Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Reproductive Justice Week of Action Chi City!

As part of the Reproductive Justice National Week of Action April 16th-23rd Chicago's Young Women's Empowerment Project (YWEP) Announces....

Reproductive Justice Speak Out for All Street Youth in Chicago!
Come SPEAK your MIND about SeXual ViOLeNce, dealing with doCToRs & SeX, HormONes, BiRth CoNTRol & MORE!
When: This Friday April 18th 2008
Time: 6pm to 8pm
Where: UIC Latino Cultural Center
Lecture Center B2 Enter Through 750 S. Halsted

Who: For & By All Street Youth
*This speak out is organized by YOUTH for YOUTH!
Street based means if you identify as being under age 25, homeless, are runaways, DCFS Wards, HIV positive, gang involved, survivors of police brutality, survivors of sexual assault, survivors of the mental health system, have had an abortion, fugitives, squatters, sell drugs to survive, use drugs, are queer, are couch surfin, are disabled, LGBTQAATSI, feminist, activists, butch queens, femme queens, transgender youth, butches, femmes, artist, rioter, involved in any part of the sex trade, rebels, militant fighter, trader, tagger, writer, slam poet, dreamer, racer, vagbond, rapper, youth of color, girls of color, young parents and girls who are mothers, freestyler, buttonmaker, anarchists, revolutionary thinker, or just plain surviving through the day 2 day hustle and flow of our struggle....

more info online:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

National Week of Action for Reproductive Justice: April 16-23!

Beginning April 16, youth across the nation will launch our first National Week of Action for Reproductive Justice! Members of the Reproductive Justice Network, a national coalition supported by Third Wave Foundation, will be hosting a variety of activities – from trainings, to speak outs, to advocacy days – to reach other youth, service providers, and policy makers about reproductive justice.

Check out some of the events going on in your area below and hook up with these groups!

COLOR (Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights)
will be everywhere in Denver for the National Week of Action! Contact Miriam at to meet up on Friday, April 18, when COLOR and LUZ Reproductive Justice Think Tank will be co-presenting a Platica around Reproductive Justice and it’s relation to one of the chapter’s of Incite! The Revolution Will Not Be Funded. Then, the next day, April 19, COLOR and Latinas of Vision will be at Lincoln High School (a comprehensive sexuality education after school program) to host a party to raise awareness on Reproductive Justice and other teen related themes.

New Voices Pittsburgh welcomes Loretta Ross of SisterSong to present on environmental and reproductive justice. We will also host a training for young women of color to become leaders in AIDS education. To get involved, contact La’Tasha at

MI-LOLA (Miami International Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy) will be hosting a party during the National Week of Action for Reproductive Justice on Saturday, April 19, 2008. The event will focus on celebrating reproductive justice with conversation, idea-sharing, action-step making, and lots of good food, music, and drinks. If you would like to find out more about them, please contact

SAFER (Students Active for Ending Rape) will be featuring student bloggers on its website, talking about what reproductive justice means to them and what they are doing to make it a reality. They will also launch a National College Sexual Assault Policies Database, featuring policies and information from across the country to help RJ activists be more effective. They are planning an online training for that week on reproductive justice, sexual assault, and school policy reform. If you’d like to get involved, please contact Margaret at

Sistas on the Rise will launch its young mothers’ resource hotline, an 800 number where young moms can call to get resources. Contact Leslie at 718-991-6003 to learn about the call-a-thon!

Young Women’s Empowerment Project is hosting a Chicago-wide speakout on April 18th co-sponsored by more than 15 other organizations! Many of us have lived through discrimination from all types of systems, like health care, education, criminal justice, and social services, and YWEP feels that learning about it and speaking out about it is essential to fighting back. If you want to build their coalition with the people that are most impacted by these injustices, contact Cindy at

But you don’t have to be a member of the RJ Network to participate! You can organize your own event and report back on our blog! Tell us about your activities by emailing Tara at to join our blog here.

