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Dominique Rocker is finishing a Master of Arts in the Department of African American Studies at UCLA. Examining the writing and narrative resistance of Black Panther women in the 1970s, her work seeks to disrupt the prison industrial complex through the nexus of education, artistic outlets, and divingly feminine erotic healing. She will be continuing graduate work in the Department of History at Rutgers University, Newark in the Fall of 2020.

Read the following essay to learn more about her fascinating research and thesis:

The erotic, as described by Audre Lorde, is “a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings.” It is a “deeply female and spiritual plane.” In a society historically and contemporarily constituted by the socio-political suppression of and control over Black women’s desire, agency, and feeling, the radical and often covert, intangible space between the self and the “chaos” of emotion is a “well of replenishing and provocative force” that holds the potential for radical change, perhaps outside the realm of legibility of the state. My scholarly endeavor is to uncover moments of agency in which Black women of the Black Power Era rooted their activism, whether consciously or not, in Lorde’s articulation of the erotic.[1]

As their partners and brothers were assassinated and jailed, as they themselves faced death penalty sentences, Black women in the late 1960s and 1970s engaged in political action, and used writing and storytelling that centered a divinely feminine power to create momentary visions and versions of freedom.

Activists such as Ericka Huggins used the erotic to discover “how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing.”[2] At the heart of my work is a curiosity not only about the hidden stories and resistance strategies of radical Black women in male-dominated spaces, but a desire to center emotion, sensuality, and joy as tools of survival for activists as well. This project this requires multidisciplinary training as well as mixed methodologies, specifically archival data, oral history, and Black feminist theories of kinship and the erotic.

As an interdisciplinary scholar trained in historical methods and cultural analysis, my work is rooted in counter-hegemonic orientations of history, the archive, resistance, and pleasure. My Master’s Paper explores the political murder & conspiracy trial of former Black Panther leader Ericka Huggins through an intersectional lens and takes into consideration both the narrative put upon her and the one she constructed for herself, a framework generally missing from work on this case. This research project centers the social, legal, and personal experience of Ericka Huggins as documented in newspaper archives, trial transcripts, and interviews to examine the ways in which oral history and personal storytelling through poetry written during incarceration can be pathways for personal and ideological abolitionist struggle. Huggins’ narrative resistance on the witness stand during her trial and in her poetry from prison offer meaningful insights into alternative modes of resistance and freedom-making. Considering the erotic as a powerful and “deeply female and spiritual plane,” my work renders politically engaged Black women visible and centers their survival and resistance through feeling.[3]

This work asks us to shift our understanding of historical moments, of police state violence and surveillance, and most intimately, of the meaning of freedom itself. Most importantly, for me, that has meant a centering of the divinely feminine erotic power that flows through the resistance work and the writings of some of the Panther Party’s less visible but most valuable: its women. When we begin to complicate the lens through which we understand the Black Power Era and the Black Panther Party, we can begin to uncover the nuances of not just revolution itself, but of the human experience of being Black and woman and poet and revolutionary.

[1] Audre Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde, (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 53-59.

[2] Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic.”

[3] Lorde, “Uses of the Erotic,” 53.

Jasmin A. Young is currently a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow at UCLA in the Department of African American Studies. As a historian, her research focuses on African American history, 20th Century U.S. History, and gender studies. She specializes in African American women’s history, social movements, and the Black radical tradition.

Originally from Los Angeles, Jasmin Young began her academic career at California State University, Northridge. After graduation, she moved to NYC to attend Columbia University where she received her Masters in African American Studies and worked with the late Dr. Manning Marable. With a desire to ground herself in gender theories, Dr. Young moved to the UK to study at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), earning a second Masters of Science from the Gender Institute.

In 2018, Dr. Young graduated with a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Her dissertation, “Black Women with Guns: A Historical Analysis of Armed Resistance 1892-1979,” offers a long history of women’s political engagement with Black militant activism from the Reconstruction to the Black Power era.

She is developing her book manuscript, Black Women with Guns: Armed Resistance in the Black Freedom Struggle, which is the first intellectual and social history of Black women’s use of armed resistance as a tool to achieve freedom in post–World War II America. While historical studies have assumed armed resistance was a male prerogative, she makes a significant intervention in the historiography by recovering a history of Black women who engaged in and advocated armed resistance from 1955-1979. Using archival research and gender theories, the book argues that Black women increasingly politicized armed resistance, both in theory and in practice, as the Black Freedom Movement shifted its objectives from integration to self-determination. Ultimately, Black Women with Guns broadens our understanding of the Black freedom struggle by expanding what we regard as political thought and action. It also reveals a more multifaceted struggle whose objectives and strategies were continually contested and evolving.

She presented her research to a packed house at UCLA’s Black Forum this past year where she fielded questions and led a great discussion on the intersection of state violence resistance and Radical Black Feminism. Dr. Young has presented her work at various national conferences including the Organization of American Historians. Her work has garnered general public attention and has been featured in the media. You can listen to her interview for the Black Agenda Report with Glen Ford HERE. She was also the historical consultant and writer for a documentary entitled, “Tracking Ida.”

