The Interrupters Screening and Discussion

Interrupters Flyer

Family and Friends of Incarcerated People’s Annual Community Event!

It’s that time of year again, folks! Family and Friends of Incarcerated People is holding their annual community event.  Join us, this Saturday, August 20, 2016 at Oxon Run Park, 1st and S. Capital Streets SE.  The fun starts at 1:00 PM.

FFOIP Community Fest 2016_Fun

Long-Time Sex Workers’ Rights Activist Discusses Violence And Endurance

Cross-posted from Tits and Sass
written by Bonnie D.

Content warning: This interview contains graphic descriptions of police violence and rape, imprisonment, and domestic abuse.

abonnie1Bonnie is a veteran sex workers’ rights activist who has done outreach work in the D.C. area since 2001. She was a HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive) client who lived on the streets in Maryland. Later, she was inspired by the work of Robyn Few and others to participate in activism and community organizing through SWOP-Maryland. Last year, she recorded sound for No Humans Involved, a documentary film produced by PJ Starr about Marcia Powell, the street sex worker killed by the negligence and cruelty of the Arizona prison system in 2009. Currently, she’s on a community advisory board with John Hopkins researchers for the SAPPHIRE (Sex Workers And Police Promoting Health In Risky Environments) study, which examines the role of police in HIV risks faced by Baltimore cis and trans sex working women.

You’ve been doing outreach since 2001, originally to D.C. and Prince George’s County Maryland, and later to Northern Virginia and Baltimore as well, using HIPS supplies and sometimes your own money. Where does your dedication come from?

I enjoy it and have to do it and will never stop doing it. That’s because I have memories where the ends of bread, dry socks, housing, a place to get high [where they would] not send me to jail, or a place to avoid drugs (depending on my mood), were my biggest dreams.

I have 8 years where I can proudly say the drug I am allergic to has no power over me. 

Up until very recently I provided housing. I had to stop, and now I provide referrals and transportation to shelters or transitional living or an affordable place to live, whatever is asked of me.  My current venues are methadone clinics, BDSM clubs, immigrant sex work apartments, drug testing clinics, and sex or BDSM party houses. I never leave someone who wants to be inside outside. What if it was the last time I saw that person? What if they were arrested for being homeless i.e. trespassing or loitering; really any charge. A Prince George’s County cop told me and I will never forget: it does not matter what I/we do, it only matters what he/they write on their papers.

Privileged, housed people may not understand that, and it is something I cannot explain. There are two separate worlds, where the language barrier is experience.

Continue reading Long-Time Sex Workers’ Rights Activist Discusses Violence And Endurance

Survival’s Price

“…Afro-Americans have never had any kind of a chance to recover from the traumatic wounds of slavery…”

  • Michele Wallace, The Culture War within the Culture Wars

“Mamma, did you ever love us?” Hannah Peace asks her mother, Eva Peace, in ‘Sula’, Toni Morrison’s second novel. When Eva whirls into an uproar in response to the question, Hannah attempts to clarify, “I was talkn’ ‘bout something else… Like. Playn’ with us. Did you ever, you know, play with us?”. Eva, however, is still furious; “Play? Wasn’t nobody playin’ in 1895… 1895 was a killer, girl. Things was bad. Niggers was dying like flies.”. 

From this snippet of the novel, it would be extraordinarily easy to identify Eva as a callously utilitarian parent as our society claims increasing interest in children’s needs for parental affection. An inattentiveness to context may even encourage some to condemn Eva for her reaction to Hannah’s curiosity. However, only by examining Eva’s past can we acquire insight into her temperament.

Abandoned by her wayward husband, Eva was left with very few resources and three children to raise single-handedly. After weeks of staving off starvation, Eva entrusts her children to a neighbor and leaves town in search of work. Eighteen months after her departure, Eva returns—missing a leg and possessing enough money to build a house of her own. While Eva’s neighbors relentlessly gossip about how Eva lost her leg and obtained presumed wealth, I am more concerned with what Eva’s lost leg symbolizes.

Eva’s lost leg symbolically represents the sacrifices Black single mothers have made, and continue to make, to ensure that they’re able to provide their children with sustenance and shelter. As the word implies, all sacrifices, even those that make survival possible, come at a cost. In Eva’s case, being without two legs leaves her homestuck, living in a wagon on her home’s third floor until her granddaughter, Sula, enters adulthood. And, even before venturing off, Eva is unable to deal with her anger at Boyboy, her ex-husband, for deserting her, “…the demands of feeding her three children so acute she had to postpone her anger for two years until she had both the time and energy for it.”.

While I believe that Black single mothers have experiences which most parallel Eva’s, I also believe that aspects of Eva’s experience are shared by Black people collectively, regardless of parenting status and gender. Due to the sheer viciousness of white supremacy, from enslavement to displacement to racial apartheid, Black people have survived for centuries in a society dependent upon our mental, emotional, and physical brokenness to sustain itself.

Recent research in genetics suggests that trauma alters DNA and that genetic trauma is passed on to offspring, negatively influencing the mental and physical health of future generations. Centering the experiences of Indigenous people, Mary Annette Pember writes, “According to researchers, high rates of addiction, suicide, mental illness, sexual violence and other ills among Native peoples might be, at least in part, influenced by historical trauma.”. Therefore, it makes sense to assume that the same may be true for African-Americans as well. Alongside the damage done to our DNA, Dr. Joy DeGruy wrote an entire book on the subject of chattel slavery’s residual impact upon African-American’s psyches.

