My name is Sarah Bernstein, and I’m an educator and facilitator committed to making the world a better place. I am the Board Chair of Girls Rock! Rhode Island and the Director of Operations at The Learning Community, a public charter school in Central Falls.
Jodi: When did you first identify as a feminist? How do you define feminism?
Sarah: My definition of feminism is centered in equity. I have been driven by a fight for equity for as long as I remember, having been raised in a progressive family and community that valued social justice and equal rights for all. Whatever identities we carry—no matter our race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or any other identity—we should be treated with respect and able to feel our own power and autonomy.
As I have experienced and witnessed the many ways that systems of power and oppression play out in our world, my analysis has deepened, and my anger has grown. That anger has turned into fuel for working towards a more just and equitable world. I see [feminism] as a tool and lens that I can use to fight against systematic oppressions.
Jodi: Where do you find feminism in Rhode Island today?
Sarah: At Girls Rock! Rhode Island, I feel lucky to work in an explicitly feminist environment that uses music creation, collaboration, and critical thinking to foster empowerment. Through the process of learning a new instrument, collaborating with peers, raising their voices, and deepening their critical thinking skills, our participants get loud and powerful in a visceral way. They carry this experience with them beyond our programs, often [becoming] better able to advocate for themselves, collaborate with others, and call out injustice when they see it.
Jodi: How can we, as a community, keep feminism alive and thriving?
Sarah: We need to name inequity when we experience it, fight against discrimination when we see it, and rebuild our systems so that one’s identity doesn’t negatively affect their opportunities. As an educator, I am biased towards the importance of working with youth, and setting up young people to view gender—or really any aspect of their identity—as an asset, not a limitation, and where they have the tools to challenge anyone who questions that.
I believe in the importance of listening carefully so that we can better understand where others are coming from. We need to ask each other questions so that we can better articulate our experiences and struggles, while also challenging each other to look at things differently. Let’s engage in dialogue and hone our tools so that we can take collective action towards making our world a better place.