Category Archives: youth

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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The Politics of Impatience: An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

The Politics of Impatience:

An open letter from anarchists to the anarchist movement

Dear friends,

As anarchists from a variety of different projects and political perspectives, mostly in the U.S., we are inspired by the courage of students fighting for access to public universities in New York, California, and everywhere. At a time when politicians take money out of schools and build prisons to fill with young people of color and poor people – while giving away trillions to the banks, health insurance companies, and war profiteers – any movement that takes back space and resources for public use wins our hearts. Many of us are not students, but we will continue to demonstrate our solidarity in whatever ways we can when students are beaten and arrested, and colleges themselves start to look like jails because administrations are afraid of the power of student organizing.

We are shocked that on March 4th at Hunter College, City University of New York (CUNY), some anarchists harmfully disrupted a protest against tuition hikes, budget cuts, and childcare cuts. Some of the facts of what happened are in dispute. Some are not, including the following: A faculty member and longtime media activist was injured in the head, sectarian graffiti was spray-painted, and a parent from Defend Hunter Childcare was targeted with a sexist epithet that was heard by some as a rape threat. Some of the individuals involved have apologized for their actions. But we still need to ask why this happened, how anarchists could be responsible for these things. And how to make sure it never happens again.

At the root of the incident was an impatience by some anarchists with a rally and walkout that they decided should have been an occupation. This letter will talk about the politics of impatience and offer some ideas for action.

A movement that stands for childcare, healthcare, and education for everyone means more to most people than slogans shouted by those who are “pushed by the violence of our desires” to act as individuals. A statement with that phrase as its title, written by some folks involved in the altercation at Hunter, claims, “We do not need the ‘consent of the people.’” But militant direct action needs to take place within the context of a movement, not outside of it. To single-handedly declare that a protest is not radical enough without participating in the democratic processes of the movement is vanguardist. It’s ironic–and tragic–when it comes from anarchists. When we want to occupy, let’s reach out to those who might want to occupy too, so there’s a chance they might occupy with us.

Peace to the villages, war to the palaces

We are deeply frustrated with the lack of militant resistance across the U.S. while the powers that be are murdering millions of people with impunity, transferring our wealth to the richest, and destroying the planet. In many areas, the only options being offered are lobbying, actions pre-determined by media-savvy advocacy nonprofit staff, and grassroots campaigns that only demand what they believe to be immediately “winnable” from local, state, or federal governments.

We’ve all felt the transformation and possibility that resonates in the air at more spontaneous mass protests where, however briefly, the streets or the schools are truly ours. If that moment of freedom can also feed the bellies and minds of people’s children, people will do it again, and more will be inspired to try it on their own terms.

Learning our movements’ histories can give us a few ideas. CUNY, for example, has a tremendous militant history of student occupations, Continue reading

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Cultural Healing: Native American Activists Say Boarding School Abuses Harmed the Health of Generations

—Suzy Subways

December 2008 • Issue 9

An 1890s photo of Carlisle Boarding School graduates. Carlisle, the first Native American boarding school, was opened by Captain Richard Pratt in 1878.

“Many of the problems of alcoholism and drug abuse now prevalent in Indian country can be traced back to the physical, emotional and sexual abuse suffered at the hands of our keepers in the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] and mission boarding schools,” Lakota journalist and boarding school survivor Tim Giago wrote in the Huffington Post. Government-sponsored boarding schools have created a legacy of trauma among Native American peoples in the United States. The Boarding School Healing Project documents the abuse and demonstrates how it has led to high rates of childhood sexual abuse, family violence, violence against women, alcoholism, and drug use in Native communities. In addition to the homophobia the schools enforced in children from cultures traditionally welcoming of gay and gender-nonconforming people, most of these symptoms of trauma are the same factors that make Native communities vulnerable to HIV. A look at the brutal history of these boarding schools can teach us a lot about the ways that social injustice fuels the epidemic – and how to fight back.

“Kill the Indian, Save the Man”

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government debated how to remove Native Americans from their land – “extermination or civilization,” as one former commissioner of Indian Affairs put it – and it paid Christian churches to run boarding schools as a “civilizing” alternative, Cherokee activist Andrea Smith writes in her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and Native American Genocide. Army captain Richard Pratt opened the first of the schools in 1879, arguing that they would “kill the Indian and save the man” by destroying the cultural link between children and their communities. Until the 1930s, Native children were forcibly taken from their families at age 5, and parents who resisted were jailed.

