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Transgender Day of Remembrance: Living into Solidarity

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| Transgender Day of Remembrance: Living into Solidarity Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 20, 2014

On the eve of Trans Day of Remembrance 2014, Standing on the Side of Love’s Campaign Coordinator Nora Rasman sat down with Lourdes Ashley Hunter, co-founder and National Director of Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC) to talk about action, solidarity, healing and more. To see resources as you reflect and take action for Transgender Day of Remembrance click here.

Tell us about yourself. Who is Lourdes Ashley Hunter?

Well, just a little.  I am originally from Detroit, MI and recently relocated to Washington D.C. from NYC where I spent 12 years working in grassroots community organizing and non-profit management.  I’m an orator, researcher, dismantler of oppressive systems.  I have a degree in Social Theory, Structure and Change with concentrations in Race, Class and Gender Studies and a MPA.   I also love to cook, watch science fiction movies and drink wine.

Tell us about Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC)

I see my role in the movement as a facilitator of revolutionary change, a  creator of braver spaces for trans and gender non-conforming people of color to leap into their leadership.   There is a scarcity of visibility in mainstream LGBT organizations that actively engage in elevating the narratives, leadership and voices of transgender and gender non-conforming People of Color.  TWOCC is in solidarity to fill that void.  

TWOCC is born out of a need for the trans community of color to heal from the physical and structural violence that we are faced with everyday.  Our formula to create the revolutionary change we seek to shift paradigms is to center healing, restoration, fellowship and action in our movement building.

On August 17, 2013, Islan Nettles, a trans woman of color was pummeled into a coma outside a police station in Harlem. She died three days later.  Even though the police pulled a young man off her bloodied body, her murderer still walks the streets.  Islan was 21 years old.  

The trans community was devastated by this brutal assault.

In response, thirteen of us came together to talk about how trans women of color are portrayed in the media, are treated in the public and how we respond to violence-both physical and structural- in our community. We gathered together with the understanding that we didn’t just need rallies and vigils and calls to action, we understood from the beginning the need for healing, restoration and fellowship and then we could move towards action.

In the past year,  we have traveled the country raising visibility for our lived experiences, connecting with our community and building our movement through rallies, workshops, keynotes, healing and leadership retreats. TWOCC is a grassroots collective and while we have a fiscal sponsor (Casa Ruby) we are grassroots funded.  Our fundraising efforts enable us to operate our leadership retreats (TWOCC Leadership Retreat in The Hamptons, #BTR14 in Pittsburgh and  #BTROhio in Columbus, Ohio)  where we funded over 40 trans people of color to come together to engage the processes needed to move our movement forward.

TWOCC is 100% volunteer led and funded.  Our goal is to continue to create pipelines and pathways for trans and gender non-conforming people of color to leap into their leadership, live unapologetically and sustain collective socio-economic growth and development.  We have established chapters in New Orleans, Ohio, New York/NJ and our national headquarters in Washington, DC.

How can people support the work of TWOCC?

There are many ways to join in solidarity with our movement.  Our goal is to create braver spaces for trans and gender non-conforming folk to live unapologetically.  We know that the government will not fund our movement.  We understand the limitations of the non-profit industrial complex that restricts organizations from really doing the work to transform the lives of the folk they hope to serve.  We have seen and experienced it.  We maintain the belief that people are NOT deliverables.

Solidarity means funding our movement.  Solidarity is also not just money.  Being in solidarity with our work is also developing an analysis that is aligned with restorative justice and a clear understanding of how structural and physical  violence in the trans community of color are inextricably linked to our socio-economic growth and development.  It’s extremely challenging to compete with large LGBT organizations for funding for our movements but we do every day.  These organizations lack trans people of color in leadership roles (some have none on staff at all) and on their boards.   How can their work be informed or intentional without representation?

TWOCC cannot survive alone.  We encourage folk to divest from large LGBT organizations who lack representation and intentionality and invest their resources in businesses and organizations that represent and are actually doing the work in our community and are led by trans people of color such as TWOCC (twocc.us) of course, Casa Ruby (Executive, Director Ruby Corado), Trans Tech Social Enterprises (CEO, Angelica Ross) and Black Star Media (Co-Founder, Dr. Kortney Zeigler). Solidarity and support shows up in many ways.  Visit our sites and get connected!

How do you define solidarity? Is there someone who has exemplified solidarity in your work?

