New Book Reflects on Feminist Barbara Smith

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday November 24, 2014

Barbara Smith has played a groundbreaking role in opening and expanding our national cultural and political dialogues about the intersections of race, class, sexuality and gender. The new book "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, brings to life the controversies, players, and strategies that expanded the definitions of freedom and liberation over four decades.

As an organizer, writer, publisher, independent scholar, teacher, and most recently as an elected official, Barbara has contributed to multiple freedom movements (Civil Rights, Feminism, Lesbian and Gay Liberation, Anti-racism, and Black Feminism). She offers a distinct lens on the nature of liberation struggles and the difficult art of building political movements that embrace and reflect our full selves.

"Barbara Smith is a creator of modern feminism as a writer, organizer, editor, publisher, and scholar. Now she has added to her decades as an activist outside the system by becoming an elected official who truly listens, represents, and creates bridges to a common good. She has shown us that democracy is a seed that can only be planted where we are," said Gloria Steinem.

Barbara and colleagues are credited with the first published work that utilized the term "identity politics," defining it as a political analysis and organizing approach critical for recognizing and addressing the often "interlocking oppressions" of race, gender, class and sexuality. Now re-popularized as "intersectionality," this analytical approach has shaped scholarship, teaching and progressive activism for at least two decades. Her work has been a source of guidance and inspiration to activists and movements battling classism, sexism, racism and homophobia both outside and within.

"Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around" is formatted as a reflective conversation through four decades of activism. Editors Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks were enlisted by Barbara Smith to explore her life from her childhood to her recent work as an elected official in Albany. They meticulously selected material from over two hundred articles, images, and recordings and a dozen original interviews.

The book juxtaposes hard to find historical documents with new, unpublished interviews with fellow activists and scholars bringing to life the controversies, players, and strategies that challenged movements to expand their definitions of freedom and liberation.

In a clear, accessible, and conversational style, the book engages readers in fundamental questions that those committed to social justice must grapple with in order to deepen their work and heighten their integrity, accountability, and courage.

"Barbara Smith is one of the grand pioneering and prophetic voices of our time. Her truth still hurts and heals!" said scholar Cornel West.

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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.