Author Archive for Jack

My new blog

Apparently the Allied Media Conference always makes me want to get my blog on. Last year I thought it was gonna kickstart my blogging for sure, but then Life happened and I drifted away again.

This year as I was heading home from the conference, the time felt right to start again. But I didn’t want to start again here. I haven’t been feeling the AngryBrownButch moniker for a while now. Yeah, I’m still a brown butch, and I’m often angry since there’s so damn much to be angry about. But AngryBrownButch made me feel like I’d pigeonholed myself a bit too much. I’ve also built up a fair amount of baggage on this blog since I started out here in November 2005. It’s been time to move on.

So I have. If you want to find me from now on, check me out at jackalop.es (using a temporary domain name right now until I straighten some shit out between my domain registrar and my bank.) First post of real substance: La piratería y el pillaje y los hot dogs: reflections on July 4th, what the day means to me as a Puerto Rican, what it’s like to experience the patriotic propaganda machine accidentally in your own home, and some bonus mockery of a couple of really stupid commercials.

If anyone still gets this feed in their RSS reader or checks this out every now and again, I hope you check my new blog out! This one will stay up indefinitely as an archive of what I’ve written before, but all the new action will happen there.

I’m at the Allied Media Conference!

This weekend I’m attending my very first Allied Media Conference!! It’s been wonderful though a bit overwhelming so far. No time to blog, really, though I’ve taken some good notes on a couple of sessions (links soon!) I’ve also gotten to meet a few folks I’ve known only through the blogosphere for years, like Alexis and Blackamazon and Brownfemipower, and have run into other folks I’ve not seen for a while like Maegan La Mala, which has been awesome.

And tomorrow, I present! I’ll be wearing my techie hat for From Open Source to Community Source: Collaboratively Created Tech for Movements:

The daily choices we make around technology, storing and sharing data, and communications have political implications for issues important to our movements: privacy, self-determination, labor and economic justice, corporate control, amongst others. Our session will address such issues, including strategies for reclaiming control of our technology, and ways we can shape it to serve our movements. We will explore how “free” software often demands risky compromises, how open source can help avoid those compromises, and how community organizations and activists can and must be involved in shaping open source. We will us ourpowerbase.net and letsduwthis.org as examples of community source tech developed by and for our movements.

If you’re at the AMC, come check it out!

Another stupid argument against marriage equality – and adoption?

Like others, I’m kind of excited about the prospect of same-sex marriage being legalized in New York state, despite my ambivalence around marriage in general and my disagreement with the centrality of same-sex marriage to the mainstream gay rights movement. So I was happy to read that the New York State Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill yesterday. But in reading the Reuters article, I read yet another idiotic argument against same-sex marriage that offended me more deeply than usual, not only as a queer person but also as an adopted person:

Rev. Duane Motley, a Christian lobbyist, said in Albany on Wednesday that legalizing gay marriage would “undermine the stability of our society” because he said a child of a gay couple could only have one biological parent.

Um, WTF? First off, I don’t know whether Motley was misquoted or partially quoted by the article’s author, because I can’t imagine that anyone would be so stupid as to assert that a child of a gay couple would actually only have one biological parent. Until science makes greater leaps than it has so far, every human that is born will have two biological parents.

Whether they have both biological parents in their lives is another matter, of course, and I’m assuming that’s what Motley is ineptly referring to as a possible destroyer of the fabric of our society. However, same-sex marriage is hardly the first or only cause of one or both biological parents being absent from a person’s life. As a happy adoptee of two wonderful non-biological parents, I can personally assure Motley that the absence of my biological parents in my early life didn’t cause me any damage. (Well, unless he’d count my queerness, leftist politics, and assorted other perversions as damage done by only having one biological parent.)

Perhaps we’ll soon see Motley and his fellow “Christian lobbyist” fighting against adoption, child rearing by non-parental family members, and all forms of single parenthood (including parenting by widows or widowers) for fear that these scenarios will undermine the stability of our society!

Can’t they just catch a cab?

