INCITE! SUPPORTS THE CALL TO FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER!
- Because we support black women’s right to self defense and support the call for freedom of Patreese Johnson, the last incarcerated member of the New Jersey 7, and CeCe McDonald in Minneapolis, MN,
- and because we condemn the FBI’s continued and escalated pursuit of Assata Shakur,
- and because domestic violence survivors of color have been targets of law enforcement violence through lack of protection, mandatory arrest policies, and physical violence,
- and because 90% of people in women’s prisons experience sexual and domestic violence prior to their incarceration and there is a crisis of sexual abuse within prisons, including juvenile and immigration detention centers,
- and because collaboration programs between ICE and local police, such as Secure Communities (S-COMM), endanger the lives of undocumented immigrant survivors of violence,
- and because law enforcement agencies routinely fail to respond to violence against Native women, allowing others to violate them with impunity,
- and because of militarized law enforcement violence, children like Aiyana Jones do not have the right to safety in their own homes,
- and because organizers had to sue Louisiana to remove black women and LGBT people charged with prostitution from the state’s sex offender registry,
- and because stop-and-frisk against women of color, including trans women of color, is state-enforced sexual harassment,
- and because doctors pressure and coerce inmates in California women’s prisons to get sterilized as a cost-cutting measure,
- and because, in two out of three states, pregnant inmates can still be shackled to their hospital beds while giving birth,
- and because the US is a prison nation that not only cages the most people in the world, but extends punishment and surveillance into the daily lives of low income women of color and our communities in the US and abroad,
- and because we support organized resistance to the prison nation such as the Dream 9, the Dream Defenders sit-in, and the California Prisoner Hunger Strike, the largest prisoner hunger strike in the history of California,
- and because we mourn the horrific murder of Trayvon Martin and send love, strength, and solidarity to his family and community,
- and because we honor all of the women, queer, and trans people of color who have been attacked, brutalized, or murdered and who have been given no opportunity for redress or public recognition,
- and because we call on our communities to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence and develop transformative community-based responses to violence so we aren’t forced to rely on an abusive criminal punishment system for safety and accountability…
Because of all of these reasons, INCITE! endorses the call to FREE MARISSA ALEXANDER from prison immediately. Marissa Alexander is a black mother of three and survivor of domestic violence from Jacksonville, FL. In August 2010, she fired a warning shot in the wall to defend herself from a life-threatening beating from her estranged husband. She had just given birth to a premature baby nine days before. Despite the fact that Marissa Alexander caused no injuries and has no previous criminal record, and despite the fact that Florida’s self-defense law includes the right to “Stand Your Ground,” she was subsequently arrested, prosecuted, and sentenced to a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison. She plans to appeal. More details on her experience can be found here and this pdf download. The treatment of Marissa Alexander is a consequence of the growing crisis of prisons and policing in the US as well as a product of anti-black racism and sexism which drives individuals and institutions to punish black women when they defend themselves from violence. Her case is one of many that shows us how black women and other marginalized people are especially likely to be blamed and criminalized while trying to navigate and survive the conditions of violence in their lives. We call all members of anti-violence, reproductive justice, and anti-police/prison movements and our allies to also support the call to Free Marissa Alexander!
ORGANIZE to free Marissa Alexander! Hold rallies, do a banner drop, have house parties, blog, write letters, organize workshops, make art, fundraise and donate, and sign this petition. Visit http://freemarissanow.tumblr.com/action for more ideas.
Urge your campus, organization, faith community, collective, union, or business to ENDORSE the call to Free Marissa Alexander: tiny.cc/EndorseFreeMarissa
Thank you for all you do to create communities and movements based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity!
Getting Free Down By The Combahee Riverside: A Black Feminist Pilgrimage
by Amber Williams
On June 2nd 1863 Harriet Tubman positioned herself as the first woman to serve as a military operative for the United States Union Army to coordinate and execute the Combahee River Raid during the Civil War. She arrived in South Carolina with the intention of “tearing shit up”(Alexis Gumbs) burning the residences and property of seven to eight plantations and freeing approximately 800 (and potentially more) enslaved people in one night—this number more than quadrupling the amount of people she freed at this point in her career.
