Archive for November, 2013

Transgender Day Of Remembrance Memorial 2013 in RVA – We need more than the government’s pretty words

Richmond celebrated  Transgender Day of Remembrance with our 8th annual  Memorial Service yesterday, November 20th. It was the first year I attended. My friend Tammie and I spent a majority of our day acquiring produce and preparing some food to share at the reception after the memorial service. We were happy to do so and happy to see the 200 or so folks who came out to support each other.

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Photo by Kontra RVA of some of the attendees in the church, and the folks lined up to present stories of Transgender people who were murdered

The TDOR memorial was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church downtown. The committee that organized it did a really great job. The sharing of stories was moving, and it was only through the clenching of teeth that I avoided breaking down. The song performed by My Darling Fury was beautiful. There were a couple of speakers, some sharing personal experiences and some talking more generally about the issue of violence directed at Transgender folks. After the service, the group assembled on the steps of the Church holding candles.

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Photo by Kontra RVA of folks gathered on the St. Paul steps after the service

Not to take away from the efforts and successes of the organizers and presenters, but there was one aspect of the event which I found to be uncomfortable. When we were outside holding candles, the Chief of Police Ray J. Tarasovic read a proclamation from City Council and (Dis)Honourable Mayor Dwight C. Jones.  This isn’t the first year Jones has issued such a proclamation (I’ve found news coverage of these proclamations back to at least 2010).

Mayor Dwight Jones is certainly not honorable (Dwight the Blight!), and as much as it might have made some folks feel better to hear the proclamation from him and City Council read by the police chief, there is a strong need to push back and demand more. If the Mayor and City Council and Police Chief want to be allies of trans people it is going to take a hell of a lot more that just showing up to a vigil and a memorial service with some fancy words.

The presence of police is not a welcome one for all attendees of such events. Many folks with histories of drug addiction, sex work, and crimes of survival are likely to have had negative run ins with the police before. The friendly face the police give to law abiding lgbtq folks is much different than the one the reveal to “criminal” lgbtq people.

The Richmond Police Department and City Council can talk solidarity with transgender folks in Richmond, but they fail when it comes to walking the walk.

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

Photo by Kontra RVA of the Chief of Police talking nice to people while we were outside

The police and the sheriff’s department are responsible for enforcing a variety of different laws which  are particularly oppressive towards  and/or disproportionately affect transgender people. The Mayor and City Council have the power to change local laws and policies to be more trans friendly. The police and sheriffs have the power to change how they treat transgender people with whom they come into contact.

For those less familiar with the specific issues facing transgender people, I’m going to go into some of them here. I would add that these are also issues affecting other members of our communities struggling to survive. I’m intentionally limiting the discussion of these issues here to focus on the impacts specifically to transgender people.

As long as the Mayor, City Council and Police departments only give us fancy words and handshakes a few times a year, transgender people will suffer. In this case, suffering means being harassed, assaulted, homeless, sick, poor, raped, and murdered. This is a matter of life and death, which is why the proclamation read yesterday was so insulting.

As long as transgender people have no job protection, they will suffer.  Because there are no laws in Virginia to protect transgender people from being unfairly fired, their unemployment, poverty, and homeless rates are higher, and they will do what they need to in order to survive which sometimes means taking risks or breaking the law.

As long as sex work is illegal, and as long as the police enforce laws around sex work, transgender people will suffer.As long as sex work is illegal, the higher rates of violence against transgender sex workers will continue. Sex workers deserve rights and dignity, and keeping sex work illegal hurts transgender folks all the time.

As long as clean needles are illegal, and as long as police enforce laws to prevent needle exchanges, transgender people will suffer. Transgender people need legal access to clean needles to prevent infection and disease, to ensure their ability to take the hormones and medicines they need to survive, and to stay out of the criminal ‘justice’ system.

As long as transgender people are sent to the Richmond City Jail, where the Sheriff Woody prides himself on denying access to HIV medication, transgender people will suffer.  As long as transgender people are sent to jails and prisons with  cisgendered inmates transgender people will continue to suffer high rates of assault, rape, and murder.

As long as transgender people do not have the right to housing under Virginia laws, they will suffer. City Council could work to protect transgender people’s housing rights under local laws.

