Creating Collective Access at the Allied Media Conference (Detroit)!

Creating Collective Access is at the Allied Media Conference again this year! This is our second year (details on our development in Detroit last year here) and we are growing! We are getting big and juicy! This shit is for real!!!

Are you a crip and/or someone with a chronic illness that is going to be in Detroit this summer for the Allied Media Conference?
We know that for many of us, access is on our minds when it comes to traveling, navigating the city, movement spaces, buildings, sidewalks, public transportation, rides, the air, the bathrooms, the places to stay, the pace, the language,the cost, the crowds, the doors, the people who will be there and so so so much more.

Would you like to be connected to a network of crips and our allies/comrades who are working together to create collective access?

What is collective access?
  Collective Access is access that we intentionally create collectively, instead of individually.  Most of the time, access is placed on the individual who needs it.  It is up to you to figure out your own access, or sometimes, up to you and your care giver, personal attendant (PA) or random friend.  Access is rarely weaved into a collective commitment and way of being; it is isolated and relegated to an after thought (much like disabled people).

Access is complex.  It is more than just having a ramp or getting disabled folks/crips into the meeting.  Access is a constant process that doesn’t stop.  It is hard and even when you have help, it can be impossible to figure out alone.

We are working to create mutual aid between crips and beyond!  We try and work from an anti-capitalist framework. This framework is a big part of what holds us together. Last year, we shared food and resources, we found last-minute housing for each other, some of us fronted money for food and some of us who had long-distance phone plans made phone calls.

Things we are thinking about as possibilities for collective access in Detroit:

  • collective eating and food gathering. having a central accessible place where we eat together.  This space could also be kid friendly to help provide mutual aid for parents and their children.  We may go on joint food runs to the grocery store or to pick up food and bring it back.
  • collectivizing rides–pooling transportation for those who need it.  helping to coordinate rides to and from places.
  • sharing information/communication. helping us be in touch to share information (about access, ableism that is happening, workshops, resources, etc.), connect and provide a working network of crips through out the AMC.

The Network: We imagine that there will be pockets of planned access happening.  We cannot anticipate or meet everyone’s medical or access needs and we are sure that for a lot of you, you have your PAs (personal care attendants), folks who you feel comfortable with and trust already lined up.  Our hope is to create a network that can connect these access pockets together. We hope we can help each other and share resources:  you can’t walk long distance, but i can speed in my chair down to the end of the block and get food; i can’t read, but you can, so you help me find my workshop in the schedule; you can help make calls to organize the food gathering and eating, while i carry the food up into the room.  We hope that together we can create a culture of collective access.

A Note on “Pods”…
We figure that most disabled folk who are coming to Detroit will have some kind of access plan in place, whether it’s with a PA, friend(s), care-giver, etc. Most folks will be coming to Detroit with/in a pod.  So, our work will be to try and connect these pods together, since we totally acknowledge that most access is done through relationships and it is really important for folks to feel comfortable with the folks who are helping them with access AND because we can’t possibly anticipate nor do we have the capacity to meet everyone’s access and medical needs.

If you’re coming alone and not in a pod, but still want to be part of this – don’t worry!  Email us and let us know your needs and what you can offer!  Let’s work together!

We are still working on this process and trying different things out! Would you like to join us in practicing what this could look like?  Do you have ideas?  Are you an ally/comrade who wants to help out or be on call?

Please email creatingcollectiveaccess[at]gmail[dot]com with the following info so we can get you on a contact list!

  1. Your name (and your pod members’ names, if you are in a pod)
  2. Your contact info, including e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers (and of course, your pod members’ as well)
  3. Access needs. What kinds of things might you need with regards to access? What things can you offer? For example, “there are three of us: I am disabled, my PA and my friend are also disabled. We will have one van and one disabled parking permit. I have access to a credit card that I can front. I am great at coordinating folks. My PA is an ASL interpreter. We will definitely need help getting to and from our community housing to the building where the workshops are. We all need help lifting/carrying heavy things.”
  4. A pod name, if you have one!

