Category Archives: Uncategorized
As fellow LGBTQ Southerners working for justice, SONG feels profound sorrow for the lost life of Marco McMillian, a young leader taken before his time, and for the grief his family and friends are suffering through. We celebrate the life, courage, and commitment of a small-town man who left home to expand his education and experience–and who later returned to give back to his community. Marco McMillian was a person who developed leadership in a Black fraternity and who left his home town in order to pursue his education and learn more about politics. He came back home to Clarksdale Mississippi to try and make positive social change in his community by running for mayor, running on a platform directly addressing problems in the community that involved police accountability and resourcing community organizations.
SONG opposes the proposed Ordinance to amend Chapter 106, Article IV, Division 1, Section 106-127#
[For background on this Ordinance visit http://www.ajc.com/news/news/atlanta-proposes-controversial-crackdown-on-prosti/nWLnX/ & http://us.topnewstoday.org/us/article/4733008/ ]
**Due to the growing opposition and work of our comrades and allies the city council has agreed to table the proposed ordinance. This discussion is critical for Atlanta and cannot be resolved without a comprehensive proposal.
Why We Oppose:
Sex workers are NOT the problem: lack of housing options, lack of educational opportunities and jobs, as well as violence, are the problems. As LGBTQ people we do not agree that banishing sex workers makes anyone or any place safer or better. On the contrary: if Atlanta banishes sex workers, then on the conscience of our City sits the very same community segregation we say we oppose, and the exile of people just trying to get by in a form of work that many privately participate in, but most condemn publicly. SONG will not stand by for this.
We are LGBTQ people, and many of us know firsthand about poverty, drug addiction, exploitation, incarceration, discrimination against those with criminal records, and criminalization against people with HIV/AIDS. Many, though not all, sex workers are impacted by the above issues, and many sex workers, though not all, are LGBTQ. It is from this perspective that we oppose any sanction that we believe punishes survivors of exploitation but does not address the root causes that makes prostitution is a viable option for some people. If the Council’s real objective is not merely to make certain areas of Atlanta “nicer” for tourists; or to simply jail and banish poor, predominantly women and trans people of color sex workers–but to truly address the causes and consequences of street level prostitution, we contend that there are far better solutions and actions our city can and must take.
Cities around the country have shown that increasing policing does not actually reduce prostitution. Street level prostitution is a public health and safety issue, and here in Atlanta there are organizations and agencies which do the daily hard work of supporting sex workers who want to get off the streets and into a different life. As far as we know, none of these organizations have been contacted by the Public Safety Committee requesting input or suggestions.
Further, we are troubled that the committee did not reach out to any of the women or transgendered people actually engaged in this work or with prior convictions for it. We hope the Council agrees that these individuals are stakeholders in this conversation and their voices should be heard. If the Council does not agree that those most directly affected should have a voice in this issue, than there are community organizations and leaders that are committed to helping those voices be heard.
As SONG, we are clear that not all sex workers are forced into this kind of work or want out of it. But many do. We are deeply invested in stopping the exploitation of women and transgendered people, in strengthening communities, and reducing violence and crime. It is with this concern and investment that we offer the following suggested solutions.
The Solutions we Recommend:
(1) Invest in Prevention Services
First and foremost, we propose that the city council invest heavily in proven prevention and intervention services outside the jurisdiction of the police department and the criminal justice system. Organizations such as the Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition and others understand this problem, and what it takes to address it and they are woefully under-funded under-resourced. We contend that intervention and services outside of jails are the most cost-effective and have the best results. Again, if what the council is interested in is curbing and reducing street level sex work; organizations that provide crisis intervention, mental health care, family reunification, education, and other services are what is needed. We request that the City Council research possible funding streams from the federal, state, and local level for future funding. As the council has indicated this is a timely and sensitive issue that needs immediate attention, we ask the council to immediately divert funding to these services as well.
(2) Addressing the ROOT causes
Because we recognize the root causes of street-level sex work to be lack of housing options, lack of educational opportunities and jobs, as well as violence, we ask that our city first and foremost address these causes. We know all too well that they drive not just sex workers, but many other LGBTQ and other low income and poor workers further into poverty and the underground economies where their health and safety will continue to be compromised. The city has a responsibility to ALL of its residents to address these root causes, not simply to punish those who as ‘seen’ as evidence for ALL of society’s ills.
[Our gratitude to members of the Atlanta Ham Reduction Coalition http://www.atlantaharmreductio
WHERE WILL YOU BE ON FRIDAY JANUARY 25th??!! JOIN US FOR AN EVENING OF CELEBRATION in ATLANTA!
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December 5, 2012
Dear SONG Family:
For many years, SONG was a small organization whose work meant the world to a few—a beacon of political home and organizing in a place of hostile conditions. In 2012, SONG’s work means the world to hundreds, means something significant to thousands, and is being led by more than one hundred people on the ground. Through our coalition and alliance work, SONG and our partners have collectively touched the lives of more than one million people in 2011 and 2012. Our work is a part of changing the culture and real life conditions of our communities, and making real on the promise that a vision of Queer Liberation that matches our deepest longings does not have to be a dream just a few of us share.
What is at the Heart of What We Built this Year?
