Archive for the 'action alerts' Category

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

ACTION ALERT: Supreme Court rejects Troy Davis’ appeal; urgent action needed to save Troy’s life

UPDATE: Check below for info on the Oct 23 rally in NYC.

After granting Troy Anthony Davis a stay of execution on September 23 in order to decide whether or not to consider his case, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his appeal last Tuesday. Georgia has scheduled Davis’ execution for 7pm on October 27, 2008 – next Monday, one week from today.

(Click here to skip to ways to take action over the coming week to save Davis’ life.)

I’ve been meaning to blog about this news since hearing it last Tuesday, but I think I’ve been avoiding writing about it until today. Troy Davis’ case has really gotten to me; over the past week it’s been difficult to think, talk, or try to write about his situation with beginning to cry. I know it’s important to stay hopeful and keep fighting, but it’s been difficult to muster much hope. This case has only decreased my already minimal faith in getting any true justice out of the American system. It defies logic that so many judicial bodies, right up through the U.S. Supreme Court, have failed to step in and assert that even just a shadow of a doubt should be enough to prevent an ultimate and immutable sentence of death from being carried out. In this case, with seven out of nine non-police witnesses recanting their testimony, far more than a shadow of doubt has been cast – and yet all of these authorities that have had the opportunity to intercede seem content to let this man die.

In trying to understand what twisted logic or legal technicality the U.S. Supreme Court followed in denying review of Davis’ case, I turned to SCOTUS Blog for further details and analysis. Unfortunately, they reported that “in denying review on Tuesday, the Supreme Court gave no explanation, as is its custom with such denials.” SCOTUS Blog also supplied this rather disturbing information:

In appealing to the Supreme Court, Davis’ lawyers urged the Court to issue a definitive ruling — something it had only assumed previously — that the Eighth Amendment creates a right of an innocent person not to be executed.

In this country that claims such civility and advanced morality, it hasn’t even been officially established that one has the right to not be executed if they are innocent. It boggles the mind.

But despite the daunting odds against Troy Davis, despite how utterly Davis and his supporters have been let down by just about every institution that purports to deliver justice in this nation, we can’t just let ourselves be sickened to the point that we give up hope and thereby give up the fight. Troy Davis is only one person, only one life out of the many lives on the brink on death row, but his life is essential, his life is precious, and his life demands a continued struggle. The disgust and disbelief and frustration that we feel at what’s happened in Davis’ case so far must be channeled intensely over the next week so that we might save his life and pave the way to saving many more lives in the future.

TAKE ACTION

Remember: this isn’t only about saving Troy Davis’ life; this is also about making sure that no one else ever finds themselves in the situation that he’s in. If you have time to take action in any or all of these ways this week, please do.

Cross-posted at Feministe

ACTION ALERT: Amnesty International’s call to support Troy Davis

As I wrote last week, Troy Davis was denied clemency last week by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole and is scheduled to be executed on September 23, next Tuesday, despite the tremendous amount of doubt that surrounds his conviction. Besides the Board of Pardons and Parole, the only entity that can stop the execution is the US Supreme Court. However, Amnesty International sent out an action alert today that states that the Board of Pardons and Parole can still reconsider its decision:

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles gave no reason for its denial of Troy Davis’ clemency petition, yet Board members do have the authority to reconsider their decision. On July 16, 2007, the Board did stay Troy Davis’ execution, stating that it would “not allow an execution to proceed in this State unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused” (emphasis added).

The failure of courts to hear the compelling evidence of innocence in this case means that massive doubts about Troy Davis’ guilt will remain unresolved.

Amnesty International is asking that people send emails and letters to the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole urging that they reconsider their decision in the face of the considerable doubt cast upon Troy Davis’ guilt. Please take a few moments to do this; this may be one of the last chances that Troy Davis has to escape being murdered unjustly by the state.

Update: Troy Davis denied clemency, faces execution on Sept 23

UPDATE: I am shocked, angered, disgusted and saddened to say that the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole has denied Troy Davis clemency or commutation of his death sentence. (see here and here for articles). This, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence implicating him and seven of the nine witnesses who testified against him have recanted their testimony. This is horrifying. It is also crystal clear evidence for why the death penalty is an immoral and inhumane system that shouldn’t be allowed to continue. How could anyone argue that an ultimate, immutable punishment should ever be applied when you have such an abundance of reasonable doubt and such a dearth of credible evidence? And while this is an extraordinarily wrong case, we have to assume that there are many, many other instances of people being convicted, sentenced, and executed under similarly dubious, uncertain circumstances. It is unacceptable.