As long as two members of the police department glad hand at a few LGBTQ events a year but don’t actively disrupt the culture of police brutality that LGBTQ people bear the higher brunt of, transgender people will suffer.

What was offered by the Richmond Police Department and City Council on Tuesday was not enough. If the police and City Council want the benefit of looking good in front of the LGBTQ community and broader Richmond community, let’s make them earn it.

Some links with more information on the issues covered here, please check them out and further educate yourself and those around you!

Gay RVA’s coverage –  http://www.gayrva.com/news-views/richmonds-8th-transgender-day-of-remembrance-marked-with-police-chief-appearance-new-location-and-local-names-being-read/

Transgender women and HIV – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/transgender-women-49-times-likely-hiv-study_n_3000094.html (more…)

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March Against Mass Incarceration – A good movement builder

Photo by Ira Birch, me and Phil Wilayto from the Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality at the march!

Photo by Ira Birch, me and Phil Wilayto from the Virginia Defenders of Freedom Justice and Equality at the march!

Yesterday I attended the March Against Mass Incarceration, organized by Collective X. The rally met and parade started  in Clay Abner Park. A huge, huge ‘Thank You’ to Collective X for organizing this event over the past few months, and collaborating with so many other local people and organizations to do so.

Some friends at the march- photo credit to Kontra RVA

Some friends at the march- photo credit to Kontra RVA

There were speakers from a variety of anti-prison organizations there. Unfortunately the weather was gloomy, and it wasn’t the best for standing around listening. The marathon also made it difficult for folks to arrive and so the whole thing started late. But it was really great to see so many passionate people and to all get some exercise and networking together.

a picture I took from outside of the crowd at the MAMI rally and march

a picture I took from outside of the crowd at the MAMI rally and march

Two things I struggle to navigate with these types of events are how to best accommodate and be accessible to kids and differently abled participants.  I would love to hear from folks who are kids or struggle physically with marches about what they might want to see changed in the future, or what is possible. I find this complicated, because I think that aside from the empowerment of participants, marches are vital for visibility of movements. I want to see marches with long routes, through highly populated areas. But I recognize that long routes aren’t accessible. I was carrying a fairly heavy medic pack, and I was definitely feeling the burn towards the end of the march.

The heavy medic pack in question- photo credit to Kontra rva

The heavy medic pack in question- photo credit to Kontra rva

There were also folks with dogs (who I love, love, love seeing at these types of events) who ended up having to pick up and carry their dogs. It is also important to note that for many folks bringing a dog isn’t just a fun thing to do, but they might need their dog because it is a trained service dog.

photo credit to Kontra RVA

photo credit to Kontra RVA

Kids also have shorter legs, and sometimes shorter or different attention spans. Figuring out how to truly make events all ages is important. I feel like this may sometimes mean keeping speakers shorter, or providing childcare or activities (like upcoming Wingnut Kid Kits which will be launched at the VPA in January).

Maybe it also means having parade floats kids and dogs and elders and folks with less mobility can ride on? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m pretty sure everyone in Richmond is smart enough to come up with a variety of solutions that will work for a variety of needs. Our movements will be stronger if we can figure out how to include more folks, and what they need to be included. Listening will be a huge part of this.

I had a great time at the March organized by Collective X- always nice to come together with so many friends. Photo credit to Kontra RVA

I had a great time at the March organized by Collective X- always nice to come together with so many friends. Photo credit to Kontra RVA

I was a volunteer street medic, but luckily we had no need for medical help. However, it is definitely good practice to have some trained medics at these events. We took the streets from Leigh to Adams to Broad to Harrison and back down Leigh. There were no arrests or altercations during the march. My understanding is that Collective X had someone or someones who as police liason ensured we would not be attacked by RPD. The bike ushers did a great job of corking intersections and helping to escort the march and keep everyone safe. There were also NLG trained legal observers, and no doubt, copwatchers in attendance.

Richmonders have taken to the street in greater numbers and more often this year than I remember in the past. We’ve had the VPA,  March Against Monsanto, May Day Parade, Halloween Parade, Critical Mass Bike Rides, and this March Against Mass Incarceration.  I hope we keep this momentum up, building our movements, empowering each other, and fighting for a better world.

