Honoring MLK: Racial Justice and Social Work

Martin Luther King Jr. getting quoted out of context is one of my pet peeves. Thankfully, that did not happen on Tuesday, when I attended a panel on racial justice in honor of his legacy.

The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers organized a forum to discuss the current state of racial justice and the social work profession in Boston. It was originally scheduled for January, but as luck would have it, Boston faced the snowiest, most bananas winter in history and the well-laid plans had to be changed.

An eternal live-tweeter and sharer of information, I documented the event and created a Storify where people can, essentially, virtually tag along for the ride after the event. You can find it here. The panelists were as follows:

MLK Racial Justice Panel Cohort

Left to right: Melendez, MacArthur, Belkin Martinez, Copeland. Photo credit to Shabnam Deriani.

I don’t generally go to panels on racial justice to learn new information, as someone steeped in this on the daily and who also presents on anti-racism. I go to these events to have more bodies in the room, to hear my colleagues speak, to nourish my spirit with the shared passion of those dedicated to social change. However, I often do learn new nuggets of wisdom—new quotations, new strategies, new frameworks—and this event did not disappoint. The biggest takeaway? The work of Whitney Young Jr.

Dr. Phillipe Copeland—one of the panelists and one of the professors at the Boston University School of Social Work where I’m pursuing my Master’s in Social Work—quoted Whitney Young Jr. and his thoughts on the social work profession as it connected to racial justice and social justice overall. I wanted to share that with all of the budding social workers and seasoned vets in my community, because they are POWERFUL.

Here’s an excerpt from from Young Jr., in “Social Welfare’s Responsibility in Urban Affairs” [emphasis mine].

Let these words ABOUT RACIAL JUSTICE/SOCIAL JUSICE sink in, marinate, and transform you and your practice.

It is not enough for the social worker to teach the poor how to survive on a substandard budget. We must plant the seeds of indignation and of desire for change in the mind of every citizen suffering in want. We must be the catalysts of change, not the maintainers of the status quo. Establishing rapport, cutting through defenses, is the only way we can achieve anything of value. We must let people know that we are not just interested in establishing eligibility or in granting minimal services. We must see them as individuals.

We must help them understand that we are not just a part of the faceless bureaucracy which regulates their lives, but that we are concerned with helping them, as individuals, get into the productive mainstream of society. We must fight against red-tape restrictions and requirements which deny people their humanity. We must tell the unemployed that they have the right to work, the right to education of high quality for their children, the right to be trained, and the right to support themselves and their families at a decent level.

We must tell families in poverty that they have a vote and can use it to secure a more sympathetic ear in our corridors of power; that they must broaden their children’s horizons; that change is a law of life, and reform must be a way of life. These are the basic means of humanizing the city.

In a society which has succumbed to an excess of professionalism and technology, materialism and theoretical concepts, we must, in order to redress the balance, succumb to an excess of feeling, of courage, of caring, and of decency. I believe the time is ripe. The problems of our cities are begging for solution. Our profession is now mature and secure enough to provide leadership in this effort. A society that would call itself civilized is at stake.


 

The photo at the top/banner of this post illustrates Martin Luther King Jr. addressing a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, D.C. [and is in the public domain].

Mayhem Around the World: A Roundup

Inspired by a Tumblr post, I decided to expand and succinctly contextualize some of the mayhem going around in the world right now. The following is a corrected and much expanded version of this postworld globe

Brazil: Massive Nation-Wide protests and riots caused by, among other factors, monetary focus on the World Cup and Olympics instead of the well-being of the populace. Government happily destroys important monuments and displaces indigenous folks from their homes to make way for things like parking lots.

Russia: Government creates laws against “the propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” (the vote is 436 to ZERO), people protest (and get abused by anti-gay individuals), and the Human Rights Watch reports that anti-gay violence spiked once the bill started getting considered in January.The law imposes significant fines of up to $31,000 for providing information about the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships” (source). Also, the Duma approved a law that criminalizes blasphemy with a 3-year prison term for anyone who organizes an activity or stages a performance that aims to “offend religious sensibilities” (on the heels of the whole Pussy Riot debacle, in “which three members of the feminist performance art group Pussy Riot were tried and two of them sentenced to two years in a penal colony for staging a profane performance in an empty church that hurt no one and caused no material damage”).

