainly be someone like identifying as black. I mean, when you’re raised in an orphanage, there’s not like a mother or father, none of that, but it’s who’s around you. I’m not sure if I’m articulating that well, but I think the other reason was in San Francisco at the time, the Black Panthers were starting to become really well known.
And what I was struck by is the male dominance of the Black Panthers, but also the male dominance of the draft resistance movement. We went to a meeting once and I was there and some other women and one of the women, they were passing around a sign-up list, and she said, there’s nothing but penises on this list. One of the best stories I ever heard, because that was all male.
Remember that Joan Baez poster: “Girls say yes to boys who said no?” Really? Oh, no. But the feminist stuff was coming up in San Francisco, too. And then the huge debate within NOW, no lesbians here. God forbid. All those things just seem to – and I’m sure you could probably identify with a lot of this, but this was happening.
But I think for me, the defining women around women there, was really nice. There was a group called A Call to Resist. If you wanted to resist the war in Vietnam and you’re not a male going in because you get drafted or you want to serve, how could people who could not be serving still play a role? And they said if you were a woman or even Benjamin Spock – he was one of the first people indicted for aiding and abetting – if you want to figure out how we stop this war in Vietnam, what role for those of us who can’t be in direct combat, could we play.
All of a sudden, we said, “I’ll sign up, and if it means that I’ll advocate for draft resistance, I can advocate why you shouldn’t go.” And you had a lot of the movement around that, a lot of women came to the forefront around that and elder men as well. But I think after the Benjamin Spock indictment they realized that was a big mistake. How many baby books are out there in people’s homes? But that was a game changer. But women have always been just fascinated about the roles they played and the importance of it and how also women are more apt to say, how do we make it a collective we? It’s not just about me, and I like that. So that would be some of that.
JW: Were you involved in women’s organizations?
MC: What happened was even though I hitched out in ’67 and I was living with Vincent O’Connor, he had several people with him. But when a job came open at the War Resisters League – founded by three women, by the way, in 1923 – the grounding of that organization, it turns 100 in 2023. When you had the three women, right from the very beginning, the women founded it. But how the War Resisters [got started] as a pacifist organization – and they have an international component as well. It was always a question of how do you individualize how each person can have a role; how [do] they remove their individual complicity [to become] part of a movement or something that could make change.
Because I’m strictly a pacifist and a Quaker in that sense, it was like, what role can women play within war, but not just within war militarism? Then all of a sudden, it’s like, why are all the men getting this? And what about women and equality? Following that kind of pattern and thinking of people like Coretta Scott King and Rosa Parks, but there were more women just day to day people like NOW chapters and feminist groups had to start popping up because NOW was so homophobic about “no lesbians here.” And I said, well, where can I go with my activism and environmental stuff?”
JW: Where did you go with your activism?
MC: Randy Kehler, who was one of the people who was organizing with War Resisters League West, went to jail, and I got a job at WRL in 1969. That was the beginning. But they had a staff – you didn’t have like an executive director. There was a staff that all worked together. And being in San Francisco at the time, how do I describe this? A lot of the guys were going off the jail because they were resisting the war. You had more women being in both roles. That was interesting. Remember the war effort, all the women had to come in. But that happened in the movement as well. All of a sudden, women were running the movement. But then the women’s music festivals, I can’t say enough about what role they ended up playing.
JW: Well, talk about that a little.
MC: I remember at the time in San Francisco, it’s interesting because it was like Jefferson Airplane. It was all the not hippy thing, but Jefferson Airplane, Janice Joplin, who else is in San Francisco, that whole scene, that sound. Then you had people like Holly Near, even though she was doing things with Jane Fonda. But it was women like that who figured out how do we get the message of peace and equality and justice? But through song, through dance.
The women’s choir started up. You have the gay men’s choir, the women’s choir, and all of a sudden, even within the gay and lesbian community, like The Castro and the lesbians and Maud’s, there was something about if I can organize and make change, how can I do it without having to stand in the street with a sign or going to jail? Like what would be the connectors? And then you begin to think, well, wait a minute, song has always been a part of every culture; I think in the Indigenous community.
