In one of her first public appearances since 2020 that will serve as an extraordinary complement to Brooklyn College’s Women’s History Month celebration, author and activist Barbara Smith will discuss the values that have shaped her remarkable life with the extended campus community on March 16 from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

Smith’s lecture, “What I Believe,” will be an intimate exploration into her life as a trailblazer who broke new ground as a Black feminist, lesbian, activist, author, publisher, and independent scholar who inspired generations. She was among the first to define an African American women’s literary tradition and to build Black women’s studies and Black feminism in the United States. She has been politically active in many movements for social justice since the 1960s.

“I am so honored to serve as the Hess Scholar-in-Residence during the 2022–23 academic year,” Smith said. “At a time when some in our nation wish to limit the information and ideas that students can access, I look forward to expansive dialogues with members of Brooklyn College’s wonderfully diverse community.”

“As a writer, publisher, teacher, and organizer, Barbara Smith is a transformative force for justice. Her work has reshaped the American academy and society. We are honored to host her for a week of events culminating in the Hess Memorial Lecture,” said Gaston Alonso, interim director for the Ethyle R. Wolfe Institute for the Humanities and associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College.

This lecture event is free and open to the public and serves as the main highlight of the college’s Hess Scholar-in-Residence program for 2022–23.

The event will also feature President Michelle J. Anderson as well as Jeanne Theoharis, distinguished professor of political science, and Professor of English Rosamond S. King, interim dean, School of Humanities and Social Sciences.

On November 29, Smith was part of a conversation on campus with Theoharis when they discussed selected clips from the documentary The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, which features Smith and is based on Theoharis’ research and book of the same name.

A prolific writer and publisher, Smith has edited three major collections about Black women: Conditions: Five, The Black Women’s Issue (with Lorraine Bethel, 1979); All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (with Gloria T. Hull and Patricia Bell-Scott, 1982); and Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology (1983). She is also the co-author, with Elly Bulkin and Minnie Bruce Pratt, of Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism (1984). Smith is the general editor of The Reader’s Companion to U.S. Women’s History (with Wilma Mankiller, Gwendolyn Mink, Marysa Navarro, and Gloria Steinem, 1998). A collection of her essays, The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender, and Freedom, was published by Rutgers University Press in 1998. Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith, edited by Alethia Jones and Virginia Eubanks with Barbara Smith, was published by SUNY Press in 2014.

The evening will also include mezzo-soprano Lucia Bradford and the Conservatory Singers, Brooklyn College’s select chamber ensemble, who will perform “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” The group will be conducted by Associate Professor/Director of Choral Studies Malcolm J. Merriweather, director of the New York Philharmonic Chorus.

This signature event will be held on Thursday, March 16, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Claire Tow Theater at Brooklyn College. It will also be livestreamed on the Wolfe Institute’s YouTube channel.

Members of the community who do not have a Brooklyn College ID but would like to attend the Thursday lecture or any of the events in person may follow this link and RSVP to each event you wish to attend.

Highlights From the Hess Week Calendar, March 13–20

Full calendar and speakers

Barbara Smith—Hess Scholar-in-Residence Library Exhibit: An exhibit located in the main entrance of the Brooklyn College Library that will highlight the works and legacy of Barbara Smith. Archival material from the Robert L. Hess Collection will also be presented. Curated by Professor and Librarian Helen Georgas.

March 13, 11 a.m.–12:15 p.m.: President Anderson Welcomes 2022–23 Hess Scholar-in-Residence Barbara Smith Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and on Zoom

March 13, 2:15–3:30 p.m.: “If Black women were free…”: The State of Black Feminism 2023 Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and on Zoom

March 14, 2:15–3:45 p.m.: “Transforming the U.S. Academy” Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and livestreamed on the Wolfe Institute’s YouTube channel.

March 15, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: “Justice or Just Us?: Defining a Queer Agenda” Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and livestreamed on the Wolfe Institute’s YouTube channel.

March 15, 3:40–4:55 p.m.: “Teaching as a Liberating Practice” Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and livestreamed on the Wolfe Institute’s YouTube channel.

March 16, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: “Working for Liberation and Having a Damn Good Time” Woody Tanger Auditorium, Brooklyn College Library, and livestreamed on the Wolfe Institute’s YouTube channel.

March 20, 6–7:15 p.m.: “Putting Class Back Into Intersectionality” Online via Zoom

More information on Barbara Smith.

About the Robert L. Hess Scholar-in-Residence Program

The Robert L. Hess Scholar-in-Residence Program, established by Brooklyn College, is supported by the Robert L. Hess Fund. The program serves as a permanent tribute to the scholarly commitment of Robert L. Hess, exemplified during his tenure as president of Brooklyn College. It represents the ideal of the educated individual—knowledgeable, thoughtful, inquiring, alive to the shared purposes and concerns lining all intellectual pursuits. More particularly, it evokes the scholarly and academic virtues embodied in the curriculum at Brooklyn College.