Or, post a video response to our Youtube video – to be launched April 16 here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

MI-LOLA Hosts Reproductive Justice Party

MI-LOLA (Miami International Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy) will be hosting a party during the National Week of Action for Reproductive Justice on Saturday, April 19, 2008. The event will focus on celebrating reproductive justice with conversation, idea-sharing, action-step making, and lots of good food, music, and drinks.

If you would like to find out more about us, please contact
Happy Reproductive Justice Week!!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

the rainbow council of elders

This week has been exhausting. we've only been here for 3 days, and already i'm only running on about 8 hours of sleep for all of those days combined.

Yesterday I saw Kathleen Cleaver, one of my personal heroes, at the opening ceremonies. She was walking around, doing interviews of folks throughout the forum, particularly young people. Kathleen Cleaver is the former National Communications Secretary for the Black Panther Party, and was the first woman to be appointed to their Central Committee. And there she was, in the flesh rather than on the pages of a book, talking with the youngest member of our delegation, a Latina sister from the Bayview Hunters Point area. Little did i know, she's also a member of the Brown Berets in Watsonville, and she and Kathleen are talking story, swapping experiences and she's interviewing Juana about here experiences at the Social Forum!

Now, i'm not one to have the star syndrome...i don't fall to my knees when i see celebrities. But Kathleen is not a celebrity in my mind...she's a movement hero. And any time that one has the opportunity to be in the presence of someone who's seen so much, sacrificed so much, for me and others like me, i feel that's reason enough to be humbled.

so as i'm thinking these thoughts in my mind, exhausted from what felt like a 5 mile march in the sweltering hot sun through the downtown of Atlanta, as i come back to where my body was, i see juana gesturing toward me and waving me over. Unfortunately, my movement hero obsession got the best of me, and i completely lost most ability to speak during the relatively short encounter that we'd had.

This afternoon, i sat on a panel about building black/brown unity, with Betita Martinez, Community Coalition, HOMEY, and Miami Workers Center. We talked about the different strategies that our organizaitons use to build strong political relationships between Black folks and Latinos in our respective communities. After the panel, Kathleen walks in and starts up another conversation with Juana, who'd sat in on the panel. as we're leaving, she tells us both that there are other elders here at the Forum, and that folks are trying to convene an encuentro for young people to dialogue together with some of the elders in the space.

the encuentro included elders from the Black Panther Party chapters in Oakland and Chicago, brothers from the Young Lords Party, and Ward Churchill from AIM. it was a small gathering of folks, maybe about 40 youth and 5 elders. they rapped with us about their experiences--how they'd come to join a revolutionary organization, what were the conditions that led them to want to be involved, and what was important about joining an organization. At the end, they announced that they were in the process of forming a Rainbow Council of Elders, comprised of elders from different social movements in the 1960s and 1970s, which would include I Wor Kuen and other revolutionary organizations.

As we left the panel, i was nudging Juana...can you believe that we were just in the midst of such amazing heroes? did you exchange information with that sister? what kinds of things was she telling you about? Juana looks over at me and says, "You know, she's fresh! But, what's important about that panel is that the elders are recognizing that they need to get back in the mix, that the young people today need our elders to be able to connect our experiences." As i thought about what she said, i realized that she was right...that there is a major gap that exists between the elders of the social movements that came before us (or paved our way) and the social movements of today. I'm excited to see if the thing actually moves forward, for what a valuable be able to use the experience and wisdom of yesterday to inform, compare, and challenge the wisdom of today.

this is what makes it all worth while...

we'd prepared for months. in fact, more than 3 months ago, we entered an intricate process of crafting our delegation to attend the us social forum.

we knew that folks would want to go--that wasn't the issue. really, what we were looking for were the leaders within the organization that were hungry...hungry to meet others who are engaged in the struggle, hungry to learn new tactics and ways to fight this beast that we're living in. but we also wanted to bring a delegation that was representative of the struggles happening here in San Francisco. so we did. and at the end of it all, we were able to bring 23 leaders within the organization to attend this historic event, about half from each of our organizing projects (the Bayview Hunters Point Organizing Project, comprised primarily of African Americans, and the Women Workers Project, comprised primarily of immigrant Latina women in the informal and/or service sector). A lot of our work has centered around the building of living solidarity between African Americans and Latin@s, understanding that this is a critical step in building a movement for social justice in this country.