Please also check out the Healing Justice Practice Space at the AMC, with over 25, all free, healers practicing from a liberatory framework, and the Disability Justice Track:


The CCA crew

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:

Register for the Allied Media Conference:

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility — San Francisco, CA

Sins Invalid: An Unshamed Claim to Beauty in the Face of Invisibility

April 8-10, 2011

Z Space (formerly Theater Artaud)
450 Florida St.
San Francisco, CA

Sins Invalid is a performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, centralizing artists of color and queer and gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized.  Sins Invalid celebrates the power of embodiment & sexuality, stripping taboos off sexuality and disability to offer a vision of beauty that includes all bodies and communities.

Knotting Stories Over Time and Geography is best captured in the words of artist performer Aurora Levins Morales:

“Our history is in our bodies—what we do to breathe, how we move, the sounds we make, our myriad shapes, our wild gestures, far outside the boundaries of what’s expected, the knowledge bound into our bones, our trembling muscles, our laboring lungs—like secret seeds tied into the hair of our stolen ancestors, we carry it everywhere.  Our stories erupt in the dances we invent, in the pleasure rubbed from our bodies like medicine from crushed leaves, spicy, astringent, sweet… Listen with your body. Let your body speak.”

2011 artists include:
Aurora Levins Morales
Antoine Hunter
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Ellery Russian
Nomy Lamm
Alex Cafarelli
Juba Kalamka
Leroy F. Moore Jr.
Patty Berne
Todd Herman
seeley quest
Maria Palacios
Ralph Dickinson
Ryon Gesink

To celebrate the 5th anniversary, we are offering a visual art installation of the same theme in the lobby!

8pm Friday April 8th, 2011
8pm Saturday April 9th, 2011 (Audio Described; ASL interpreted by Stage Hands)
7pm Sunday April 10th, 2011

Tickets are $16 – $25, though no one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Tickets are selling – buy your soon! (

The venue is wheelchair accessible.  In solidarity with loved ones and community members who are chemically injured and would like to attend the show, please refrain from using perfume, cologne and other scented products.  Although we cannot guarantee a completely scent-free space, there will be scent free seating all three performances.

Supported by the generosity of the Aepoch Fund, the San Francisco Arts Commission, the Community Foundation (Boulder), the Carpenter Foundation, the Horizons Foundation, and the Left Tilt Fund.

Conceived and led by disabled people of color, we develop and present performance work where normative paradigms of “sexy” are challenged, offering instead a vision of beauty and sexuality inclusive of all individuals and communities.

Sins Invalid recognizes that we will be liberated as whole beings  as disabled/as queer/as brown/as black/as genderqueer/as female or male bodied  as we are far greater whole than partitioned.  We recognize that our allies emerge from many communities and that demographic identity alone does not determine ones commitment to liberation.

Sins Invalid believes in social and economic justice for all people with disabilities  in lockdowns, in shelters, on the streets, visibly disabled, invisibly disabled, sensory minority, environmentally injured, psychiatric survivors  moving beyond individual legal rights to collective human rights.

Our stories, imbedded in analysis, offer paths from identity politics to unity amongst all oppressed people, laying a foundation for a collective claim of liberation and beauty.

Please Note: Show contains explicit content

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Reflections from Detroit: Reflections after the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the AMC

[tweetmeme source= ‘yourtwittername’ only_single=false]Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, the 2010 INCITE! National Collective describes the ways in which the Allied Media Conference and INCITE! have mutually transformed each other.

Reflections after the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the AMC, by the 2010 INCITE! National Collective

For the past four years, INCITE! has sponsored a track at the Allied Media Conference, highlighting and innovating media strategies for ending violence against women of color, including trans and genderqueer people of color.  The first track, held in 2007, captured momentum coming from multiple directions: anti-violence organizers using media in increasingly innovative ways, radical women of color media-makers using the Internet to build a community that had never existed before online, and the independent media movement, as a whole, developing new practices for how to use media as an organizing strategy.