Fast-forwarding to May 31, 2013, I participated in the Combahee River Black Feminist Pilgrimage, a component of Mobile Homecoming and Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind gathering to honor Harriet Tubman and the 150th year anniversary of the Combahee River Raid. I assumed my participation in this pilgrimage I would a: help me realize a greater sense of purpose in anti-oppression work and b: allow me to engage in scholarly dialogue about black feminist paradigms and how they manifest in the lives of Black feminist queer women, trans and gender nonconforming people. Although these presumptions were elements of my experience, they were most certainly reductive components of an entire sum—and the total sum went beyond my presumption I could ever imagine as “transcendent”.
Honestly, my willingness to be open to transformation was by no means a part of my experience before arriving. Even after being overwhelmed by a wave of excitement and joy upon receipt of the knowledge that I could in fact attend this pilgrimage, life took a few dramatic twists and turns that forced me to reconcile what it means to exist as a black queer woman torn in utter disarray about my responsibility to my family; unsettled about intimate relationships; and hurting from the manifestations of capitalism playing tricks on my wallet, all while uncovering repressed trauma that questioned my sense of place and belonging at home . Long story short, I had an inescapable ‘bad attitude’ with very little refuge to uncover the roots. Therefore I questioned the value of my bad attitude at a pilgrimage that may require a more upbeat, energetic persona I felt unable to provide. I wondered how I could be fully present while balancing my reality as a black queer woman disrupted by so many forces in my emotional turmoil and depletion of energy.
With the wisdom, kindness, and patience of family, friends, and mentors, I packed my worries alongside my journal and decided to immerse myself into the unknown beauty of this pilgrimage with all my warranted and unwarranted anxieties. I hoped to find answers to pressing questions that could help me shift my environment in a more self-determined direction. With all of my material and emotional baggage, I finally arrived at the first meeting point of the pilgrimage, still clamoring for some control by micromanaging of transportation and being hyper-concerned about tardiness, only to finally fall into a place surrounded by the beautiful faces of the black women who immediately put my worries at ease. I was instantly comforted up by their energy in a way that mellowed my hovering stress. In that calming moment I knew that I had been called by the universe and my ancestors to be there; caravanning between North and South Carolina, unveiled in the rawness of my essence; eventually, sailing along the Harriet Tubman Freeway while exchanging dried mango, lavender lemonade, kale salad, and “queer (vegan and gluten free) chicken” in the epic novelty of unquestioned closeness and acceptance of everyone. We danced and sang in our seats, reflected on the words of our pilgrimage podcast and dialogued about love, relationships, gender expression, healing, spirituality, nourishment, and autonomy as we journeyed to the Penn Center the location of the duration of the pilgrimage
Upon our arrival, that night, we set our intentions, shared each of our purpose for coming, expressed what we needed from each other for the remainder of our time, and listened to a general overview of why we were gathering. Immediately, what I presumed to be strictly a dialogue space to honor the Combahee River Collective Statement and the fierce legacy of its creators was challenged by a deep understanding of the relevance of the Combahee River and a re-introduction to Harriet Tubman.
Alexis Gumbs hoped this would be a time to evaluate what we are getting free of and intended to leave behind at the river…keeping in mind the infamous imagery of Harriet Tubman’s shot gun symbolizing the promise and commitment of follow through from freeing ourselves from the pits of colonization and capitalist forces manifested from chattel slavery.
I felt called to evaluate the complexity of being mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectuality imprisoned by capitalism, sexism, and racism (just to name a few) while simultaneously recognizing that our very existence is a manifestation of Harriet Tubman’s dream of the abolishment of chattel slavery. I felt accountable to honoring the innumerous sacrifices made through varying forms of resistance by enslaved and freed black folk in order to make it possible for me to be able to say and proclaim “I am” and “I choose”. Resting in this complexity of freedom made it possible for me to celebrate the triumphs of Harriet Tubman and other Black women freedom fighters, both past and present. I remembered my ‘bad attitude’ and all of the other repressed traumas and challenges in my world that in a twisted convoluted way lead me to the River. My tired and stressed body and spirit needed to be in a state of depletion in order for me to unleash any sense of reservation that would stop me from harboring unexamined internalized oppression. I thought about Harriet’s journey to South Carolina and wondered how angry, frustrated, and fed up she must have been in order to coordinate a violent revolt against chattel slavery freeing hundreds of people. Thus, my participation in this pilgrimage surrounded by my unraveling context felt much bigger than a mere coincidence. I chanted, journeyed, sang, and danced in strength and love in full recognition that “black women are inherently valuable” (Combahee River Collective Statement).
