Robyn Maynard is a Black feminist who has spent years documenting racist and gender-based state violence. Her writing and activism have focused on anti-Black racism, the harms caused by punitive immigration policies and the criminalization of drugs and sex work. She has also spent the better part of the decade doing frontline harm-reduction outreach work in Montreal, and continues to provide trainings for health and social service providers on the harms created by systemic racism, criminal laws and stigmatization.
Maynard is currently completing her first book Policing Black Bodies: State Violence and Black Life, for Fernwood Publishing, 2017. This groundbreaking work dispels many prevailing myths which cast Canada as a land of benevolence and racial equality, and uncovers long-standing state practices that have restricted Black freedom. A first of its kind, Policing Black Bodies creates a framework that makes legible how anti-Blackness has influenced the construction of Canada’s carceral landscape, including the development and application of numerous criminal law enforcement and border regulation practices. The book traces the historical and contemporary mobilization of anti-Blackness spanning from slavery, 19th and 20th century segregation practices, and the application of early drug and prostitution laws, through to the contemporary realities of economic inequality, racial profiling by police, schools, immigration agents and social services, the over-representation of Black communities in jails and prisons, misogynoir, the over-representation of Black youth in state care, and the school-to-prison pipeline..
Following the dictums of the Black Lives Matter movement, Policing Black Bodies adopts an intersectional lens that helps readers of all backgrounds understand how all Black lives matter, including those who have historically been marginalized, stigmatized, and made invisible. To do so, the book highlights the experiences of Black youth, temporary or undocumented migrants, cis and transgender women, persons living with disabilities, those stigmatized by involvement with sex work and/or drugs and sexual minorities. Beyond exploring systemic racial injustice, Policing Black Bodies pushes the limits of the Black radical imagination: it delves into liberatory Black futures and asks readers to critically question the role of law enforcement, prisons and border controls in society, urging the necessity of transformative alternatives.
Past work has involved full-time street-based outreach with sex workers at Montreal’s sex work advocacy organization Stella, doing harm-reduction, rights-based education and medical, legal, and social service accompaniments surrounding health and anti-violence. Maynard advocated for the decriminalization of sex work representing Stella at the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights at Parliament Hill. Previous to this, Maynard worked at N.D.G. based youth organization Head and Hands, doing streetwork and group home outreach with marginalized youth.
A harsh critic of systemic racism in all of its forms, Maynard has been involved in grassroots organizing against police violence. Most recently, she helped co-found Montreal Noir, a Black activist group committed to combatting anti-Black racism in Quebec. In 2010 she helped found Justice for Victims of Police Killings, who work alongside several families of victims of police killings to demand an end to police violence and impunity. As a youth she helped found Project X, a group that supports youth of colour around racial profiling in the NDG borough.
Maynard continues to be a frequent public commentator on racial profiling whose voice is featured frequently in local and national media including CBC News, CTV News, the Montreal Gazette, Vice Magazine, and APTN.
Her writing has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Feminist Wire, Le Devoir, Briarpatch, Upping the Anti, Shameless! Magazine, the Dominion, Canadian Dimension, Atlantis Journal, 2bmag, and Canadian Women’s Studies Journal. Additionally, her words are featured in several book anthologies including Feminism for Real (2011), Border Imperialism (2013), Critical Approaches to Harm Reduction: Conflict, Institutionalization, (De-) Politicization, and Direct Action (2016) and Sex/Work: Regulation, Agency, and Resistance (UBC Press, forthcoming 2018).