New York Tuesday
Day two in New York started with lunch with Streetwise and Safe (SAS). They describe themselves well, so here’s a quick into to them from their blog:
Streetwise & Safe (SAS) —also known as SAS—is a project by and for youth of color in New York City that shares the ins & outs, do’s & don’ts, and street politics of police encounters between LGBTQQ youth of color and the police. We stand for and with LGBTQQ and youth with experience trading sex for survival needs. We feel knowing your rights makes you more confident in protecting yourself during and after interactions with the police. We also know that the reality is that the police don’t always respect our rights but knowing what they are is important so that we can fight for them later. We also create a space to share strategies to stay safe from all forms of violence experienced by LGBTQQ youth.
They shared with us some pretty amazing media they’ve been making to educate one another about rights when interacting with law enforcement. Through their “Online Map of the Criminal Injustice System,” they walk you through each step of the system, from initial police encounters to detention, arrest, arraignment, and trial. At each step, there is text, video, and audio made by SAS members to share know-your-rights info and strategies for navigating the tangled system.
They have also been working to fight the stop and frisk policies in New York. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a record 576,394 people were stopped in 2009 through this policy, 84 percent of whom were Black and Latino residents — although they comprise only about 26 percent and 27 percent of New York City’s total population respectively.
Additionally, SAS has been speaking out with others against a law that makes just carrying condoms evidence for prostitution. A similar law is on the books in San Francisco as well. This reminds us of Women With A Vision in New Orleans, who fought to overturn the Crimes Against Nature statutes – the same criminalizing forces show their heads in only subtly different ways.
Listen to Mónica Enriquez-Enriquez talk about Streetwise and Safe here:
Hear Mónica respond to the tour and the need for imagination in our movements here.
We spoke with one SAS member about the various kinds of policing of public space in New York, and the need for us all to take it back ourselves. Here’s a video with him. Also check out his tumblr: copwatch.tumblr.com.
People from a bunch of other groups were at the lunch as well. There were members of SWOP & SWANK (the Sex Worker Outreach Project and Sex Workers Action New York), which are both are volunteer-based groups dedicated to improving the lives of current and former sex workers in NYC on and off of the job. SAS shares an office with Queers For Economic Justice (QEJ), and so we got to hear about some of the work they are doing in the shelter system in NYC. QEJ wrote the 2006 statement about why immigration is a queer issue that we reference in our zine!
Here’s JD from the Positive Justice Project, who was also there, talking about their work to end the criminalization of people living with HIV and AIDS:
It turns of that SAS and QEJ are housed in a building with tons of other amazing queer projects. We went door-to-door through many floors of the building, meeting all sorts of inspiring people. The Audre Lorde Project, who wrote the other awesome queers and im/migration statement we reference in our zine (For All The Ways They Say We Are, No One Is Illegal), was unfortunately out of the office. We’ll have to follow up on that crush later…
We did get a chance to meet folks at FIERCE, an organization of queer youth of color who originally got together in 2000 to fight the displacement and criminalization of LGBTQ youth of color and homeless youth at the Christopher Street Pier in the West Village– a gentrified gay neighborhood in Manhattan. They showed us around their office, which is all decked out in pink and black fun.
Upstairs, at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), Puja and Gabriel gave us a really great tour of their offices and work. SRLP is a collective that provides both legal services and organizes to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race. They write, “[we are] founded on the understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice… we must have access to basic means of survival and safety from violence.” They provide direct representation to low-income trans people and trans people of color , are working to confront anti-trans practices at the welfare offices, group homes, & in the foster care and shelter systems, and are fighting NYPD’s harassment and violence against trans/ gender non-conforming people. Their Prisoner Advisory Committee, which is made up of trans, intersex, gender non-conforming people and allies who are currently incarcerated, publishes a newsletter called Solidarity, and has spoken out on transgender healthcare in correctional settings and the need to end prison rape. They also run a Prisoner Pen Pal Postcard Project.
What a building!
Next stop was the budding Wall Street occupation (or, as some people have suggested re-naming it: Wall Street Decolonization). It had just been going for a couple of days, and the hundreds of people who had gathered had not yet begun to release their demands. We heard a lot of excitement about the emerging General Assemblies, where a loosely connected group of people, most of whom were unaffiliated with major left organizations, were figuring out how to keep the space running, define targets, tactics, and actions, and meet all sorts of emerging needs together.
The evening wrapped up back in Brooklyn, where Jen and the Glitter House hosted a delicious potluck, where we got to hang out with all sorts of lovely people and eat DELICIOUS food, including some amazing apple crisp. Thanks Glitter House. And check out the sign (to the left) that they made for the door!