Beth recently gained access to a Storycorp interview she did back in 2013. Read more about it and listen below!
“New friends and colleagues Beth Zemsky, 53, and Kierra Johnson, 36, discuss their advocacy work at the intersection of the LGBT, feminist, racial equality, and body liberation movements.”
Beth started coming out in 1977 as an 18 year old in Ithaca, NY. She saw many gay and lesbian couples holding hands not knowing it related to her. She became very involved in gender/sexuality studies at Cornell University. She moved to St. Louis, MO for graduate school and suddenly her ability to live openly as a lesbian was in question. The paper Gay Community News out of Boston kept her politically involved in LGBT issues (it also formed the basis of the new National Gay and Lesbian Task Force).
Kierra attended the University of Colorado, Boulder. She was studying racial justice when her sister, Amber, became pregnant at 16. She witnessed her sister drop out of school and not receive support for her further education (Amber was sent to a “mommy school”). K realized that whatever women decide [about pregnancy/abortion] they are judged. This catapulted her into the feminist and choice/body liberation movements.
Click here to read the rest of the transcript/listen to the episode!
Here in Minneapolis, around the country, and indeed around the world, we are in the midst of a new heightened level of movement engagement. This uprising for racial justice is possible now because of movement leaders who have been laboring for decades, joined by newly inaugurated activists, all of whom stand on the shoulders and the foundation built by generations of those who came before who believed in freedom, justice, and the power of a loving community to create change. The power of long-term movement building is evident in the energy we see on our streets and in the victory we gained this week reflected in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision finally outlawing employment discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.
I am thrilled that in the midst of this pivotal time my friend, colleague, civil rights attorney, writer, filmmaker, activist, and current world-changer, Valarie Kaur joins me via Zoom from California for this episode of the podcast to talk about the power of Revolutionary Love. Valarie defines revolutionary love as when you are brave enough to see no stranger.
In the context of Valarie’s new book See No Stranger, which is hot off the press today, and the Revolutionary Love Project she founded going viral online, we catch up with Valarie for a unique, intimate chat about her work, her new book, and how it all came to be. Valerie shares with us, in a candid and effortlessly authentic way, about what first called her to activism, how her Sikh faith shaped and influenced her work, and how the concept of Revolutionary Love has seen her through some of the darkest and most transitional moments of her life.
This episode will challenge you in ways that are perfectly timed for the movement moment we are currently moving though. Whether you’re new to movement work, a lifelong activist, or transitioning from one form of movement work to another, Valarie offers us up her deepest wisdom, in a way that will speak directly to yours, no matter where you are in your journey.
There is broad acknowledgement that we are living through an unprecedented time. It is a time of crisis. For many of us and our organizations, also a time of trauma. When things are so hard, how could this possibly also be a time to focus on diversity, inclusion and equity concerns – particularly for those of us who have not previously prioritized these things?
I would argue that this is precisely the time – because we are in a time of crisis and disruption – to focus our efforts regarding diversity, inclusion, and equity. Here is why…
As organizers, we know that our work is built on relationships, interconnection and focused on making significant systemic change. Why then, is it sometimes so hard to explain what we do? In this video Beth describes the difference between a movement and a campaign and how they are used to motivate involvement and build power. In just two minutes, she offers a frame and a clear analysis of what movement work is, why it matters, and how we can amplify our impact in the world by choosing effective narratives that lift up our values and our interdependence. This video is a must-see for anyone doing work in social movements, and for anyone training organizers to think beyond campaigns and towards movement-building. Special thanks go to Team Dynamics for their prodding, partnership, and support to create this video.
Here is what Beth’s friend and colleague Liz Loeb as to say about the video –
I am honored to receive this award and recognition. And at the same time it is a bit odd and awkward because this recognition is of me and my work, when as an activist and an organizer, I think of movement work in the context of us. It is our work, our accomplishments, our losses, our joys, our dreams, our movement for justice.
Having said this, I am really happy to be here.
Honestly, I never imagined that I would be here. When I started doing LGBTQ activism in 1980, it never occurred to me that I could have a career as a professional lesbian that spanned three decades. I also never imagined that this work would ever be celebrated by anyone; certainly not at a big swanky event at the International Market Square in which I got to wear a sparkly dress and heels.