Solidarity is not a retweet, a like or share on facebook.  Solidarity is re-occurring intentional sustainable acts of service. It is time that we have Courageous Conversations in our communities that acknowledges the complicity and lack of action and response for Black Trans Lives.  The same year that our nation celebrates the 45th anniversary of The Stonewall Rebellion, 11 Trans Women of Color were brutally murdered in a 5 month span in this country with no national outrage.  For our collective liberation, it is imperative that we acknowledge how structural violence manifests in all our lives.  It connects us. In order to begin to heal and work in tandem to dismantle these systems whose sole purpose is to destroy us and have us destroy each other, we must acknowledge and affirm our truths.  An Act of Violence against one of us is an Act of Violence against all of us.  Solidarity is not fighting this battle alone.  Solidarity is not having to fight at all.

There are so many people who have been instrumental and who stand in solidarity with our movement. My comrade Alok Vaid-Menon is a phenomenal model of what solidarity looks like for me personally and professionally. The way they articulate how structural oppression is rooted in every aspect of our lives causes my heart to leap! Alok has been instrumental in uplifting the narratives and work of TWOCC and all trans and gender non-conforming people of color.  Solidarity looks like- using your access to resources to create space for others to thrive unapologetically in their truth.  Leveraging your access to create and make space.  I want to take this moment to honor the leadership and presence of Alok Menon and DarkMatter.

What does it look and feel like to live unapologetically in one’s truth?

Living unapologetically is having vision beyond your current circumstances.  Black trans people live in extreme poverty with 34% reporting an income less than $10,000 a year.  41% of black trans people have experienced homelessness so simply waking up is a revolutionary act.  Living unapologetically is knowing that everyday something will try to kill you but you still have to push it through.

It is euphoric and majestic. It’s being aware of your surroundings and letting go of the things that would deter your destiny.  No matter what, knowing where your power comes from and where your strength comes from.   Knowing that your existence is greater than anything anyone can define. We all have power. There are so many types of power- power that we each have.  We must use our power everyday as we navigate systems of oppression.

How do you remember, honor and celebrate people who are with us- both in body and spirit?

Healing is at the center of my work. Every moment is an opportunity to heal. I meditate, I have several altars in my home. I was raised in and by the church, my mother is a pastor, and healing is part of my everyday ritual.

I tend to surround myself with other healers so even when I’m not practicing, I know someone is. I know when I acknowledge how oppression manifests itself, I am practicing healing. We are impacted by systems designed to crush us so its good to always be in a place of healing.

Click here to learn more about the pressing, healing and revolutionary work of Trans Women of Color Collective today!

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For our veterans

1 Comment | Share On Facebook| For our veterans Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 10, 2014

As a Unitarian Universalist Minister who serves as an Army Reserve chaplain, I have seen the wounds that our veterans carry, both physical and spiritual. I myself struggle with chronic pain from a training injury I suffered as an enlisted soldier before I became a chaplain. The peacetime injury that I experienced pales in comparison to the wounds that many veterans returned home with from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a nation, we sent these young women and men off to war. It is our responsibility to do all in our power to support them now that they are home.

In recognition of Veterans Day, I ask you to join me in protecting the rights of people, including veterans and many others, who are living with disabilities. Call Sen. Harry Reid, the U.S. Senate majority leader, at 202-224-2158. Ask him to bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

When you call, press 2 to leave a short message. All you need to say in your message is the following:

“Hi, I’m [name] from [state]. I’m calling to urge Senator Reid to schedule a floor vote for the disability treaty before the end of this congressional session.”

People throughout the world who live with disabilities often experience stigma, marginalization, and discrimination. CRPD would provide greater legal protections to people with disabilities — including veterans — to ensure such things as access to public transportation, education, employment, housing, and safe drinking water and sanitation. Americans with disabilities would also benefit by being able to travel, study, and work overseas.

CRPD is modeled on the Americans with Disabilities Act, but until the United States ratifies the treaty, our country can’t fully participate in the global movement for disability rights.

Whether you agreed or not with the wars our nation chose to fight, we all still owe a duty to those who answered the call to serve. These young men and women displayed courage during their military service and have continued that bravery as they returned home to rebuild lives forever changed by the wounds they sustained. We must do our part to ensure that the rights of all of those veterans and others who live with disabilities are protected both in the United States and throughout the world.

