An interview with Dawn Lundy Martin by Noah Eli Gordon (page 3)
NEG: This imperative for a continual, systemic investigation is certainly there in your poetry, but it’s also absolutely present in the range of your cultural work. Would you talk a little about the founding of the Third Wave Foundation? Has your involvement with the organization informed your own artistic work?
DLM: I started Third Wave Foundation in 1996 with Amy Richards (now a well-known feminist writer), the philanthropist and documentary maker, Catherine Gund, and Rebecca Walker. We were all in our early to mid-twenties and had come together mostly, I think, in disillusionment. The mainstream feminist movement seemed to me, at least, not to be focusing on issues that were of immense concern to young women. Some of us had tried to work in second wave organizations but were impatient with the seeming lack of interest in incorporating younger women into policy-making discussions and positions of political power. I was disappointed both in the movement and with the women who ran them. I was a young, smart, energetic woman, really eager to get down and dirty for feminism, but with few prospects for real political engagement. (By the way, this was around the time when young white men were being vigorously recruited by technology companies and other start-ups for their energy, innovation, and brain-power.) So, I got angry—which is how change is often made—and got together with some other young women to start our own foundation.
We are currently the only young feminist, activist foundation in country that works nationally to support young women and transgender youth between the ages of 15 and 30. Third Wave was a mechanism for me to able to channel money and technical support to the issues I cared about—the prison industrial complex and the increasing numbers of women of color who are in prison, the poor, and rural young women's access to abortion, etc. I'm no longer on the board (because we made a rule that says the organization has to always be run by young people at 35 you "age out"), but when I was on the board as an Executive Committee (EC) member we not only funded social justice organizations, progressive activist students, and reproductive rights, but the EC had a discretionary fund so that we could give money to any organization or individual we wanted to without sub-committee approval. I thought then, and still believe, that writers and artists are crucial to a progressive free society, so I gave a bunch of money to organizations that provided young women and trans youth with resources to write. For three years for example, I used $3000 of my discretionary money to help young women attend the Cave Canem retreat for African American poets. Catherine, I believe, used a bunch of her discretionary money to fund cool film projects. Third Wave, then, didn't really inform my own artistic work, as much as it gave me an opportunity to help others find the resources they needed to create.