Free Palestine is a Feminist Issue

“I was more than terrified,” [Sena Alissa] says while holding her newborn baby girl in a bed in Gaza City’s struggling al-Shifa hospital, 20 minutes from Nuseirat. “I’m giving birth in war.” (source)

The latest Israeli attack on occupied Palestine in the form of an ongoing military assault on the people living in the Gaza Strip has made an already unbearable situation much more devastating.  Women, children, and elders represent the majority of the hundreds of people who have lost their lives.  The assaults are a form of reproductive violence by creating conditions that increase miscarriages, pre-term labor, and stillbirths.  Israel is currently targeting sewage systems, worsening an existing water crisis created by the Israel blockade of supplies to Gaza, and depriving hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents of clean water.  Free Palestine is, and always has been, a feminist issue.

People around the world are mobilizing direct actions to denounce Israel’s brutal violence and ongoing occupation.  Here’s a list of convergencesBelow is INCITE!’s statement of endorsement of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, framing the occupation with a race & gender analysis. 

INCITE_BDS_Page_1 INCITE_BDS_Page_2

Here are handouts: PDF, JPEG Front, JPEG Back
The statement is in text below.  Also visit this call from ASWAT to LGBTQ organizations to take action against the bombing of Gaza civilians. And download and place stickers or bookmarks where you see items that should be boycotted.  TAKE ACTION!

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine because…

  • Israel is a settler colonial state founded on the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous Palestinian people…
  • And because Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,”…
  • And because one in four women in Gaza, and 4 in 5 children there, are undernourished…
  • And because the siege on Gaza was described as “catastrophic” and a “prelude to genocide” even before the latest murderous assault…
  • And because Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN-commissioned independent report have concluded that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to “crimes against humanity”…
  • And because the restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in a 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinian women in the West Bank in a single year…
  • And because Israel celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate as a success, while encouraging Jewish women to have more children…
  • And because Israel promotes itself as a haven for gay people, while barring queer Palestinians from participating in Pride day celebrations…
  • And because Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers with no right to due process, and are imprisoned without any charges against them…
  • And because our tax dollars are used, against our will, to create a living hell for Palestinian women and their families…
  • And because, since 2000, nearly 6500 Palestinians have been killed, including over 1400 children, and 40,000 have been injured…
  • And because, since 2000, 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to allow for Israeli “natural growth,”…
  • And because Israel has resisted all official attempts to force it to comply with international law and end its violation of Palestinian human rights…
  • And because Israeli control and domination of the geographic terrain and resources of Palestine deny Palestinian families the right to free mobility, clean water, food, and other basic living necessities…
  • And because reports of torture and sexual violence of Palestinian men and women political prisoners and detainees violate international human rights law…
  • And because Israel’s entrenched system of discrimination and segregation constitutes an apartheid system as harsh as South Africa’s old system…
  • And because the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is the model and inspiration of the Palestinian people today…
  • And because Palestinian civilian society, not their corrupt “leaders,” is calling upon the international community to show its solidarity and support by engaging in a similar consistent and comprehensive movement…

We can support the Global BDS movement by engaging in boycotting Israeli products everyday.

For more info on the global BDS movement, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Getting Free Down By The Combahee Riverside: A Black Feminist Pilgrimage

Getting Free Down By The Combahee Riverside: A Black Feminist Pilgrimage
by Amber Williams

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Fellow travelers at the Combahee River Black Feminist Pilgrimage

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 thatthe 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

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. 

Mamas of Color Rising: Urgent Public Hearing in Austin, Aug 28th!

Mamas of Color Rising

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!

Call or text 254-421-4059, if u have any logistical questions the day of.
If you are interested in providing a testimony as well please feel free to email us at mamasofcolorrising@gmail.com.

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!

In Solidarity,
Mamas of Color Rising Collective Members

Truth and Reconciliation Commission to collect statements from Two Spirits at historic GLBT gathering

From Native Youth Sexual Health Network & NativeOUT:

PRESS RELEASE

Truth and Reconciliation Commission to collect statements from Two Spirits at historic GLBT gathering

Winnipeg, MB – Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc. and the Two-Spirited People of Manitoba (TSPM) have partnered to host the 22nd Annual International Two Spirit Gathering (Sep 3-6) at a retreat centre near Winnipeg. Approximately 100 Aboriginal/Native American gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from across Canada and the US will gather in early September to participate in an alcohol and chemical free event which is focused on healing, ceremony, cultural revitalization and social strengthening.