Together in celebration of black magic, black queerness, black love, and black resistance, we found ways to extract the deepest internalizations of our multiple and intersecting oppressions, mark their transient patterns between our distanced experiences, and dismantle them through the embodied realization that “the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us” (Combahee River Collective Statement). We “laid down our varying and interwoven burdens” premised on a collective agreement that “our ancestors worked tirelessly to prove themselves so that we did not have to” (Combahee Pilgrimage Member) and that honoring them meant abolishing the shackles of our contexts as an act of self-love. With my heart, body, and spirit stretched wide open, I felt held, loved, beautiful, and awakened by the presence of my newfound community of women who were so willing to “know” me, to see me, and to be seen in their vulnerabilities. As we interlocked our stories like oak trees strengthened by the outward grasps of sprawling fringed and loosened roots in love and solidarity, I reconnected to an un-institutionalized form of black spirituality by singing black hymnals and dancing proudly to freedom fighter songs (sometimes) in tears; and in those precious moments I could relinquish any fear of compromising my strength (a consequence and tool in navigating the complexities of my intersecting identities) through an expression of vulnerability and weakness. I didn’t have to navigate the world wandering in silent despair; I could instead stay up late into the night gazing at clear blue skies filled with bright stars for endless hours while being fed and filled with dialogue, understanding, and care. And none of the questions I came seeking answers for were answered in my oasis. Yet I felt ready and rejuvenated to return to Ann Arbor with an awakened spirit packed with even more unanswered questions. Four days at a Black Feminist Pilgrimage and hours spent in meditation at the Combahee River served as a reminder that my ‘freedom’ from deep internalizations of colonization, (in many ways) requires an aggressive unshackling of self-hate, doubt, and degradation in the company and occupation of a black queer feminist collective of beautiful people ready and willing to hold me, as I hold them, in loud, bolstering resistance.
To end this reflection: Thank you to my Incite! Ann Arbor family and Incite! Nationals for informing me of this completely transformative experience and a very, very special shout out to Karla Meija, Kiri Sailiata, Isabel Milan, Alexis Gumbs, and Mandisa Moore for your creative organizing that made it possible for me to participate in this pilgrimage. Words cannot express my gratitude, love and appreciation for your support. I also want to thank Dr. Sheri Randolph, African and African American History Professor at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor—an amazing scholar who catalyzed my intellectual juices by introducing me to black feminist scholarship. Dr. Randolph, you developed a landscape in which I was able to imagine and actualize myself in a way that no academic course ever could. I am eternally grateful.
In Love and Solidarity
Amber Williams is a program coordinator at the University of Michigan in the Division of Student Affairs, and advocate of educational equity engaged in tackling the school to prison pipeline, college access for first generation youth in urban/rural Michigan, and supporting queer youth of color empowerment projects by leveraging university resources. She has also been a member Incite! Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti chapter for five years as a facilitator and organizer of social justice education through a black feminist praxis and ideology.
A message from the Bay NJ4 Committee:
Dear friends and comrades,
Patreese Johnson of the New Jersey 4 is coming home in August after 7 years of incarceration by the State of New York. She will be released on parole with a felony charge on her record.
For those who may not remember the details of this case, On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbians traveled to New York City from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a man sexually propositioned one of the women. After refusing to take no for an answer, he assaulted them. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. The women were charged with Gang Assault in the 2nd degree, a Class C Felony with a mandatory minimum of 3.5 years. Patreese Johnson was additionally charged with 1st Degree Assault. Three of the women accepted plea offers. On June 14th, 2007 Venice Brown (19), Terrain Dandridge (20), Patreese Johnson (20), and Renata Hill (24) received sentences ranging from 3 1⁄2 to 11 years in prison.
We in the Bay NJ4 Solidarity Committee need your help in spreading the word about her release and promoting various ways of helping throw down for her reentry and legal defense needs, as a civil suit is also still pending. Please repost links and information to your blogs, networks, listserves, tumblrs, etc.
Please do what you can to let folks know about a go fund me campaign online where everyone is encouraged to contribute. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/2xjwpg
Also, for those in the San Francisco Bay Area, the NJ4 solidarity committee is having a happy hour fundraiser at El Rio on June 14th from 4-6. The committee would love to reconnect with folks and hear about your work as well.
The NJ4 Solidarity Committee: Cynthia, Deeg, Eric, Io, Ralowe, Tory, Xan
More about the New Jersey 4 (also known as the New Jersey 7):
A message from Mamas of Color Rising:
Mamas want You!
