December 1, 2012
HIV/AIDS in the Prison Industrial Complex

"…As a formerly incarcerated individual, I have been privy to the inner-workings of the correctional health system and have witnessed firsthand how HIV-positive inmates are inadequately treated. HIV-positive inmates routinely function in an atmosphere of fear, violence and demoralization. They tend to be scorned by fellow inmates, institutionally segregated, and provided with a modicum of care. It is no wonder, then, that some inmates would risk their health to avoid disclosure or exposure, to avoid chattel lines mimicking as therapy sessions observed by others, to avoid health assessments conducted under the watch of a correctional officer, and to avoid being denied critical medical treatments because of bureaucratic hold-ups. These conditions exacerbate the effects of HIV and minimize opportunities for effective care and treatment, leaving HIV-positive inmates in the precarious position of deciding whether or not to address their conditions while they are “doing their time…" ~Sandy Guillaume, HIV/AIDS in the Prison Industrial Complex, The Feminist Wire

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/11/hivaids-in-the-prison-industrial-complex/

April 28, 2012
"

"[Marissa Alexander] is the Jacksonville mother of three, sitting in jail and awaiting a minimum 20-year prison sentence for defending herself against her estranged husband, who has a well-documented history of domestic violence…" ~ Aaron Morrison, "Marissa Alexiander’s Stand Your Ground Debacle Explained" for The Loop 21


Read the article in its entirety: —> http://loop21.com/life/marissa-alexander-stand-your-ground-law-court-case

"

April 27, 2012
None of Us are Free until All of Us are Free

Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)

From April 23, 2012 through April 26, 2012, The Feminist Wire published Aishah Shahidah Simmons' four part series titled “Who Will Revere Us? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls).” Through a comparison of selected cases, Simmons interrogates why Black/African-American/African descendant communities have tremendous difficulty addressing various forms of violence perpetuated against LGTBQ people, straight women, and girls. Following is the introduction to the series.

Introduction

The title of this four part article is a metaphorical nod to the legendary jazz singer, songwriter, actor, and activist Abbey Lincoln (also known as Aminata Moseka) whose essay, “Who Will Revere The Black Woman?” is featured in the ground-breaking anthology The Black Woman. Edited by Black feminist author, screenwriter, and visionary activist Toni Cade Bambara, this all-Black woman anthology focused on the issues most pertinent to Black women and our communities. Originally published in 1970 and reissued in 2005 with a forward by Dr. Eleanor W. Traylor, The Black Woman was the literary wo/manifestation of the impact of the intersection of the Civil Rights/Black Power movements and the second wave of the Women’s Rights movement on Black women’s lives. In short, Ms. Lincoln’s ageless essay is a demand for justice and protection for Black women. In her concluding paragraph she writes,

[…]Who will revere the Black woman? Who will keep our neighborhoods safe for Black innocent womanhood? Black womanhood is outraged and humiliated. Black womanhood cries for dignity and restitution and salvation. Black womanhood wants and needs protections, and keeping and holding. Who will assuage her indignation? Who will keep her precious and pure? Who will glorify and proclaim her beautiful image? To whom will she cry rape?

In her 1983 prophetic and timeless essay, “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppression,” self-defined Black feminist lesbian mother warrior poet Audre Lordewrites,

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the front upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.[1]

I am struggling to find the right time to discuss inter and intra-racial gender-based violence in the midst of the justified outrage about the rampant and virulent racialized violence perpetrated against straight Black boys and men. Even with this being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, now doesn’t feel like the best time to write about the gender-based and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) people both inside of and outside of our racial/cultural communities. I fear that sharing what’s on my heart and mind, might be construed as my taking away from the “real” issue at hand in most Black communities, which seems to be solely white supremacist and/or state-sanctioned racist violence against straight Black men and boys. Audre Lorde’s writings remind me, however, that discussions on oppression within Black communities should never be taken up within an either/or frame. The diverse herstories/histories and contemporary realities of Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people have consistently revealed that the issues that directly impact us often take a back seat, if they even make it into the metaphorical car on the freedom and liberation highway. There is a collective understanding among many in multi-racial, radical progressive movements, that the white supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist, imperial, and capitalist power structure is the root of all oppressions in the United States. While I believe that to be true, even in the company of other oppressed people, Black straight women and LGBTQ people are still under attack. Too often we are caught at the intersections of race, gender, and if we identify as LGBTQ, sexuality. In spite of our shared his/herstories of oppression, struggle, and perseverance against the odds, not enough Black people view sexism, patriarchy, misogyny, heterosexism and transphobia with the same kind of activist passion that we view racism, white supremacy, and state-sanctioned violence perpetuated against straight Black men and boys. The reality is this: when Black straight men and boys are beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of state-sanctioned and/or white supremacist violence, it becomes (as well it should be) a national issue in the Black community and in a few, definitely not all, instances, the outrage moves beyond the Black community. Yet, when Black straight women, girls, and LGBTQ people are raped, sexually assaulted, beaten, brutalized, and/or murdered as a result of misogynist, patriarchal, state-sanctioned, and/or white supremacist violence, it is too often the victim’s individual issue.