At this point, Davis’ only hope is that the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes. With our current Supreme Court, I worry for the chances of that happening; to make matters worse, the Court is currently recessed and may not even get around to hearing the case before Davis’ execution date, which is set for September 23 at 7pm. (end update)

Last July, I wrote asking people to call and demand clemency for Troy Davis, a man sentenced to death in Georgia. He was convicted in 1991 of murdering an off-duty police officer, but as I wrote last year, “the case against him was comprised entirely of witness testimony, which even at the time of the trial contained inconsistencies. Since the trial, seven out of nine of the non-police prosecution witnesses have recanted their testimony.” (See my previous post for more details on the case.)

Davis was granted a stay of execution last July less than 24 hours before he was to be killed. However, as ColorofChange.org reports, “the Georgia Supreme Court and US Supreme Court have refused to hear new evidence in the case — ensuring that doubts about his guilt will always remain.”

ColorofChange.org put out this call to action via email today:

The State Board of Pardons and Paroles is meeting today to decide Troy Davis’ fate. Can you call them right now and ask them to spare his life? Call (404) 651-6599 and tell them you are for clemency or commutation for Troy Davis because you don’t want Georgia to make the mistake of executing an innocent man.

Once you’ve called, please let us know by sending an email to calls@colorofchange.org. Then, please pass this on to your friends and family–Troy Davis needs all the help he can get.

I made my call a little while ago; it takes only one or two minutes to tell them that you’re calling to ask for clemency or commutation of Davis’ sentence. Please try to spare a few minutes today to help save Davis from an unjust, inhumane death.

Trans Day of Action – Friday, June 27, NYC

Trans Day of Action

When: Friday, June 27, 2008 – 3:00pm
Where: Starting rally at City Hall Park, Manhattan, NY

Tomorrow is the fourth annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice, organized by the TransJustice working group of the Audre Lorde Project. It’s the fourth year that I’ll be going and every year has been exciting, inspirational, and powerful. (You can read about the 2006 march here.) The Trans Day of Action is my favorite NYC Pride rally/march type event, because it’s both a powerful political demonstration and a strong celebration of our communities. It’s way more inclusive than the Dyke March in both the people it gathers together and the issues it addresses, and it’s obviously way more political than the very commercial and more mainstream big Pride march on Sunday. From the ALP website:

We call on our Trans and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community and on all of our allies from many movements to join us for the 4th Annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice. We as TGNC People of Color (POC) recognize the importance of working together alongside other movements to change the world we want to see. We live in a time when people of color, immigrants and poor people are disproportionately underserved, face higher levels of discrimination, heightened surveillance and experience increased violence at the hands of the state. It is critical that we unite and work together towards dismantling the transphobia, racism, classism, sexism, ageism, ableism, homophobia and xenophobia that permeates throughout our movements for social justice. Let’s come together to let the world know that TGNC rights will not be undermined and together we will not be silenced!

I strongly encourage folks in the NYC area to come out and march with us. It’s open to all allies, so anyone can (and should) come.

cross-posted at Feministe

no justice. none.

Reactions outside of the courthouse
Reactions outside of the courthouse. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

The cops who murdered Sean Bell have been acquitted of all charges. I would say that it’s unbelievable, but it’s not. It’s all too believable, but no less shocking and appalling.

There may be civil, federal or departmental charges filed against the cops, and those cases may wind up approximating some sort of justice. But in truth, justice could never be served in this case, even if these officers had been convicted on all charges. Nothing could possibly make up for another life taken by the NYPD.

A protest has been organized by the People’s Justice coalition for 5:30pm today at the Queens district attorney’s office. I will probably get my ass out there (ETA: didn’t make it) but admit that I am nervous about it; hopefully the cops will be held in check because of the nature of the case and the protests, but one never knows. We can’t let the police scare us into silence and submission, but be careful, folks.

SRLP Press Conference – Monday, October 1, 2pm @ City Hall

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is holding a press conference on the steps of City Hall this coming Monday, October 1 at 2pm. We hope to have the folks who were arrested and attacked by the police, members of allied community organizations, and supportive city officials speak out against police violence against our communities. We would love to have as many folks as possible show up and demonstrate support. Please come if you can! More info below.

***

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 28, 2007

Contact: June Brown
E-Mail: june (at) srlp (d0t) org
Office : (212)337-8550(x114)
Cell: (646)334-3717

On Wednesday, September 26, 2007, officers from the New York Police
Department’s 9th precinct made an unprovoked, excessive use of force
against members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and other community
members. While pepper-spraying a group of people who were gathered
outside of a celebration and benefit for the organization’s five year
anniversary, the police also violently arrested two people from the
crowd, Ileana Mendez-Penate and Reggie Gossett. These two people were
released the following night, and all charges were dropped. For more
details and for further updates on this issue, please see our full
press release at www.srlp.org .

