Category Archives: Uncategorized
Below is the link to listen to the audio from Suzanne Pharr’s presentation on The History of the Right Wing at Out South: A Gathering of LGBTQ Leadership.
The Penn Center: December 5th 2014
“All we fought for at Weinstein Hall was lost when we left upon the request of the pigs…. You people run if you want to, but we’re tired of running. We intend to fight for our rights until we get them.” — Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (STAR) first pamphlet, 1970.
In the first 31 days of 2015 we have already witnessed the tragic loss of (at least) 6 LGBTQ people of Color. We sit in our homes, offices, and sometimes our streets, holding the reality that precious lives have been taken from us and that families and communities are grieving and surviving through this continuing nightmare.
Dear SONG Kin:
For SONG, this has been a year of show, not tell. We have had a liberation vision for a long time, we have found wisdom in our work, and we have shared it with the world in many ways. But, as the year closes on all the events of 2014, we have seen resounding proof in our work, and in the work of so many others, that our people are worth the risk–which has attracted attention to SONG’s work, and many other organizations that are doing direct-action organizing, led by those who are the most marginalized, in a principled, consensual way.
In SONG’s End of Year report, you will find more information on the work that SONG has done this year. We have been base building because we believe it takes more than just a few of our people working together to achieve lasting and broad liberatory change; we have been leading political education because we believe consciousness and understanding are key to our work; and we have been working in coalitions and alliances because we know it is not our constituency alone that is impacted by the conditions of our country, and that we must align with those who share our vision and our fate. We have been amplifying our work through communications because our stories have been warped and taken from us and the genuine sharing of lessons from this work can help seed hope further than we even know. Finally, we have organized. We have practiced direct-action organizing because we know that only when we come together and fight for clear and meaningful demands can we see the possibility of all that we are capable of together. These are our core strategies; we have worked hard for them and we are clearer than ever about why….
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.
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