Also, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta in the farm workers movement. Oh, my gosh, the songs and the dances. It was a wonderful mix. But then realizing the role of women in all that culturally. But the women’s music festivals have to go down as one of the keys. With a cultural shift, you had a place to go home. When you had a place where you didn’t have to be on guard all the time and you had them popping up all over. And then they’d have the workshops. And I remember going to Michigan.
That was the one that I almost had a chance because I didn’t realize that they were getting near the end. But a group called Ladyslipper Music was here in Durham when I moved here to get a job with WRL in 1982. And because Ladyslipper was here, they were the ones doing all the records and selling all their products to the women’s music festival. I got to be a part of that circuit and worked for Ladyslipper for a while. But that meant all those performers, everyone from Holly Near down to anybody, comedians and you have all the people selling jewelry. But that whole cultural thing of women’s music festivals and women’s culture had a huge impact, not on me, but on our generation because that was it. That was just amazing.
JW: What were some of the main concerns you had, the specific concerns on women’s issues?
MC: For me as a Black woman who really believed in anti-war and quality of life and also being a Black lesbian and being out and visible and also just the roles the lesbian bars played. I’ll admit alcohol has always been a key issue in my opinion about those bars because that’s the only place you go to. I would say in terms of my age, I had to wait until I was 21 to go into Maud’s lesbian bar. That bar is still there. It’s now called Finnegans Wake. We do some reunions.
But I remember when I first went in there what I was struck by at the time, unless you own that bar, no women could be bartenders and that was a lesbian bar. Where did we get the bartenders? Castro Street. All of a sudden, the gay bars, the gay men bars and the lesbian bars, what we realized is that in order to own a bar you had to get a liquor license. The ABC (California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control) had such a control over it, you cannot have any women behind the bar and you have to have this and you have to have that.
But when the bars had to start ordering their alcohol…they start to realize all the business these queers were giving their businesses and then all of a sudden – there you go. And we formed a thing called Rikki Streicher. It was a network of all the gay men bars and the lesbian bars. There were twelve of them. And San Francisco isn’t that big. Some of the companies said, I guess we have to sell the liquor to someone. It went from that, to no, we want your business.
But it was called the San Francisco Tavern Guild, that had such an impact on the ABC. You cannot come in and tell us, you can’t be dancing together; you can’t do this and you can’t do that. And people started saying, well, you’re going to step on my rights just to be who I am in these bars. And they had little lights flick when the cops would come in, because if you’re having two women dance together, you’d grab a guy.
It was just crazy, just nuts. I don’t know what New York was like. But then people said, this is so wrong. Like, what’s up with this? And then when the bartenders got together and said, “Well, maybe we have more control about who we get the jukeboxes from and the cigarettes and the pool table.” And for the people who said, ew, queers, it went to, oh, no, we need your business. What do you need from us?
And we said, here are some things you might want to think about. Then you had to figure out Harvey Milk. I remember distinctly, Harvey Milk. We cannot have this many people living in the city of San Francisco and not have anyone down at city hall representing us. And people said, why bother, Harvey? We’re doing great. You know what I mean? It was like that was the response. It’s like, no, we’re doing fine. Who cares? I couldn’t tell you where city hall was if you told me where it was.
And then the murders of Harvey Milk and George Moscone. Why did it take that? Why that? And the same thing with the civil rights movement. Why does it take the murders of people to figure out this is so wrong?
I’ll tell you the moment we had to meet at the corner of Market and Castro. And we said, we have never gone down there. We had to get the bartenders from The Castro and behind the scenes because those bar owners of all those gay men bars and Rikki and stuff, they had a clue. When we got down there, we said, why did it take this? I remember Holly Near had to sing that amazing song (“Singing for Our Lives”). And we walked down.
And I have to tell you, that moment is where I think we are now. It was like that moment, oh, my gosh, this is really about more than just being queer and being women. Women had to go through the same journey. People of color had to go through the same journey. It’s just been this interesting parallel, and we’re still here.
JW: I’m just going to say that we’re still doing it. When you said, why does murder have to happen? Why is it all over again?
MC: Let me ask you, why do you think that is?
JW: I wish I had a good answer, but it’s happening in front of our faces.