In North America, Two Spirit people continue to be marginalized because of homophobia, transphobia, poverty and racism. A recent Two Spirit study by the University of Manitoba reported forced mobility from rural communities; and a need for community activities and events that are not alcohol or bar-based, that include cultural components and are respectful of sex and gender diversity. The Assembly of First Nations in its recommendation below advocates for increased understanding and protection for GLBT community members.

Recognize the role of Two Spirit (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) First Nations’ peoples. The solution [to discrimination] is to educate people on the traditionally respected role that Two-Spirit First Nations’ peoples played in most communities, and to thus remove the stigma that has been associated with this group.

- AFN HIV/AIDS Action Plan (2001)

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will also be on hand to collect statements about the impact of the Indian Residential Schools. Little is known about the experiences of GLBT people in the IRS system. The four-day agenda will include cultural activities, health and wellness sessions, leadership building, anti-homophobia and human rights training, and networking opportunities. A youth stream will be facilitated by Jessica Yee, Executive Director of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. A press conference will be held 11:00 am on Wed., August 25, 2010 at Ka Ni Kanichihk, 455 McDermot, Winnipeg.

LIVE BLOG DURING THE EVENT!

Native Youth Sexual Health Network will be hosting a live blog again during the 22nd International Two Spirit Gathering taking place in Beausejour, Manitoba on one of our partner’s site the LGBT Youthline.

Our youth delegation will be sharing their thoughts, hopes, dreams, experiences, frustrations, and more here:
http://www.youthline.ca/blog/?p=539

Be sure to check back all weekend and especially next week when everything goes up on our blog!

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Media Contacts:
Albert McLeod, Co-Director, TSPM
H: 204-783-6424 C: 204-330-8671
E-mail: twospiritedmanitoba@hotmail.com
Website: http://nativeout.com/itsg/

Jessica Yee
Executive Director, The Native Youth Sexual Health Network
Chair, National Aboriginal Youth Council, Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network
E-mail: jessica.j.yee@gmail.com
E-mail: jyee@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com
Website: www.nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

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Language & Action – 8/21/10

Language & Action spotlights analysis, news, & performance from around the blogosphere that shine a light on critical ideas and action addressing violence against women of color.  Check out the findings for our second installment below!  Plus, woo hoo, thanks for the submissions!  Keep em coming!  If you have suggestions for things to include, please send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com or float it in the comment section…

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Race, beauty, disability, and symbolism:

Wheelchair Dancer discusses the tension between beauty politics, disability, and the use of a photograph of a woman as an argument for waging war.  She analyzes the recent TIME cover photo of Aisha, a young Afghan woman:

Regardless of how disability plays out in Aisha’s world, the vast majority of readers of TIME live in a culture that understands disability as tragedy. As shocking. As among the worst things that can happen to you (bar death). Mainstream American culture thinks it knows disability and knows how to read it. Ms. Bieber has a history of photographing disabled bodies (there’s an image of a wheelchair user in this video of her “Real Beauty” pictures). But the work she does in the Real Beauty series does not come through in this photograph — perhaps because of the context and placement of the image. Here she (and or the editor) uses Aisha’s disability to trade upon the readership’s sympathies and their horror: this and other unknown kinds of disability are a direct result of the US departure from Afghanistan. This is not about Aisha; it’s about the message of the article.

That women’s rights will be at risk, should the US leave Afghanistan is really not a debatable issue. In fact, looking at Aisha’s story, it seems pretty clear that women’s rights are at risk even while the US is in Afghanistan. So why does the story need Aisha’s disability?

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Legislation to address violence against Native women is signed:

On the Ms. blog, Native feminists without apology, Jessica Yee & Sarah Deer, discuss the recent passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act, which addresses violence against Native Women:

JY: What is the most important part of this bill for people to know about?

That it requires Indian Health Service (IHS) to train their employees on how to respond to rape. That, to me, is huge. The experiences of Native women at IHS when they are raped or sexually assaulted are horrible, and for IHS not to know what to say or do in these instances is unconscionable. The bill now requires them to go on record with policy and procedure–and if that is the only thing that the bill accomplishes, we can be glad for that.

JY: Is there anything you would change about the bill?

SD: I’m always concerned about “law and order” language. It certainly doesn’t protect or help white women, so it’s not going to help Native women. We have to make sure that the systems we set up are Native women-centered.

