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Afua Kafi-Akua performs with IBIS at Sisterfire, 1984.

The decades of the 1970s and 1980s are often dismissed, even though they were years transformed by the exuberance of women’s movements; the floodgates of cultural expression opened by lesbian/gay movements; the urgent responses to violations of human rights, international social justice and nuclear madness; the continuities of African American civil rights movements and labor movements of earlier decades.

Alexis DeVeaux & Gwendolen Hardwick (Flamboyant Ladies), Sisterfire 1983.

Drawing inspiration from the foundation built during the civil rights and labor movements Roadwork Inc. emerged in 1978 as a national and international multi-racial, cross-cultural women’s arts organization. Over the next fifteen years, Roadwork was at the forefront of coalition efforts based on artistic collaboration among diverse communities.

In 2000, Roadwork expanded its focus to the role of culture and art in conflict zones. In keeping with its expanded mission, the organization assumed a new name, Roadwork Center for Cultures in Disputed Territory. We see disputed territory as not only encompassing geo-political conflict but also addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and disability.

Roadwork houses the Living Jerusalem Project, an engagement among Israeli, Palestinian, and US artists, activists, and scholars. We initiated the Protest Music as Responsible Citizenship project that began with a four-day dialogue between Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Holly Near.

Toshi Reagon, Lisner Auditorium circa 1980s.

Roadwork has initiated a digital archive project. The purpose of this archive is to gather together personal recollections and artifacts from artists, organizers, and audiences who participated in the Roadwork experience during the 1970s and 1980s. We are committed to open access to the archive so that connections across boundary lines can continue to be made in the future. In addition to the archive project, we are initiating the Roadwork Oral History and Documentary Project.

We will accomplish our mission by acquisition, preservation and making available materials that document the history of the organization since its inception in 1978. This collection will be initially focused on but not limited to artifacts, documents, recordings and written accounts. The scope of the collection will be elastic enough to include written and oral personal histories via audio or video recording.

Pursuit of this mission provides us a source of grassroots and multiracial women’s memories that will offer a creative and life-affirming vision for future generations of activists and those trying to reveal the truth of what came before.