so for months, we prepped together. we ran workshops on the movement lay of the land, on the relationships between immigration and displacement, on the war on terror, on the legacy of the south. we met for 4 hours each week, sharing our expectations, our hopes, our fears, our questions. but in the end, no matter how much we prepared, it was hard to really know what to expect.

I've been to two social forums so far since i've been at POWER. The first one that i attended was the Border Social Forum, in Juarez, Mexico. However, when i attended the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya earlier this year, it was completely different from the forum i'd attended a few months earlier. so, even as someone who'd been to a few social forums, i had no idea what to expect, and i had to wonder what the experience would hold.

in any case, i digress. Our first day in Atlanta, we took the delegation to the Martin Luther King Center. As we walked through the center, taking in all of the exhibits, i watched, in particular, for the reactions and experiences of our Latina members. As Black folks in this country, we've been inundated with information about Martin Luther King, so much so that his legacy, in some ways, seems to have been commercialized. However, for folks who were not born in this country, and who haven't learned in any great detail about the legacy of slavery, and how that impacts all of our communities today, Martin Luther King is someone you see in abundance one month out of the whole year.

I watched one of our members staring in awe at a TV screen mounted from the ceiling, showing the ugliness of segregation in the South. She was mesmerized and disgusted, all at once. others looked in shock as the pictures and exhibits across the room showed horror after horror of how Black people in this country were relegated to second class status.

At some point, i left the group to go and explore Ebenezer Church, the historic site where King and many others delivered powerful sermons that would rouse the sleeping giant in the South. Today, you can sit in the same pews where Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer sat, while listening to the same sermons being delivered over a loudspeaker somewhere in the church. While its somewhat haunting, its also extremely liberating as well, to know that we are walking in the footsteps of folks who were willing to die for equality.

Outside, we debriefed our experience. For over an hour, we had a powerful discussion about the legacy of slavery in the United States, the connections to the conditions that African Americans live in today, and the relationship between the conditions of African Americans and immigrants in this country. While we fanned ourselves in the sometimes sweltering heat, i saw, almost tangibly, new levels of communication and respect opening up between all of us.

it's moments like these that make social forums worth while...

Friday, July 20, 2007

Lucha en contra del desplasamiento en Pilsen

Miércoles 27 se empeso el foro con la marcha fue increíble . la energía que se sentía entre toda la gente de diferentes legares del país ver tantas organizaciones reunidas con diferentes mensajes
diferentes cartelones todos reunidos luchando cada organizacion por lo que creemos justo en nuestras organizaciones
fue una gran experiencia sentirme parte de este movimiento caminar y conocer a estas personas y ver que la lucha es muy grade.

Jueves 28
La origananisacion poder de san Francisco de jóvenes ablo sobre el cigarro sobre un estudio echo a los jóvenes decendientes de familias que an fumado por vastantes años y sorprendente que nuestros jóvenes empiecen a fumar tan temprana edad.

Rap derechos para todos en Colorado la primera Coalición política formada por inmigrantes.

Viernes 29
Movimiento por la justicia del varió
Un documental sobre diferentes campañas en movimiento en Colorado el comandante Marcos escucho al pueblo y abro con ellos sobre los problemas que tenemos en la frontera diferentes personas abra ron sus experiencias aquí en estados y las rosones porque an dejado a México y es por pura necesidad económica por todos los gobiernos corruptos que an robado a nuestro país Mexico.

Inmigrantes en nueva York
Las mujeres sufren de machismo bastante en esta ciudad.

La comunidad esta organizada en contra del desplazamiento teniendo una persona líder por cada edificio representando los edificios para las reuniones el líder se encarga de pasar la bos en su edificio.

