International Womxn’s Week Keynote Address: Demita Frazier, “Aesthetic Apartheid: Gender, Race, and Socio-economic Class, and the Impact on Perception, Engagement and Experience”

Demita Frazier of the Combahee River Collective protesting the unsolved murders of women of color in Boston 4.28.79

Tonight’s lecture will be a personal exploration of the impact that the city landscape of Chicago had on one precocious and observant African American midcentury woman’s aesthetic evolution. This talk, designed to raise questions without an expectation of finding answers, aims to provide the GSD community with the opportunity to reflect on who architecture is designed for, toward what purpose, and the resulting impacts on communities and how they interact with the built environment.

Demita Frazier, J.D. is an unrepentant life long Black feminist, social justice activist, thought leader, writer, and teacher. She is a founding member of the Combahee River Collective who has remained a committed activist in Boston for over 44 years, was a radical even as a child. While a high school student in Chicago, she helped organize a student walk out in protest of the Vietnam War. She has worked in coalition with many organizations on the issues of reproductive rights, domestic violence, the care and protection of endangered children, urban sustainability issues affecting food access in poor and working-class communities, and a host of other important issues affecting communities of color. She has been an organizer and architect behind the scenes of many movement initiatives including the Chicago Black Panther Party’s Breakfast Program, Jane Collective, and more. After receiving her JD from Northeastern University, Frazier contributed to local and national campaigns for gender and racial justice. For more on Demita’s extraordinary activist journey, please see Keeanga–Yamahtta Taylor’s How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. She has been a consistent advocate for the unequivocal freedom of Black women so that we can get on with the urgent business of freeing the world.

Her current life goals include avid participation in the ongoing project of dismantling the myth of white supremacy, ending misogynoir, hetero-patriarchal hegemony, and undermining late stage capitalism, with the hope of joining with others in creating a democratic socialist society. A practicing unallied Buddhist, she is committed to loving kindness as she walks through life. Passionate cook & gardener, she would feed the world if she could.


Womxn in Design’s third annual International Womxn’s Week convenes a weeklong series of events that gathers members of the Harvard GSD community and beyond to celebrate and cultivate new ways of thinking about gender and power. In March 2019, International Womxn’s Week will focus on LABOR. In the words of Womxn in Design,

We seek to push the notion of labor beyond the discourse of “equality in the workplace” and to examine and elevate marginal or under-recognized forms of work, particularly as they are entangled within gender, race, and power. We ask: How do we value work? Whose work is recognized and whose is rendered invisible? The design disciplines have historically fallen short on answering these questions and promoting ethical labor practices more broadly. In the wake of the “SAM list” and the #metoo movement, and in response to a resurgence of labor organizing led primarily by traditionally “feminine” sectors, it is due time to reframe what labor means within a design context. Weaving together wisdom and experiences from labor organizers, current practitioners, academic leaders, and students, this year’s International Womxn’s Week at the GSD reflects on the legacies of labor movements, the issues around labor in design, and the ways in which we can push for an expanded and more equitable field.

This event is co-organized by Womxn in Design and the African American Student Union at the GSD.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].