For 100 years, from the 1880s through 1980s, about 100,000 Native people grew up at the schools. Abuse was rampant, and children were physically punished for speaking Native languages or practicing their religion. “I want people to know how we were beaten with leather straps, shorn of our hair, and used as child slave-laborers at these boarding schools,” Giago writes. “My eight-year-old sister, along with dozens of Lakota girls the same age, was raped at the mission school …. [she] told me about her abuse on her deathbed and I, along with her three children, finally understood why she had become a violent, alcoholic woman for so much of her life.”

“I agree that the effects are intergenerational on families, primarily in the area of sexual, mental, physical, and emotional abuses,” activist Charmaine Whiteface told the Native Press. “My parents both attended a Catholic boarding school and experienced, as well as saw, all these types of abuses. They refused to speak the Lakota language to us and only wanted us to be ‘white.’ There was alcoholism and major physical, emotional and mental abuse in our home. They knew no other way: They were terrified of being Indian. If it were not for my grandmother who taught me in secret, I might not have even a little knowledge about my culture.”

“The effects are intergenerational on families, primarily in the area of sexual, mental, physical, and emotional abuses.”

Canada forced Native children into residential schools until the 1970s, and abuses there are better documented. According to the Truth Commission into Genocide in Canada, churches and government are responsible for the deaths of more than 50,000 Native children. Survivors tell of witnessing church and school officials murder their classmates through beatings, hangings, electric shock, and other forms of torture. Many children starved because the schools were run on chronically low budgets. Until the 1940s, students were intentionally exposed to tuberculosis. Survivors say they were forced to play and share beds with children dying of the disease. There is testimony that babies born to Native girls raped by church officials were killed and buried on school grounds. The Canadian government issued an apology this year, but activists say that nearly half the survivors will be left without compensation, and witnesses will not be allowed to give the names of perpetrators or describe any misconduct. Continue reading

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New York City’s HASA For ALL Campaign: Advocating for Homeless People With and At Risk for HIV

A Model Campaign for Activists Around the Country

—Suzy Subways

Twenty years ago, when 30,000 people with AIDS were at risk of dying homeless on the streets of New York City, AIDS housing activism was born. “In 1988, activists took over the Human Resources Administration Commissioner’s office [in New York City] to demand they honor an injunction to take a plaintiff living with AIDS out of a shelter and put them into single-room occupancy housing,” Charles King, cofounder and CEO of Housing Works, explains. In 1990, Housing Works grew out of ACT UP/New York to provide housing, job training and other services while organizing homeless people with AIDS to fight for their rights and survival.

The Campaign

Now, a coalition of activist groups led by the New York City AIDS Housing Network (NYCAHN), Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and Housing Works – the HASA For ALL campaign – is fighting to expand the city’s unique guarantee of rental assistance, a nutritional allowance, and transportation for people living with AIDS to all low-income New Yorkers living with HIV.

The HASA For ALL battle began in 2006, when activists successfully pressured the city’s health department to release data on the health of homeless adults. AIDS was the primary cause of death for women in the shelters and the second leading cause of death for men, accounting for 11 percent of all shelter deaths. But people with AIDS weren’t supposed to be in the shelters. A 1998 lawsuit brought by activists guaranteed medically appropriate, same-day emergency housing assistance to homeless people with an AIDS diagnosis through the city’s HIV/AIDS Services Administration (HASA).

About 700 AIDS activists demonstrate in support of HASA For ALL at New York’s City Hall, September 25, 2007 (photo courtesy of Housing Works).

According to Sean Barry, co-director of NYCAHN, the problem is that “people who didn’t have an AIDS diagnosis and didn’t qualify for HASA because of that are dying because the bad conditions in the shelters worsen their health so quickly – before they can go through the bureaucratic process to get HASA benefits once they do get sick.” Housing Works estimates that 7,000 low-income people living with HIV would benefit from HASA For ALL, including an estimated 800 individuals in the shelter system.

“It took me two years to get on HASA,” Alan Perez, coordinator of the Legislative Action Group at GMHC, says. “I had to stop taking my meds just to get on it. A lot of people are doing something to get sick, especially people who are in the shelter system. They should be in permanent housing.”

The irony that people with HIV who are doing relatively well are making themselves sick just to get needed help is not lost on activists. They developed a cost-benefit analysis revealing that, despite an estimated $68 million per year price tag, HASA For ALL would save the city money in shelter and hospital costs, keeping people with HIV healthy – and preventing as many as 66 new infections each month.

