How Do ‘We’ Keep A Social Movement Alive?

24 09 2007

from: Fal25

How Do We Keep A Social Movement Alive

This movie documents the silence surrounding Megan Williams’ torture and rape in Logan and the gang rape of several Black women in West Palm Beach Florida.

The purpose of this movie is to document the silences within our relationships, within our homes, within our families, within our communities, within our jobs, within our schools, within our churches, temples, and synagogues, within our governments, and within our world. We want you to share with the world all your stories of injustice. Stories that the media, elected leaders, self appointed leaders, associations, and organizations choose to ignore and not speak out on. We want to document so many silences that the silences become uncensored uninhibited noise.

In These Times: “Stories of Survival”

6 08 2007

original article located here

Features > June 29, 2007

Stories of Survival

NO! explores rape within the African-American community and fights society’s instinct to focus on the racism outside while turning a deaf ear to gender violence within

By Cynthia Greenlee-Donnell

The documentary NO! chips away at the myths and silence surrounding sexual assault it he black community

Filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons didn’t miss a beat when a white, female student told her at a 2003 Boston College screening of her documentary NO!, “Until I saw your film, I didn’t know that black women could be raped.” Simmons, a Philadelphia resident, calmly asked the young woman why she believed such a thing. The student replied that she didn’t think black women, simultaneously praised and pilloried for their strength, would stand for such a violation—as if sexual-violence victims are able to negotiate with attackers or deter them with a hefty serving of attitude.That wasn’t the case with Simmons, now 38, who was sexually assaulted in 1989, when she was a 19-year-old Temple University sophomore on a foreign exchange program to Mexico. A clandestine date—outside the dorm and the curfew hours—turned into a rape that left her pregnant and so devastated that she dropped out of college. Nor was that the case with the women whose stories Simmons has included in NO!, which explores rape within the African-American community.

Among them is a woman who was raped by her mentor, the university’s highest ranking black administrator; another whose fraternity boyfriend wouldn’t take no for an answer; and yet another who struggles with bulimia decades after her first boyfriend beat and raped her after she refused to have sex outside.

For Simmons, NO! has been a labor of love to make the film she wanted, regardless of how long it took. Simmons began filming interviews in 1994 with co-producer Tamara Xavier, but the documentary wasn’t released until 2006, largely because of the struggle to find $300,000 in necessary funding.

With NO!, Simmons hopes to chip away at the myths and disquieting silence surrounding sexual assault in the black community, which has traditionally been so attuned to racism outside that it has largely turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to gender violence within.

“There’s this notion,” says Simmons, “that when black women come forward [and say they’ve been raped], that we’re a traitor to the race. I wanted to show these women, their faces, their names. I understand privacy and shame, but shame should be on the perpetrators.”

Simmons followed the case of Desiree Washington, the beauty queen who accused boxer Mike Tyson of raping her in 1991 in his hotel room. (Tyson served three years in prison.) Then came the campaign to “save” Tyson and discredit Washington—complete with T-shirts proclaiming his innocence. In NO!, Simmons includes footage of Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan asking what Washington expected when she went to Tyson’s room as other faith leaders cackle in agreement.

Simmons wondered why those leaders and others never acknowledged that rape isn’t typically a crime committed by a stranger and that, for most black women, the perpetrator is an acquaintance who looks like them. The lack of critical reaction from the black community in the wake of the Washington case, combined with a 1994 trip to South Africa, where she met activists working on issues of sexual assault, galvanized her to make NO!. It is estimated that as many as half of all South African women will be raped in their lifetimes.

American women are also vulnerable to sexual assault. According to a study by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control, one in every six U.S. women will be subjected to sexual assault or an attempted assault during her lifetime. The organization’s “Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey” estimates that 18.8 percent of black women will survive a rape or attempted rape—making them only slightly more likely than the general population (17.6 percent) and white women (17.7 percent) to experience such a crime, but much less likely to be raped than Native Americans.

Numbers alone don’t express the full extent of rape or sexual assault in the black community—a topic that has probably been discussed more extensively in novels such as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple than in real life. Black women must deal with competing interests—protecting one’s self versus protecting the image of black men in a society where black men are the usual suspects of sexual crimes, facing the distrust of the police versus the need for personal security—that reduce the chance they will report rape.

