Ghenete “G” Wright Muir’s extensive and multifaceted resume is impressive. While she is currently a professor at NSU Shepard Broad College of Law, as well as one of the founding members of Thou Art Woman, she has worked with The Florida Bar, the Broward County Law Office of the Public Defender and Legal Aid Service of Broward County.
She’s also the past president of the T.J. Reddick Bar Association and has served on the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Board of Governors and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.
She attributes her can-do attitude, work ethic, and love of public service to her parents.
A Journey of Self-discovery and Self-love
Wright Muir was born in New York City, and when she was 5 years old, her family moved back to Kingston, Jamaica.
Wright Muir attended elementary through high school in Jamaica before returning to the United States. She received her undergraduate degrees in Black Studies and Psychology from Amherst College, and her Juris Doctor Degree from Pace University School of Law.
After coming out publicly in 2013, she noticed that there was a desperate need in South Florida for an alternative space for LBT women. In early 2010, most of the watering holes and socialization for LBT women were dimly lit bars.
Wright Muir describes her discomfort and apprehension about the gradual realization of discovering her identity as gender nonconforming and as a lesbian. David Muir, Wright Muir’s then-spouse, was encouraging and supportive of her during the entire process and continued to co-parent their two sons, Masai and Kairo.
Thou Art Woman is the brainchild of Wright Muir, Nik Harris and PJ Hitchins, which is an event series that celebrates LBT women and their allies through narrative, performance, and visual arts.
The event boasts a robust assortment of entertainment such as visual arts, singing, storytelling, music performance, dance, and reciting of poetry and spoken word.
“It was magical! We finally had a safe space where we could share our creativity and our truths — it’s where we can really breathe and be ourselves — without judgment,” Wright Muir said.
Thou Art Woman has grown tremendously since its inception in 2014, when the first event attracted approximately 50 women. The event now attracts hundreds of women and invites the audience to become a part of the event by focusing on the “open mic” element of the event.
The importance of multi-generational LBT spaces did not escape Wright Muir. The artists that are showcased at Thou Art Woman range in age from their early 20s to their 60s. The warm and welcoming environment invites open dialogue between the artists and attendees alike.
Thou Art Woman has expanded and evolved into a three-day weekend event that features in visual and performing arts, networking mixers, and tons of live music. The event isn’t solely about entertainment — it’s a gathering place for a myriad of artists, an incubator for creativity, a source of inspiration to each other, and a driving force for a sisterhood of support.
It’s a place where women can speak freely and express themselves and talk about subjects such as oppression, modern-day feminism, race, and marginalization.
The Importance of Black and Brown History
The Joseph C. Carter pool located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a public 20-acre park with basketball courts, tennis courts, and a swimming pool that was named in honor of late Joseph C. Carter, who worked tirelessly for 20-odd years for the city of Fort Lauderdale and Broward County Parks and Recreation Department.
The City of Fort Lauderdale was founded by Major William Lauderdale in 1838 during the Seminole War, and was incorporated in 1911.
The late 1800s and into the 1970s is a long span of time where segregation, discrimination and oppression thrived in South Florida against Black and Brown people.
When the Florida East Coast Railway was developed by Henry Morrison Flagler and John D. Rockefeller and built in 1885, Black folks were denied access to the ocean and the beaches.
During the summers of the 1960s, Black protests orchestrated a series of “wade-ins,” in which Eula Johnson was one of the most famous activists and business owners. She was under constant threat by the Ku Klux Klan that even showed up to the protests with axe handles and were only kept at bay by the FBI because Johnson informed them of the imminent threat of violence.
Johnson held these peaceful protests at white-only beaches in Fort Lauderdale because the Black-only beaches were overgrown with vegetation and inaccessible.
Historians who have written about Jim Crow Era’s recreational segregation have remarked that swimming became a skill that went unlearned by Black and Brown people because of their inaccessibility to beaches and pools. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, African American children aged from 5 to 19 are 5.5 times more likely to drown than their white counterparts in the U.S.
How History Continues to Repeat
During the summer of 2020 as racial tensions came to a boiling point in the U.S., July 19 was a nightmarish scenario that hit way too close to home for Wright Muir and her son Masai.
Since the start of the shutdown during the pandemic, Wright Muir was self-isolating and adhering to a regiment of jogging every day. However, when the pools opened back up during the summer, Wright Muir’s son searched on the internet for two locations within a 10-minute drive from their home to swim laps.
The irony that this is the location where the altercation between Wright Muir, her son, and a white woman occurred is not lost on anyone.
Wright Muir and her son are both strong swimmers and members of an organization called Diversity in Aquatics.
“When I entered the pooI, I said something to my son and the woman rudely said I couldn’t talk over her lane,” Wright Muir said. “I then turned to the lifeguard and asked if that was a rule and was told it was not. I informed the woman it was not a rule but if she switched lanes then it would resolve the concern. The woman refused to change lanes.”
Wright Muir and her son continued on with their warm-up laps and occasionally spoke to each other between sets. The woman became enraged and asked the lifeguard to step in and prohibit them from speaking to each other.
The woman subsequently requested for the pool staff to call the police, and thereby instantly escalating the situation.
The Fort Lauderdale police department responded quickly and escorted Wright Muir and her son off the premises.
The following weekend, Wright Muir and Diversity in Aquatics, an organization that focuses on teaching water safety and aquatics to underrepresented communities held a swim-in at Joseph C Carter’s pool. A true homage to civil rights activists Eula Johnson and Dr. Von D. Mizell, and their efforts to promote visibility and awareness to desegregate South Florida beaches in the1960s.
The Future of Thou Art Woman
In 2020, Thou Art Woman postponed their 3-day weekend event in March due to the outbreak of COVID-19, which allowed Wright Muir to pause and take a moment to reflect on the uncertainty of the future of Thou Art Woman.
Wright Muir enthusiastically exclaims that she’s “excited to be preserving our history while moving forward to produce virtual events to keep our community connected, engaged and entertained in 2021 and beyond.”
Thou Art Woman received a grant from the Our Fund Foundation Resilience Fund which allowed them to recover the losses from their cancellation in 2020 and to move forward with producing virtual events.
As she ruminates over all the events in 2020, she decided that archiving video and materials from Thou Art Woman events would be the perfect way to document their events and save them for posterity’s sake. At the same time, the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center reached out as they are interested in preserving its history as well.
They are currently applying for a grant from the LGBTQ Arts and Cultural Fund at the Our Fund Foundation to help them continue their programming in 2021.
This is a part of an SFGN series on local BIPOC leaders making a difference in the community. Check out the other stories at sfgn.com/bipoc.