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Raquel Willis in Person

Join us in person on Thursday, November 30 at 7 PM as Raquel Willis presents her new memoir, The Risk it Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation. She will be joined in conversation by Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Mt. Holyoke College.

About the Book

A passionate, powerful memoir by a trailblazing Black transgender activist, tracing her life of transformation and her work towards collective liberation.

In 2017, Raquel Willis took to the National Women’s March podium just after the presidential election of Donald Trump, primed to tell her story as a young Black transgender woman from the South. Despite having her speaking time cut short, the appearance only deepened her commitment to speaking up for communities on the margins.

Born in Augusta, Georgia, to Black Catholic parents, Raquel spent years feeling isolated, even within a loving, close-knit family. There was little access to understanding what it meant to be queer and transgender. It wasn’t until she went to the University of Georgia that she found the LGBTQ+ community, fell in love, and explored her gender for the first time. But the unexpected death of her father forced her to examine her relationship with herself and those she loved. These years of grief, misunderstanding, and hard-won epiphanies seeped into the soil of her life, serving as fertilizer for growth and allowing her to bloom within.

Upon graduation, Raquel entered a career in journalism against the backdrop of the burgeoning Movement for Black Lives, intersectional feminism going mainstream, and unprecedented visibility of the trans community. After hiding her identity as a newspaper reporter, her increasing awareness of the epidemic of violence plaguing trans women of color and the heightened suicide of trans teens inspired her to come out publicly. Within just a few short years of community organizing in Atlanta, Oakland, and New York, Raquel emerged as one of the most formidable Black trans activists in history.

In The Risk It Takes to Bloom, Raquel Willis recounts with passion and candor her experiences straddling the Obama and Trump eras, the possibility of transformation after tragedy, and how complex moments can push us all to take necessary risks and bloom toward collective liberation.

About the Author

RAQUEL WILLIS (she/her) is an award-winning writer, activist, and media strategist dedicated to Black transgender liberation. She has been director of communications for Ms. Foundation for Women, executive editor of Out magazine, and national organizer for the Transgender Law Center. Her writing has been published in Black Futures by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham, and Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain, among other places. She has also written for Essence, Bitch, VICE, Buzzfeed, The Cut, and VogueThe Risk It Takes to Bloom is her first book.

About Kijua Sanders-McMurtry

Originally from Pasadena, California, Sanders-McMurtry was inspired to become a full-time diversity educator after the deaths of Matthew Shepard and Sakia Gunn. Both individuals were targeted and killed because of their gender and sexual identities. 

She has held numerous leadership positions, including serving as the co-chair for trans inclusion with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, and was named a Diamond Honoree with the American College Personnel Association. She previously worked at Georgia State University and ORC Macro, a public-health research firm.

Sanders-McMurtry holds a doctorate in educational policy studies, a graduate certificate in women’s studies, as well as master’s and bachelor’s degrees in sociology from Georgia State University. A high school dropout, she credits her non-traditional academic journey to her mentors at Pasadena City College, where she completed an associate’s degree in social sciences.

Register

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Event date: 
Thursday, November 30, 2023 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
9 College St
South Hadley, MA 01075
The Risk It Takes to Bloom: On Life and Liberation By Raquel Willis Cover Image
$29.00
ISBN: 9781250275684
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: St. Martin's Press - November 14th, 2023

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