Research and Collaborations
The Activist Women’s Voices Oral History Project and Archive
The Activist Women’s Voices Oral History Project and Archive was a project committed to documenting the voices of unheralded activist women in community-based organizations in New York City. The project was established in 1995 under the leadership of both Professor Joyce Gelb, then Director of the Women’s Studies Program and Center for the Study of Women and Society, and Professor Patricia Laurence, Deputy Director. The project created links between activist women in the community and faculty researchers in the university.
In addition, graduate students from different disciplines in the Center helped to lay the groundwork for the partnerships. Students were trained to do oral histories according to professional standards, and interviewed community leaders. Integrating this experience into their doctoral research, they transformed what is considered “knowledge” in the university.
A broad attempt was made to get a cross section of women represented in the Oral History Collection from across the boroughs of New York City including diversity of religion, ethnicity, sexual preference etc. Those interviewed were not necessarily involved in women’s groups; rather they were identified through a series of preliminary conversations with people active in NYC community affairs, as well as the funders. Those interviewed were asked about their backgrounds, how they came to be advocates for their causes, and to assess their successes and failures, among other queries. Thirty two women were interviewed from community groups such as The Family Violence Center, Coast to Coast Women of Color, May’an’s Jewish Women’s Project, Wayside Baptist Church Training for Girls, the CIO, Family Support Center, Urban Homesteading, AIDS Counseling and Education for Women Returning from Priston, the Weeksville Society for the Preservation of African-American Culture and Heritage, Bread and Roses, Haitian Community Health Center, Pregones Theater, BEGIN Project of Literacy Partners, West Harlem Environmental Action Committee, HACER Job Training for Hispanic Women, the Older Women’s League, Women Make Movies.
The project also resulted in a preliminary data base of oral history collections with a particular focus on Asian and Hispanic immigrant women after 1940. The last interview was taped on May 14th, 1998.
The project was generously funded by AT&T, the Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication, the New York Council for the Humanities, and the American Association of University Women. The collection is archived at the Mina Rees Library of the Graduate Center of the City University of NY. It can be accessed with special permission by contacting Laura Cunningham, firstname.lastname@example.org or Joyce Gelb, email@example.com
The DVSJA Project
In 2020, the Center for the Study of Women and Society has collaborated with The CUNY Public Science Project and CUNY Law School to develop an interdisciplinary research project that tracked, the implementation and impact of the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA) across New York State.
The DVSJA attempts to mitigate punishment for those whose charged offenses can be directly linked to surviving domestic violence. The law allows for alternative sentences where a court finds that (1) a prosecuted person is a victim of domestic violence subjected to substantial physical, sexual or psychological abuse; (2) such abuse was a significant contributing factor to their participation in the offense; and (3) that imposing a sentence in accordance with the range set by existing law would be unduly harsh. The DVSJA also includes a provision for resentencing for people prosecuted, convicted and sentenced before its effective date. At the time of its passage, the New York State Department of Corrections & Community Supervision (DOCCS) analyzed sentence information for all women currently in prison and created a list of women potentially eligible for resentencing. The list was based only on charge and sentence, without any indication of whether domestic violence was an issue. The list contained the names and sentence information for approximately 400 currently incarcerated women.
The goals are:
1) To host a convening that draws together impacted women, advocates in the field of the criminal punishment system and women-domestic violence-community based struggles for alternatives to incarceration, legal teams and graduate students, from across the state, to shape a long-term vision for research, organizing, case development, court watch and policy.
2) To Collect data regarding implementation that involves tracing the biography of the movement. From there, a deeper study of the law’s application across the state offers a chance to identify victories and obstacles, consequences and impact. However, in the short run it is crucial that what is happening statewide right now be documented and captured as it is happening — how the law is being implemented, interpreted and/or ignored across the 62 New York counties.
We have established a powerful interdisciplinary research collective of 20 law students and graduate students in gender/women’s studies; consolidated a full data base of the 487 women whose cases we are tracking, identifying those eligible for DVSJA and trying to secure legal counsel; initiated advocacy with the Governor on behalf of women who are highly vulnerable to COVID; built legal cases for a number of women who have filed DVSJA petitions or requested further information from the Office of Indigent Legal Services.
The New York Women’s Foundation – Reproductive Justice Semester Program
In Spring of 2019, students of in the Research Methods in Women’s and Gender Studies class taught by Professor Dána-Ain collaborated with Ancient Song Doula Services, a Brooklyn-based collective that provides doula services and support to communities of color under the lens of reproductive justice. Students collected and analyzed quantitative and qualitative data about the organization’s work, using an array of feminist methods to understand the impact of reproductive justice work in New York City. Ancient Song Doula Services provided a field-site and real data for students to apply various methods, and students were able to give back by supporting the organization with their project outputs.
Data collected by students cohesively put together in a booklet: Link to Booklet
The New York Women’s Foundation website: https://www.nywf.org/
Ancient Song Doula Services website: https://www.ancientsongdoulaservices.com/
PAST RESEARCH PROJECTS AND COLLABORATIONS
The College and Community Fellowship Program (CCF)
The mission of the College and Community Fellowship (CCF) is to eliminate the individual and social barriers to education and civic participation of formerly incarcerated men and women and their families. Through our myriad activities and programs, CCF addresses the educational, economic, and political needs of formerly incarcerated women and men in the NY metropolitan area, working in concert with other organizations to enhance their successful re-entry.
- Strengthen and expand our educational program, including mentoring, tuition support, and academic support of formerly incarcerated men and women
- Address the expanding career development needs of our fellows, alumni, and other formerly incarcerated people who are seeking employment that is congruent with their levels of education
- Link with local, state, and federal reentry agencies and criminal justice organizations to explore the development of a local and national agenda promoting education as an alternative in and after prison
- Develop the leadership of CCF fellows as part of local and national criminal justice reform organizations, coalitions, and networks
CCF Web Site: http://www.collegeandcommunity.org/
CLEAR (Community, Leadership and Education After Reentry)
CLEAR supports a research group comprised of formerly incarcerated women and men, which focuses on publishing research on issues around reentry, policy and practice. CLEAR especially concerns itself with the barriers to successful reentry and reintegration, reinforced by the social stigma of imprisonment, including limited access to education, and civic participation, including voting rights. The group hopes to influence the development of public leadership by formerly incarcerated men and women to shape innovative policy and media responses, positive social and cultural representation of formerly incarcerated people, as well as new strategies, practices and policies for existing and future organizations serving the very large numbers of people in reentry.
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