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November 22, 2021

Movement Maker Profiles: Paris Hatcher

Paris is the founder and Director of Black Feminist Future, a national Black feminist organization that amplifies and builds the power of Black feminist leaders, organizations and movements. In this capacity, she also serves on the leadership team of the Movement for Black Lives.

Who are your people?

My people are Black people of the South, in particular, Black folks from North Carolina. My people have been in North Carolina from when we were stolen from Africa and brought here to the U.S. My people, they love the land. My people are educators. They're hustlers. They make their way out of no way. They are educators. They're feminists. They're rowdy. They have a good time, love food, find joy, love to make things beautiful, queer and trans people, people who make things beautiful. I think that's important.

My people are all over, especially the diaspora wherever there was a resistance. They have really big hearts and want to make a difference in the world in any way that they can and really like to have fun and really bring people together to have a really good time. Also, they have really big visions and dreams. The things that they think and imagine, people think they're just not possible. 

What brings you to this work?

I have just always felt really called. When I was young, I wanted to make a difference. I think for me, what stands out as a really big moment in my life is when I learned about the sit-ins that happened in Greensboro by young people, by the young students, the Greensboro Four. I learned about them when I was nine years old. I entered an essay contest about their legacy because, by that time, it was 1990, it was 30 years since the sit-ins and I just was so amazed that you could do something like that to change the world.

I just was like, "I want to do something like that. I want to be a part of something like that." I was raised in a church and a community in Greensboro that was really active. I think that activism, and also thinking about others, was always stitched into my life. My brother was really big in sports. I also played football growing up for a team too. 

We would always have an extra kid with us that was one of the players on the team whose mama either couldn't pick them up or make sure they were fed, always making sure that people are getting taken care of. There was always someone. You can always extend yourself. You can always make sure that someone's taken care of. You can always think beyond yourself.

I think of just deep, deep, deep abiding love of my people and of what has been possible. I think about the legacy of this work and what it has meant for people to just feel called. It does feel like a calling. When people feel like that around different types of callings. It feels definitely like a calling. It's not a job or work. Even though it is work, it's not a job, you know?

What aspect of your work brings you the most joy?

I love to bring joy, I love delight and joy. I think it's what I love. What brings me joy is what happens when you bring people together and you watch what happens, you literally watch the transformation, you see the relationships, you see people being transformed right in front of your eyes, making deep relationships with each other, and making commitments. I'm still in some of those very deep relationships and commitments to this day or dancing on a dance floor or playing a game of assassins. It's being able to buoy our work with joy and delight because it's so hard. It's so trying. I have a big joy factor in the work that I do, I want folks to really feel the joy in the spaces that I create. I pay attention to that.

What moves are you making to end violence?

I think it's easy to get very overwhelmed and scared and frightened, particular to me when I think about patriarchal violence, and I know what it does to you as a person, as a survivor. I think in so many ways, yes, it's inner personal surviving, but it's also, we're surviving a culture that tells you all the time -- don't go outside, don't do this, don't wear this, don't do this, but it literally makes you afraid to be in the world.

My work is really a testament for that to no longer be the status quo, the understood way of being in the world, that women, girls, and gender-expansive people, we're not conditioned to be afraid. We don't actually have reason to be afraid. I think the difference is that even if you don't want to be afraid, there's the real reality of what happens. Some of the work that I'm doing is, I'm really interested and have a 25-year goal around wanting to impact patriarchal violence, decreasing it. 

We're doing some work on our table, the table to abolish patriarchal violence, the work that I've been a part of in creating this definition of patriarchal violence. We've created this table within M4BL for me, it was really important that it be embedded because it is one of the leading causes of death for Black women, in particular, trans women. Not only do we want to say we see, witness, but we also want to be like, "We are going to fucking abolish it."

There's that. I think also, having hard conversations, I think this work happens on every single level. That's something that we talk about at BFF that-- the challenge of this work is that it's very intimate. We deal with people of all genders in our lives. So much of what we talk about with break up with patriarchy, and that's the work around making moves to end violence is that, "Yes, we need to break up with patriarchy." It is having those hard conversations with your brother or your dad or your partner and not just being willing to talk to outside people all the time. I do that.

I do that a lot. I've always done that but sometimes it's always surprising when I realize that organizers and activists are not actually talking to their own people. They're talking to other people's people. I don't tell people to do something that I'm not willing to do myself.

I think another thing is really wanting to build a 21st-century feminist movement that really provides opportunities for folks to explore and be excited about feminism that dispels some of the stuff that people think about. In particular, it's not about hating men, it's that we actually hate patriarchy. 

How would you describe your leadership strengths?

I have huge vision. I have so many plans, so many dreams and visions of what I want to do. They just come for me. They feel like a download. It's how do you say this without coming across as ego or whatever but I'm like, no, it's like-- I don't know if you know the cartoon, That's So Raven, when she would see a vision and be like-- It feels like that when it just feels like, okay, I'm getting this message.

I'm vigorous. I work really hard. [chuckles] I am fun. I know how to motivate a team. I'm really good at taking really big complex ideas and projects and breaking them down. I'm also really good at explaining concepts and ideas. I know how to build teams and also I'm an organizer so I know how to connect with people and stay connected. I mean, I have really long, deep relationships with people.

Someone will be like, I went to this conference and dah, dah, dah. I was like, I went to this conference and now, I mean, I have so many connections to people that I've met there, and then we stay connected, and then we work on projects together, and we do things together. That's the other thing I would say. One of my big leadership strengths is that I'm the plug. I literally connect people together, connect resources, move things. I'm really good at being the plug, the connect.

What keeps you in this work?

I'm having a lot of fun right now. I have burned out and I needed to take a rest. I know what that feels like. Right now I'm doing the work that I've always wanted to do. Luckily, there's a team of people that I get to do it with that feels really--they breathe life into it. I'm really excited. It's the possibility of what we're building and what we're doing. Even when I know the challenges ahead, I feel like what keeps me in the work is all the years when I was getting really scuffed up. I learned a lot of lessons.

My lessons really have really supported me. I feel it's not like armor, I just feel like I have learned the lessons right and it's just allowed me to keep learning. That's the other thing too. I think just so much. I mean, and we haven't won so there's that that keeps me in. There are so many more people. Again, it's the love of my people, of what's possible, of liberation. I am really giddy that I get to do this. I still have it after all this time.

Art by lizar_tistry