Charlene Carruthers

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Charlene A. Carruthers
Born1985, 33 years old
Alma mater
OccupationBlack Youth Project 100 National Director
Years active2013-2018

Charlene Carruthers is a black queer feminist activist and organizer. Her work aims to create young leaders in marginalized communities to fight for community interests and liberation. Carruthers' career in justice advocacy spans over ten years, working with some high-profile activist organizations including Color of Change and Women's Media Center. She was an integral member in the creation of the Black Youth Project 100, and has served as National Director or National Coordinator since the organization's founding in 2013. Carruthers is the author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements published by Penguin Random House in 2018.

Developing leadership[edit]

Much of Carruthers' work in social activism centers on developing broad based political participation and leadership for marginalized communities. Several political organizations including Wellstone Action and the NAACP have called upon her energy and expertise in helping to develop their own trainings.[1] Along with her position in the Black Youth Project 100, Charlene is a leadership fellow for the Arcus Foundation[2] and a board member for Sistersong, an organization promoting reproductive rights and unity for women of color.[3] She cites her studies in South Africa at age 18 as the moment of her political awakening. Her work has a powerful recurring theme of building coalitions between groups with very different experiences of marginalization, united under the banner of undoing the power structure that underpin each of their oppressions. As a queer black woman, Carruthers' experiences uniquely equip her to bind together the often-disjointed currents of feminist, LGBTQ, and racial justice activism. Her work has also consistently involved transnational collaborations and bridge building, including her work with immigrant advocacy groups and her participation in a historic delegation of black activists to Palestine aimed at fostering personal and organizational ties between Palestinian and African American justice advocates.[4]

Black Youth Project 100[edit]

In July 2013, Carruthers was one of 100 black millennial activist leaders from across the country assembled by the Black Youth Project in Chicago for a meeting aimed at building networks of organization for black youth activism across the country. On the second day of that meeting news from Florida announced the acquittal of George Zimmerman on an all charges relating to his February 26, 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin. This verdict galvanized Carruthers and the other activists into the formation of the Black Youth Project 100 to organize young black activism in resistance to structural oppressions.[5]

Though initially hesitant to assume the role of national coordinator herself, Carruthers ultimately came to realize the rare opportunity afforded by the erupting turmoil.[6] The BYP100 invests heavily in the training of leaders and the teaching of reformers, empowering a generation of black activism. In public actions and in the press Carruthers has emphasized that oppressive structures like race, gender, sexuality, and economic status overlap with one another in such a way that prohibits the resistance to any one structure at a time. Rather, they demand united action by marginalized action to overturn the whole system together.[7] BYP100's initiatives embody this outlook of intersecting oppressions by targeting issues that tie into multiple systemic oppressions. For instance the publication "Agenda to Keep us Safe" identifies economic justice and the development of local economic power as essential tools to achieve gender and racial justice.[8] Carruthers has been a particularly vocal critic of how the prison-industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline play a huge role in shaping the experiences of oppression for people and communities of color, transgender & non-binary people, and the poor.[7]

Police brutality[edit]

Carruthers is an outspoken critic of unchecked police brutality, inadequate government responsiveness to major brutality cases, and the American criminal justice system's fundamental motivations and mechanisms.[7] Her work has brought her to the epicenters of several prominent cases in the mid-2010s movement for black public safety.

In August 2014 she went to Ferguson, Missouri to train and organize black youth response as the city reeled from the shooting of 18-year-old Mike Brown at the hands of Ferguson officer Darren Wilson.[9]

Chicago Police Department[edit]

A native resident of south side Chicago, Carruthers has criticized the city's disastrous response to multiple brutality cases. She's worked to organize major public demonstrations over the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Rekia Boyd. While off duty and without identifying himself as a police officer, Dante Servin of the Chicago Police Department shot Boyd in the back of the head, firing over his shoulder from inside the vehicle at Antonio Cross, whose cell phone Servin claims to have mistaken for a gun. Her work with the BYP100 and other black advocacy groups with operations in Chicago helped to organize public outcry leading up to officer Servin's historic trial, and has continued to advocate for his termination from the CPD without pension.[10]

Carruthers has also been closely involved with the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Dashboard cam footage shows McDonald fall to the ground after being shot once by CPD officer Jason Van Dyke, who then empties the remaining 15 shots into McDonald. Carruthers has harshly condemned the city's handling of the event, especially the involvement of the mayor's office in the year long coverup of the footage. She has vigorously called for the resignation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County state attorney Anita Alvarez in response.[11]


Carruthers, Charlene (2018), "Hearing Assata Shakur's Call: A Black Feminist Reflection on "To My People"", WSQ: Women's Studies Quarterly, 46 (3–4): 222–225, OCLC 7900054322

Carruthers, Charlene (2018), Unapologetic: a Black, queer, and feminist mandate for radical movements, Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, OCLC 1014037040


  1. ^ "Charlene A. Carruthers". Black Youth Project 100.
  2. ^ Marra, Andy. "Arcus Announces 13 Executive Directors to Participate in Arcus Leadership Fellowship". Arcus Foundation.
  3. ^ "Sistersong Board Members". Sistersong. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29.
  4. ^ Bailey, Kristian Davis (2015-01-09). "Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter & Ferguson Reps Take Historic Trip to Palestine".
  5. ^ Holliday, Darryl (2016-02-22). "The New Black Power". Chicago Mag. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  6. ^ Wilson, Jamia (2015-01-30). "Why Can't I Be You: Charlene Carruthers". Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  7. ^ a b c MacLeod, Scott (Winter 2016). "Black Power (Q&A)". The Cairo Review of Global Affairs. Retrieved 18 May 2019.
  8. ^ "Agenda to Keep Us Safe" (PDF). Black Youth Project 100.
  9. ^ "How the New Black Activists Are Fighting Back in Ferguson". The Nation. August 26, 2016.
  10. ^ Smith, Angelique (December 16, 2015). "Charlene Carruthers talks Black Youth Project 100". Windy City Media Group.
  11. ^ Muwakkil, Salim (February 8, 2016). "Not Your Grandfather's Black Freedom Movement: An Interview with BYP100's Charlene Carruthers".

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