Category Archives: Activism

Donate to Keep Abortion Access Available in the West!

Around the same time as Margaret Sanger was going door to door through New York city, another young woman was faced with an unintended pregnancy. Already having two sons, there was no way her family could afford another mouth to feed. My great-great grandmother attempted a home abortion and died.

I love working for Planned Parenthood. Every day I am able to help young people access birth control safely and plan their fertility in a way that will allow them to be young people. I help mothers who were told breast feeding was enough. I help 45 year old women who thought they were “done with all that” (FYI – you’re not). I help trans folks and LGBTQIA folks and I am able to help so many people through my work at Planned Parenthood.

If you are getting this email, you’ve asked me for favors or money or some kind of help in the past, and I hope I was able to provide it. Right now, Planned Parenthood needs you. We need to be able to continue the valuable and lifesaving work we have been doing this entire time.

Please consider making even the smallest of donations. A couple dollars pays for a handful of condoms that we can pass out to 10 different patients. Planned Parenthood is an incredibly frugal organization. We quarter our sticky notes. We push ever single dollar as far as it will go. Please know that a dollar given to Planned Parenthood is a dollar that will help many people, many faces, faces that look like people you love.

Thanks for reading. Please consider donating, or if you cannot donate, please forward my campaign to that friend you have with money.

 

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How I Give Thanks

How I Give Thanks
 
The more I have learned about it, the more I don’t like Thanksgiving. It is a ritual meal that celebrates genocide… genocide that is still happening. When I worked in the hospital I frequently volunteered to work Thanksgiving and Christmas in exchange for New Year’s Eve off. It was a good arrangement. The few Thanksgiving dinners I have cooked were awkward affairs with just me, my ex, and my ex mother-in-law. Topics of conversation included why our decision to not have children was selfish, and her unfailing belief that the pill was going to give me cancer.
 
My best memories of Thanksgiving come from my childhood, when my grandma would come visit us from Missouri. One year, the turkey slipped and slid onto the floor. My mom was an animal hoarder, so my grandma cussed and defended the turkey from about 15 cats. I have yet to ever here anyone cuss as fluently as my grandmother did that day. These days, I take place in orphan celebrations with friends … I don’t like that we call them orphan celebrations. When you are good enough friends to open your home and share a meal, you are family.
 
Otherwise, I hate Thanksgiving. The last few celebrations have been hard. Knowing I was getting ready to file for divorce but keeping quiet about it, that time when a cop came to the a friend’s house wearing a pro-gun shirt and I am a racial justice activist. This year, having dated my boyfriend for over a year, I cannot avoid meeting family. I anticipate awkwardness ahead. I’m bringing wine.
 
I hate Thanksgiving.
 
This Thanksgiving we can look to our horror of an election. We have water protectors at Standing Rock, most of them Native themselves, being sprayed with cold water in freezing temperatures. In Denver, there are police harassing the homeless today. Families are meeting today in different shades of awkwardness and anger. I have warned my boyfriend that I will not hold my tongue if someone celebrates our incoming president or makes a racist statement. I believe in the art of calling people in, but I have been pushed thin by anti-choice protesters threatening the lives of myself and my colleagues, the killing of Black folks and other people of color at the hands of the police. I am vocal. I am sharp. I know my talking points. I will not be who I am not. He is bringing more wine.
 
I hate Thanksgiving but I love to give. It fills me with a warm pleasure that nothing else does. When I am working with a patient and there is something I can do to improve their life or even their day. When I can give a friend financial assistance. This year, I am blessed with the ability to give someone a really special, large gift, and when I realized it, I cried with gratitude that my life is now this good. When you are able to give of yourself and the fruits of your labor. When your life is so good you can help others, you have a blessed and full life. It is a time to be grateful that life has been this good to you.
 
We are missing this from our society in strange ways. While crowdfunding has become extremely popular, it can also be stressful when 5 of your friends are running fundraisers for life’s necessities and giving to all of them would put you at risk financially yourself. And while it has become exceptionally easy to give cash, the art of giving of things and of yourself seems to be fading away. Today, when taking a friend to breakfast she gifted with a small pot of lotion she had made. It smells like heaven. I am moved with gratitude.
 
On this ritualized anniversary of a feast, this gift from the indigenous people of our land that white people turned into a genocide, I encourage you to look around your table. Look beyond your table. Someone in your circle is alone today. Someone could use a meal. You have something you don’t use that someone else desperately needs. In giving of yourself, you will find the deepest gratitude to life you will ever know. The ability to give another person stability, food, a safe place to sleep. Never underestimate the value of the small things you can do. To someone else, they are massive.
 
Be grateful you can help. Be grateful you can give of yourself. The way to truly show your thanks is to give. You will be filled with joy and hope for the future. Today give thanks by giving someone else stability, food, a warm place to sleep. You will not regret the privilege you have been given to give.
 
Happy Thanksgiving.

The Black Square Stays Because I Am Not Okay

My dear white folks who are uncomfortable because I have not changed my user pic to that of a rainbow flag over the last week:

I didn’t change my user pic because I am not over the deaths of the 9 Black people killed in Charleston. I am not over the churches that were burned while I was growing up. I am not over the churches burning now. I need you to know, I am not okay right now, and Black people do not have to be okay either.

