Firmly grounded in an anti-oppression foundation, RGK Alumna, Amanda Lewis, has committed her professional life to the elimination of gender-based violence. Amanda spent over five years at The SAFE Alliance organizing and advocating on the local level before taking her current position at the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) as the statewide community organizer. She is currently the district 4 appointee to the Austin Commission for Women which is partnering with the Public Safety Commission and advocacy groups to understand how gender-based violence is investigated in Austin. Through this collaborative work Amanda hopes to inform statewide conversations about sexual assault and the creation of safer communities. Amanda describes statewide organizing as constantly collecting stories, learning, and listening to the experiences of people and communities and then distilling that information into flexible statewide policy. She emphasizes the need for flexible polices that are able to correspond to the needs and resources of different communities throughout Texas. Reflecting on this work Amanda says, “One thing that is a strength of organizing, is helping others become aware of their own power; it’s a beautiful thing to be part of.” The following profile highlights some of Amanda’s thoughts on nonprofit and anti-violence work. To learn more, please check out the following article on KUT and visit TAASA’s website.
Where will the gender-based violence movement be in five years from now?
When asked where she sees herself in five years, Amanda said she plans to continue doing the work necessary to eliminate gender-based violence. Specifically, she hopes to see the decentralization of sexual assault services and an expansion of the anti-violence conversation. Access to resources and information are cornerstones of anti-violence work. Due to centralization of resources many victims lack access to the help they need. Additionally, the more people are provided with “tools to access the conversation” the more informed and expansive the anti-violence movement can be. In Amanda’s words, when it comes to sexual violence, “Public conversation itself is an important goal.”
How do you stay motivated?
Advocacy and organizing are hard work that Amanda admits is far from linear. She stays motivated by celebrating the small wins, building meaningful connections with the people around her, and reminding herself what a privilege it is simply to live to fight another day.
As a highly educated individual, how do you balance academia with your on the ground work?
It is not always easy. Sometimes the research produced is not reflective of what is happening on the ground. At other times, research studies can have an incredible validating effect by essentially legitimizing people’s experiences. Existing in both spaces gives Amanda the unique ability to translate and share what is being done in academia in relevant and accessible ways to others who may not share that space. It also places a level of responsibility on her to hold researchers and scholars accountable to the stories and voices of the people that she works with every day.
What does it mean to work from an anti-oppression foundation?
Working from an anti-oppression foundation is recognizing that people often have to “hold multiple truths.” There is oppression in race, gender, and sexual orientation among other things. In order to have informed and inclusive conversations about gender-based violence Amanda believes it’s essential to have a strong grounding or understanding of the multiple lenses of oppression, specifically race-based oppression. When asked how people can build that foundation, she emphasized the necessity of “doing our own work” and then joining a community. It is important to remember that it is not any person’s or any community’s job to educate you, though there is much you can learn from being in intentional community. If you are looking for places to begin, Amanda suggests the following books!
- So You Wanna Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
- Eloquent Rage by Brittney C. Cooper
- White Fragility by Robin J. DiAngelo
- How We Get Free by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
- Unapologetic by Charlene Carruthers