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Pushing Back

Pushing Back: Women of Color–Led Grassroots Activism in New York City

Ariella Rotramel
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    Pushing Back
    Book Description:

    This book explores women of color's grassroots leadership in organizations that are not singularly identified with feminism. Centered in New York City, Pushing Back brings an intersectional perspective to communities of color as it addresses injustices tied to domestic work, housing, and environmental policies and practices. Ariella Rotramel shows how activists respond to injustice and marginalization, documenting the ways people of color and the working class in the United States recognize identity as key to the roots of and solutions to injustices such as environmental racism and gentrification. Rotramel further provides an in-depth analysis of the issues that organizations representing transnational communities of color identify as fundamental to their communities and how they frame them. Introducing the theoretical concept of "queer motherwork," Rotramel explores the forms of advocacy these activists employ and shows how they negotiate internal diversity (gender, race, class, sexuality, etc.) and engage broader communities, particularly as women-led groups. Pushing Back highlights case studies of two New York-based organizations, the pan-Asian/American CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities (formerly the Committee Against Anti- Asian Violence) and South Bronx's Mothers on the Move/ Madres en Movimiento (MOM). Both organizations are small, women-led community organizations that have participated in a number of progressive coalitions on issues such as housing rights, workers' rights, and environmental justice at the local, national, and global levels.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-5613-6
    Subjects: History, Feminist & Women's Studies, Political Science, Urban Studies

Table of Contents

  1. INTRODUCTION Situated Knowledge and Action
    (pp. 1-35)

    In 2016, a coalition of Asian and Chinese organizations including Asian Americans United of Philadelphia, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities of New York City (formerly the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence), the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED) of Los Angeles, and the San Francisco and Boston branches of the Chinese Progressive Association issued the following statement expressing anger at the lack of jail time for Peter Liang, a Chinese American New York Police Department officer who shot and killed Akai Gurley: “Our hunger for true justice, for a world where we all have a chance to thrive and grow old must...

  2. CHAPTER 1 Stuck on Repeat: Stereotypes and Structural Oppression of Communities of Color
    (pp. 36-52)

    In 2016, the South Bronx and Manhattan’s Chinatown garnered attention in national media when conflicts erupted over how each community was represented to mainstream audiences. In both cases, the residents of each community were initially engaged as disposable props. The South Bronx was seen as gritty but consumable and Manhattan’s Chinatown as timelessly foreign. The frames used in both of these cases drew on decades of racialized, gendered, and classed stereotypes of residents in the two communities to define them as without the same claims or future to life in New York as wealthy, white and/or U.S.-born people (Yukich, “Constructing”;...

  3. CHAPTER 2 Building Women’s Leadership: Interrelationality as Feminist Praxis
    (pp. 53-74)

    Women’s leadership has been an ongoing issue within social movements, as men often are given outsized credit or tend to hold more formal leadership roles, but both MOM and CAAAV have sustained a commitment to developing women’s leadership because it figures largely in their aims for social change. MOM and CAAAV provide an opportunity to consider women’s leadership in more complexity, given that their members found their way into groups that emphasized collective struggle grounded in shared identities and concerns. Women were able to take on key roles in mixed-gender groups seeking racial and class justice because both organizations valued...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Organizing Strategies: From the Streets to the Courts
    (pp. 75-96)

    In Image 2, victorious MOM activists pose with New York’s Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Emily Lloyd outside her Park Slope, Brooklyn, brownstone home on October 27, 2007. Despite her broader work to improve water quality and improve environmental practices in New York, Lloyd had twice refused MOM’s requests for a meeting to discuss their concerns about air quality in the South Bronx (Mackenzie “Sweet Smell,” 6). In response to her unwillingness to engage them as her constituents, they traveled the fifteen miles by bus from the South Bronx to speak with her at home. Making their case face-to-face, mom...

  5. CHAPTER 4 Housing Struggles from Chinatown to the South Bronx
    (pp. 97-116)

    CAAAV housing organizer Zhi Qi Zheng who, along with her neighbors, had been harassed and neglected by an investment firm that had recently purchased her Manhattan Chinatown tenement building at 61 Delancey Street rhetorically asked a New York Times reporter why she should accept a buyout offer for her apartment. The struggle over affordable housing in New York plays a large part in the histories of MOM and CAAAV. This issue was of particular concern in the new millennium, as New York City housing prices accelerated despite the fluctuating economy in the 2000s. As part of a citywide coalition called...

  6. CONCLUSION Identity Politics and Intersectionalities in Social Justice Praxis
    (pp. 117-122)

    Debates about identity politics continue to rage in the contemporary United States, as it is seen as a root cause of social tensions. Invocations of identity politics often fail to differentiate between, say, the Black Lives Matter movement and Iowa U.S. representative Steve King’s defense of white supremacy, conflating them as simplistic expressions of identity rather than considering the particularities of how and why identity is being singled out. It is critical to consider how identity connects to lived realities. Black Lives Matters’ efforts to address the ongoing disproportionate use of deadly violence by police against Black people is distinct...

  7. APPENDIX: Organizations and Their Activities
    (pp. 127-128)