CeCe McDonald and Cara Page, Activists-in-Residence at the Barnard Center for Research on Women (BCRW), have been selected as a 2019 Soros Justice Fellow and a 2019 Soros Equality Fellow, respectively. The highly competitive Soros Fellowship program, which is supported by the Open Society Foundations, provides living expenses and project-related funding for activists working to advance social justice.
MORE THAN CISTERS
“The rich history of our struggles provides us with the fortitude to fight for solutions and imagine alternatives,” said CeCe McDonald, an artist and activist committed to dismantling the prison-industrial complex and winning the liberation of all oppressed people. These issues are central to McDonald’s experience as a black trans woman as well as a survivor of racist and transphobic violence and the compounding violence of incarceration, experiences that have inspired her vision for freedom.
As a Soros Justice Fellow, McDonald will be continuing and scaling up her work to develop a grassroots education curriculum called “More Than Cisters: Building a Trans Queer Feminist Perspective,” which focuses on building community support and power for trans women, particularly trans women of color, in cultural, activist, and community projects, and building solidarity between and among trans, queer, gender-nonconforming, and cis people in the project of feminist liberation.
“I’m so excited to be a part of Barnard’s Activist-in-Residence program and to be one of this year’s Soros fellowship grantees,” said McDonald. “As a black trans woman, I’m thrilled that this fellowship will truly enable me to focus and work on the projects I feel will make an outstanding and everlasting change to activist and leadership movements in this society, particularly for the communities I serve and am a part of.”
McDonald’s approach builds on established models of consciousness-raising and the use of culture for the transmission of political knowledge. Since becoming a BCRW Activist-in-Residence in 2018, she has begun implementing these courses with small groups of activists in key Midwestern cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul. As a Soros Fellow, she will expand these gatherings to Chicago; Green Bay, Madison, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and elsewhere. McDonald focuses on the Midwest because it is often overlooked by projects of this nature. Prioritizing small-scale and face-to-face engagement, McDonald’s project recognizes the centrality of relationship building and mutual exchanges for building and sustaining community power.
In addition to her work as a BCRW Activist-in-Residence, McDonald has been invited to speak on her experiences with incarceration, her political education in prison and in freedom, and her approach to building liberation movements at colleges and universities, including Barnard College, Columbia University, Macalester College, The New School, UC Berkeley, and UCLA. Her story — surviving a racist and transphobic attack, being sentenced to prison, and connecting with activists across prison walls — became the subject of the documentary Free CeCe, produced by Laverne Cox, which continues to screen nationally and internationally.
As a Soros Fellow, Cara Page will organize and curate her new project, “Changing Frequencies,” an archival and memory project on healing and generational trauma. This project draws on decades of work and recognizes the mutually reinforcing power of personal and collective healing, memory work and storytelling, and action-based organizing for structural transformation.
Page, a black queer feminist cultural/memory worker, community curator, and organizer has fought for the past 30-plus years in the racial, economic, reproductive, and transformative justice movements, working toward LGBTQGNCI, black, people of color, and indigenous liberation. She is co-founder of the Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective and the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative and is the former executive director of the Audre Lorde Project.
“I am deeply honored to engage with the work of many cultural workers, practitioners, organizers, healers, and scholars who seek to transform systems of surveillance and policing through the medical-industrial complex,” said Page, “[and] to remember traditional medicinal practices, and to catalyze new practices for our collective safety and well-being.”
Among the features of the “Changing Frequencies” project will be a digital timeline of the medical-industrial complex, designed with her co-lead curators, Anjali Taneja and Susan Raffo. This timeline, which can be previewed here, will document historical and contemporary abuses and their ideological roots in the U.S. medical system, including scientific testing, experimentation, medical exploitation, and the genetic policing and surveillance of black people, people of color, indigenous people, queer and trans people, women, and working-class people. They will also focus on resistance, including struggles and interventions in which communities and individuals successfully fought back. The timeline will be shared via webinars to explore and engage community-led strategies in transforming the medical-industrial complex.
In collaboration with communities at key locations throughout the U.S., Page will also create on-site performance and memorial installations to bring visibility to medical experimentation and abuse and how these practices function as an extension of state violence for which few have been held accountable. In addition, she is engaging in global work that addresses generational trauma from the medical-industrial complex as a colonialist project used to exploit and profit from the genetic materials of oppressed communities.
UPCOMING EVENTS WITH THE FELLOWS
Join Page at Barnard College on Tuesday, October 1, at 6:30 p.m. for Emergency Care of Wounds That Cannot Be Seen: Healing Justice & Ntozake Shange, a conversation with Ebony Noelle Golden and Tiffany Lenoi Jones. This event is free and open to all. Learn more on the event page.
Hear more about McDonald at Barnard College on Wednesday, October 2, at 6:30 p.m. for What We Mean When We Say Free Them All: Lessons from the Social Justice Institute, a conversation with fellow BCRW Social Justice Institute Residents La Vaughn Belle and Mariame Kaba, with Senior Activist Fellow Emerita Katherine Acey moderating. This event is free and open to all. For more information, visit the event page.