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.

INCITE! Needs Your Help Getting to Detroit!

A member of the INCITE Media Working Group in a workshop.

Hello INCITE Supporters!

The Allied Media Conference is around the corner, and the INCITE Track is presenting an incredible bunch of workshops this year. Our work grows stronger each year through this time spent in Detroit, sharing skills, deepening relationships, and developing strategy for year-round media-based organizing. But we need your help to get there! Can you donate to help INCITE Track participants get to the conference?

Who are we?

We are women, trans* and genderqueer people of color. We are bloggers, mamas, media makers, teachers, healers, artists, sex workers, organizers, dancers, among many other things. And we need support in order to make it to Detroit for the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the Allied Media Conference.

What will your donation help us do?

Your donation will help some of our amazing presenters get to the conference to continue building a network of media-makers and organizers through the INCITE Track at the AMC. For the past four years, the INCITE Track has been a crucial space where women and trans* people of color from all over can come together to share skills and experience for participatory media-based organizing strategies.

We’re excited about this year’s AMC! Check out some of the INCITE Track sessions:

Shawty Got Skillz Skillshare
Spread Magazine: Creating a Race Issue
The Black Girl Project: Film & Discussion
Delivering Justice Through Birthing Rights: Mamas of Color Bring it Home
Street Youth Rise Up! Collective Media-Making for Healing and Action
INCITE Media Working Group Convening

Your support will help us with food, transportation, lodging, registration, and childcare costs for presenters and participants.

Donate Now!

Please give what you can to help us get one step closer the AMC! Anything you give will go directly towards childcare, food, housing or registration for a track presenter! Via PayPal, please send to incite.natl@gmail.com and write AMC in the notes. For check donations, mail to INCITE!, 2416 W Victory Blvd #108
, Burbank, CA 91506-1229. All donations are tax-deductible.

More on the INCITE! Track:

The INCITE! Track at the AMC is a place to build a shared approach to ending violence against women, trans*, and genderqueer people of color through diverse media – from blogging and graphic design to zine-making. We will continue to highlight the transformative media strategies that will help broaden the understanding of racial & gender justice and integrating this politic into our work. We will continue to build solidarity between movements, organizations and individuals that are headed by and supported by women, gender non-conforming, and transpeople of color and will initiate collaborative projects that use different forms of media to help build community and provide tools to build sustainable ways of organizing and healing.

More on the Allied Media Conference:

The Allied Media Conference cultivates strategies for a more just and creative world. We come together to share tools and tactics for transforming our communities through media-based organizing. Check out a full schedule of sessions here.

Learn more and register for the Allied Media Conference:

Support the Allied Media Conference & Shawty Got Skillz

Stacey & Mia from To The Other Side Of Dreaming break down why it’s critical to support the Allied Media Conference (June 23-26, 2011, Detroit), a movement building space for radical women of color/people of color organizing, disability justice, queer young people, and more!  They urge everyone to support Shawty Got Skillz, a crew of 18 media makers of color, get to AMC this summer and share vital media skills for justice.  Check it out:

To donate and learn more about Shawty Got Skillz workshops, please visit: http://shawtygotskillz.tumblr.com/

Register for the Allied Media Conference:

On Mother’s Day and Everyday – Honoring M/others Within Our Social Justice Movements!

On Mother’s Day and Everyday- Honoring M/others Within Our Social Justice Movements!
by tk karakashian tunchez, The New Mythos Project
Originally posted at The New Mythos Project, reposted with permission

I feel so incredibly blessed to live in a time where honoring young, single, teen mamas is FINALLY gaining recognition!

