“Becoming Visible: Survival for Black Lesbians”
“Becoming Visible: The First Black Lesbian Conference” grew out our of from the First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference by the National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays which was held in 1979, in Washington, DC. Although there had been previous conferences supporting both lesbians and gays, the First Black Lesbian Conference was the first in the United States with the mission to support the unique and African-Americans lesbians.
This exhibition highlights materials that were created in the planning phase of this conference by members of The Committee for The Visibility of the Other Black Women, who organized from coast to coast.
The Committee for The Visibility of the Other Black Women's aim was to provide black lesbians with an opportunity and space “to know who we are, where we are located, and what we are doing to eliminate the oppression we share as black lesbian women”.
The COVBW was trying to effect a change at these levels. determine their own needs and common goals. The overall goal was to come together as a group. To mobilize for change, and to return strength and autonomy to what is often a fragmented community. To build viable alternatives within the gay community, and to challenge the racist/sexist institutions over which Black women have no control. And first and foremost, to begin a dialogue with heterosexual Black women in the other words, to revive/create where necessary a strong, conscious autonomous Black lesbian community.
NYC-based members, Georgia M. Brooks, Kathy Davis, Jeanne Grah, Gail Johnson, Virginia Jones, Luvenia Pinson, Debra Sloan, put efforts into planning and hosting fundraising events and preliminary discussion to promote the conference.
One event organized by the Committee for the Visibility of the Other Black Woman. Audre Lorde moderates community discussion and dialogue including issues of identity, cross cultural conflicts, classism, and ageism. She also introduces panelists' presentations. Her most sustained comments are on SPW1163, as she introduces the panel on identity.
From October 17-19, 1980, The First Black Lesbian Conference of the Western Regional States was held across the country due to efforts of San-Francisco based organizezers, Rani Eversley, Kenya Johnson, Rose Mitchell, Janna Rickerson, Elizabeth Summers, Patricia Tilley and Marie Renfo.
Over 200 women convened in San Francisco’s Women’s Building to support one another, attend workshops, and hear keynote speakers Andrea Ruth Canaan, Pat Norman, and Angela Davis echo Lorde’s ideas back in Brooklyn. The spoke on identity and discussed the isolating and toxix effects of internalized racism on their community. Organizing was an act of resistance and a few months later they gathered together for First Black Lesbian Conference of the Eastern Regional states.