After two years of pushing for change in Texas Medicaid, Mamas of Color Rising (MOCR) in collaboration with others, is on the verge of winning a major victory for Women of Color and poor women in Texas. If we are successful, pregnant women on Medicaid will now have the option to choose a Midwife and deliver at a birth center as opposed to the OB/GYN and the hospital as their only choice. This choice allows women to receive more personalized and holistic care, longer and more comprehensive appointments, as well as shorter waiting times prior to appointments. This is in contrast to the more prevalent 5 minute prenatal checks and three hour waiting times in clinic lobbies and waiting rooms. These more “healthy” and ideal scenarios are choices that the wealthy and privately insured are currently demanding.
For women of color, this victory will represent much more than a “healthy” choice. According to Amnesty International, in the U.S. African American women are four times more likely to die of pregnancy related complications than white women, and Latina women are 2.5 times as likely as white women to receive late or no prenatal care. The outcomes in Texas are actually worse than these national averages. Research shows that access to the midwifery model of care can tangibly improve these outcomes.
MOCR has never asked broader friends, supporters and allies to come out for an action before. As busy mothers ourselves, we only ask when its absolutely needed. BUT today we are asking!
Come out next Tuesday August 28th to the public hearing at the Health and Human Services Braker Center, located at 11209 Metric Boulevard, Building H, Austin, Texas. The hearing will be held in the Lone Star Conference Room from 9am-11am.
Wear one of our stickers and represent the fight for equal access to healthier birth choices for ALL women!
Support our mamas members testimonies!
WHY SHOULD YOU BE THERE??
Not a mama? Don’t have kids? Don’t even want kids?
This issue affects us ALL. For all folks committed to racial and economic justice, next Tuesday’s Medicaid ruling is critical!
For Mamas of Color Rising the right for women on Medicaid to choose their type of birth provider directly addresses the larger social issues that we are working on such as:
* The current HEALTHCARE APARTHEID we are living in this country which particularly affects African-American and Latino immigrant communities.
* The WOMB TO PRISON PIPELINE- that according to MOCR begins earlier than school, since discrimination, policing and tracking actually begin in the womb.
* And finally, a JUST and LOVING world is one world where all mothers and babies receive attentive quality loving care.
It’s THAT simple.
We will see you at the hearing!
Mamas of Color Rising Collective Members
The hunger and thirst we endure from sunrise to sunset during this holy month is not only for food and water – the food and water too many of our sisters and brothers all over the globe lack. It is also a hunger and thirst for knowledge, for piety, for humility, for social justice, and for equality. At its most basic, Ramadan is about love. It is a period of reflection and engagement, a path for developing what feminist activist Cathy Cohen calls “radical empathy.”
Dana Olwan and Sophia Azeb, Muslim Feminisms Forum: An Introduction
This month, The Feminist Wire hosted a forum on Muslim feminisms featuring a diverse collection of writing reflecting on critical topics such as colonial violence, imperial feminism, human rights, the politics of the hijab, gender violence, and liberatory practices. Below we’ve shared the list of articles from the forum and the concluding remarks from the editors, Dana Olwan and Sophia Azeb. Reprinted with permission.
The Feminist Wire Forum on Muslim Feminisms:
Muslim Feminisms Forum: An Introduction
by Dana Olwan and Sophia Azeb
Defining Muslim Feminist Politics Through Indigenous Solidarity Activism
by Shaista Patel
Seeing Muslim Women With Western Eyes
by Josh Ceretti
Striving for Muslim Women’s Human Rights
by Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons
The Hijab and the Pitch
by Laurent Dubois
Salam in the City
by Sinat Giwa
In honour of the leadership of US-born African-American/African-Caribbean/African-Latin@ Muslim women in responding to HIV/AIDS
by Prof Dr. Ibrahim Abdurrahman Farajajé
Pot Roast and Imperial Justifications
by Amal Rana
Reframing the Discussion: Concluding Thoughts on the Forum on Muslim Feminisms
by Dana Olwan and Sophia Azeb
Reframing the Discussion: Concluding Thoughts on the Forum on Muslim Feminisms
by Dana Olwan and Sophia Azeb
For too long, Muslim feminists have endured the question of whether Islam and feminism can coexist. This seemingly innocent question, asked on the part of concerned feminists and others, presumes (and sometimes even enshrines) the claim of Islam’s incongruity with feminism. The underlying assumptions that frame this tired debate are often articulated in this way: Can religious practice, which often hinges on patriarchal authority and interpretation, be amenable to feminist thought, action, and praxis? Can feminist ideals be sought and attained within a religious (thus patriarchal), as opposed to a secular (and therefore egalitarian), framework? And, more specifically, can Islam, as a religious identity, doctrine, and practice, work in tandem with the principles and ideals of democratic feminism?
