Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 1981


If exhilaration characterized the first annual NWSA Convention in Lawrence, Kansas, and consolidation the second in Bloomington, this third Convention on "Women Respond to Racism" was a time for confrontation. That word, of course, can imply either a squaring-off-against or a facing-together-with. Both processes were enacted at the Convention, perhaps inevitably, given a theme that acknowledged and permitted a certain kind of political struggle. The tone was set in opening addresses by Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde, which prepared us for the necessary, painful, yet productive expression of anger. Some were disheartened by the speeches, feeling that in these days of the primacy of the New Right and the Moral Majority, anger among women who are essentially allies is a luxury we can little afford. Others saw the speeches as essential renderings of the complexity of relations between women of color and white women, something that has to be acknowledged before and during the larger undertakings on which we work together.

The Convention program included more than 200 workshops, panels, and roundtables on topics ranging from theory about the intersections of sex, race, class, and affectional preference in society and culture, to strategies for institutional change; from the history and literature of women of color and that of their relationship with white women , to discussions of the issues now faced by women trying to work together in multiethnic programs and projects; from developin g multicultural curricula in various educational contexts, to analyzing the roles of women in Third World countries. These international panels, by all accounts, were some of the better-attended and more exciting of the sessions. One Convention-goer, by careful timing, managed to hear Johnetta Cole and Sonia Alvarez speak on "Sex, Race, and Socialist Transformation in Cuba and Nicaragua" ; catch Stephanie Urdang in another session on "Women and Anti -Colonial Struggles"; and take in a bit of a panel on "International Women Respond to Racism," moderated by Aziza al-Hibri, before participating in her own session on "The Role of Women in National Development and Revolution in the Third World." The Convention program alone helped nudge those of us who tend to focus on women's studies in the Anglo-American tradition away from our ethnocentrism. Such nudging, of course, was a major purpose of the Convention.



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