Born in 1938, Erica “Ricky” Sherover-Marcuse was a dedicated social activist from a young age. A published author with a Ph.D. in Philosophy from University of California, San Diego, she was most known for her revolutionary workshops which coined the term “unlearning racism.”
Ricky’s workshops were dynamic, moving, and life-changing. She utilized listening, storytelling and objective analysis of oppressive movements (e.g. racism, sexism, homophobia). Ricky’s work was based in her strong belief in two principles: that institutionalized, systemic racism was a primary obstacle for building political consciousness, and that systemic oppression is internalized within individuals and unwittingly part of our daily lives. By understanding these two intertwined elements, she believed, we can begin to acknowledge forms of oppression and their roots. After that, we can release ourselves from personal suffering and fear and work on building radical movements for social change.
“People hurt others because they themselves have been hurt… Part of the process of undoing racism involves becoming aware of and interrupting this cycle of mistreatment in day to day encounters and interactions.”
She understood that in order to be effective allies against racism, White people need to claim pride and connection to their own heritage and with other White people. From that foundation of pride and connection, allies can then build truly authentic relationships with others. Up until her death in 1988 she conducted workshops with groups of all sizes all over the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. Her work is sustained by groups around the world and her publications and other writings continue to serve as vital inspirations for building alliances and healing from oppression.
Although Nanci never met her before cancer took her life at just 49 years of age, Ricky’s leadership, values, and thinking were passed down through Lillian Roybal Rose and are major influences for our work at LJIST. You can experience her contributions in our core teachings, how we structure our workshops, and how we put our hearts into every interaction we have and every service we provide. We are forever grateful for Ricky’s brilliance and courage.
For more information about Ricky’s life, work, and legacy, visit http://www.unlearningracism.org/life.htm and http://www.marcuse.org/herbert/people/ricky/ricky.htm