Solidarity for Baby Veronica

Keep Veronica Home

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Written by the Denver Chapter of INCITE! and informed by the work of many, including Andrea Smith’s work in her book, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Please scroll to the bottom for action steps.

On June 25, 2013, Justice Alito issued a ruling on behalf of the U.S. Supreme Court stating the Indian Child Welfare Act was incorrectly applied by the South Carolina Supreme Court, which had previously given Dusten Brown custody of his biological child.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s order, the South Carolina Supreme Court immediately issued that Veronica’s adoption by the Capobianco family be finalized and she be transitioned back to her adoptive family. Chief Justice Toal refused all petitions for rehearing and closed the case, sending the ruling straight to the Charleston County Family Court to complete the transfer of Veronica from Brown to the Capobianco.  On July 31, 2013, the family court issued the Capobiancos with their official adoption decree.

Breaking news: According to USA Today, The Oklahoma Supreme Court has granted an emergency stay to keep a 3-year-old Cherokee girl with her biological father and heard arguments from his lawyers and those of the girl’s adoptive parents today, September 3rd, 2013, in a closed hearing. This case is not over yet and we must continue to spread awareness and advocate for Baby Veronica.

Why Denver INCITE! supports Baby Veronica:

1. Heteropatriarchal supremacy hurts all communities of color.

The Denver Chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence stands behind Dusten Brown as the rightful father of Baby Veronica and opposes the state’s continual displays of dominance over people of color and blatant disregard for the sovereignty of indigenous people. We must question the legitimacy of the settler nation’s actions and laws, which continue to promote colonialism and genocide. We fully believe that colonialism is not over and is demonstrated in cases such as Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl which shows the bias and true function of the law. Although all communities of color are harmed in different ways, colonialism and patriarchy continue to be a threat to all people of color. In “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy”, Andrea Smith (scholar and co-founder of INCITE!) discusses how slavery, genocide, colonialism, orientalism, and war all function to support white heteropatriarchal supremacy. Additionally, adoption cases in the U.S. continue to tear apart indigenous families and families of color at disproportionate rates, due to the effects of criminalization and poverty resulting from capitalism and colonialism.

2. The law threatens feminism by undermining non-nuclear families.

How can progressives and feminists continue to fight for the “separation of church and state” when presidents such as George W. Bush have openly supported faith-based initiatives through organizations that attempt to separate families of color? The agency which Veronica’s birth mother contacted, Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency, is the same organization George W. Bush has publicly thanked. Furthermore, the attorney representing the Capobianco family is also representing the adoptive family of Baby Desari, which is another case in which a South Carolina family has attempted to seize a Native child. As Laura Briggs deduces, it seems suspicious that both children were displaced from their birth families by the state of South Carolina, which she explains is a state where to “have standing in an adoption case, fathers must have lived with the birth mother for at least six months prior to the birth of the child, and to have provided financial support, neither of which Brown had done.” Briggs further questions how feminists are not threatened by the notion of an unmarried father exercising his right to have a voice in the adoption case of his biological child. She explains how with 48 percent of children being born to single mothers, it is an attack to feminism that some states are claiming “ICWA should only apply when it disrupts an ‘existing Indian family,’ a standard that has been interpreted very narrowly—a married heterosexual couple living on a reservation”.  The state favors conservative notions of family, threatening both single parents and LGBTQ families.

In Andrea Smith’s book Conquest, she addresses how the “patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system based on domination and violence” and shares how “Karen Warren argues that patriarchal society is a dysfunctional system that mirrors the dysfunctional nuclear family”. If marriage is the only way to access the “privilege” of raising one’s own children, we see a narrow interpretation of civil liberties excludes many people. When the white heteropatriarchal state chooses to uphold law over bloodline connection, we see how the law fails to protect those of us who are most marginalized.

3. The theft of Baby Veronica echoes a long history of theft from Native people.

Smith also argues states that “in order to colonize a people whose society was not hierarchical, colonizers must first naturalize hierarchy through instituting patriarchy. Patriarchal gender violence is the process by which colonizers inscribe hierarchy and domination on the bodies of the colonized”. We see this institutional patriarchy play out repeatedly throughout history. For example, Johnson and Graham’s Lessee v. William McIntosh (1823) has many parallels to Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013). The 1823 ruling stated that the “U.S. government holds exclusive rights to extinguish the Indian title of occupancy, either by purchase or conquest”. The courts upheld that because Native people did not own land legally, the state could therefore claim ownership and grant ownership to other parties without consent of Native people. The Native inhabitants were seen as being people to be protected and relocated, while not granted the agency to own land. Similarly, we see the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling, favoring the adoptive couple, making similar arguments below:

(a) Section 1912(f) conditions the involuntary termination of parental rights on a heightened showing regarding the merits of the parent’s “continued custody of the child.” The adjective “continued” plainly refers to a pre-existing state under ordinary dictionary definitions. The phrase “continued custody” thus refers to custody that a parent already has (or at least had at some point in the past). As a result, §1912(f) does not apply where the Indian parent never had custody of the Indian child. This reading comports with the statutory text, which demonstrates that the ICWA was designed primarily to counteract the unwarranted removal of Indian children from Indian families. See §1901(4). But the ICWA’s primary goal is not implicated when an Indian child’s adoption is voluntarily and lawfully initiated by a non-Indian parent with sole custodial rights. Non-binding guidelines issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) demonstrate that the BIA envisioned that §1912(f)’s standard would apply only to termination of a custodial parent’s rights. Under this reading, Biological Father should not have been able to invoke §1912(f) in this case because he had never had legal or physical custody of Baby Girl as of the time of the adoption proceedings. Pp. 7–11.

