Activist friendships in the time of burnout : Marilyn Buck and Mariann Wizard, 1966-2010
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During the 1960s and 1970s, Marilyn Buck, a white antiracist activist, engaged in activism outside the confines of feminist organizations largely dominated by upper middle-class white women. Marilyn worked in solidarity with both the Black Panther Party (BPP) and the Black Liberation Army (BLA) in the Bay Area, operating almost entirely behind the scenes. Following her arrest in 1973 for allegedly purchasing ammunition and weapons for the Black Liberation Army under a false name, she spent nearly the rest of her life in prison, eventually becoming a well-known prison activist and developing a vast network of friends and supporters from all over the world. For the duration of her long and sometimes grueling activist journey, Marilyn completely evaded burnout. Activist burnout poses a serious threat to the survival of social movements, striking even the most seasoned activists. In this thesis, I argue that Marilyn’s talent for creating and maintaining strong relationships played a major role in facilitating her ability to avoid burnout and keep her activist commitments strong. Many have celebrated Marilyn’s activist work and literary achievements, yet her interpersonal strengths must be acknowledged: she managed to build an immense international support network while living behind prison walls. In this multilayered study, I not only analyze Marilyn Buck’s significance as an activist who built an extensive friendship network and maintained an unwavering, lifelong commitment to her beliefs, but I also attempt to understand her life through the double lens of the perspective of her close friend, Mariann Wizard, and my own scholar/activist positionality. I combine the personal with the archival to demonstrate the value of Marilyn and Mariann’s friendship—both for the two of them and for modern-day scholars and activists looking to gain insight on the importance of activist friendships.