I’m not over Rekia Boyd. I’m not over Michael Brown. I’m not over Vonderrit Myers. I’m not over Aiyanna Jones. I’m not over Jack Jacquez, Jr. I’m not over Tanesha Anderson. I’m not over Jessie Hernandez. I am not over Islan Nettles. I am not over Eric Garner. I am not over Tamir Rice. Or Ty Underwood. Or Michelle Vash Payne. Or Yvette Smith.

I am so glad that gay and queer folks can get married, but it’s still legal to discriminate against gay and queer folks in many areas, including in employment, business and healthcare. Trans women, especially trans women of color still die more than anyone else. The Confederate flag coming down doesn’t mean racism goes away, but it does make it harder to see. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it goes away.

I am happy for the progress we have made but I am not over the deaths of so many people in so little time. It is not okay to expect people to just get over a massacre that took place at a monument just two weeks ago. If you don’t know that 8 churches have burned in the last two weeks, you should know.

You can’t just sing some songs and have this go away. You can’t quickly absolve yourself of the ways you have benefited from White Supremacy. You can’t do this work quickly, and you should not try to do it quickly.

So I’m not posting the LGBT rainbow flag. I’m not posting the Trans flag. I’m not posting the gender queer flag (even though it is my favorite of the flags). I am keeping this little black square where my face goes to remind you that many people are in mourning right now. If it is uncomfortable for you to be reminded, imagine how uncomfortable it is for the families of those who have died.

‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎BlackTransLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎BlackQueerLivesMatter‬ ‪#‎BlackGayLivesMatter‬

CIrcle of Love for Mama Josie

mamajosie

 

Josie Shapiro is one of the threads that holds Denver’s eclectic bunch of activists together. Whether it’s raising funds for a funeral, for bail, or organizing a march to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, Mama Josie is always there to Defend Denver.

Last year, Josie and her then partner Dave donated their entire savings to pay for the funeral of Ryan Ronquillo, a young man murdered by Denver’s gang unit. After the funeral, they worked tirelessly to organize marches and keep Ryan’s name in the news so that his death would not be forgotten.

After making her activism so visible to the community, Josie found herself tailed by police. Because of her activism on behalf of the Ronquillos, she lost her job, which she dearly loved, providing doula services to families on their journeys to becoming parents.

Not only did Josie donate her own home to use to raise funds for the Ronquillos, she also raised money for the family of Jessie Hernandez, who was killed by the Denver police in January. Like most of the Denver activist community, she found herself mourning the loss of a vibrant teen while also fighting for the freedom of Sharod Kindell.

At a meeting of activists several months ago, the mother and father of Jessie Hernandez expressed, through tears, their love and appreciate for Josie and the tireless work she had done to help them pay the rent, buy food, and bury their child.

Now, Josie finds herself alone. She and her partner of 6 years, the father of her children, are divorcing. Josie is about to find herself without a job, without a car, without a partner, and if we cannot help her through this, without a home. She is looking hard to find work, but continues to pay a heavy price for her activism.

There is no way this amazing, dedicated young woman should lose her home and her independence when she has done so much for her community. Please help us by joining the Circle of Love for Mama Josie, and donating what you can today. Every dollar helps a woman journeying into single motherhood provide for her children and stay in her home.

If you cannot donate, please help by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and other social media. Donations of social media platforms are absolutely donations!

Thank you.

Rejecting Respectability

By all outward appearances, I am a nice white lady. This gives me a lot of privilege, but it also means people make a lot of assumptions based on my appearance and demeanor.

Recently, I went to Mayor Hancock’s Cabinet in the Community here in Denver. I didn’t really want to go, but I have committed to getting out as much as possible to meetings and events so that I can livetweet the events and keep people updated. I’ve gotten a lot of comments that people like the livetweets, so I try to do them often.

In the first 5 minutes after I arrived, 2 police officers and one city official came up to me and said “I want to know how much I appreciate the way Coloradans for Justice does things.”

This is amusing, because if you’ve been watching, Coloradans for Justice is primarily an activist calendar service. We will organize events if it is needed, but there are so many groups in Denver organizing that it currently is NOT needed. We’re all about doing the work that needs to be done. We are also a really tiny group that does not hold meetings.

When I started organizing, shortly after connecting with @kennyswiley and @eliasheibert on Twitter back in August, none of us knew what we were doing. We didn’t know how to organize a vigil, a rally, a march. We hadn’t taking any organizing classes. Our main experience was that I have BEEN to a lot of marches and protest activities. We called around and no one would call us back. So we made some mistakes and we tried to build off of them and not make them again. I think we did a good job.

A friend of mine pointed out that the Denver police had run through all their informants and probably see me as a likely informant about activist activities. I get why.

Why does the city like the way we do things?

Because we met with the cops. We got permits. We asked permission.

This is why they like us. Because we played by the rules of respectability and this gets you things like handshakes and meetings with public officials.

There is a time and place for permits. If you are planning to hold a rally several weeks in advance for an annual event, you should get a permit. If you are responding to recent events, there may not be time to get a permit. You may not have time to meet with city officials. It is still vital to hold your event. It is still important that there is some level of organization and communication happening to ensure the safety of people attending your action. Having connections with other groups can help with this.

There are also times when you are just NOT going to get permission to exercise your right to free speech. When you have to realize that the requirement to get permission is an insult. That you don’t have to get permission for many activist activities.

