Archive for the 'people of color' 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

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

Ill Doctrine Exclusive: McCain’s Latest Attack Ad

Jay Smooth has posted an exclusive leak of McCain’s latest attack ad over at Ill Doctrine. Check it out:

Too funny, except in that sad “rings of truth” way…

The women still in the race

Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente

For all the talk about the historic nature of the Clinton (woman!) and Obama (Black!) campaigns that’s gone on in the mainstream media for the past year, you might not have any idea that a third, equally unprecedented ticket was being run: Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente, the presidential and vice-presidential nominees of the Green Party. This is the first all women of color presidential ticket in the history of the United States. Now, I understand that a nomination’s historical importance and newsworthiness tends to be defined by the likelihood of its success – or, as is often the case, by the degree to which people decide to blame the Democratic party’s failures on the Greens. Yet one would hope that in between all of the celebrity gossip and other tripe that makes it onto the news regularly, the mainstream media would find a little more time to devote to a presidential ticket that is unique not only for its makeup but also for the platform it’s running on, a platform that offers a radically different choice from the rightly-named corporate parties that dominate the politics of this nation.

But predictably, the mainstream media has almost completely ignored the McKinney/Clemente ticket. When they won the Green nomination, there were a few articles here, a few news reports here, most of them focusing more on the candidates’ chances of being “spoilers” in the upcoming election rather than focusing on, you know, their positions or platform or qualifications, all of which the MSM apparently deems irrelevant. Most of what I’ve heard about McKinney and Clemente has come from the blogosphere, and even here, coverage is slim. The majority of the mentions I’ve seen have been about McKinney being a possible alternative vote for Clinton supporters who don’t want to vote for Obama, and even there, McKinney is discussed less often than John McCain as the alternate vote. Even on Feministe (if my memory and our search tool are working properly), McKinney’s candidacy hasn’t been mentioned in an actual post, only in the comments.

Now I get that this lack of coverage is to be expected, especially if you’re measuring a candidate’s importance or significance by their likelihood to win come November. McKinney and Clemente won’t be in the White House come January, and I’m sure they both understand that. However, the actual presidency is not the only thing at stake here, especially for the Greens and more generally for the future of third parties in this country. In an interview with Newsweek (subtitled “Will a third-party candidate be a ‘spoiler’?”), McKinney discusses another important and far more feasible goal (emphasis mine):

There are currently about 200 members of the Green Party who are elected officials. These are mostly local elections. The Green Party does not yet have representation on the federal level, but it’s quite a successful “minor” party. With 5 percent of the electorate, it can move from minor party status to major party status [and qualify the Green Party for federal funds]. So our goal is to get onto as many ballots as we can, since then achieving a 5 percent goal becomes possible. When I got to Washington D.C., I realized that public policy was made around the table. The 5 percent puts another seat at the table.

As Obama continues to hedge, flip-flop, and trend right on a variety of issues, and as McCain continues to be his usually sucky self, it becomes clearer and clearer that another seat at the table, a true alternative to corporate politics as usual, is desperately needed. And while even 5 percent of the vote is an uphill battle for McKinney, Clemente, and the rest of the Greens, it isn’t impossible. Such a victory would be huge, a major step in breaking this country away from the two-party system that time and time again shows itself to be severely lacking for people who believe in true peace and true justice.

But who’s gonna vote for them? Continue reading ‘The women still in the race’

Blacks, Latinos, and the precariousness of “middle class”

Today I listened to a segment on Democracy Now! about a new report that’s out from Demos and Brandeis University on the state of the Black and Latino middle class in the United States. The study, entitled “Economic (In)Security: The Experience of the African American and Latino Middle Classes,” finds that three-out-of-four Black and four-out-of-five Latino middle-class families are economically insecure and at high risk of slipping out of the middle class. From the report, which can be downloaded as a PDF from the Demos website:

African-American and Latino families have more difficulty moving into the middle class, and families that do enter the middle class are less secure and at higher risk than the middle class as a whole. Overall, more African-American and Latino middle-class families are at risk of falling out of the middle class than are secure. This is in sharp contrast to the overall middle class, in which 31 percent are secure and 21 percent are at risk. Specifically:

  • Only 26 percent of African-American middle-class families have the combination of as- sets, education, sufficient income, and health insurance to ensure middle-class financial security. One in three (33 percent) is at high risk of falling out of the middle class.
  • Less than one in five Latino families (18 percent) is securely in the middle class. More than twice as many (41 percent) of Latino families are in danger of slipping out of the middle class.
  • African-American middle-class families are less secure and at greater risk than the middle class as a whole on four of the five indicators of security and vulnerability [named by the report as assets, education, housing, budget, and healthcare]. Latino middle-class families are less secure and at greater risk on all five indicators.