I also see Richmond getting better at taking the streets and organizing marches and parades. More folks are organizing, and more folks are participating. We need to incorporate things like continuing education and self care into our movements to ensure we can keep this up, and so we can do it all better in the future.

In January of 2013 the Virginia People’s Assembly will meet and March, so stay tuned for information on that (below cut).

Much love, and see you in the streets!

No seriously, in the streets, join us next time! Photo credit to Jack Johnson of FNB and WRIR!

No seriously, in the streets, join us next time! Photo credit to Jack Johnson of FNB and WRIR!

Links to relevant organizations and background info below:

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Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you have to share it

Life stuff I’ve learned –

So something I was thinking about this morning, not for the first time, but it is a good thought I think, so I wanted to share – (holy run on sentence batman) – you don’t have to share your opinion just because you have one. I have been working on this for some time and I am so much better its ridiculous.

I think this is especially important for folks with more privileges.  To not dominate, you gotta shut up and learn from others. Or leave room for them to speak up. And acknowledge that you aren’t always right, and that in tons of situations being right isn’t even important.

Folks with different experiences than you have different world views and different understandings, and those are simply incredibly valuable and yet undervalued.

A friend recently confirmed that they noticed I wasn’t speaking up about stuff they thought i would have an opinion on in a group setting recently. Its not that I don’t have an opinion, but rather that I’ve learned to not need to influence all decisions. I’ve learned to appreciate and enjoy the ride of group decisions. I’ve realized that its really nice to truly collaborate and experience things outside of my comfort zone or what I “know”.

These are just my thoughts. I wonder if other folks agree or understand what I’m trying to articulate here.

I mean this shit is obvious.  But knowing and KNOWING are two very different things.  I see a lot of people saying shit they will regret because they feel the need to express their opinion.  I’ve done it. I think one of the lessons here is to slow your roll.

Be a self thinking individual, but do your research before coming to your own conclusions.  And listening to opinions that make you uncomfortable or nervous can be part of this research. I’m not saying toe a party line of any sort, but understand you and me and everyone have been indoctrinated to a party line of this society. Our thoughts are not entirely our own.

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons A Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

Mo Karnage’s Top Nine Reasons a Stadium in Shockoe Bottom is a Terrible Idea and Mayor Jones is a Douchecougar

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Dwight Jones is a scumbag. A scumbag with a plan to develop Shockoe Bottom, and undoubtedly gain some personal reward down the line. The idea of moving Richmond’s baseball stadium from the Boulevard to Shockoe Bottom has been brought up repeatedly, but the public doesn’t enthusiastically support such a change. In fact, the drive for this change of venue seems to be coming out of nowhere – or mostly from some local developers/land owners who would profit by the move.

Momentum against Mayor Jones’ stadium proposal has been ongoing. This week it was revealed that the Mayor’s plan has added bells and whistles. These additions to the stadium plans are a transparent attempt to trick citizens of Richmond and City Council members into feeling like they must support his proposal despite the multitude of reasons baseball doesn’t belong in Shockoe. This new, larger, plan will not stop the campaign against a stadium in Shockoe Bottom. In fact, his newest attempt should create more momentum against this proposal and Jones’ shitty politics.

Here’s my top nine reasons why (it was going to be ten but I got hungry):

1) Food – The Mayor has added to his proposal the development of a grocery store in Shockoe Bottom. This should not sway you towards his plan, for a couple reasons. Shockoe Bottom already has one grocery store. Although, not my personal favorite, it exists and is available to the local population. Outside of that area, Richmond has many Food Deserts (one ‘s’ not 2, NBC 12, cause with dessert you want more, with desert you do not. p.s. hire me as a copy editor please). A food desert is an area where the local population does not have access to healthy, affordable food. Mayor Jones isn’t really helping Richmond’s population by adding a grocery store to a non-food desert zone. Neighborhoods such as Highland Park and Manchester pop into mind as places in need of a grocery store.

2) Utilities –  Mayor Jones has added to his plan the repair of the water/sewer utilities in Shockoe Bottom to try to entice people’s support. Here is why this is a problem- the City has an obligation to maintain and repair public utilities and that has NOTHING TO DO WITH BASEBALL. Richmond already has the world’s highest known water utility minimum rate. We already pay too much for our water utility – and we shouldn’t have to support the bad public investment of a baseball field in order to have our utilities repaired.