I wish the bill had language overturning the destructive 1978 Oliphant decision, which concluded that tribal courts do not have jurisdiction over non-Indians. It’s not acceptable to have a non-Native person to come into the tribe and not be held accountable by the tribe.

JY: A thing that somewhat troubles me about the bill is a lot on criminalization and penalization. I’m a prison abolitionist in many senses and I’m very aware of how many Indigenous people are in the criminal justice system unfairly; but more importantly, that these entire systems are not our laws and not our systems.

SD: I agree with you 100 percent. You have to constantly challenge the idea that the Western criminalization system is the answer–it’s actually the cause of our problems. It’s difficult for people to understand that in order to change this, we have to give back sovereignty to tribes.

I’m so pleased that we are now collectively trying to keep things safer in our own communities–we don’t have to replicate white law and order.

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Economic justice in LGBT movement building

In an interview with Harmony Goldberg at Organizing Upgrade, FIERCE Executive Director Rickke Mananzala describes the future of LGBT organizing that includes an emphasis on coalition building for economic justice:

There are pockets of left and progressive LGBT groups that are trying to advance demands outside of the mainstream movement, like the Audre Lorde Project (ALP), Southerners on New Ground (SONG), the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and FIERCE.  Many of these groups are part of a newly formed national alliance of progressive LGBT organizations – the Roots Coalition – that is trying to figure out how to take advantage of these openings. We are trying to figure out what opportunities exist for more progressive national fights. We are looking at both the mainstream issues that are already on the table that we might be able to win immediately and new issues that will push the LGBT movement to the left.

We are doing that by intentionally choosing issues that have an LGBT lens and that – if won – will also impact many other communities. In particular, we are looking to build a stronger bridge between fights focused on LGBT issues with those that are focused on racial and economic justice.  An example of a fight we could consider taking up is the struggle around the impending reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), specifically challenging the expansion of the marriage promotion programs that Obama has been pushing.  The current economic crisis has increased the need for welfare programs, but the marriage promotion requirements and strict definitions of family present structural barriers that limit LGBT families’ abilities to access the resources they need to survive.

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A couple of exciting calls for submissions:

Call for submissions: Deconstructing the academic industrial complex of feminism – Feminist education now: youth, activism, and intersectionality:

I’m really interested in talking about the intersectionality of feminist education and breaking down the barriers of what constitutes “education”, where that might be, and according to whom. Education does not have to solely be within a school or school-type setting – if it happened on the street, in your kitchen, if it’s not happening at all, if you want it to happen some particular place – I want to hear about it.

Deadline is September 10, 2010.  Contact Jessica Yee at jessica.j.yee@gmail.com for more info.

Call for Submissions on Addiction & Recovery:  Substance: On Addiction and Recovery is a collection of peoples’ experiences with addiction and recovery in radical and/or marginalized communities.

In addition to pieces by individuals, I’d like to include a few pieces about the work that community-based groups have done to address the politics of addiction and recovery and to support those dealing with substance abuse. If you are a member of such a group, please feel free to write.

Deadline is March 7, 2011.  Contact Emily at substancebook at gmail dot com for more information.

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International Indigenous Women’s Environmental and Reproductive Health Symposium Declaration

International Indigenous Women’s Symposium
Declaration for Health, Life and Defense of Our Lands, Rights, and Future Generations

International Indigenous Women's Symposium

We, Indigenous women from the regions of North America, Latin America,  the Arctic, Caribbean and the Pacific, gathered June 30th to July 1st, 2010 at the INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS WOMEN’S ENVIRONMENTAL AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH SYMPOSIUM, in Alamo, California, hosted by the International Indian Treaty Council (IITC) and the North-South Indigenous Network Against Pesticides.

We recognize and thank the Indigenous Peoples of this land called California for welcoming us to their beautiful land.

We are traditional healers, midwives, youth and community organizers, environmental and human rights activists, teachers and traditional and cultural leaders.  We are daughters, sisters, mothers, aunties, grandmothers and great grandmothers, youth and elders, members of great Nations who have always stood firm to defend our lands, our Peoples and our cultures.

We work in our communities, homes, health centers, tribal and traditional governments and Indigenous organizations, on the local, national and international levels.  We recognize and appreciate the important contributions that all of us, and many other Indigenous women around the world are making to defend our lands, rights and the health of future generations, as well as the generations who have come before us.

