Standing Our Ground Week: Marissa Alexander You Are Not Alone

Posted on Saturday, July, 26th, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)



Call to Action!

Black Women’s Blueprint Stands with Marissa Alexander during “STANDING  OUR  GROUND WEEK” and every week.

Sister Marissa You Are Not Alone.

 Write a Letter to Marissa!

As justice continues to be denied to our Sister Marissa Alexander, and as she continues to face 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot, we continue to stand by her side.   Activists across the country are organizing a “Standing Our Ground Week” to raise awareness  about  reproductive oppression, gender violence and mass incarceration, from July 25 to August 1 in Jacksonville, Florida.

JOIN THE LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN. Here is Marissa’s address: Marissa Alexander, P. O. Box 23872, Jacksonville, FL 32257


#SelfiesForSelfDefense project Join others by writing notes to Marissa, taking a photo, and posting it online.

 FreeMarissaNow  @freeMarrissaNow     tumblr


Posted on Thursday, July, 17th, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)


Farah and Aishah 2
“When we construct universal notions of women or masculine notions of Blackness…when we claim only some forms of violence as central to our struggles, we are claiming or remembering particular histories. Central to constructing more radical political struggles is the reclamation and reconstruction of fuller, more complex histories.” -Dr. Elsa Barkley Brown, Black Feminist Historian and Activist

When the United States ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in 1994, it agreed to submit periodic state reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the U.N. body charged with monitoring state compliance with the Convention. However, only after criticism and demands by civil society, including feminists of color, gender justice and human rights advocates, that these reports move beyond male centered paradigms, did the U.S. include in its reports gendered forms of racial discrimination experienced by women of color and LGBTQ communities.  For many of us, our particular experiences as Black/African American women are testament to the ways in which gendered forms of racial discrimination have devastating consequences on the full enjoyment of equality and fundamental human rights both in private and public spheres.

On July 8 and 9, 2014, just a few days after the 50th Anniversary of the passage of the Civil Rights Act, Black Women’s Blueprint Executive Director, Farah Tanis and Creator of NO! The Rape Documentary,  Aishah Shahidah Simmons both presented on behalf of Black Women’s Blueprint at the Civil Society Consultations at the US State Department on CERD, the Human Rigths Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination as well as the UPR, the Universal Periodic Review. Both activists testified about racial discrimination and the devastating impact on women and LGBTQ people of color. Farah Tanis presented in person on racial discrimination and the intersection of gender and violence and Aishah Shahidah Simmons presented on intimate partner and state sanctioned violence against LGBTQ people of color. We are about our foremothers’ business and will keep community posted on the work to center the lives of women and girls squarely within what are often considered “the broader” racial justice concerns of Black communities. We continue to make it explicit that a violation against one of us, whether by the State or by a fellow community member is a violation against us all.


Posted on Wednesday, July, 16th, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)

Call for Survivor Narratives - BWTRC 2014

The Missing Invitation


Posted on Monday, June, 9th, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)

The Resounding Voice of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou Walking Along Beach

By Cathline Tanis, Black Women’s Blueprint Writing Circle

“The fact that the American Negro female emerges a formidable character is often met with amazement, distaste and even belligerence. It is seldom accepted as an inevitable outcome of the struggle won by survivors and deserves respect if not enthusiastic acceptance” – Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou understood the power of language and her words were like a sword forged in the fires of abuse and silence and honed by the innovation and determination of the elders, the women who surrounded her.  Through the years she used her words to hack through the weeds of oppression and clear a path for herself and for everyone whose lives she would touch. Maya Angelou did this her way with a fierceness that defied the circumstances of her early life.  As with many of us, Black women, survivors, Maya Angelou’s voice responded to the pain and violence suffered at the hands of both a racist, misogynist society and at the hands of her own Black community.

For speaking truth so that each of us could also speak, Maya Angelou we honor you.

Maya Angelou used her words to construct a place of authentic voice that she shared with the world and spoke a truth that tackled the issues of beauty, power, race, emotional, physical and sexual violence, family, religion as well as freedom in her own life, the lives of countless women and girls of her day, and those yet to come. Maya Angelou, who chose five long years of silence in response to the violence of rape and vigilantism in her life, came into her voice in what we see as a contemplative process that speaks to our ability to emerge as light despite atrocity.

For teaching us that we too can heal, Maya Angelou we honor you.

