Tamar Carroll lectures on the coalitions between AIDS and reproductive rights

Photos  [l-r] courtesy of rit.edu and tamarcaroll.com ||  Tamar Carroll spoke of her work on New York social movements in the late twentieth century last week at Smith. 

Photos  [l-r] courtesy of rit.edu and tamarcaroll.com || Tamar Carroll spoke of her work on New York social movements in the late twentieth century last week at Smith. 

Tamar Carroll, associate professor of History at Rochester Institute of Technology gave a talk on Friday Nov. 10, entitled “Creating Queer Politics: Coalitions between AIDS and Reproductive Rights.”  

The subject is of great interest to Carroll. In 2015, she wrote “Mobilizing New York: AIDS, Antipoverty, and Feminist Activism.” Carroll focuses her studies on the history of community activism in post-World War II New York City.

Carroll began her talk by describing life in the mid-twentieth century, when the country was “very concerned with juvenile delinquency” in “an era of a lot of optimism of government solutions.” 

The group Mobilization for Youth (MFY) was founded to give job training to young men. The group had employed a male breadwinner model at first. 

Female social worker staff members complained that there was no training program for women, and soon such training programs were made available. Mobilization for Youth would eventually grow to become, as Carroll writes in the preface to her book, “a model for the War on Poverty.” 

Carroll then spoke about a group called the Mobilization of Mothers (MOM). In her book, Carroll writes that MOM was founded in 1962 by a group of Puerto Rican mothers. 

MOM had initially advocated for more after school activities for their children. The group soon broadened their scope, such as attaining proper housing conditions and giving poor people access to legal services.

MOM hired a Puerto Rico-born, female community organizer named Petra Santiago to work for them. Santiago was a very active member of her community prior to joining the group. She worked as a translator for other Spanish-speaking parents. 

Carroll explained that Santiago paved the way for other antipoverty programs to employ local residents on the basis of their skills and knowledge of the community, instead of solely on the basis of their social work credentials. 

Later, Carroll showed the audience a short film that she helped to produce entitled “The Legacy and Lessons of Working Class Feminism: Brooklyn’s NCNW.” 

NCNW stands for the National Congress of Neighborhood Women. Helping women to assume power without feeling that it was a threat to family, seriously addressing sexism and bridging the gap between black and white women were some of the group’s main aims. 

The film showed clips of group members from the 1970s relating their experiences of sexism and the steps they took to help otherwise helpless women and mothers in their local communities.

Carroll then discussed the group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP). The group’s official website states that they are “a diverse, non-partisan group of individuals united in anger and committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.” 

The group was founded in 1988 to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic. An article from New York Magazine from  March of 2012 states that the group “played a key role in catalyzing the development of the drugs that have helped keep patients alive for a near-normal life span since 1996.”

Carroll discussed the ways in which political and social activism changed in the 1980s. President Reagan’s silence about AIDS and the Catholic Church’s PR campaign against abortion posed challenges to the progress of groups like Mobilization for Youth, Mobilization of Mothers and the National Congress Neighborhood of Women. 

Carroll stated that social groups are facing similar challenges today. Carroll now focuses her studies on modern-day issues. She is currently writing a book entitled “Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Historicizing the 2016 Presidential Election,” with her colleagues Christine Kray and Hinda Mandell.