At the Color of Violence 3 Conference in New Orleans in 2005, INCITE! launched a one day Media Justice Institute, organized by tammy ko Robinson in collaboration with grassroots media projects.  Media workshops at COV 3 showed how women of color were using micro-radio, independent publishing and other media strategies as a part of anti-violence work. At the 2006 Allied Media Conference, in Bowling Green, OH, a caucus led by blogger Brownfemipower was a critical meeting point for a growing network of radical women of color bloggers.  At the same time, the Allied Media Conference was in the process of moving to Detroit and focusing on media-based organizing for social justice.

In early 2007, Brownfemipower, Nadia Abou-Karr and Jenny Lee, three women of color media-makers in Southeast Michigan, wrote a proposal to the INCITE! National Collective, asking if they would sponsor a track at the AMC.  Here is an excerpt from that original proposal:

As radical women of color feminists, grassroots organizers and media workers we are anxious to see the worlds of women of color-led anti-violence work and media justice intersect. We are organizing a track of workshops and panels at this year’s AMC that will focus on the media justice work of radical women of color.

The goals of this track are to:
  1. Highlight the innovative ways in which radical women of color are using media to organize their communities;
  2. Provide hands-on trainings in media-production skills by women of color on everything from zine-making to blogging to oral history, contextualizing these skills within a framework of women of color organizing;
  3. Create a space where women of color media-makers, organizers and educators can meet to build stronger connections between their work;
  4. Engage with critical questions around media strategies and visions for movement building, such as:
  • How can media technologies be utilized/challenged in a way to more readily meet the needs of women of color organizers?
  • What are the difficulties/realities of why women of color are not utilizing different media technologies already?
  • Is it possible to merge radical women of color based print media with radical women of color based online media? How could this merge be accomplished?
  • What kind of media do we need to end violence against women of color?

Since 2007, SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective, Cyberquilting Experiment and To Tell You the Truth have been essential co-organizers of the track. Nadia Abou-Karr coordinated the track from 2007 to 2009.  Dozens of bloggers, organizers, artists, and other women of color (including trans & gender non-conforming folks and those who identify as queer, disabled, young, working class, mothers, people in the sex trade, students, and survivors of violence) contributed to the growth of the track since 2007.

The AMC supported the success and the growth of the track by providing infrastructural support.  This included paid staff organizers for the track during the first two years, organizing conference logistics and deeply listening to and processing the feedback from the track year after year.

The impact of the track on INCITE! and on the AMC has been mutually profound.  These two statements, from the closing remarks of Detroit activist, Grace Lee Boggs at AMC2008, and INCITE! co-founder Andrea Smith at AMC2009, reflect the shared learning that has taken place over the past four years.

I was especially  moved by the video of  Sista II Sista [an INCITE! affiliate] that was shown during Friday night’s opening ceremony. These are people in a community, living together like family, taking care of children and of elders, dealing with each other and with conflict in new ways, not out of anger at injustice but from love for one another and for our communities. Not building power over others but empowering one another.
— Grace Lee Boggs, AMC2008 Closing Ceremony
One of the main things I’ve learned from this conference is that organizing itself is a work of art. …We need to build a revolution that gives to us as much as we give to it – that’s sustainable in the long-term. We also need to create a beautiful revolution. When we start to create communities that are beautiful, we start to rethink the way we see ourselves. …What creating a beautiful revolution means, is not just organizing people who have the title “artist” but recognizing the artist within us all, because what we are doing is creating a world that we can’t even fully imagine…and that’s why we need artistic work: to unleash our political imaginary.
— Andrea Smith, AMC2009 Closing Ceremony

The poem,“Archeology of Freedom,” written by Alexis Pauline Gumbs and performed collectively by organizers of the INCITE! track at the 2008 AMC, which ends with the lines, “We are ready now / We are ready now / We are ready / for now,” inspired the vision and overall theme for the 2009 AMC.