The argument being made is that Brown did not have the right of custody to begin with and that ICWA does not protect a right that never existed. We see a connection between colonizers’ justification of land ownership as “established by God” and the modern day colonizers’ justification of ownership of a baby girl as “established by law”. In the words of Andrea Smith, “Native bodies will continue to be seen as expendable and inherently violable as long as they continue to stand in the way of the theft of Native lands”, or a child in this instance. Both Baby Veronica and Dusten Brown are being moved from the jurisdiction of one state to another, as agents owned and operated by U.S. empire.

4. The U.S. has a longstanding history of using Christian imperialism to take Native children from their homes and into boarding schools and forced adoptions.

Conservative concepts of what constitutes a family have been in existence since settler America, so much so that white supremacy and Christian imperialism are closely represented in the law. In the 17th century, Puritan missionaries attempted to “civilize” Natives by separating children from their indigenous biological families. Due to Grant’s Peace Policy in 1869, the state funded Christian missionaries’ attempts to colonize Natives through Christian imperialism. In 2013, we continue to see how white supremacy and Christian imperialism have worked hand in hand to uproot and dismiss Native sovereignty by taking the law into the state’s jurisdiction and not those of tribal courts.

In 1978, Congress passed the Indian Welfare Act (ICWA), as a response to the absurd rate at which children were taken from tribes and put into foster care, adoption, and boarding schools. The majority of these children were taken because Native families did not conform to the dominant society’s view of nuclear family norms. For example, many Native children reside with many adults and extended family members, but because two biological parents are not in the picture, the state defines this type of parenting as “neglect”. Both cultural and physical assimilation have been and continue to be forced upon children. Although taking indigenous children from their Native homes initially began with the realization that cultural genocide is simply more affordable than physical genocide, violence began to be disguised as a form of charity from the church and the state, two historically violent and intertwined systems. We see the abduction of a child disguised as proper caretaking in a privileged Western mindset. The problem with the “white savior” is their inability to see damage caused due to misguided beliefs that one is “saving” a child from families that dare be in poverty or have non-nuclear definitions of families, rather than seeing the structural and historical roots that have caused poverty and annihilated both the resources and sovereignty of Native people. Christian right groups continue to organize against against ICWA, claiming it encourages abortion and stands in the way of adoption. This belief has led to an abduction of Indian children into the adoption and foster care system, continuing colonialism and keeping children from their ancestral and cultural roots. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Affairs speaks to the shared blame of the state and the church in “the loss of language through forced English speaking, the loss of traditional ways of being on the land…and the learned behavior of despising Native identity.” Through adoption, the state attempts to extinguish indigenous people from history and existence.

5. The law will criminalize people of color to force them into submission.

“More than 30,000 courageous individuals came together to stand up for Veronica’s rights – we became her voice” is the motto of Save Veronica, a conservative organization backing the Capobiancos. Their website also exclaims “22 days – number of days Veronica has been kept illegally from her parents”. Twenty-two days and counting of “illegal” holding of a child contrasted to centuries of domination by the U.S. empire shows how the government continues to criminalize people of color for holding onto their humanity and rights. Propaganda used to incriminate Dusten Brown as partaking in “illegal” activity is similar to the way many people of color have been incriminated as aliens to the state. From undocumented immigrants being made to be “illegal” to the violence and incarceration of black/brown folks on the basis of racial profiling to the removal of a baby girl from her family and land, we are all threatened by the law and its limitations.

6. Our families are not safe when it is legally justifiable to separate them.

Coya White Hat- Artichoker draws a “parallel between what is happening to Native children in the United States and what is happening to immigrant children through the deportation process”.  In accordance with our founding pillars of unity, the Denver Chapter of INCITE! recognizes the state as the central organizer of violence which oppresses women of color and our communities. We recognize these expressions of violence against women of color as including colonialism, police brutality, immigration policies, and reproductive control.

7. The SCT decision denying the rights of the Cherokee Nation are based on a eugenicist blood quantum politics that racializes Native peoples rather than recognizing the sovereignty of Native nations.

According to Coya White Hat- Artichoker, “The Cherokee determine citizenship through lineage. Veronica’s membership in the Cherokee Nation is not defined by a measured blood quantum but rather she is Cherokee because her father is an enrolled member of the tribe.  As a citizen recognized by the Cherokee Nation, Brown’s parental rights should be protected by the ICWA, as that is the intent of the law.  It was designed to protect Native children and Indigenous nations by prioritizing adoptions from within the tribe.”

