Women Who Change the World: Stories from the Fight for Social Justice (City Lights Open Media)
“This important collection of voices of women who have changed—and are changing—the world gives inspiration to all who share their grief and vision.”
“We’ve just got to change this country. I believe it’s going to happen. I believe we can win . . . it might not be in my lifetime, but we can win. The task for those of us trying to make change every day is to create a space for folks to teach us and for us to teach them, so that when it’s time and people are in motion, we are right there and have been able to in some way set the stage for it.” —Roz Pelles, organizer, strategist, movement builder, and attorney.
“Being Apache is to fight for our way of life, to fight for our religion, our spirituality, our identity, and to fight for Mother Earth because she is our mother . . . it’s really a difficult and emotional fight because we’re doing it spiritually. We just need to matter. That’s the hard part to swallow. It seems like our people don’t matter.” —Vanessa Nosie, Chiricahua Apache, organizer and spokesperson for Apache Stronghold.
“We know what we are fighting against . . . but what are we fighting for? What do we imagine to be an ideal future? What do we hope for? What does it look like? What does gentrification have to do with Defunding the Police? What does it have to do with capitalism? What does it have to do with all these things that we’re fighting against? What does it look like on the other end?” —Betty Yu, artist, photographer, filmmaker, and activist.
Women Who Change the World, an important contribution to movement history, shares the stories of nine fearless women committed to social justice, chronicling their decades of work empowering the people who have the most to lose and to gain—the people who fight for better housing, livable wages, improved working conditions, and equity under the law, and who address issues such as police brutality, gentrification, structural racism, immigration, education, reproductive justice, language justice, preservation of sacred lands, and media justice—because they are living with the consequences of these problems.
Vanessa Nosie, Roz Pelles, Yomara Valez, Betty Yu, Loretta Ross, Teresa Howard, Malkia Devich-Cyril, Priscilla Gonzalez, and Hilary Moore are focused on helping people find their voices and the bravery to speak truth to power. This is done through organizing from the grassroots up—by knocking on doors, listening to people, bringing folks out to meetings, seeking consensus on ideas and actions, and mobilizing people to take to the streets or to speak at City Council meetings or to vote or to engage in actions decided by the group. This is the hard work, the day-in-day-out work of community organizers, the behind-the-scenes-work that many of these women have done for years.
For most of the nine women highlighted in this unique oral history collection, their work started in their youth, many socialized for activism around the dinner table by parents and grandparents themselves actively committed to social justice because they lived in and with the problems they attempted to address.
“On the political side, understanding the fight, and what’s happened to our people, those conversations started around the age of seven. That’s when I started to have intimate talks with my dad and grandmother about who we are, the genocide that happened to our people, and the ongoing fight for our survival,” says Vanessa Nosie.
A lifetime of social justice work has led to powerful insights for each of the women featured in this important book—reflections that can propel ongoing and future efforts. “Every movement in the history of the world has been facilitated by three things: grief, grievance, and a vision for governance. Every single one. There is a loss, there is sorrow and harm as a result of that loss. There is a grievance that is being petitioned for and a vision for new ways of being that involve new leadership, new sources of power, a new economic base. I’m really trying to forge a new way of thinking about social change that places grief at the center,” says Malkia Devich-Cyril.
This important collection of voices of women who have changed—and are changing—the world gives inspiration to all who share their grief and vision. It’s a valuable contribution to the fights for social justice.