Dr. Young is regarded as a rising junior scholar with cutting-edge research that connects the historical and contemporary understanding and contributions of Black Feminism. Many have attested to her accomplishments and many are eager to read her book when published. For example, fellow scholars at UCLA have said, “Jasmin’s intellectual maturity and complete dedication to research are among her most salient qualities. I was particularly impressed by how she theorized on Malcolm X’s intellectual development as influenced by the Detroit activist community, as well as when she investigated the contradictions of hyper-visibility and invisibility of Black women transnationally in hip-hop culture.”

She has been a great scholar to have in UCLA’s African American Studies Department as well as across campus. Dr. Young’s research reflects the caliber and innovation UCLA offers students, faculty, and the broader community.

Courtesy: SHONAGH RAE

The New York Times recently hosted the New Rules Summit which inspired the article entitled, “From Inclusion to Support: How to Build a Better Workplace”. This piece highlights important conversations and possible solutions on how to move towards a more equitable workplace for women. Many leaders with diverse backgrounds including culture, business, education, and politics came together to further examine women and power in the workplace/workforce. They discussed the countless obstacles working women face and the need for immediate change.

Among the New Summit Rules attendees was Dr. Safiya Umoja Noble, an Associate Professor at UCLA in Information Studies and African American Studies. She is best known for her interests and expertise in algorithmic discrimination and technology bias. In fact, Dr. Noble wrote the best-selling book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. Much of her work looks at race, gender, culture, and technology and its influence in digital media.

As an expert in her field, Dr. Noble contributed to the conversation around how artificial intelligence (A.I.) can be biased, hence disregarding women and other underrepresented groups. She stated, “We can’t let the machines overdetermine the future. Human beings must always be in charge of machines, not the machines in charge of the women, the people, the society. That seemed to be a through line in our discussion. The question is: How will the largess or the profits and resources that accrue from increasing automation be redirected back into society to benefit society?” This is a realistic concern to consider. Although, A.I. is groundbreaking work, it is important to understand that the values guiding it remain unbiased and just in order for true, progressive transformation to happen.

Some of the other proposed changes for more equity in the workplace emphasize the necessity to recruit more women workers to hold both senior and junior positions as well as create an environment that is family-friendly and values women. Similarly, focusing on retaining women workers by offering more autonomy, flexibility, and balance as options. Additional suggestions mention child-care services, paid family leave, men as allies, building an empowering office space culture, and disrupting socialized gender roles. The article continues to make very critical points that hopefully we will see implemented sooner than later.

INSEAD, The Business School for the World, “brings together people, cultures, and ideas to develop responsible leaders who transform business and society” (INSEAD Mission Statement). In March, INSEAD hosted the Women at Work Research Conference in Singapore. This conference offered a space for researchers across the world to come together to share their findings on gender. Specifically, on the experience of women in the workforce and possible solutions to cultivate gender balance.

Among the presenters was Dr. Kerri L. Johnson, a UCLA professor in the Departments of Communication and Psychology. Additionally, Dr. Johnson serves as the Chair for the Department of Communication and as the Director of UCLA’s Social Vision Lab. Her research uses innovative methods of communication science that allows her to uncover unique nonverbal ways of communication and understanding between individuals and groups.

Dr. Johnson’s conference presentation discussed her research around visual representation and gender fit. Many of us have unconscious gender biases that can affect the way we may respond towards others. She found in her research that the response to men and women who appeared to be more masculine were assumed to have more work and STEM success compared to those who displayed more femininity. To combat these biases, Dr. Johnson suggested that organizations should diversify their workplace with influential role models that represent all genders, occupational positions (including leadership roles), and physical appearances. By changing the way we are normalized to visualize associations, we can break the unconscious biases that are connected to gender, fit, and capability.

If you want to learn more about the important research about women at work, click HERE.

Congratulations to UCLA Associate Professor, Bryonn Bain, for his recently published article in the UCLA Women’s Law Journal titled, “Women Beyond Bars: A Post-Prison Interview with Jennifer Claypool and Wendy Staggs.” This article focuses on these two amazing women, Jennifer Claypool and Wendy Staggs who Professor Bain met while teaching at the California Institution for Women (CIW). These women openly and honestly share their lived experiences before CIW, during CIW, and presently as returning citizens.

In addition, released this week is the Women Beyond Bars: Reentry and Human Rights report which was developed with the CIW Think Tank and the UCLA Law School International Human Rights Clinic of which Professor Bain serves as Project Co-Director with Professor E. Tendayi Achiume. A brief description of the report shared on the UCLA Law website states that the purpose of this report is to focus on “the needs of formerly incarcerated women reentering Los Angeles communities” as well as serve as “a guide and set of recommendations for ensuring that reentering women have access to housing and employment.” The report’s executive summary is available HERE.

Please come out to support the launch of the Women Beyond Bars: Reentry and Human Rights report at “Creating Liberation from Incarceration: Women Beyond Bars” on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30 from 4:30pm to 6:00pm at UCLA’s Kerckhoff Art Gallery. For more details about the event and to RSVP, click HERE.

On October 11, Professor Cecilia Menjivar will discuss asylum protections for immigrant women fleeing violence at this congressional briefing organized by the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Women and Crime (DWC).  For more information, see below and visit the DWC website.

Congressional Briefing: Translating Research to Policy
Improving Justice for Women and Girls
Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 9:30am – 12:30pm
Rayburn Office Building, Room 2237, Washington DC