Activist Robbie Clark: The Michelle Meow Show 2/15/18
Join us as Michelle Meow brings her long-running daily radio show to The Commonwealth Club one day each week, exploring important issues of interest to the LGBTQ community.
This month, we're celebrating Black History Month. This week: Black LGBTQ leaders in art and activism, featuring activist Robbie Clark and special guest co-host Kin Folkz of Spectrum Queer Media.
Robbie Clark is a queer displaced African born and raised in Oakland. Robbie learned from a very young age that racism was a real thing in “progressive” California and fought against gender injustices most of their life. Robbie’s earliest campaign, at the age of eight, was to change “altar boys” to “altar people” at their Catholic elementary school. After winning that campaign, Robbie was confident in taking action to combat sexism and the ways that it shows up in many institutions, and also learned about their leadership.
Robbie’s first campaign experience showed them that they were an agitator. They didn’t really understand what this meant until they learned about Steve Biko and watched Cry Freedom as a senior in high school. That was the point in which Robbie decided to commit their life to social justice. Los Angeles was the perfect place for Robbie to come into their agency and power as a leader. As a student at UCLA, the racism, classism, and homophobia was rampant—Robbie had to combat a lot of what they internalized and struggled throughout college with gender identity, sexuality and spiritual questions. Robbie also came out of that experience somewhat traumatized from the narrow Black nationalism that they had been drawn to.
Years later, Robbie found Causa Justa :: Just Cause while performing poetry at queer bars and events in the Bay Area. Robbie was drawn to the work of the organization because of its leftist politics and the work they were doing to fight against gentrification and displacement in the Bay Area, which was something that Robbie experienced first-hand. Robbie has been at the organization for almost 9 years. Robbie has lead a number of fights to win protections for Oakland’s tenants through direct policy, and policy changes at the regional level. In 2009 they co-authored a report with the Alameda County Public Health Department, "Rebuilding Neighborhoods, Restoring Health," on the public health impacts of foreclosure, and was also a contributor to Causa Justa’s "Development with Displacement" report released in 2014.
Most recently, Robbie has been active in the development of the Black Lives Matter Bay Area Chapter, broadening the definition of state violence. Robbie is a member of the #BlackFriday14, the 14 activists who shut down the West Oakland BART station to demand an end to the War on Black lives. Since then, the 14 along with the support of their community and allies fought and got the charges dropped. Robbie is committed to Black liberation, in all its many facets. They believe that one of the primary ways that oppression hurts people is by the way that the state tells vulnerable people that their bodies and lives are disposable. Robbie’s life’s work and purpose is to take agency over their body and being and to support others in their quests for self-determination.
See upcoming Michelle Meow Shows at The Commonwealth Club here.
Our February Black History Month Michelle Meow Shows at The Commonwealth Club are co-curated by Spectrum Queer Media.
The Commonwealth Club of California
110 The Embarcadero
Max Thelen Boardroom
San Francisco, 94105