Thursday, October 02, 2008

Norma Abdulah, Harlem Activist, to Speak at San Francisco Radical Feminist Conference, Oct. 5


Bay Area residents will have the rare opportunity to meet and hear 87-year-old NORMA ABDULAH speak on Sunday, October 5 at the national Radical Women conference, “The Persistent Power of Socialist Feminism” in San Francisco.

ABDULAH is a longtime Harlemite whose family came to the U.S. from Trinidad. She was the first Black woman to be a member of the Department of Science and Philosophy of the Graduate School at Columbia University. She joined the Communist Party in her 20s, but left when she was told she should limit herself to speaking on “the Negro problem,” rather than issues of Marxist philosophy.

Nevertheless, ABDULAH remained a socialist and worked with various organizations on the Left. In the 1960s, she collaborated with such legendary liberation heroes as MALCOLM X, FANNY LOU HAMER, and KWAME NKRUMAH, the first prime minister and president of Ghana. She taught in the New York City Public School system for 35 years and helped lead the drive to form the United Federation of Teachers.

ABDULAH became active with Radical Women shortly after the organization opened a new office in a Harlem storefront. She was impressed with Radical Women’s multiracial approach to fighting for liberation on all fronts and its recognition of the powerful leadership capacity of women of color. She told interviewer Jen Laverdure, “In Radical Women, I continue the fight for human liberation. I can express myself there and get respect for my ideas.”

At the Radical Women conference, ABDULAH will take part in a Sunday, 9am panel on “The galvanizing impact of multiracial organizing in a society divided by racism.” The conference is being held from October 3-6 at the Women’s Building, 3543 18th St., in the Mission District, near the 16th Street BART stop. Registration is $15 per day; student and low income registration is $7.50 per day.

Other major topics at the gathering include a Friday morning keynote by poet Nellie Wong, speaking on “Women and revolution—alive and inseparable.” She will be followed by Laura Mannen, who will spearhead a discussion on how to build a strong, independent grassroots feminist movement. At 3:00pm that day, the assembly will hear a roundtable of unionists who are “Standing our ground on labor’s frontlines.”

At 7:30pm on Friday evening, the embattled human rights attorney Lynne Stewart will address “Radical dissent: The righteous response to an unjust system.” Stewart has defended numerous poor and controversial clients including members of the Black Panthers, the Weather Underground, and the Black Liberation Army. She is currently appealing her 2005 conviction for providing “support for terrorism” by delivering a press release from a client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.

A highlight on Saturday is a 9:00am panel presentation titled “Magnificent warriors: Female leadership in the global freedom struggle.” This will be followed by a discussion on the leadership exerted by immigrant women in U.S. movements.

The conference will also feature numerous workshops on issues and skills.

Radical Women invites the public to meet NORMA ABDULAH and get to know the group that ABDULAH says: “will give women an historical understanding of their role and the role they need to play in the future. If women want humanity to progress, they must take a leadership role. I encourage all women to get involved!”

Everyone is welcome at the conference. For more information or to register, visit, or call 415-864-1278.

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