The collective, facilitative leadership practiced by many of the chapters and affiliates of the INCITE! network has inspired and influenced the organizing model of the Allied Media Conference. The AMC staff collective facilitates the organizing of the conference, rather than directs it. They support participants to organize tracks that are embedded within a year round organizing process, that build capacity through grassroots fundraising, and that reflect an intersectional analysis.  We’ve seen INCITE!’s analysis of gendered violence and other forms of intersectionality applied in countless AMC workshops –  from the queer, disabled people of color zine-making workshops, to discussions about youth-led responses to the drop-out crisis in Detroit, to panels about the future of the Internet.  It is also applied in the Allied Media Projects Network Principles.

INCITE!’s participation in the AMC led to the creation of the INCITE! Media Justice Task Force in 2008, which later became the INCITE! Media and Communications Working Group. This group is dedicated to creating better tools for cross-network information-sharing and collaboration within INCITE!  Through caucuses at the 2010 AMC, the Working Group is now partnering with the women of color technology project, Pixelpowrrr to design an interactive, Drupal website for the INCITE! Network.

The AMC has been a space for INCITE! chapters and affiliates to showcase their work and build skills that deepen their organizing back home.  The Young Women’s Empowerment Project came to the AMC for the first time in 2008 to lead a zine-making workshop.  They began incorporating more media-based organizing into their work and have returned to lead workshops every year since then – sharing how they used participatory action research, as young women impacted by the sex trade and street economies, to document experiences of resistance and resilience.  Then they showed how you could use a video game to express the findings of that research and how they use those tactics to support their organizing for transformative justice.

Panel discussions such as “Media Coverage and Grassroots Organizing: The Jena Six and New Jersey Four From the Inside”  at the 2008 AMC broke open a critical dialogue about how gender and sexuality impacted media coverage and national mobilization around these two stories of violence. INCITE!, FIERCE, and the Bay Area NJ4 Solidarity Committee was invited by Left Turn Magazine to continue the conversation in a public forum by collaborating on an article later that year.  The panel also made the incredible online anti-violence campaigns of women of color organizations, such as Be Bold Be Red, visible to an even broader audience.

Many other ideas seeded in the INCITE! Track have flourished post-AMC on numerous blogs and in the pages of Make/Shift Magazine.  Since its first issue, Make/Shift has been a place where poets, journalists and artists involved with the INCITE! Track report-back and expand upon critical conversations that happened at the AMC.  In particular, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, BrownfemiPower, Nadia Abou-Karr, Lisa Factora-Borchers, Adele Nieves, E. Rose Sims, Noemi Martinez, Maegan La Mala, BlackAmazon, Fabiola Sandoval and Jess Hoffman have been made important contributions.

Strategy sessions between INCITE!, Cyberquilting and SPEAK! Women of Color Media Collective have led to new definitions of media and new ways of thinking about how to use media in our work for liberation.  From the 2008 “Definition of Radical Women of Color Media:”

Our media expands possibilities and incites dialog. It heals, inspires, builds confidence and radical love. We use media to time-travel, to communicate past barriers, to be heard and to share survival strategies. When we come together we make zines, tell truths, start blogs, record CDs and videos, come up with plans and make moves on them. We use media all year round to open up space, to consider creative solutions, and to build networks of support.

That definition provided a starting point for new projects and ongoing strategy conversations at the 2009 and 2010 AMCs.  In 2008 and 2009, The Radical Women of Color Skillshare, facilitated by the Cyberquilting Experiment, demonstrated how we can use media to “Enact Media Justice, End Gendered Violence Against People of Color, Nurture Energizing Connections Between Women of Color and Genderqueer People of Color and  Envision a New Day.” In stations all around the room, people shared their skills, from quilting to blogging to burlesque.  That model of skill-sharing has since been replicated in other organizing spaces within the AMC and beyond.

