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Linda Burnham: 2007-8 Visiting Social Activist
For more than twenty years, the Women of Color Resource Center (WCRC) promoted an agenda that recognized the interconnections between anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic organizing. Co-founded by Ms. Burnham in 1990, it worked in Oakland California and nationally to oppose war, protect civil rights, and advance immigrant rights. As a community-based organization, it trained women of color to work on social justice issues, linking activists with scholars, and provided analysis and information on the social and political issues affecting most women of color. In her capacity as Director of WCRC, Ms. Burnham organized and led a 2001 delegation of 25 women of color activists and scholars to the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. In 2004, she led “Count Every Vote,” a human rights project that trained citizens to monitor the polls in the southern United States.
During Ms. Burnham's 2008 stay in Ann Arbor, she met with over a dozen UM faculty whose research focused on political participation and feminism, gender-conscious leadership training models, and social movement building. She also interviewed eleven social justice leaders and reflected on her own organizing experiences. The result was a paper entitled: "The Absence of a Gender Justice Framework in Social Justice Organizing." In it, she explains why many activists working in low-income communities have no framework for understanding how gender dynamics play out in their communities, among their members and constituents, or within their organizations. This, she notes, is despite their having fairly sophisticated understandings of the dynamics of racism and class privilege. Her TFVSA paper offers social justice organizations several recommendations for increasing their understanding of, and commitment to, women's human rights and gender justice.
Ms. Burnham also met with students in the "Women in the Community" class offered by Professor Laura Wernick. She discussed the history of the Women of Color Resource Center and why a center focusing particularly on the needs of women of color was necessary.
Ms. Burnham currently consults with organizations that are committed to intentionally and systematically integrating racial justice and gender justice frameworks and values into their organizing, advocacy and communications. She also serves as National Research Coordinator for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Following publication of the book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, then COO of Facebook, Burnham wrote a critique of the Lean In initiative. Her analysis dissects the "brand of feminism" espoused by Sandberg, helping readers to decide whether or not this is the kind of social movement that will serve their needs.