Venezuela: Massive protests and riots caused by elections that put Maduro in the presidential seat by a narrow margin and people claim it was due to fraud (here’s another source, too). However, after the recount, the National Electoral Council still says the results of the audit corroborated Maduro’s win (CNE). Either way, it is a way closer race than some people expected and sounds like the government might be shifting for future elections.

Greece: Trans* people and sex workers are being rounded up in internment camps, and the health minister has condoned forced HIV tests conducted by the police. Some of the folks who have been detained and found to be HIV+ have had personal identifiable information (including names and photos) published in the media “to protect public health.” And this isn’t counting the many innocent individuals that have been jailed for being “presumed prostitutes.”

tumblr_mpbym0DqrS1qmrux5o1_500

The awesome TX Senator Leticia Van De Putte who also participated in the filibuster and uttered the now-famous line she’s printed on her shirt.

United States: Republicans in Texas aim to pass draconian abortion law (SB5), give media incorrect information about its passing after a 13-hr filibuster, and change online records to fake time of voting, despite the bill being voted on after a deadline and being protested by both the people and a state Senator. (TL;DR: SB5 didn’t pass, but a special session has been convened and further actions will happen after the holiday weekend). Protests at the senate growing, and law enforcement called in. Also, and  even MORE importantly, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been gutted and states that used discriminatory practices to bar poor people, immigrants, and people of color from voting no longer have the same restrictions placed on them re: changing voting rules. People will have to prove claims of discrimination AFTER the fact. Less than a few days after the gutting (and in some, after less than 24 hours), several states changed their voting regulations without needing to clear it with any higher authority. Finally, on the LGBT front, tons of reports of anti-gay violence are coming out, and my eye is on New York City (check out the NY Anti-Violence Project’s reports and blog section for more details.)

Australia: Julia Gillard is dumped as prime minister and leader of the Australian Labor Party, while previous Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is reinstated.

Turkey: Protests escalate as people fight back against state-violence (including violence against the press) and “Erdoğan’s increasingly assertive Islamist administration,” sparked by protests against the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park. The government violently cracks down on the dissent, detaining even the medics who were trying to treat the protester’s injuries.

What else is going on, folks? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a place to start.

#Sandy

If you’re cozy in bed or in your house right now, please think of the folks who are homeless in areas that are getting worse winds and flooding. Think about the inmates in prisons that ARE NOT GETTING EVACUATED. Think about the scope of the storm and how even if it’s a Category 1, it’s fucking HUGE (the largest hurricane in Atlantic history), and its damages are way beyond a few showers and some wimpy gusts of wind.

Then think twice about making jokes about it.

Though an intense storm might be interesting hypothetically (and trust me, I’ve been there), it’s not so interesting when you’re navel-deep in water or have your home destroyed, so let’s get real and stop wishing for “more of a real storm.” This is as real as it gets, people. Lives are on the line.

P.S. it’s DISGUSTING how some people are saying “this storm is the gays’ fault.”

Some links to check out:

When Sex-Positive Icons Fuck Up

On the heels of a discussion I was having during the training for our CSPH interns yesterday (all about radical feminism, sex-positivity, liberal feminism, and the hot mess among all those camps), I thought it’d be appropriate to finally post this. This is a good example of what some folks critique about sex-positive icons, or even just liberal feminist people–that many ignore the intersections, that they advocate for the rights of some but ignore others, that they are so caught up in all the radical possibilities of pleasure, that they ignore when sexuality can be painful and problematic and perpetuating oppression on other axes.