When Maya Angelou’s voice emerged from its exile, it emerged as a writer, a poet, a dancer, a visionary, a teacher, a mother and an activist. Her voice was and still remains one of healing and of reclamation, learned and cultivated by a trinity of Black women, Maya Angelou’s mother, Vivian Baxter Johnson, her grandmother, Annie “Momma” Henderson and her mentor, Mrs. Bertha Flowers. Maya Angelou harnessed the power of her words to voice her rage, her growth, her rebirth. Her voice is proof of the healing that can happen within a community of women dedicated to breaking molds, breaking paradigms and breaking chains.

For teaching us that our very existence is justice, Maya Angelou we honor you.

From Phenomenal Woman to Still I Rise and the famous I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou’s voice was a voice of inherent becoming, inherent humanity, growth and liberation. She speaks of this liberation in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings describing the painful trill of the caged bird and the hopeful cry of the free bird soaring towards the sky. Her telling of her own liberation, the drawing of parallels and paths, with voice and words will forever enable us to understand the complex “cages” that often bind us as people, but also the complex and creative ways we become free.

For teaching us we create liberation, within what should be community spaces of safety and belonging, Maya Angelou we honor you.

We sing, we hope, we land boldly and we rise. Sister, Mother, Maya Angelou, free bird who dared “to claim the sky” and cast your voice into the world as a beacon of light and strength and emerged a formidable woman. For teaching us that “just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, we too can rise, we forever honor you.

For Maya Angelou, Great Mother, Sister, Author, Poet and Literary Giant (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)


Why We Won’t Write About Beyoncé and bell hooks

Posted on Thursday, May, 29th, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)

By Randie Henderson,

For Black Women’s Blueprint

bell beyonceWe won’t write about Beyoncé and bell hooks because they are both accomplished women who can and have for a long time taken care of themselves. We could engage in analysis regarding whether Beyoncé is a feminist or counter-feminist, wonder how much education she’s actually received, and launch debate about her impact on women and girls around the world. We could also debate use of language, meaning and choice of words with bell hooks—a truly phenomenal woman who has worked hard for her reputation and respect. We could chastise her for her use of the word “terrorist” in describing Beyoncé, or even replay her “Drunk in Love” dancing, but it would not matter.

The truth is, this “debate” has been distracting and while it is important to hear and understand the range of voices across generations concerning the impact of Beyoncé and bell hooks, it appears we’re not all even sure what we are talking about anymore. However, we do know that the longer this conversation continues the less we believe in its productivity.

The problem is not Beyoncé and bell hooks. The problem is that there are a reported 230 to 300 girls missing in Nigeria who have allegedly been found but are unable to be rescued, and because of this global failure, and as with many kidnapped people, they are likely to endure extended periods of torment on their bodies and spirits, in addition to time away from their families.

The problem is Marissa Alexander who is still being treated as a criminal while George Zimmerman remains a free man who is sponsored and coddled even though he murdered a child.

The problem is the fact that Elliot Rodgers, the “suspect” in the recent fatal mass shootings and stabbings of college students near Santa Barbara, California is being excused of his misogyny, racism, femicide, and murders due to mental illness, and yet how many mentally ill black men would have been afforded such consideration—lunacy disguised as grace. Moreover, Elliot Rodgers and many other violent white males like him fuel the war on women, fuel rape culture, white entitlement, racism, sexism, and white privilege.

So the truth is, arguing about Beyoncé and bell hooks will not right any of the aforementioned wrongs.

Thus, while some of us often turn to Bey when needing motivation in the gym and bell hooks for education and assurance that we can excel in this country as black women—Beyoncé and bell hooks do not need any of us taking any more time on them. So unless we are using this conversation to bring about real resolutions and to combat the very real systems of oppression that keep us under siege with boots on our necks, it is imperative that we focus on greater issues so that we can be the catalyst of real change.


Contact The Institute for Gender and Cultural Competency | 279 Empire Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 111225 | 347-533-9102/9103,

The Training Institute at Black Women’s Blueprint delivers culturally specific, gender-violence prevention education and intervention curricula based on an understanding of the complex interplay between the individual, relationship, social, cultural, and environmental factors that influence sexual assault and other violence against women, men including lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and other gender-non-conforming people on campus and in community. Our Black
feminist, anti-oppression approach is one which seeks to foster activism and culture shift. The Training Institute provides a framework for the development of civil and human rights-based cultures and environments of accountability. Through the application of a variety of traditional and non-traditional teaching and learning methods the Institute empowers communities, families and individuals with the tools to lead and develop measures of prevention and interventions that sustain change, and are responsive to every member of their communities whether at the grassroots or on the college campus.