For as long as humans have existed, young mamas (and young families) have too.  Before colonization, many of us came from communities which honored communal living and supporting families of all sorts. As our communities were colonized and industrialization took afoot, these patterns of/for care were severed, and as a result, as the years went on, individuals who did not participate in what was/is considered efficient lifestyles were targeted as “problematic”.   Not surprisingly, this included young/single/teen/poor m/others (a word I use to represent the other-mother, these mamas).   m/others (single/teen/welfare mamas) began to be seen as “burdens”, and “threats” to industrial/ capitalist centered societies.  Instead of valuing the life-giving/life-sustaining resources  m/others bring to the table through their everyday action of “mama-ing”- our societies pathologized, criminalized and generally degraded our  m/otherhoods.  M/other’s are often targeted as “welfare-abusers”, and are blamed for “bad” children, or absent parents.  We undergo daily trauma manifesting in  loss of opportunity, judgment over our parenting, systemic and institutional oppression/exclusion, state-violence against our f/phamilies, the pathologizing & criminalizing of our choices to become parents, withdrawal of support (from systems and within our intimate relationships), and just generally degrading/negative messages in mainstream media, and everyday interactions. Choosing to be a young/teen/welfare m/other is often a hard choice, even if the choice to be pregnant is easy.  We often find ourselves judged, for “throwing our lives away”, or “choosing” to “make our lives harder”.   What’s been  even harder for me to witness and experience, is the exclusion of our m/otherhood as politicized work within social justice movements.

Despite all the negative messaging surrounds our m/otherhood, there are plenty of us that are living lives that counteract the myths of young families. We are working together to manifest new futures, full of hope, and collective transformation.  We are practicing our traditional healing tools within our families, communities, and societies to create stronger, more just worlds.  We are working (HARD) to participate in social justice movements.

As a teen/ welfare/ queer/ mama of color, my choice to become a mama at 16 was not an easy one.  To be honest, I was totally unprepared for what was to come.

In fact, I am still trying to get my bearings (and my daughter has just recently turned 18).   As I’ve grown up, so have my children.   They have become beautiful, vibrant, intelligent, compassionate young adults who are giving back to their communities.  No doubt the views of our communities and myself have helped to shape their  perspectives about the world, and their political analysis’.   They are the children of a radical woman of color, and though they are completely independent, they have been influenced as  I have become more and more politicized.   As I began organizing over their life span, they watched as  my organizing work often hit home, work that I did because it directly impacted me or my ph/family (chosen and blood family). Organizing for poor people’s rights, immigration & welfare reform, anti-police violence, youth-led movements, queer organizing, even topics like clean-water action & food justice, all had direct impact on me and my family.  At the end of the day, I couldn’t go back to the safety of my house, and hang up my organizing suit.  I had to face the one’s that mattered most, my children, and feel good about the work that I’d been doing.  I gave a lot of heart, soul, love to the work that I did as an organizer outside of my house but the work that mattered most to me always happened inside my home.  I always knew that the work I did inside the house, the valuable m/other work (which included curriculum building, valuable solidarity work, advocacy, and sisterhood building- just to name a tiny portion) was never considered politicized work.   The networks that I built with other m/others, the kitchen-table solidarity sessions, the late-night talks with teenagers (both my own children, and youth that I mentored), the healing work that only happens within our homes but allows us to continue in all the work that we do, those pieces that are so fragile, vulnerable and priceless, that work was  NEVER considered political.   After years of realizing this, living this, I started to feel like there was no space for m/other’s in the movement(s).    Admittedly, over the last few years, I began to notice some recognition of “mothering” within social justice work,  however, it mostly seemed to be predicated on the idea that “mother’s” had partners, or resources, or support- and for many m/other’s this was/is not the case.

Also within the last few years, I’ve been in more and more social justice spaces that are beginning to acknowledge the valuable work that m/other’s in movement(s) are doing.  Often times, this acknowledgment has come from other m/others, within private spaces but it has been enough to ensure that the valuable m/other work that movements are often supported by, if not altogether built on, begins to be visibilized.

For those of you that are organizer’s who want to make sure you are supporting m/other’s in your work here are some tangible, and simple ways that show us you are aware of our work, lives, and contributions to movement building- and some ways that can help make entering spaces more accessible.

If you are organizing National and local convenings (such as conference’s or workshops):

1. provide free (or sliding scale- with nobody turned away) childcare;

2. offering traveling stipends that cover both single mama’s travel AND their children; or

3. create  the invaluable space for m/other’s to meet and build with each other (just as they do with other any other marginalized identity group.

Conversely, we know when spaces are not recognizing, welcoming or honoring m/other’s because they 1. do not offer childcare, or expect m/other’s to arrange their own childcare (a possibility for many partnered parents but not for many single mamas), 2. cover only the cost of a m/other’s travel but not the cost of any single mama’s children (as was recently the case in during a National Reproductive Right’s conference), or; 3.  don’t acknowledge the political work of m/othering by downplaying our identities, the political aspect of our m/othering & by  not centering our lives as quintesential identities which require as much solidarity, space, and honor as any other identity, or movement building piece.