With the help of anthropologist and former Spelman College President Johnnetta Cole, historian Beverly Guy-Sheftall and former Black Panther Elaine Brown, NO! examines the historical forces that foster sexual violence—and suppress dialogue about it—in black communities. In a country built on slavery, which was predicated on control of black labor and reproduction, black women have been regarded as perpetually sexually available or “unrapeable.” They have never fit easily into the “good girl” mold.

“I realized that I couldn’t talk about sexual assault in the African-American community without talking about slavery,” says Simmons. “If somebody owns you, how do you have the right to consent?”

NO! is generating discussion within the black community. In 2003, writer Kevin Powell (who is black) showed an unfinished cut to a crowd of hundreds—including many African-American men—on a wintry Friday night in Harlem. Men are a vital part of the solution, says Nia Wilson, the associate director of Spirit House, an arts and cultural nonprofit in Durham, N.C. “This is not about going after black men,” she says. “This is about uncovering something we need to address, and we need to address it together. Men are the only ones who can stop rape, no matter what we say, no matter how much light we shine on it.”

Wilson, who is black and a sexual-violence survivor, is also a member of UBUNTU, a coalition that combats racism and violence. Simmons allowed UBUNTU to use NO! to foster dialogue around North Carolina. Wilson recalls a screening for a white audience that was disengaged from the topic. All of the reactions Wilson had learned to expect—tears, outrage, personal testimonies—didn’t happen. The audience members acknowledged the violence, but their comments and lack of emotion told her that they couldn’t relate to this type of violence.

Wilson told the audience, “I can watch a Lifetime movie with a cast full of white people and cry because I’m conditioned to relate to you. But you are not conditioned to relate to me. You, especially this group who thinks you’re so politically correct, you cannot watch a movie with people with brown skin and see yourself.”

Bryan Proffitt, a 28-year-old white schoolteacher and UBUNTU member, says that talking about rape and race requires starting from a framework that acknowledges a history of interracial violence, white supremacy, male domination and myths that need debunking. “There’s always a good bit of anxiety about how white folks are going to see this film. ‘Oh, look, black guys are rapists. We knew that.’ We’ve always tried to be careful of framing this film beforehand because we recognize that white people come in with that particular narrative and we want to challenge that before they see it.”

Before each screening, the UBUNTU facilitator reads a statement that lists 27 reasons the film is being shown, including: “Because the stories of survivors of sexual assault are powerful and sacred.” “Because there are survivors here.” “Because this film holds us all accountable for the world that we comply with and perpetuate.”

This April, NO! was selected as a featured resource by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Everywhere I’ve shown the film,” says Simmons, “someone comes up and discloses she’s a survivor. I could be the only black woman in the room—me and the women on the film—in Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, women stand up and say, ‘This is my story.’”

For more information on NO!, visit

J: AMC Follow-up – thoughts on grassroots publishing as a response to sexual violence

26 06 2007

At the AMC this weekend, Lex and I ran a workshop called Wrong is Not My Name: Poetic Healing as a Response to Sexual Violence where we shared our experience creating our interactive anthology Wrong is Not My Name: A Tribute to Survival Via June Jordan. Here’s a description:

This hands-on workshop will highlight the theory and practice of grassroots publishing as a response to Sexual Violence. Participants will learn about how this form of media fits into the work of UBUNTU, a women of color/survivor-led coalition committed to replacing gendered violence with sustaining transformative love. Based in Durham, NC. UBUNTU is practicing a model of community creation centered around healing, expression, sustainability, internal education and awareness raising. Participants will experience the UBUNTU model of community creation, through the production of a group publication during this workshop.

In the course of preparing to lead the workshop, we had some really interesting conversations about grassroots publishing in the context of our work – I wanted to share some thoughts from these as well as some things I learned about zines and resources for exploring further.

Grassroots publishing (by which I mean to include a wide range of mediums that allow writers to share their words without going through commercial publishing institutions – independent presses, zines, community newsletters, booklets, brochures, blogs, etc.), can be a powerful resource in the context of personal and community healing because:

The process of creating and writing – ‘coming to voice’ on paper – can be an accessible and concrete way for survivors to engage in healing. For some of us, the processes of emotional and physical healing can feel intimidating (big, mysterious, painful) and we often cope by avoiding and shutting down emotionally. Survivors of sexual violence are sometimes silenced by feelings of isolation, shame, self-doubt, and fear. Talking through experiences of violence or their aftermath with another person or people that we trust is a crucial element of the healing process (click here for information on supporting a survivor of sexual assault). Writing is no substitute, but healing is an ongoing process and putting things down on paper can be useful at any point along the way. Writing – journaling, poetry, freeform, essays, or really in any form – allows us to acknowledge and express feelings and thoughts at whatever pace and time feels right. When it is just us and the paper (or the screen) we don’t have to worry about being judged, or blamed, or disbelieved. We can share our truths, or not share them – either way, in writing we learn to hear and honor our own voices.

