Still Climbing, 10 Years Later

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the publication of Still Lifting, Still Climbing: African American Women’s Contemporary Activism, edited by Kimberly Springer. Prof. Springer was kind enough to offer a brief update on the lives of the women she chronicles in the book.

Ten years after its publication, the African American women activists and organizations featured in Still Lifting, Still Climbing are working to improve socio-political conditions for black communities and eradicate the forms of discrimination that the civil rights, women’s, LGBTQ, and labor movements challenged.

Some activists have transferred their organizing to the virtual world in order to supplement their work on the ground. The scholarship in Still Lifting, Still Climbing was just the beginning of resurgence in interest for the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA). This Bay Area-based group worked against discrimination domestically and advocated for anti-colonialist struggles abroad. Recognizing the importance of documenting TWWA’s work, the Women of Color Resource Center has developed an online archive that features: a teaching guide, a slide presentation on the group; and an online photo archive of Triple Jeopardy, the TWWA’s revolutionary newsletter. It’s a marvel to have the newsletters and original photographs of this group widely available, giving credence to young scholar’s assertions of the group’s relevance to contemporary activism.

Elaine Brown
Elaine Brown

In the non-virtual world, black women leaders featured in Still Lifting, Still Climbing are working to bring their radical perspective into the mainstream through traditional political routes. Writer (Home Girls: a Black Feminist Anthology), activist, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Barbara Smith successfully ran for Albany city council in 2006. She brings her lifetime of black feminist organizing experience to bear on ending urban violence, education, and youth resources. Elaine Brown, former Black Panther, continues advocating for social justice. Now based in Atlanta, GA, she’s a major advocate for juvenile justice. Brown entered the 2008 U.S. Presidential race early in the game as a candidate for the Green Party, but soon found their approach limited in scope and renounced her affiliation. By the time of the election season, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney stepped into the breach and ran as the Green Party’s presidential candidate. If there were to be a Still Lifting, Still Climbing Vol. II, it would undoubtedly need to feature a chapter on McKinney’s Green Party vice-presidential candidate, Rosa Clemente. Clemente, a community organizer, has electrified the youth vote with her hip hop activism.

Organizations featured in Still Lifting, Still Climbing remain at the forefront of struggles on behalf of African American women’s issues, but some have shifted their focus to adapt to the times. For example, The National Black Women’s Health Project, in 2002, became the Black Women’s Health Imperative with a focus on optimizing black women’s health. This means that, while the project has always focused on reconciling disparities in health care, it is imperative to also create conditions that encourage wellness.

A decade after its publication, though much has changed for black women and their communities, the goal of Still Lifting, Still Climbing remains the same: to provide examples of African American women working in the legacy of progressive social movements to impact lasting change for all—-freedom from discrimination in all its forms.

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