The cash-strapped, teacher-laying-off, social-programs-slashing NYC government somehow dug up $9.3 million to subsidize a privately-run ferry service on the East River. Residents of “Dumbo, Williamsburg, Greenpoint or Hunters Point” are expected to especially benefit.

…some transportation experts worry that the boats will appeal only to an affluent sliver of the population — those who can afford upscale apartments along the waterfront.

…The first boat departed at 7:15 a.m. with a gaggle of dignitaries and reporters aboard. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a seaweed-color tie, leaned on a blue plastic table and took in the view of the Midtown skyline.

“You have no idea what this does for property values,” the mayor said approvingly. “Wait till you see all of this development!” He waved at a pair of passing kayakers, who raised their oars in salute.

So, Bloomberg’s budget will eliminate upwards of $5 million for supportive housing for people living with HIV/AIDS, slashes funding for daycare and senior citizen centers, will result in the layoff of more than 4,000 teachers, will close 20 fire department companies, so on and so forth. And folks who rely on the MTA for transit continue to see fares go up and service go down. But a $9.3 million transit subsidy to a private company that will primarily benefit the wealthier residents of only a few neighborhoods and promote continuing gentrification there to boot? There’s apparently plenty of money for that!

Where I’ve been & where I am

So, as evidenced by the date of my last post, I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for quite a while, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I needed retreat in order to focus on my work. I’m a freelance Drupal/web developer and general techie working with non-profit organizations, and both the freelance and the non-profit aspects of that mean I need to bust ass and stay very, very focused to make a living, make progress, make deadlines, just make it. I wasn’t focusing like I needed to and found myself struggling to keep up with my work, do justice by my clients, and make enough money to pay taxes and the bills and the rent. So I necessarily stepped back from many time-consuming things in my life, including blogging. When I get really into the blogosphere, especially when I get wrapped up in the more heated discussions, debates, and arguments, it drains a whole lot of my time, and since I’m a freelancer, it’s easy to eat into work hours, promise myself I’ll make up that time later – and never really make it up. But I’m happy to report that I’ve made tons of progress, am more financially stable, and have been making exciting moves towards expanding my work and increasing my collaboration with other folks. I’m still trying to stay primarily focused on work – expansion takes a lot of time and energy – but I’m in a much better place.

The other reason I’ve been gone is that blogging itself was getting away from me – at least, blogging right was. See, it started with commenting on other blogs. I realized that while I was reading amazing stuff from amazing bloggers, I wasn’t really engaging in the conversations or expressing my appreciation, agreement, disagreements, whatever my reactions were to their words. And as a blogger myself, I know how important it is to get that feedback and to take part in the conversations; blogging in a vacuum isn’t very good blogging at all, in my opinion. Then I started slipping on reading other blogs at all; hell, I was barely even reading what my co-bloggers on Feministe were writing. That felt pretty crappy and made me feel even more disconnected from the larger conversations. And finally, I started having trouble responding to comments on my own blog posts. I still can’t believe it took me more than 2 months to respond to Denise Oliver-Velez’s comment on my Young Lords post (she was a leader and member of both the Young Lords and Black Panthers). When I can’t even respond to the people who are taking the time to read and respond to my work, then I’m not doing my duty as a blogger, punto.

So – all that is to say that yes, I’ve been gone, but I’m not gone for good. I’m starting to get the itch to blog again, and that itch got soooo much itchier since I got to the Women, Action and Media conference yesterday. And though I do have to stay on top of my work stuff and can’t let blogging bleed into those hours too much, I do want to come back to this. But I want to do it right, so I’ve set some rules for myself: first, I start reading other folks’ blogs; then, I start commenting on those blogs and get involved in the conversation; then, I start really getting back to blogging again, as long as I can keep up with my comments. I may post here and there before I can really start reading the blogs (including posts about WAM, which I hope to start writing soon). But if I’m gonna do this right, I need to be a part of the blogging communities that are important to me, I need to listen to them and contribute to them and be aware of what’s going on. It’s the only responsible way I can do it, and it’s the only way I can do this blogging thing right.

So yes – hopefully you’ll be seeing more of me soon!