    …and when we speak we are afraid
    our words will not be heard
    nor welcomed
    but when we are silent
    we are still afraid

    So it is better to speak
    we were never meant to survive

    Audre Lorde
    ‘Litany for Survival’

    When we publish our writings (on blogs, in zines, or elsewhere) it is a way of meeting the world as a part of healing – this is important because we honor eachother’s humanity by speaking our truths, and because as Lex reminded us, “silence is already a form of death.” Speaking truth is also a powerful and transformative act of resistance within the context of a rape culture that demands our silence. Research tells us that there are an estimated 21 million survivors in this country today, and that every 2 1/2 minutes someone is sexually assaulted – yet, too often people speak about rape as though it were a rare occurrence and isolated to back alleyways and “other” people. When survivors speak up, we challenge popular misconceptions about rape. We also make it easier for other survivors to do the same.

      Being part of a writing community within UBUNTU has allowed us to connect to other survivors, to support and celebrate eachother. And in sharing our stories and experiences with eachother we are able to bring our analysis of sexual violence to a systemic (rather than individual) level. When we observe the commonalities between these experiences, we can clearly see the structural roots of sexual violence and understand rape culture as situated within the context of interlocking racial, gendered, sexual, and class-based oppressions. Taken as a body of work, the writings of survivors (in UBUNTU and elsewhere) speak to and document the prevalence of sexual violence and to the physical and emotional costs of rape culture for real people – both survivors and our loved ones. In this way, these writings are also a political resource or tool that can be useful in educating and calling for change. Through the use of grassroots publishing methods we are able to share our writings quickly, easily, and widely with little or no overhead costs – making the process accessible to all who know ‘it is better to speak’.

        What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
        The world would split open.

        Muriel Rukeseyer
        ‘Kathe Kollwitz’

        A Call to Action: Justice for Erika Keels

        31 05 2007

        letter from a friend in Philly:

        dear friends,

        I am writing to ask you to support work that I’m doing with the Justice 4 Erika campaign here in Philly.  Erika Keels was murdered on March 22, 2007 on North Broad Street in Philadelphia.  Witnesses saw an assailant eject Erika, a 20-year-old black transwoman, from his car, and intentionally run her over four times, killing her and leaving the scene.  A medical examiner’s report supports these eyewitness accounts.  But police ruled Erika’s death an accident and have refused to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges–including “hit and run” charges. When Ms. Keels’ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were asked to disclose their “birth” names and told they were “trying to make something out of nothing.”

        Our immediate goal is for the Philadelphia Police Commissioner and the Accident Investigation Division to reopen Erika’s case and conduct a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding her death.  We  want to send a powerful message to the Philadelphia Police Department that we stand together to demand justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, police accountability, and respect for the inherent dignity and worth of every person.  Things you can do to help:

        1. Sign our community support letter (read below and sign at ).

        2. Get organizational sign-ons from groups you’re in or connected to. (Organizations should email to confirm their support.)

        3. Come to the Justice 4 Erika demonstration on Thursday, June 14 at noon @ 6th and Arch in Center City Philadelphia.

        4. Sign up for weekly email updates on the campaign (email

        5. SPREAD THE WORD.  Write letters to local newspapers. Ask everyone you know to sign on to the letter.

        Thanks.  I can answer any questions about the campaign.
        Contact me if you want to get involved with the organizing…

        in love & struggle,


        To:  Captain Michael Murphy
        Accident Investigation Division
        Philadelphia Police Department

        Cc: Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson
        District Attorney Lynne Abraham
        Michael Hinson, mayor¹s liaison to LGBT communities
        Mayor John Street

        June 2007

        Dear Captain Murphy,

        Young transwomen of color living and working in Philadelphia know they are
        at risk of physical attack at any moment, and many experience layers of hate
        and harassment on a daily basis. Erika Keels was one of our own.