Jacqueline Keeler in Native Condition shares how “we must do away with blood quantum across the board. It taints Tribal Sovereignty and citizenship to thoroughly for the public to accept and those who want to reduce or eliminate tribal power are finding it a handy tool for turning public opinion against us. Even Supreme Court Justice Alito began his majority opinion saying, “this case is about a little girl (Baby Girl) who is classified as an Indian because she is 1.2 percent (3/256) Cherokee.” This despite the fact that the Cherokee Nation does not even use blood quantum as a requirement for membership but it was the question most asked by the Conservative Justices when considering the case. Justice Sotomayer in her dissent had to correct this presumption that blood and thus race were in anyway relevant to the decision at hand. But the writing is on the wall and in the Justice’s questions; blood quantum is political death for Tribes and we must give it the heave-ho.”

In Solidarity,

The Denver Chapter of INCITE!

_______________________________

What can we do? 

1. Tweet at Governor Mary Fallin @GovMaryFallin who signed extradition papers for Veronics’s biological father. Tell her you don’t agree with her comments:

“Unfortunately, it has become clear that Dusten Brown is not acting in good faith. He has disobeyed an Oklahoma court order to allow the Capobiancos to visit their adopted daughter and continues to deny visitation. He is acting in open violation of both Oklahoma and South Carolina courts, which have granted custody of Veronica to the Capobiancos. Finally, he has cut off negotiations with the Capobiancos and shown no interest in pursuing any other course than yet another lengthy legal battle.

“As governor, I am committed to upholding the rule of law. As a mother, I believe it is in the best interests of Veronica to help end this controversy and find her a permanent home. For both of these reasons, I have signed the extradition order to send Mr. Brown to South Carolina.” 

Email her here or call her at (405) 521-2342.

2. Contact Governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, who signed warrant for extradition of Dusten Brown. Call her at (803) 734-2100 or email her here.

2. Ask organizations that you are a part of to put out similar statements or sign onto ours to show support. This is an issue that threatens all of us.

3. Simply sign on to our statement by emailing suegene.park@gmail.com or leaving a comment in the comment box.

4. Educate others on this issue by tweeting #KeepVeronicaHome and sharing our statement.

5. Sign this petition to the White House and spread the petition widely among your organization’s members and friends!

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Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths

 

In honor of World Indigenous Peoples Day, Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action Foundation has officially launched Indigenous Young Women Speaking Our Truths, Building Our Strengths national project and gathering! Check it out:

Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths

November 18th to 21st, 2011 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Deadline to REGISTER is September 9th, 2011.

To read the information and register in Inuktitut, please click here

Want to speak your truth and build on your strengths? Are you a young Indigenous woman between the ages of 16 and 25? Whether you are already involved in your community or are just starting to learn about your Indigenous culture, the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action Foundation invite you to join other young Indigenous women from across Canada to learn, share and have fun together!

This project offers opportunities to come together as sisters, with the inclusion of Elders and other traditional leaders in the spirit of unity to discuss what is happening, and act upon our vision of what needs to change in our communities. This is the time to be yourself, all of yourself and celebrate it!

This project is for and by:

Self- identified young Indigenous Women between the ages of 16-25, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, status or non-status, beneficiary or non-beneficiary. Those who identify as women, Trans, Two Spirit, or gender non-conforming are welcome.

What is the project about?

The Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths project focuses on Indigenous young women’s leadership, empowerment, building solidarity amongst each other and stopping violence. The project will focus on skill sharing and facilitation, emphasizing the fact that youth ideas matter and that youth are experts in their own right! We will also have opportunities to learn important teachings from our elders and other traditional teachers, with an understanding that women’s strength has always existed in our communities and continues to grow.

The project is also lead by a peer Advisory Committee consisting of ten Indigenous young women from across Canada.They are:

Amanda Darroch-Mudry
Erin Konsmo
Janice Grey
Jasmine Redfern
Jocelyn Formsma
Kari-Dawn Wuttunee
Krysta Williams
Lacey Whiteduck
Marie Holeiter
Theresa J Lightfoot

Mentorship

Opportunities will be created for different types of mentorship, both informal and formal. Mentorships will be created between Elders, traditional teachers and young women, and there will also be peer-to-peer mentorship as youth have important knowledge to learn from each other as well.

Community Actions

A key area that has been identified as part of this project is making sure there are opportunities to continue the work started at this gathering. Ten communities will be chosen to  use the skills, knowledge and mentorship gained from the project to implement local community actions! This is your chance to let your voices be heard, and act upon the changes you would like to see in your communities. More information on the community action opportunities will be provided at the gathering.

A 4-day gathering will explore key areas such as:

  • Stopping racism and violence
  • Reclaiming knowledge and teachings from Elders and moving into new traditions
  • Healthy sexuality
  • Pride in cultural diversity and difference
  • Leadership in all its forms
  • Arts for social change
  • Learning practical skills (How to start a youth council, grant writing, political leadership, becoming your own advocate)
  • Get to know your rights!
  • Skill-sharing
  • Self-care and burnout prevention
  • Plan community actions
  • Create resources
  • Keeping in touch after the gathering

Possible activities: workshops, concerts, talk show, fashion show, film night, giveaways, feasts, hip hop and more. Come ready to share and exchange your skills, talent or knowledge.

When & Where:

The gathering will take place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan between November 18th and 21st, 2011.