Shepard Fairey illustrator

There are so many egregious, known and unknown, cases of racial and gender-based violence perpetuated against all Black people, regardless of their gender, gender identity, and sexuality, that it is literally impossible to write about all of them. I want to highlight a selected few of the far too many, however, to ask Black/African-American/African descended people to consider our responses when any of us have been railroaded into the prison industrial complex, sexually or otherwise assaulted, or murdered. I want us, Black/African-American/African descended people, to consider our responses to issues that affect many as opposed to those issues affecting someof us based on our gender, gender identity, and/or sexuality.

***

Part 1, which was published on April 23, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. On April 24, 2012, Ebony.com aggregated part one. You can read it here.

Part 2, which was published on April 24, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. Part 3, which was published on April 25, 2012, can be read in its entirety here. Part 4, which was published on April 26, 2012, can be read in its entirety here.

April 25, 2012
""…There are clearly stark differences between CeCe McDonald and Trayvon Martin. Trayvon Martin, a straight Black teenage boy was murdered; and CeCe McDonald, a young adult Black trans woman, was brutally attacked, and, in response to defending herself, is fighting for a life outside of the prison industrial complex. The common denominator between both Martin and McDonald, however, is the vicious impact of white supremacist and state sanctioned violence on the lives of Black bodies…" ~Aishah Shahidah Simmons, "Who Will Revere US? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls) (Part 3)" for The Feminist Wire —> http://bit.ly/JKz7VK"

Read Part One of Who Will Revere US? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-1/

Read Part Two of Who Will Revere US? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-2/

Read Part Three of Who Will Revere US? (Black LGTBQ People, Straight Women, and Girls)

http://thefeministwire.com/2012/04/who-will-revere-us-black-lgtbq-people-straight-women-and-girls-part-3/

October 18, 2011
"“We call social justice movements to develop strategies and analysis that address both state AND interpersonal violence, particularly violence against women. Currently, activists/movements that address state violence (such as anti-prison, anti-police brutality groups) often work in isolation from activists/movements that address domestic and sexual violence. The result is that women of color, who suffer disproportionately from both state and interpersonal violence, have become marginalized within these movements. It is critical that we develop responses to gender violence that do not depend on a sexist, racist, classist, and homophobic criminal justice system. It is also important that we develop strategies that challenge the criminal justice system and that also provide safety for survivors of sexual and domestic violence. To live violence free-lives, we must develop holistic strategies for addressing violence that speak to the intersection of all forms of oppression…”
~ Excerpt from INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and Critical Resistance’s joint statement on Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex (2001)… It’s STILL RELEVANT 10-years later~"

CLICK HERE to learn more about INCITE!: Women of Color Against Violence (Blog)

CLICK HERE to learn more about Critical Resistance

CLICK HERE to read the Statement Gender Violence and the Prison Industrial Complex in its entirety

October 9, 2011
"Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity

Sister/Comrade Stephanie Gilmore, who spoke at SlutWalk Philadelphia, is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the ONLY anti-racist White Feminists who has PUBLICLY SUPPORTED the IDEA/PREMISE of SlutWalk while PUBLICLY CHALLENGING its CURRENT RACIST REALITY.

With her FULL PERMISSION, I have re-posted the text of her essay so that people who are not on facebook will be able to read it in its entirety. ~ Aishah Shahidah Simmons

Am I Troy Davis? A Slut?; or, What’s Troubling Me about the Absence of Reflexivity in Movements that Proclaim Solidarity" by Stephanie Gilmore

1.

On September 21, 2011, I joined hundreds of my friends and millions of people around the world to watch, through tears and in abject horror, as Troy Anthony Davis was executed by the State of Georgia. In the twenty years between Davis’ trial for the murder of police officer Mark McPhail and his execution, Davis maintained his innocence while witnesses recanted the testimony that sent Davis to death row. Despite conflicting testimonies and inadequate evidence, the state put aside lingering and longstanding doubt and instead, put Troy Anthony Davis to death.

On Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets, I saw virtual and real friends declare that “I am Troy Davis.” They changed their profile pictures to a picture or image of Davis, or a black box, all in an attempt to articulate a sense of solidarity, a stand against the injustice of the prison industrial complex and a state thoroughly entrenched in the murder of a man who may not have committed the crime of murder. I agree wholeheartedly that the state was wrong in executing Mr. Davis and I grieve for his death as well as that of Officer McPhail. But in the weeks since Davis’s execution, I have been wondering if people really understand how and why Davis came to be murdered at the hands of the state. People insist that “I am Troy Davis,” but what does that mean?

In many ways, I am not Troy Davis. I am a middle-class, 40-something-year-old white woman. According to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report, one in 36 Hispanic adults is in prison in the United States. One in 15 Black adults is too, a statistic that includes one in 100 Black women and one in nine Black men, age 20-34.  Although one of my parents spent time in prison, and through incarceration joined the swelling ranks of 2.3 million imprisoned people and many more in the system of probation, halfway houses, and parole, I and my white peers do not face systemic racial injustice in the structures of imprisonment. And it does not begin or end with the prison system. Black children are suspended and expelled from school at 3 times the rate of white children. Racial discrimination in funding for education also affects children’s success in school, as cash-poor school districts are also overwhelmingly Black and Latino neighborhoods.  Schools have been and remain a pipeline to prison for many Black and Latino children, and generations of families, prison is a reality. One in 15 Black children currently has a parent in jail. People say that the system is broken, but I (along with others in the prison abolition movement) admit that the system is working exactly as it was set up to do. Can I really say, “I am Troy Davis” without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism in the prison industrial complex? Does that just become little more than the adoption of a slogan and a picture, without a real awareness of the racist realities of the prison industrial complex?

2.

On August 6, 2011, I joined Slut Walk Philadelphia. It was a beautiful day and hundreds of people moved through Center City to end up at City Hall, where even more gathered to speak out against sexual violence. I had been following Slut Walks with great delight because I see the people power in the sheer numbers of women and men who are fighting back against sexual violence.  So when I was asked to participate, and to stand with queer people of Color in a more racially inclusive Slut Walk than I had seen to date, I said “yes” because the fight to end sexual violence is my fight. And fighting against a culture that perpetuates and promotes rape; cheers on rapists; and diminishes, humiliates, and silences victims through law, education, and entertainment will demands knowledge that the system, again, is not broken. It is doing the very work it was constructed to do – sexual violence is a tool of ensuring white status quo. And if we are to end sexual violence, we must acknowledge how it operates.

I have struggled to accept a movement that does not acknowledge the very problematic word “slut” and how historically many women have not been able to shake the label of “slut.” I participated in the struggle – the movement as well as my own internal struggle – because I wanted to engage in, create, and sustain dialogue. Indeed, many criticize the apparent move to claim “slut” – how can you pick up something you’ve never been able to put down? Black women have been most vocal about the longer legacy of sexual violence done onto their bodies – often against the backdrop of slavery and colonialism — simply for being Black. But I continued to push into these bigger conversations and analyses. I listened and engaged when Crunk Feminist Collective challenged Slut Walks, when BlackWomen’s Blueprint issued their “Open Letter from Black Women to Slut Walk Organizers,” and when individual women of Color (and only women of Color) spoke publicly about racist actions within individual marches as well as racism within the larger movement. White women I know made private comments about different expressions of racism, but never spoke up to challenge individual actions or larger frameworks of analysis, leaving me to wonder “why?”

And then I saw the sign from Slut Walk NYC bearing the words “Women are the N*gger of the World.” I don’t care that the quotation is from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. I don’t care that the woman was asked to take down the sign – although I certainly do care that a woman of Color had to ask her to do so while white women moved around her, seemingly oblivious. I am angry when I continue to see so many white women defending it expressly or remaining complicit in silence, suggesting that “we” (what “we”?) need to focus on sexual violence first, as if it is unrelated to racism. And I wonder, can I really claim to be a part of the nascent Slut Walk movement without giving serious consideration to the realities of racism within very publicly identified facets of it? Can I be a part of it when so many women – my very allies and sisters in antiracist struggle – are set apart from it, or worse, set in perpetual opposition to it?

3.