        On March 22, witnesses saw an assailant intentionally run over Ms. Keels
        four times after ejecting her from his car at Broad and Thompson streets in
        North Philadelphia, killing her and leaving the scene. A medical examiner¹s
        report supports these eyewitness accounts. But police have ruled the death
        of this 20-year-old African American transwoman an accident and have refused
        to conduct an investigation. The driver, Roland Button, was later
        apprehended, but he has yet to face criminal charges‹even ³hit and run.²
        When Ms. Keels¹ friends, who are themselves trans, questioned police
        officials about the classification of her death as an accident, they were
        asked to disclose their ³birth² names and told they were ³trying to make
        something out of nothing.²

        We, the undersigned, refuse to be told that the murder of Ms. Keels‹and the
        subsequent police denial of the brutal, hateful assault on her‹are
        ³nothing.² The Philadelphia police have failed to protect her basic human
        rights and dignity. The schools and businesses of Philadelphia never gave
        her a chance to choose a career‹they failed her, and she was forced to earn
        her survival on the streets. The social services of this city failed to
        shelter her in a safe place to explore her own potential as a young person
        with imaginative goals and opportunities to thrive.

        We, as a community, will not fail her. We are individuals and organizations
        representing Black, Latina/o and Asian people; trans and gender
        non-conforming people; lesbians, gays and bisexuals; youth; immigrants;
        educators; students; social service providers; activists; religious
        communities; professionals; neighborhoods; and supporters around the world.

        We demand a thorough investigation of the circumstances surrounding Ms.
        Keels¹ death. Her case must be re-opened. Now and in the future, the police
        must follow their mandate to protect and serve all Philadelphians, including
        those targeted for hate because of their gender expression and identity. All
        levels of city government and administration must ensure that policy meant
        to protect human rights of people in this city is followed in letter and


        New Video and Article from the Day of Truthtelling

        3 05 2007

        Performance of ‘Litany for Survival’ at the rally for “Creating a World without Sexual Violence: A National Day of Truthtelling” held in Durham, NC on Saturday, April 28th.


        article from Workers World:

        Day of Truthtelling demands: ‘End rape culture’

        Published May 3, 2007 1:28 AM

        An important march and rally took place here April 28 against sexual violence and assault. The protest was called Creating a World Without Sexual Violence—National Day of Truthtelling (DOT), and it deserved national and international attention.

        Lead banner at April 28 march.

        Lead banner at April 28 march.

        WW photos: Monica Moorehead

        The organizing DOT coalition was made up of Black Workers For Justice (BWFJ), Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Independent Voices, Men Against Rape Culture (MARC), North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NCCASA), Raleigh Fight Imperialism—Stand Together (FIST), Spirit House, Southerners On New Ground (SONG) and UBUNTU. Fifty other organizations endorsed the event.

        Those who came out on this beautiful sunny day were mainly young women of all nationalities—African-American, Latina, East Asian, South Asian, Arab and white—along with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and gender variance communities, as well as male supporters. Despite the diverse social, political and cultural backgrounds, the protesters, numbering in the hundreds, spoke on this day in one voice with the resounding demand to “End rape culture.”

        Police blocks woman trying to put<br>protest sign at Buchanan house,<br>site of Duke sexual assault.

        Police blocks woman trying to put
        protest sign at Buchanan house,
        site of Duke sexual assault.


        The vast majority of those who came out were either survivors of sexual assault themselves or knew someone who was. The main idea of the protest was to break the silence on the issue of sexual violence and help give a voice and sense of empowerment to the survivors.

        In North Carolina from 2005-2006, local rape crisis centers received almost 26,000 calls and came to the assistance of over 8,700 people who were sexually assaulted. It is estimated that millions of incidences of rape and sexual assault go unreported around the country.

        One of the main highlights of the more than two-mile march was a stop in front of 610 Buchanan St. This house, located on the campus of Duke University, was the place where a young Black single mother, college student and exotic dancer reported to authorities that she was sexually assaulted by three white Duke lacrosse players at a fraternity party back in March 2006. The district attorney recently dropped the charges against the players before a trial could allow her to give her account of what happened.

        Alexis Gumbs, a Black graduate student at Duke, read a moving open letter to the crowd in front of the Buchanan house. Called “Wishful Thinking,” the letter focused on what it means to be a survivor of sexual assault. Many in the crowd were moved to cry and hug each other as she read the letter.

        The main rally was held on the steps of the Durham County Courthouse. Speakers there included Serena Sebring, UBUNTU; Monika Johnson Hostler, NCCASA; Paulina Hernández, SONG; Tyneisha Bowens and Laura Bickford, Raleigh FIST; Shafeah M’Bali, Women’s Commission of BWFJ, and Phoenix Brangman, Dasan Ahanu and Bryan Proffit of MARC. A number of the speakers linked the issue of sexual violence to the struggle for immigrant rights and against racism, homophobia, capitalism, militarism and imperialism.