Alongside the impact chattel slavery has had upon our genetic makeup and psyches, disregard for Black people’s mental health is a tool of white supremacy that has long been in use. Writing about Black people’s relationship to suicide, Steven W. Thrasher writes, “A potent form of white supremacy is to convince black people that we have no agency in anything and that our lives don’t matter, that our mental lives don’t matter, and our emotional health is irrelevant.” And, sadly, due to the internalization of white supremacy, Black people often repeat these types of messages to ourselves. Partially due to shame associated with seeking treatment for mental health problems, many Black people endure mental health challenges they experience without services from mental health professionals.

Of course, Black people are justified in any misgivings they may have about the United State’s medical industry; however, refusing to see a medical practitioner for a prolonged period of time can be extremely detrimental to one’s health.

Interpreted through a certain lens, the realities mentioned above could potentially be used to justify racist eugenicists ideals and practices; viewed differently, these realities speak to the tragic resiliency of African-Americans, and the immeasurable sacrifices we’ve made to have our basic physical needs met.  

Thankfully, those active in movements for social justice have acknowledged the benefits of therapy for Black people since 1968, when the Association for Black Psychologists was founded. As more Black people, like Richeal Faithful, a self-described “street shaman and folk healer” who works in Washington D.C out of the Freed Bodyworks wellness center, engage in practices of healing, alternatives to generational trauma will make themselves increasingly available. Our goal, however, must be a societal transformation which makes these spaces for healing accessible to everyone.

Democracy Spring: Alternative Media News Round Up

Events began on April 2, 2016 in Philadelphia, where more than a hundred activists began a ten-day, 140-mile march from to Washington D.C.  By April 11, thousands had joined Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening in our nation’s capitol to demand Congress take immediate action to end the corruption of big money in our politics and ensure free and fair elections in which every American has an equal voice.

According to John Zanga, from the DC Media Group, organizers planned an eight-day series of actions involving major groups which have expressed dissatisfaction with legislative agendas. They said they hoped the coming week of civil disobedience actions would be the beginning of a people’s grassroots movement to start wrestling control of the Congress from corporate moneyed interests.

Here are a few of my favorite stories covering the events of last week.  I start with this video because I think it explains best the reasons the movement is necessary.

USA Today covered the story I think more completely than any of the other mainstream media outlets.  For your “just the facts ma’am” coverage their article More than 900 ‘Democracy Spring’ protesters arrested in D.C. – so far written April 17 is fairly comprehensive.

For coverage from a more progressive standard bearer, your best bet is Democracy Now’s coverage as posted on last Tuesday April 12, Democracy Spring: More Than 400 Arrested at US Capitol Protesting Corruption and Money in Politics.

Another good article from left of center comes from Alternet’s article, Thousands of Activists March to Capital to Get Money Out of Politics for ‘Democracy Spring’ Protests; Many Arrested

As this is site tries to cover local progressive issues, I’m posting a couple of articles from our local alternative media in their entirety below.

Black Lives Matter and Anacostia organizers lead 3rd march on Capitol by Democracy Spring
Cross-Posted from DC Independent Media Center
Written by Luke

On the 13th of April, Black Lives Matter and other Ward 8 organizers led Democracy Spring’s 3rd march on the US Capitol. The lead banner was from the Save Barry Farms organizers advising people to refuse to move, blocking displacement. When the march arrived at the Capitol, the third sit-in in as many days followed. As police arrested the folks in the sit-in, they also put police lines around the support people after moving them back behind the first police line. At one point they were told they too were subject to arrest,unknown if any arrests other than voluntary ones resulted from this. The final arrest total for the three days so far has now climbed to in excess of 700.

Luke wrote a follow-up article on April 17, Thousands March in Democracy Awakening:  March Against Money in Politics.

And finally, we have to include the coverage provided the DC Media Group, who is always good about interviewing event organizers and highlighting campaign goals and ways to stay involved.

Mass Arrests at Democracy Spring Civil Disobedience Action at U.S. Capitol
cross-posted from the DC Media Group
written by John Zangas

Photo by John Zangas

Photo by John Zangas

Washington, DC – Over 400 Democracy Spring protesters were arrested Monday at the U.S. Capitol on the first day of eight days of planned protests. It was a record number of arrests in one day for a protest there, according to U.S. Capitol police. At one point, police had to stop processing arrests because the jail was full.

Cenk Uygur, host of the TV show Young Turks was among the last few people that police removed from the Capitol steps. He said it was his first arrest and he expected there to be many more. “The next time we come here I don’t think they’re going to have enough buses to arrest us all,” he said. It took nearly four hours and 15 bus loads for police to remove all the protesters involved in Monday’s sit-in.

Democracy Spring kicked off on April 2 with a 10-day march from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. About 135 took part in the 140-mile walk. David Schwank, a walk participant, said that he was inspired to join the protests for many reasons. “We have so many problems in our country, from environmental devastation to [un]fair wages and it all relates back to campaign finance reform,” he said. Schwank was also among those arrested Monday.

Continue reading Democracy Spring: Alternative Media News Round Up