Sábado 30
Leonard E. Tate, MPA, JD.
Saber cuales son los blancos
Cuales son las metas de la organizacion estudiar para saber cuales son las reglas tener aliados activos dentro de la organizacion tener oganisaciones aliadas y voluntarios tener estrategias y recursos,
Blancos aliados saber quienes son enemigos con cuanto dinero contamos en la organizacion tener un comite de reclutamiento con informacion para la comunidad
Educar y motivar a los participantes en nuestras acciones.

Para mi fue una experiencia grandiosa estar en este foro aprender de estos talleres bastante educativos para aser un trabajo mucho mas productivo en mi comunidad me ayudo mucho a ser me preguntas sobre mi posición de trabajo y como puedo asarlo mas efectivo
Mi trabajo con la comunidad
Analizo mas lo que boy aser y de que manera lo boy aser para tener un mejor resultado de mi trabajo.

Friday, July 13, 2007

intial thoughts--to be continued

Hi Third Wavers,

It has been a whirlwind experience at the social forum. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and feel a real sense of actively participating in history-making. Prior to coming to the forum, I was extremely skeptical. I must admit that my skepticism remains, but with it is a strong sense of hopefulness. Why the skepticism? Well, as someone who is deeply committed to my community and to making the world a better place for all people now and in the future, I believe it is important to talk, think, listen, engage beyond those who are like-minded. When it comes to the “social justice movement,” I feel that we sometimes are so fed up with our current environment that we opt to disengage or fuel antagonistic relationships with deeply and innately flawed systems. We find ourselves talking about social justice to people who share our vision of justice, rather than those who don’t—and those who don’t are our obstacles. We must figure out how to dialogue with these individuals (and systems) which are as much a product of oppressive social forces as our opposition to these forces are. And, I am also mindful that we can't do this at the expense of building community and healing. Yes, there is a ongoing tension!

I am not sure where to go in this. I have these dynamic conversations with friends, family, colleagues, and members of my communities everyday—about change-making, justice, racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, professionalism/ non-profiteering, queerness, ageism. Sometimes it feels like too much! However, I experienced some real hopeful moments during the US Social Forum. Specifically, these moments were in settings that were specifically for lgbt folks and people of color.

One of the highlights for me was the Audre Lourde Project’s ‘We are the people we’ve been waiting for: LGBTST (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two Spirit and Transgender) people of color organizing against violence.” In this workshop, lgbtst people came together to brainstorm on alternatives to traditional state-involved responses to violence in our communities. We held hands, remembered those we have lost to violence by police, the prison industrial complex, failing medical and social services, capitalism, family/ friends/ lovers, and homophobic, racist, transphobic, classist strangers. We built on vision of transformative justice, of real community building and support, and of taking back our streets rather than relying on systems that tend to fail us. The strength and positivity in the room was remarkable and I will carry it with me for a long time to come.

And, I believe the experience was a collective one—not just an individual one—in which we built relationships that we will utilize to move forward. As a youth worker at an LGBTQ youth center in Philadelphia, I plan to call upon my New York brothers and sisters to visit us and share the work that is being done with Philly lgbtq youth of color.

In fact, we have already started to build together. In March 2007, a friend/ loved one/ community member, Erika Keels, a 20-year-old black transwoman, was killed in Philadelphia, having received multiple injuries from being hit by a car. Police called her death an "accident". Community members are demanding that her case be investigated fully and that we are given answers by the authorities. A demonstration was organized for June 14th, 2007. The goal was to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand police accountability, justice for trans and gender non-conforming people and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person. (See Audre Lourde Project’s S.O.S. Collective and Transjustice Project and FIERCE responded by offering their organizing/ activism expertise and by traveling down to Philly for the march. Their presence made all the difference in our city, which has much to learn from other organizers in other states. (Thank you!)

