Archive for the 'activism and organizing' Category

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.

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

Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls: working session at the CGI

Panelists at the CGI Global Health working sessionYesterday I watched the live video feed of a Global Health working session at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. (The press can’t attend the actual working sessions, so we had to sit and watch from the press room.) A bit of background – at the CGI Annual Meetings, government, corporate, and NGO leaders get together to discuss major world issues and figure out ways to tackle them. Each day they break out into working sessions, each one devoted to one of this year’s four focus areas: Poverty Alleviation, Energy and Climate Change, Education, and Global Health. This particular Global Health working session was entitled “Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls,” which immediately jumped out at me as a topic of great interest, both personally and for folks at Feministe.

Continue reading ‘Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls: working session at the CGI’

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

Convictions overturned for 2 of the Newark 4

Free the New Jersey 4 Two of the four young Black lesbians who were convicted after defending themselves from a homophobic attack in 2007 have had their convictions overturned. From the New York Times article:

An appeals court on Thursday overturned the convictions of two women accused in the beating and stabbing of a man who they said made unwanted sexual advances to them in Greenwich Village two years ago.

One of the women, Terrain Dandridge, whom a jury found guilty of second-degree gang assault, had her conviction reversed and indictment dismissed; as a result she can no longer be tried on those charges. A four-judge panel of the Appellate Division in Manhattan ruled that there was not enough evidence to support a guilty verdict for Ms. Dandridge. She had been sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

The second woman, Renata Hill, who was found guilty of second-degree gang assault and third-degree assault, had her gang assault conviction vacated, but she can be retried on the charge. The court ruled that the judge’s instructions to the jury on the charge were erroneous and that therefore her conviction could not be upheld.

She was sentenced to eight years in prison, but if the Manhattan district attorney decides against further prosecution, she is likely to be released because the maximum penalty for the third-degree assault is a year and she has already been in prison longer than that.

Alexis Agathocleous, the lawyer who handled Ms. Hill’s appeal, said he was pleased and was hoping “that the district attorney’s office will also do the right thing and dismiss the remaining charge.”

The appeals for Patreese Johnson and Venice Brown are still pending, but let’s hope that they’re as or more successful than these. I also hope that, as Agathocleous says, the DA will do the right thing and drop these sham charges.

Kenyon Farrow and Jonathan Adams at Racewire both point out that in addition to the lawyers and families who have been working so hard to see justice done here, there are some awesome organizations that deserve hearty congratulations and continued support: FIERCE, Human Rights Watch, Liberation in Truth Unity Fellowship Church, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Also: while some elements of the NY media had a field day tearing these women apart when they were on trial, calling them things like “killer lesbians,” “a wolf pack of lesbians,” and a “seething sapphic septet,” they’ve been remarkably quiet about the overturned convictions so far. Funny, that. We should probably be thankful for that, though; one can only imagine what sort of fucked-up things they’d say if they did take up the story.

Edited to add: More info from the Free the NJ 4 blog. Their press release is definitely recommended reading.

cross-posted at Feministe

“We do this because to do nothing leaves others with no options.”

I might not be writing much lately, but other people are. One such person is Valery J, who I work with at one of the organizations I do tech support for. Recently she sent the staff an email entitled “Val’s Reason #2018 for Being Committed to Racial & Economic Justice.” I really appreciated her reflections on gentrification, social justice, and why “the work” is so important. I asked her if I could post it here, and she agreed; she’s also got it posted on her MySpace blog. Enjoy!

On Friday, I attended the first SJL Art of Organizing Session for the year out in Harlem, NY. My partner and I had to bring our daughter to the Bronx to her “Ti-Ti Ta-Ta” (Aunt Liz) for the day.

The session was over and we went to go the baby from the BX and we decided to take a nostalgic walk in the area that evening. It was crazy to see how many buildings that went up that had nothing but gentrifiers going home (it was after rush hour), how bars and restaurants suddenly became “diverse” with ads to rock bands and not salsa or bomba y plena ensembles headlining a weekend event, how many trees were planted in areas that historically had no green space and high asthma rates…the list can go on forever. We took a long walk. The South Bronx looks like Bed-Stuy in its earliest gentrifications stages.