Jennifer Wheary, a senior fellow at Demos and one of the co-authors of the report, elaborated on Democracy Now!:

And what we found was when we compared the situation of white middle-class families to African Americans and Latinos, there were vast differences. You know, and what was astounding to us was really looking at—these are, you know, African American and Latino families that, by all sense and purposes, have achieved the American dream, people who, you know, have two earners, two professional earners in the household, you know, maybe are trying to own a home or do own a home, you know, very—have achieved all the aspirations that we typically go for. But even among those people, when you look at, you know, where they’re weak economically, we found that about two-in-five Latino middle-class families are in danger of falling out of the middle class. They’re so financially vulnerable, don’t have assets. Maybe somebody in the household is uninsured. And one-in-three African American middle-class families are also in danger, so vulnerable, so weak, that they’re in danger of falling out of the middle class.

I haven’t read the report yet, but when I do, I fully expect to cry. In fact, as I listened to the segment on the bus home today, I actually found myself tearing up; not only because the larger injustices behind what I was hearing, but because it hit a very personal chord.

Continue reading ‘Blacks, Latinos, and the precariousness of “middle class”’

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

Rinku Sen on Same-Sex Marriage and Communities of Color

Qualms about the marriage equality movement aside, I appreciated this perspective from Rinku Sen at Racewire.

Rather than fixating on communities of color as though we’re the last of the homophobic holdouts, we should be thinking of ways to bring people together, socially and culturally, across sexual lines.

Very true.

And yeah, qualms aside again, the images of these couples getting married were thoroughly heartwarming, especially the couple in Fresno!

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

Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap

Karen Salazar at a rally in response to her firing

cross-posted at Feministe

Yesterday while listening to Democracy Now! I heard about Karen Salazar for the first time. She is a high school teacher who was fired from her position at a school in LA because her curriculum was too “Afrocentric” – instead of, you know, the usual Eurocentric curriculum that’s delivered to American students on the daily. From a letter by Salazar posted on the Vivir Latino site:

I am being fired because I am trying to ensure that my curriculum is relevant to my students’ daily lived experiences, and in the process, create a space for them to be critical of Eurocentric society and curricula that only serve to reinforce their dehumanization, subjugation, and oppression …

I have been observed in the classroom and evaluated by administration over a dozen times (almost twice a month) this school year, whereas in comparison, most teachers are observed and evaluated 1-3 times per school year. The evaluations claim that I am creating “militancy” within students, promoting my personal political beliefs, and presenting a biased view of the curriculum. It has also been implied that I have been teaching students “how to protest.”

Three weeks ago, things began escalating when I was again observed, and in his evaluation, the administrator accused me of “brainwashing” my students and “forcing extremist views” on them. The class had been reading a 3-page excerpt of the Autobiography of Malcolm X (an LAUSD-approved text, of which we have several class sets in our school bookroom), in which Malcolm describes the first time he conked his hair…My contract is being terminated because according to the principal, I am “indoctrinating students with anti-Semitism and Afrocentrism.” The anti-Semitism accusation comes solely from the fact that I have an Intifada poster hanging in my classroom (a symbol of support for a free Palestine), and the Afrocentrism accusation comes from the fact my culturally-relevant curriculum reflects the demographics of my students, though I am surprised I am not being accused of Raza-centrism as well.

Needless to say, this shit is disgusting. And of course, as Democracy Now! reports, it’s not an isolated incident:

In 2006, Jay Bennish, a high school teacher from Aurora, Colorado, was briefly dismissed because one of his lectures was deemed “anti-American.” On the eve of the Iraq war in 2003, Deborah Mayer, an Indiana schoolteacher, was fired after telling her class, “I honk for peace.” A federal appeals court in Chicago upheld the school’s decision last year and ruled public school teachers do not have the constitutional right to express personal opinions in the classroom.

But this isn’t just about expressing personal opinions; it’s about the restrictions imposed upon teachers who may wish to counter the so-called history in most history books with information that actually reflects the many cultures and histories that make up this country – histories that often don’t make the United States look so swell.

Continue reading ‘Latina teacher fired for not regurgitating the same old crap’