Brief Description: This workshop helps develop tools to assess and measure cultural competency in: physical environments, materials and resources, communication styles, and values and attitudes; and provide opportunities that create programs, create safe and respectful spaces to learn more about oneself and others and where meaningful intercultural experiences and dialogues embrace the uniqueness of cultural and other identities and other traditionally marginalized and underrepresented communities.


Brief Description: Inspired in part by the Workshops, led by PISAB, this workshop identifies what institutions need to do to address the effects of racism. Specific examples of how racism manifests at various institutional levels are included.

UNDOING SEXISM: The Intersectional Framework

Brief Description: This workshop engages in the intersectional analysis, centering gender, identifying what institutions need to do to address sexism, misogyny, and other gender factors impacting success and achievement for women and girls.

GENDER-VIOLENCE 101: From the Continuum of Sexual Violence, to Intimate Partner Violence and Stalking

Brief Description: This comprehensive workshop helps participants develop in depth understanding of the various forms of gender-violence, their histories, the social, cultural, and individual and other perpetuating norms. The workshop provides an understanding of the dynamics and prevalence of sexual assault, dating/domestic violence and stalking; Learn to map available resources for victims/survivors and potential harm-doers; and develop skills in organizing programs and campaigns to address violence directly.

HOOK UP CULTURE: Differentiating Sexual Freedom from Rape Culture 

Brief Description: A workshop using a participatory and guided discussion and role play. “Hookup” culture has in many ways replaced traditional dating, radically altering how we think about intimacy and sex, sexuality. Participants will discuss both the liberating factors as well as components of power and pressure, consent, rape culture, sexual agency and real choice without negative ultimatums.


Brief Description: Offering explanations and guidelines in plain language for seeking and receiving expressed consent.

LGBTQ 101: Stopping Homophobia, Transphobia and Creating a Safe & Inclusive Campus for LGBTQ Students

Brief Description: Tailored for colleges and universities, this workshop will promote acceptance, inclusion, understanding, and equity for LGBTQ persons of all ages, abilities, colors, and genders on campus. Participants will engage in exercises that help students or staff articulate stereotypes, assumptions as well as rights that protect LGBTQ people.  It is designed to help college students, staff and other personnel strategically plan to provide a safe and supportive climate for all and to prepare participants to become better advocates for the LGBTQ community.

TRANSFORMING RAPE CULTURE:  Asset Based Approaches to Address Rape Culture on Campuses and in Communities

Brief Description: This workshop examines the ever-shifting nature of rape culture on campuses and broader communities which can make sexual assault and the cultures within which it thrives both difficult to respond to and difficult to resist. This Workshop provide participants with both a mainstream and culturally-specific context for rape culture; Identify how media plays a role in normalizing rape and the rape culture experienced by young people and adults; and identify concrete ways this with students on communities using an intersectional approach on a micro and macro-level.


Brief Description: This workshop uses culturally specific curricula, responses, tactics and strategies for bystander intervention developed through participatory processes involving indigenous and people of color. It directly engages participants in scenarios, promotes an understanding of why people depending on cultural background engage in various types of interventions, why they build environments of accountability, and how they identify high-risk situations in their communities or campuses. It is meant to be responsive to marginalized communities and communities at risk for abuse and violence including sexual assault and bullying, and uses culturally relevant language and strategies for action before, during or after an incident of harm. This workshop teaches real skills to intervene safely and effectively, collectively or individually, directly or in indirect ways.


The Institute for Gender and Cultural Competency, 279 Empire Blvd, Brooklyn, NY 111225, 347-533-9102/9103,

During Sexual Assault Awareness Month & Everyday – TEACH NOT TO RAPE!

Posted on Tuesday, April, 1st, 2014 by admin in Blog - (Comments Off)

If We Don’t Teach It, Who Will? 8 DAYS LEFT. Help Us Reach Our Goal!

Support The Campaign. We Can Take Back Our Lives.


Black Women, Sexual Assault and Sexual Exploitation: A Brief Summary

Written by Farah Tanis, Executive Director, Black Women’s Blueprint (for the Black Women’s Round Table, Release of their First Annual Report, “The State of Black Women”)

Discussing TRC

While it is standard knowledge that sexual assault is widely underreported—60% unreported each year,[1] in Black communities the number is considerably higher due to intersectional issues related to race, gender, poverty, sexuality and other identity. Approximately 9 of 10 African American victims reaching out to Black Women’s Blueprint, report never having disclosed having been assaulted to anyone within their families, community, police and/or extended criminal justice systems. Moreover, assertions by political figures, including African-American leaders that reinforce notions that rape is trivial undermine many survivors’ ability to break their silence about sexual violation.  Comments by high profile political leaders such as “some girls rape easy,[2] a “woman’s body shuts down to prevent pregnancy during rape,[3] as well as messaging in some strands of hip hop, like Lil Wayne rhyming “Beat the p**** up like Emmett Till,” [4] on rapper, Future’s “Karate Chop” (Remix) album, it is no wonder that Black women are enduring rape in silence and isolation.