I want to be clear that I am in solidarity with the protesters at Saturday’s #DefendDenver March Against Police Terror. I had intended to march and even went to the park, but I was really sick that day and my fellow activists encouraged me to rest. The media and police in Denver were quick to focus on red paint being thrown on a memorial for fallen police officers. They were quick to arrest a friend of the Hernandez family for overdue tickets on the day of the protest so they could claim another arrest that day.

Whenever there is a police involved death in our community, the police are quick to utilize the media to slander the name of the victim. To paint the dead person as a “thug,” to show how they deserved to die. And we, as activists, play our role. We argue for the worth of the value of the life of the dead person. We try to convince the community, the media, the country, that person’s life mattered. It is exhausting, and I hate doing it, but it must be done.

Paint that can be washed off of a statue does far less damage than the actions police take to destroy the worth of a victim’s life. So many people are so insulted by some red paint that was quickly removed… but did you think about how it feels to families who are victims of police violence to hear over and over that their loved one deserved to die?

You’re not going to catch me yelling “fuck the police” because it’s just not my style. I am generally analyzing what is happening, looking around for safety, watching people in the crowd, and looking out for my fellow activists. I’m not going to be yelling “fuck the police” but you can be sure, in my head, I am figuring out ways to subvert your system.

I am not a nice white lady. I am a radical, gender non-conforming activist. You should not let my outward appearance allow you to assume I will be your mouthpiece or your informant. I don’t want the respectability that is being offered me. I understand that in order to effect change, my personal respectability may be affected and I accept that.

The revolution is going to require we give up our attachments to respectability and public opinion and solidify activist relationships with one another. I am here for it. I hope you are, too.

 

 

 

Decentering Whiteness in Activism

Somewhere around tumblr, there are posts arguing that the “A” in LGBTQIA should stand for ally, and not asexual. Over the years, I have seen people who identify as asexual mocked and discriminated against for their lack of sexual desire. The clamoring for inclusion of the term “ally” in the ever growing list of letters has always made me very uncomfortable. I have written about my discomfort with the word in the past. In short, being an ally very rarely entails the risk that simply existing as a marginalized person brings. An ally can always leave. An ally can always withdraw. An ally can choose to stop supporting a cause or go find a different group of people supporting that cause. A marginalized person cannot stop being Black, Brown, trans, a woman, or whatever it is that causes them to be marginalized. For this reason, I am very cautious of any male identified person who labels themselves a “feminist,” and yet does not use their platform to uplift women, but instead uses it to silence women who question why they have been granted a position as gatekeeper of feminism.

Last week, Coloradans for Justice, along with other groups, had organized a protest.  The protest turned into a large, unplanned march.  We marched in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. The march was largely successful, and sparked another smaller protest the next day.

After the first march, organizers of the previous night’s event were alerted to something that disturbed many of the protesters who were out Tuesday night. When protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” frequently, they heard the chant changed to “All Lives Matter.”

I was at the back of the group and we were chanting “Black Lives Matter,” but this was a large protest. I believe the many people who came forward to say they heard “All Lives Matter” and questioned the need for White allies to change the chant, especially at such a crucial protest centered on the lives of Black people, and the worth of their lives. In addition, I have since seen people admit to changing the chant and have even been told by one protester that another instructed them TO CHANGE THEIR PROTEST SIGN to “All Lives Matter.”

This sparked an intense discussion on the event page the day after the protest, when the second protest was being planned. Many Black posters gave reasons for how they felt changing the chant to “All Lives Matter” erases their blackness. Many White posters defended their choice to chant “All Lives Matter” for many, many reasons, in spite of being told in many ways by other protesters of many races that changing that particular chant in that particular way erases Black people, and indeed, the purpose of the protest.

Denver is a very diverse city and frequently when Coloradans for Justice has held an event, Kenny Wiley, one of our organizers, will say “Black lives matter, Brown lives matter.” This is because there are many cases of police brutality experienced by the Latino population. I’ve always felt this was a good way to acknowledge the oppression and injustice faced by the Latino community as well as the Black community. I’ve never felt the need for Kenny to throw in a “All Lives Matter” to appease White supporters.

While there are certainly White victims of police brutality, there are far more Black and Brown victims.  We have seen time and time again that even holding something that appears to be a weapon is enough to justify the death of a Black or Brown person. Holding a toy sword. Holding a toy gun. Holding a toy gun in the toy gun aisle of Wal-Mart. Doing these things while also NOT BEING WHITE is enough to get you killed and your killers will go home and sleep well that night. Not only that, but the mainstream media will jump to the defense of the police officer/s who shot you while your family has yet to see your body.

If you’re going to use the word “ally” and you’re going to show up to protest in solidarity with a group of marginalized, oppressed people, you need to be prepared to take a seat. Usually it’s a backseat. This should not be an issue. While your presence, the visibility of your skin and gender, can be a powerful statement, your words may not be needed. You are able to send a message just by showing up. This is also something a marginalized person cannot do. When marginalized groups show up to protest, the media is quick to say they are rioting, while when White people actually riot, it is called terms like “spirited.” Oppressed people destroy symbols of oppression. Non-oppressed people fuck shit up over a sports team’s victory or loss.

