By Blair Imani @blairimani
Perhaps because I was raised in liberal Southern California, I was fortunate to grow up in a community where values like acceptance, tolerance, and diversity were regarded as important and necessary.
While it is common to remember one’s childhood as taking place within a blissful utopia, I sincerely cannot remember a time when I was reprimanded for celebrating and expressing the facets of my identity.
As a child I rarely heard adults say hateful or disparaging things about groups of people. However, on those rare occasions my parents would point out the ignorance of such statements and would curtail the amount of contact we had with the given person. I was privileged to grow up in a supportive and compassionate environment but I did not realize the breadth of that privilege until I moved to Louisiana for college.
My first week in Louisiana was a serious wake up call to the reality of discrimination. I began to notice the way many White students at the university seemed to be unnerved by the very presence of Black people. One of my roommates even confided in me that she didn’t like Black people but I was ok because of my light skin. I was shaken by the backwardness of my new home.
The prevalence of anti-blackness and sexism made it nearly impossible for me to get help after being sexually assaulted at the beginning of my sophomore year. A friend I had known since freshman year was the first person I told. After I told her what happened to me, she remarked that the “nature” of libidinous Black women made it hard to believe that I was raped. I felt like everyone I turned to had a different racially motivated reason to assert I was lying.
I wanted to use education and awareness to diminish the amount of discrimination on campus so I started getting involved in activism. I was involved in organizations which championed women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and an end to racial discrimination. But despite being in the midst of so many activists I felt like my truth and my experience was unwelcome.
During this chapter of my life it felt like I had to compartmentalize facets of my identity in order to belong. As my panic attacks became more frequent I realized that I was exacerbating the effects of my trauma by suppressing parts of my identity.
I realized I was absent an intersectional and inclusive space that celebrated and uplifted all women. I needed a feminist environment that challenged the type of feminism that only advocates for individuals who are white, middle-class, heteronormative, and cisgender women. Finding myself back in Louisiana after winter break, I started Equality for HER. Two years later, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished and I look forward to what is yet to come.
Femme Founders is Equality for HER’s latest series featuring femme founders of different organizations, companies, and movements. Femme Founders asks, "Why did you embark on this initiative?" If you would like to nominate someone to be featured please email firstname.lastname@example.org with Femme Founder in the subject line.
Blair Imani Brown founded Equality for HER on January 12, 2014. Brown serves as the Co-Chair of the Labor Network for the Women’s Information Network in Washington, DC. While studying at Louisiana State University, she co-founded social justice organizations such as Baton Rouge Organizing, Equality for HER, The Student Equality Project, and Qroma LSU.