        The march ended up in the Black community at the W.D. Recreation Center, where workshops, film showings and cultural performances were held. A June 9 town hall meeting will be held on “What will it take to end sexual violence in our communities?” E-mail or call 919-870-8881 for more information.

        Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011

        Beautiful!: A Revolutionary Childcare Story Via Zapagringo

        1 05 2007

        Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn
        (created for the upcoming issue of Left Turn Magazine)

        [Out of Brooklyn have sprung two inspiring models of community-based radical childcare. The organizers of Regeneración Childcare NYC weave their own experiences and those of Pachamama: the Bushwick Childcare Cooperative into an enchanting tale of communities taking care of each other in their own ways in the shadow of the Architects of Despair.]

        Once upon a time… in a land called Argentina, there lived hundreds of thousands of people who found themselves with no work. In spite of this, they struggled and found ways to survive. Some formed Unemployed Workers Movements and, over time, were overcome by three beautiful feelings. Listening and speaking with each other, they felt “rage.” Rage was the feeling they felt when they learned that it wasn’t just by chance, but rather by design, that so many of them were out of work.

        The unemployed workers called the designers of their most unfortunate situation the “Architects of Despair.” The Architects of Despair practiced a devastating magic—capitalism—that they had been casting intensely over the past decades, taking over all of Argentina’s industries and resources. The unemployed workers organized their rage and they forced the Architects of Despair to give them the things they needed to survive. In this way, the unemployed workers discovered a second feeling, “hope.”

        But, even when “giving” the unemployed workers what they needed to survive, the Architects of Despair still found ways to take more things away from them. So the unemployed workers began creating their own ways to feed, teach and heal themselves. In taking care of each other in their own way, they discovered the third beautiful feeling, “dignity”.

        Dignity, hope, and rage

        With dignity, hope, and rage, the unemployed workers soon went from feeling invisible to having the eyes of the world upon them. In the final weeks of 2001, Argentina erupted in protest against all the damage the Architects of Despair had wrought upon the country. Some of the unemployed workers to reach out and connect with people struggling against the Architects of Despair in other parts of the world.

        In 2004, Marcella and Xiomara, two unemployed women workers from movements in Argentina, traveled to the faraway land of Brooklyn. They exchanged stories and ideas with women from Critical Resistance, Sista II Sista, the Center for Immigrant Families, and Estación Libre. Moved by their exchanges, Xiomara and Marcella invited some women to visit them in Argentina during “Autonomous January.” The women returned to New York with much inspiration.

        One woman, Sora of Sista II Sista, saw the unemployed workers’ dignity in their self-organization and was especially motivated. Sora had a two-year-old daughter named Sele, and she wanted to join with other mamas so they could organize themselves and care for each other and their children in a better way. Sora spoke to mamas in Sista II Sista and in her neighborhood of Bushwick, Brooklyn. She talked with Celia, who had two young children named Costanzeana and Gabriel. She also met Olivia, who was stuck in her home all day with her daughter Chantelle, feeling trapped, with no other mamas to support her.

        Bushwick Childcare Cooperative

        Organizing themselves and imagining strategies to defeat the Architects of Despair was not an easy task for these mamas. They came from different places and spoke different languages. Sora was from Chile; Olivia was a black woman whose family lived in Bushwick for as long as she could remember; Celia was from Ecuador, and there were other mamas who came from around the world. Despite their differences, they created a new organization called Pachamama: the Bushwick Childcare Cooperative.

        Pachamama means something like “Mother Earth” in Aymara, an Incan language. It was a good name because it reflected the Latin American roots of many of the mothers, yet still had the word “mama” in it, so people who spoke English could understand the name too. With a room full of toys and games in the Sista II Sista office, and with lots of determination, they invited more mamas to join them in raising their children together…

        “These kids are a handful!” Celia exclaimed one day, as Gabriel jammed his scooter into Chantelle’s bicycle, “We need some help!” “I’m sure there are people out there who would love to help us do childcare,” Olivia mused, “But how will we find them?” Sora quickly offered a solution, “We can ask our friends, and they can ask their friends… and someone will surely come!”