Assisting People With and Without HIV

The idea is a sort of “prevention for positives” approach, but activists appreciate that HIV negative community members need permanent housing as well to protect themselves from HIV and the many other hazards of being homeless. Young trans and gender non-conforming people, as well as men who have sex with men (MSMs), are especially vulnerable, explains Johnny Guaylupo, intake outreach coordinator at Housing Works. Continue reading

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New York State Black Gay Network: Mark McLaurin

— Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

November 2007 • Issue 7

*Activist Snapshots #2*

“The Black gay community suffers from HIV invisibility, so the New York State Black Gay Network (NYSBGN) is forthright, vital, and visible,” says Mark McLaurin, the network’s executive director. “Our key demand is that resources for domestic prevention have to follow the epidemiologic data.”

And those data are clear about where the epidemic is headed. HIV rates have reached a staggering 46% among Black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 21% among white MSM. In a presentation at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago on October 10, University of Pittsburgh researcher Ron Stall observed that, with the relatively small increases already occurring year by year, each new generation of gay men will have much higher HIV rates.

Same Behavior, Double the Risk

The disturbing racial disparity cannot be explained by risk behavior – Black MSM have similar or slightly lower rates of unprotected sex, including with partners they know to be HIV positive, than white MSM. Also at the Chicago event, Greg Millett of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented an analysis of all studies on the subject (both presentations are viewable at http://www.lifelube.org/). One 2004 study of MSM ages 15 to 22 found Blacks to be nine times as likely to have HIV as whites, and Latinos twice as likely, despite more unprotected sex among young white MSM. Across all studies, Millett found that white MSM were more likely to use drugs that can increase the possibility of HIV infection, including crack. One study found that white MSM were more than twice as likely to use crack than Black MSM.

The prevalence is already so high among Black men that the odds of potential partners having HIV are much higher, making the risk associated with forgoing condom use much greater. “You’re swimming in an infected pool,” McLaurin says. “The question is, how did that pool get more infected in the first place? We need more research. Every time we meet with the National Institutes of Health and the CDC, we say, ‘We need to figure out what’s going on now.’”

Another Urban Legend: The “Down-Low”

What about the media hype of the “down-low” – the racially loaded term referring to the universal phenomenon of men who identify as straight but have sex with men and don’t tell their female partners? “It’s a titillating conversation, but there’s little evidence to show that this is a serious bridge population for HIV transmission,” McLaurin says. “Unless you can show me that this is a significant factor, then we’re not talking in terms of HIV prevention, we’re talking in terms of entertainment value.”

Millett’s research shows that while Black MSM who do not disclose their sexuality are more likely to report unprotected sex with women than are Black MSM who are open about their sexuality (not surprising, since the latter are likely to be gay-identified and not sleeping with women at all), non-disclosers are also less likely to be HIV positive or have unprotected sex with men.

In a March 2007 commentary in Annals of Epidemiology, researcher Chandra L. Ford writes, “Common perceptions about the DL [down-low] reflect social constructions of black sexuality as generally excessive, deviant, diseased, and predatory.” McLaurin agrees. “It pits Black gay men against Black women at a time when we need each other more than ever.” Continue reading

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TAKE ACTION — WHAT YOU CAN DO

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

If you’re part of a sex worker activist project and would like to learn from others doing this work, contact the following groups for insight and inspiration:

Different Avenues
Washington, DC
202-829-2103
www.differentavenues.org
Different Avenues is a peer-led organization working for the rights, health and safety of people at high risk for HIV, and fighting violence and discrimination. The organization works across labels and identities to envision a world where our communities live with justice and well-being. The majority of its constituents are youth and young adults, people who are homeless or just trying to get by, and people who formally or informally exchange sex for things they need. Most of its work is local, but Different Avenues also does its best to support national and global movements for social justice.

Project SAFE
Philadelphia
866-509-SAFE
http://www.safephila.org
SAFE serves women, including transwomen, and distributes a Bad Date Sheet to help street-based sex workers avoid clients who have attacked other women or stolen their money. Workers call SAFE’s hotline or invite SAFE volunteers to visit them at home (where they feel safer talking than in the street) and give a detailed physical description of the attacker and what happened. Reports are anonymous and shared only with women. This keeps the information from johns and the police (who may arrest or dismiss a sex worker trying to report a rape), builds trust and community, and helps women define what rape is and be heard without being stigmatized.

St. James Infirmary in San Francisco, run by sex workers for sex workers, provides free, non-judgmental healthcare.

