ALBANY, NY - An Albany resident is among 1,000 women peace activists from around the world who have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by an international campaign seeking recognition for women's efforts to counter injustice, discrimination, oppression, and violence. Barbara Smith, Class of 1969, who lives in Arbor Hill, is an author, activist, and independent scholar who has played a transformative role in opening up a national, cultural, and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender.
The 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize campaign, publicly launched this month, has formally nominated 1,000 women, each of whom "commit themselves daily to the cause of peace and justice." Forty of the nominees come from the United States; Smith is one of five New Yorkers honored. Nominating papers were submitted to the Nobel Academy in January 2005. Additional information about the international project is available on the Internet at www.1000PeaceWomen.org.
Smith is being recognized for her wide-ranging work, from direct action to ground-breaking scholarship. As an organizer, Smith has worked to end sterilization abuse; to ensure quality health care for all women regardless of race and class; to end apartheid in South Africa; to stop U. S. funded warfare against the indigenous people of Central and South America; to challenge police brutality; to eradicate violence against women; and to challenge homophobia and heterosexism.
Since moving to Albany in 1984, Smith has continued her work for peace and justice on a local level. After 9/11, Smith prioritized anti-racist peace organizing and was a founder of Albany's Stand for Peace Antiracism Committee. In 2004 she was a founding member of the Coalition for Accountable Police and Government to raise concerns about the Albany Police Department and to urge elected officials to be accountable in investigating and rectifying abuses. Smith chairs the Arbor Hill Neighborhood Watch, has organized street clean ups in Arbor Hill and West Hill, and initiated the Youth Task Force Coalition that is committed to youth empowerment and increasing resources for young people in the Capital Region.
Barbara Smith also continues her work for peace and justice as an educator, teaching the next generation African American literature at the College of Saint Rose in Albany. Smith teaches her students that African American literature tells the story of an ongoing struggle for freedom. Reading and discussing Richard Wright's "The Ethics of Jim Crow," for example, raises the consciousness of students about the brutalization of African Americans in the workplace in the not-too-distant past.
In addition to her teaching, Smith is also involved in the College's Urban Education Initiative which this year has brought resources to the Philip Livingston Magnet Academy to enrich its arts and humanities focus. Smith and a colleague in Saint Rose's English Department led a writing workshop for Livingston students and she helped to bring technical and financial resources to enhance a student production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Smith also helped to organize parents, neighbors, and community members to meet and walk with Livingston students at dismissal to enable them to get home safely following several incidents of after school violence.
The work of women, and of African Americans, has historically been under-recognized by the Nobel Academy, which awards the annual prize. Although the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded since 1901, only 12 women have received the honor. Only two winners -Ralph Bunche and Martin Luther King, Jr.- have been African Americans.