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Profile of Brigette M Moore, founder and president of Black Grrrl

Revolution, feminist group for girls and women of color

Title: YOU BAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION?


Author: Bashir, Samiya A
Source: Curve, 11 (3): 36, May 2001. ISSN: 1087-867X
Publisher: Outspoken Enterprises
Subject Area: Activism; African American; Feminism; Lesbians
Geographic Area:
Record Type: Fulltext Word Count: 1584
Publication Type: Journal
Article Type: Personal Overview/Profile
Publication Country: United States, Language: English
Text:

BASHIR, SAMIYA A.

WITH THE HELP OF A FEW GOOD WOMEN, BRIGETTE M. MOORE WORKS


LIKE AN ARSONIST, SETTING OFF SPARKS AND BLOWING ON THE FLAMES
OF FEMINIST REVOLUTION IN THE HEART OF BROOKLYN.

Brigette M. Moore, founder and president of Black Grrrl Revolution


(www.blackgrrrlrevolution.org), is snubbing the high road of traditional feminist theory
and taking hold of the tools she hopes will help young girls and women build their own
liberation -- and she's taking it to where they live. Her multifaceted, nonprofit
organization is housed in her home in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn
-- best-known to those outside the city from Spike Lee Joints and negative media
portrayals.

Moore has received a lot of raised eyebrows from the feminist establishment in her
journey to take an unabashedly lesbian-feminist women's revolution to inner-city girls
and women. She's no stranger to controversy, but instead of shifting focus to take on
detractors, she lets the work speak for itself.

"I named BGR in March 1998 and began to play around with the ideas," says Moore,
who has been active in various black, multicultural and women's arts networks in and
around New York City for the past 10 years. "At the time, folks thought it was too
radical, saying, 'Oh my god, you're really over the top this time!"' But she remained
persistent, putting out tables on the main streets and boulevards of the neighborhood and
working with other BGR members to do direct outreach to young women of color she
sees on the front lines of the struggle for women's liberation.

She began by honing a theory she thought could guide a successful struggle for women's
liberation, and take that struggle outside of the realm of theory and into the lives of the
girls and women she encountered every day. "Pro-Black Grrrl feminism is a philosophy
born of my lived experience and my own personal convictions, and formed out of nine
years of solitary study, theorizing and writing," she says. While putting her theory into
practice, Moore did temp work during the day, and used a twist on a Buddhist principle to
guide her funding principles. "I put about half of my money toward my living expenses
and the other half for BGR," she says. "Getting incorporation, doing everything that goes
into starting up and operating a nonprofit, came out of my own pocket."

One of the most identifiable BGR activities is the Black Grrrl Revolution Street Tour,
which began in 1999. BGR members and supporters build street altars and create living
memorials to protest the sexual violation of women of color. The striking images of
women of color standing in silent mediation for up to four hours, dressed in black and
wearing placards stating the focus of the protest, is difficult to ignore.

The street tour launched this year in February with a large altar in Greenwich Village to
protest three rapes of young women of color, which happened in one week in the city.
"The altars have ancestral importance," says Moore, "as well as memorializing the pain
and suffering of our sisters who have been subjected to this violence."

Moore, who grew up in Brooklyn's working-class neighborhood of Sheepshead Bay, is a


multimedia artist, writer, singer and songwriter who began producing venues for her
artwork when she caught the vibe that her radical voice scared off many mainstream
establishments. She often parallels her work to do-it-yourself success stories like Ani
DiFranco, and hopes to create a medium for independent art by and for black girls. To
that end, Moore also runs mooreawareness.com, through which she distributes and
promotes her music and artwork, and problackgrrrl.com, a magazine that gets about 2,000
site visits a month and receives e-mails from around the world.

I first encountered Moore years ago singing and speaking before a group of lesbians. She
brought love, art and activism to the stage and mixed them together into her own
beautiful, a cappella music. But even in that lovey-dovey lesbian space, it was clear that
Moore had an edge to her that was hell-bent on rustling the feathers of people who don't
like being challenged.