Decentering whiteness and working to dismantle White supremacy takes a lot of work, and to be honest, a lot of that work is learning to be silent or how to amplify the voice of the person you are supporting. It doesn’t mean your opinions aren’t valid, but they simply may not be needed at that moment. Save those opinions and speeches for when you are talking to another non-marginalized person who doesn’t believe what oppressed people are saying. Your words have power. Your words have merit. Use them when they are needed. White people, especially men, are used to being heard. We are used to having our opinions be given equal weight simply because it is a White person saying it. We do not realize this is a part of White privilege. A big part of White privilege is the ability to be ignorant that you have privilege. People of color are used to having to shout, and even then, have their voices ignored. White people who are unaware or still fighting awareness of privilege do not believe that people of color have to fight, because they, as a White person, do not have to fight. Please believe me, people of color have to fight.

I’m going to give an example of a time when I chose to stay silent in order to decenter my whiteness. I’m not doing this for activist cred, I am doing this to give White people an example of how to really support a person of color whose voice needs to be heard:

I was at the last Denver Sheriff’s Department reform meeting. These meetings are run on a tight schedule. Statements and questions are kept to under 2 minutes, and they only allow a certain number of people to speak at all. I had raised my hand and was in line to ask my question. Frankly, I already knew the answer to my question, but I wanted to get them to say it out loud. Two other people were set to follow me. A White man, and a young Black man.

The moderator announced that only the first two of us would be able to ask our questions, that they did not have time for the third person. Of course, this meant that a young Black man would not get to ask his question. I saw the young man’s shoulders slump. It was obvious he was very disappointed. When the moderator turned to me, I said “I’m actually going to pass, because I would like this young man to get to speak, because I feel what he has to say needs to be heard.”The White man in line also elected not to ask his question, in favor of the young Black man speaking. We had each given up our time in order to give a young Black man an opportunity to speak. By doing this, and not demanding we be heard, we decentered Whiteness from that conversation.

It was the right thing to do. The young man spoke of his mistreatment at the hands of the Denver police force, both as a young teen and as a young man. What he had to say went beyond what the other man and I had to say.

I didn’t know that young man, but I had a feeling in my gut that if three White people had been in line, all three of us would have gotten to ask our questions. Indeed, the look on the moderator’s face when two White people declined to ask our questions so that a Black man could be heard, was priceless.

After the forum, I talked with the other man who had elected to not ask his question so the young Black man could be heard. He was also an organizer who has done work against racism in his community in North Denver. I wasn’t surprised to hear this because it is always unusual when you see a White person step back to give a Black person a chance to speak.

If I am talking to other White people, I should talk about dismantling White supremacy and the need to decenter whiteness. I can talk about the centuries of structural oppression that has resulted in such high numbers of incarcerated and dead Black and Brown people in the United States. I don’t need to talk to people of color about their lived experience of oppression. If I am in a group where people of color are discussing race, I have already been given a gift. I have been given an opportunity to learn. They don’t need to learn about me. Generally, when this happens, it is because I am with people of color who know I will not insert myself into their discussion. As a White person in a Black or Brown space, I need to be aware that I am here to learn, and generally have little to teach.

What if you have questions? First, ask yourself, “Could I Google this?” if the answer is yes, don’t ask the question. This is especially important in online discussions because asking for an explanation while someone is already giving information can derail the conversation. If someone quoted someone and you didn’t catch the name and would like to read some of their work, then ask after the conversation has ended and if that person is open to questions. If the conversation was deep and the person you want to ask seems troubled or needs space, respect that. Their need for space is more important than your need for a quote at that moment.

I don’t call myself an ally. I will say “I support this cause,” and then do my best by showing up as often as possible and doing what needs to be done. A lot of my work with Coloradans for Justice is clerical and supportive. I get permit paperwork done. I make Facebook events. I write emails. I write press releases. I canvass. I bring snacks and I make sure the amp is charged and the bullhorns have batteries. I make protest signs with generic sayings for people who want to hold a sign. I bring supplies for people who want to make a sign. I take pictures and video, and then upload it. I tweet. All of these things are things that need to be done in order for protest events to be peaceful and effective. All of these roles are activist actions. This is a part of my activism, and I find it rewarding to see people holding my signs, making signs, showing up and knowing it’s because I talked to them online or in the street. All of this is a huge reward, even if it is not a public reward. It is all the reward I need.

When we are talking about Ferguson, we often say “this is a movement, not a moment.” In order for the movement to be maintained, there need to be more White people willing to take a backseat. To do the clerical and supportive work. To bring the activist cookies. There are a ton of things White people can do to further this movement, including talking to other White people. Black and Brown people do not need to hear about how oppressed they are and how much White supremacy sucks from White people. I promise you, they already know.

Update from Denver: #SolidaritywithFerguson

Tonight in Denver, we held a peaceful protest for several hours at Civic Center park. People gathered in the cold to support the protesters in Ferguson, and to bring attention to the victims of police brutality here.

As the night wore on, and the decision was pushed back over and over, we began to wonder if it would never happen. Then, a reporter team asked me to answer a few questions. As they turned the camera on, I was informed the Grand Jury decision had just been released and asked for my response. The camera was on as my face crumpled. I held it together long enoug to say that I was deeply disappointed and that protests would continue. As this happened, I could hear my text alert begin to blow up.

