Today we’d like to introduce you to Emma Robinson.
Emma, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was the awkward girl sitting along the perimeter of the schoolyard reading furiously during recess. My mom encouraged my love of language through many trips to the library, and being a voracious learner helped me navigate class and racial lines when I left home. It’s difficult to class jump if you haven’t read any Thorstein Veblen. And studying Piketty helps the lesson sink in.
I didn’t know that where I was from would determine the trajectory of my life, but I want to use my luck effectively. I’m fascinated with the way information can change peoples lives. Access to information can open worlds you did not know were next door. Studying Philosophy helped me understand HOW to think, and to formulate ideas, but academic-theory is nothing without praxis.
After living all over the country collecting books, my personal library was nearing 300+ texts dedicated to liberation, activism, womanism, feminism, anticapitalism, socialism, beauty, history, so many worlds just waiting for people to explore them. The Womanist Library is an attempt at sharing on a large scale.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Consciousness Raising is difficult. Making folks aware of systems they didn’t know existed, or making patterns come to life in new ways, that’s not easy.
After doing the work ahead of time to try and communicate your ideas, you also have to make way for folks to show up as themselves. I read so much, but I’m not a genius. I don’t have a doctorate. It is very easy for folks to try and dismiss me before they know me, Intellectual egos are more deadly than most intellectuals themselves. Part of my unlearning has been decentering institutions as the only places where learning can happen.
Believing ourselves to be not only stakeholders but experts is a huge part of the Reproductive Justice framework, and it has helped me create a community of people interested in shifting the culture. Regular people matter (that’s not an insult), and that’s a paradigm that not everyone is using, so it makes the work hard. If your work is radical, it might make people upset, and that’s okay.
Womanist Library – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The Womanist Library is a mobile library space where Black Women/of Color can gather to learn. We create installations for folks to jump inside and imagine what the world might look like if this were the norm. A soft beauty filled space is carved out where we can read and lounge.
The spaces grew out of my desire to share books, but also my disdain for traveling to find beauty. I grew up in Oak Cliff, and we didn’t have beautiful bookstores or women’s clubs available for everyone, and if I’d grown up around that, I might be a different woman.
Taking these spaces on the road made me understand how necessary those spaces are, while also stoking a fire in me to find a freestanding space that could serve as the motherhouse of this project. There should be outposts in every city, Black Women/ of Color need spaces where we can see each other be radical.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The planning calls for the Spring series made my heart jump out of my chest. The Eleusinian mysteries are close to my heart, being an initiate of Persephone, and being able to connect my years-long fascination with Greek mythology to my community organizing has been a gift.
- Website: womanistlibrary.com
- Phone: 4045536056
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @womanistlibrary