Prizm News / September 5, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
‘Representation matters,’ the first trans woman of color elected to public office tells Denison University students.
By Bob Vitale
Andrea Jenkins, the first transgender woman of color in U.S. history to be elected to public office, had a few words of advice for Tuesday for students who packed a Denison University lecture hall to hear her speak.
“Resist. Heal. Protect. Grieve. Connect. Rest. Fight back. Think. Feel. Roar. Sing. Listen. Shout. Chant. Whisper. Lean in. Call out. Imagine. Protest. Rise. Empathize. Comfort. Respond. Praise.”
And her last word of advice? “Repeat.”
The poet, writer, performance artist and activist who was elected last fall to the Minneapolis City Council visited Ohio to talk about her life and career, share some of her works, and pay homage to trans pioneers such as Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy.
Jenkins also said their names, honoring some of the transgender women of color who’ve been killed in recent years, including Rae’Lynn Thomas of Columbus and Skye Mockabee of Cleveland, both murdered in 2016.
(Watch Andrea Jenkins perform her work, “Why I Wear Purple,” at TedX Minneapolis)
In movements for equality and social justice, Jenkins said, people contribute in all sorts of ways, such as protesting in the streets or making art or getting into politics.
“Trying to move the needle on social justice is a struggle we all should be engaged in on some level,” she said.
It’s not an easy area to navigate, though, she acknowledged. She spoke of a time when she took part in a mentoring effort for young people, only to arrive and find that the black children chosen for the program were all straight and cisgender and the LGBTQ children were all white.
“There are spaces where you can show up black but you have to leave your queerness behind. Or you can show up as queer and trans, but usually those are all white spaces,” Jenkins said. “There’s always this dilemma.”
But she encouraged students to push for change in all institutions.
“Representation matters,” Jenkins said. “When I’m in the room, the conversation shifts. I make people think about all the various communities a policy is going to impact.”
Jenkins spoke at Denison as part of its Laura C. Harris Series featuring women and women’s issues. The next lecture in the series is on Wednesday, Sept. 26 with Shine Louise Houston, Jiz Lee and Mireille Miller-Young. Their topic: “The Art and Politics of Feminist and Queer Pornography.”