We have come together at this Symposium to share our information about the negative impacts of mining and drilling, mercury contamination, nuclear and uranium testing, processing and storage, pesticides and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), military dumping, toxic waste incineration, desecration of sacred sites and places,introduction of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and foods and harvesting of our genetic materials.  We have listened to each other’s stories, and have also seen the tragic effects within our own families, communities and Nations of the environmental, economic,social and cultural impacts of toxic contamination.

These imposed, deplorable conditions violate the right to health and reproductive justice of Indigenous Peoples, and affect the lives, health and development of our unborn and young children. They seriously threaten our survival as Peoples, cultures and Nations.  They also violate our rights as Indigenous Peoples to subsistence, spiritual and cultural survival, self-determination and free, prior and informed consent (FPIC). As Indigenous Peoples, and as the defenders of our future generations,we have vocalized our opposition to these forms of contamination of our homelands, air and waters for generations in many different regions, but far too often we are ignored.

We have also shared our strategies and ideas about how to address these situations in our communities and around the world.  We recognize that our fundamental, inherent and inalienable human rights as Indigenous Peoples are being violated, as are our spirits and life giving capacity as Indigenous women. Colonization has eroded the traditional, spiritual and cultural teachings passed down from our ancestors, our grandmothers about our sexual and reproductive health and their connection to the protection of the environment, our sacred life-giving Mother Earth.  But we also recognize and affirm that many Indigenous women are reclaiming, practicing and celebrating these teachings. We commit to supporting these collective efforts now and in the future.

We have agreed to present the following values and principles that we recognize as a basis of this work as well as our collective recommendations for action, which we hopecan begin to address the devastating inter-linking impacts we are facing in our communities and Nations, and bring about positive change.

We therefore adopt by consensus this DECLARATION for the health, survival and defense of OUR LANDS, OUR RIGHTS and our FUTURE GENERATIONS.

We recognize and affirm the following:

Indigenous women are life givers, life sustainers and culture holders.  Our bodies are sacred places that must be protected, honored and kept free of harmful contaminants in order for the new generations of our Nations to be born strong and healthy.

If the Earth Mother and the Sky Father are not healthy, neither are we.

Indigenous Peoples’ lands, waters and air and all living beings are being misused and poisoned by corporations, States and their Territories, based on foreign and colonial concepts that disregard the sacredness of life.

Indigenous Peoples, and in particular women and children, are suffering the detrimental, devastating, multi-generational and deadly impacts of environmental toxins and contaminates that were unheard of in our communities prior to industrialization.

These impacts include:

Contamination of mothers’ breast milk at 4 to 12 times the levels found in the mother’s body tissue in some Indigenous communities;

Elevated levels of contaminates such as POPs and heavy metals in infant cord blood;

Disproportionate levels of reproductive system cancers of the breasts, ovaries, uterus, prostate and testicles, including in young people;

Elevated rates of respiratory ailments such as asthma and lung disease;

High levels of leukemia and other cancers in infants, children and youth;

Rare, previously unknown forms of cancer among all ages in our communities;

Devastating, and in many cases, fatal birth defects known to be associated with environmental toxins such as nuclear waste, mining, and pesticides, including the increasing birth of “jelly babies” in the most contaminated areas;

Developmental delays, learning disabilities and neurological effects on babies and young children which have lifelong impacts, associated with prenatal exposure to mercury, pesticides and other environmental toxins;

Increasing numbers of miscarriages and stillbirths, and high levels of sterility and infertility in contaminated communities.

The knowledge to heal our Peoples is within our own Peoples.  While many diseases caused by colonization may need to be addressed by western medicine, we know that our own healing knowledge and practices, passed down to us by our grandfathers and grandmothers, is essential for the healing of our Peoples and our Mother Earth.

The protection of our health, lands, resources including air and water, languages, cultures, traditional foods and subsistence, sovereignty and self-determination and the transmission of our traditional knowledge and teachings to our future generations are inherent and inalienable human rights.  These rights are affirmed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international standards, and must be upheld, respected and fully implemented by States (countries) and their Territories, UN bodies,corporations and Indigenous Peoples of the world.

Sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our lands, territories and resources are intricately connected to sovereignty and autonomy in relation to our bodies, minds and spirits.

Protection of our human rights and the rights of all forms of life must be a priority for environmental and reproductive justice work.

We have seen that the introduction of extractive industries (mining, drilling, logging etc.) has resulted in increased sexual violence  and sexual exploitation of Indigenous women and girls in many communities, as well as increased alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted infections, divisions among our families and communities, and a range of other social and health problems.