Art by Nadia Abou-Karr, 2009

The INCITE! Track has played an important role in making the AMC a more accessible space for mothers and other caregivers.  The AMC has gone from not having childcare, to having childcare, to having a kids track, to providing mini-grants for fundraising projects that support mothers attending the AMC. This was possible because of Nadia’s work as the INCITE! Track Coordinator, Katie Khul and Sicily McRaven, as childcare and Kids Track coordinators, the SPEAK Women of Color Media Collective and all of the childcare volunteers, parents and kids who participate year after year.   Beyond making sure that mothers and kids can simply attend the AMC, the organizers and participants of the INCITE! Track have nurtured an inter-generational culture within the entire AMC, demonstrating how essential the contributions of kids, parents and caregivers are.   This year, through a partnership with To Tell You The Truth, the INCITE! Track included space for focused skill-sharing and strategizing between mamaz, m/others and community caregivers.

INCITE!s work at the AMC over the years has helped cultivate the soil of the AMC, so that other tracks could take root and grow there. The Art and Practice of Disability Justice track, coordinated by Sins Invalid and the National Youth Leadership Network in 2010, grew in part out of the disabled women of color media-maker caucuses within the INCITE! track at past AMCs.  The Creating Safe Communities track, coordinated by STOP, Revolution Starts at Home, Data Center, Visions to Peace Project and Durham Harm Free Zone Project, thrived within the 2010 AMC because of the space that the INCITE! track has nurtured there.

The INCITE! Track continues to deepen roots within the AMC, changing it and being changed by it.  We look forward to how the track will continue to grow, expanding our capacity to use media to end violence against our communities, to incite dialogue, heal and inspire, to build confidence and radical love.

We acknowledge that this is one account of our collective history, told through recorded events. There is also a history in the countless personal interactions, the way people have challenged themselves and each other to think differently, to apply their analysis in new ways, talking over meals or late into the night, encouraging each other to take the often frightening step of trying to realize a vision, to construct rather than destruct.  Help us record those other histories by sharing your memories and reflections in the comments section below.

The 2010 INCITE! National Collective includes Piya Chatterjee, Chela Delgado, Emi Kane, Jenny Lee, Karla Chueh-Mejia, Cara Page, & Kiri Sailiata

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Reflections from Detroit: Reflections On An Opening: Disability Justice and Creating Collective Access in Detroit

[tweetmeme source= ‘yourtwittername’ only_single=false]Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Mia Mingus reflects on the process of putting disability justice into practice at the Allied Media Conference & the US Social Forum.

Reflections On An Opening: Disability Justice and Creating Collective Access in Detroit, by Mia Mingus

This summer, Detroit was an opening for me.  And not just because it was the first time that there was a Disability Justice track at the Allied Media Conference (AMC) or because of any workshop or plenary I attended.  Detroit was an opening for me because I got to spend over a week creating collective access with a group of twenty-three disabled folks and our non-disabled comrades.  I got to spend eight days getting a glimpse into a different world and experiencing a kind of interdependency that let me loosen my shoulders; that let me breathe.

Creating Collective Access (CCA) was about re-thinking how we, as disabled and chronically ill people, engage in movement spaces.  This was about imagining something more and knowing that we had to do it for ourselves because it is so rare for movement spaces to ever consider disability and access in ways that go beyond logistics; in ways that challenge the ableist culture of our work.  This was about being very clear that we wanted to shift the individualized and independent understanding of access and queer it and color it interdependent.  This was about building crip solidarity.  We wanted to create a liberated space.  We would pool our resources: body and ability, financial, material and more.  We would not just think about disability as separate from class, age, race, queerness, family, children, gender, citizenship, violence, but we would understand it as intimately connected.  We would think, not just about “conference and workshop time,” but we would also think about social time and what social spaces were accessible and how we would make sure no one was isolated or left out.  Because in our movements much of the relationship building, socializing and bonding is done in very inaccessible ways in very inaccessible places—we know this all too well.