My question is, how can we be in solidarity when we are not willing to be reflexive and to check ourselves, check each other, and be checked? Bernice Johnson Reagon acknowledged that coalition building is hard work, made even harder by people who come to coalition seeking to find a home. My sense, or perhaps one sense I have, is that many people came to the “I Am Troy Davis” momentum or the Slut Walk marches looking for a home, a place where they can sit back and feel comfortable in their hard (very hard!) work, and comforted by others who pat them on the head and tell them “good job.” This is not to dismiss genuine concern for the state of our world. Perhaps we’re all lonely, as the realities of social justice work have taken on different and palatable forms since WTO and 9/11. So many people are down for the immediate issue – the indefensible execution of Troy Davis, the indefensible perpetuation of sexual violence — and that matters. But I worry that many white people aren’t paying attention to the larger structures in place. They are not being reflexive about the realities of racism that undergird prison incarceration, death penalty, and sexual violence.

I am not Troy Davis; I never will be. A system built on the foundation of racism ensures that I will not confront the realities of prison incarceration in the same ways as Black and Latino people. I am a strong advocate against sexual violence, but I cannot fight in and for a movement that is not interested in the realities of racism and the ways that racism undergirds sexual violence, and instead so blindly employs racist language. (The “Occupy Wall Street” actions call for me again the realities of racism and its necessity within the existing structure of capitalism – and the insistence among white people that people of Color indulge a luxury of time and money to sit in with them is untenable and racist. Many others have pointed out that the language of “occupation” is inherently problematic because bodies and lands have been historically occupied, often through sexual violence and criminalization. The movement itself needs to be decolonized.) Even as I support openly the prison abolition movement, the end to sexual violence, and the uprooting of a socioeconomic system that ignores the 99%, I cannot do so without deep awareness of racism that is operating within and among these movements. It is my work as a white activist to speak to and be aware of these legacies and histories of racism. Women and men of Color need not be alone in the front lines of identifying racist action and reaction within the movement. Insisting that people of Color have a voice only when it comes to identifying racism perpetuates, rather than alleviates racism. As I look at the actions of some people within these movements, I am reminded again that the racism of the supposed left is even more damaging and hurtful than the naked racism of the right.

If we are to work together in solidarity, we must do so reflexively, conscious of our actions and the potential outcomes before we act. This is not a call to focus on criticism and self-reflection to the point that we are inactive. That is unproductive, to be sure. But it is a call to be mindful and vigilant about racist action and reaction, to come to terms with the fact that we must do the work of understanding racist underpinnings of prison incarceration, the death penalty, and sexual violence if we are to make significant progress. Undoing racism must be at the core of our collective work across movements. To echo Dr. Reagon’s statement, we need to be honest and ask if we really want people of Color or if we’re just looking for ourselves with a little color to it. So much of the movement work, as it stands, seems to be looking for a little color, when we need to be exploring the realities of racism as part of the problem, not an additive to the “real” issue. In the absence of reflexivity about the structural forces that are keeping us apart, we will never be able to engage in real coalition work that will be required if we are to take seriously our goals of ending sexual violence and the death penalty. These movements as they are going now may continue, but they will not do so in my name and certainly not without my consent.

So no, I am not Troy Davis. I am not a slut. I am not an occupier of Wall Street or any street. The fights are my fights, but the current methods and analyses are not mine. I cannot sit by and listen to people debate the efficacy of the death penalty without understanding that it is the larger complex of incarceration and the “elementary-to-penitentiary” path that tracks and traps Black and Latino youth by design. I am done with the handwringing and “white lady tears” of so many white women who keep defending racist approaches and actions and, at times, respond with violence when confronted and challenged. Such behavior only reinforces the fact that these movement spaces as they are currently defined are not safe. My friend, colleague, and sister-in-spirit Aishah Shahidah Simmons said it best when she commented, “It’s sobering to observe how White solidarity is taking precedence over principled responses…. ” Sobering, indeed. I will most assuredly fight to end the prison industrial complex, sexual violence, and unbridled capitalism, but I will do so from a space that centers the racist roots of incarceration, criminal “justice,” capitalism, and sexual violence.  Thankfully, those spaces already exist – even if they remain peripheral in the mainstream media (and in much of what is left of the lefty media). But it is time to pivot the center. Without reflexive analysis of racism and coalition work grounded in antiracist movement, we miss the real root of the problem as well as real opportunities to create change.

___________________________
Stephanie Gilmore is a feminist activist and assistant professor of the women’s and gender studies department at Dickinson College. For the 2011-12 academic year, she is a postdoctoral fellow in women’s studies at Duke University. She is completing “Groundswell: Grassroots Feminist Activism in Postwar America" (Routledge, 2012) and has started a new research project on how students negotiate sexual violence on residential college campuses in the United States.

Liked posts on Tumblr: More liked posts »