Overwhelmingly, the responses from Muslim feminists have highlighted Islam’s inherent egalitarian nature and the Quran’s gender progressive teachings and edicts. They have argued that Muslim teachings enshrine a politics and practice of gender equity. They shore up important examples of the gains historically made by Muslim women all over the world. Muslim feminists, a diverse group that includes scholars, activists, and practicing men and women, eschew and challenge patriarchal readings and interpretations of both the Quran and the hadith (that is, the body of works that reference and document the prophet’s sayings, actions, and doings) in order to support their belief in the mutually reinforcing relationship between feminism and Islam.
Such work, while profound, often cedes too much ground to the charged and often predetermined frames of reference on which the political question of whether Islam and feminism can coexist often hinge. In other words, while Muslim feminists have confronted these questions in real, determined, and sustainable ways, their confrontations leave unturned the terms that shape this debate in the first place. Why, for example, do Muslims feel compelled to answer the question of whether Islam is compatible with feminism by repeatedly defining and defending Islam and showcasing its gender equal principles to non-Muslims? Why don’t we alter the frames of the question, asking, instead, what feminism actually means and whether feminism, as a both a political movement and analytical tool, is amenable to Islam and religious identity and practice? How does our constant re-engagement with this question of the ostensibly contradictory, uneasy, or nonexistent relationship of Islam and feminism obscure predetermined relationships of power and reinforce hegemonic discourses?
As Muslim women, anti-racist feminists, teachers, and scholars from two different backgrounds and positionalities, we have found ourselves reflecting on these questions and repeatedly grappling with the troubling narratives that shape discourses about Muslim women and Islam in Western and non-Western contexts. So, rather than responding to the question of Islam’s compatibility with feminism from a defensive standpoint, we have utilized this forum to refocus our energies on understanding our varied but interconnected religious and political experiences and struggles and to think through both our alliances and complicities. In short, we want to reflect on how our critiques can be imagined and mobilized in the service of revolutionary causes in a period of intense social, political, and economic local and global change.
For her part, Sophia’s faith has served as her political, spiritual, and social anchor. Both her scholarly and activist work engage her own particular experience as an Afro-Arab anarcha-feminist Muslimah missing the whimsy and traditions of her neighbourhood in Alexandria, Egypt, and a homestead in Beir Nabala, Palestine — a home(land) that she has never set foot upon. Sophia’s Muslim politics are shaped by a Third Worldist devotion to disrupting the imperialist binary of Arab vs. African that many of our sisters and brothers in Islam, the West, and SWANA (Southwest Asia and North Africa) replicate. But, as Sinat Giwa articulated in a loving narrative of finding the peace in “Salam’ing to strangers” (only a little pun intended), Sophia’s Islam remains her own. It is a self-aware, anti-racist, and feminist Islam devoted to building solidarity by owning and respecting the complexities of her intersectional identities and those of her peers and allies.
As a Palestinian feminist scholar based in the settler colonial state of Canada (who will soon be moving to the United States), Dana has often struggled to find her own faith amidst pressures to conceal religious practice, to sever ties with religious communities, and disavow violent acts perpetrated in Islam’s name. Dana’s faith is driven by her desire to understand Muslim women’s acts of resistance against interpersonal and state-sanctioned acts of violence. Like Shaista Patel, Dana seeks to enact “feminist theories and practices that recognize the critical and urgent need of intervening in the interlocking workings of state power and gender violences, and that engage with histories of the land we are on.”
Both of our Muslim feminist politics are informed by our commitment to confronting patriarchal acts of violence committed by the state andinstitutionalized forms of patriarchy and imperialism perpetrated by individuals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, without fueling Islamophobia, settler nationalism, or racism. Our Muslim feminist politics are about forming connections between Muslim and non-Muslim justice-seeking men, women, and children and supporting their struggles against colonial and gendered oppressions and sexual violence. Like Josh Cerretti, our feminist politics necessitate that we think about Islam in a way that does not obfuscate the longer histories of Muslim women’s resistance. And, above all else, our Muslim feminist politics are characterized by a refusal to be haunted by pre-scripted narratives that misrepresent the voices of Muslim women and men and overlook their complex lives, multiple interests, and varied experiences.