So, the following excerpt comes from the blog of Bianca Laureano (here). Apparently Annie Sprinkle, a big sex-positive icon who’s done a lot around sex-work especially, said the following:

Annie Sprinkle Thanks for reviving this ‘ancient’ image! When I made this image, for me it was about HONORING the art of India. I have always adored everything from India. Especially the music and art. When I began to study and practice Tantra, is when I made this image. I was so enthusiastic! I think i had past life in India, so really, maybe I’m not even appropriating as I might have been Indian. That said, I do agree that this is “appropriation.” In retrospect, I didn’t know a thing about “appropriation.” Now I am educated about it and am more sensitive. Thankfully I had some nice people explain it to me in ways I could hear it, after being attacked and judged on a college campus about 18 years ago! This image was made in 1989 or 90. It is not a new image. I think when we see people being “inappropriate” we need to be nice about it, and educate. Not attack. In most cases. Not all. Still, in the end, I do love the image, and think that when looked at with SEX POSITIVE EYES it is a beautiful image. An honoring image. xxx
I also feel that nothing is really new. That we are all appropriating all the time, and borrowing from many cultures. Especially in the multicultural mix of the new millennium. I like the idea of utilizing all kinds of culture and adding to it. Like collage. Taking things and making them over again in new ways. That appeals to me. When art is good, it provokes responses, and is controversial. At least my favorite art is. That’s why I love Phillip Huang. He gets a rise out of people! Love you Phillip. Love you Counterpulse! Love you everyone! Saturday at 11:42am

Gosh, this conversation is really turning me on! I haven’t been this controversial in a while. I’m really taking pleasure from it. Thanks everyone. Although I do apologize if something I did in 1989 offended anyone. But then… there was 1973, 1974, 1975… Oy vey. Saturday at 9:28pm
Thanks Cx Tiara Transience. Live and learn. You are right that that the anger against racism is totally justified. However, I was saying that I learn better when people explain things nicely to me rather than put me on the defensive. Then I just want to fight or flight and not listen. And Beth Stephens, i LOVE YOU. Yesterday at 1:54pm

(Also, why is appropriation in quotations…? Appropriation is appropriation, no need to air quote it. Anyway.) Of course–a lot of white people appropriate things of other cultures in hopes of “honoring them” or “showing how awesome they are and how much they like it,” but it’s still appropriation and it’s still a big problem (and some are just ignorant or flat-out racist fucks that aren’t trying to honor ANYONE but themselves). It ignores the legacies of inequality and the ways in which white people consumed, regulated, and spat out people of color’s cultures. It perpetuates the idea that white people get to be the arbiters of culture and arbiters of what’s important and valued, and that what POC have to offer is merely for consumption. There’s a difference between appreciation and appropriation.

(This is the picture in question)

Of course, not all people of color will react in the same ways. A lot of us don’t see eye to eye on racism issues, and a lot of folks are actually pretty convinced racism isn’t such a problem anymore (especially in the age of Obama), just like many women think sexism isn’t a thing anymore…y’know, ’cause now we can vote and go work and stuff. This is often due to other identities/privileges people hold (read: it’s easier to think racism’s gone if you’re a POC with a lot of money), and/or due to internalized issues around race and privilege. For an example of this, and how even POC can trivialize POC concerns, check out Philip Huang’s video doing an “interpretive/dramatic reading” of the issues some POC raised around this. Yeeeeeeeeeeah.

But onto the actual Annie Sprinkle comments (which have now been deleted).

I’m glad she sees that her work was appropriative, but the rest of her post kind of messes it up for me. The part about how she might not even be appropriating because she may have been Indian in a past life is a huge copout and pretty perturbing. When she says “Thankfully I had some nice people explain it to me in ways I could hear it, after being attacked and judged on a college campus about 18 years ago!” puts the blame on “those mean people who judged and attacked” 18 years ago. Of course people will generally listen more when folks approach things nicely, but not everyone can and/or should speak nicely about these issues, and the onus is on the folks who have transgressed to listen and see what they are being confronted with. That doesn’t mean being a doormat, for sure, but it means centralizing the issue and the concerns, NOT the feelings about being called out. Too many critical conversations get shut down because the people being called out prioritize their feelings over the issues and the fucked up things they did. 

Furthermore, the part about Still, in the end, I do love the image, and think that when looked at with SEX POSITIVE EYES it is a beautiful image. An honoring image. xxx” really negates a lot of what is said earlier. It’s like saying “yes, this is fucked up, BUT REALLY if you look at it in the end with ~*SEX POSITIVE EYES*~ you can appreciate it.” Well no, we can’t all appreciate it even if we’re sex-positive because we don’t have the luxury or privilege of “taking off” the lenses that look at racism and appropriation…and we shouldn’t, because what we need to be doing is calling people out for doing racist and appropriative things, not just staying silent about it.