Yours in faith,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. David Pyle

District Executive, Joseph Priestley District of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Chaplain (Captain) U.S. Army Reserve

P.S. This Veterans Day, take three minutes to protect the rights of people living with disabilities. Call Sen. Harry Reid today at 202-224-2158. Ask him to bring the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to a vote in the U.S. Senate.

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Waiting for Justice in Ferguson

No Comments | Share On Facebook| Waiting for Justice in Ferguson Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 07, 2014

People around the country are preparing for the prosecuting attorney to announce the grand jury’s decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Indications point to a grand jury announcement soon, possibly between now and Thanksgiving. An indictment is extremely unlikely, but whatever it is, whenever it is, there will be much pain and anger that will be expressed in a variety of ways.

Our deep theology as a justice-seeking people calls us to stand in solidarity with Michael Brown’s family and the people in Ferguson and around the country who have been calling for justice. We are working with local coalitions here to be part of a faithful response that will push this movement for justice forward. People are asking what they can do to help.

You can stay updated by following the local St Louis Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) facebook page, and both the national SSL website and facebook page.

We urge you to help us to show up in any of the following ways:

BEFORE THE GRAND JURY REPORT
• Seek in-depth information and perspective on the protests in St. Louis. Mainstream media has gotten a lot of things wrong, or simply paints an unfair portrait of people who are resisting racial profiling and police brutality. Read and share these stories to counter others that people are hearing.

• If you are part of a congregation and are in charge of worship, consider a different worship service and Religious Education focus for the Sunday immediately following the announcement or as soon as possible thereafter.
• Write a blog or prominent message on your congregation or personal website and social media outlets, urging people to pay attention.
• Write public statements and op-ed pieces. Check here for a tip sheet and talking points for ideas.

• Build relationships with local organizations and community-based groups working on racial justice and intersectionality

AFTER THE GRAND JURY REPORT
Join or organize a vigil in your own community. Use this opportunity to shine a spotlight on police brutality where you are. Personally reach out to others in your area to encourage their participation. This is an excellent time to bring congregations and community partners together. See Standing on the Side of Love With Ferguson page for news of vigils across the country.

  • Getting to and around in St. Louis may be difficult in the time immediately following the announcement. It will also take organizations a while to prepare actions for a national call. Please watch for information about a call to come to St. Louis.
  • Should protests arise in your area, show up in support. Follow the lead of the African American community, and check in with interfaith groups.
  • Seek non-violence training and bring a message and spirit of love. If there is not an indictment, vigils and protests can serve as a ‘People’s Indictment’ across the nation.
  • Join organizations that are monitoring police. It may require soul-searching about what you can and cannot support, but that too is important work. “We need not think alike to love alike.”
  • And finally: photograph and document everything you do. People need to see a giant splash of yellow Standing on the Side of Love shirts in both the physical and virtual worlds at this time. Post them on your website, Facebook pages, and to St. Louis SSL. If you use Twitter, use #UUwithFerguson. Send photos and stories to love@uua.org.

Justice is what love looks like in public.

In Faith,

Rev. Barbara H. Gadon, Lead Minister, Eliot Chapel, Kirkwood, MO
Rev. Thomas Perchlik, Minister, First Unitarian Church of St. Louis
Rev. Krista Taves, Minister, Emerson UU Chapel, Chesterfield, MO
Rev. Julie Taylor, Affiliated Community Minister, Emerson UU Chapel, Chesterfield, MO
Rev. Sunshine Wolfe, Interim Minister, First UU Church of Alton, Alton, IL

With thanks and appreciation to the UU Ferguson Response Team:

Taquiena Boston, Rev. Terasa Cooley, Rev. Barbara Gadon, Rev. Michael Hennon, Rev. James A. Hobart, Rev. Abhi Janamanchi, Leslie Butler MacFayden, Annette Marquis, Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, Rev. Thomas Perchlik, Rev. Meg Riley, Christopher D. Sims, Rev. Bill Sinkford, Rev. Krista Taves, Rev. Julie Taylor, Kenny Wiley, Rev. Sunshine Wolfe

 

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We are Still Fighting for Justice #GOTV

No Comments | Share On Facebook| We are Still Fighting for Justice #GOTV Share/Save/Bookmark Nov 04, 2014

This email is part of our Voting Rights Campaign blog series. Today we hear from Willie Nell Avery, from Perry County, Alabama, who is a stellar and inspiring civil rights veteran who had to fight for her right to vote in the early 1960s and today works in the Board of Registrar Office.

