The Pillars Of Equity

Participants listen to remarks from a speaker at the International Women’s Day rally in the shadow of Trump Tower, Wednesday March 8, 2017, in New York. Image c/o AP/Bebeto Matthews.

SPARK Board Chair, Heidi Williamson, recently published a research paper with the Center For American Progress on the pillars of reproductive justice:

Reproductive health and rights are inextricably linked with reproductive justice. The five key pillars that should be at the core of an economic agenda to address the needs of women and their families are:

  • Self-determination
  • Access to comprehensive reproductive health services
  • Affordability of care
  • Parenting with respect and dignity
  • Workplace and caregiving supports

Each pillar represents a key component that all women need to thrive and be healthy. These pillars are valuable individually but are also mutually reinforcing to anchor a policy agenda that meets the intersectional needs of working women.

Read the rest of the paper here and tell us what #RJmeans to you on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!

Free Breast Health Screenings

The Health Initiative is hosting a series of no-cost community breast health screening days that are open for registration now!  Services provided are made possible by a grant from Susan G. Komen of Greater Atlanta and It’s the Journey.

Screenings will take place on Saturday, March 25, 2017 between 9:00 AM & 2:00 PM at The Health Initiative site located in The Phillip Rush Center. You can register for the screening hereThere are limited spots available so sign up now!

Participants must be at least 35 years old. All of these services are trans* inclusive.

The Health Initiative will contact you to select your appointment time after you register.

Celebrating Trans-Led Organizations In Our Community

We’re observing the National Day of Action For Trans Women Of Color with Atlanta’s very own Southerners On New GroundGetEQUALForward Together, and more.

Earlier this month, the campaign released a joint statement that set the tone for a truly intersectional movement:

So far in 2017, seven of our sisters have lost their lives to horrific acts of violence. These Black and native trans women’s lives were in jeopardy on multiple levels before November 8th and threats have only increased since. However, despite the hyper-visible outrage against anti-woman and anti-LGBT policies led and inspired by the Trump administration, the loss of Mesha Caldwell, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Doll Depree, JoJo Striker, Ciara McElveen, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Tiara Richmond, and the calls for action from trans women in our community have been met with telling silence.

Today, we are making a collective call to action. Any resistance movement that is dynamic and powerful enough to overcome white supremacists and religious extremists who hold power in our government must also be bold enough to stand up and fight back against transphobic, racist, anti-woman, anti-femme forces in our ranks and in our neighborhoods. We must demand more of ourselves and of each other… We must rise with urgency and conviction to support the resistance led by those most on the margins and protect trans women and femmes of color by any means necessary.

The National Day Of Action provides a far-reaching platform to bring attention to the struggles and triumphs of trans women during Women’s History Month, an occasion that has steadily become one of the most visible public shows of solidarity within the feminist movement. Naturally, SPARK joined the call as part of our ongoing effort to centralize the experiences of queer and trans youth of color within any liberation movement.

 

The primary goal of the day of action is to protect trans futures. To that end, SPARK recommits our outreach efforts to seeking out trans-led organizations in our community and using our platform to highlight the work they do, starting with Southern Fried Queer Pride, an Atlanta-based organization that was founded by the multi-talented  Taylor ALXNDR.

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Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) is an Atlanta-based queer and trans alternative Pride festival and collective celebrating the robust and vibrant community in the Southern United States. Cooked in the oils of our forequeers of the Compton Cafeteria Riots, the Stonewall Riots, ACT UP, and the many radical uprisings of years past, SFQP holds close to the political identity of being queer. SFQP is arts and politically based and serves to provide an intersectional, radically inclusive festival on the last week of June, along with events throughout the year.

SFQP is a community-driven organization and depends on grassroots contributions, both creatively and financially. They are currently accepting submissions for their very first gallery show, Digital Queerness, and have sponsorship packets for their annual festival, #SFQP2017, taking place this May, available by request.

Follow their social feeds on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to learn more about Southern Fried Queer Pride and how you can get involved with their work.

Honoring Ciara McElveen’s Life

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25-year-old Ciara McElveen was a joy. As pictures of her surface on the internet, it’s immediately apparent that she enjoyed life’s small pleasures much like most of her peers – down to the millennial cultural staples like foodie shots and mirror selfies before a night out with friends – reflecting a full existence and at times, even a carefree one. If nothing else, Ciara took charge off her own narrative and charmingly described herself as a “very smart and nice individual looking for new friends” on her Facebook profile. She had moxie.

Ciara’s death came just two days after well-known ballroom performer Chyna Doll Dupree was found dead in a New Orleans parking lot. Reports surrounding what actually transpired are still unclear, but by most accounts, it appears that she had been in a car with someone and was stabbed by the driver before being dragged onto the street and left for dead.