The comments about how “nothing is really new” and we are all “appropriating all the time, and borrowing from many cultures,” especially in this climate of multiculturalism, really once again shows a disregard (and/or ignorance) to the histories of appropriation. And no, it’s not like cultures aren’t mixing and should never mix, but that we need to acknowledge the power dynamics that keep getting recycled over and over and how those show up in our society. On the art note, too, art can be avant-garde and controversial and provocative without needing to be racist. Art can depict and critique and discuss racism WITHOUT HAVING TO FALL INTO RACISM AND APPROPRIATION. (Cross-reference the Diana Joy blackface debacle in RI and my creation of the Keep It Checked Tumblr).

So why is this such a big deal?

Because it’s one of those big “sex-poz” icons who a lot of people look up to. Because this stuff happens at all levels, and pretty constantly. Because even the fact that Annie Sprinkle is taking this somewhat in stride and like “wow, this is getting controversial, that’s awesome” when POC are mostly just feeling shitty and upset speaks volumes. Because we need to remind people that just because someone is an amazing activist in one sphere, it doesn’t make them immune to doing other messed up stuff, or marginalizing other communities. Because for those of us who DO identify as sex-positive and feminists *AND* people of color, we need to speak up and elevate the field when we can. We need to hold the icons and each other accountable for our actions, even if they took place years ago, and we need to all keep learning and growing.
For those of us who are comfortable calling people out (even if not all the time), I encourage us to keep doing it. For those of us who get called out, we need to keep listening. And we ALL need to remember that activism and work in social spheres is complex and should be nuanced, not oversimplified. We need many lenses and many voices to make some radical change.

Doing something that gets a call-out doesn’t negate other good work people have done (as in Annie’s case), as if retroactively this entire person’s career were tainted by a problematic image/statement. What it DOES mean, though, is that a critical light must be shed on their past/present/future work, and that we need to understand how their views may have affected (and may continue to affect) their work.  Also, so I can leave y’all with some action items and actual tools, check out this awesome PDF that talks about common racist attitudes and behaviors that indicate a detour or wrong turn into white guilt, denial, or defensiveness. “Each is followed by a statement that is a reality check and consequence for harboring such attitudes.” Super useful. Please share widely! 🙂

I asked a friend “Do you think I’m just slowly turning into a pissed off lesbian separatist stereotype?”

Our conclusion was that no, I wasn’t, but I think I’ve more recently come to fully understand those “angry, humorless feminist/woman of color/queer” stereotypes ‘cause I feel that ish right down to my bones. Things that maybe I didn’t care about before, or just let slide by, are no longer okay. Once you start seeing inequality and start realizing how pervasive racism and sexism and homo/trans/biphobia and all these things are, it’s hard to ignore.

Of course I’m angry, after cis-men feel entitled to my body/time and don’t ask for consent, after my queer community is denied rights, after people feel like they have the right to tell me how I can or can’t have sex.

Of course I’m angry when women, especially women of color, make less than men in the same positions; when people of color are vilified in the media and whiteness is insidiously and subtly upheld as the standard; when companies produce skin-lightening creams that reap the benefits of colonialism and ideas about how precious pale skin is.

Of course you’ll think I’m “humorless” when I don’t laugh at the jokes that come at the expense of women/queers/POC, that trivialize inequalities and the fucked up shit some of us have to deal with on a daily basis.

Sorry, but my definition of “funny” no longer encompasses things that rely on oppressive stereotypes and judgments, and yours shouldn’t either. It’s not just being lazy with comedy; it’s outright being a privileged piece of shit who cares more about making a joke than about the harm that joke can cause to people.

