Archive for the 'organizations' 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

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

NYC public housing: a shambles in need of fixing

the CVH public housing tour

Many low-income people in NYC rely on public housing as one of the few sources of affordable housing available to them in this city of sky-rocketing rents. However, the conditions in public housing are often sub-par, with poor maintenance and major repairs left undone for years. These conditions are threatening to get worse, even while residents are forced to pay higher rents.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), which runs public housing, is facing a budget deficit of $225 million, largely due to major funding cuts from the federal and state governments. NYCHA has been scrambling to make up for this deficit, but most of the measures that it’s taking wind up hurting the residents of public housing: rent increases, additional fees charged for basic household appliances, delays in making urgent and essential repairs, and the planned layoff of more than 500 workers from an already understaffed agency.

Last Thursday, Community Voices Heard, a member-led grassroots organization of low-income New Yorkers, led housing advocates and elected officials on a tour of public housing developments to show them just how important it is that NYCHA gets much-needed funding (and utilizes it well, of course – just because the money’s there doesn’t mean it’ll be used right.)

In one apartment on the the tour, a bathroom wall had been left without repairs for two years; a sheet of plastic has been hung over a gaping hole, leaving pipes and hazardous materials exposed. In another building, the walls of a fire-damaged hallway have not been cleaned for over a year. Residents complained of stoves that haven’t worked for ages, one of which was removed two years ago because of a gas leak and not replaced until last week, when the media contacted NYCHA after the CVH tour.

Agnes Rivera, a CVH leader and a resident of one of the housing developments, spoke of the worsening situation in public housing and how important this housing can be:

We are bringing our elected officials on this tour to show them that our housing is deteriorating. The Housing Authority doesn’t have the money to make the repairs that the families living in public housing need…

I was in the shelter system, due to a domestic violence situation, and was lucky to have public housing as my safe haven. Public housing has helped me live in an affordable home and to afford sending my children to college. My children want to be able to afford the same things for their children.

At the press conference after the tour, CVH and their allies called for Governor Spitzer to sign the shelter allowance bill (S.4329/A.7905) which recently passed both houses of the New York State legislature and could add $47 million to NYCHA’s suffering budget. The bill would make the state’s contribution to NYCHA for residents receiving public assistance the same as the state’s current contribution to private landlords who house public assistance recipients. Coucilmember Rosie Mendez was among those calling on Spitzer to sign the bill:

There is no explanation for public housing authorities receiving less than half the payment private landlords receive for the same size apartment. I urge the Governor to sign the bill and avert the unthinkable consequence that NYCHA is financially unable to continue to provide quality, low-cost housing for New Yorkers that are least able to afford shelter in our city’s overheated private housing market.

Now, maybe Governor Spitzer is a little distracted by the whole Bruno debacle, but his attention needs to be drawn back to signing this crucial bill. Despite our capitalistic society that gives to each according to cash instead of need, public housing should not equal sub-standard housing for low-income people. Email, write to, or call Governor Spitzer to demand his prompt signature of the bill so that the much-needed funding can soon reach NYCHA and ultimately public housing residents.

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

NYPD activist surveillance documents surrounding the RNC released

After a long legal battle, I-Witness Video has obtained and posted more than 600 pages of NYPD RNC-related activist surveillance documents, spanning from October 2003 to September 2004. On the I-Witness site, you can read more about the preceding legal fight, download a large PDF of the documents, or perform single-word searches on the documents.

I’ve already been going through them for about an hour, and am about to stop myself from looking at them all night. Otherwise I’m going to have nightmares. Lots of the stuff is really creepy. Some of it is creepy because of the infiltration factor that’s evident in what they’re able to find out; how disturbing to think of organizations and groups being infiltrated. However, some of the stuff isn’t creepy at first because it’s such public information, so the methods of obtaining the info aren’t so creepy seeming. But then, when you think about it a little more, it’s almost creepier, because the things they’re documenting seem so tame and so benign. I’m talking regular old community organization meetings, happy family-friendly kinds of marches and activities, that sort of thing. Green Party events held in sunny Tompkins Square Park, for fuck’s sake. These guys aren’t just worried about their infamous scary black bloc anarchists here, the kind of mythological threat that the cops and the press like to put on display to terrify the populace. Nah, they’re after anyone who has the slightest inclination towards evil anti-American concepts like justice or equality or liberation.

And that’s just the shit from the document that hasn’t been redacted (blacked out, usually with comments like “law enforcement privilege.” (Oh yeah, we know all about law enforcement privilege.)

Obviously, I know that the police and the rest of the government are fucking insidious, and all of this shit has gone on for decades upon decades in this country (centuries upon centuries, probably) and will continue to do so for a long while to come. And it’s not as if I don’t know that the groups and movements and coalitions and even social groups that I live and work within are heavily surveilled, even when we’re doing things that seem so innocent, so harmless, so tame, so right.

But it’s still scary. And it still might give me nightmares.

I think it might also convince to me finally start practicing better technology privacy and security measures – you know, encrypting emails, that sort of thing. I always think that I don’t say or write anything interesting or sensitive or important enough to really worry about. But I think I’m realizing that the cops find a whole lot more interesting than I would’ve thought.