At her memorial service, Ciara’s friend Dheran Dupree described her as “a fun and loving person”  who maintained her kind nature in the face of a long struggle with problems involving her relatives, a situation that is unfortunately not unique to Ciara’s case. Members of the trans community are often shunned by family members and, according to a recent survey, have reported high levels of mistreatment, harassment, and violence in every aspect of life. One in ten (10%) of those who were out to their immediate family reported that a family member was violent towards them because they were transgender, and 8% were kicked out of the house because they were transgender.

Friends gather for a vigil at N. Claiborne and Columbus, scene of last Monday’s fatal stabbing of Ciara McElveen. Photographed on Sunday, March 5, 2017. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

This year, Women’s History Month began with a historic number of reported deaths for trans women like Ciara – and history tells us that without intentional intervention and action, this violence will escalate and these women’s stories will continue to be erased. We at SPARK are celebrating Ciara’s life and enduring spirit in honor of Women’s History Month and the National Day Of Action For Trans Women of Color with the hope that the violence against trans women will end if we continue to shine a light on this tragic phenomenon. Participating in this day of action is just one step toward living this valueClick here to sign up for an action or find information about an action in your area.

 

Celebrating Chyna Gibson’s Life

Before her devastating death last month, 31-year-old Chyna Gibson was a budding star with a promising future. According to the Sacramento Bee, Chyna was visiting New Orleans to see family and appear at a performance for the Mardi Gras festivities. She was well-known dancer who performed under the name “Chyna Doll Dupree” and had toured several cities across the country, performing at drag shows and LGBT events.

Adam Hicks, a longtime friend of Gibson who lives in Houston where he had last seen her, described her work as upbeat and cheerful. “She was just really happy and she was having a good time,” he said. The two met in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when Gibson moved from New Orleans to Houston. She had moved to Sacramento roughly four years ago to live with her adoptive mother where she had become a local fixture.

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This week we celebrate Chyna’s life and sheer talent in honor the National Day Of Action For Trans Women of Color. We must rise with urgency and conviction to support the resistance led by those most on the margins and protect trans women and femmes of color by any means necessary. Participating in this day of action is just one step toward living this valueClick here to sign up for an action or find information about an action in your area.

Statement: National Day of Action for Trans Women of Color

Since taking office, Donald Trump and his administration have taken extreme steps to make his campaign promises rooted in racism, sexual violence and xenophobia the law of the land. Since he has taken office, we have been grieving and resisting with our communities around the country. His administration’s latest attacks targeting transgender students and immigrants is an attempt to oppress our identities, control our lives, and intimidate us into compliance. But we have seen this before.

State-based violence is not new to our Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Two Spirit and Queer communities, especially queer and trans Black, and Indigenous people. Our ancestors for centuries have been disrespected, ignored, caged, abused, and subject to deadly violence since the formation of the American national identity. Stories of family members disappearing in police custody, violent backlash and attacks to silence and suppress us, and twisted politicians using our bodies for political gain are all too familiar.

And while the new political realities in the US and the rise of fascism around the world have many of us calling for unity, bold action and even revolution, we continue to see the transphobia, misogyny, xenophobia, anti blackness and racism that is at the root of Trump’s power reflected back to us in our own community and in the growing movement to resist Trump’s agenda. This year is on track to be the most dangerous year yet for trans women of color — even more violent than 2016, and 2015 before that.

So far in 2017, seven of our sisters have lost their lives to horrific acts of violence. These Black and native trans women’s lives were in jeopardy on multiple levels before November 8th and threats have only increased since. However, despite the hyper-visible outrage against anti-woman and anti-LGBT policies led and inspired by the Trump administration, the loss of Mesha Caldwell, Jaquarrius Holland, Chyna Doll Depree, JoJo Striker, Ciara McElveen, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Tiara Richmond, and the calls for action from trans women in our community have been met with telling silence.

Today, we are making a collective call to action. Any resistance movement that is dynamic and powerful enough to overcome white supremacists and religious extremists who hold power in our government must also be bold enough to stand up and fight back against transphobic, racist, anti-woman, anti-femme forces in our ranks and in our neighborhoods. We must demand more of ourselves and of each other. Join us on March 15th, for a National Day of Action to Celebrate the Lives of Black Trans Women and Protect All Trans Women and Femmes. We must rise with urgency and conviction to support the resistance led by those most on the margins and protect trans women and femmes of color by any means necessary.

This year, Women’s History Month began with a historic number of reported deaths for trans women — and history tells us that without intentional intervention and action, this violence will escalate and these women’s stories will continue to be erased. We have the chance to change the herstory of this moment by taking action to show up for trans women of color. The statement “None of us are Free until we all are Free” must become a mantra for how this mass resistance movement. Participating in this day of action is just one step toward living this valueClick here to sign up for an action or find information about an action in your area.

International Women’s Day

We are observing International Women’s Day by reflecting on the state of trans women’s lives across the world, starting with our own backyard.

Raquel Willis is a writer, activist and media maven from Augusta, GA, whose work champions social justice issues and continues to uplift marginalized voices across identities. She recently spoke at the Women’s March on Washington and although her full speech was cut off, you can read it in full here.