MC: You got it. George Floyd. How long did it take? You don’t think that’s happening? I’m just sitting here. And on the other hand, I was just on another call. Resistance and resilience. I’m thinking about the Holocaust, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment camps, the inhumanity that people do. Man’s inhumanity to man. And then you think about what is it that just keeps us – and that’s what excites me.
Demographics are shifting. They know it and they’re freaking out and they don’t know what else to do. When you look at it that way, then it’s all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, no, bring it. Let’s figure this out. I was on a call with some 18- to 40-year-olds who are more than us baby boomers. They thought now is the moment, and there’s an intentionality of what we’re going to do about it. And then you ask the what, the where, the when, the wow. And also making sure the power of one. Every one of us. What are you going to do? I am ready in 2022.
JW: Can you give me a couple of anecdotes, individual stories of something that happened to you that fit in this theme?
MC: There’s so many. But I think that summer in ’67 being in the League for Spiritual Discovery. I’ll go back to Candie Carawan. I met her and Guy when I was 17. We are now in a thing called the National Council of Elders together. I thought and I remember sharing that with her and we’ve been on Zoom calls and I said, Candie, we need to figure out how we do one of these conversations. Because she would just be one example of how many individual people who bumped into your life and how they had a lifelong impact on you. But we’re still here.
One of the things I love to share when I do a lot of talking: I’m impressed with women – they always do their meetings in circles. I remember that. I thought that was such a unique feminist way of how you do meetings and not because I’m an individual, but when you meet. So rather than I’m standing up here and I’m going to talk to you sitting in these chairs, we’ll sit in a circle. Part of that came from some of the women in the War Resisters League.
But it’s also the influence of the Quakers, a little bit of some of the Black churches. Bottom line, Black women run those churches. It ain’t the men. Black women run those churches. When you realize the roles and how many Black women have been [involved], and oh, we don’t talk about you. We have to talk about King. Each movement seems to have its own. And when do we start talking about women and other people not being male dominated or how much money you have in power, I think it’s been more of individual incidences of that. That might be a key.
But it would be someone like a Candie Carawan. Barbara Smith with Audre Lorde starting Kitchen Table Press. When she decided to run for the Albany City Council, I remember she said something like, “Well, I really consider myself a Black feminist, a lesbian. Does it really matter? And she said, “Maybe it does matter. I’m going to run for City Council.” And she won. Then she said it was interesting because I think of this notion of changing hearts and minds and public policy and how those two connect together.
She said, “If anyone would have told me that Barbara Smith would want to run to be a city Councilwoman, I’d have said you’re nuts. And she did it.” And she said, “Now I learned my lesson.” One of the co-founders of Southerners on New Ground, Joan Garner, she recently passed, but she was doing organizing with a foundation called the Southern Fund for Southern Communities. She wrote a book called Robin Hood Was Right about nonprofits and how nonprofits oftentimes when you’re looking at social change, are we following what we need to do or are we following what they want to do because that’s where the money is?
But Joan Garner ran for Fulton County Commissioner and she got it. Hearts and minds public policy. Individuals like Rosa Parks or Septima Clark or even Dolores Huerta, who is now a part of the National Council of Elders and the role that she played. So just women and also women not being afraid about lesbians being in their midst. There’s not that concern as much. Lesbian feminist movements and young women now. Now they’re gender neutral and I can’t keep up.
Being an organizer, there are so many meetings we’ve done. I would tell you one that would really be important, the Seneca Women’s Peace Encampment that happened. We were doing a lot of [protests about the deployment of] missiles after Vietnam. Because after Vietnam War ended, a lot of people went back to school. They started their families. But you had a lot of people, like there was a whole movement in the New England States. There was a freeze. It was a nuclear freeze and ending power plants. Seabrook, and there were other names.
A lot of people who were Vietnam era, they would then go on to move into other areas of organizing, like Central America, what was happening in South Africa. But a lot of women were trying to figure out if I’m a feminist or a lesbian feminist in those values. Where can I take my organizing to the next level? Where could that be? And being in San Francisco before I moved to Durham, North Carolina, a lot of that was around the Panthers. A lot of it was around cost of living. One of the striking things that I’ll just raise that caught my attention was the Black Panthers were doing some incredible work in organizing in Oakland and the East Bay.