It all started with need.   About a month before the AMC, access was the number one thing on our minds.  What will we do?  How will we get to food and afford enough personal attendants to come with us?  Who will push wheelchairs?  How much walking will there be?  Who will help you go to the bathroom?  How will we manage the pain, the schedule, and the pace?  Where will we stay and will it be accessible (the majority of community housing just wasn’t an option)?  How much will access cost?

We were hit with the reality of having to be in another city for an extended period of time, under intense conditions; the same intense conditions that frame most conferences.  We knew it would be long days, stretching into late nights.  We knew everyone would be stretched thin and we knew that meant something totally different for us.  We knew we could make it through, by squeezing ourselves, as we’ve done before, into ableist practices of how bodies should function and perform, but we also knew what that would mean for our bodies (and our hearts) while it was happening and once it was all done.  We wanted to be able to stay in our bodies as much as possible, take care of our disabled selves, and be part of the community that was coming together for the AMC and the USSF.  We wanted to be whole and connected to ourselves, each other and other activists and organizers—was this possible?

We started to dream: how could we use this as a way to build community, put disability justice into practice and deepen our understanding and analysis of what it means to do this work together?  What if we invited other crips to do this with us—crips who were coming to the AMC and were probably agonizing over the very same things?  What if we did community care in a way that made space for many different kinds of bodies?  What if we made a commitment to each other to move together and centered our access and care around queer and trans crips of color?  What if we tried to create the kind of world we want to live in?  We do it in our disability justice work, so why not try and create it for the time we’re in Detroit?  CCA began as a hope and a dream to make what we need.  CCA is a reflection of the courage, resiliency, and creativity that disabled folks have in the face of an inaccessible and ableist world.

The bottom line was we needed each other.  Interdependency is not a choice.  We were not going to be able to get through the AMC and traveling to another city without each other.  We didn’t know what the environment would be like, how many people would be there and what kind of access needs would arise on-the-spot, as they always do.  We would be building the plane as we flew it.  The thought of thousands of social justice folks from the left converging at the USSF was an anxiety-provoking access nightmare, in and of itself.   But we knew if we had each other, we would be okay.  Together, the three of us, three queer crip women of color, got to work.

We drafted and put out a call to other disabled folks who were coming to Detroit and who wanted to be part of a community-led access effort.  We made a blog, explaining what we were trying to do and our vision.  We were clear that this was interdependent and we invited people to be part of creating this with us.  Leah worked to get scent free information out to folks and create a scent free room, while Stacey and I worked on a basic structure for access and communication. We scrambled with three weeks to go and came up with a model of pods.  We knew the disabled people who were coming would already have some type of access plan in place and we knew it would be with people they trusted and had relationships with.  Together, each grouping formed a pod and our goal was to connect the pods to each other.  We asked people to tell us about their pod’s access needs and what they could offer and contribute.  It was broad.  Some people were able to walk and get food, others were better at coordinating; some people had access to credit cards and others would need cash to be available; some people had personal attendants or able bodied friends/family members with them who could also help with getting food, driving and pushing wheel chairs.

I had done collective access before, but with three people, including myself; or for a disability justice meeting or when traveling with one other disabled comrade.  I had never done anything like this before with twenty-plus people, half of whom, I had never met before, on our way to a city that many of us had never been to, all in a container of shifting how we understood access, past just survival.  This time, we were all jumping together.  And we flew.

We called ourselves the Pod People and we worked seamlessly together with great affection and enjoyment.  It was truly a collective effort, centered around a simple value of care.  Everyone pitched in getting food, helping to serve food, audio describing, reaching, pushing, texting, calling, asking, offering.  We schemed together to get more accessible rooms opened for us in the dorms, access to a refrigerator and the accessible shower key from the dorm staff.  Everyday, we had lunch and dinner together, no one had to worry about not being able to eat because they couldn’t get into a restaurant, couldn’t get to the grocery store or couldn’t walk far enough.  And no one had to worry about being isolated while they were eating, as often happens to disabled people when they are in movement spaces.