It is our belief that a singular focus on addressing the question of whether Islam and feminism can co-exist risks missing how Muslim women from all around the world engage questions of gender equality, fight gender oppressions, and secure women’s rights on a day to day basis. The articles we have chosen for this forum offer a sampling of such radical practices and provide insights into the plurality of our religious beliefs and political commitments. We do not wish to romanticize our relationships to our faith. Rather, we aim to ask deeper, more thoughtful, and more urgent questions about the role of faith in these troubled and troubling times. This is why, instead of asking whether we can reconcile Islam and feminism, we choose to think about how the tenets of Islam, its principles of justice, and gender equity inform Muslim women’s struggles on a day to day basis. We ask how Muslim women, individually and collectively, invoke Islam’s authority in their lives and what their actions as Muslim women reveal about Islam’s gender politics. The answers to these questions are complex, contradictory, and manifold. We believe that asking questions that center Muslim women’s lives can highlight their rich and multifaceted encounters with patriarchal, gendered, colonial, imperialist, and local state oppressions. These questions may yield more interesting and honest conversations about the status of Muslim feminism, its practice, and its influence. It is our hope that our forum has contributed in some small way to these conversations which are already unfolding all around the world in creative and significant ways.
*Update: We are deeply saddened and horrified by the senseless killings of innocents at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin today. We are equally distressed that Sikh spokespersons have been asked to defend and define their faith on national television during such a time. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families, as well as with our Sikh relatives whose communities have suffered greatly from the ignorance and hatred of their fellow citizens since September 11, 2001.
 See, for example: Kecia Ali’s Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence (Oxford: One World, 2006). Margot Badran’s Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences. (Oxford: One World, 2009) and Feminism in Islam: Secular and Religious Convergences (Oxford: One World, 2009). Amina Wadud’s Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press,1999) and Inside the Gender Jihad: Women’s Reform in Islam (Oxford: One World, 2006).
Though racist stop-and-frisk policies have been framed as primarily police violence against men of color (black and Latino men account for 40% of the stops from last year), women and transgender people are also subject to the violence of police frisks on the street. The New York Times recently profiled several women who have experienced stop-and-frisk in order to “increase safety:”
Crystal Pope, 22, said she and two female friends were frisked by male officers last year in Harlem Heights. The officers said they were looking for a rapist. It was an early spring evening at about 6:30 p.m. The three women sat talking on a bench near Ms. Pope’s home on 143rd Street when the officers pulled up and asked for identification, she said.
“They tapped around the waistline of my jeans,” Ms. Pope said. “They tapped the back pockets of my jeans, around my buttock. It was kind of disrespectful and degrading. It was uncalled-for. It made no sense. How are you going to stop three females when you are supposedly looking for a male rapist?”
Wild Gender reports that LGBT people, specifically trans women of color, are targeted by police stop-and-frisk at very high rates:
“When (transgender people) are stopped and frisked, they usually suffer physical violence, verbal harassment, often times a groping of their genitals,” said Karina Claudio, an organizer with Make the Road New York, to NY1.
“They just like, ‘are you man or woman?’” said Nicole Teyuca, who spoke out against the policy. “And I’m like ‘what do you want me to be?’ In that moment, they just got out of the car, put me against the wall and they tell me you are under arrest.”
“Every training we go to, we hear complaints about stop-and-frisk, and we hear women talk about sexual harassment,” Ms. Ritchie said. “They say, ‘Isn’t it right that a male officer can’t frisk you?’ ”
Ms. Ritchie said she believed the confusion spoke to the type of police stops unfolding daily on the streets, especially in cases where officers might have violated constitutional boundaries.
If a woman believes there is no legal basis for the frisk, Ms. Ritchie said, then she may feel that she is being groped simply for the officer’s sexual gratification. “That’s how women have described it to me,” Ms. Ritchie added.
Check out this fact sheet from Think Progress to learn more about stop-and-frisk practices. Here is audio testimony from Nicole Teyuca about her experience of being profiled, stopped, frisked,and harassed by police, and a discussion about organizing strategies from Make the Road New York and their partners. (More info can be found at a news article at OutFM.) And here’s a news article with a slide show of the June 17th silent protest against stop-and-frisk in NYC, which drew thousands. *Updated to add this great article, “From Stonewall to Stop and Frisk,” by Chris Bilal, a youth leader at Streetwise and Safe.