Accessibility: We will make every effort possible to meet the needs of all participants, including but not limited to language, mobility, disability and dietary needs. Please make note of this on the registration form. If you are selected to participate, we will work together to ensure accessibility needs are met.

Language: Please note that this gathering will be held mainly in English, French and Inuktitut. The Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Girls Action are committed to making the event accessible in these three languages, so let us know if you have a different language preference we will do our best to arrange for whispered translation.

Childcare: Where we can, we support the participation of those who would not be able to take part if their young child was unable to accompany them. Please make a note of this on the registration form where indicated and read our Policy for Children for more information.
There are NO fees to participate in Indigenous Young Women: Speaking our Truths, Building our Strengths. If you are selected, we will cover your air travel and accommodation costs.

REGISTER NOW! Deadline to register is September 9th, 2011. Participants will be notified of acceptance by September 26th, 2011.

Registration forms can also be faxed to (514) 948-5926 or mailed to:

24 Mont Royal West Suite 601 Montreal, Quebec H2T 2S2 CANADA

For more information please contact Natasha@girlsactionfoundation.ca or call 1-888-948-1112

More information and registration in Inukitut is available here: http://www.girlsactionfoundation.ca/en/special-projects/indigenous-young-women-speaking-our-truths-building-our-strength.

Language & Action back from hiatus!

Welcome back to Language & Action, a periodic collection of news about organizing, ideas, interventions, and opportunities, with an emphasis on the lives of women of color, trans people of color, and queer people of color.  We need your help to keep this feature going, so if you spot an amazing blog post, some under-reported news that you think really needs more attention, some critical info from organizing fronts, or just a question you want to chew on with others, please share it with us to post on the next L&A!  Send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com.

WIN! Sex Offender Registration for Sex Workers Ends in Louisiana

Louisiania’s policy to force sex workers to register as sex offenders is finally over!  Most of the people impacted by this law were poor women of color and transgender women of color.  Jordan Flaherty at the Louisiana Justice Institute:

While police continue to harass sex workers across the state, and many women are still imprisoned under these regressive laws (even as US Senator David Vitter faced no penalty for his admitted liaisons with prostitutes), this is a step forward. And much credit should go to the NO Justice Project, convened by Women With A Vision, which worked to raise awareness about this unjust law and fought on multiple fronts to bring it to an end.

Congrats to Women With A Vision, the NO Justice Project, and other partners for this huge step!

Young Women’s Empowerment Project Launches New Website, New Awesome Campaign CD

YWEP has a brand new website – go check it out!  They also report back from June’s Allied Media Conference where they launched their campaign CD, Street Youth in M.o.t.i.o.n., Moving on The Institution of our Needs, and they’re calling for monthly sustainers, so please support their important work!

Skin Color & Prison Sentences for Black Women

A recent study by Villanova University suggests that prison sentences for black women correlate with skin color: the lighter one’s skin, the lesser the sentence tends to be.  Topher Sanders at The Root:

Villanova researchers studied more than 12,000 cases of African-American women imprisoned in North Carolina and found that women with lighter skin tones received more-lenient sentences and served less time than women with darker skin tones.

The researchers found that light-skinned women were sentenced to approximately 12 percent less time behind bars than their darker-skinned counterparts. Women with light skin also served 11 percent less time than darker women.

Wakefield University sociology professor, Earl Smith, raises some questions about the study’s methodology.

Half of LGBT People Who Experienced Violence Did Not Call Police, Audre Lorde Project Organizing for Alternative Safety Strategies

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs‘ annual report on hate violence revealed that, of the 27 tragic murders of LGBT people in 2010, 70% were people of color and 44% were transgender women.  Of the people who experienced anti-LGBT violence, half did not contact police.  The Audre Lorde Project is working on developing safety strategies outside of the criminal justice system.  Michael Lavers at Colorlines:

The Audre Lorde Project is among the groups that organize LGBT people in communities of color that are increasingly looking beyond law enforcement and the criminal justice system for a solution. The Safe OUTside the System Collective works with bodegas, businesses and organizations within Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and surrounding areas to create safe spaces for LGBT people of color to curb violence.

“What’s true and important is our communities have been and continue to organize around issues of harassment—whether it’s neighborhood or community harassment or [harassment] by the police,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Audre Lorde Project.

Raquel Nelson Prosecuted for Trying to Cross the Street, Needs Your Support

Raquel Nelson

Sarah Goodyear at The Grist:

In case you haven’t heard of her, [Raquel] Nelson is the Atlanta-area single mother who was convicted of vehicular homicide after her 4-year-old son was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver who later admitted to drinking and being on painkillers.

Nelson and her three children, ages 9, 4, and 2, were trying to get from a bus stop to their apartment complex directly across a busy road, and there was no crosswalk or pedestrian signal to protect them. It was a shocking, and fatal, case of bad street design. Such autocentric design is only too common around the country; in this case, it was compounded by a mystifyingly aggressive prosecution.

Nelson was offered the choice of a new trial or a 12 month probation.  Visit change.org to lend your support.

California Legislation to Protect Labor Rights for Domestic Workers Passes Senate Committee!

