The Black Women’s Collective (BWC) worked together in Toronto from 1986 to 1989 and had a radical, intersectional analysis of racism, sexism, homophobia, class, and imperialism. The group published Our Lives: Canada’s First Black Women’s Newspaper.
The BWC was a tightly organized group that both initiated activism and intervened in existing organizations. They developed statements on a wide range of feminist and anti-racist issues. They initiated the Women’s Coalition Against Racism and Police Violence to condemn the police shootings of Sophia Cook, Lester Donaldson, and Michael Wade Lawson, which they identified as part of a pattern of racist and police violence across the country facing Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of colour.
Along with the Coalition of Visible Minority Women and the Toronto Chapter of the Congress of Black Women, the BWC called for ‘women and poverty’ to be the central theme of International Women’s Day (IWD) 1989. After IWD that year, at which BWC member Angela Robertson was a speaker at the rally, the group critiqued IWD and called for broader representation in the March 8th Coalition, which organized the annual IWD march. As they stated in their letter to the Coalition: “In order to build a women’s movement that truly addresses the issues we face as a result of race, class and gender oppression, we know we must build links between women who are getting hit with it and fighting back.”
The BWC also initiated ‘Ba-thari’ A Black Women’s Day on May 24, 1987, which included workshops on racism and sexism in the workplace, and entertainment from Faith Nolan, Audri Zhina Mandiela, Audrey Rose, and Lillian Allen.
The aims and objectives of the Black Women’s Collective, as stated in their 1988 constitution, were the following:
- To participate politically in the struggle to end the oppressions of sexism, racism, racialism, homophobia, ageism, class exploitation, capitalism, and imperialism;
- To work to eradicate ideas and practices of sexism, sexual stereotyping, class exploitation, white supremacy, homophobia, and imperialism;
- To plan and hold protests, educationals, events, and campaigns against such oppressions;
- To work in solidarity with other progressive women’s groups and progressive groups in the struggle to end these oppressions;
- To encourage other Black women to become active in the struggle for women’s liberation, Black liberation, and the liberation of all oppressed and exploited working peoples;
- To produce propaganda for spreading the word in these efforts; and
- To advocate and work toward changing the power relations in the society in which we live, recognizing that gaining power does not mean exchanging places with the establishment but striving toward an equal and just society for all human beings in the planet.