UBUNTU is Women of Color and Survivor-led. This means that we emphasize people most affected by sexual violence as public representatives of the group (i.e., media, mobilizations, public meetings, events, etc.), and in the group’s internal structure and processes (membership/composition, roles, and decision-making). This is our way of reclaiming power. The name UBUNTU reflects a commitment to a traditional sub-Saharan African concept of the same name, which roughly translated means “I am because we are”.
We have joined together through our rage, our pain, and our hope to generate strategies and actions that prevent, disrupt, transform and heal sexual violence. We are committed to challenging oppression in all forms because we recognize that none of us is free until we all are. We are committed to envisioning a just and loving world. Our goals are three-fold:
1. To facilitate a broad, community-driven demand for justice for the Survivor of the March 13, 2006 rape.
2. To facilitate dialogue, education, support, and accountability for survivors of sexual violence.
3. To facilitate a systemic transformation of our communities until the day that sexual violence does not occur.
This is an evolving document that is open to revision as the needs of the community and organization change.
We center ourselves in work to end sexual violence because we believe it is important enough to stand on its own as an area of focus. Our survival demands this. However, we know that the daily violence of racism/white supremacy, sexism/transphobia/patriarchy, classism/capitalism, and homophobia/heterosexism are the intersecting sources of sexual violence, the reasons it happens. If we want to end sexual violence, we must end these belief systems and the institutions that support them. We work to transform ourselves and our society along the way to clear a path for healthy, affirming cultures and communities.
Points of Agreement
1. We envision a world without sexual violence, and we work persistently to bring that vision into being. We recognize the roots of sexual violence to be pervasive and deep, and therefore recognize our work to be a steady, long-term effort to remove these roots from our societies, and from within our own hearts.
2. Although our work is long-term, it is also urgent and immediate. We see providing immediate support for individual survivors and longer-term social transformation as interrelated and mutually-strengthening types of work. To resist, we must heal; to heal, we must resist.
3. Survivors will create the path forward. In resisting violence, homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, and capitalism, survivors of oppression have the power to generate the vision for all of us to follow. Survivors have a right to decide how their safety will be protected; within this group that includes an agreement that disclosures of responsibility for acts of sexual violence will not occur within general meetings. We work to keep the voices of survivors of sexual violence, women of color, young people, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender people central. We are not waiting for leaders—we are each of us leaders and we are stepping up to the charge of building a world without sexual violence.
4. Sexual violence occurs in a culture sick with white supremacy and racism; heterosexism and homophobia; patriarchy, sexism, and transphobia; and poverty and capitalism. These systems all interact and overlap to create a culture of violence that must be changed. We must dismantle these systems and work to prevent violence if we hope to end it.
5. Sexual violence is never the responsibility of the survivor. Our culture blames survivors of sexual assault for alcohol and drug use, for their occupations, their moral choices, their decision-making, and the intensity of their struggle in the moment of their assault. We reject these assertions. Sexual violence is always the responsibility of the person who committed the violence.
6. Sexual violence happens every day, in every community. Women are its primary targets, but transgender people and men experience rampant sexual violence worldwide, mostly at the hands of non-trans men. Sexual violence is perpetuated by silence. We will name sexual violence for what it is, whatever the identities of those who commit such acts and the survivors of them. We will not be silent.
7. Real justice comes through healthy communities wherein members are accountable to one another and take one another seriously—not through police and prisons. Many of the injuries that accompany, perpetuate, foster, or stop just short of what is legally defined as sexual assault are not deemed as injuries in the eyes of the legal system of the United States. These injuries include psychological and emotional damages to survivors, to the survivors of all trauma, to the communities of which survivors are a part, and fear and intimidation stemming from even the threat of violence. The legal system is ill-prepared to work for actual justice, and it will never be an institution that can promote healing. We believe justice can only come about when people are held accountable to the community, not just to the letter of the law. While we support survivors in seeking assistance and legal remedy through the court system if they desire to do so, our work will not wait on or be silenced by legal processes.
8. We will fight for accountability for those who have committed acts of sexual violence and/or coercion, reparations to survivors and their communities, and a renewed focus on creating spaces for healing and the prevention of racial and sexual violence. A sustaining, transformative love is always at the center of our work.
Who We Are: Purpose & Goals
UBUNTU was born in the aftermath of the March 13, 2006 rape of a Durham, NC Black woman by members of the Duke University Lacrosse team. UBUNTU is a Women of Color and Survivor-led coalition of individuals and organizational representatives. We prioritize the voices, analyses, and needs of Women of Color and Survivors of sexual violence in both our internal structure and our external work. We are Women, Men, and people who do not fit into the gender binary. We are non-trans and trans. We are People of Color, Multi-racial, and White. We come from throughout the Triangle area and have roots both within and outside of the United States. We are sex workers, students and community members. We are workers. We are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, and Questioning. We are Queer and Straight. We are young, old, and in-between. We come from a broad range of economic, geographic, spiritual and political experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives.