Press release:

Today the California Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee voted 5-2 in favor of AB 889. The bill – also known as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, extends basic, humane labor protections to thousands of nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners and improves the quality of care for California’s families.

“Today’s Senate vote was a historic step forward for the rights of domestic workers in California. For decades domestic work has been excluded from both state and federal labor laws and worker exploitation in this industry has remained invisible and unmonitored. AB 889 will end that by establishing the same basic protections under the law that many of us take for granted,” said [Assemblymember Tom] Ammiano.

Check out this Colorlines article about how the National Domestic Workers Alliance is transforming long-term care.

Displaced Women Organize for Housing Justice in Port au Prince

Haitian women and their communities are organizing against government agents who are forcing people out of post-earthquake displacement camps who have nowhere to go.  Bill Quigley and Jocelyn Brooks at the Lousiania Justice Institute:

“We women demand!…” sang out a hundred plus voices “…Justice for Marie!” Marie, a 25 year old pregnant mother, was injured by government agents when they slammed a wooden door into her stomach during an early morning invasion of an earthquake displacement camp in Port au Prince. The government is using force to try to force thousands to leave camps without providing any place for people to go. The people are fighting back.

The people calling for justice are residents of a make shift tent camp called Camp Django in the Delmas 17 neighborhood of Port au Prince. They are up in arms over injuries to Marie, one of their young mothers, and repeated government threats to demolish their homes. Despite the 100 degree heat, over a hundred residents, mostly mothers, trekked across town to demand the government protect their human right to housing.

800 Protestors in Quebec Demand Action To Stop Violence Against Aboriginal Women

Aboriginal women in Canada are putting pressure on the Canadian government to address the murders and disappearance of hundreds of aboriginal women.  The Canadian Press:

[Women’s status] ministers concluded a two-day meeting in Gatineau, Que., just as about 800 protesters took to Parliament Hill demanding action to prevent violence against aboriginal women, and to bring attention to more than 500 who have been murdered or disappeared.

“Our missing and murdered women and girls are suffering from neglect — neglect by the Canadian government that does not recognize them,” said Laurie Odjick, whose 16-year-old daughter Maisy disappeared in 2008 from her reserve near Maniwaki, Que.

Sterilization and Reproductive Justice

Considering the politics of choice and sterilization, Iris Lopez studied the conditions in which Puerto Rican women in New York City “chose” to undergo sterilization.  Lisa Wade at Ms. blog:

Lopez found that 44 percent of the women she surveyed would not have chosen the surgery if their economic conditions were better. They wanted more children, but simply could not afford them.

Lopez argues that, by contrasting the “choice” to become sterilized with the idea of forced sterilization, we overlook the fact that choices are primed by larger institutional structures and ideological messages. Reproductive freedom not only requires the ability to choose from a set of safe, effective, convenient and affordable methods of birth control developed for men and women, but also a context of equitable social, political and economic conditions that let women decide whether or not to have children, how many, and when.

Meanwhile, North Carolina is preparing to have hearings and provide restitution to people the state sterilized without consent in the Eugenics era that listed through 1974.

Young Women United Successes in Reproductive Justice

Young Women United in Albuquerque reports in their most recent newsletter that they were able to help pass four powerful bills and defeat five crappy ones in New Mexico.  Get it, YWU!

YWU asked New Mexicans to share why our families need access to Treatment Instead of Incarceration. With only four days notice you responded, and with your voices we made an incredible scrapbook that we presented to the governor. (and will be sharing with others too.) To see the online version visit our page at facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Young-WomenUnited/115921231790158).

We had media coverage from several TV stations, and radio stations who wanted to hear our stories, perspectives and community needs.

We had three opinion pieces printed in Albuquerque media; Reflections on Justice for the West Mesa Women, Truths About Addiction and Families, and Landscape of Addiction in New Mexico.  Links to the opinion pieces can be found in the Related Links  section of our website  AVAW page (http://www.youngwomenunited.org/whatwedo/avaw.html).

We spoke at a congressional breakfast in DC to connect and carry our work to federal policy makers.

We continued to connected with organizations around the country doing this amazing work too…and these connections will help strengthen our movement as we go forward.

OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF!

Solidarity with Pelican Bay Hunger Strike, which is organizing to end solitary confinement and other institutional violence within and of prisons.  They need your support.

The Center for Women’s & Gender Studies at the University of Texas, Austin seeks Seed Money Applications for projects related to gender and human rights in (or in relationship to) the Americas.

Here’s a list of ten self-defense techniques.

Queers for Economic Justice and FIERCE, fantastic queer organizing groups in NYC, both seek Executive Directors.

To submit a news item, please send us an e-mail at incite.news@gmail.com.

