Audre Lorde taught us and we’ve experienced that, “there are no single-issue struggles because we do not live single-issue lives.” As organizers and leaders we are committed to our collective liberation and so our eyes, our minds, and our hearts see and feel the depth and the complexities of the world that we live in and the complexities that Lorde compelled us to acknowledge. The roller coaster of emotions many of us have experienced in the past week and a half has been exhausting, to say the least.
We held the death of one of our greats, Leslie Feinberg. We celebrated trans life, denounced transphobia and its violence, and remembered those we’ve lost. We anxiously awaited decisions from on high about who would or would not be included in executive action on immigration (read SONG’s collective statement Celebrating Our Wins, Organizing for Our Future: LGBTQ Immigrants in Times of Executive Action here). We gathered together to hear whether a grand jury in Ferguson would or would not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown (Read Black Lives Matter Everywhere for more about SONG’s work in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter here). We did this as we’ve done so many times before. Who of us does not remember the night Troy Davis died, the countless times the U.S. has rolled out the war chests to bomb our motherlands and people of color around the world, or the countless votes on the Hill or Supreme Court rulings that would affect our lives, our dignity, our sanity?
There is a quality to our lives that has required us to hold all of these things at once. We are LGBTQ people who are also poor, who are immigrant, and who are Black. We have a grit, stubbornness, endurance, and will to forge ahead that has cultivated inside of us in order to survive in societies that are trying to starve us, kill us, abuse us, and discard us.
This is not to glorify the struggle of our lives but to remind ourselves of how easily we can take for granted both the individual and collective elasticity of our souls that we’ve fortified to make it from day to day. As we celebrate and as we mourn, as we organize and as we strategize, we urge us to not forget one another. We urge us to hold each other closely and to ask, “How are you doing?” We urge us to take deep breaths, to dance, to take bubble baths, to share food, and to take care of one another. These too are radical revolutionary acts and strengthen us to build political unity with one another in our shared struggle for self-determination.
We are part of the larger fabric and legacy of those that fought to survive before us, and we look to them for courage, for faith, for resilience and for guidance in our renewed struggle. As Alice Walker said,
“To acknowledge our ancestors means we are aware that we did not make ourselves. We remember them because it is an easy thing to forget: that we are not the first to suffer, rebel, fight, love and die. The grace with which we embrace life, in spite of the pain, the sorrow, is always a measure of what has gone before.”
We stand proudly in the light and lessons of our ancestors knowing that we will keep moving and working with you towards our vision and hope for a world that we imagine and dream. Keep your heads up family. We love you.
On Thursday night, hundreds of thousands gathered across the country in living rooms, over laptops, and in front of televisions waiting for and anticipating executive action on immigration from President Obama. Together we held our breath, we held hands, and we hoped. We hoped that the President’s actions would match our organizing efforts and years of building collective power and taking risks to provide relief from detention and deportations for ourselves and for our communities.
For that, we were not disillusioned. Today, there are about 4.4 million more immigrants living in this country who can breathe a little easier at night knowing that deportation, at least temporarily, is not right around the corner. Today, the Secure Communities Program that has inflated the ability of local police to collaborate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain and deport over two million people has ended. Today, we can see the direct result of our work to force politicians to see us as human beings and not disposable political pawns.
We celebrate these victories as evidence that organizing our community has worked, but we also see clearly that this announcement is just the first step in our fight. President Obama made his announcement on Transgender Day of Remembrance…
So far this year, we’ve lost at least 16 people to transphobic murder and those are just the ones that we know about. Statistics like these can be daunting, can haunt us, and can be perplexing in a moment when transgender people are more visible than ever in the national pop culture spotlight. As television shows like Orange Is the New Black and TransParent make it normal to discuss gender identity on the stage of Katie Couric or the pages of Time magazine, we’re left wondering, questioning, if all this visibility will ever begin to chip away at the violence targeted towards trans people everyday.
In our own state we’re reminded of that violence this week, which marks November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) and the two-year anniversary of Sage Smith’s disappearance. Sage is a young black trans girl from Charlottesville. She went missing two years ago and despite the pleas of her family and community organizers, the City of Charlottesville, both the public and the institutions that their taxes fund, have largely ignored her disappearance becoming agents and perpetuators of the narrative of black-girl disposability.
Those who are fighting for Sage’s name to be remembered, and have been for the past 730 days, are demanding more than disposability; they are demanding dignity and they are renewing the call to find Sage. As an LGBTQ organization committed to our collective liberation we are asking SONG membership and allies, other LGBTQ organizations, groups, and leaders, and the LGBTQ community at large across Virginia to support this call. We are asking you to commit to making sure that Sage Smith, her family, and her friends are not forgotten. What can you do?
- Learn more about Sage’s case at Lavender Kitchen Sink Collective and watch the video for Trans Visibility, Trans Justice, an event hosted at the beginning of November with activist Cece McDonald to support Sage’s cause.
- Organizers and family members are working to hold the Charlottesville Police Department accountable as they launch a fundraising campaign to help fund a private investigation to find Sage. You can donate here http://www.youcaring.com/
- Help SONG with our Love Letter Campaign to Sage’s Grandmother Lolita Smith. Sage’s family could use some love and support from our community to tell them that the work that they are doing matters and that Sage’s life matters. Please send mail to
731 Orangedale Avenue
Charlottesville, VA 22903
We hope you will join us in this effort to support Sage’s family towards trans justice and liberation.
Hermelinda and Salem
A Vigil For Sage Smith
Film Screening: Pay It No Mind The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson
Trans Day of Celebration
For Immediate Release:
Clayton County Sheriff Rejects Unconstitutional Federal Deportation Quota Effort
as Immigrant Rights Groups Plan to Rally for Executive Action
The Georgia #Not1More Deportation Coalition and member groups are celebrating a new policy at the Clayton County jail which will make residents safer by ending the unconstitutional practice of submitting to ICE detainer requests. They will have a press conference at 4 pm on Wednesday, Nov. 19, at offices of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), 7 Dunwoody Park, Suite 110, Atlanta.
Check out SONG member Barbra Perez’s interview with Fusion about how transgender detainees are treated in immigration detention. You can check out the six-month investigative report Fusion did at http://interactive.fusion.net/trans/ where they found that 1 out of every 5 survivors of confirmed sexual abuse in ICE detention are transgender women. Executive action from the White House can’t come too soon.