        A few days later, a young woman knocked on the door. “Hi,” she said, “I’m Ramona, and I heard that you are looking for someone to help out with childcare. I just finished college—I’m new to the neighborhood. I would love to hang out with your kids!” On a sunny afternoon, Ramona went to the park with Costanzeana, Gabriel, Sele, and Chantelle. What fun they had! By the end of the day, Ramona was exhausted, but smiling. “When can I come again?” she asked. “As often as you like!” Olivia told her. And so Ramona did. She played with the kids, and talked with the mamas.

        At Pachamama, Ramona felt part of a family. Yet she realized that the mamas worried about things that she, and her aunts, sisters, and cousins didn’t have to worry about—like not being able to speak English, or not being able to find work, or not having enough money to travel to see their mamas, or even to travel to Manhattan.

        “Ramona!” Sora said one day. “What are you doing on Friday night? Some people are coming over so we can talk about how to fight the Architects of Despair. A lot of the people are mamas and papas. Could you come over and play with the kids?” Ramona was worried. With so many kids, she would not be able to play with them all at the same time, and they would all start fighting and running into the room where the adults were talking and disturb their conversation.

        “We don’t want a space where kids feel that only adults can imagine ways to strengthen our communities and protect ourselves against the Architects of Despair,” Sora said, “and we don’t want adults to feel that either. We want to create a space where all of our imaginations help each other grow; but we realize that kids might get bored from sitting still the way that adults tend to do, so we set up the play room with toys and games.”

        Seeds of Regeneración

        Ramona was relieved to hear this, and even more relieved to meet Mitch. Mitch also came to play with kids whose parents were at the gathering. “Here in America, it seems like kids are hidden away while their parents work and organize,” Ramona said, “but many people we know do things differently.” Contemplating this, Mitch turned to Ramona, “Ramona, we both know so many mamas working to protect our communities against the Architects of Despair. I’m sure mamas are doing the same thing all over this city. And if there are mamas, there are kids…”

        “Yes!” Ramona exclaimed, “and there are surely people all over this city who would love to play with kids while their mamas are organizing!” Mitch asked, “But how will we find people who will want to do childcare?” “If we ask our friends, and they ask their friends,” said Ramona, “Surely someone will come…”

        And so they did. One day, Mitch and Ramona opened the doors of an unused office space and the room filled with people. Sora joined them; and together they told the story of the unemployed workers in Argentina, and Pachamama, and their hopes and dreams of dignity. The people felt inspired, and excited to do childcare. But after the people left the meeting, Mitch, Ramona and Sora all felt a little bit unsettled. “Everyone at the meeting was white!” complained Ramona.

        “I wonder why…” pondered Mitch, “we did tell our friends to tell their friends that the kids and mamas we hang out with are mostly immigrants, or Spanish-speaking, or Black, or other folks of color…” Ramona suggested, “It seems like many of the people at our meeting are able to wander from place to place, and be involved with different projects, and are looking to feel connected to something, and feel that connecting to awesome mamas and awesome kids would be powerful.”

        Excited, hopeful, and confused

        “On the one hand it is exciting to flip the script on who serves who, by having white people take care of kids of color,” mused Sora, “but on the other hand, I really think it would be the wrong message to send to our kids that we can’t take care of our own, and that we need white people to come in and take care of our kids for us.” So Mitch, Ramona and Sora left their meeting hopeful, because so many people were excited about doing childcare, and confused because the people were so different than who they had imagined.

        Pachamama was growing. The mamas were creating a space of love and holistic care for themselves and their families. They also organized other families and friends into “Imperialism is Bad for Children” contingents for the anti-war marches. Things went on like this at Pachamama for some time—families grew, babies were born and folks were listening and learning from each other every day.

        But when the winter came, it started to feel too cold for the mamas to bring their kids all the way to Pachamama, and they decided to stay home instead. Back in Bushwick, Sora, Olivia and Celia were the only mamas still coming to Pachamama every day and caring for Sele, Chantelle, Gabriel and Costanzeana.

        “You know what I think?” said Sora one day, “I think we should close Pachamama for a little bit, and just build within ourselves. Let’s figure out what we need to do to be strong within us before trying to organize the rest of the neighborhood, and the rest of the city.” Celia asked, “Could we teach ourselves about child development so that we know what games we should be playing with the kids to encourage their curiosity and growth?”

        “Can we also learn how to take care of ourselves and each other better?” asked Olivia, “I feel sad a lot, and I would like to know if other mamas feel sad too, and I would like to know how they take care of themselves when they feel sad.” And so the mamas did just this. They met twice a week to learn about their kids, and to learn about themselves, and while they sat around the table and read books and drew diagrams and talked with each other, Ramona played with their kids.