Deep down, I knew there would be know indictment. Statistically, a Black person probably has a better chance of winning the lottery by finding a winning ticket on the ground than receiving justice for police brutality. And in the rare cases justice has been served …. the damage is done, the life is gone

This was my Facebook post tonight:

Tonight in Denver, we paused twice, at the request of the Brown family, for 4 1/2 minutes, a symbol of the four and a half hours Michael Brown was left to lay on a hot street in August. In the middle of a protest, where noise is the norm, 4 1/2 minutes of silence leads to many thoughts. Thoughts of the death of a teenager who brought us together. Thoughts of the 12 year old boy shot for having a toy gun. Thoughts of the young man in New York shot to death because a police officer was nervous. You think a lot of things in 4 1/2 minutes.

I have always had friends of different races. It’s not that I don’t see color, I just don’t see it as a reason to not be friends. Because I have White privilege, even as a person who grew up poor and white, and therefore hated in the South, I am not at risk of being shot on the street for reaching for my ID. I am not at risk of being shot, unarmed, as I sit in my car. The ability to live life as a series of open doors is a sign of the privilege my skin gives me.

Organizing has brought me into contact with more Black and Brown friends. It has given me an opportunity to learn more about different cultures and beliefs. It has opened my mind. It has given me insight into what is wrong in our culture. Our culture does not value the lives of men of color. Black men. Brown men. Latino. Native American. African American. Asian. Only a significant change in our culture, a change which causes White people to admit to the inequalities of a justice system heavily weighed toward centering whiteness, only decentering whiteness can change the ever quickening spiral of death of young people of color.

This is an epidemic. Because as certainly as families are being wiped out by Ebola in Africa, the creation of families in the United States is being slowed by the epidemic of police deaths here. These are families that will never join. Children that will never grow. Lives that will never happen. And every life matters.

Tomorrow night, we will be out again at Civic Center Park, peacefully protesting the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict and peacefully reminding the St Louis and Ferguson Police Departments that the nation is watching. We must do what we can to protect the protestors in Ferguson at all costs.

Tonight, in Saint Louis, people who were gathered at MoKaBe coffeeshop, a long time activist supporting coffee shop, and a safe haven, were gassed indoors in order to flush them out. People inside the coffee shop were forced to flee and hope they would not be grabbed by police.
 
Support the Ferguson protesters who are putting their lives on the line to get the message out. Support Michael Brown’s parents who have just been told their son’s life wasn’t even worth an indictment on the 4th, 5th, and 6th shots. Support Black people. Support Brown people. Their lives matter.

Tomorrow night, Denver will be back out to continue to protest the lack of justice Michael Brown and his family have received. We will be spirited. We will be loud. Spirit and volume do not equate to an invitation to violence.

Information on tomorrow night’s protest in Denver can be found here.

When Disability Affects Your First Amendment Rights.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

I have been protesting for about 11 years, most of that in Colorado. In those years, protesting has changed.

The Occupy movement had a profound effect on protesting in Colorado. In order to squelch the ongoing protest, the City Council pushed through an urban camping ban. Residents may still protest on the sidewalk without a permit, but must keep walking in order to do so. They may not sit or stand still.

On the one month anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, I met with two women down at Colfax and Broadway and we simply held signs during rush hour to remind people that Darren Wilson has not been arrested and Michael Brown has been dead for a month. No one bothered us, but I was prepared and we discussed the need to keep moving while we protested.

After @COforJustice organized the #NMOS14 in Denver, and the following March for Justice, I became increasingly aware of how activism increasingly requires the activist to be physically fit. Because we are not allowed to sit or stand still, those with chronic fatigue, COPD or other conditions may not be able to protest. If a person is in a wheelchair that requires them to push the wheels, they must be creative if they wish to hold a sign AND keep moving.

When we held the March for Justice in Denver, we worked to keep the march at about 1 mile. We got a last minute permit to use the Capitol steps. People who could not march could meet us at the steps. This was a compromise and I know many were still unhappy at the need to divert to ramps or to be unable to participate in the full scope of the protest. This is something I will keep in mind when organizing in the future, and see what can be done to allow people who do not have the strength to march to be a part of the march, whether it be by finding wheelchairs or other means of transportation through the march.

The morning of the March for Justice, I sprained my ankle. As one of the organizers, I could not back out of marching. I was ahead of the march, ensuring people got safely across the street. By the end of the night, I was in so much pain I was biting my lip and holding back tears. That mild sprain took weeks to heal. I cannot imagine how someone with a permanent disability would have been able to do what I was doing.

Personally, I have Meniere’s disease. While I can and do lead a full life in spite of this condition, I know that if I am having a flare of the disease, which causes vertigo, that I cannot protest while ill. I would need to sit. I could not keep moving.

Forcing protesters who are disabled to keep moving during a protest restricts our First Amendment rights. If a person cannot keep walking, they face arrest or ticketing and fines on the grounds of violating the rule that people who are protesting must keep walking. I use the example of COPD because it is a disease which restricts physical activity. While a person may be able to get to the protest site, they may need to sit to protest, they may not be able to keep moving.

Now, I know how to have a protest without being forced to keep moving. In order to do this you have to get a permit from the city of Denver or the state of Colorado. But that in itself goes against the nature of spontaneous protests. It is wrong to expect protestors to give the city 30 days notice after something horrible has happened so that they may protest what is happening. The state of Colorado was very helpful in getting us a permit in the space of 48 hours to have our protest, as was the Parks and Rec department. But that does not solve the issue that in order to protest, we have to ask permission to be in that space. The nature of protest is that it is without asking permission. It is our right to speak, even if it is inconvenient to the city or state that we be there.

