Posts tagged ‘prison abolition’

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.

tdor2013

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…)

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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