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Ensler, Powell Focus on Intersectionality

The renowned Eve Ensler, original director of the Vagina Monologues and founder of the One Billion Rising movement, was featured during Berkeleyside’s local UnChartED talks. Joining her was Kevin Powell, activist, speaker and writer who has published books including The Black Manhood.
The conversation began with Donald Trump, who has brought racism and rape culture to the forefront of national discourse. Ensler and Powell both framed Trump’s brutish presence as “an amazing opportunity to build from all directions the progressive movement.”
The commentary surrounding Trump’s rhetoric has brought the dialogue vocalizing the existing divides within this country to another level. With this coming to light, argued Ensler, there is no better time than now to “recognize we’re all living in the same story, in the same tent.”
Powell has been an ally of women and especially women of color his entire life. Recognizing his privilege as a man, he added, “Am I going to sit here as a black man and act like we don’t do this? We have to challenge it. Women can’t do this by themselves.” Powell described ending the toxic role of hypermasculinity within these issues as a “multi-cultural, multi-generational fight, an intersection of race and gender.” So often, Ensler said, we compartmentalize issues. Environmentalists fight their fight, LGBT+ activists their’s, and race, gender, and education issues are all seen as separate entities. “If we are going to build movements,” said Ensler, “It’s gotta be ‘we, we, we.’”
“In order for this movement to gain power,” she said, “we need to surround ourselves with people that challenge us. We need to honor where people come from and the journey they are on to improve.”
“How do we open our hearts and at the same time be fierce?” she asked. This question highlighted the proactive message of Ensler and Powell’s talk. Despite the sufferings that people go through due to issues attributed to just one cause, there must be a joining together of forces into a space of action and confrontation. Powell added that in order for us to start tackling injustices happening now, we ultimately need to examine the roots of these issues. Powell stated that the “first global economy was the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade,” a painful reminder that racism is prevalent in our country because the system itself was built on dehumanizing black people. Powell expertly wove issues of racism and misogyny together, exemplifying the interconnectedness of all issues.
The key is to be patient and “see the light in you and honor that you are doing your best and trying to grow,” said Ensler. “When people are in a space, they’re trying to grow and evolve.”
Multiple times throughout the talk, Ensler referenced that this intersectional movement — necessary and urgent — is at the heart a fight against common forces: “neo-liberal, capitalist, patriarchal, racist forces” which, said Ensler, divide us and prevent us from finding interconnectedness, which is key for the success of each and every movement.