I believe these relationships across geographical space and across-issue are essential to building a sustainable movement and community.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Building Radical Racial Solidarity: One QPOC's review of the USSF

ussf reportbacks

As I read over everyone's blog entries, I am encouraged and simultaneously saddened. I am glad to hear of the power of the experience for some, and sad that my own experience did not feel as encouraging and fruitful. Perhaps it was the cancelled flight on my way there and the night on the airport floor, or my missed flight back and 14 hour bus ride instead, but either way I am exhausted and less ready to jump up into action again.

I'll give a few critiques and feedback so then I can really focus on what worked and what I liked.

Organization V. Intentional Planning
The conference was well organized, but not well planned. There were so many workshops and many of them overlapped in discussion topics. Some people I met wanted to cancel their workshops because they had no idea so many people would be covering the topic, others were cancelled because there were not enough participants. It would have been more beneficial (though harder and more complicated in terms of prearranging agreements, organizations making contact pre conference) to have more panels and co –lead workshops. I understand that this is more difficult for facilitation, but it would have added a huge networking element that was lacking. Organizations would not necessarily have to agree or run a meeting together, but for the non-interactive and more informative type workshops it would have added a large coalition building element to the conference.

"For the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." -audre lorde
I heard that the Starbucks in the Westin Hotel lobby broke its sales record two days in a row during the conference!! Hearing the discussions around anti capitalist perspectives, it was shocking for corporations to have such a large presence at the USSF. I understand that they were willing to give discounts, as well as individuals have specific needs for lodging, but I saw little money going into the local economy. Perhaps the conference could have been partially held in hotel conference rooms, and additional space could have been rented from local businesses, churches, community establishments. At the Civic Center, there were only four or five food vendors that consistently sold out of goods, this would be another opportunity to support Atlanta.

The Plenaries

By far the best: diverse panelists, well spoken and prepared, relevant and on point topics. Yes, Andrea Smith rocked (as she always does) and so did many others. What I was most impressed by was the woman who spoke at the end of "Gulf Coast Reconstruction in the Post- Katrina Era." 62 years old, born and raised NO, activist, feminist, self empowered black woman- what she said was more concise than any feedback I have heard or read on NO: 'Stop analyzing me, guessing and assuming what I need, and coming to help me.' I remember her powerful voice resonating through the Civic Center as she REFUSED to give up the mic "Don't come to New Orleans! Don't come to New Orleans!" This woman had a reason and a voice worth listening to, her demand that white people deal with racism in their own communities speaks to what many people are afraid to say and admit to after Katrina: It's glamorous to travel and think that you are saving someone. It’s a lot less glamorous to deal with it in your home and realize that you are systematically dominating and destroying people of color.

Workshops Schedule Reportbacks

Session 2
Harm Reduction and Transformative Justice, Part 2: Young Women's Empowerment Project
cancelled due to no show (another Harm Reduction Workshop happening in another hotel same time)

Organizing w/ Imprisoned Domestic Violence Survivors for Freedom, Justice, Healing:
Legal Services fore Prisoners with Children

I stopped into:
Stopping the Rail to Jail: the US' Addiction to Incarcerating Youth of Color: the community Justice Network for Youth

Session 3
From Alternative Sentencing to Transformative Justice: Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Justice Project
the TGI Project gave a briefing of the work they are doing as Trans people in the Bay Area. Very overworked, I was impressed to hear of the negotiations they are able to achieve in alternative sentencing., mainly through their lawyer, Alex Lee. They found that bracelets (home stays), rehab programs, and aftercare programs are most helpful for actually reintegrating after incarceration. They create awareness and demand visibility by holding Trans 101 trainings in local community center, police stations, etc.

"The TGI Justice Project serving the Transgender, Gender Variant, Gender Queer and Intersex Communities through: Breaking Cycles of Poverty and Prison. Helping TGI people avoid prison by connecting them to social and economic services that address the root causes of poverty. Community Organizing and Leadership Development: Supporting the leadership development and capacity building of the TGI communities to become leaders in the movement to protect human rights of prisoners, and to build a truly just and safe world with no need for prisons."