A press conference will be held on Monday, October 1st @ 2pm on the
front steps of New York City Hall in Lower Manhattan. We at The Sylvia
Rivera Law Project would like to thank all the local elected officials
and their staffers, especially Rosie Mendez and her staff, who had a
hand in the eventual release of the two detainees.

WHO: Community members and Allies of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project,
including the two arrestees, Reggie Gossett and Ileana Mendez-Penate.

WHAT: A press conference on the steps of New York City Hall.

WHEN: 2:00 pm, Monday October 1, 2007.

WHERE: On the Steps of New York City Hall, in City Hall Park between
Broadway, Park Row and Chambers Street.

WHY: By holding this press conference, transgender activists and
allies prepare to send the message that excessive unprovoked police
force and false arrests by the 9th precinct or any other precinct will
not be tolerated.

ACTION ALERT: More police violence against queer and trans folks in NYC

PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY

At the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s after-party following its fifth
anniversary celebration last night, two members of the community were
violently arrested and others were pepper sprayed by police without
warning or cause. The two folks who were arrested remain in police
custody and should be arraigned tomorrow. (More details of the
incident can be found below in the press release.)

We ask that people show up tomorrow, Thursday, starting at 9:30am and
continuing throughout the day to call for the immediate release of and
the dropping of charges against the people who were arrested. The
arraignment court rooms are at 100 Centre St (Directions: No. 4 or 5
train to Brooklyn Bridge Station; No. 6 train, N, R or C train to
Canal Street; No. 1 train to Franklin Street; M1, M6 and M15 bus lines
are nearby. 100 Centre Street is one block north of Worth Street,
three blocks south of Canal Street.) Ask for directions to the
arraignment rooms at the info desk when you enter.

For more information or to receive updates via email or text message,
contact Jack (post comments here on this blog).

PRESS RELEASE:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Police Brutality Strikes Fifth Anniversary of Sylvia Rivera Law Project

NEW YORK – On the night of Wednesday, September 26, officers from the
9th Precinct of the New York Police Department attacked without
provocation members of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and of its
community. Two of our community members were violently arrested, and
others were pepper sprayed in the face without warning or cause.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (www.srlp.org) is an organization that
works on behalf of low-income people of color who are transgender,
gender non-conforming, or intersex, providing free legal services and
advocacy among many other initiatives. On Wednesday night, the Sylvia
Rivera Law Project was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a
celebration and fundraising event at a bar in the East Village.

A group of our community members, consisting largely of queer and
transgender people of color, witnessed two officers attempting to
detain a young Black man outside of the bar. Several of our community
members asked the officers why they were making the arrest and using
excessive force. Despite the fact that our community was on the
sidewalk, gathered peacefully and not obstructing foot traffic, the
NYPD chose to forcefully grab two people and arrested them. Without
warning, an officer then sprayed pepper spray across the group in a
wide arc, temporarily blinding many and causing vomiting and intense
pain.

“This is the sort of all-too-common police violence and overreaction
towards people of color that happens all the time,” said Dean Spade,
founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “It’s ironic that we were
celebrating the work of an organization that specifically opposes
state violence against marginalized communities, and we experienced a
police attack at our celebration.”

“We are outraged, and demand that our community members be released
and the police be held accountable for unnecessary use of excessive
force and falsely arresting people,” Spade continued.

Damaris Reyes is executive director of GOLES, an organization working
to preserve the Lower East Side. She commented, “I’m extremely
concerned and disappointed by the 9th Precinct’s response to the
situation and how it escalated into violence. This kind of aggressive
behavior doesn’t do them any good in community-police relations.”

Supporters will be gathering at 100 Centre Street today, where the
two community members will be arraigned. The community calls for
charges to be dropped and to demand the immediate release of those
arrested.

- END -

ACTION ALERT: Make calls demanding justice for the Jena 6

Folks who have access to a phone and affordable or free long-distance should check out Color of Change’s phone calling tool. It’ll give you the number for a person in a leadership position who can have some impact on the Jena 6 case, along with a script tailored specifically for what that person can do about it. The page will also let you easily report back to the Color of Change folks to let them know you’ve made the call and inform them of the response that you got. You can also take part in Amnesty International’s campaign demanding that the Justice Department investigate what’s going on in Jena. And if you haven’t yet, sign Color of Change’s petition which has 256,276 signatures as of this writing, and check out their additional info for how to participate in today’s Day of Action.