Transgender Hate Crimes Monitoring Bill- S2488 becomes law

Announcement from Youth Pride Inc.:
Last week, Governor Chafee signed the Transgender Hate Crimes Monitoring Bill into law.
Youth Pride Inc. wants to thank the General Assembly and the Governor for their support of this legislation. 
Rhode Island law will now contain the words “gender identity or expression” in the definition of a bias motivated crime for monitoring purposes. It will require that statistics on crimes motivated by gender identity/expression related bias to be kept by the State Police along with other bias motivated crimes. It will also include gender identity or expression in “mandatory training standards to provide instruction for police officers in identifying, responding to and reporting all incidents of ‘hate crimes’,” in accordance with RI General Law 42-28.2-8.1.  
In 2001, Rhode Island became the second state in the country to add “gender identity and expression” into its non-discrimination laws, there are now 16 states plus Washington DC with such laws. Today, we celebrate as Rhode Island becomes the 16th state plus Washington DC to recognize crimes motivated by prejudice and bias due to “gender identity or expression.” 
Youth Pride wishes to thank bill sponsors  Sen. Perry, Nesselbush, Miller, DeVall, and Crowley, as well as Reps. Ajello, Handy, Blazejewski, Cimini, Walsh and Ferri for their support in this effort. Youth Pride also wishes to thank our community partners in this effort including the RI Commission on Prejudice and Bias, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, TGI-Network, the RI Chapter of the ACLU, RINASW as well as Rhode Island’s Transgender community and their allies.  
Jayeson Watts, MSW, MT-BC
Direct Services Coordinator                                                           
Youth Pride Inc.
743 Westminster St.
Providence, RI 02903
Connect with Youth Pride Inc. on Facebook and find out what is happening this week at YPI!

[UPDATED] Debating on Ultra-Conservative Radio

So…I’m apparently debating Laura Ingraham and Isabel Marin (from Yale’s “Choose Life” and “Undergraduates for a Better Yale College“) on the place of Sex Weeks on college campuses. This will be happening FRIDAY (April 20th) at 11:15 AM EST on The Laura Ingraham Show.

You can listen to it by clicking here.

Long story short, Harvard’s Sex Week got profiled in the New York Times and I was quoted in the article. I’m assuming this is what caught folks’ attention and led them to email me this morning asking if a representative from SHEEC wanted to go on air to speak about Sex Week. They were asking if we could do it “today” (read: within less than 30 minutes of the show having sent that email, which is horrible protocol) or tomorrow. Talk about short notice! But still, I said yes. It’s an interesting opportunity and I feel I can hold my own on the air (or at least I hope I can!). (NOTE: the appearance was originally scheduled for April 18th, but they decided to reschedule for the 20th to give us more on-air time. The first paragraph of this post has been changed to reflect that update).

Wish me luck!

For a bit of background on Laura and her show, let’s look at some of the topics she addresses and the stances she takes (via Wikipedia):

  • Illegal immigration: Ingraham frequently advocates “securing the borders” by putting more resources into stopping illegal immigration. She has a segment called “The Illegal Immigration Sob Story” alert, in which she highlights media articles that she believes are gathering emotional sympathy for illegal immigrants who, she states, are simply breaking the law.
  • Pro-life issues: Ingraham is opposed to abortion on demand, and often talks about human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research and abortion, taking a pro-life stance against all three. She was an outspoken advocate against Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2 (2006), a ballot measure that she felt was deceptive and that legalized human cloning. Every January 22, Ingraham promotes and lauds the marchers participating in the March for Life, which calls for outlawing abortion, and takes place on the same day as the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion in the United States.
  • “Pornification” of the culture: Ingraham frequently highlights sex and pornography on her show. She has criticized people such as Howard Stern, Hugh Hefner, and others who she claims have pervaded the culture with what she describes as “filth” at the expense of “traditional American values.”

I think we can safely say Laura and I are not going to end up BFFs. As for Isabel (who’s part of an organization that recommends fake clinics or “crisis pregnancy centers” to pregnant women), the same applies.

