Blog Archives

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.

 

Running in Geesthacht

I talk about living in Germany a lot but I don’t talk about the impression the remnants of the war and my German history education taught me. I’ve talked about it on Twitter, but I haven’t talked about it here.

A young woman in class talked about learning that her grandfather was a war criminal. That he had killed thousands in the Holocaust. Jewish, Queer, Trans, Romani, so many people.

And she said she would think about it at night and that it felt like a weight on her chest, the weight of all those bodies and souls, smothering her. She knew it wasn’t her fault but she said she needed the weight to remember why the Holocaust should never be allowed to happen again.

I follow a couple of other people on here who I knew back then. I’d like to ask you to talk about what you saw and lived when we were in Germany, back right after the Wall fell, and what you learned from it.

I used to run (I know) every morning in Germany. I would run on this path and there was a fallen down building there. When my host parents learned where I was running, they were horrified. I was on a path, sure, but it was a path through where an old minefield had been. The fallen building was a bombed out bunker.

That’s when I learned that in 1993, they had fished out a bunch of mines from around that bunker and the path. My host parents thought they were all gone, but weren’t sure. I ran on the sidewalk after that.

When I went to Dresden in 1995, I saw the Frauenkirche, this magnificent church that was bombed out and left to stand by the people of Dresden so that it would never be forgotten. In 2012, I stood inside the Frauenkirche, rebuilt. I think they rebuilt it too soon.

Today, when I woke up, I thought I had gone insane. Someone I barely knew, but definitely someone who would be targeted by Nazis, was defending a group of Nazis. I couldn’t believe it. I had to run an errand and when I came home, the post was still there. I don’t need a new friend that bad.

I want to remind all my folks.. Trans, NB, Queer, activists. The people who share my marginalizations.. they will come for us, and we won’t be the third or fourth group they come after. Get with the fucking program. We are on the list. You should feel that weight on on your chest, because it is going to smother us.

If you don’t believe this is a serious threat, please talk to me. Talk to someone. There are enough people out there who know the seriousness of what our country and the world are facing with this swing to the right. We are facing another cascade of atrocities, and we will not all survive this.

Keep Jeanette Vizguerra Home!!

Sign and share the petition to keep Jeanette Vizguerra home! Stop deportations of community members and families!

(Note: Text is copied from information at petition site!)

Jeanette Vizguerra, a Colorado community leader and mother, is facing deportation. Jeanette has lead the fight against her own deportation for over 6 years to great success, part of her secret to success is her die hard community. She needs it again, today! Share this and spread the word.

Jeanette has lived in Colorado for over 17 years, has 3 small children who are US citizens, started a small business with her husband who is a cancer survivor, and has given selflessly as a community activist. She worked for SEIU as a labor organizer and volunteered with her children’s schools, the Aurora Neighborhood Watch Program, Rights for All People, AFSC and contributes to the Romero Troupe.

Jeanette has worked hard to build her community in Colorado and has inspired many with her courage and passion. Jeanette’s story exemplifies the brutality of our immigration system that is unjustly separating families and denying many the ability to live with dignity. Although this immigration system has tried to destroy Jeanette’s dignity, she is still fighting to be with her children and she needs our support!!

History:
Jeanette Vizguerra (A# 089-826-036), came to the US in 1997 with her husband and daughter. They fled after her husband, a bus driver, had been threatened at gun point for the third time. Jeanette worked cleaning office buildings and became a key member of her SEIU local, 105. Eventually she became an organizer, leading the fight for better pay and benefits for all janitors. She also joined a local advocacy group called Rights for All People as one of its founding members. She worked to establish trust and relationship between the immigrant community and the police. She and her husband started a moving and cleaning company and eventually had three more children, all US citizens.

Jeanette’s case began in 2009 when she was pulled over for an expired license plate and then arrested for driving without a license (at that time Coloradans couldn’t get a license if they couldn’t prove status). That traffic stop led to a police officer discovering documents she was going to use to apply for a third job this discovery resulted in a misdemeanor. The economic downturn had impacted the moving company and her husband had taken ill so she was the only breadwinner for her family.

In 2013, as she was awaiting an appeal in her case, she received a call from Mexico that her mother was dying. Despite 17 years in the US and thousands of miles, Jeanette and her mother spoke weekly. There are no humanitarian visas or programs available for those circumstances and Jeanette decided she had to be at her mother’s side before she died. She flew to Mexico the next day and, as she was in the air, her mother died. After 7 months of trying to build a life and send for her children, it became clear to Jeanette that at 40 she was too old to get good paying work in Mexico and decided to return to the US. She was detained at the border, and with the help of community, released back to Denver where she’s been granted repeated stay of removal for brief 6 month periods. Month to month is a hard way to live, grateful for more time with your family but unsure if you’ll continue to stay with them.

This is why Jeanette needs your support. Sign and share this petition widely.

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.

Shiftwork and Activism

From my Facebook Page:

I am going to make a request. While i have tried to be very vocal about this, and the majority of people are respectful, I need to make it clear:

I am a night shift nurse. This means I only work 2-3 days a week and occasionally have meetings at my hospital. This allows for a lot of time to organize and to go to meetings.

What it does not mean is that I can skip sleep to go to meetings. I cannot sleep for a few hours, then go to a meeting, and then go back to sleep. I cannot exist on less than 7 hours of sleep. It is not safe for me. It is not good for my patients. It is also not good for organizing because there is a big chance I will forget what we have been talking about if I have been up for 24 hours.

I work at least 2 weekends a month. I do not have a set schedule, and my work is scheduled 2-3 months in advance. Yes, this can be inconvenient. No, it is not unfair. Most nurses work at least every other weekend and many holidays. Many other careers have unpredictable hours. This should not exclude us.

A Monday through Friday, 8-5 job, is a privilege. It affords you opportunities shift workers do not have. When people ask that meetings be scheduled at more inclusive times, or if multiple meetings can be scheduled around one topic, this is an opportunity for inclusivity.

I love my job. I love organizing. I can do both.

As I have gotten more involved with activism online and out in the world, I have tried to make myself very accessible and available. It is time to set some limits. I will check phones messages, emails, tweets, Facebook updates, etc frequently if I am not asleep, at work, or driving. If I am doing those things, I will check in during my break, before I go to bed, and after I get up. I will no longer receive alerts for Twitter DMs on a regular basis. This is for my mental and physical health.

I know a lot of other shift workers feel this way. I would really appreciate if you are a shift worker and you have trouble with people respecting basic needs, that you post here and talk about it.

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.

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.

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