This was a question we contemplated as Co-directors, as we sat in the beautiful and strip-mined mountains of Whitesburg, Kentucky and told our Board about what it is like to coordinate a majority people of Color and immigrant staff of ten, across five states, from ages twenty-three to seventy-four. This is a queer staff with one Black Pentecostal Preacher and at least one Radical Feminist who can’t stand the Catholic Church. A staff that collectively holds more than one hundred years of Movement history within it, and currently coordinates the work of more than one hundred SONG member leaders and core members, with a glorious variety of leadership styles. We talked about long nights of meetings, racy jokes, endless cups of coffee, and profound ideological disagreements. We talked about how much the staff looks out for each other, for the work, for the members. What it has meant to be able to see them planted deeply in the states and areas they are working in—and build long-lasting home and power for LGBTQ people in those communities. What it has meant to be able to have the resources to build the leadership of new organizers (members and staff) collectively and responsibly—in a way that is not rushed, and that will help them stay in the work—all in a region that is often left for dead by the mainstream LGBTQ movement. A South that is now home to more than 50% of all African Americans in the US, 9 out of 11 of the states with the largest Latino immigrant populations, and more rural people than anywhere else in the US. A region that many have told us is “filled with too many red states to accomplish much”.
What have we done this year in a nutshell? Convened a 100-person Leadership Summit in North Carolina for primarily new LGBTQ leaders who are Black and people of faith. Brought people power, media work, and organizing training to the fight against Amendment One in North Carolina—leading in re-naming it as a fight about our families and our dignity, not just gay marriage—working with many coalition partners to have one million conversations with North Carolinians about the wedge the rightwing uses LGBTQ people as, working to build a team of 16,000 registered volunteers, and turning out more than 823,000 to vote against Amendment One. Partnered with the Southern Alliance this fall to engage thousands of marginalized people, particularly in Alabama, in the We All Count campaign to re-invigorate the struggle for democracy in our communities. Began the planning for a new SONG Rural Program to support rural Southern LGBTQ people more deeply. Launched a new 6-month political education campaign in 3 sites that is preparing more than 100 member leaders to wage new campaigns in a deeply grounded way in multiple sites in 2013. Impacted thousands more by being one strong voice in a chorus of LGBTQ leaders who are pumping new blood into our LGBTQ movement with innovative strategies and big thinking for how we can build the coalitions and alliances we need for the future wins on behalf of all marginalized people. We have made a voice for those of us who believe in Liberation for All in everything we have done. Our Collective Love for a strand of Queer Liberation that never forgets our radical roots has taken flight because of you—our members, our supporters, our family, and our staff.
Of all the stories we told SONG’s board on that chilly morning in Kentucky, this was one that we thought symbolized the work of SONG in this time. That is, the way that we overhear our Senior Strategists (Kai Lumumba Barrow and Suzanne Pharr) talking to the rest of the staff. Though they collectively have over 70 years worth of community organizing experience—their tone and their words always say: “We are a team. We are in this together. I teach you and you teach me because we need each other to do this, and we need each other to build, grow and expand this work.” It was hard to get through the telling of that without getting choked up, because it is the dream of not just SONG to build this kind of staff and member teams—but to build these kinds of organizations movement-wide. When we see our differences not just as generic strength, but also as salvation in the face of fascism and division—we are able to reach across so many different communities. We lost our friend (as he was many of yours) William Brandon Lacy Campos this year, and he would always say: “Our Communities are our Salvation.” Because of our vitality and variance, we can build a home where the legacy of Queer Liberation is passed down—and not only into books, but into action. We think this is part of what Brandon meant. We know many of you count on us to stay rooted in the authenticity of our vision, as we build to scale. We count on you to hold us to that. We promise to keep doing our very best for ourselves, for you, for all of us. The more we can count on you for grassroots support, the more we can resource our work organically and from the ground up. Please give as much as you can to SONG in the close of 2012, for the promise of 2013.
In the Spirit of Solidarity and Love,
Paulina Helm-Hernández and Caitlin Breedlove, SONG Co-Directors
P.S. This year we have a matching grant from the Fund for Democratic Communities—matching most of our gifts that are up to $100. Please give in mail to the address below or online at www.southernersonnewground.org.
P.P.S. Want more information on what we’ve been up to in 2012 – and whats on deck for 2013??! Check out our End of the Year Report HERE !
Brandon was an accomplished writer and activist who touched the lives of thousands
in U.S. based Liberation movements, particularly the LGBTQ movement.
He grew up in Duluth and later Minneapolis, MN, but most recently had been
living in New York City. He was 35 years old.
Brandon was the former Co-Executive Director of Queers For Economic Justice and
also the author of It Ain’t Truth If It Doesn’t Hurt, an anthology of poetry. He was also a
contributor to the Advocate’s 2011 anthology, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction.
His last writing can be found on his blog: My Feet Only Walk Forward.
Many in the SONG family knew Brandon for many years, and he was always loved by us
for his passion for joy, art, our communities, and building new connections between people.
He was also known for his deep passion for his work on issues of AIDS/HIV, sexuality,
anti-colonialism, race, gender and economic justice.
He often said: “Our Communities are our Salvation.” He showed his belief in this in many ways:
how he loved us, how he lived hard and loud with us, how he struggled with us,
and how he came back to us again and again.
Our hearts go out to all the people that Brandon considered Family and Community–there were many of us.
Brandon, we wish you the raucous, rowdy peace you love, and which you so deserve.
All your Family at SONG