This Friday in Brooklyn: premiere of a new film on gentrification and community organizing

This Friday I’m heading to Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn for the premiere screening of Some Place Like Home: The Fight Against Gentrification in Downtown Brooklyn, a documentary by Families United for Racial and Economic Equality. FUREE, a community organization lead by and comprised primarily of low-income women of color, has been rallying the community in a fight against the rampant development that’s going down in Downtown Brooklyn and the surrounding area. While developers, big business, and politicians alike claim they are only trying to improve the community, the development is being conducted with little care or concern for the residents and small business owners who are already there. Some Place Like Home documents the struggle of FUREE, the neighborhoods’ residents, and small businesses against the forces that are trying to push and bulldoze them out. Check out the trailer below.

If you’re in NYC, I recommend you check out the premiere if you can. It’s a fundraiser for the organization and the ticket prices will go far to support FUREE’s organizing around this and other important issues. Other FUREE projects include the Child Care Campaign, which works for better working conditions for child care providers, and their collaboration on the Fort Greene CSA, a community supported agriculture product that aims to provide affordable access to healthy, locally grown food (the CSA offers subsidized shares and accepts food stamps as payment.) And if you can’t make it to the premiere, try to catch the film otherwise – I’ve heard that FUREE is getting requests for additional screenings and may even air the film on some of the local TV stations. You can also donate to FUREE or to other organizations working to fight gentrification where you live.

Who are the Young Lords?

Apparently we are supposed to believe that there are now two answers to that question. One of those answers is really pissing me off this morning. I’ll let you guess which one.

members of the Young Lords

Answer #1:
The Young Lords Party, also known as the Young Lords Organization, was a primarily stateside-based Puerto Rican organization dedicated to liberation, independence, and justice for Puerto Ricans both in the States and on the island and for all oppressed people. They were inspired by and worked parallel to organizations like the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, and the American Indian Movement. Like those organizations, they were targeted by COINTELPRO and the other powers that be which, along with internal conflict and political shifts, lead to the organization’s disintegration in the mid-1970s. They continue to remain an important, revolutionary and inspirational movement for Puerto Ricans and other Latinos living in the United States. You can find out more about the Young Lords at Palante.org and YoungLords.info.

Members of the paler, apolitical Young Lords

Answer #2:
The Young Lords are some white guys who decided to form an indie rock band in NYC a few years ago and apparently couldn’t be bothered to find out whether they were ripping off the name of an entire political movement that most certainly does not belong to them. One might argue that words are words and no one can claim to own the name “Young Lords,” but how would it look if some white dudes decided to name their band the Black Panthers? That would probably be less likely to happen since more people know about the Black Panthers, but come on, people – we live in the age of Google (which, sadly, now has the MySpace page for this stupid band ranked above pages about the actual Young Lords in search results.) It is tremendously easy to look things up. I can’t help but think that they probably did look it up before they took up the name themselves and just didn’t give a fuck, but even if they could claim the innocence of ignorance then, I’m sure that one of them has Googled their band name since. For a band whose bio claims that their “sound pays homage to the past,” they’re displaying a remarkable amount of ahistoricity, ignorance and disrespect.

So fuck Answer #2 and their unremarkable music. In the end, they’ll likely just be another of a long string of interchangeable white bands, and Answer #1 will be the only one that actually still matters.

Puerto Rico en mi corazon

Remembrance and Action

I continue to be moved and thankful for the well-purposed outrage and generosity that so many people showed last week in donating to Duanna Johnson’s funeral fund. With the help of everyone who organized the fundraising efforts and spread the word, including Dan Savage on the well read SLOG blog, the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition was able to raise all that Duanna’s family needed and more. From the TTPC website:

In only four hours, nearly two hundred people responded by opening their hearts and their wallets. You donated over $5300 to the fund. We are still counting the final figures, but not only will this cover the costs of the funeral, but all of the remaining money is being given directly to the family to use as they see fit.

We realize your donations will not ease the pain of Duanna’s tragic loss to her family, but you have sent a message to the world that the lives of transgender people matter, and that we appreciate Duanna’s fight for respect.

Words cannot begin to express the heartfelt gratitude of all the members of TTPC who are touched by your incredble generosity.

