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Rebecca Walker

As the daughter of Pulitzer Prize-winning black author Alice Walker and white Jewish civil rights lawyer Mel Leventhal, Walker describes herself as a “movement child.” Her light caramel skin was to signify hope for racial unity. Fragmented by the divorce of her parents and stripped of idealism, the reality of her childhood experience was not quite so hopeful. Her life on both coasts dividing time between mom and dad presented a large set of challenges. And peers (along with some family members) weren’t so easily able to embrace the unique blend of culture that Walker represented. Yet she feels she has been made stronger with each difficult moment endured.

“Through looking at the ways in which I have performed race and class and culture my whole life. I have realized that so much of those things are masks and that we are all performing,” she says. “And I know now that there is a much deeper and more meaningful self beneath and beyond that mask.”

Rebecca Walker was born in 1969 in Jackson, Mississippi, to an interracial "movement" couple who married in defiance of Mississippi's anti-miscegenation laws. She attended Yale University where she graduated Cum Laude in May 1992. After graduation, she founded Third Wave Direct Action Corporation, a national non-profit organization devoted to cultivating young women's leadership and activism. In their first summer, Third Wave initiated an historic emergency youth drive that registered over twenty thousand new voters in inner cities across the United States.

Walker started the youth-oriented Third Wave in response to several events and trends, including the Rodney King verdict, the Bush administration and the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. "The established organizations like the NAACP and NOW didn't speak my language," Walker said. "It didn't feel like me somehow."

Rebecca is also a writer and has been a contributing editor to Ms. magazine since 1989. Her writing, which engages such issues as reproductive freedom, domestic violence, and sexuality has been published in Essence, Mademoiselle, The New York Daily News, SPIN, Harper's, Sassy, The Black Scholar, and various women's and black studies anthologies including Listen Up (Seal) and Testimony (Beacon). Most recently, she has edited an anthology exploring young women's struggles to reclaim and redefine feminism entitled, To be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism (Anchor/Doubleday, November 1995).

In January 1996, Rebecca added "socially mindful entrepreneur" to her list of activist activities when she and partner Angel Williams opened Kokobar, a Cyberlounge/ Expresso Bar/Bookstore in Ft. Greener, Brooklyn, designed to provide Internet access and education to urban multi-cultural communities.

Equally concerned with communicating with people who do not read, Rebecca has hosted a television forum on inner city teen violence (WGBH-Boston), as well as about pregnancy and drug abuse. She has also produced segments for young activism among homeless teens, and the youth-response to nuclear weaponry (KRON-San Francisco).

In the process of her work with Third Wave and her discussions of feminism with others, Walker noticed something. "People would appreciate what I was doing, but they weren't comfortable with the term feminist," she said. "Feminist wasn't a bad word for me, but I heard what they had said.

"There's this split between generations," she continued. "A link needs to be forged. I decided to do this book because I wanted to bridge it.

"Simultaneously, I was starting to question what my own feminism was going to look like. I knew I'd embody feminism in a different way from my mother, and that was scary for me."

Reading from her introduction to the book, Walker explained her personal conflicts in developing a personal feminist perspective. "A year before I started this book, my life was like a feminist ghetto," she read. "Every vision had to measure into my feminist vision. My existence was an ongoing state of saying no to the universe."

This conflict led to "the guilt of betrayal"-Walker felt she "wasn't strong enough to be a feminist." A collection of images came to her when she thought about what it meant to be a feminist. "You had to live in poverty, hate pornography and must always be devoted to the uplift of your gender," Walker said. If you enjoyed other activities, such as "being spanked before sex, being treated like a lady or getting married-you couldn't be a feminist."

The need for a new and diverse feminism was called for, she thought. "We have a different vantage point on the world than our mothers," Walker explained. "Many young men and women just bow out altogether. The people in this book have not bowed out. They talk of their own ideal and add their own voices to the feminist dialogue." Voices are important, Walker believes. "If feminism is to be radical and alive [it needs] to respond to new situations, needs, desires and incorporate all those who swear by it."

For her work, Rebecca has been featured on CNN, MTV, The Charlie Rose Show, The Joan Rivers Show, and in The New York Times, The Chicago Times, The Atlanta Constitution, the San Francisco Examiner, Harper's Bazaar, Working Woman, Elle, Esquire, and U.S. News and World Report. She has received the "Feminist of the Year" award from the Fund for the Feminist Majority, the "Paz Y Justicia" award from the Vandguard Foundation, and the "Champion of Choice" award from the California Abortion Rights Action League (CARAL).

Considered one of the most audible voices of the young women's movement, and recently named by Time magazine as one of the fifty future leaders of America, Rebecca currently speaks on Third Wave feminism and the many forms of activism at colleges and conferences across the United States and Canada.

Walker is currently raising a child with her lover, singer Meshell N’degeOcello, and offers some interesting insight on her life-long bisexuality. “In my experience, I didn’t have a big coming out moment,” she says. “That wasn’t how it worked. I just always had a kind of fluidity with my sexuality that wasn’t really questioned. In the book, there’s always a sexual tension with my female friends. It’s very integrated within the pages the way it was in my life. My only coming out equivalent would be when I told my father I was in love with my current partner. He still says to me, ‘You’re gonna go back to men one day.’”

During a time when many gay, lesbian and bisexual black celebrities are not being outspoken about their sexuality, Walker finds it a vital subject to broach. “I just think it’s so important that we be honest about our lives, because there are so many young people coming up who need models, who need to know that they’re not alone. And also, I feel that I couldn’t live my life any other way. I couldn’t be like so many people in the media who are closeted. I just don’t know how to do that,” Walker says.

Second-generation Walker makes her own stand for feminism, By Danielle Service,11872,240799_213944-1,00.html




Author Rebecca Walker speaks about feminism and racism

Walker says Catt Hall issue came to light because few buildings on campus named for minority people

Special to the Daily

Rebecca Walker:
Reflections from Black, White, and Jewish 

a report from the Re-Imagining Gathering

by Doug King

Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self
By Rebecca Walker

By Bob Minzesheimer /

Rebecca Walker: Being Black, White and Jewish
Interview ©2001

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