Dave and I are ALWAYS “politicking” and we wondered well, if everything is being “glamorized” for the new folks in town, what’s going on with others who are being pushed out in the name of community development? Where the hell are poor folks are relocating to? We know that shelters are overcrowded and waiting lists for low-income housing are ridiculously long. The economy can only get worse as the Bush and Cheney war continues indefinitely, and New York City Council Members spend millions on phantom organizations while cuts to low income housing, social services, drug treatment, etc. are slashed over and over and over.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I always talk about the psychological effect of racism, poverty, displacement and oppression. We forget that in the midst of organizing for change that the crucible of our arguments shouldn’t always rely on policies or practices but also on the human condition, how everyday people are affected by all of this stuff. It’s easy to point to empty apartments or lack or jobs but not so easy to point to what’s really going on with people who are left out to hang by all of this. It’s not so easy to speak on the effects of disempowerment, disenfranchisement and destabilization on people because they’re not quantifiable.

So, Dave, Aliyah and I got on the 2 train at 149th and 3rd. We took the baby out to play and for a feeding. We were rolling into 125th Street when the emergency brakes went on. We sighed and figured some prankster opened the damn panel. (I’m so old school.) We were in the first car and realized a homeless man being pinned down to the ground by an elder Latino man. The homeless man was about to jump on the tracks when the elder sprang into action. A life was saved because someone cared, did something about it and didn’t think twice to look within.

On the way home, we went on about how sad it is that the land of milk and honey (sarcastic reference to what the US “markets” to the world) has enough resources to waste among the “haves” but doesn’t give a damn about the “have nots.”

I remember feeling a deep sadness because my heart went out to the man that felt that in his imprisonment between a rock and a hard place, that his only option was to end his life. Because things were too much and this was what was left to end the hurt.

What I also remembered is why we all engage in the fight for social justice. Because, like the elder, we spring into action, we care and we do something. Even if that action is hard, causes us to sacrifice, causes inconvenience and causes pain, it’s this act of self-less-ness that offers at least some hope to those who are between a rock and a hard place.

This work isn’t easy. And yes, we have to respond to things as they show up. Our shoulders may feel heavy and our minds run a mile a minute. We argue and bicker and gripe to relieve stress, eat mounds of mac-n-cheese for comfort and lay our heads down to rest with left-over thoughts on what the hell to do next.

I guess I just wanted folks to realize that our work is greater than the burdens that we endure. That we do this not to be rich, not to be celebrated, not to be respected at times.

We do this because to do nothing leaves others with no options.

Thank you, all, for being committed to being a voice for the voiceless.

Fight the Power!

Valery J

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.



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 .

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.

They’re out! All charges dropped!

From the SRLP website:

Reggie and Ileana have just been released from police custody! The DA declined prosecution, which means that no charges are being pressed. They are free and clear, and are now getting the support they need from their community – in person.

We are all thrilled by this result, the only truly just outcome after a long night and day of injustice. Thank you to everyone who has helped out and expressed support, including all of the allied organizations, fellow activists, community members and councilpeople who stepped up to support us.

Although they have thankfully been released, our work around this incident is not finished. Now it is time to hold the police accountable for the unnecessary force and community targeting that occurred last night, and work so that no more incidents like this happen again to our community. We will keep you all posted as to our next steps and ways to plug in.

Second Annual New York Gender Equality Festival

Girls for Gender Equity, the organization that I mentioned in my recent post on street harassment, is organizing the Second Annual New York Gender Equality Festival this Saturday, July 28, from 11am to 6pm in Von King Park in Brooklyn. From their site: “Featuring performances by artists including singer/songwriter Pamela Means, hip hop artist Carlethal, Women’s Project theater group, and spoken word poets Urban Word NYC, the Gender Equality Festival is a free public event for education, networking, resource sharing, community interaction, arts and recreation that is open to New Yorkers of all ages and genders.” Check out the GGE site linked above for more info.

NYC Queer and Trans Youth of Color – Know Your Rights!

FIERCE! is offering an awesome training (details below) at their office this Friday. While FIERCE! is an organization for queer and trans youth of color, their FIERCE Friday events (like this one) are open to all allies. Trainings like these are important because the cops most definitely take advantage of folks not knowing their rights when it comes to dealing with the police. It’s hard to know how to deal with a cop, especially when you already feel targeted and vulnerable because of your age, your race, your sexuality, your gender, your class. Hopefully this training will help folks understand what rights they do have in such situations (not to say that some cops won’t completely disregard those rights anyway, but still.)

Queer and Trans Youth of Color: Do You Know How to Talk to the Cops When They Start Talking to YOU?

No, really? Do you?

You have the right to learn your rights when dealing with encounters with police. FIERCE is offering KNOW YOUR RIGHTS training and self-defense workshop on FRIDAY the 27th

Where: FIERCE Office 147 W. 24th Street. 6th Floor;(Right by Paws on Chelsea)
Take the F/1/C/E to 23rd street.

When: FIERCE FRIDAY!!! July 27th from 600-800pm

Allies Welcome

More info: 646-336-6789 x203