2016 Rose Olver Prize Winners

Congratulations to our 2016 Rose Olver Prize Winners Rachael Abernethy and Amira Lundy-Harris!

Rachel Abernethy
Rachael Abernethy '16

Department of Black Studies Honors Thesis

We Are Here, but Where Does the I Belong? The Struggle for Self-Definition and Liberation in Three Black Women’s Life Stories

Abstract: This thesis examines how Maya Angelou, Elaine Brown, and Audre Lorde define and liberate themselves through the process of writing their life stories. The introduction explains that in the 1960s and 1970s, the contemporary Black Power and white feminist movements excluded black feminists from the struggle to gain political access and civil rights. At this time, black women were not permitted to voice their experiences and resorted to traditions of creative resilience to survive. The first chapter employs the Combahee River Collective’s black feminist statement to name and identify the effect of three interlocking oppressions in Angelou, Brown, and Lorde’s life: sexual oppression, gender inequality, and physical and sexual abuse. The second chapter examines how in writing about their lives, these three authors recollect pieces of their past to claim their present selves and release their signature truths. The third chapter theorizes about the relationship between a black mother, her daughter, their shared language, and ability to come to a voice that conveys a sense of place, past, present, and future interests. The conclusion proposes that the readers must look to engage with the authors and their truths beyond the experience of reading their writings. This thesis is written in an imperative style to ask the reader to consider his or her complicity in the oppression of black women. Ultimately, this thesis is a tribute to the courage and strength of these authors and a call for embodied forms of social interaction outside of text, beyond literature, including Amherst Uprising, a moment that enabled people to understand one another and inspire each other to engage in the struggle for self-definition and liberation.

Amira Lundy-Harris
Amira Lundy-Harris '16

Department of Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies Honors Thesis

“It’s Revolutionary To Connect With Love:” Kinship, Extralegality, and Utopia in Trans Liberation Movements

Abstract: This project explores what models of trans activism are possible within the context of kinship networks in queer and transgender communities of color that challenge injustice in the present but also present a vision for the future. My research focuses on the ways in which kinship networks provide the opportunity for people to create spaces of utopia, using extralegal means. This project seeks to elucidate how queer kinship networks serve as the structures through which young queer and transgender people of color come together to create sites of resistance, which seek justice, protection, love and recognition. In order to explore the ways in which queer kinship, extralegality, and utopia-making relate to each other, I examine two case studies. The first case study is of The Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (also known as STAR), a group of trans and gender non-conforming people formed by Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson in 1970 in New York City. The second case study is of Bash Back!, a network of affiliated queer and trans anarchist activist projects across the United States between the years 2007 and 2011. Through the case studies of Bash Back! and STAR, I explore how queer and trans-identified people of color use kinship networks to create extralegal sites of resistance in order to seek justice for the interpersonal and structural violence they experience daily. I examine how STAR and Bash Back!, create ephemeral moments of utopia in the context of the present, through kinship and actions outside the legal structure. Members of Bash Back! and STAR both fought the multiple forms of violence marginalized queer and trans people face daily through tactics ranging from looting to attacking queerbashers. Using these case studies, I analyze the ways in which organizations provide the support and protection its members need to survive the macro- and micro- forms of violence they face daily. This project unmasks the insurrectionary potential of the declaration that those most marginalized by the law are worthy of love, recognition, justice, and protection.