An Interview With The BrownGrrlz Project
Interview By Lissa Alicia
The BrownGrrlz Project is a community of brown femme individuals who are dedicated to creating visibility for others and those that look like them. Recently, I got a chance to chat with BrownGrrlz Project organizer, Trinz. Trinz’s passion for the project shined through when discussing feminism, radical self-love, and the future of the program.
What is The BrownGrrlz Project and why was it important for you to create?
The Brown Grrlz Project was created to bring womyn together regardless of class, ethnicity, age, sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identification, religion or culture. We wanted to create an organization that brought womyn together in the fight to challenge the way that hegemonic society defines and oppresses womyn of color. We wanted to create intentional spaces where we act as authors of our own experience and are valued and recognized, by affirming and sharing science and knowledge. We also wish to provide support, resources, funding, community building, and community-based education. We believe that we affirm our value through creating spaces for us to celebrate ourselves, and our dedication to building a society beyond exclusion.
The Brown Grrlz Project is a community of brown folks who may embody femininity on any level, that are dedicated to creating visibility across borders, honoring our differences while celebrating our similarities with the notion that by tearing down the walls that divide us we can rise together.
How does the collective define Brown Grrl?
A Brown Grrl is an individual that is in alignment with brown feminist perspectives. They may be a cis, trans or gender non-conforming person of any skin variation, any size, shape or ability, and may be of any culture, religious or spiritual practice. Brown Grrlz are of any sexual orientation: straight, gay, bi, trans or any other orientation unmentioned. They are of any gender and have a presentation of feminine, masculine or anything in between. Put simply a Brown Grrl self-identifies with femmeness or brown feminist thought. There is no scale, limit or measuring stick based on culture, gender or sexuality. The individual is the claimer; if they embody brownness and femininity on any level, and stand for the rights of brown women, then they may claim Brown Grrl.
What is Brown Grrl Feminism?
Brown Grrl Feminism is an ideology that we are trying to promote and build amongst feminist communities. Brown Grrl Feminism is an inclusive term of all feminisms to include Black, First Nations, Aboriginal, Caribbean, Chicana, Latina, East Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and any other brown ethnicities, cultures and religions unmentioned. Brown Grrl Feminism is a broader term which encompasses not only theory but solidarity among groups regardless of difference. In working together under the rubrics of Brown Grrl Feminism, the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, economic, cultural, religious and spiritual equality is fought in coalition through connections across cultural boundaries.
How can other brown femmes contribute to encouraging radical self-love amongst other brown femmes?
Radical self-love means treating oneself in the highest esteem, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually (if one so chooses religious or spiritual practice). The point is to uplift oneself and hold oneself in the highest regard. As a community, how we hold each other and encourage each other’s self-love is through supporting each other, encouraging each other, fighting for and with one another. In order to align ourselves and make room for each other's existences we must at times agree to disagree without judgment and persecution, to overcome the ways in which "divide and conquer" strategies have played out in our communities, where to one extreme we literally kill each other and on another subtle level, we police each other in all areas of our lives either in physical groups and gatherings or through virtual social media bullying. In order to overcome these things, we have to utilize the ability to see that two opposing views, regardless of our investments on either side, are in fact existing at the same time. So whether or not we agree is secondary and the primary goal is to fight for each other’s rights, regardless of who we are or how we choose to express our identity, so that we each may lift each other up and rise to our liberation. And that is the greatest love we can have for each other, the desire for us all to be free.
Many times I hear brown feminist/womanist say that it is not their responsibility to educate ignorant oppressors (male, cis, or white) people on their privilege. Where do you stand on this topic? Is it our responsibility? Why or Why not?
Interestingly enough, I both agree and disagree with this idea. I think that it is multi-layered, there is no black and white here. I do agree that it is not our duty to educate ignorant oppressors nor do I believe that we should come from this perspective of trying to convince male, cis, white privileged individuals that they are in fact oppressive. We know that by the degradation and devaluation of our bodies, the denial of our existences, the many layered ways that we are controlled, confined and policed; so we do not have to prove what we know to exist. On the other hand, I also believe that education is an antidote to ignorance, the more we make ourselves visible, speak our truths, fight for our rights and educate people on the ways in which patriarchal structures and hetero-normative standards are oppressive-- the more these ideologies will reach the masses and sink into people’s hearts and minds. Because oppressed people can also oppress people by reinforcing the constructs that keep us enslaved. So I believe there are multiple tools that will get us closer to a society inclusive of all of our perspectives and lifestyles; education is one of them.
What is some of the programing that you have provided for the Brown Grrl community?
In the past, we have had events like workshops and panels that brought information either to the brown femme community or sought to form dialogue and critical analysis on topics regarding feminist theory. We have also hosted skill shares and healing retreats that allowed us to bring our community together to do on each other with love and our many skills and healing techniques. These events helped to bring us together coming from the "each one, teach one" perspective; we believe that each of us holds within us the capacity to teach our peers through our own experiences.
What are some events that you are planning on providing to The BrownGrrlz community?
We are actually refocusing the organization and relaunching as a Community Foundation. We are currently strategically planning around fundraising events that would allow us to grant money to individuals in community who are looking to advance themselves in some way. Grants would be generally awarded to those starting a business, organization, seeking funds for education, career or spiritual development. The idea is to assist individual growth and development by sharing resources, education and funding, which will ultimately increase the capacity of the community as a whole.
Where do you see The BrownGrrlz Project in the next coming months? Years?
We have multiple projects that we are working on. You can look forward to the launch of our Community Foundation, our first campaign and our first fundraising event in the next few months. It is our goal that over the next few years we build our Brown Grrlz Foundation, build a Brown Grrlz Academy, open a retreat center and grow a community of brown feminists that reaches across boarders and expands our reach in a fight for all of our rights as a collective of brown womyn.
What is your favorite product from the PPW line?
My favorite product from the PPW Line is the School of Thought/Audre Lorde College Alum Sweater. I happen to love Audre Lorde. I think she is brilliant and the knowledge and ideologies she left us with continue to grow us. I studied her extensively in college and one of her quotes is in my email signature right now. LOL! The sweater itself is also creatively worked as a College Prep Sweater. I really like that!
Melissa "Lissa Alicia" Simpson is a 23-year-old freelance journalist, media & marketing specialist, event curator and amateur model. Her interests include binge watching Dr. Who, writing creative nonfiction and street art. Find out more about Lissa at lissalicia.com.