An Open Letter to Our Community
At the April 2013 SFPAW/HAVOQ general meeting, people of color – including past and present members, former board members and community stakeholders – led an intervention to make us aware of our failure as an organization and as individuals to adequately address the ways in which oppressive racial dynamics, including anti-black racism, ableism and misogyny played out in the group. They demanded that SFPAW/HAVOQ:
– Stop paying staff immediately;
– Cease all fundraising;
– Immediately stop all programming and public activities;
– Compensate past and present people of color members for traditional, emotional, and educational labor
– And to instead devote our organizational capacity to engaging in a public and transparent accountability process, which centers the feedback of both past and present people of color members of the group, to address both individual and structural anti-black racism, ableism, and misogyny in the group.
It was a difficult four hour meeting, however, at the end of that time those of us present agreed to the demands, and have taken steps to enact them, including firing staff, no longer engaging in organizing campaigns or other programmatic work, and paying six people of color for work on behalf of racial justice within the organization over the past few years.
Some of us are now moving into a collective accountability process. We do so with hope that, as people who are committed to working toward collective liberation, we can struggle together through hard conversations about how white supremacy* and racism manifest themselves in our organizational structures, organizing efforts and ourselves. We are engaging in this process with humility, and the knowledge that whiteness and white supremacy are pervasive in our society and in our interactions, and that some of our actions and efforts towards accountability may continue to perpetuate white supremacy even as we attempt to challenge it.
Most importantly, we hope to carry out this process in the tenacious spirit of Fabulosity — which has brought us this far. While it’s true that many of us are hurt, confused and heartbroken, and that some of us are choosing not to engage in this process for a variety of reasons, it is also true that some of us know that to engage in this process is to step into a rare opportunity of undoing legacies of power-over relations of domination.
Some of us are incredibly grateful for the unknown path unfolding beneath us, and committed to being as kind as we are fierce with ourselves and one another, as we author this chapter of transformative political work. As we go through this process, we plan on writing some things and will continue to post updates about our accountability process and reflections on the outcomes of our conversations. In the meantime, we just wanted to let you all know what we are up to.
In struggle and with love,
The Members of HAVOQ (The Horizontal Alliance of Very Organized Queers)/SFPAW (The San Francisco Chapter of Pride at Work)
PS If you have questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
*By “white supremacy” we do not mean only the self-conscious racism of white supremacist hate groups. We understand white supremacy as a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege. We are referring also to conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination that are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.