There is a dearth in information and statistical data about the incidence of rape and sexual assault against Black women.  According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010 Summary Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the US nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped at some time in their lives. This includes completed forced penetration, attempted forced penetration, or alcohol/drug facilitated completed penetration.  According to the same report, 44% of women in the U.S. experience some form of sexual victimization other than rape.  In addition, a 2014 report by the White House Council on Women and Girls asserts that women of all races are targeted for sexual assault however some are more vulnerable than others. The report states that “22% of Black women” have been raped but we posit that many rapes are unaccounted for. The White House report by the Council on Women and Girls also asserts the vast majority, “nearly 98%, of perpetrators are male and nearly half of female survivors were raped before they were 18. College students are particularly vulnerable, including those on our Historically Black College and University Campuses as 1 in 5 have been sexually assaulted while in college.” [5] The same report reveals that “repeat victimization is common: over a third of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults.

Equally devastating is the lack of intra-community dialogue and priority given to the trafficking of our Black girls for sexual exploitation. According to the Department of Justice, between 100,000 and 300,000 children in the United States are trafficked for sex each year. Sex trafficking victims are overwhelmingly female (94 percent); Four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking cases are identified as U.S. citizens (83 percent) and these trafficking victims are more likely to be African American (40 percent), while more than half (62 percent) of confirmed sex trafficking suspects are African American.[6]

In Black communities, there are several reasons for the disparity in breaking the silence about sexual violation. First the marginalization of African Americans as a population due to the effects of racism, socio-economic and historical factors must be acknowledged.  Second, our experiences working with Black communities reveal that victims do not avail themselves of services, as it is not congruent with cultural norms to expose intra-community and intra-familial issues that place already marginalized communities at further risk for discrimination.  Codes of loyalty and a historical and valid need to protect our communities has been taught especially to Black women and girls who represent the bulk of sexual assault victims, also discourage survivors from speaking or seeking support.

Black men’s vulnerability to police brutality, stop & frisks, plus the reality of high incarceration rates all reinforce silence within our communities and often result in underreporting by Black victims of sexual assault.  Sexism, heterosexism, homophobia and transphobia as part and parcel of a patriarchal society, also make it difficult for Black lesbian/queer or transgender victims and survivors to seek support or other chosen remedy after sexual assault. In addition to the challenges posed by gender, class and sexuality, structural racism is ever present and continues to create serious problems for Black victims and survivors of sexual assault.  Therefore we cannot count on police data or other data obtained via mainstream hotlines for statistics, because a vast majority of assaults have likely not been reported to police or any other justice systems that record such data.

It is critical that we begin to look at both the external and internal factors that continue to hinder justice, healing and peace for Black survivors of sexual assault.  It is critical that we look at both the historical and contemporary root causes of sexual assault against Black women and that we begin do so collectively. Sustainable, grassroots, community-led, innovative, multi-pronged programs of primary prevention against sexual assault, and comprehensive interventions responsive to the specific needs of Black communities is long overdue.


[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation Statistics

[3] The 2012 election is over, but the debate over “legitimate rape” lives on: Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga

[4] Emmett Till was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman

[6] U.S. Department of Justice

To Our Friends, Family, Comrades and Community


From all of us at Black Women’s Blueprint, From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so very much for your gift of time and your generosity of spirit.

 We think of you as amazing for taking the time, for choosing to show up, give, call, write and donate to Black Women’s Blueprint. I can tell you that your gesture means more than you can imagine. Thank you for your gift of presence. By showing up in community Saturday, February 8, 2014 at Mother Tongue: Monologues for Truth Bearing Women, Emerging Sons and Other Keepers of the Flame, we are ensuring each others’ survival. We are reclaiming peace in our communities. Thank you for standing with us this year, for your continued partnership and vigilance in ensuring we remain effective on this crucial journey.

 We are only sorry that the Brooklyn Museum pushed us out before we could complete our conversations with our Black brothers on the panel and those who provoked feelings, thoughts, reactions via the invisible theater

 You/we have asked for more conversation and we are planning it.

 We’re Continuing the Debate In a Few Days with the CUNY Young Men of Project CHANGE.