What is the value of using an intersectional lens as a leader working to make progress in your community and the nation?

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Dr. Van Bailey

Inaugural Director, Harvard College BGLTQ Student Life
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Social Justice Educator and Brown Boi

As a leader, it is critical to understand the nuances of intersectionality in our work. My fear is that this theoretical lens is being washed down in our daily rhetoric. While, it is important to understand that we bring multiple identities to the work, it is necessary for us to understand how systemic forces impact our lives daily.

Remembering our most vulnerable populations and centering their narratives and experiences must be the first step as leadership in action. Leaders must ask themselves, who’s in our spaces? Who’s not in our spaces? And why? The “why” will uncover systemic issues that must be addressed. Progress cannot be made without having hard conversations about power, privilege, and oppression. Everyone has a stake in eliminating oppression. As a leader, my number one priority is to create greater mechanisms of safety for our most vulnerable, those who may slip in between the cracks at the intersections of multiple identities.

Don’t just ask what others are doing. Start with yourself. Know the power of agency and be vigilant in asking the hard questions in order to get to solutions. Involve the communities in which you wish to serve in decision-making by giving them not only a seat at the table, but access to indulge in the multiple resources that are shared at the table. Trust me, this isn’t easy work and that’s why many have chosen to use intersectionality as jargon rather than a critical theoretical lens that unpacks systemic power and privilege.

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