Here’s the rub: CONGRESS is not making rules against protest, but cities and states are. They are able to control the numbers of protestors through urban camping bans and rules to keep walking and permit processes. If you are disabled, there is a strong chance you cannot exercise your First Amendment rights.

This is what was so amazing about Occupy. While there were many inspiring marches, there was also an opportunity to protest while sitting, while laying down. The occupation was the speech. As long as you were present, you were protesting.

Denver shut it down. They brought in a new police chief, passed the urban camping ban and forced Occupy off of city property. Now, homeless individuals who have no place to go face jail time and fines for sleeping on a park bench or over a grate. Yes, there are shelters, but there are not enough.

If that wasn’t enough, they began to enforce a ban on temporarily parking next to Civic Center park, which meant people had to walk over a mile to deliver supplies to the protestors. During Occupy, I worked several overtime shifts in order to be able to donate blankets, clothing and food to the protest. Now I had to come to the protest, pull someone away, pay for parking and carry supplies for a mile to the protest. Again, extremely difficult to do if I was feeling ill (which is my usual state of being, I just push through it).

Denver also began to enforce a little known ban on honking on city streets. While many people supported the spirit of Occupy, many were unable or uncomfortable with joining the protest. Still, they would honk their support. When you are standing in the cold and rain, trying to keep moving and holding your sign, those supportive honks do a lot to hold you up. They began ticketing anyone who honked on Broadway in support of the protestors.

I remember being at work one snowy night during the Occupy movement. Protesters were playing in the snow, and had built a very small igloo. The Denver Police Department brought in heavy equipment to take down the igloo. A shovel would have sufficed, but the message was clear. We are here to crush this moment of playfulness, this spirit of joy. We have the means and the method, and we’re going to crush this protest.

The last time I saw any Occupy protest in Denver, there were 8 protesters corralled on a sidewalk and about 15 police cars surrounding them. Again, I was on my way to work, and unable to stop and be part of the protest. I cannot just not show up to my job as a registered nurse. My patients and co-workers would suffer. But I remember the sorrow I felt for those few determined sign holders.

We as activists have got to start pushing for inclusion of the disabled in our movements. Disability should not be an automatic disqualifier from activism. The disabled have a lot to protest, and they have the right to protest. It is up to community organizers to ensure that our activism creates the possibility for all to join in. It is our responsibility to point out that not everyone can keep moving on the street, and this should not be reason for fines or arrest. Every person in the United States should be free to exercise their right to free speech. Those of us who are physically able, who are loud and vocal, should lend our voice to those who cannot shout, and give access to protest to anyone who would have it.

A Brief History Until Now

People keep asking me “when did you become an activist?” so here’s a brief history

I was born in 1976. Baptized into the Episcopalian Church.

Moved to Nashville in… 1981? I think?

I was burned in 1987.

Took back my name in 1990.

My mother volunteered at political functions, at churches, at homeless shelters. She did a lot to me I can’t forgive but she taught me how to be useful. My grandmother was an active member of the Republican Ladies Association her entire life. She instilled in me the importance of the vote. My mother sent me to Father Ryan High School, which had the unintended result of encouraging me to think for myself. My teachers and host parents in Germany continued encouraged me to broaden my mind.

Went to Germany in 1994.

Graduated high school in 1995.

Started performing poetry in 1996.

Moved to Colorado in 1998. Lost my name again.

I was a Republican until 1999.

A Green until 2000, when I also accepted that I am bisexual.

Sometime around here people started calling me a feminist.

Pre reqs for nursing started in 2001.

Diagnosed with Meniere’s in 2002.

Nursing school in 2003.

Graduated in 2005 (ADN).

Volunteered/worked with OFA from 2007-2008 on the campaign for Obama

Married in 2010.

Volunteered in a small capacity with OFA in 2011-2012.

A Democrat until 2012. Somewhere around here I began to believe I might be a feminist.

Took my name back again in 2014.

I’ve been an activist since the Summer of 2003. The crimes committed at Abu Ghraib were too much. I could not stay silent.

I’ve marched against the Iraq War (which I initially blindly supported),  for Occupy, for Trayvon Martin and other causes. During Occupy, I was one of many people ferrying supplies to Civic Center Park. I’ve participated in Hashtag Activism since a few months after joining Twitter.

I was in college for the last two years (BSN). I graduated August 14th.

Organizational groups need people who can pass out flyers, fill out permits, make phone calls. They need people with first aid and medical training. Working night shift allows me to do these things, as does my 2-3 day a week work schedule. This is what I can do.

I started working with Coloradans For Justice because I cannot stand by and watch the killing of people of color in the United States. I cannot be complicit in acts of war against a group of people due to their race. By being silent, I was being complicit. I cannot be silent.

I will do what I can until the world changes or I die.

 

The volume of my voice is not as important as the amplification I can provide for others who need it.

Just Keep Walking and Why I Stop

Trigger Warning: Racism. Domestic Violence. Violence Against Women

 

My friends who know me, know I stop. I stop for hurting people. I stop for hungry people. I usually don’t have cash or change to hand out but I almost always have some food in my bag. It’s what I can do. I’ll tell you if you need to go to a hospital or doctor or not. One of these days, stopping might get me in trouble, but I’ll probably keep doing it.

It embarrasses my friends.

It embarrasses my husband.

It embarrasses my family.

