Rebecca Walker




Rebecca Walker, founder of the Third-Wave feminist organization, addressed about 200 people Sunday night,

by Marlene Bertino, © The Oracle Newspaper, March 30, 1998


Rebecca Walker brought her opinions and views about feminism to life Sunday through readings and discussions as part of the 25th Anniversary Celebration of Women's Studies at USF.

Walker, daughter of author Alice Walker, addressed an audience of about 200 people in the USF Embassy Suites Hotel.

One focus of Walker's presentation was the creation of the Third Wave, an organization Walker began in 1992 after she graduated from college. The Third Wave is a New York-based group composed of activists in their 20s.

Walker said the atmosphere she graduated into led her to organize the Third Wave.

"When I graduated in 1992, I was graduating into a political climate that was very frightening," she said. "I graduated in a time when the George Bush administration was really launching a full attack on reproductive freedom. The Rodney King verdict had come down. The (Los Angeles) rebellion had blazed across the country. The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings were going on. When I graduated, there was a real feeling that we were coming of age into the work force at a time that was very scary. And what my colleagues and I, and my friends and I realized, that existing organizations like NOW and the NAACP, while doing great work, were not making the generational connection. So, we decided to start the organization Third Wave."

Walker said Third Wave was designed to be able to deal with reproductive issues, racism, police brutality and a variety of different issues that will be multiracial and multicultural.

"We envisioned that it is a kind of bridge between the older women and the younger men and women we saw coming up who really wanted to contribute to political discourse, but who, for a variety of different reasons, didn't feel comfortable doing that."

Recently, the Third Wave has had a major shift in focus, according to Walker. From 1992 to 1996, the organization concentrated mostly on direct action projects. However, the group soon found that much money for such things was difficult to come by. So organizers developed a fundraising arm, which gives back to women in four different ways: an abortion fund, which pays for women to have an abortion; a business fund, which give $1,000 to $3,000 to women starting businesses; an education fund, which gives $1,000 to $3,000 toward educational goals; and a general grant program, which supports projects.

Another topic Walker discussed in her speech was her book, "To be Real," a collection of writings by young men and women.

Walker said the book consists of a diverse group of people. She said it combines men and women, heterosexuals and homosexuals, whites and blacks. She said she wanted to create a book that allowed everybody to make a contributions.

"One reason I did the book was to make space for people," she said.

"It allows people to come in with all their warts and problems."

For a portion of the speech, Walker read from the book, touching on issues such violence, sexuality and hip-hop culture

Walker said one of the things she found most interesting about editing the book was that some of the people she talked to were forced to deal with their own ideas of feminism.

"What I found fascinating about doing this book and talking to so many men and women about feminism was that each of the writers described their struggle with feminism as themselves coming up against their own perception of what it was," she said. "Every single person I talked to for the book had their own issue with it, whether that be a real issue or a perceived issue."

Walker is working on two more books, an autobiographical memoir and an anthology on bisexuality.

When the readings were finished, Walker stepped away from the pulpit and opened up the room for discussion.

One topic that came up was the societal system in which we live and the place feminism has in that system.

Walker said that women are an integral part of the system but at the same time are trying to change the system.

"I think we're all a part of the system and working to change the system at the same time," she said.

"I think that's one of the main differences between the second wave and third wave. I think the second wave articulated a real separation from the system, a real sense that if you're not part of the solution, you're a part of the problem. I think it was easily dichotomized in that way. They were outside looking in, critiquing. I feel much more that there is no outside. None of our hands are clean. Even if you are blowing up the Pentagon or putting your $10 million trust fund into starting a women's library, you still are wearing clothes that have been dyed by or sewn by women in Mexico making 30 cents an hour. I guess the way I deal with the system is that I do my work and contribute my voice and hope I affect this organism that we think of as the system."



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