I stopped into:
Immigrant Youth Organizing Against Enforcement in School: DRUM Desis Rising Up and Moving
I already knew DRUM rocked. I was even more impressed by the youth movement within DRUM, self empowered and well spoken. They are working hard to create spaces and programs that address the threat of violence against young Desis and simultaneously analyzing/ dismantling the US' obsession with violence.

Session 1
Another Politics is Possible
Alliance between and members from: Catalyst Project, Sista ii Sista, Center for Immigrant Families, Garment Workers Center (LA), Coalition of Immokalee Workers
A well- facilitated discussion with these groups, it would have been nice for more of the USSF workshops to focus on this kind of coalition building!

How do you practice leadership development when you are trying to implement a horizontal structure and politics?
Many people say that non- heirarchy collective sounds good, but they ask: is it efficient? Is it more of a luxury for folks who aren't experiencing immediate oppression and perhaps have more time?

How do you understand the idea of 'intersectionality' and the way it relates to your work? How do you practice it and build it into how you resist?

Living the Vision
When and how do you decide to make demands of and organize against dominant institutions, or build an alternative to that institution?
When you say a principle is "living the vision" what do you mean by this, how do you practice it and what are the challenges in this practice?

Larger Social transformation:
Given this 'others politics' that people are talking about, how does this change the methods of work: campaign, organizational strategy? How does it change the way you think about broader social transformation?
What's the relationship of some of the politics we are trying to articulate an the broad revolutionary theories of socialism, anarchism, etc...

Session 2
Surviving Desire: QPOC talking love, sexuality, and our Cultural Legacies: Mangoes with Chili
This looked awesome, but I never found anyone there and I think it got cancelled. There was another workshop going on at the same time"HomoHop: Queer Hip Hop Artists Talk Back" and I know a few people who were torn on which to go to. (Just another e.g. of too many workshops)

Making Another RURAL World Possible: Strategies for Rural Movement Building: Rural Organizing Project, Alliance for Excluded Communities
What are we good at? What are our strengths?
community building, personal relationships, direct communication, long term presence (look for e neighbor after 20 years and you can still find them)

Where do we need help?
difficulty in contact, geographical distance between neighbors, lack of access to communication modes, keeping youth engaged and involved, offering options to youth movements even when we are not in urban areas, engaging in dialogue/ asking for what we need from urban folks

The people in this workshop seemed dedicated to leadership development and grassroots work. I still have questions as to accountability (see questions below), especially in rural spaces where there is less visibility and awareness.

"ROP: Strengthening the skills, resources, and visions of primary leadership in local autonomous human dignity groups with the goal of keeping such groups a vibrant source of democracy."

What I want/ What I have to give to continue rural organizing:
What I need personally, and it is a need for me to continue this work, is similar to what many people have said about finding the coalitions in the racial divide, figuring out how to make people of color and our organization more visible. What I need in that struggle in building alliances with white allies, is an ability to have humility around the issues. Many people in this workshop expressed the same desire to have those alliances, but it requires a strong anti racist intention and call for accountability than can be damaging and hurtful. What it requires, from all perspectives, is an ability (and space) to make mistakes, be wrong, and humble, and the commitment to continue past 'conflict.'
I can bring my own willingness to learn and softening of my own ego, as I try to learn about my own feelings, and find constructive ways to express them.

