Celebrated author and activist Kevin Powell is keynote speaker for Women Funding Network’s upcoming Women Funded 2019: Leadership for a Changing World. Here, Kevin talks about the importance of “allyship” and what mentors like Gloria Steinem have taught him.
You wear many hats as an educator, activist, author, humanitarian, director—the list goes on. What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I am working on a couple things, including being a producer for my wife Jinah’s Off Broadway show SHE, a play about women, girls, and healing. As a male ally, I find this work really important and exciting. Jinah started working on the show before the Me Too movement, but it happens to be a very relevant reflection of what’s going on in the country at the moment.
This work led me to another project, a short film called BROTHA MAN, about healthy men versus toxic ones. For the film, I interviewed men in both New York City and Los Angeles from diverse backgrounds: straight, queer, young, old, etc. We’re now in the editing process and the film should be ready for distribution by January.
People ask me what I do and that’s hard to answer. But generally, if I’m helping to move the needle forward in our world in any way, then I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
WFN is so excited to have you be a part of our upcoming Women Funded 2019 conference, where you will lead a session, “What is a Man? A Message for Us All,” as well as a workshop entitled “Engaging Boys and Men.” Can you talk a little about the concept of “allyship” and the role you see it playing in helping achieve gender equity?
I was just speaking with students in Southern California and this word came up. To me, allyship is about being consistent: showing up and listening. I personally could not engage in this work— helping men and boys go up against patriarchy—without the vital lessons that women and girls have taught me, including my own personal mentors Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler, and bell hooks.
Unfortunately, racism and sexism, especially against women and girls, is still prevalent. As bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, in particular, have noted: this will not end until boys and men make it end. I hear them loud and clear and I am committed to working with boys and men to challenge what have become social norms, like oppression and violence. It’s imperative that allyship be taught to the group who holds the privilege.
What are the benefits of participating in a conference like Women Funded 2019?
Any chance to come together to exchange ideas is good, no matter what our individual identities are. I personally love these types of gatherings because you realize that you’re not alone, that there are like-minded people out there and we all need a sense of community—you can’t operate by yourself all the time. More and more, I long for personal connection and I think we need each other more than ever, instead of depending so much on technological gadgets, like our phones. I’m so excited, humbled, and honored to be invited to participate in this upcoming conference and I don’t take it for granted. I look forward to open and honest dialogues and the actions that will come out of them.
For more on WFN’s Women Funded 2019, visit: https://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/women-funded-2019/