Stella
Montreal
514-285-1599
http://www.chezstella.org
Stella, a broad-based sex worker activist group in Montreal, Canada, also has a Continue reading

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Top Ten Positive Changes for Agency Staff

By the Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP)

SEP. 2007 • Issue 6

This document was created by YWEP, a group of girls and young women in Chicago, aged 12 to 23, with  experience in the sex trade and street economies. Based on their firsthand knowledge of what has worked – or not worked – for them both as young girls looking for help and youth organizers offering help, these guidelines can help adult activists and social service providers make their efforts more respectful and effective. In the Chicago area, YWEP offers trainings and popular education for girls, as well as trainings for adults (through the Harm Reduction Training Collaborative). They can be reached at 773-728-0127. On its website, www.youarepriceless.org, YWEP offers this document and other resources to download.

YOUTH WORKERS – WANT TO HELP GIRLS IN YOUR YOUTH PROGRAM WHO TRADE SEX FOR MONEY OR SURVIVAL NEEDS?

1) Ask young people currently involved in your program about what they know on this issue. Ask on a one-to-one basis or call for a group to ask what they know.

2) Create a welcoming environment to tell you about it – keep disclosures private (don’t let other youth know, and staff should only talk in private when necessary) and make it known that you are open to listening without judging.

3) Do not have negative consequences for disclosing to staff, like losing level, suspension, or making youth leave your program. Work together to find what the young person wants or needs in their life. Continue reading

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AIDS As a Moral Disease, Once Again: How Government Policies on Abstinence Promotion Teach Old-School HIV Stigma in the U.S. and Uganda

by Suzy Subways, Editor, Solidarity Project

DECEMBER 2006 • Issue 2

People often talk about stigma when describing challenges in fighting HIV/AIDS. Stigma can underlie a spectrum of human rights violations—from neighborhood snubbing or family rejection to denial of medical care, to outright mob violence and murder. Suggested remedies range from what can be painstakingly slow cultural work and sensitivity training to aggressive enforcement of legal protections. But what is the solution when stigma is a top-down phenomenon?

Governments can infuse HIV stigma deeply into a nation, with cold, hard cash to back it up—operating at levels of power far above the misinformed family that sets a paper plate and plastic ware at the HIV+ person’s place-setting at holiday visits. As we arm individuals to fight stigma at the family and community level, we also need to demand that governments stop spreading stigma and start addressing its consequences.

There is now ample evidence that the funding of abstinence-only policies brings systemic promotion of HIV stigma. And the data show that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs don’t work for preventing HIV. If we can pull their massive funding—especially in the U.S. and Uganda, which are held up as models for other countries—we’ll also dismantle a powerful source of stigma and blame that hurts people living with HIV as well as members of marginalized groups like sex workers, LGBT people, and sexually active girls and women. Continue reading

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Take Action: Stop U.S. Government-Funded HIV Stigma Worldwide

DECEMBER 2006 • Issue 2

The PATHWAY (Protection Against Transmission of HIV for Women and Youth Act of 2006) Act was introduced by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) in the House. It would help fix Bush’s global AIDS initiative, known as PEPFAR. It would eliminate the requirement that one-third of all prevention dollars be spent on abstinence-only programs. It would also address the real prevention needs of women and girls by helping community organizations that promote women’s rights. Check out the “Legislation and Policy” section at PEPFARWatch for more information. Continue reading

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Something I Never Want To Hear Again… A Listening Exercise from CHAMP Academy

DECEMBER 2006 • Issue 2

Stigma exists not just in the world outside our organizations but within them as well.

Our assumptions or lack of information about the incredibly diverse range of people and communities affected by HIV, paired with the shortage of resources that can encourage competition between groups, means that we can find ourselves promoting the stereotypes that can perpetuate the stigma we are supposed to be fighting!

Whether we are talking about “down low” men as perpetrators or “youth who think they are invulnerable” or “women in denial” or “gay men who get all the resources for their own community,” we risk making our own community members and/or our potential allies into one-dimensional cartoons, and fueling the fires of stigma that keep us divided and vulnerable.

There are training resources we can use to start to really see and hear each other, and to move forward as a diverse, united force seeking justice for all. Training for Change, a Philadelphia-based institute that has trained activists around the world, calls it direct education, and has hundreds of tools on their website. Continue reading

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Filed under African Americans, Drug users' rights, gay and bisexual men, gender, Latina/o communities in the United States, Native Americans/Indigenous peoples, prison, sex workers' rights, Solidarity Project, stigma, trans and gender non-conforming, Uncategorized, women, youth