I am sharing all of this information with you today, because, as I said at the beginning of this article, I feel so honored to live in a time where the work and lives of young/single mamas is coming to the forefront of some of our movements.

Organizations, collectives , and individuals like: http://mamasofcolorrising.wordpress.com/about/http://www.poormagazine.org/ have been doing the valuable with mamas for mamas organizing work (many of them m/others too).

There’s also countless of individual m/other’s who have long been involved in movement building- both within their own families by raising their children- and publicly by blogging, zine-making, and creating forums for other creative, political organizing.  Some of these sister’s include long-time zinemaker and blogger- Hermana Resist!, and general bad-ass, community organizer and VivirLatino! blogger   Mamita Mala.  They are just two of the many m/other’s whose work (generally) exists without non-profit support, and who continue building radical movements while raising amazing young people.

However, despite the ongoing contributions that m/others make to creating more just worlds, we still need so much support to shift both mainstream America’s, and our own social justice movement’s  perspectives of our m/otherhood from detrimental and negative to courageous and politicized!

Yes, we are calling on our movements to acknowledge radical mama’s  everyday m/othering work as political work.  Raising our children is a political action!  We are working hard to participate in movement’s that often excludie us, and we wont allow this to happen anymore.  We affirm our m/otherhood’s as politicized, and we expect the same from you.  We say this out of love because we want to continue to grow, participate, and share with those of you who have never thought about m/otherhood this way, and who may be exploring these thoughts for the first time.

Over the last year, I’ve been traveling across the US with The New Mythos Project, building relationships with m/others and community caregivers that are invested in creating and participating in movements that are centered on well-being, spirituality, and connection.  The long, and multiple conversation’s I’ve had with people across the nation, have all centered on re-thinking how social justice movement’s are built & continue to exist. I’ve heard back from many m/others, myself included, that the current organizing model which most social justice movements use excludes our unique and important needs as single/teen/welfare mamas.

We are forming our own networks to begin to address how to build solidarity around our political in-home and out of home work… these networks are grounded in very real, relationship building.  We are our sister’s keepers! And, whenever possible, we are creating interactive healing spaces where mama’s can re-generate, and make themselves stronger.  Part of building this network is celebrating that our experiences make us different.  We don’t share the same experiences as the “idealized” mother, and that’s fine with us! We know that our experiences make us who we be, the strong, vibrant, vulnerable beings we are. So, it is my honor this year to breathe deep, and humbly share with you two action’s which visibilize the valuable work, and lives,  of m/others!!!

I can’t tell you how many years have gone by where Mother’s Day has passed, and I’ve looked around to see all the celebration directed towards mother’s who enjoy the privilege of parenting in a traditional two-parent, heteronormative household.   In checking out these events, please think about m/other’s that might live in your community!  How are they being celebrated this year?  How can you take a vow to stand in solidarity with them in the upcoming year?   If you are an organizer, are you making space and sharing resources so that m/other’s are present at the table in your organizing efforts? If you are organizing on efforts from food justice to media justice, are you taking lead from m/other’s?  Or, are you asking them to check their mama identities at the door in order to participate with you?I hope lots of you can make it out to either of these events (or the other’s that are happening nation wide), stand in solidarity with our sistaz!!!

Today, and everyday, I honor you m/othersisters. You are building a future I want to live in, and I am honored to see you shine.
xo.tk

1. Young Families Day Celebration!

This event will be Saturday, May 7, 2011 from 11am-3pm at Civic Center Hall in San Francisco, USA. (For more information on this event check out their FB event page)

The Center for Young Women’s Development , California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice are organizing this day of  resource sharing, networking , changing stereotypes, kids activities, free food,  and celebrating what makes our YOUNG families strong!!!!

They are also working on a Strong Families initiative which honors all families: Check out their awesome new video Honoring Young Mamas!

2. Mother’s Day Liberation Rally and Community Supper 2011

Saturday May 7th 3pm through Sunday May 8th 7pm : Woodland Park & Rhizome Cafe, Vancouver BC, Unceded and Occupied Coast Salish Territories.