Session 3
Sexuality and the Left: Queering the Public: NYMAA/ RHA
Thanks to the folks from Tran justice at the Audre Lorde Project who spoke up as participants in this workshop. There was so much assumed knowledge/ unrecognized privilege I couldn't believe it. THIS IS NOT ABOUT FINDING WHAT STRUGGLE IS MORE IMPORTANT OR WHO IS MORE OPPRESSED. THIS WORK IS ABOUT RECOGNIZING PRIVILEDGE, DIFFERENCES, AND SIMILAR SUFFERINGS AND SEEING WHERE WE CAN CREATE ALLIANCES TO BUILD "OTRO MUNO POLITICO." It is unfair and undermines our projects to try to define some else's experience. If someone who is queer experiences violence, whether or not we think it is 'real violence' it is up to us as allies, to support them in their struggle. If a survivor of domestic violence feels fear when in the presence of those who identify as men, is it up to as allies to support them, not by 'protecting them from all who identity as men' but by creating spaces where their voice is heard, while simultaneously challenging what their assumptions about gender norms may be. But it has to be in a supportive environment. It is not helpful to a sustainable movement to tell someone who is oppressed that their situation is 'wrong' or 'imagined.' All oppressed peoples need relationships of trust to speak our fears and also be challenged. That’s all the comments I have on this workshop.

Session 1
Organizing in the Shadow of Slavery: Domestic, Farm, and Low Wage Workers in the South: Domestic Workers United

Another awesome and inspiring panel. The first ever alliance of domestic workers was formed over the USSF. This panel, made up of immigrants and people of color, made it clear how, while marginalized groups needs support and resources, they do not need guidance and leadership development. Each panelist was inspiring and self determined.

Session 2
Organizing Community Accountability in Communities of Color: Communities Against Rape and Abuse (CARA), Sista II Sista
Alisa, Sandra, Priscilla, I knew you all rocked, but thanks even more for this. There was an opportunity for discussion on "agree/ disagree/ not sure" on statements about community accountability. What I recognized the most was the need for accountability to start BEFORE an act of violence within a community, and while an assault or specific instance can be a catalyst, it is also a reflection on work that can happen independently of an act of violence, i.e. stronger community ties, more transparent communication.
We then broke out into smaller groups to discuss different scenarios. There was not enough time in this session to discuss specific strategies.

What was most apparent about this workshop was they need for people of color to come together and talk about violence in our communities. This is what struck me in a very personal way: that most of the focus of my life, thoughts, writings, organizing, jobs, and work has been with building relationships with other people of color, sharing similarities and differences, and learning from one another.

Challenging White Supremacy
As we left this workshop, someone had posted (under our posting "people of color only")

"Is this racist?"

It was aggravating for some. It made me sad to know that some people have not considered the need for self determination for people of color, even though SO MUCH of the topics surrounding USSF are about racism in the US post Katrina.

One of the responses was "If women want to have a place outside of patriarchic spaces to talk, is that sexist? Think about it."

Why do we have to still use feminism as the analogy just to get people to see inequality of race issues? Sad.

Session 3
Trans Feminism: SOUL (The School of Unity and Liberation)
Done in a popular education format, we started by charting a herstory of trans people before and after the arrival or the conquistadors. It was fascinating to learn about the largely unwritten herstory of trans and gender variant peoples, as well as see how much knowledge was in the room. From here the facilitators directed us with a few questions that asked us to challenge the role of capitalism in Tran justice issues: "naturalism" as a system to justify power in sexism and racism. We looked at the gender binary roles in the working world (sexual division of labor), discussed where gender variant and non conforming people systematically end up (sex work, the underground, unemployment – 70%, or working for liberal non profits), what gv&nc people face when they do not conform (violence, prison ic, police brutality, deportation) and what are the resources needed for trans people who want to pass ( money, documentation, citizenship). We then broke out into groups to discuss the situation for the future, how to move forward in the struggle for Tran justice.

Here are the groups I am interested in learning more about, if anyone has info and feedback:
Women of Color Resource Center
Young Women's Empowerment Project
Make the Road by Walking
Project South
Here are questions I came away with:

ACCOUNTABILITY- What does it mean and how and where do we find it? How do we hold ourselves and others accountable? Specifically:

What is the power dynamic in organizing with immigrant communities/ undocumented workers/ citizens of the US? I heard some groups talking about the valuable alliances they were creating with local immigrant groups in their 'communities' but how are the actions of these groups, how are the leaders held accountable when there is such a strong element of fear, assimilation, inherent power by the informed structure of US immigration? I did hear organizations speak of leadership development, issue identification, building from grassroots, but even with these ideological values, who is there to check to power system?

