Minnie Bruce Pratt, famous for her anti-racist, anti-homophobia poetry spoke in Griffin 3 last Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. Her lecture, “Walking Back Up Depot Street: 20 Years of Art & Activism,” co-sponsored by the Dively committee and the Williams Feminist Alliance, was warmly spoken, and warmly received by the audience. An enthusiastic question-and-answer session was preceded by the disclaimer that we could ask her anything, as she had been asked it all before. A small reception followed.
Despite attaining great fame for her influential work, Pratt exuded a motherly, down-to-earth Southern manner as she spoke. Her lecture centered on growing up as a white lesbian in, as she saw it, the “fascist environment” of the South. That environment instilled a certain set of beliefs; Pratt stated that her writings include a chronicle of her change in thinking from a fascist to an activist manner.
Pratt discussed her concerns about oppression; particularly regarding racism and homophobia, the realms closest to home. Afterwards, she read excerpts from her books, including a provocative excerpt from “S/HE,” a work about her transgendered lover. A highlight of the lecture was excerpts from her soon-to-be published work of poetry, “Walking Back Up Depot Street”
Pratt’s speech was thoughtful, but certain anecdotes inspired laughter. An example is of a college student in North Carolina, forced to sign a statement that she “did not intend to overthrow the U.S. government.” The implication was that her activism was a precursor to such a goal.
Pratt has been part of a collective struggle towards social change, in her words “both literally and in vision.” She implied sympathy towards socialist views, but stated that she separates her activism from politics. Rather, her acitivism and poetry came to rise simultaneously, one through the other. Pratt said she cannot imagine one without the other, because one cannot read her poetry without having a strong reaction, and also because her medium for activism is writing.
Minnie Bruce Pratt has written: “Rebellion: Essays 1980-1991,” “We Say We Love Each Other,” “Crime against Nature,” and “S/HE,” her most recently published book. “Walking Back Up Depot Street” is soon to be published.
Minnie Bruce Pratt was the first of the Women’s Spring Lecture Series. The next in the series, Paul Kamen, will speak on the future of the feminist movement on Mar. 12.