I keep stopping because I take the role of the nurse in the community seriously. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a nurse. You shouldn’t be shocked. And don’t go #notallnurses on me because we all know there are different kinds of nurses.

I feel guilty about what I’m about to write. I’ve felt guilty for a long time, even though I was a young child when this happened. But I want to speak out about this culture White people have created and what has been adopted. Because ignoring violence against women, especially Black women, is a huge piece of White supremacy that needs to come apart.

It was a sunny day. I don’t remember what time of year. It was in East Nashville. Somewhere along Eastland Ave. We used to live on Benjamin St. I went to Cora Howe Elementary. I think we might have been coming

I don’t remember where we were going but I was walking with my mother. There was an apartment building nearby that had a reputation. Most of East Nashville had a reputation at that point.

A Black woman came running out of the building, screaming for help. A man ran out after her and tackled her, beating her on the ground. I wanted to run to the payphone and call 911. I told my mother we needed to help. She held me harder and said “Just keep walking.”

Now.. was my mother afraid for her own safety? Probably. Was she afraid for our safety? Probably. But could she have knocked on a door or done SOMETHING? Yes. My mother worked for the Metro Nashville Police Department for years. She wasn’t a police officer, but her call would have brought half a squad. I’ve seen it happen.

And she didn’t. She walked us to the car, she got in, and she never looked back. We lived close by. She could have driven home and called for help and never identified herself to the abuser. She didn’t.

I remember that woman. I remember she had long, natural hair. I remember this because the guy used her hair as a weapon. It was how he stopped her before he tackled her. I remember her screaming in our direction, because we were the only people out there. But I don’t know what happened to her.

I also remember my mother  and step-father(s) abusing me and my sister.. I remember when we tried to get help because our parents had threatened us with beatings if my sister failed a test. My sister, suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia, failed the test. My sister is INCREDIBLY smart. She’s just dyslexic. But when we went to the Kroger on Gallatin Rd, that had a giant “Safe Place” sign in the window, we weren’t helped. The police jumped to help one of their own. My sister and I were taken to a counselor, we were never allowed to speak without our parents present, and we were told if we persisted with our complaint, we would be split up, pulled from our school (the only haven we had), and how selfish we were to accuse our parents of these behaviors. I remember how we went to subsequent “therapy” appointments after that, where the therapist called us lazy and told us we had to do more to help our mother. Our abuser. Again, we were not allowed to speak without our parents present.

So now I stop. I call 911 if it’s needed. I help. If I need to, I’ll scream my head off to draw attention to what’s happening. You don’t get to abuse someone near me and feel that’s it’s okay because no one stops. I’m going to stop. If I can’t stop you myself, I’m going to get someone who can. I couldn’t stop when I was a little girl, but I can stop now.
Making rules for yourself and standards for the people you associate with IS NOT easy. It doesn’t even really get easier. But it does lead to a more fulfilled and honest life. I’m not done learning, changing and growing. But learning to stop was one of my earliest rules for myself as an adult, and it’s a good place to start.

Tired.

It has been a long 10 days since I responded to @KennySWiley’s tweet asking if there were people in Denver interested in organizing a National Moment of Silence. At the time, I was on my break at work, reading about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Like many people, I felt helpless. Like many people, I felt tired. The killing of Black people in the United States by police, security and vigilante justice, as well as the incarceration of so many inside the Prison Industrial Complex is genocide. This is not new. This has been going on for centuries.

So I responded. When someone asked if I’d done this before, I said no, but there was a first time for everything. Thanks to my years of working as a secretary, as a customer service rep, and as a nurse, I have learned you can get a lot done quickly if you have the determination, the support, and the time to make things happen. Thanks to the advice of and work of complete strangers on Twitter, I was able to help navigate the process of finding a space for the NMOS. It was the work of many. We called to the community, the clergy, and Denver responded.

Last Thursday, and tonight, at the Denver March for Justice, I heard many people talk about how tired we are. And some people don’t like that language. We are full of energy. I agree, I am full of energy. Being out of college and having free time made it possible for me to take a part in co-organizing these events. For that opportunity, I am grateful. But I admit, I am also tired.

I am tired of ideology that Black people are disposable. I am tired of the killing of my Black neighbors. I am tired of the loss of these fathers and mothers and sisters and brothers. I am emotionally, spiritually, mentally exhausted. Every 28 hours, another Black person is killed by police, security or vigilante justice. I am no where near as tired as the members of the Black community. I cannot fathom the level of exhaustion felt by people for whom waking up and going about their day is a revolutionary act.

I spend a lot of my time tired. I’m a nurse. I work nights. I frequently have to move my sleep schedule around. But I have found the more tired I am, the more I can accomplish. I call this “being a special kind of tired.”

I am tired. I am the kind of tired that forces you into action. The kind of tired that demands you find caffeine and push forward. I am the kind of tired that tells me I will not really rest until I work to make change happen. I am the kind of tired that fuels effort and change. I am that special kind of tired you become when you have been pushed to your limits.

The world has pushed me to my limits. As Kenny said, I have moved past the point where blog posts and twitter posts and arguing with my relatives on Facebook is sufficient. I must act.

Tonight I had the opportunity to take a member of the march home to Longmont, Colorado. This man, who marched in Selma, Alabama in the 1960’s, talked to me about his years of activism. The injuries he has received, the injuries he has cared for. Being in the Civil Rights Movement, he learned the skills of a field medic, and if he was not marching, he was caring for the injured. He shared his poetry. He told me about people I will never see in a history book.