Indigenous Peoples In the Sex Trade – Speaking For Ourselves

Indigenous Peoples In the Sex Trade – Speaking For Ourselves

We as Indigenous peoples who have current and/or former life experience in the sex trade and sex industries met on unceeded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver on Monday April 11th 2011. In a talking circle organized by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network we wish to share the following points about our collective discussion so that we may speak FOR ourselves and life experiences:

  • We recognize that many of us have multiple identities and communities that we belong to – some of us take up the title of “sex worker” while others do not see themselves this way.  We have a myriad of experiences in the sex trade, everything from violence, coercion, to survival, getting by, empowerment, and everything in between.   We want to give voice to these issues so that those who are CURRENTLY involved in sex work and the sex industries feel supported and are the primary place where decisions surrounding our lives are made.  We should not be made to feel judged, blamed, or shunned from ANY of the communities we belong to or are coming from. We are the best deciders of what we want our lives to be.
  • Despite the heightened statistics of the many realities we face as Indigenous peoples, we are not significantly represented in the leadership or decision making tables of sex work organizations and other social justice groups alike. By this we do not mean solely having one Indigenous coordinator or a few outreach workers – we mean meaningful, non-tokenizing, multiple positions and visible leadership roles across organizations, groups, collectives, and at any place where the sex trade is discussed. We are not interested in being included after the fact or having to continuously take a seat at a table we had to fight to be at in the first place – we want to be the center in which all decisions about our lives are coming from.
  • We collectively and steadfastly resist the so-called “rescuing” and “saving” approach to the issues going on in our lives that comes from the (in)justice system, social service agencies, prohibitionist groups, and many other areas. What we are asking for is not to be saved or rescued or consistently painted as victims – we come from generations of peoples who have resisted this approach for the last 500+ years so we could be here today. We are asking for support that is unconditional and meets us where we are at.
  • We are living through legacies of colonialism and genocide – which are extremely present today. When various individuals and organizations say things like “we are all oppressed in the same way” or refuse to take a stance on colonialism – this directly silences and further oppresses us. Just because we as Indigenous peoples may be involved in the sex trade as well does not mean that we are all oppressed in the same way as other peoples who are involved in the sex trade or even within our own communities. We demand the right to self-determination about what is specifically true for us as individuals and we refuse to be constantly grouped in “the other” or “unknown” categories – whether from well-intentioned allies or those who have never even considered our realities as Indigenous peoples.
  • We want to address the rampant amount of homophobia, transphobia, cissexism, and heteropatriarchy that we witness from Indigenous and allied people alike.  Many of us are proud to be Two Spirit, trans, gender non-conforming, and many other identities that the English language cannot contain.  We hold both our Indigenous community members and allies accountable to respect who we are and understand that these identities for many of us prior to colonization were honored and respected – and we take this seriously as we seek to reclaim who we are.
  • While it is true that we may experience violence on bad dates, on the street, and in other places where we are, we want to state that VIOLENCE SHOULD NOT INHERENTLY BE PART OF THE SEX TRADE. What remains unchallenged and inadequately criticized are the role and actions of the state, the police, and social service agencies that create and allow the conditions that create violent situations for us to begin with. The very creation of Canada and the United States is based off of the genocide and land theft of our peoples and fast forward to 2011 this is still happening. It is now sanctioned through the law, in the court system, and other organizations wishing to further control and exploit us by continuing to remove us from our homelands, or our communities of choice, or warehousing us in jails and prisons.
  • There is a severe lack of resources and support for those of us on reserves, in northern territories, and in rural and remote areas. So much of the dialogue about the sex trade is urban and metropolitan focused when so many of our rural and remote communities have the evidence to prove the urgency of shifting the dialogue to listen and support what is going on in the north and on the reserves.  Where can sex workers go when there are no supports in their own communities? Why should they always have to come to the city?
  • While the criminalization of the sex trade is indeed harmful to us and we consistently resist the regulations forced onto us by a colonial white law and order system, we want to move beyond just discussing criminalization and decriminalization. There are many other factors that contribute to the realities of our lives specifically as Indigenous peoples that are being largely ignored because of these kinds of debates constantly happening.
  • At public events or in the media, supposed ‘experts’ or ‘allies’ often focus exclusively on violence and victimization, over-representation and exiting strategies. While these issues are important, we want to move the dialogue beyond this focus on ‘being saved’ and instead to hear from sex workers themselves about all the complex realities and needs they face. Why is it that in public forums, the only voices we hear are those wanting to save sex workers from violence rather than from sex workers themselves? Sex workers should be invited to speak to their own issues, representing a diversity of perspectives and experiences. For example, sex work is often seen as an exclusively urban issue. In reality, lots of people in rural areas are trading sex for money, rides, clothes, and many other reasons – but because of shame and silence, this aspect of sex work remains invisible.  Expanding our understanding of Indigenous involvement in sex work will entail including a diversity of perspectives, allowing these voices to inform policy and programs.
  • Sex workers and those involved in the sex trade are part of our communities – all of the things we are advocating for in terms of Indigenous rights and land sovereignty sex workers need to be part of as well. Internationally sanctioned Indigenous rights are determined by states – so how do we see our own rights in our own territories within the sex trade? We aren’t going to have only one approach – Indigenous peoples have never only had one approach. There are multiple nations, multiple view points, and multiple ways of dealing with things – Indigenous peoples are not one homogenized group and we need to move forward being accountable to all of these differences.
  • There exists an extreme amount of stereotypes surrounding Indigenous sexuality and our bodies that have been used to legitimize violence against us and make the settlement of our territories by the colonizers possible. Distancing ourselves from stereotyping has in many cases also meant distancing ourselves from sexuality and ultimately from sex workers. This is just not about our own individual stories – we need to look at how are we treating all our relations and that especially means people who are most pushed aside by those in our communities.
  • We want to move forward to a place where we can discuss sex work and sex trade sovereignty – having autonomy of our bodies, our spaces, and the right to govern ourselves. We want to talk about our humanity instead of talking over people who are involved in the sex trade. We are more than just the numbers or statistics coming from the realities in our lives. We have voices, we are Indigenous peoples involved in the sex trade and sex industries, and we need to be heard.