        In these months, many groups had asked Mitch and Ramona if they could play with their kids. Mitch and Ramona were always looking for more volunteers. Some of the volunteers spoke Spanish and were white. Some were people of color, and were looking to support other communities in struggle. Some did not grow up in the city, and were looking for communities to whom they could be accountable. Some had traveled to faraway places like Argentina and Chiapas and brought back visions of another world.

        Over the months, they built a network of childcare volunteers and called it Regeneración. They work with kids and mothers to regenerate communities, relationships, and resistance. They would also honor their ancestors, elders, prisoners, and friends from all over the world.

        Happily ever after?

        And so the childcare crew in New York City had found its vision and name; and Pachamama reopened its doors in Brooklyn with renewed enthusiasm…and there was even word of other childcare collectives and childcare cooperatives popping up in other cities and towns. But something still didn’t feel right.

        These groups and their friends, family and all the people they cared about around the world, were still suffering. And this was because the Architects of Despair were still very powerful. And so it was good that they were getting to know and trust each other more, and that they were building their power to organize themselves, to fight, and to take care of each other. And there was still much work (and play) to be done…

        Written and illustrated by members of Regeneración Childcare NYC: Radhika Singh, M. Mayuran Tiruchelvam, RJ Maccani, Ileana Dulce Méndez-Peñate and Canek Peña-Vargas.

         via Zapagringo

        Carnival Against Sexual Violence: 22!

        1 05 2007

        Another fantastic collection of posts Marcella over at abyss2hope gathered up!  And we’re in it!  Thanks Marcella!  A few of my favorites so far:


        personal stories

        In on the record posted at Taking Steps, we get one woman’s thoughts about what would have happened if her rape had been reported and whether she would have been viewed the way many are viewing the alleged victim in the Duke case.

        raising awareness

        In Join Voices with Native American and Alaska Native Women posted at Holly’s Fight for Justice, we get a discussion on the Amnesty International report which showed that Native American and Alaska Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than other women in the United States in general. A complex maze of tribal, state and federal jurisdictions allows perpetrators to rape with impunity and in some cases even encourages assaults.


        In What to Do if You Are a Male Rape Victim posted at Finding Your Marbles, we get a discussion aimed at men and boys who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

        media watch

        In Review of “Till Domestic Violence Does Us Part?” posted at Deaf Blog: Alternative Solutions Center (ASC), we get a review of a new video about domestic violence, made by Deaf filmmakers, for Deaf viewers (an audience too often left out of awareness campaigns).


        In Won’t believe the hype. posted at Sparkle*Matrix, we get a discussion of the myth which is being pitched by many people right now that a rape accusation ruins a man’s life.


        In It’s all about sex, baby posted at open windows, we get a discussion on India’s debate about whether sex-education should be made mandatory in schools or not.


        In Enough Please with the Free Speech Nonsense posted at Slant Truth, we get a response to those who demand to be allowed to say whatever they want on other people’s blogs because to reject a comment is to violate someone’s first amendment rights.

        The next submission deadline is May 12 at 11 pm. The 23nd edition will be out on May 15.

        To nominate a post (your own or someone else’s) to the next edition of carnival against sexual violence, use our carnival submission form. Links to everything related to the carnival can be found on the blog dedicated to this carnival,

        Marcella Chester

        From Lex: On May Day (J says: I love love love this one!)

        1 05 2007

        Since it is May Day, one day of many to celebrate the contributions and demand the rights of immigrant workers, it seems appropriate to share a historical precedent through which Women of Color in London organized at the intersections of immigration policy and sexual violence.

        In November 1982 a broad coalition of organizations came together to put together a one day event (sound familiar yet?). The coalition included English Collective of Prostitutes, Housewives in Dialogue, Women Against Rape, Wages Due Lesbians and others who had collaborated to takeover a community center in their region (Camden). Only a few days after their first big event “Bringing it All Back Home:Black and Immigrant Women Speak out and Claim Our Rights”, the conference attendees supported the English Collective of Prostitutes as they occupied a local church to claim sanctuary from the constant police harassment and brutality they were experiencing. If you can’t tell…I am inspired and thrilled by the bravery of these women (mostly women of color, mostly with threatened immigration status) who not only demanded fair wages for the “private” labor of nurturing, but who also repeatedly took over public spaces and spoke out against sexual violence. this particular conference Women Against Rape released a statement entitled “Racism is Rapism” which explicitly calls out the way in which sexual assault impacts the most vulnerable among us through the same mechanisms as racism, classism and xenophobia:
        “On arriving in another country, we have found ourselves threatened again by the tacism which stems directly from one government after another saying ‘you are not welcome, don’t expect any rights!’ Such policies set us up as easy targets and legitimise every kind of racist attack against us, whether from immigration officers, the police, the courts, employers or individual men.”

