Category Archives: transformative justice

Highlights from the US Social Forum: Anti-Prison People’s Movement Assembly

Anti-prison activists at the US Social Forum wrote this resolution together. For more information about the People’s Movement Assemblies, see http://pma2010.org/

– Suzy

Anti-Prison People’s Movement Assembly

When: Thursday, June 24th, 1-5:30pm

DRAFT RESOLUTION

The problem: The United States is a prison empire, founded on the legacy of slavery, which uses racist mass incarceration, widespread criminalization, torture and the targeting of political dissidents to try to solve its fundamental economic and social problems. It locks up more people than any other country on the planet. The prison system is a central node in an apparatus of state repression; it destroys our communities and weakens our resistance and movements for justice. Repression is a tool used to maintain state power, and the prison population represents the most oppressed sectors of society: people of color, the poor, First Nations communities, immigrant communities, working class women, queer and transgender people, and radical organizers from many communities.

Because we share a vision of justice and solidarity against confinement, control, and all forms of political repression, the prison industrial complex must be abolished. We envision a movement and a society free of racism, Islamophobia, sexism and homophobia.

The work to dismantle the prison industrial complex and build stronger communities includes:

• Supporting the efforts of diverse anti-prison organizations as part of a shared movement against repression in all its forms, including political, racial, gender, sexuality, economic, disability and age, legal status, HIV status, national origin, immigration status, and alleged gang affiliation;

• Fighting for the full civil and human rights of currently and formerly incarcerated people and affirming the rights of currently and formerly incarcerated people to speak in their own voice on all matters pertinent to their existence and well-being;

• Eliminating the stigmas that inhibit currently and formerly incarcerated people and their love ones from speaking out;

• Supporting leadership and leadership development of currently and formerly incarcerated people, and ending all forms of discrimination based on legal status for formerly incarcerated people;

• Organizing for the immediate release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war from grand juries, jail, detention, trial or prison;

• Demanding the immediate end to the death penalty, life without parole, solitary confinement, mandatory minimums, the incarceration of youth in adult facilities, behavior modification/communication management units, all forms of torture, the war on drugs and the criminalization of youth, immigrants and gender nonconforming people;

• Promoting physical, mental and emotional health and healing inside and outside of prisons, including humane models of and access to health care and substance abuse treatment that do not expand the prison industrial complex; Continue reading

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Highlights from the US Social Forum: LA COIL on Intersectionality, Horizontalism and Prefigurative Politics

My favorite session at the U.S. Social Forum was organized by LA COiL (Communities Organizing Liberation), a collective of revolutionaries who work with the teachers’ union, the Garment Workers’ Center, and in hospitals in Los Angeles. [For more information, contact them at coil.losangeles (at) gmail.com.] They asked us to imagine in detail the world we want to live in, starting with what we want our schools to look like (windows on every floor! peer evaluation! all students, faculty, staff and community members involved in decisions about budget, curriculum, etc!) and then exploring how we can build accountability and support structures in our neighborhoods to replace police and prisons. These folks are for real.

LA COiL members gave workshop participants a little green booklet with a fresh design (trippy rippling circles that intersect) and reader-friendly layout. I am going to zerox the hell out of this thing and start handing them out like candy. I don’t think it’s available on the internet yet (although you can download a scrappy pdf here), so I’m going to type up a few short excerpts. The pamphlet, which LA COiL wrote together with a group named Another Politics is Possible, is called, “So That We May Soar: Horizontalism, Intersectionality, and Prefigurative Politics.” What does that mean? Basically, these folks are putting into words the kind of politics many of us have been trying to develop and have been searching for in every organization we work with. Here are some brief quotes from the pamphlet that can be used as definitions:

1. “Horizontalism challenges each individual to break out of the patterns of allowing others to be the agents of change, and to begin to trust, grow and develop ourselves, politically and personally, alongside others…. It is about investing the time and energy in education, support, and encouragement in order to allow for full participation and decision-making…. This requires the development of structures that truly embody collective work, collective leadership and decentralize power.” (pages 11-12)

2. Prefigurative politics: “We offer our vision of a different world, not as a promise of a place that is far off in the distance where one day we can hope to dramatically arrive, but rather as a set of principles and values that guide us in our practice of liberation now. We want to talk about how to build movements and organizations that both challenge current conditions and practice liberation. We practice liberation now in order to build experience with holding power differently in our own lives and communities, to reclaim our agency, creativity, humanity, dignity, and our capacity to love and be joyful…. We understand revolution as a process rather than an event and are working to build movements that transform power, rather than merely seizing or democratizing power in its current forms.” (page 1)

3. For Intersectionality, the term I think is most relevant to the AIDS movement, I’m going to type up a whole section of the pamphlet here:

Making an Intersectional Analysis Central

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not lead single-issue lives.”

— Audre Lorde

We all live at the intersection of multiple identities, privileges and oppressions. As a result, radical politics that rank oppressions or attempt to identify a “primary contradiction” all too often end up addressing one aspect of domination while reinforcing others. Continue reading

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US Social Forum workshops not to be missed!

So the US Social Forum starts tomorrow in Detroit!

I had a life-altering, mind-blowing experience at the first-ever USSF, in Atlanta in 2007, and wrote this open letter to the AIDS movement and the Left: https://aidsandsocialjustice.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/open-letter-to-the-left-and-the-aids-movement-two-ships-passing-on-our-winding-way-to-a-new-dawn/

This will be the second-ever USSF. I’ll be blogging about sessions I go to that are inspiring. But I probably won’t post anything here til after I get home, exhausted as my aching bones get at conferences, and me without a laptop.