Written by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and co-signed by:

Sarah Hunt, Kwakwaka’wakw

Bambie Tait, Gitxsan nation

Ivo Haggerty (Cargnelli)/Sta’xai’luum Blackstone

Lyn Highway


Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside

Yesterday, hundreds of marchers took part in the 20th Annual Women’s Memorial March around the Downtown Eastside to remember Vancouver’s missing and murdered women. From the Annual Women’s Memorial March blog:

Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Over 3000 women are known to have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the 1970s. Two years ago, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women issued this statement: “Hundreds of cases involving aboriginal women who have gone missing or been murdered in the past two decades have neither been fully investigated nor attracted priority attention.” The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.

An article from straight.com reflects an analysis from Delannah Gail Bowen, an organizer of the march:

Delannah Gail Bowen, who has been helping to organize the memorial march for seven years, said the root causes of violence against women need to be considered in order to address the issue.

“For this issue to be addressed, we have to go to the heart of the problem, and the heart of the problem is the poverty, the heart of the problem is not having our voice heard,” said Bowen.

“We have to look at the whole picture. Dealing with an issue when it gets to the crisis point means that it’ll always be at the crisis point, instead of going to the root of the issue,” she added.

“Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside” is a short and powerful film that documents the 20 year history of the annual women’s memorial march for missing and murdered women in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. By focusing on the voices of women who live, love, and work in the Downtown Eastside this film debunks the sensationalism surrounding a neighbourhood deeply misunderstood, and celebrates the complex and diverse realities of women organizing for justice. (32 mins)  (For a subtitled version of this film, please visit this site.)

The film is by Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia, based on concept by the Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group. This is a not-for-profit production that is available for free distribution under creative commons license. For more information, to book a screening, or to order a DVD, please contact hwalia8@gmail.com or alejo.zuluag@gmail.com.

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Call for submissions: Online and printed zine about dealing with body/hair/size/fat phobia for and by Indigenous peoples and people of color

**PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY**

Call for submissions: Online and printed zine about dealing with body/hair/size/fat phobia for and by Indigenous peoples and people of colour.

Title: To be decided/announced.

Deadline: February 28th 2011

For far too long, I’ve have been made to always question my body. Always made to feel like if I waxed my sideburns/shaved my legs/signed up for weightwatchers/stopped eating so much roti, that I would live up to the potential of how beautiful I could be. I have learnt that these issues not only represent a complex fear of hair or fat, but is also emblematic of what my body represents as a queer brown body, constantly threatening whiteness, conformity and concepts of beauty that idealize skinny, hairless, colonized white bodies; among many other things. The internalized hate and racism that our communities and peoples have is destroying us, forcing us to dislike and alter our bodies, putting it through further violence and trauma.

As I have been attempting to work through this, I have had the honour of meeting so many beautiful Indigenous people and people of colour who constantly work hard at breaking down these ideas, who survive, love themselves and each other everyday for who they are. We need to share our struggles and triumphs; we need to know we aren’t alone in this. There are many people who have stories, facts, advice and successes on these issues to share with others.

For these reasons and more, with consultation from many over the past two years, I want to put together this zine for Indigenous people and people of colour to share, read, write, listen, learn, realize, question and start a path to working towards realizing how sexy and beautiful we already are.

Who? Self-identified Indigenous peoples and people of colour*, mixed race people* who have something to say about fat/size/hair/body image shit. (I’m talking about size, hair (both body and on your head) and anything else that affects your body/self love/ability to love others.

What? Submit art, writing, prose, poetry, essays, collages, lyrics, photos, stuff you’ve created that can be put in a zine (online) and photocopied to give out in printed copies.

Why? We need to address size/fat/hair phobia and our bodies, colonization, histories and provide resources and support for each other.

How? Please send all submissions to thisisourzine@gmail.com with SUBMISSION as the subject. If it can’t be emailed, email us and we will figure out a way to get your work submitted.

*= it’s important to remember how complex categories of race, sexuality, gender and identity are, and when I say self-identified Indigenous people and people of colour and mixed race people, I mean that if you identify as a person of colour or Indigenous person, but may not necessarily present phenotypically as a person of colour, we want you to submit to the zine.

Obviously we all have different experiences/understandings of how race, body image, sexuality, gender, ability, class, eating disorders, geography, status, etc. etc. come together and shape how we understand these issues, which will be an important string throughout this zine.

About me:

You are probably wondering: ‘who is this random person wanting me to share my work with them?’ Good question. My name is Aruna, I am a 23 year old fat brown woman identified first generation settler that is living on the occupied lands of the Mississauga’s of New Credit. I went to Queen’s University in Kingston, but am now back living with my parents in Scarborough; and this is my first zine ever, and think that this topic is incredibly important and something that people need to start talking about with each other. I’m not claiming ownership over this and want this to be a collective/loving/healing process with everyone involved. I have a lot of issues around my weight and in the process of trying to look for something to comfort and help me work through my shit, I never found anything useful. I think a project like this, if done properly will be useful to lots of people in a similar situation.