"I think it's important to say 'dyke' a lot in places that are really averse to it," she says. As
an out bisexual woman running a women's organization in the inner city, she is filled
with stories of daily harassment, from being followed home by groups of young boys
taunting her with homophobic rants to pitching her organization to conservative funders
on a site visit amidst the hail of rocks being thrown at her windows. And the way she
addresses these issues often does little to calm the rancor of those on either side of the
argument.

"I think there's power in claiming a dyke identity, but it's kind of a double-edged sword.
I've had crushes on girls all my life. I knew it was unsafe to say so as a child in settings,
but I also knew that my feelings were affirmed in what I was reading. When I was 16, I
read Women, Race & Class, and in it Angela Davis speaks a little about bisexuality and
her own crisis. I feel that as a black bisexual woman, I have to be very radical about
sexual identity and the eradication of homophobia and biphobia."

At the same time, she can't resist calling lesbian communities to task. "So much lesbian
credibility rides on image," she says. "A lesbian can be a raging anti-feminist, a racist, a
total apolitical passivist, but if her image is on, then she is usually validated, even
considered radical. But bisexual women who are radical can be disqualified, dismissed
and invalidated -- especially if they are femme -- by lesbian communities.

"I have had committed, monogamous relationships with men and women," she continues.
"If I'm with a man, I'm constantly outing myself; I think it's integral. I'm not concerned
with status quo and the comfort that can come from being femme. If I find that people are
treating me like a straight person, I nip it right in the bud. I have no interest in passing for
straight."

While on one end, BGR, whose board and membership are predominantly "bisexual
grrrls and women," has been criticized for not being queer enough, at the other end there
is a poor, struggling community that does not always welcome queerness at all. "You get
asked, 'Is this a lesbian thing?' and I say, yes! I think it's important to note that a pro-
Black Grrrl feminist, bisexual, black woman created and founded Black Grrrl
Revolution," says Moore.

Moore originally considered publishing a book of her theories and ideas, but decided that
the approach was "cliche" and chose the creation of a grass-roots organization over
"project commodification." "Black girls are subjected to every form of global -- and
human -- oppression," she says. "I certainly think the oppression of black girls is worthy
of the time and theory and of the opportunity to operate a liberation movement from their
standpoint." The black women and other women of color on the board of directors and
within the membership reflect the community the organization serves and in which it is
based. BGR holds both women-only and mixed-gender classes and workshops, although
membership is limited to girls and women.

But there is already black feminism. So why do girls and women of color need her
movement? "Black feminism is rooted in, and for the most part revolves around,
academia," says Moore, who struggled to articulate the urgency she saw percolating on
the streets and subways. She wasn't articulating those needs alone; she did a lot of
listening. "Girls and women who have found me are already living the philosophy. They
saw the limitations in both black nationalist and black feminist ideology -- that was the
intense part of theorizing pro-Black Grrrl feminism. Why do you have rich, privileged
white girls more familiar with black feminism than poor black girls?" she asks. "I feel a
certain accountability for this awareness reaching black girls who may not have access to
academia or even know about the feminist bookstore."

In doing the work, Moore has also had to do some deconstruction of herself and her place
in the work. "I want black girls to own their own will and determination and have a right
to do that." But since Moore is not from the neighborhood in which she is working, she's
struggled to combat the image of the paternalistic outsider. "I've had to confront my own
privileges, too," she says, "and it's then that you realize that knowledge and awareness are
privileges; they're commodities."

"We are essentially translating academia -- women's studies departments -- for the masses
of girls who need it most," she says. "I don't mean break it down to them; I mean bring it
to them. I don't alter how I speak; I bring the texts and the curriculum to them. I'm saying
that accessible feminism is as necessary as accessible health care."

Black Grrrl Revolution may indeed be just what the doctor ordered -- both for the
community and for Moore. "What my mother and grandmother lived has always been
feminism, but it is a feminism that's very self-determined," says Moore. "There wasn't a
movement or scene or clique, there was just a necessity. It was about survival." She
hopes, with BGR and the thousands of members and supporters in tow, to help move
women's lives to the next level, where survival isn't the best one can hope for -- where
planning a safe, fulfilling future becomes a goal women everywhere can see within their
reach.

Copyright 2001 Outspoken Enterprises