For more information and resources about ongoing law enforcement violence against women of color and trans people of color, check out the Stop Law Enforcement Violence Toolkit. It includes info about about military and ICE violence, policing gender and sexuality, police violence in schools, against people in the sex industry, and in the context of colonial violence, domestic and sexual violence, so-called neighborhood “improvement,” and environmental disaster. There are also helpful organizing resources developed by grassroots groups included in the toolkit.
Black feminist anti-violence activist, professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and INCITE! co-founder, Beth E. Richie, released a powerful new book entitled Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation.
Girl Talk will host a discussion with Beth on Thursday, June 21st from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m at Depaul University Student Center, 2250 N. Sheffield Ave, Room 324, Chicago, IL.
Here is an excerpt from an interview with Beth at Salon.com about the relationship between dominant anti-domestic/sexual violence efforts and the “prison nation.”
You describe the U.S. as a “prison nation.” What do you mean by that?
The prison nation, which is a broader concept than the prison industrial complex, for me represents the combination of both incarceration in the literal sense – an influx of people into the criminal legal system in all of its apparatus: jails, prisons, detention centers, etc. … [It is an] increase in arrest and removal of people from their communities into facilities, but it also represents the ideological shift and policy changes that use criminalization and punishment as a response to a whole range of social problems. Not just crime, but also things like policing people who are on welfare, using the child protective services system to control families, the ways that schools have become militarized. So it’s a broad notion of using the arm of the law to control people, especially people who are disadvantaged and come from disadvantaged communities.
How does this affect violence against black women?
It’s kind of an interesting parallel and a convolution of things. Anti-violence work has been going on in this country for years and years, and many people see the early 1990s as the time when there were big shifts in public consciousness about the problem of violence against women, as well as changes in policies that really took the crime of violence against women – domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, etc. – more seriously. So there were new laws, there were more sanctions, police were trained, domestic violence courts were opened up – there were a lot of policy changes that made the problem of violence against women a crime. And a lot of that harsh sanctioning of violence against women really grew out of, not feminist organizing to end the problem of violence against women, but a parallel criminalization of everything. The Violence Against Women Act really lined up right against the other crime bills that were passed primarily in the mid-1990s. So on the one hand, this is good news for anti-violence activists, in terms of criminalizing violence against women. But on the other hand, these crimes disproportionately impacted black communities, and so it was kind of a mixed result for African-American people. It created a schism, especially for African-American women, but also I think for African-American families and communities more generally, because we were taking position against mass incarceration at the same time that mass incarceration was being used as a tool to respond to the crime of violence against women.
This is an interesting development given the “everywoman” emphasis of the ’60s feminist anti-violence movement — which argued that all women, regardless of race and class, were vulnerable to domestic violence.
Yes. We began doing training to try to raise public consciousness and make public the private care of domestic and sexual violence, in particular, by saying: This is not an isolated problem, it can happen to any women; it’s not just an issue for poor families or families of color. So — regardless of your religion, your race or ethnicity, your income, what region of the country you live in, what age you were … it didn’t matter what you wore, it didn’t matter if you didn’t cook well – there was nothing demographically or behaviorally that would protect women from male violence. We used that as a kind of anchor to our analysis: It can happen to any woman. And I think we were successful, at least initially, in making sure that it wasn’t another stigmatizing problem that was associated with other social problems of poverty and racism, etc. And people heard us. There was an increase in general public consciousness, and in particular, there was an increase in attention to the problem of violence against women by power elites – by executive decision-makers at corporations, elected officials, presidents of universities.
And when power elites started paying attention to it, they took seriously what could happen to women in their social context and started designing services for and passing laws that would protect women in their social context. So it became ultimately paradoxically kind of a narrowing of an understanding of the problem. That white middle-class or wealthy heterosexual married women or women on elite college campuses were at risk of violence against women and the attention, the resources, the analysis, went toward protecting those women at the expense of women who didn’t fall into those more normative categories. So it became hard to understand how a prostitute could be raped, for example. Or how a woman who is a substance abuser could be battered in her household. It became a sense of victimization tied to a sympathetic image of who could be hurt and how terrible it was that those women were hurt, as opposed to the real everywoman that we were trying to argue for.
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