Organizing Structure: How We Organize
Our organizing structure is comprised of a General Body and Working Groups. We use Principles of Agreement to guide our work.
The General Body meets twice each month in Durham. The general meetings are where decisions affecting the entire group are made, Working Groups provide report backs on their work, and the group participates in internal political education, and healing processes. As part of this transformative community, we will provide childcare at general body meetings.
Working Groups are open to all members and dedicated to a focused topic. Working Groups meet independent of the General Body, design their own activities and plans (in accord with the Principles of Agreement), and report back at general meetings. Adding or deleting a working group, like other decisions, happens through the consensus of the general body. Members can add or remove Working Groups on an as needed basis.
To initiate a Working Group, members will submit a proposal to the General Body that identifies the need, goals, objectives, and Point People of the suggested Working Group. Working Groups can be removed if the Working Group has 1) met its goals and objectives; 2) no longer serves a need, or 3) does not indicate that it has the capacity to function effectively.
Currently, UBUNTU includes the following Working Groups:
Ø Artistic Response
Each Working Group will have 1-2 rotating Point People (“Points”), at least 1 of who should be a Woman of Color and/or Survivor of sexual violence. Points ensure accountability, and occupy a leadership role-though they are not THE leaders of the Working Group. Points are responsible for organizing the Working Group meetings, coordinating communication among group members, and serve as a liaison between the General Body and the Working Group.
Working Groups will choose their own Points in accord with the Principles of Agreement. To ensure collective leadership, Points will rotate quarterly (Feb., May, Aug., Nov.) prior to the 1st general meeting of the month. Before rotating, Points will distribute an updated Toolkit (including notes and other materials relevant to the Working Group) to new Points.
To encourage effective leadership, Points will participate in a “Leadership Check-in” every 2 weeks to share information, challenges, victories, etc. as related to their Working Group. Point People will relay notes from the Check-in with their Working Group to ensure transparency. Additionally, Points will receive a “Toolkit” (designed by the Sustainability Working Group) to assist them with facilitation and recordkeeping.
Members of UBUNTU must agree to the purpose and goals of the coalition and its Principles of Agreement. Individuals and organizational representatives become members of UBUNTU by attending at least 3 General Body meetings and actively participating in a Working Group.
People who have yet to participate in a Working Group cannot participate in general body decisions. However, they are welcome to give their input in discussions about proposals presented for decision-making.
In accord with the purpose, goals and Principles of Agreement, members can represent UBUNTU in public forums.
UBUNTU is accountable to our Principles of Agreement and Women of Color, Survivors, and their communities. Our Principles of Agreement are a method of identifying and expressing shared values and help hold us accountable. UBUNTU’s Principles of Agreement are a political measuring stick and help us determine if we are working toward our collective vision. We strive to have committed and authentic relationships rooted in trust and respect. Our practice will demonstrate our vision. UBUNTU embraces the following guidelines for Accountability:
Ø Community investment—commitment to the past, present and future of the community.
Ø Ongoing democratic dialogue—shared power and decision-making, and an appreciation for difference within the group.
Ø Systemic analyses of oppression—evolving and inclusive critical analyses.
Ø Agreed upon principles and practices—integrating histories and cultures of the group.
Ø Clear boundaries and roles—stated and respected limitations, rotating leadership.
Ø Vision and hope—desire for liberation, belief that fundamental social change is possible.
Working Groups will define its members’ accountability based upon the needs and demands of the group in addition to the Principles of Agreement and Women of Color, Survivors and their communities.
UBUNTU embraces a Modified Consensus decision-making process, also known as Consensus-Minus One. This is a form of consensus that prevents 1 person from blocking the group’s overall agreement. Modified Consensus is a safety valve to ensure that both Women of Color and Survivors’ voices, analyses and needs are prioritized.
UBUNTU will use a Modified Consensus process that requires at least 3 people to “block” the group’s decision. If a decision is not blocked, and people have strong feelings about the decision, they are encouraged to state/document their reservations in writing or verbally.
Using a consensus-driven decision-making process will also minimize any one body from taking control of the group. Consensus requires that decisions must be agreed upon by everyone in the group and, if used properly, does not privilege any individual or organization. It does not matter how many people agree with a decision, the key is how many people strongly disagree. While consensus can be difficult and time-consuming, it is a democratic and inclusive approach to making decisions and provides an opportunity for new ideas to come to the surface. Consensus also increases individual investment in the group.
In general meetings, Points from the Working Groups will give voice to the concerns and needs expressed by their group. The Points will not make decisions on behalf of their group but will simply serve as the voice of the group—relaying feedback to the full body.
In order for decisions to be made, at least 2/3rds of the General Body must be present (quorum). The General Body should receive at least 1 week advance notice about proposals for major decisions. If people cannot attend a meeting and want to express their concerns about a proposal, they can give their feedback to the Point of their Work Group or put them in writing to the General Body.
The consensus decision-making process will adhere to the following progression:
3. Presentation of Proposal
4. Discussion of Proposal
5. Friendly Amendments
6. Test for Consensus
7. Consensus Reached
8. Decision Implemented
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