Interviewed by Dr. Janice Marie Johnson,  Multicultural Ministries and Leadership Director, and Annette Marquis, LGBTQ and Multicultural Programs Director from the UUA’s Multicultural Growth Witness staff team on the road with the Living Legacy Pilgrimage.

Janice Marie Johnson: Would you please just share with us a snippet of your extraordinary story, Mrs. Avery?

Mrs. Avery: Basically I start with my move to Perry County, and my husband was not a registered voter, and there were lots of other people who weren’t. And we decided that we were not really citizens until we reached that status to become registered voters. Every time the registrar’s office would open, I would go and attempt to get registered. And we had to take a test in order to become registered. And I took the test. And each time the board was open, I would go back, and they would tell me they hadn’t graded my paper. That went on for a while.

The Perry County Courthouse, Marion, Alabama

Finally I told them: if you have misplaced my test, give me another. But they knew my walk, I guess! When I would walk in they would look up and say, “well we haven’t graded yours yet”. After everybody was being turned down, we wrote letters to the Justice Department telling them the treatment we were receiving. They had a hearing in Mobile, Alabama on the case and my husband happened to be one of the persons to testify. So in June ’63 they allowed my husband to become a registered voter, followed by mine in July 1963. I never filled out another application.

I guess they thought when they allowed the two of us {to vote}, because we were involved in the case, that we would stop, that we had achieved what we wanted to do.

But we didn’t have enough people, something like less than maybe 300 voters, and knew that would not make a difference, so we just kept pursuing.

And from that time until now I’ve been involved in a lot of things.

Today it is better, and not better. We hold more positions now than ever have held. In the Courthouse where I work, I work in one office in the Board of Registrar, we have more people in positions than ever. In the Commission of Revenue, there is a black woman. The elected official in the 2nd clerk is a black woman. The first African American probate judge, happened to be a woman. In the sheriff’s dept, there is a black person. So we have that leverage now.

Click here to listen to our interview with Mrs. Willie Nell Avery

But I see another arising of slavery, where they are dividing us now and almost about to conquer. The fight is not where they will strike you with a billy club, put water on you, or put dogs on you, or spray with tear gas…

But that mentality is still here. From ‘61 up until now, we are still fighting for justice. To make sure that everyone is treated fairly. But we are still struggling, still out here there trying to make a difference in our lives.

Annette Marquis: What drives you to do this? Why is this so important to you?

Mrs. Avery: I thought all of us are created equal. I really did. I thought, that’s what the Constitution says. I don’t understand why the color of your skin has anything to do with your character. I believe if you have it, and the Lord puts it here for everybody, I should have a piece of that pie too. And I’m not satisfied if I don’t. And I won’t be satisfied.

Janice Marie Johnson: Mrs. Avery, I know you have said you will continue this fight until you take your last breath.

Mrs. Avery: That’s right!

Janice Marie Johnson: Are you ramping up the fight during this election period?

Mrs. Avery:I am. I made a statement in church today. And I’m telling people:

Go to the polls and vote!! Click here to find your polling location.

Janice Marie Johnson: Mrs. Avery, we are so grateful and you continue to inspire us. Thank you.

To learn more about our Voting Rights Campaign click here.

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On the Side of Love with Ferguson

No Comments | Share On Facebook| On the Side of Love with Ferguson Share/Save/Bookmark Oct 31, 2014

“Ferguson is not [only] about Ferguson. It is about the systematic dehumanizing of people all over America. As Unitarian Universalists, we have faith that it need not be this way. We can create a world that is accepting, fair, loving, and diverse. We know we can make a difference. Look at our work for justice throughout our history.”

- From Rev. Peter Morales Statement on Ferguson, August 20, 2014

CONGREGATION
Worship Resources

Take Action with Guidance from Groups on the Ground in Ferguson

Find Partners (See Local Chapters for National Organizations)

Organize a Vigil

Follow Reliable News Sources

Twitter follow @deray, @brownblaze, @TefPoe, @HandsUpUnited, @stackizshort, @bdoulaoblongata, @MillennialAU, @LostVoices14, @OBS_StL, @shaunking, @Nettaaaaaaaa, @UnrulyRev, @KristaTaves, @BarbaraGadon as sources of in-depth information and insight beyond mainstream media.

Speak Out through Op-Eds, Letters to the Editor & More

PARTNERSHIP

Ongoing Education and Action Resources

SSL Blogs & Images with Ferguson and UUA Blogs/Statements/News

 

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