When there were social events, we all talked about it and had two groups, the folks who wanted to go and the folks who wanted to stay in; we made sure no one was left out and checked in about access all the time.  We stayed up the first night after dinner talking about disability and race and queerness and invisible disabilities and coming out as disabled and bodies and gender and geographic location and our struggle to find community.  Some people were just starting to identify as disabled, having never called themselves “disabled” out loud before.  Others had been doing disability justice work for years and still others had been doing this work for decades.  A lot of us were trans, gender queer and gender non-conforming, most of us were women of color and almost all of us were queer.  We formed an almost all disabled space that centered all of who we were.  Amazing.

One of the most important pieces of CCA for me was a continued commitment to move together as crips and comrades.  Every time I attempt to move through the world with other disabled folks, I am always so astounded at how hard it is for disabled people to stay together, literally.  I watch how the world separates, isolates and divides us, so that we cannot move together.  I watch how it is constructed for us to move with non-disabled people, instead of each other; and how it discourages folks with different disabilities from moving together.  Trying to move with a group of disabled people with different disabilities is very hard, takes enormous amounts of problem-solving, energy and creative solutions.  To me, one of the most powerful opportunities of CCA was another chance to figure out how we can stay together and what it would take to create a world where we understand the weight of what “access” means.  So that when I say something is inaccessible, you don’t just think “there’s no ramp” or “there are no places to sit” or “there’s no close, accessible, free parking.”  Instead, you feel. You feel the weight of what inaccessibility means to us.  You understand inaccessibility to mean isolation, shame, exclusion, disappointment, loneliness, anger, privilege, sadness, loss of community and disconnection.  For eight days, it was amazing to be with people who know what “accessibility” means; who know and feel the weight of it; and who are working to transform it.

I learned so much and was rejuvenated from my time with the pod people.  Disability requires us to re-think “independence” and how we engage in movement spaces, down to how we think, move and communicate, down to our very bones.  As movements committed to social and economic justice, where are the disabled people in our communities, organizations, bases, and movements?  Are they isolated?  How are we re-imagining access in ways that include, but are not limited to disability; that encompass class, language, gender, mamas, parents and children?  What would access beyond logistics look and feel like?  Access that allows people to not just be included, but maintain their dignity and connection to their communities?  How do we care for each other in ways that allow us to stay connected to our bodies and stay connected to each other in order to build the kind of world that can care for us all?  We are learning and trying and learning and practicing and learning again.

With my deepest gratitude to the pod people: I will forever be changed.

Mia Mingus

Mia Mingus is a queer physically disabled woman of color, Korean American transracial and transnational adoptee, living in Atlanta, Georgia, raised in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and born in Korea.  Through her work on disability justice, race, reproductive justice, gender, queer liberation, transformative justice, transracial and transnational adoption, multiple oppressed identities and multi-issue politics; she recognizes the urgency and barriers for oppressed communities to work together and build alliances for liberation.  Though her work for liberation changes and evolves, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence.  Mia blogs at Leaving Evidence.

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Language & Action – 8/21/10

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


Race, beauty, disability, and symbolism:

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

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

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


Legislation to address violence against Native women is signed:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Economic justice in LGBT movement building

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

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

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


A couple of exciting calls for submissions:

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

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

Deadline is September 10, 2010.

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

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

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

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Language & Action

[tweetmeme source= ‘yourtwittername’ only_single=false]Language & Action is a new weekend feature where we spotlight some of the fantastic analysis, news, & performance from around the blogosphere that shine a light on critical ideas and action addressing violence against women of color.  The title is borrowed from Audre Lorde’s brilliant 1977 talk, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”

If you have suggestions for things to include, please send us an e-mail at or float it in the comment section!