Presidential Memorandum — Establishing a Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Memorandum — Establishing a Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Establishing a Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities
Throughout our country, the spread of HIV/AIDS has had a devastating impact on many communities.  In the United States, there are approximately 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS, including more than 290,000 women.  Women and girls now account for 24 percent of all diagnoses of HIV infection among United States adults and adolescents.  The domestic epidemic disproportionately affects women of color, with African Americans and Latinas constituting over 70 percent of new HIV cases in women.  The spread of HIV/AIDS is, in and of itself, a primary concern to my Administration.  However, gender based violence and gender related health disparities cannot be ignored when addressing the domestic public health threat of HIV/AIDS.  HIV/AIDS programs often ignore the biological differences and the social, economic, and cultural inequities that make women and girls more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.  In our country, women and girls are all too frequently victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault, which can lead to greater risk for acquiring this disease.  Teenage girls and young women ages 16 24 face the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault.  In addition, challenges in accessing proper health care can present obstacles to addressing HIV/AIDS.  Gender based violence continues to be an underreported, common problem that, if ignored, increases risks for HIV and may prevent women and girls from seeking prevention, treatment, and health services.
My Administration is committed to improving efforts to understand and address the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities.  To do so, executive departments and agencies (agencies) must build on their current work addressing the intersection of these issues by improving data collection, research, intervention strategies, and training.  In order to develop a comprehensive Government wide approach to these issues that is data-driven, uses effective prevention and care interventions, engages families and communities, supports research and data collection, and mobilizes both public and private sector resources, I direct the following:
Section 1.  Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender-related Health Disparities.  There is established within the Executive Office of the President a Working Group on the Intersection of HIV/AIDS,
Violence Against Women and Girls, and Gender related Health Disparities (Working Group), to be co chaired by the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy (Co Chairs).  Within 60 days of the date of this memorandum, the Co Chairs shall convene the first meeting of the Working Group.
 (a)  In addition to the Co Chairs, the Working Group shall consist of representatives from:
  (i)the Department of Justice;
  (ii)    the Department of the Interior;
  (iii)   the Department of Health and Human Services;
  (iv)    the Department of Education;
  (v) the Department of Homeland Security;
  (vi)    the Department of Veterans Affairs;
 (vii)   the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and
  (viii)  the Office of Management and Budget.
 (b)  The Working Group shall consult with the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, as appropriate.
 (c)  The Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development, and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Gender Technical Working Group shall act in an advisory capacity to the Working Group, providing information on lessons learned and evidence based best practices based on their global experience addressing issues involving the intersection between HIV/AIDS and violence against women.
 Sec. 2.  Mission and Functions of the Working Group.  (a)  The Working Group shall coordinate agency efforts to address issues involving the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities.  Such efforts shall include, but not be limited to:
(i) increasing government and public awareness of the need to address the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities, including sexual and reproductive health and access to health care;
 (ii)  sharing best practices, including demonstration projects and international work by agencies, as well as successful gender specific strategies aimed at addressing risks that influence women’s and girls’ vulnerability to HIV infection and violence;
 (iii)  integrating sexual and reproductive health services, gender-based violence services, and HIV/AIDS services, where research demonstrates that doing so will result in improved and sustained health outcomes;
 (iv)  emphasizing evidence based prevention activities that engage men and boys and highlight their role in the prevention of violence against women and HIV/AIDS infection;
 (v) facilitating opportunities for partnerships among diverse organizations from the violence against women and girls, HIV/AIDS, and women’s health communities to address the intersection of these issues;
 (vi) ensuring that the needs of vulnerable and underserved groups are considered in any efforts to address issues involving the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities;
 (vii) promoting research to better understand the intersection of the biological, behavioral, and social sciences bases for the relationship between increased HIV/AIDS risk, domestic violence, and gender related health disparities; and
 (viii)  prioritizing, as appropriate, the efforts described in paragraphs (a)(i) (vii) of this section with respect to women and girls of color, who represent the majority of females living with and at risk for HIV infection in the United States.
 (b)  The Working Group shall annually provide the President recommendations for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.  In addition, the Working Group shall provide information on:
 (i)   coordinated actions taken by the Working Group to meet its objectives and identify areas where the Federal Government has achieved integration and coordination in addressing the intersection of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities;
 (ii)  alternative means of making available gender sensitive health care for women and girls through the integration of HIV/AIDS prevention and care services with intimate partner violence prevention and counseling as well as mental health and trauma services;
 (iii)  specific, evidence based goals for addressing HIV among women, including HIV related disparities among women of color, to inform the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Implementation Plan (for its biannual review);
 (iv)  research and data collection needs regarding HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender related health disparities to help develop more comprehensive data and targeted research (disaggregated by sex, gender, and gender identity, where practicable); and
 (v)  existing partnerships and potential areas of collaboration with other public or nongovernmental actors, taking into consideration the types of implementation or research objectives that other public or nongovernmental actors may be particularly well situated to accomplish.
 Sec. 3.  Outreach.  Consistent with the objectives of this memorandum and applicable law, the Working Group, in addition to regular meetings, shall conduct outreach with representatives of private and nonprofit organizations, State, tribal, and local government agencies, elected officials, and other interested persons to assist the Working Group in developing a detailed set of recommendations.
 Sec. 4.  General Provisions.  (a)  The heads of agencies shall assist and provide information to the Working Group, consistent with applicable law, as may be necessary to carry out the functions of the Working Group.  Each agency and office shall bear its own expense for carrying out activities related to the Working Group.
 (b)  Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
 (i)   the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
 (ii)  the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
 (c)  This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
 (d)  This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
 (e)  The Secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.
  BARACK OBAMA

