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In an effort to give Holding Our Own’s network members an opportunity to get to know each other just a little better, we will be spotlighting a couple of local feminists each month. We hope that this will help give you more opportunities to connect, collaborate and leverage your resources. Do you want to be next, or know of anyone you would like to see featured? Email hoo@holdingourownonline.org and we will set up an interview. We hope to have lots of participants! 

Meet Blue Carreker!

Personal photo, courtesy of Blue, herself

Personal photo, courtesy of Blue, herself

Blue Carreker is no newcomer to contributing to feminism and activism.  In fact, she’s a veteran.  As a child of the fifties, Blue came of age in the sixties and seventies, in the middle of the women’s, civil rights, and anti-war movements.  She took the unusual step of completing her Bachelor’s degree in stages, stopping to work at a variety of jobs and to travel both around the United States and to other countries, like Europe, Latin American and Africa.  In the process, she gained a political education and became dedicated to the struggles for human rights and justice.

Blue

Courtesy of Blue’s Facebook pics

In her personal life, Blue has spent over 30 years in public relations, communications, public affairs, grassroots organizing, volunteer management and external affairs for non-profit organizations.  Her longest term of service in her professional career was spent working with two different Planned Parenthood affiliates, where she stressed the importance of reproductive health and rights issues.  This was not always Blue’s plan, though. Having graduated as a communications major, Blue first worked as a volunteer and activist to establish a Public Access television station in Amherst, Massachusetts.  But, she had bigger dreams and took off for California in the hopes of making a difference in the major media world.  Soon enough, however, she discovered that she did not feel comfortable in an environment that she found cutthroat and negative.  She was at a crossroads.

Unexpectedly, Blue’s mother lost her hearing overnight, which led Blue to seek out an agency for the deaf and hard of hearing for information and assistance.  As she entered the building, she saw a notice promoting a federally funded internship available in public relations at the same agency.  Blue started her first non-profit job by learning American Sign Language so she could communicate more effectively with her boss, and so began her long journey of serving and empowering others.

Blue worked part time for the Deaf Counseling and Referral Agency for several years, while also singing with a folk trio and giving birth to her first son, Sean.  Meanwhile, her partner, Jay, was managing two Irish pubs and working on Irish civil rights issues.  “Those were full and fun years,” she recalls, “in a world full of great political work and great music in a beautiful part of the country.”

When finances and family required a change to full time work, Blue took work with first the San Francisco and then the San Mateo Suicide Prevention agencies, doing work in public relations and grant writing, specifically around youth suicide projects.  The family eventually moved back to the East Coast, and Blue landed at Planned Parenthood where she spent many happy years advocating for reproductive justice.  She particularly enjoyed her work managing the volunteer and intern programs, as well as the campus based VOX student advocation chapters.  “I love getting to know students and helping them discover how to use their talents, knowledge and passion to make a difference in the world.

Today, Blue is working with Citizen Action of New York, an organization that works on a variety of progressive campaigns fighting for economic, social and environmental justice, and an end to electoral corruption.  The organization also works to make sure schools receive adequate funding and support.  Blue is the statewide campaign manager for the New York Inequality Campaign.  Blue described the campaign as a coalition effort by labor, faith and progressive advocacy groups to defeat a $2 billion tax cut give away proposed by Governor Cuomo in this year’s state budget to millionaires, billionaires and Wall Street banks, paid for by continuing austerity cuts to schools and communities.  The cuts were seen as adding to our state’s embarrassing ranking as having  the largest gap between rich and poor of any state in America.  Blue managed a number of regional field organizers around the state, helping direct activities in the Capital region, and served on the statewide coordinating team.

Blue is clearly passionate about a lot, but she is happiest when she is empowering the people with whom she works.  Blue loves that her current work at Citizen Action is devoted to giving voice to everyday people: teachers, parents, students, the homeless, and other groups of people.  The agency, she says, demonstrates its commitment to empowering people by involving them in planning meetings, listening to and incorporating what they want to say, and then encouraging them to go out and educate others through conversation and to take action.

As far as feminism goes for Blue, she is most passionate about the right of any individual to participate fully in our society, to have access to healthcare, housing and living wages, to have education about sexuality, and to be able to make healthy, informed decisions about themselves and their bodies.

Feminism, to Blue, is about changing how marginalized communities have been kept from fully participating, fully knowing themselves, and feeling free to pursue their own goals and dreams without prejudice; it’s about giving everyone these rights.

But it’s not always easy.  In Blue’s field, it’s common to experience burnout, or to become discouraged.  But she says you just have to focus on the accomplishments.  “When good things happen, it just re-energizes you,” Blue says.  Nearing the average retirement age, Blue acknowledges how much there is left out there that she wants to do.  Other than work, though, Blue spends her time writing, performing, and singing music with her band, which acts as an additional outlet for her after the tougher days at work.  Clearly Blue has been influential in her career and life choices because her two sons are also involved in activist work in grassroots organizing, racial justice work, work against police brutality, and in labor movements.

Courtesy of Blue, pictured above with her two sons

Courtesy of Blue, pictured above with her two sons

In addition to her two sons, Blue has been with her partner, Jay, for 34 years, but emphasizes that she and he are not married.  For those 34 years they have parented their two sons, as well as maintained an open relationship.  By no means has this been a “smooth” or easy road, just as anything else isn’t, but the topics of relationships and polyamory are ones that Blue is constantly discussing with other people.  Blue, with her lifestyle choices and conversations, continues to explore and challenge the constructs of relationships, monogamy and the nuclear family.  In Blue’s eyes, it is important to question why our society is drawn to serial dating, and why we pressure couples to sever relationships, rather than to re-form them.  Should intimacy always stop when people no longer live together?  Should people be forced to live apart if they are no longer intimate?  Must new intimacies always mean the end of old intimacies or relationships?  Do we really believe one person can meet all of our needs for lifetime?  Is such monogamy healthy?  Does it help us grow?

From this perspective, the fight for gay marriage posed a challenge for Blue.  How do you recognize and fight for legal rights for an oppressed population without also promoting an institution which you find limiting and also oppressive?  She also admits some frustration with the strict definitions of people’s sexual identities, in terms of insisting that people are only heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual.  Blue recognizes the importance of defining and empowering oneself with an identity, especially if that identity has been challenged or hidden for a long time.  However, Blue also believes that these identity labels, as well as the institution of marriage, are restrictive.  It limits exploration and impacts how identity can change throughout life.

Blue not only has a strong view on life, she also has a calm demeanor about her.  Her presence and the way she speaks so clearly, confidently and eloquently are a powerful combination.  It’s a skill and gift that has allowed her to be taken seriously in all of her pursuits, thus giving her the successful life she has had.  But when it comes back to basics all Blue wants to do is change the world “one day at a time.”

Note: the featured slider image for this post on the landing page of the blog is used with generous permission from http://www.bdocktor.com. For more images check out the gallery link here: http://www.bdocktorphotography.com/SmugPreview/Womens-Equality-press-converene-/