While many communities have maintained traditional systems which continue to value women’s leadership, sexism in the larger society has had negative and lasting impacts within many Indigenous communities, including lack of recognition for the leadership role of Indigenous women in working for environmental protection and building strong communities.

The impacts of internalized colonization further include the loss of knowledge, awareness and access for Indigenous women to traditional reproductive health practices, birthing knowledge and healing practices, and even includes the criminalization of Indigenous midwives, healers and other traditional Indigenous health practices in many countries.

Foods distributed as commodities and other food aid programs by Government programs in Indigenous and tribal communities are unhealthy.  They contain contaminates, GMO’s and ingredients that cause food related diseases and adverse health effects including diabetes and obesity.   Impacts of economic marginalization and poverty on Indigenous families and communities must be taken into account.  However the recognition and application of Food Sovereignty, including access to our traditional lands and resources and food related cultural practices, are the only real solutions to the food needs of Indigenous Peoples.

Based on the above principles and values of shared agreement, we respectfully recommend to Indigenous communities, tribal governments and the leaders of our Nations, to the States and their Territories in which we live, to corporations and institutions, and to the United Nations system and international bodies, the following actions:

Continue reading

Reflections from Detroit: Transforming Wellness & Wholeness

Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Cara Page describes the work of organizing for healing justice and liberation at the US Social Forum.

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“She had learned to read the auras of the trees and stones and plants and neighbors.  Had studied the sun’s corona, the jagged petals of magnetic colors and then the threads that shimmered between wooden tables and flowers and children and candles and birds…She knew each way of being in the world and could welcome them home again, open to wholeness…”

Toni Cade Bambara, The Salt Eaters

Transforming Wellness & Wholeness, by Cara Page

I come by way of Black Seminole, African American and Austrian ancestry a mixed creed despite eugenic laws that would render me dead or expendable.  I write this piece in memory of my ancestors and allies.  We will find our way home again and again despite bloodshed and oil spills; despite the misplaced and displaced; despite the forgotten memories we will always find our way home … and make a way out of no way.

This past year I took a deeper dive into the notion of wellness for our movements and the role of well being for organizers.  I sat with my dreams and wondered, ‘How far have we been able to come despite noxious toxic waste dumps near our homes, and oil spills and sterilization abuse, population control and genocide…just a few things on our map of oppression.  How have we survived?”  I’ve been asking these questions to the ‘salt eaters’ and the ‘dreamers’ and the ‘shapeshifters’ among us; what is wholeness? Not an ableist notion of wholeness that implies one specific body or blood type, but a shape of wholeness that intrinsically knows what each individual and collective notion of feeling whole and safe and well can look like.  Not the bought ‘wholeness’ you can find only in supreme retreat packages at sunset salons but the kind of ‘wholeness’ that calls on whole communities and whole movements to be well, sustainable and resilient.  Who will answer the call to our hurts, our wounds, our double/triple/quadruple pains of oppression and desperation?  How will we answer our own calls to wellness and safety?

I’ve been sitting with southern and national healers to remember the role of healing inside of liberation.  I am leading a storytelling gathering project with the KINDRED southern healing justice collective to tell the stories of southern healers in the U.S. to map our sites of transformative practice as conduits of social change.  Call it a quest for what the role of healing is and how healers move us to and through liberation.  What keeps us resilient in our hearts, our blood, our bones?  What helps us to rebuild a home? How do we reclaim and re-imagine safety in our homes and movements?

The role of healer as a Black queer woman in the South for me has been to demystify the notion that we are not wrong to use our imaginations and dreams for action? That we are not odd to believe in plants and herbs as integral parts to our paths of liberation? The role of healer as women of color teaches us we can heal ourselves and our own; that we can live, and birth and bury outside of institutional notions of wellness.  Yet what is the role of women of color healers inside of liberation?  While it has been our legacy it seems to have come undone, uprooted and unnoticed in our collective memories and notions of justice.  As a poet, healer, organizer I helped to envision the role of the ‘healer’ and ‘healing’ inside of liberation at the US Social Forum in Detroit (June 2010); a four day convergence of ritual, rallies, workshops etc. pulling together our movements to rebuild, and regenerate new alliances and vision towards strategy and of what is just.