ACTION ALERT: Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

Note from Jack: I heard about this on NPR the other morning, but unsurprisingly didn’t get the whole story, not even from them. I’ve added emphasis on some parts of this press release from DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), which is an important and kick-ass organization that everyone should know about.

Also, for more information on Shahawar Matin Siraj’s case, see Democracy Now! interview with his lawyer, Martin Stolar.

January 9, 2007

Entire Queens Family Arrested as Intimidation

For questions, contact:
Fahd Ahmed, DRUM (940) 391 -2660

At 5am on the morning of January 9th, 2007, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raided the Queens home of and arrested three members (father, mother, and daughter) of the Siraj family, a tight-knit Pakistani family that has been caught up in the U.S. “War on Terror’s” most recent act of racial and religious profiling. Tuesday’s deplorable raid on the home of an innocent family is amongst dozens of other targeted, prejudiced sweeps across the country that are tearing Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities apart. The arrests occurred less than 12 hours after their young son, Shahawar Matin Siraj, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for alleged terrorism-related charges emerging from a clandestine NYPD-paid informant’s entrapment.

ICE officials are currently falsely reporting that the family was arrested on immigration-related charges and that the father’s appeal for an asylum case was “denied.” The reality is that the father’s appeal is still pending in the Second Circuit Court and has not been decided, and that the mother and teenage daughter do not have any immigration cases or deportation orders pending against them. Given the high-profile media attention on their son’s case, in which there were many underhanded legal irregularities and rights violations, these arrests are being seen by the community as an attempt to silence and make an example of the family through harassment. The family maintains that their son was ensnared by an NYPD informant, evidence of which the court did not properly consider, resulting in an unfair trial and sentencing. The family has filed a notice of appeal for their son’s case.

Both the father and the mother have ongoing and severe medical conditions, and the mother was only allowed to take two days of medicine at the time of the arrests. All family members are currently being held at Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ, but they may be moved or separated to different facilities.

DRUM, as a community based organization that works with Muslim and South Asian immigrants and has seen the targeting of this community before and especially after 9/11, is calling on all concerned individuals and organizations to contact the ICE Field Office Director, at 973-645-3666, and demand that (a) the Siraj family be immediately released on their own recognizance or a reasonable bond, and, (b) that ICE stop targeting immigrant communities, in particular Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians. DRUM is also calling on all people of conscience to call Warden Charlotte Collins at Elizabeth Detention Center, at 908-352-3776, to demand that (a) they provide urgent medical care and medication for the mother and father, and (b) that the Siraj family be kept together, particularly the mother and daughter not be separated, and, (c) to pro-actively facilitate direct communication and visitation between the family and their son, Matin, who is being held at Metropolitan Detention Center. DRUM, alongside countless civil and human-rights organizations and concerned citizens will continue to expose the ongoing injustices of the “War on Terror” against this family and all targeted communities.

Wage to Live: supporting restaurant workers in NYC

I’d like to start highlighting work by community and social justice organizations, so here’s a start: Wage to Live, a recently-formed non-profit organization that is working towards a living wage for restaurant workers in NYC.

We all know that working in a restaurant can be a really rough job. Not only is it ass-busting, frustrating work (think of all the difficult diners you see out there, or how difficult a diner you can be), but the pay is often for shit. Restaurant workers are often tremendously underpaid; in NYC, many of these workers are immigrants (both documented and undocumented) and people of color. From the Wage to Live site:

Despite the increase in profits, patronage, and meal costs, the wages of workers within the industry have stagnated. Thus, restaurant workers are now earning one-third of the average income within the private sector. In 2005, NYC restaurant workers earned $21,658 where non-restaurant workers in the private sector earned an average of $70,834. Over the last twenty years, the wages of restaurant workers have lagged by 17% behind the growth in wages that have been felt in all other sectors. Close to half of all restaurant workers (44%) live below the poverty level and 13% (roughly 22,425 workers) are still earning below minimum wage. The stagnation in restaurant wages has coincided with a gradual shift in worker demographics. In 1980, more than half of all restaurant workers were born in the United States. Today, more than two-thirds of all restaurant workers are foreign born.

Wage to Live is trying to change these conditions. From their mission statement:

Wage to Live has several goals: to raise the wages of a severely underpaid workforce, to prove that low wages are not the inevitable bi-product of capitalism but the result of societal acceptance and a prejudice against immigrant workers and people of color, to demonstrate that businesses can actually pay well while remaining profitable, to increase the public’s expectation of responsible business practices, and to prove that organizations such as Wage to Live can be self-sustainable and replicable in other cities.

To these ends, Wage to Live is waging (heh) a “socially responsible consumption campaign” in which restaurants that pay a living wage become certified members and are promoted by Wage to Live. In turn, folks who want to eat out responsibly can refer to Wage to Live’s website to see which restaurants are actually paying their workers a living wage. Or trying to – I appreciate that Wage to Live recognizes that not all restaurants can afford to pay every worker a living wage and plans to offer guidance to restaurants who want to try to and memberships to those who are making a good effort, paying no less than $10/hour to every worker.

Want to support Wage to Live? Check out their website, sign up for their mailing list, make a donation to the organization. But most importantly, check their website this spring to find and support restaurants that are paying their workers fairly.