3) Housing – Jones’ plan calls for 750 apartments to be developed in Shockoe Bottom along with the baseball stadium. Richmond does NOT have a housing shortage. What we do have is a shortage of low income and affordable housing. If public money and support is to go towards any development of new housing it should be housing for the folks who need it the most – low income, elderly, single caregiver, etc. Sorry out of town yuppies and future gentrifiers, we have to take care of our own first. We need to prioritize the people who currently live in Richmond, and make a Richmond for us, not for folks some developers wish lived here.

4) Parking and Public Transit – The proposal includes the creation of 1,700 parking spots. In Richmond, we have our priorities wrong. We are putting effort towards creating more parking spots, which studies show will just create more demand. Instead, we should and NEED to be focusing on drastic improvements to our public transit systems and options. Why do I say need? Well, because in 2015 there is going to be a giant bike racing event here, which will draw crowds of over 450,000 . The UCI Road World Championships is a bike event, which no doubt will mean some roads are shut down for the races. Richmond roads, parking and public transit all lack the capacity to take on that many people for 9 or more days.  Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t give a flip about the bike event itself, but it’s a great jumping point to push for better public transportation.

5) Salomonsky is a crook – Developer H. Louis Salomonsky is a crook, convicted of conspiracy to commit extortion by trying to bribe a City Council member in 2004.  More recently he tried to manipulate reality to score historic tax abatement that he didn’t qualify more. I dunno yall, sounds like a bad person to be involved in a development partnership with. Who knows the types of behind the scenes deals that have been going on with this guy involved in the planning. Not the type of thing public money should be invested in, certainly.

6) This investment perpetuates patriarchy and homophobia and transphobia – I wrote a much longer op-ed on this issue which I will link at the bottom. But basically, professional sports like baseball, are cis-men only sports, and putting public money to support baseball or football unequally ends up supporting men and a patriarchical culture. Women, trans folks and non gender conforming folks, never have a chance to play on the Flying Squirrels and are disproportionally involved in these endeavors.

7) Racism and Sacred Ground – This point seems painstakingly obvious, but a Flying Squirrel doesn’t suit an area historically known for being a site of slave trade and the African Burial Ground. Richmond would do well to remember our historic racism in order to better confront our modern racism, and we need to give space, respect, and dignity to those historical sites in Shockoe Bottom. I’ve said it a thousand times but I’ll say it again – No one ever suggests putting parking or a baseball stadium on Hollywood Cemetery. Think about why that is and why these two sites look so different today. We have a legacy of racism, and we have to begin unwinding it somewhere.

8) If this was really such a great financial investment, don’t you think private investors would just do it? – It is a well understood fact that sports complexes like this proposed one, do not economically benefit the surrounding area enough to make up for the public investment. If a new stadium was economically sound, I think the Flying Squirrels would fund it themselves, or get private investors. There is a reason they are trying to blackmail Jones and Richmond Citizens for a new stadium- cause it won’t make enough money. We already built one bad investment sports stadium this year (see Redskins Training Camp is Racist and A Bad Investment), Richmonders can not afford a second bad investment in sports.

9) The people do not want it – Residents of Richmond are not clamoring for this plan. Mayor Jones is not responding to a cry for help or a dream emerging from the people. Mayor Jones is responding to that funny smell money gives off. Mayor Jones is trying, really, really hard to create a demand that just isn’t there. He is using all kinds of tricks to make it appear that people want this stadium, and that this stadium is a done deal. Neither are true. Below are linked several polls as well as an online petition showing this to be true.

Basically, ballparks are bad public investments, this particular location is particularly bad, and the bells and whistles Jones has attached to the baseball plan are ill informed, ill executed ideas which show a basic lack of understanding of both the needs of Richmond and the effective ways to meet those needs.

To Dwight Jones, I say, we all die one day, and I’m thinking your grave sounds like a super place for a game of catch.

– Mo Karnage

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If you don’t feel sufficiently informed by the above points, please educate yourself around this issue. Some resources that can help explain it to you:

To hear about the 2015 bike event- (more…)

Follow Up on Baseball Stadium op-ed

http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/3/post/2013/11/follow-up-richmond-virginias-shockoe-bottom-baseball-stadium.html

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