Cambridge HEART Statement
on Gender Justice
Cambridge HEART is fundamentally a feminist project. Founded by predominantly young Black and Brown women in Cambridge as The Black Response after the George Floyd murder, we understand feminism to be a commitment to gender justice and intersectionality, a commitment to end all forms of injustice. HEART is addressing the slice of women's’ oppression impacted by the carceral (police, hospitals, foster care/child services, public housing surveillance) systems with community led transformative approaches. This project includes attending to the various ways in which gender, in the context of race, class and disability, is used to discriminate against people, to police their behavior and expression, and to limit and control their life possibilities.
HEART’s model of paid community-based responders overseen by a community based governance system not only creates a practical alternative to policing but embodies the kind of “community safety” we want to build. Our response team and community boards will deal with non-carceral intervention as well as peer/progressive mutual aid and transformative justice/mediation/conflict resources.
We are committed to the cause of facing and intervening in domestic and sexual violence without using carceral systems. We have heard and understand the voices, politics, and expressed interests of marginalized women such as sex workers, undocumented women, and unhoused women who have called for alternatives to carceral responses to domestic and sexual violence. In collaboration with these women and those serving them, Cambridge HEART intends to heed their call and create an alternative that lives into that vision.
While HEART’s response team and services will serve all of Cambridge, our vision and teams will particularly center women of color, who have historically been excluded from the category of “women.” For example, African American women had to fight for voting rights in the 1960s despite the fact that “women's suffrage” was passed in 1920. The refusal to recognize some “women” as “real,” including the refusal to recognize trans women as “real” women, has had negative consequences for individuals and for social justice. The scope of our response of course, includes transwomen, lesbians, and non-menstruating people. All women are women!
In addition, we agree with the Combahee River Collective sisters when they wrote, “we feel solidarity with progressive Black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand.” We believe in solidarity with all people who believe in gender justice and are actively working toward a world that is free of carceral systems and punitive practices. In a context when Black men are uniquely targeted for detention, incarceration and punishment based on race and gender, our feminist analysis includes them as part of our vision for a better world.
To achieve gender justice, we must start with an analysis of the specific needs of women and the barriers they face at the community, national and global level. Where Cambridge HEART and our partners work, women often have less access to resources and face more constraints to participating in policy and governance processes. Cambridge HEART is actively working to bring women and other marginalized community members into these conversations.