He is tired. He has been tired for years. But he keeps going. He keeps pushing. He is that special kind of tired.

Never assume complacency from a tired person. Yes, we are tired. But it is this deep emotional, spiritual exhaustion that has pushed us to action. Many people have reached this state of exhaustion and are moving. We cannot stop moving. We must push forward. One day, there will be real rest. There will be time for enjoying the sun and the grass and the sky. A good book. But for today, our exhaustion is fuel.

We are tired, but we are not out of energy. We are exhausted, but we will not rest. We are going to change the world, and that requires a special level of tired to get the work done.

Coloradans For Justice

The National Moment of Silence in Denver on Thursday was a success. We held a peaceful vigil and members of the Denver Ministry came and spoke. We sang. We linked arms. In silence, we remembered Mike Brown and then we spoke the names of the dead. We collected signatures. At the end, the crowd dispersed quietly.

I personally was very nervous about the event. I’ve never organized anything before, and neither had any of my co-organizers. I feel that for something that started in the middle of the night on Sunday, we did really well.

But that was a moment. We need a movement.

We are working on planning a march in Denver on Tuesday. More information is forthcoming.

In solidarity with the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri and in recognition that we cannot stop fighting police brutality, we have created Coloradoans For Justice.

Facebook page

@COforJustice

Email: coloradansforjustice@gmail.com

Please like the page and follow the Twitter account for updates on a march we are planning for Tuesday.

More information to come.

National Moment of Silence: Denver

 

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NMOSFlyer

Facebook Page

We will be gathering at Civic Center Park in Denver on the Broadway side at 5:00 PM August 14th.

 

Demand Buzzfeed Retract Articles About Steenfox (Christine Fox) and Apologize!

Twitter user @SteenFox held a beautiful conversation among sexual assault survivors that was healing and loving. Before the conversation had even finished, Jessica Testa of Buzzfeed had quickly gotten foggy consent from some users, but not @SteenFox and created a salacious piece of clickbait to up Buzzfeed’s ad revenue. They they wrote an article defaming @SteenFox’s repeated requests to have her own tweets and images taken down, which is her legal right. Your tweets are your own intellectual material, per Twitter’s privacy rules.

Please sign this petition to demand Buzzfeed retract and apologize for their articles about SteenFox (Christine Fox). If you can, go a step further and block Buzzfeed’s quizzes and “news” from your Timeline. You won’t miss them. I promise.

Please, please, please share this post!

Help Lynx SainteMarie find their poetic voice!!!

My dear friend Lynx is trying to raise money to go to a poetry workshop for people of color in Canada. Transportation is already covered and they’ve received a $100 scholarship to help them attend.

 

The link to Lynx’s Gofund me is here

 

Created by Lynx Sainte-Marie on March 10, 2014

From Lynx:

Hey everyone,

For those who don’t know me, I’m Lynx. I am a (gender)queer, black feminist, afrogoth poet and student of love.  I run a little website that helps to showcase queer/trans, two-spirit and gender variant people of colour and Aboriginal folk as a way to give back to a broad community that is under-appreciated and mostly overlooked.  I am also chronically ill and am working towards wellness and wholeness, both physically and emotionally. And here I am, after many years, once again starting a journey into the world of performance art and spoken word poetry. How amazing!

I stopped creating and performing for several years because of a number of reasons, including trauma (I am a survivor of abuse), the onset of my immune issues, Depression & Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Because of these issues, the impact of them I still live with, and because most of my money goes towards medicine, supplements and/or my part-time post-secondary studies, I don’t have much money for anything else. So the idea of going to a retreat or workshop that might further my creative potential and provide me with creative contacts is mostly a dream to me. So here I am, asking for your support.

I was reluctant to create a page like this and fundraise but some of my dear friends reminded me that there are folks out there who believe in my words and who would support my going to a poetry workshop to help with my journey of regaining my voice and love for the stage. So here I am, sharing my story in the hopes that you believe in me like they do 🙂

d’bi young anitafrika is a world-renowned dub poet and educator, offering education to poets and performance artists from all walks of life. The workshop she is offering is called “finding my poetic voice and it is through the watah school: womb arts healing. It would be an amazing and humbling experience to attend this interactive, interpersonal and healing workshop and such an honour to work with d’bi since she is my favourite Canadian performance artist.  It would be an absolute dream for me to attend this workshop and learn as much as I can from her and my fellow workshop attendees.

The cost of the workshop is $700. Because of my situation, I was offered a $100 discount (Which would bring the fee down to $600) but because of “GoFundMe’s 5% per donation and WePay or PayPal’s 2.9% + $0.30 per donation“, I left it at $700. This money needs to be paid IN FULL by April 5th.  Travel expenses will be covered by me and it helps that it is every week for six weeks so it won’t cost very much to take public transportation to Toronto.

Give what you can and ONLY what you can, however small, I appreciate it. This would be an amazing opportunity for me that I would remember for the rest of my life.  I would love the chance to hone my skills as an artist with one of the greats! Once I am able to attend, I will document the journey as best as I can so that all can see my progress. How wonderful!

So much love for you all,

LSM

Please donate and if you can’t donate, please reblog to signal boost and spread the word. It’s so hard to find opportunities for enrichment as a writer, please think of Lynx and if you even have $5 to spare, send it their way!

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