Barbara Smith has played a groundbreaking role in opening and expanding our national cultural and political dialogues about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-1-4384-5114-5), edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks, brings to life the controversies, players and strategies that expanded the definitions of freedom and liberation over four decades. As an organizer, writer, publisher, independent scholar, teacher, and most recently as an elected official, Barbara has contributed to multiple freedom movements (Civil Rights, Feminism, Lesbian and Gay Liberation, Anti-Racism, and Black Feminism). She offers a distinct lens on the nature of liberation struggles and the difficult arts art of building political movements that embrace and reflect our full selves.
Barbara and colleagues are credited with the first published work that utilized the term “identity politics,” defining it as a political analysis and organizing approach critical for recognizing and addressing the often “interlocking oppressions” of race, gender, class and sexuality. Now re-popularized as “intersectionality,” this analytical approach has shaped scholarship, teaching and progressive activism for at least two decades. Her work has been a source of guidance and inspiration to activists and movements battling classism, sexism, racism, and homophobia both outside and within.
Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around is formatted as a reflective conversation through four decades of activism. Editors Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks were enlisted by Barbara Smith to explore her life from her childhood to her recent work as an elected official in Albany. They meticulously selected material from over two hundred articles, images, and recordings and a dozen original interviews. The book juxtaposes hard to find historical documents with new unpublished interviews with fellow activists and scholars bringing to life the controversies, players, and strategies that challenged movements to expand their definitions of freedom and liberation. In a clear, accessible, and conversational style, the book engages readers in fundamental questions that those committed to social justice must grapple with in order to deepen their work and heighten their integrity, accountability, and courage.
“Barbara Smith is a creator of modern feminism as a writer, organizer, editor, publisher, and scholar,” said Gloria Steinem. “Now she has added to her decades as an activist outside the system by becoming an elected official who truly listens, represents, and creates bridges to a common good. She has shown us that democracy is a seed that can only be planted where we are.”
As for the editors, Jones is Director of Education and Leadership Development at 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and a former professor of public policy and politics. Eubanks is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York and author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age.