Kemarah Sika, VP of Programs, featured on Chloé Across America episode “The ABCs of Intersectionality”
Kemarah Sika, YW Boston’s Vice President of Programs, joined comedian Chloé Hilliard for her nightly talk show Chloé Across America on June 10, 2020. The episode, entitled “The ABC’s of Intersectionality,” streamed live for viewers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
As Chloé spoke of during the show, we have been hearing the term intersectionality a lot recently, but not everyone knows what it means. Kemarah started introducing intersectionality by taking a moment to explain what identity means, stating “Identity is what you believe you are, but also how you are perceived. Really thinking about both, how you move through the world, both internally and externally. When we are talking about intersectionality, what we’re talking about is that you have a variety of identities, particularly identities that people perceive you as, that then interact with one another, that gets to either accumulated advantages or disadvantages. So when we are talking about White men, that is an intersectional identity. And when we are talking about Black women, there are intersectional disadvantages that are there. So really recognizing that it is an amplification of advantages or disadvantages that occurs.”
After Kemarah introduced the definition of intersectionality, Chloé remarked that she used to refer to herself as a “double minority,” which was viewed in a negative light. In response, Kemarah remarked that, “At YW Boston, we think about empowerment as well […] When we think about intersectionality, we want to think about what power is. Power is both influence and authority. So, I wouldn’t say we have to think about it in a way that is completely dis-empowering. Yes, there are things that work against us. I am a Black woman. I know there are disadvantages that I have because of the body I am in, but I also wield a tremendous amount of power and influence and it is about how do I tap into that and leveraging that to create the change I want to see in the world to get things to be more inclusive.”
Chloé went on to ask how COVID-19 and recent protests about the police murders of Black individuals has affected YW Boston’s work. Kemarah spoke about how Black women in particular are facing negative effects of COVID-19, such as job loss and a higher likelihood of dying from the disease. She also spoke about how Black women are being forgotten in the conversation about police brutality stating that, “One murder we want to talk about is Breonna Taylor. Her murder was not really paid attention to and noticed and we see that that is also happening with trans murders, as well. You know, it is recognizing and acknowledging that it is not just Black men who are dying from police brutality and violence.”
When Chloé Hilliard asked about what makes it hard to speak about intersectionality, Kemarah explained that one “a challenge is people who hold one marginalized identity and not recognize the power they may have with another identity. Particularly, White women look at me and say ‘Well, I have the same issues,’ not recognizing that there’s a compound interest that occurs having brown skin. […] We need to recognize that the bodies we are in really have an impact on the way we move through the world.”
Kemarah went on to speak about the advantages she has found in being a Black woman in the professional space, and how she has learned to utilize her identities to create change. She spoke about working with middle school girls, and how they had to find the power within themselves to not believe what they have been told about their own identities. Kemarah urged the audience to do the same — for everyone to inspect their own identities and use the power they hold to create change.
Watch Kemarah on Chloé Across America below. Kemarah enters the discussion soon after the 25-minute mark.
About YW Boston
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and F.Y.R.E. Initiative, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.
As part of that work, we are helping organizations prioritize Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and become socially connected while staying physically distant. During this time, YW Boston is providing organizations with digital workshops and resources to help them better understand the challenges faced by their employees. For more information, please contact Sheera Bornstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.