YWEP gathering info about Bad Encounters:

Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) is collecting important info from youth in Chicago who have had crappy encounters with social services, hospitals, police, shelters, etc:

Are you having a bad experience getting help from a social service, police, hospital, shelter or some where else? Do you think this is because you are involved in the sex trade, homeless or Lesbian Gay Bisexual or Transgender or another reason- like using drugs or being involved in the street economy?

If you want to report this bad experience and help other youth in your community

Spread the word!!!

For more information about this project, check out this page.


Juarez-inspired makeup?

Companies use Juarez as inspiration for makeup:

Julianne Hing at Colorlines has a great write-up on MAC and Rodarte’s new cosmetic line that was inspired by the makeup designers’ trip to Juarez, Mexico, a town that has seen thousands of women murdered or disappeared.  She writes:

It seems the designers took a recent trip to the border, checking out towns from El Paso to Marfa, Texas. They came back with a fascination with Juarez in particular, and with life in the post-NAFTA maquilas that were set up to help the city become a free-trade zone. When designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy unveiled their ready-to-wear F/W 2010 in February, they said that they had been inspired by the lines of women workers who’d make their way to factory jobs in the middle of the night. Romantic, huh?

Of course, real life in Juarez, which has the distinction of being the world’s deadliest city, is much less so. By the end of July, Juarez is set to log 6,000 murders this year alone. The city is home to hundreds of factories owned by multinational corporations, and has become a bloody warzone where Mexico’s drug wars are being fought. For the last few years the violence has resulted in so many thousands of unsolved deaths, many of those killed have been women workers who were traveling to and from their jobs in Juarez’s factories.

The story includes the companies’ apologies and Hing follows up with an interview with beauty bloggers who broke this story.


African women and children denied housing rights and brutally attacked by police in Paris:

After watching this horrific video of African immigrant women and children being brutally attacked by police in Paris because they were negotiating for housing rights, La Macha at VivirLatino discusses the level of violence the state is willing to inflict on immigrant women and children in order to protect its borders.  She writes:

Are the protection of borders worth this? And please don’t tell me that this was the mother’s fault. I know that all the anti-immigrant people will be here soon to tell me that it’s their fault, and I can handle that. But if any supposed “ally” says “what were they thinking?” I have a few suggestions. First, sit for a moment and open yourself up to the humanity of these women and the humanity of their children. Know what it feels like to feel terror and confusion and a fear you can’t breathe through. Then take a moment to consider that even when the government offers you something, you, a black immigrant mother that may or may not be legal, may actually have considerable reason to not trust that government.


Intersectional analysis of Israeli “rape by deception” case:

brownfemipower at Flip Flopping Joy analyzes the recent Israeli case in which a Palestinian man was accused and found guilty of “rape by deception” after having sex with a Jewish woman who thought he was also Jewish.  She asks, “What vested interest does an apartheid regime have in criminalizing sex between classes?” and writes:

When we don’t understand that a woman’s body under such a system is *contested* and even often looked at as a *resource* for the nation/state, we stand a very good chance of grossly misunderstanding what particular situations mean.


Frida Kahlo: “The broken column (self-portrait)”

Recognizing each other as queer disabled women of color:

In tribute to Frida Kahlo, Mia Mingus at Leaving Evidence reflects on the power of recognition among queer disabled women of color.  She writes:

And even when we are visible as disabled queer women of color, sometimes we don’t even recognize each other.  We don’t recognize each other because we’re not taught how to do it; because we’re taught how to be afraid of each other.  Because we are taught how to not recognize each other more readily than we are taught how to find each other.  Where are we? How do we find each other? And how do we do the work to recognize each other and to be recognizable to each other?  Sometimes, as is so often the case with queerness (and disability), I see you, but I don’t know if you see me.  I feel this acutely with adoptees.  We share space together, but often times we don’t know how to recognize each other.  We look right through one another, or avoid each other as if we were taught some kind of secret script.

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