(For more information on this event, and this groups work check out their FB Event Page)

The Mother’s Day Liberation Rally & Community Supper 2011 is organized by the Committee for Single Mothers on the Move, which is led by a group of low-income single mothers of colour, the Breakthrough Mamas, and our allies, including Vancouver Status of Women, No One is Illegal-Vancouver, the Philippine Women’s Centre and the Transformative Communities Project Society.

We struggle from many places of resilience and urgency against the perverse conditions of systemic impoverishment, exploitation, violence and isolation imposed by a hetero-patriarchal, colonial, racist and capitalist society. We celebrate the passion, creativity, survival and power of people who mother under oppressive conditions to (re)make a world where love is more possible.

We demand RESPECT, COMMUNITY AND DIGNITY for all low-income mothers and children, and have identified the following top priorities for political struggle – with increased access, participation, and influence by low-income mothers and children:

HOUSING
HEALTH
LIVING WAGES
TRANSPORTATION
CHILDCARE
STATUS
LEGAL SUPPORT
EDUCATION
CULTURAL INTEGRITY
FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
END TO CHILD APPREHENSIONS
SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE SELF-DETERMINATION
GENDER LIBERATION

This Mother’s Day weekend, we call on all people who desire liberating and just conditions of mothering to join us for a day of celebration, inspiration, community-building and resistance!

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Decriminalization of sex work and Indigenous youth and communities – Response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network

Decriminalization of sex work and Indigenous youth and communities – a response from the Native Youth Sexual Health Network on the recent Ontario Superior Court Decision

October 5, 2010 (Toronto) – The Native Youth Sexual Health Network (NYSHN) would like to express our support of the recent Ontario Superior Court decision to strike down three aspects of the criminalization of sex work which include: living off of the avails of prostitution, keeping a common bawdy-house and communicating in a public place for the purpose of engaging in prostitution. However, given the lack of Indigenous voices during this process, there is some confusion as to what this could mean for Indigenous people here and now.

As a North America wide organization working in the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health by and for Indigenous youth, NYSHN is particularly concerned with the ways in which Indigenous youth perspectives and rights as sex workers are generally not taken into account. In this case, it was not Indigenous people bringing this court challenge forward and unfortunately our voices have not been heard well.

However, this decision has the potential to actually mean less violence for Indigenous communities, not only because it allows for safer working conditions for sex workers, it also means less police interference. Given that Indigenous communities face racial profiling and police brutality as an everyday lived experience, as well as extremely high rates of incarceration, this is of utmost importance to our safety. Current estimates state that Aboriginal people make up more than 20% of the total prison inmate population across Canada, which is a full ten times more than the general population.

If sex workers are able to live off of the money they earn, they may be able to afford shelter, better provide for their families, or be able to hire someone else, such as a driver, as protection. If they are able to openly communicate about sex work, they may be able to negotiate safer working conditions (such as condom use) with a client or report violence without fear of being arrested. If keeping a bawdy-house is no longer illegal, then sex workers may have access to indoor working conditions, decreasing the chances of street-based violence. If police are given less opportunity to arrest people on the basis of these laws, it means less Indigenous people that are incarcerated because of sex work. These are just a few examples of how this ruling has the potential to reduce violence.

However, as stated by the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) this ruling does not adequately address the systemic racism and classism as well as a fundamental power imbalance and issues of inequality, which are realities for Indigenous youth in Canada. Given the amount of prejudice and discrimination faced by Indigenous communities, it is imperative that we are included and heard throughout all policy-making processes, not only for our own safety and security but also as a best practice when making decisions that disproportionately affect us.

Furthermore, it is imperative that we recognize that Indigenous youth are over policed, but under protected. High rates of arrest and incarceration are a reality, yet there still has been no justice for the over 500 missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. For Indigenous women who do engage in sex work, there is a double discrimination that is experienced because of the overlapping prejudices of racism associated with being Indigenous, and societal stigma associated with engaging in sex work. This increases the risk of violence, which means in order to protect Indigenous women; we need to consider decriminalization in the context of also stopping racism. That being said, decriminalization is still one of the many steps that the courts and lawmakers must take to respect the self-determination of Indigenous sex workers.

Media Contact:
Jessica Yee, Executive Director
jyee@nativeyouthsexualhealth.com

http://nativeyouthsexualhealth.com/

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