I think that all of us who care about justice for trans people and for Duanna Johnson specifically owe a great deal of gratitude to TTPC. Thank you for your struggle and for supporting Duanna’s family.

*******

Since writing about Duanna on Friday, I’ve learned about the killings of two more trans women of color in recent months. Ebony Whitaker was murdered in July, also in Memphis. In August, Nakhia Williams was killed in Louisville, Kentucky. GLAAD and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance report that not only was there minimal news coverage of Williams’ murder, but the coverage that did happen was transphobic and disrespectful. And just this past Friday, Teish Cannon, a young Black trans woman living in Syracuse, NY, had her life cut short at the age of 22 because she was trans. Again, the media coverage has been both sparse and disrespectful, identifying Cannon as a man who was killed for being gay, not a woman who was killed for being trans.

(It took me maybe ten minutes to type that last paragraph. It made me feel nauseous. I’m not sure how I’m managing not to cry at this point.)

Teish Cannon, Nakhia Williams, Ebony Whitaker, Duanna Johnson, and too many other trans people who have been murdered because of their gender, will be remembered at ceremonies across the country this Thursday, November 20, the annual Trans Day of Remembrance. Gender Education and Advocacy describes the TDOR:

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgendered people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgendered people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

There will be many vigils and other events across the country on Thursday; there is likely to be one near you if you live near a city or university. In NYC, some of these events include a vigil at Housing Works in East New York, Brooklyn and an event organized by the Gender Identity Project at the Center (thanks to the SRLP website for this info). There will also be a TDOR service this Wednesday at 12pm at the Union Theological Seminary, organized by their Queer Caucus (James Chapel, 121st and Broadway – thanks for the info, Lissa.)

Both the TDOR and the amazing fundraising effort for Duanna Johnson’s family are about remembering those trans people who have died because of hatred, prejudice, and institutionalized, systemic discrimination. Remembrance is important and necessary, but we cannot stop at remembrance. If we want this violence against trans people to stop, we must move beyond mourning our dead and take up the fight for the rights of our living.

Here are some ways to do that.

  • Read this post from the FTM Livejournal community for specific action points around Duanna Johnson’s murder.
  • Find out how to support the families and communities of Teish Cannon and Nakhia Williams, and spread the word. (If anyone has more information on this, please post in the comments here or send it my way so that I can repost it.)
  • Support organizations in your area that are fighting for the rights of trans and gender non-conforming people. Continue to support TTPC by donating to them directly. In NYC, as usual, I recommend SRLP, TransJustice at ALP, and FIERCE!, as well as the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing for homeless LGBT youth and is really struggling right now due to budget cuts. But there are many more in NYC and in cities and towns across the country. Find the ones near you and find out what kind of support they need. Donations are always good, but you can also volunteer, attend their events, spread the word about them, participate in protests and campaigns that they’re organizing – take your cues from them.
  • Take LGB(t) organizations and the mainstream LGB community to task around trans issues. Most of them can be doing so much more for trans people than they’re doing. Question the distribution of resources and attention so that these organizations and the larger community make the “T” in the LGBT more than just a meaningless display.
  • Hold the media accountable for their crappy and minimal coverage of trans issues. Write letters to the editor or even start letter-writing campaigns. If you work in the press, learn how to be respectful of trans people and encourage your colleagues to do the same. If you’re a blogger or involved in alternative media, work to fill the void left by the mainstream media with respectful, attentive coverage of trans issues. And don’t just wait until someone is murdered to cover trans issues – trans people are alive, they’re fighting, they’re having victories and successes and those need to be covered, too.
  • Come summer 2009, participate in the annual Trans Day of Action organized by TransJustice. I think it’s a good, action-focused complement to the Trans Day of Remembrance. Right now, most TDOA activities happen in NYC, but TransJustice encourages people across the country to “endorse this call to action and to build contingents to march in solidarity together.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list; these are just some ideas that I came up with. I invite people to add more ways to join the struggle and fight for the rights of trans folks in the comments. But please, do something.

Cross-posted at Feministe

Can the LGBT community spare some outrage for Duanna Johnson?