How did they end up with guns on the state capitol steps in Sacramento, like “off the pigs”? What happened there with the Panthers? And the notion about how male dominated it was. And then, of course, you heard that our movement had a lot of infiltrators, like people coming in to try to change the track, like Weather Underground. And I thought people tried to do that with the peace movement as well. Was that intentional? What was that about? But I remember the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers with the guns on the steps of the state capital.
And then as a Black woman being told, well, you have to support them because you’re Black. No, I ain’t supporting nothing about no guns. Like what’s that going to do? But women got into that too. I’m looking at you, I’m sitting here, we’re in an interesting moment, because it’s just so…Collectively, we’ve been in that space and then there’s the role of women and how they’ve oftentimes been the deciders of what we’re going to do next.
But also the principles and the values and how they’re not just ours: we keep on passing that on generationally; try to stay in touch with each other. [And now there are new problems] in terms of farming; we have housing and co-housing and where am I going to live the rest of my life and tell me whatever it might be. I might be getting off track, but I’m just struck by that.
JW: It’s interesting. When did you move to Durham?
MC: I moved to Durham in 1982. I got my job at the War Resisters League in ’69, and I stayed there until 1973. And part of the reason why I moved away is, I love San Francisco, but quite honestly, it was the bars. I was just hanging out and it was just too much drinking going on. But also, things were changing in San Francisco and also for my journey as an organizer, I thought it might be nice to go down and get a job because they had a WRL down in LA. I said I’d take a job in LA.
But one of the key moments and I have it here. The 50th anniversary conference of the War Resisters League happened in Pacific Grove. We had a conference. It was the 50th anniversary. And Roy Kepler, who was one of the World War II resisters. This is an interesting point because Vietnam and King’s speech on April 4, 1967 is a key moment, because he talked about not only Vietnam, but he talked about economic justice issues. When he gave that speech at Riverside, he had a lot of pushback from the traditional civil rights movement.
“King, why are you talking about that? We’re only talking about the civil rights movement down south.” And someone said, “No, it’s about the war in Vietnam because all Black men either were being drafted or if they went to jail, they had an option before the judge. The judge would say, ‘Nam or jail, what’s your choice?” And the impact of that happening in court after court in California meant that a lot of Black men were not going.
They believed in Vietnam. That was the option they were given because everyone who knew how to get out of the war, a lot of white folks – because I had all these determinants. But then King said, “Why are we going to send Black men 8,000 miles away to another country of color and kill them in the name of democracy? We don’t even have it at home.”
It was a defining moment. And because generationally when he made that comment, I was what, 14 years old. But when he talked about economic justice issues, all of a sudden that was the beginning of the poor people’s campaign. Also, a lot of Black women having to talk about their fathers, their husbands, their partners going off to Vietnam.
The impact that had societally on the Black folk, particularly in the south, that to this day is still working out, even to this moment. But I remember that. And because of that generationally, we were working with all the World War II resisters and with the Vietnam era resisters. And that network right now is what’s happening.
There’s a great film called Boys Who Said No, that deals with the Vietnam War era. But how those two generations of Vietnam War and World War II, how it’s playing out right now with our generation. There’s no draft, but there’s an economic constriction. Why are people going over there? What’s going on? In a way, we’re replicating what we did in the 60’s. Here we are now in the role that women had to play in that. What do we do with that generationally going forward? That’s the excitement factor I have. The 100th anniversary is going to be in 2023. You know where the conference is going to be? San Francisco, California.
I’m going to be one of the organizers with people. I joined WRL when I was 19. I’m now 72. I’m going to be at that conference. You should be, too. But that’s where it’s going to be. And bring all those elements together around what? Summer of Love in California, etc. You’re talking about this and generationally how do we intentionally bring those generations together and have that conversation across the country, not just here, and internationally. We’re in a moment.
JW: Tell me about your current organization.