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26! Save the Vote on 27!

This is reposted from an email bulletin by Sister Song, a women of color reproductive health collective:

In Mississippi: Vote NO! Save the Pill on 26!
Save the Vote on 27!
What is Initiative 26?    
 
     On November 8, 2011, Mississippians will be given the opportunity to vote on a dangerous amendment to the state Constitution, which will read, “Should the term ‘person’ be defined to include every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning, or the functional equivalent thereof?” This amendment would redefine personhood at conception and it seeks to undo laws that protect abortion rights, stem cell research, in vitro fertilization, and even birth control.
     Many of the amendment’s supporters view it as a means to overturn Roe v. Wade in the state of Mississippi, in order to persecute women who decide to have abortions and the doctors that perform them. However, there are implications for people who decide to parent. By defining “personhood” at conception, this could end up criminalizing women who experience miscarriages, stillbirths, or women whose lives are at risk who decide to save their own lives, rather than the fetus.  Initiative 26 could lead to more government intrusion into women’s personal lives, such as accessing our medical records to investigate miscarriages, dictating what kind of birth control we use and interfering with medical decisions in treating women whose lives are at risk. By giving constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, the amendment could ban emergency contraception, birth control pills and IUDs as well as all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman or girl. In short, our rights will be violated in order to uphold the rights of the fetus.
     This amendment will disproportionately criminalize (low-income) women of color as we have seen in other states. Mississippi has the highest concentration of African-Americans, high poverty rate and low education ranking, allowing for this issue to be at the heart of intersectionality for women of color, especially Black women. Because the majority of anti-choice proponents are Republican and white, this issue is highly racialized. Pro-life often means something different in the African-American community. Because of issues around gender, race, class and cultural history, Blacks may describe themselves as being both pro-life and pro-choice.   We cannot allow Initiative 26 to become a moral issue, especially when it directly impacts and criminalizes so many women, especially poor women of color. We must not be influenced by rhetoric that considers women who choose to have an abortion as “murderers” when 61% of women who undergo the procedure are mothers, and 84% will become mothers.
What is Initiative 27?
     On the same ballot there is also a controversial Voter ID exclusion measure, Initiative 27, which will allow voting restrictions that will directly impact women of color. This initiative, if passed, will implement measures that are reminiscent of the 1960’s lack of access to the ballot. These two initiatives may be one of the most important opportunities on the ground for the Pro-Choice and Reproductive Justice Movements to work together. To read more about these two Initiatives and what the related intersections mean to women of color, specifically Black women, click here to read an article by our National Coordinator Loretta Ross.
How to join the fight:
What You Can Do..
  • First educate yourself on what these Initiatives really mean and the consequences of their implementation.
  • You can help in this get-out-the-vote effort by voting and urging everyone you know in Mississippi- your friends, family, co-workers, or members of groups you are affiliated with-to Vote No on Initiative 26 and 27 on November 8, 2011.
  • To take direct action, you can donate to various organizations to help the statewide Mississippi coalition campaign buy desperately needed television and radio ads.
  • You can share informative posts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to dispel any myths and clarify the impact of these Initiatives.