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.

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