The role of healing at this convergence took the shape and presence of many things.   We created two spaces of political and practical application of what we have named ‘healing justice’; a framework that identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts and minds.  Through this framework we built two political and philosophical convergences of healing inside of liberation.  One was the US Social Forum Healing Justice Practice Space which created a free multimodal practice space to respond to trauma and triggers for organizers; to accept that many of us are tired and burnt out and have not fared well on responding to conditions of our movements and communities by putting our literal bodies on the line.  We provided practices such as reiki, acupressure, acupuncture, sound and somatic therapy with practitioners from across different regions in the U.S..  We used energy, body and earth based traditions alongside doulas and midwives to provide knowledge on birth, breath, resiliency and balance.   The Healing Justice Practice Space at the US Social Forum was a large room sectioned off for different practices simultaneously that gave us ample space to respond to the conditions of Detroit including; acute asthma, diabetes, and nutrition while also responding to the conditions of our lives and movements (eg. depression, burn out, and survivors of emotional, physical, sexual and psychological abuse and trauma).  As we so poignantly stated in our outreach materials, ‘We are responding to a lack of quality of life and conditions, a pattern of systemic abuse and oppression that reinforces the controlling of our bodies/wellness/systems/cultures and our capacity to remember and transform our conditions. We stand in solidarity as a national collective of grassroots healers, medical practitioners and health justice organizers who seek to create systems of wellness outside of state and corporate models that profit from these conditions.’

In our political and practical application of healing justice we also created a People’s Movement Assembly: a four hour interactive session to imagine new strategies and unlikely alliances towards building action.  The People’s Movement Assembly (PMA) we held was for Health, Healing Justice & Liberation’ to politicize the role of healing inside of liberation from the perspective of health justice organizers, grassroots healers and integrative medical practitioners.  Our vision in the creation of this PMA was to dream for organizing that uplifted the role of healing inside of liberation that will transform our conditions from generational trauma and violence.

Our goals at this convergence were to:

  • Map the frequencies of where we are in our movements to ground us in our vision towards strategies of sustaining and resourcing our collective wellness
  • To create spaces that value and honor equal exchange of resources/energies/economics towards obtaining new models for wellness that restore the earth and are adaptable to the current state of our emotional/spiritual/physical/psychic and environmental conditions
  • To locate the bridges and paths that connect us to memories, dreams and our ancestral legacy of healing traditions towards new models of healing and justice inside of our communities and movements

The questions we began grappling with at the PMA included: How do we redefine what it means to be healthy that is not profit driven or derived from one type of body, and one type of wellness? What are our shared understandings and memories of healing practices as tools of resistance and organizing?  How will we sustain, renew and uplift healers and traditions that are being co-opted, displaced, replaced and criminalized?

These questions are large and the next steps many but there was a sense of belonging and visibility amplified for healers, and the participants who came to both of these spaces.  As organizers and healers we mapped a way home to well being that did not isolate nor stigmatize our individual and collective bodies nor underestimated our need for wellness.

As a Black queer woman survivor of family and state violence, uninsured in the South I am often coming up against the notions of wellness, who is worthy of wellness and who is deserving of well being based on who can afford it.  At the Social Forum I was able to measure a different landscape.  What does it mean to be well in our collective bodies and in our collective memories inside of traumatic incidences of state/familial and communal abuse?  What does it mean to take care of one another as Women of Color, Queer and Trans People of Color, as communities in the South escaping unethical and horrific practices on our bodies to test our mental and physical capacity for labor and slavery?  Is the question really ‘Are we well?’ or is it ‘How can we be well with the overwhelming idea that we are less than human in the first place?

How can one be well if we are not well together?  And how will we get well when our sense of wellness often does not include the whole?  As Toni Cade pondered in her book The Salt Eaters we have to open ourselves up again to wellness and wholeness, because what is in our memory and intrinsically a part of us has been separated and often taken away from us.  It is something we will need to find again as part of understanding our role as organizers who once were healers, or healers who once were organizers.

Cara Page

Cara Page is a Black queer organizer, artist, healer, poet living in the state of things in Atlanta, GA.  She comes by way of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts to her home.  She is inspired by and works with the KINDRED southern healing justice collective, INCITE!, Project South, Southerners on New Ground, UBUNTU, the Young Women’s Empowerment Project & the Atlanta Transformative Justice Collaborative.  She is committed to remembering our memories of resilience and resistance to transform continued slavery & genocide.

The Healing & Health Justice Collective Organizing Principles that were developed at USSF are available after the jump!

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