Remember! Deadline is February 28th 2011, all submissions and inquiries about submissions should be relayed to thisisourzine@gmail.com.

In your submission, please include:

-       Your name (or name you want to be published)

-       RELIABLE Contact information (in case we need to talk to you about your work)

-       A brief (50-100 word) bio or description of who you are/what you do, etc. (if you want to include it)

-       Please make sure all attachments are either in PDF, JPEG, Word, RTF, BMP or any other compatible program.

-       Your piece/submission should be in an attachment, not copy/pasted into the email. (If you have trouble with attachments, email us for help!)

Want to submit? Get involved in the planning/making of the zine?

Wanna start a larger group out of this?

Got concerns, questions, etc?

Email me at thisisourzine@gmail.com to talk and if you’d like to get involved.

Here are some points to get you thinking about the issues I feel could be repped in this zine. A couple of points have been borrowed from another callout for ‘Occupied bodies’ by Tasha Fierce that I felt was relevant to our zine.

These are merely some starting questions, submissions should in no way feel limited to this:

-       How do you embrace/love your body?

-       What tips do you have to lessen the blows from people who hate on your fat/hair/self

-       How is loving your body an act of sovereignty or decolonization (if at all)?

-       Has your self-esteem/dislike of your body hurt your sex life? How does it stop you from exploring yourself or new partners because of fear of rejection?

-       How does being mixed race affect your body image and how you see yourself? How are you excluded from these discussions because of being mixed race?

-       Does the hair and fat phobic ways of the porn industry make you angry?

-       What images of yourself were instilled in you by your parents/guardians/other family members when you were a young child?

-       If you’re queer or two-spirit, how has being two-spirit or queer of color affected your self-image and how you desire your partner to look?

-       How has your gender (whatever that may be) affected how you understand your body, or how you have been forced to see your body?

-       If you’ve had partners who were also Indigenous or of colour, did/do you gaze upon them with the same critical eye you reserve for yourself? Why or why not?

-       Have you ever worried that your choice of partners reflected negative understandings of your own bodies/self?

-       If you’re a Trans people of colour or Indigenous person, how was your perception of your gender identity shaped? How has your self/body image changed over the years and have there been any other shifts in your thinking about your self/body image?

-       How has ability and access affected your image? Affected how you love yourself?

-       What positive or negative encounters with adults as a child helped shape that image?

-       How has your body image/size phobia issues been treated in the medical field? How has mental health played a part in it?

-       What connections do you see between colonialism and your body?

-       If you weren’t born on or feel connection to Turtle Island/occupied lands that we call ‘North America’, how has the place you came from/identify with determined your ideas around your body?

-       How did the media you consumed as a child/teen shape your body/self image today? How does it complicate it? How does the media you consume NOW affect your body/self image?

-       How did pressure from family and friends affect the way you perceived yourself after you were old enough to take care of yourself?

-       How did you feel about societal beauty and body standards as a teen? Did you rebel, or conform by any means necessary to avoid confrontation?

-       How has the globalization and dissemination of the Western beauty ideal affected you and Indigenous peoples/people of colour worldwide?

-       Debunk this: “in some cultures they ______”, – deconstructing a commonly held belief about an ethnic group’s relation to body (such as the black community supposedly being OK with fat).

The list goes on and on and is by no means complete…email us for more help if needed.

For more info, write to thisisourzine@gmail.com or check out the original call for submissions, found here.

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Dec 18th, Toronto: Sharing Celebrating and Decolonizing Indigenous Sex Work

SHARING, CELEBRATING AND DECOLONIZING INDIGENOUS SEX WORK
Saturday December 18
Native Canadian Centre, 16 Spadina Road, Toronto
6-9 pm (food served at 6 pm)
FREE event!

with
Traditional Feast catered by Ringfire Productions
Performances from RED SLAM and Brenda MacIntyre
Roundtable Discussion
Celebratory giveaway

In honor of the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers – this will be an evening for us as as Indigenous people and communities to listen, discuss, and learn how to end violence against sex workers from Indigenous perspectives.

A supportive, non-judgmental space for sex workers (current and former) community members and youth. This event will respect the right of self-determination over our lives and bodies for all Indigenous people including sex workers.

Please bring what you can for the giveaway (art, momentos, crafts, recipes, etc). Everyone is welcome to participate with/without an item.

FREE EVENT – ASL INTERPRETATION PROVIDED – WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE. PLEASE NOTE EVENT IS TAKING PLACE DECEMBER 18th, NOT DECEMBER 17th – CHILDREN WELCOME

For more information or to RSVP contact Krysta Williams, Lead Youth Advocate at the Native Youth Sexual Health Network at kwilliams@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

Facebook event: http://on.fb.me/eBnZy2
Co-sponsored by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network and Maggie’s: The Toronto Sex Workers Action Project

Thank you to our supporters: 2-Spirited People of the 1st Nations, Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy

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