MC: Right now, I’m with a couple of groups. One of them is based in DC. It’s the National Black Justice Coalition. Are you familiar with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at all? We had an office with them, but now because of COVID, everyone is still [working from home]. I think the idea is when it’s over, everyone will start going back into their office. But the National Black Justice Coalition was really started for Black, gay and lesbian, bi, trans, same gender loving people to figure out how we could have an organization.
And the key components would be ending racism and homophobia. We have a lot of different co-founders of that organization. But when we started it, we wanted to know how could we as a group be the face for those who can’t be out. We’d be the voice for those who can’t be heard. Because of slavery, you have a whole network of historically Black colleges throughout the entire south. In New York, you have Howard. And it would be a question of why is it that you had the Black church play a pivotal role in the civil rights movement, but they don’t want to have us because we’re gay? That’s the question.
And by the way, that Bible, that was not part of the African tradition. Who brought that into the mix? But anyway, Black churches have a powerful role to play. And they were key in terms of the civil rights movement. But they didn’t want to go near the gay and lesbian thing. Gay and lesbians are here. Yes, they are. But people had to be quiet, like, don’t ask, don’t tell. And someone said, no, we want to start an organization where we can really be who we are and we could be out and visible.
And that was the beginning of the Black Justice Coalition. We had a press conference at the National Press Club and only one paper showed up. The Washington Post. The next day we get a call from Julian Bond from the NAACP, who asked, what can I do to help? And for the first time in the 100-year history of the NAACP, we formed the NAACP National Black Justice Coalition LGBT Task Force. Boom. Because someone said, what if and what are we going to do about it?
JW: I contacted you through the Victoria Woodhull Foundation. Tell me about that.
MC: That’s another example of how, like, it’s interesting because Rikki (Streicher) and other folks, they contacted us because they were like another organization who had to deal with the whole issue of sex workers and what do you do with the issue about sexuality and how that has played such a horrible role in people’s lives and also women (and men) because of the whole sex trade.
But they said we’re a predominantly white organization and we know we have law; we can change the laws; we can change some of the societal functions and mores. But how do we reach beyond ourselves just being a predominantly white organization? Then we said sex work. Well, how about men and women? A lot of trans people are murdered because they’re Black and they’re trans. You saw that death rate, but it also meant why would women have to have this to be the way that you have to make a living. It’s just horrible. I can’t even deal, like rape.
It’s like Woodhull and organizations like that have a pivotal role of where they can fill that place that I can’t, like the rape survivor stuff. I can’t do it. Other women do it. You know what I mean? Same thing with Planned Parenthood. The movement to me is sort of a combination of I’m going to do this part, but I want to work in collaboration with you. And what are the commonalities of what we can do to be the connectors? But I don’t want to be the one that does your work and you’re not going to tell me how to do mine, but how do we make it more of a collective “we”?
I think that’s a better way of how you do movement organizing and for that organization to say, we’re willing to step up and take a role in this. Someone has to be doing that. And that’s what they decided to do, the role they would play. They do a conference, they do organizing. San Francisco was another role model of how sex workers would say, we want to have control of who we are. We’re the ones who set the policies. It makes the difference of the judge and the police. Why do all the men get away with this? Nothing happens to them. No. That’s all changed now. You know what I mean? Same thing. I said I’ll be more than glad to join your board. Just don’t put me on a lot of damn meetings. I can certainly help. I’ll be the bridge builder. I’ll be the connector.
JW: Do you have any final things you’d like to say as we close?
MC: I’m intrigued about how we’re going to document all this herstory. Not history. But how? Our generation and the ones before me and the ones coming behind us and right now. I’m intrigued to know why gathering these stories and doing what you’re doing, what role that plays about how can we utilize that in a contemporary way. But also, I’m trying to figure out all this new social media; I don’t know how to do that at all.
A lot of young people, they don’t do Facebook, they don’t do email. And my fear is that we’re not connecting to each other. There’s a valuable role you have to play. We don’t capture these stories and figure out how, when, where, who and what do you want to do with it to pass it on and reach back, pass it on and then think like another 50 years to make us more in collaboration with each other.
It’s not just you interviewing me and I’m sharing stories, it’s like, what do we bring to the table for all of us that collectively has some impact on the next generation that’s coming up that we have now – this amazing moment.