“If we’re not intersectional, some of us, the most vulnerable, will fall through the cracks.” These words, spoken by American lawyer, scholar and activist Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, reflect the urgency and importance of intersectionality. In a nutshell, we need intersectionality so that no one is left behind.
Originally coined by Crenshaw in 1989, “intersectionality” refers to the idea that systems of oppression such as racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, ageism, colonialism and classism intersect and overlap, creating multiple layers of injustice. “Not all inequalities are created equal,” she says.
Although attributed to Crenshaw, the concept has been around for longer. Seven years earlier, in 1982, the black lesbian poet, Audre Lorde, summed up the essence of intersectionality: “There is no single issue struggle, because we don’t live single issue lives.”
Intersectionality was quickly embraced as a concept by the Combahee River Collective, a black lesbian social justice collective, and became a way for black women to critique and expand definitions of feminism. Since then, legendary feminists from Audre Lorde to Bell Hooks have superimposed their voices on our understanding of what intersectionality is and how it can be applied.
While intersectionality is a tool for agreement oppression is also an essential framework for eliminate oppression. Without an intersectional understanding of structural barriers, we cannot meet the UN’s global goals to end extreme poverty or create lasting change.
Here are nine contemporary activists using the framework of intersectionality to fight for equity and justice.
1. Angela Davis
In 1972, the former Black Panther faced the death penalty. Today, she still advocates for change.
In many ways, Angela Davis is the grandmother of intersectionality. She advocates for a feminism that “recognizes the interconnections between gender violence and racist violence, between individual violence and structural violence”.
Feminism, she wrote, “must involve an awareness of capitalism, racism, colonialism, post-colonialities and capacities, and more genders than we can even imagine, and more sexualities than we never thought we could name”.
Activist, teacher and author of Women, race and class, Davis has spent his life campaigning against oppression, white supremacy and police brutality. Fifty years after she began sounding the horn of intersectional feminism, her message rings more poignant than ever.
Watch her talk about intersectional feminism and order one of her many books.
2. Lea Thomas
Climate change is racist. In fact, research has shown that people of color breathe more polluted air, suffer from more environmentally related medical conditions, are on the frontlines of natural disasters, and are displaced at much higher rates than other groups.
Leah Thomas aims to raise awareness of how communities of color are most impacted by climate change and to dismantle systems of oppression within the environmental movement itself.
Thomas founded the Intersectional Environmentalist platform. Follow to learn more about the intersection between climate and social justice.
Follow Thomas on Instagram and listen The report of joy podcast.
3. Shani Dhanda
As a South Asian woman with a disability, Shani Dhanda says, “Intersectionality has always been a big part of my life. I see the world through all these lenses and sometimes I don’t know if I’m being judged on my gender, race or disability.
She campaigns to make work more inclusive for people with disabilities and uses her platform to raise awareness of the intersection between poverty and disability.
I don’t know why so many people working in wealth management keep asking to contact me and talk to me.
If you work in wealth management, I think you need to know:
👉🏽 Almost half of people living in poverty in the UK have a disability or live with a disabled family member.
— Shani Dhanda 💥 (@ShaniDhanda) May 27, 2022
Watch Shani’s TEDx talk and learn how people with disabilities will be hit hardest by the cost of living crisis.
4. Blair Imani
Blair Imani is a writer, mental health advocate, and historian who describes herself as “living at the intersections of black, queer, and Muslim identity.”
Known for her short educational videos, Imani’s work centers around women and girls, global black communities, and the LGBTQ+ community. As an educator and influencer, semi-retired organizer and public speaker, Blair Imani is dedicated to making the world a better place and amplifying the voices and work of those who fight the good fight.
Watch Blair’s video on intersectionality and follow her on Instagram.
5. Valdecir Nascimento
Having grown up in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Salvador, Valdecir Nascimento now works at the intersection of gender equality and racial equality in Brazil to combat the exploitation of young black domestic workers in the country.
These workers, who are almost exclusively women, are among the most marginalized people in the South American nation, facing low wages, exploitation and job insecurity. According to a recent study by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), 5 million women in Brazil earn their living as domestics, but most are paid less than $50 a month. Moreover, only 24% of them have work papers or receive any form of social benefits.
Her work continues to be rooted in community and civic advocacy that works for respect for domestic workers. She says, “From where I stand: ‘We are the solution in Brazil, not the problem.’ #Black History Month#CiteBlackWomenpic.twitter.com/m8iNaXFNOy
— Quote black women. (@citeblackwomen) February 1, 2022
“It is necessary that young black women fight,” says Nascimento, “we are the solution in Brazil, not the problem.”
6. Julien Gavino
Julian Gavino, who was born with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, is a New York-based model, writer, and activist for the trans disability community.
He uses his platform to speak out about the intersectional discrimination he has faced online as a disabled person and a transgender man and pushes for greater representation in the fashion industry.
Follow Julian on Instagram.
7. Xiye Bastide
Climate activist Xiye Bastida speaks on stage at Global Citizen Live in Central Park.
Xiye Bastida is a Mexican climate justice activist and member of the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous Nation. Growing up in Mexico, Bastida witnessed the effects of climate change when her hometown experienced droughts and floods.
She is an organizer of Fridays For Future and co-founder of Re-Earth Initiative, an international youth-led organization that focuses on highlighting the intersectionality of the climate crisis.
Submit a love letter to Earth, submit an article to the Re-Earth Initiative, and support their Patreon.
8. Sonya Renee Taylor
Sonya Renee Taylor describes herself as “fat, black, queer, bald and neurodivergent”. She is also an author, poet, speaker, humanitarian and social justice activist.
Taylor is the founder and radical executive director of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company committed to “radical self-love and body empowerment as a fundamental tool for social justice. “.
The core belief of The Body Is No Excuse is that inequity, oppression and injustice are a manifestation of our inability to make peace with the body – our own and that of others. Through educational materials and community building, Taylor’s business encourages radical and unapologetic self-love, which she says translates into radical human love in action and service toward a better world. fair, just and compassionate.
Watch her TEDx talk about the difference between cancel culture and accountability, sign up for The Body is Not An Apology newsletter, and join Sonya Renee Taylor’s Patreon.
9. Matcha Phorn-In
Thai lesbian feminist and human rights defender Matcha Phorn-In works to meet the unique needs of LGBTQIA+ people, many of whom are indigenous, in crisis situations in Thai villages bordering Myanmar. Each year, these communities are hit by environmental collapse ranging from landslides to floods and fires. In these times of crisis, the needs of LGBTQIA+ people are often overlooked.
“Humanitarian programs tend to be heteronormative and can reinforce the patriarchal structure of society if they fail to consider sexual and gender diversities,” she says. For example, disaster relief programs tend to prioritize a woman if she has a husband and children, as they are recognized as part of a formal family unit. A gay or lesbian couple, on the other hand, is not recognized as such and is therefore excluded from assistance.
Learn more, take action, and demand fairness with us now if you believe that everyone, everywhere should have an equal chance to reach their full potential.