With allies: I heard people ask for feedback on the Tran justice workshop. I also saw people address themselves as "white allies" or "anti racists" in the struggle. But what does it really mean to have relationships across race of accountability? I know we WANT it, but what does it look like and what are the power dynamics that we struggle with (because there WILL be some when those who benefit from white privilege want to build solidarity with POC)? How do we form these alliances, especially when the role of POC is not to be educators?

My answer to these questions is to continue to build movements and relationships with other POC. An ally once said to me that he could do the work of anti racist organizing, but he needed to know that we are working towards the goal of working together. My answer to that is I am less concerned with trying to structure a movement to build with allies, and am more focused on self determination, and in this struggle, if my vision for a better and alternative world meets someone else's vision, I hope that we have the respect, common language, and some knowledge with which to build together, not in a glamorous pilgrimage to the gulf coast or the 'global south,' but in a way that requires building and dealing with the ugly at home, in your own neighborhood of mistakes.

USSF photos!

The opening ceremonies

Paulina Hernández of SONG welcomes queer and trans folks to the USSF

Jessica gives a speech at the Ms. Foundation breakfast

Third Wave staff and scholarship recipients

Monique, Tara, Vanessa, Jessica and Shanina

Mia and Asani

Tara, Andrea and La'Tasha

The Jobs With Justice 20 year anniversary party

The NAPAWF workshop on building API community.

Kids welcome us to the Gender and Sexuality Plenary!

The Sexuality and Gender Panelists

You can view the entire album here!

How to move forward…

This week at the USSF, I have been inspired, rejuvenated, and challenged. Amidst all of the energy and excitement, I have also been really reflective. There is amazing work being done all over the country and this has really got me thinking about how to move forward with my own work. But at this moment, I feel very exhausted. I feel a mixture of: 1) I want to sleep for a week straight and 2) when I get back to my office I am gonna be working around the clock to kick some ass!

But before I can move forward full force, I really feel that I need to have a deeper understanding the history of activism in the Asian women's community. In order to know where we will go, we have to know where we've come from, right? I helped facilitate a workshop on building a movement of justice and power among Asian & Pacific Islander women and girls. In this workshop, we talked about our history of activism and created a timeline that listed how much women in our community have done in the social justice movement - but it has not been recorded or recognized. There is a stereotype that API women are quiet and don't cause a stir. But we are fierce sisters! This has really encouraged me and my fierce sisters to create a timeline that honors the work our API sisters have done and to incorporate it in NAPAWF's training curriculum.

The Power of Gender & Sexuality

I found the plenary on gender & sexuality to be the most powerful, most passionate, and most radical plenary of all those I attended. Leaving the Civic Center, I felt challenged and inspired. Andrea Smith was incredible – her closing remark absolutely rocked the entire Civic Center: "If another world is possible, why is the US necessary?" Her words on colonialism & militarism, and their impacts on women, is so critical in this movement against neoliberalism. I appreciated Loretta Ross's critique on how we hurt ourselves by creating schisms between us, fighting for "ownership" of an issue, and re-creating systems of patriarchy and oppression in the movement. I found it to be real and she spoke truth to power. I think it's easy for us to say that we want and need to work together on whatever issue we work on, but it's not always that easy. And Mia Mingus was absolutely amazing! Her experience as a queer woman of color with a disability really underscored the fact that all of our struggles are interconnected – we cannot address one without touching on the other.

In thinking about the political landscape and the state of this capitalist world, I can't even imagine how much work it will require to counter this pervasive neoliberalist regime. But what inspires me the most is thinking about all of the great connections I have made this past week and hearing such powerful stories. In getting to know people on a personal level, I was also able to connect with their spirit for truth, peace, and justice. That was really powerful for me.

It will be a challenge to push ourselves outside of our little world and remember to stay connected to others and to the broader social justice movement – but we have to in order to create another world.

--Liezl Rebugio