        They also protest the absurdity of immigration laws that make residency contingent on staying with a husband and explain the complexity on going to the violent state to mitigate intra-community violence.

        “We have been afraid to go to the police for help, particularly when attacks have comefrom within our own community, since we have seen how a woman’s cry forhelp has been usedas an excuse to rampage in our community, particularly if we are black.”

        “We have seen how sexism combines with and reinforces racism….
        As women we have all experienced, if not rape itself, then the threat or fear of rape. We know how rape has been used to limit our movement and our lives. We refuse to be locked into our homes or into our countries. A WOMAN’S PLACE IS EVERYWHERE!”

        Just another example of the history we move in…

        THANK YOU!!!

        29 04 2007

        Thank you so much to all who planned, attended, supported, believed in the Day of Truthtelling! I will post more in detail about yesterday’s events shortly, but it was incredible…thank you!

        In addition, we are so very grateful for the support and solidarity from the bloggers who have joined us in speaking truth – we are still learning how many of you all out there have been by our side this weekend. In particular, we are grateful to Brownfemipower for her constant support (and general brilliance) and for spreading the word about the DOT. Thank you! Thank you to:

        …who we know posted on the Day of Truthtelling as powerful voices for change. Thank you for moving the struggle to end sexual violence out in all directions on line, as we moved it down Main Street in Durham yesterday!

        Read This!

        26 04 2007

        Please go over to Black Commentator and read this important article about the impact of sexual violence on black women and the struggle to end it.

        In “Raped and Then?”, Jamala Rogers (leader of the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis, Black Radical Congress National Organizer, and Black Commentator Editorial Board member) speaks powerfully about the issues at stake and what it will take to make change. Thank you Jamala Rogers!

        She writes:

        When I read Bill Fletcher’s BC article last month on the rape of his friend, it was like déjà vu. “My Friend was Raped” underscored an all-too familiar response to sexual victimization of Black women by Black men, that of silent suffering.


        Although the rape stats say that one out of every three women in the US will be sexually assaulted, those stats are higher in the African-American community where we have allowed a rope of silence to choke the voices of anger, outrage and healing that need to be expressed.

        The general consensus is that 9 out of 10 rapes go unreported. The National Victim Center has called rape “the most underreported violent crime in America.” The National Black Women’s Health Project affirms that approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact, of a sexual nature, by age 18.


        It means launching a multi-faceted struggle when and where we can. This calls for an overhaul of the justice system, because one of the main reasons Black women don’t report rape is to keep that Black man out of a racist criminal system. We have done so in the hopes of community justice that hardly ever seems to materialize. It means confronting, filtering and eliminating the misogynist and sexist toxins that have crept into our political, social and cultural environments. This means starting in our homes, honoring and valuing girls and women, teaching equality to all sexes so that we all become change agents in some way.

        It means developing and strengthening the support systems for victims of sexual violence so that they are not re-victimized and silenced, but get the spiritual, emotional and psychological support they so desperately need.

        It means struggling with our brothers, especially those in the progressive movement, to take up seriously, this issue with themselves and their peers. One of the stories in NO! involved “an avowed pro-feminist” rapist brother whose hurtful actions spoke more forcefully than his empty radical rhetoric.

        It means moving past the view that erroneously pits racial oppression against women’s oppression. It’s the old let’s-fight-together-to-eliminate-racism-first, then-we’ll-deal-with-sexism argument that has plagued the Black Liberation Movement for years. Homophobia, another oppression needing to be dealt with by the Black community, is rarely even on the radar screen.


        On April 28th, one such event will take place in Durham, North Carolina. It is the “National Day of Truth-Telling” to speak out against sexual violence but also to address its root causes. It has been the hotbed of confusion, resentment and anger since the rape occurred at a Duke Lacrosse team party. An organized effort emerged to untangle the web and educate the community towards a place of healing and empowerment.

        I fervently believe that we can create a critical mass of people who will bring a sense of urgency and justice to this issue that will ultimately transform our society. Further, I need to be able to look into that young girl’s eyes and assure her that a more humane world for women is coming.