Here are some sessions I’d recommend for AIDS activists and all social justice activists who are blessed to be going to Detroit!

– Suzy

WED, 10am-noon, Cobo Hall: O2-42
Join in the Whirlwind: A Cooperative Panel on Research and Movement Building
Team Colors Collective

WED, 1-5:30pm, Cobo Hall: D2-08
The Take Back the Land Movement: Realizing the Human Right to Housing in the US
Take Back the Land (Miami), Survivors Village (New Orleans), Chicago Anti-Eviction Coalition

WED, 1-5:30pm, Cobo Hall: W2-67
US Social Forum Queer People’s Movement Assembly
co-hosted by The Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex (TGI) Justice Project, which works on prison issues, along with other groups including Queers for Economic Justice, SONG: Southerners on New Ground, and more groundbreaking LGBT groups Continue reading

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2003 article about violence against transwomen of color and community response beyond the prison industrial complex

Rash of Violence Claims Lives of Two Transgender Women in D.C.

By Suzy Subways
The Indypendent

From the September 9, 2003 issue | Posted in National | Email this article

Tuesday, Aug. 19 was not a good day for Ruby Bracamonte. Her close friend of ten years, Bella Evangelista, a 25-year-old transgender woman, had been shot dead on a Northwest Washington, D.C., street early the previous Saturday morning. In local news reports, Evangelista, a popular performer in D.C. drag shows, was inaccurately described as “a man who dressed as a woman.” National media had ignored the killing. But the week was to get much worse.

Bracamonte organized a vigil for her dead friend. One hundred people marched to the site of her murder, where candles, flowers, stuffed animals and signs – one saying “Transgenders Unite!” and others calling for an end to violence – were assembled as a memorial to the Latina performer. On Wednesday, Aug. 20, the memorial was found destroyed.

That night, an African-American transgender woman, Punani Walker, 25, was shot and critically wounded in Northwest D.C. And by Thursday morning, police had found the body of another Black transgender woman, Emonie Spaulding, also 25, in Southeast D.C. She had been beaten and shot to death.

Ruby Bracamonte and other transgender activists held an emergency press conference that day at La Clinica del Pueblo, a local Latino community health clinic with which Bracamonte is affiliated.

“We are being killed,” Bracamonte told those assembled. “Our lives are being taken away, for the simple fact of who we are.”

Although transgender activists and police agree that the incidents are probably not related to each other, the murders have struck fear in the heart of transgenders living in D.C.

“Before, even if you dealt with ridicule, it was a worthwhile price to pay to be visible,” Bracamonte says. “We were trying to be open, outspoken, present in the community. Now people feel like that is compromised.”

Antoine Jacobs, 22, was arrested immediately after Evangelista’s death and charged with first degree murder while armed. Police have said that Jacobs paid Evangelista for oral sex and then felt he had been deceived after learning that she was a transsexual. Responding to this charge of deception – a common narrative following such murders – Bracamonte points out, “It is easy to say, ‘They should have told.’ In reality, we do. Most transgenders are very open and honest about who they are. In most [murder] cases, we find out that everybody knew. Bella lived in the neighborhood where she was killed. She was not in the closet.”

Still, Earline Budd, founder of Transgender Health Empowerment, a group affiliated with a local AIDS organization serving the Black community, says that she has talked to several teenagers who have been shot at, run down by cars or assaulted after not telling dates they were transgender.

“I’m 45 now, but when I was younger, I was shot at,” she says. “I’ve been through it myself.” Budd explains that when she was doing sex work in her early 20s she started regularly clarifying her gender identity for clients. “They’d ask, ‘You’re a guy?’ and I’d say, ‘No, I’m a woman, but I’m a transgender woman.’”

Budd sees her advice not as a justification for blaming the victim but as a safety measure, an attempt to do “what can we do, in today’s world, to be safe,” she says. “I don’t want the young people to experience that.” Implied in her words, however, is an understanding that transgender women should not have to explain themselves at every turn, and that so many should not have to be on the streets to begin with.

“Because of the stigma, and getting beaten up, many don’t finish high school,” Budd says. “We need some type of institution where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students can feel comfortable and get an education.” She explains that transgenders are also discriminated against in housing, employment and healthcare.

Hate Crime Laws & Community Response

On August 26, Antwan D. Lewis, 22, was arrested for the murder of Emonie Spaulding after turning himself in. Punani Walker, who was shot in the chest and leg during a robbery, is now expected to fully recover. “We thought she wasn’t going to make it,” Earline Budd says. Walker gave a full description of her attackers, who are now suspects in several recent robberies of transgender women.

Budd and other activists spoke with the mother of Antoine Jacobs, Evangelista’s alleged killer, after his arraignment August 18. “She’s suffering because of what he did,” Budd says. Since the murder has been classified as a hate crime, if Jacobs is convicted, he would be subject to a sentence one-and-a-half times greater than for a non-bias related crime.

Some activists have mixed feelings about hate crimes legislation, however.

Lizbeth Melendez of LLEGO, the national Latino/a lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender organization, told Metro Watch, a local news radio show on DC’s Pacifica station WPFW, “Education will go so much further. [People of color] are the largest segment of the prison population. Why do we continue to put people in prison instead of being preventive?”

“Fifteen separate incidents – beatings, robberies, vandalism – have been reported to the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit of the police in the past two weeks,” Bracamonte says.

She herself has continued to face harassment – even on the way to her murdered friend’s vigil.

“There were a hundred people walking to the site of her murder,” she says. “A lot of people were out, and they were yelling at us: ‘Faggots, queers!’ We are always fighting to show people that we’re happy to be who we are and that we don’t want to hide.”

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