In the first two months of this year, seven trans women were murdered in the United States. Queer & trans activists have launched a robust campaign to bring attention to these tragedies but the names of these women still remain unknown to many people across the nation. The current administration has been silent on these heinous crimes and even went a step further by withdrawing Obama-era guidelines on how schools should accommodate transgender students. The move was widely criticized and is especially jarring in light of a recent study showing that as many as 73% of transgender youth have experienced mistreatment because of their gender identity, some of whom have been forced to skip eating and drinking in public in an attempt to avoid needing the bathroom.

Image c/o instagram.com/its997

The US is not alone in this alarming phenomenon. Dandara dos Santos, a trans woman who was filmed begging for her life before being beaten to death on Feb. 15, became the fifth trans person to be murdered in Brazil that month. Asked to describe Dandara, her sister Sonia Maria spoke of Dandara’s selflessness, saying that she was always helpful and spirited. Dandara’s death, however tragic, is not unique. Brazil has just 2.8 percent of the world’s population, but 46.7 percent of the world’s transgender murders.

These figures only keep piling up as we look across the globe. At its last count, the TVT Project had tallied 295 reports of murdered trans and gender-diverse people in 33 countries in 2016, with the majority happening in Brazil (123), Mexico (52), the United States (23), Colombia (14), and Venezuela (14). In Asia, most reported cases were in India (6) and Pakistan (5) and, in Europe, in Italy (5) and Turkey (5).

Image c/o www.pearlofafrica.tv

Cleopatra Kambugu fled to Kenya after having been “outed” on the front page of Red Paper, one of Uganda’s major tabloids. Forced to live behind a closed gate for over a month, she lost her job and her relationship with several family members. The people who had been “outed” were attacked by mobs and illegally evicted, leaving her no other option than to get out of Uganda. Today Cleopatra and her boyfriend live in Nairobi, but she still has to be careful and remains vigilant of her surroundings. Cleopatra has since shared her story with various media outlets and has developed a web series and a documentary, The Pearl Of Africa, to further this end. “I want to give the Ugandan people human picture of a transgender person, which I hope The Pearl Of Africa will help me to do,” said Cleo.

We at SPARK stand with our communities during these devastating times and vow to keep shining a light on the activists and advocates who have tirelessly worked to illuminate the struggles and triumphs of trans women across the world. We call on you to support the work of these activists and invite you to learn more about how you can get involved in the movement to protect trans lives here.

Celebrating Queer & Trans Women for Women’s History Month

Tracing its origins to 1911, Women’s History Month has steadily become the most visible public show of solidarity within the feminist movement. The occasion is all the more visible this year following Trump’s attacks on women’s reproductive freedoms. However, the conversations around the month often neglect to acknowledge the lives of queer and trans women which is an all too familiar reflection of feminism’s long-standing history of ostracizing the LGBTQ movement. Over a century later, women’s history month marches and rallies still focus only on the experiences of cis-gendered women while queer and trans lives are pushed to the margins.

c/o bitchmedia.org

 

This kind of exclusion is not limited to the feminist movement and has had catastrophic repercussions in all facets of society. This year, seven trans women of color have been murdered, with four of those seven homicides taking place right here in the South. In Louisiana alone, Jaquarrius Holland was shot on February 18; Chyna Gibson was gunned down in a parking lot on February 25; and Ciara McElveen was stabbed to death two days later, while Mesha Caldwell, a black trans woman, was killed January 4 in Canton, Mississippi. The south is not unique in this tragic phenomenon and trans women have been targeted across the country. Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, a two-spirit trans woman, was killed on January 6 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Keke Collier, another black trans woman, was shot in Chicago on February 22 as was Jojo Striker, who was killed on February 8 in Toledo, Ohio. Though their deaths and lives have been circulating around small corners on the web, these women’s names are still unfamiliar to a significant number of Americans and have yet to cross the headlines of any major publication.

This year, SPARK wishes to commemorate the lives of these women as well as highlight the queer and trans leaders whose contributions continue to push the often tragic limits placed on femininity.

We’re starting off with Jaquarrius Holland, the 18-year old black trans woman who was shot in Louisiana following a verbal altercation.

c/o MIC.com

From MIC:

In a phone interview with Mic, Chesna Littleberry, a friend of Holland’s, said Holland identified as transgender and used “she” and “her” pronouns. She and Holland met about seven months ago and quickly became friends. Holland, who was unemployed and housing insecure, often stayed at Littleberry’s home, though she often moved around a lot.

“She didn’t want to feel like she was intruding, but she didn’t live with her parents or anything like that,” Littleberry said. Littleberry said Holland also went by the name Jaquarrius Brown and often used the hashtag #PrettyBrown to describe herself.

Littleberry said Holland loved R&B singer K. Michelle. When they first met, Holland told Littleberry that she reminded Holland of the R&B songstress. Littleberry had promised to one day bring Holland to a K. Michelle concert.

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