UPDATE: The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition has set up a fund for Duanna Johnson’s funeral expenses that you can donate to via PayPal. This seems to be the most legitimate and secure way of donating. Any funds collected above the cost of the funeral will go to Johnson’s family. Please donate if and what you can, and do it soon. A special request to everyone (like me) who donated to the No On Prop 8 campaign: try to match that donation, or even just half of it if you can’t manage the whole thing right now. We can get this raised fast if we all commit to that.

UPDATE 2 (11/14/08 7:46 EST): TTPC reports that they have received $4745 in donations for Duanna’s family. “The response has been tremendous. We have received around 165 donations from as far away as Japan. Duanna’s family will be thrilled. Thank you world!” I echo their thanks to everyone who donated and helped spread the word today. I wish we hadn’t had to raise this money in the first place, but I’m glad that we did. While no amount of money can undo the tragedy of their loss, at least we can help ease their financial burden and give them one less worry as they grieve. (end update)

Duanna Johnson On February 12, 2008, Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer after she refused to respond when the officer called her “he-she” and “faggot.” That night, Johnson became yet another of the countless trans women of color to be targeted and brutalized by police in this country. Two officers were fired after the attack; neither was prosecuted.

Just to be trans, just to be a woman, just to be a person of color in this country is enough to drastically increase one’s exposure to hatred and violence; when oppressions overlap, violence tends to multiply.

This past Sunday, Duanna Johnson was found murdered on the streets of Memphis. I didn’t hear about this until today, when I read a post on my friend Dean’s blog. When I read the awful news, I felt heartsick in a way that has become all too familiar and all too frequent.

After reading Dean’s post today, I was surprised to find out that Johnson was murdered nearly three days ago already and that I hadn’t heard about this until today. I know that I haven’t been very good at keeping up with the news or the blogosphere these past few days. But I can’t help but notice that despite this relative disconnection, I’ve read and heard no shortage of commentary, protest, and outrage about Proposition 8.

A Google News search for “Duanna Johnson” yields 50 results, many syndicated and therefore redundant. Much of the coverage is tainted by the transphobia and victim-blaming that tends to inflect media coverage of violence against trans women of color (like this Associated Press article). A search for “Proposition 8″? 18,085 results – 354.6 times more than for Duanna Johnson.

The skew in the blogosphere is less severe but still pronounced. A Google BlogSearch for Duanna Johnson: 2,300 results. For Prop 8? 240,839, or 100 times more.

Don’t think I’m being deliberately unrealistic or dismissive here. I don’t deny that the passage of Proposition 8 is harmful to the LGBT community and bears much anger, attention, and agitation. I understand the difference in magnitude of the number lives directly affected by the passage of Proposition 8 versus the number of lives directly affected by Duanna Johnson’s murder. I get that.

Yet still, the disparity in attention is damn stark. And that skew isn’t limited to this particular incident; it is a skew that is present in the collective coverage of and attention paid to all violence against trans women of color. And it is a skew that reflects what the GLb(t) mainstream chosen to prioritize with time, energy, and resources, and what it has chosen to address primarily with lip service and leftovers. An apt example of this: the Prop 8 op-ed written by Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese communicates more anger, more commitment to an enduring fight for justice, more of a sense of giving a damn than his brief, comparatively tepid statement in HRC press release on Duanna Johnson’s death.

There is a call out for people to donate money to help Johnson’s mother pay her funeral expenses, which are right now expected to total $1195. Unfortunately, there is some confusion about how to make donations and concern about whether the funeral home is doing right by Mrs. Skinner. I advise folks who wish to donate to use caution; I hope that a clearer, more secure way of donating is established soon. UPDATE: It’s been established.

But when it is possible to make donations safely, I hope that many people donate whatever they can. $1195 is a relatively small amount to raise. Given that the No On Prop 8 campaign was able to raise $37.6 million – or 31,464 times the cost of Duanna Johnson’s funeral – raising this far smaller amount should be no problem for our community. Right?

Cross-posted at Feministe and Racialicious

Yes. We. Did.

Barack Obama