New Zine: Surviving the Witch-Hunt: Battle Notes from Portland’s 82nd Avenue, 2007-2010

[tweetmeme source= ‘yourtwittername’ only_single=false]Emi Koyama of released a new zine entitled, Surviving the Witch-Hunt: Battle Notes from Portland’s 82nd Avenue, 2007-2010.  Here’s the introduction:

Surviving the Witch-Hunt

This story starts in September 2007, when City of Portland abolished controversial Drug Free Zone and Prostitution Free Zone.  These “zones” authorized police to issue “exclusion” orders for anyone who is suspected of drug- or prostitution-related activity without conviction, and arrest those who violate the orders of criminal trespass.

Because these “zones” unfairly targeted certain groups of people based on their race, class and gender, many people protested DFZ/PFZ over the years.  So it was great news when the City finally recognized them for what they were, violation of our civil rights and liberties, and dropped the whole thing.

Ever since, however, neighbours in the previously PFZ areas — especially along NE/SE 82nd Avenue — complained about the increased level of street prostitution and other crimes they associate with it, and how they made their neighbourhood unsafe (and hurt their property values — which probably had more to do with the subprime lending crisis than with the end of PFZ).

The ensuing hysteria have led to the formation of several neighbourhood groups that either seek reinstatement of PFZ and/or other strategies to contain the prostitution “problem.”  Some of these groups are more reasonable than others, but the whole conversation (neighbourhoods, police, city council, media) focused on solutions that center on how police can reduce prostitution.  Tension rose high, and hostile, even hateful rhetoric were exchanged.

At the same time, anti-prostitution feminists entered the discussion, arguing that the problem of prostitution should be solved by cracking down on minor sex trafficking and educating johns how prostitution harms women and children to reduce demand for sexual services.  They use intellectually dishonest arguments to intentionally conflate prostitution and trafficking, which also led to the increased demand for heavy-handed police intervention to “rescue” women and girls (by arresting and imprisoning them).

This booklet compiles some of my writing during this witch-hunt along Portland’s 82nd Avenue, which is just several blocks away from where I live.  Throughout the debate, I have always maintained that the heightened situation on 82nd Avenue is not a law enforcement issue, but a symptom of social and economic injustices in our society.

I also include in this booklet a letter I received from a woman who was charged with the crime of murder for defending herself against an attacker (a pimp who attempted to force her to work for him).  Because she was a 19-year old woman who had worked on 82nd Avenue, instead of a 19-year old attending college, she was demonised by our “concerned” neighbours as a merciless killer.

The zine is a fierce challenge to criminalization and scapegoating as institutional responses to sex work.  Emi illustrates the importance of organizing for economic, housing, and social justice in the struggle to address the violence against people working in the sex trade.

Purchase online for $5, or preview an excerpt!

After Emi released the zine, she learned that, because of the organizing and advocacy of the Sex Workers Outreach Coalition, the City of Portland scrapped a plan to build a “10 bed in-patient rehabilitative housing” facility for women leaving prostitution and is instead giving women financial and other support so they can live in the community.  More on that development in housing justice here.

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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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