By Melinda ChateauvertThree decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry.
By Mark TreckaWhen Postcommodity documents the installation, the materials list will read: the Earth, cinderblock, parachute cord, PVC spheres, helium. But that list will be incomplete. The Mexican Consulate was a material. The local cafe owners in Douglas who spearheaded a corresponding art walk, the teenagers of Agua Prieta who danced in celebration of the launch, they were materials.
By Mark TreckaSaturday has been a long day of logistical maneuvering. Even the seemingly simple task of keeping count of the balloons, on such a scale, can prove to be complicated. And in order to see to it that all twenty-six balloons fly at an even height, anchored at intervals across very uneven terrain, each length of cord has been measured and cut precisely and specifically for each site. With twenty-five balloons aligned in the air, turning slowly, and the twenty-sixth securely anchored, those on the ground see an opportunity to slow down and seize a moment. The wind has cooperated. It breathes calmly.
By Eileen TruaxJust as with every Dreamer I meet, I found out about Jorge through someone else, who had met him through a friend. I met him in El Hormiguero, a community center in the San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles, where students, activists, and other members of the community hold meetings on various topics. The meeting where I met Jorge had such a provocative title, I had no choice but to go and see what it was all about: “Undocuqueer Healing Oasis.” It was a space where gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transgender people could share their experiences and talk about what it’s like to live with not just one but two identities that go against the accepted norm. They share how they struggle to get ahead or just keep going, even though it takes more work, and sometimes you just feel tired and overwhelmed.
By Mark TreckaPostcommodity first began discussing the logistics of the Repellent Fence project with the Tucson-Pima Arts Council eight years ago. At several points throughout the weekend, the artists joke that Roberto Bedoya, the head of the council, thought they were crazy in the early stages of their talks. The projected site was moved several times over the years, responding to local political issues, safety concerns, and practical realities. Eventually, the border towns of Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Sonora emerged as an an ideal location for the work because they are “two communities really interested in binational cooperation,” Cristóbal Martínez explains.
By Mark TreckaInside the Saddle and Spur Tavern in Douglas, Arizona, it is easy to forget that about a mile south down G Street, just past the Douglas Meat Warehouse, the United States ends and Mexico begins. It is easy to forget that the U.S.-Mexico border is a mile away even though the Saddle and Spur doubles as the Gadsden Hotel’s bar. Opened in 1907, the hotel is named for the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, in which John Gadsden, the American ambassador to Mexico, negotiated the $10 million purchase of 30,000 square miles of Mexico. The deal determined the line of 1,945 miles that is the present-day border
By Wen StephensonOn Wednesday morning in Boston’s West Roxbury neighborhood, an interfaith group of sixteen Boston-area religious leaders—Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu—sat down and held a prayer service in the middle of Grove Street, physically blocking construction of Spectra Energy’s fracked-gas West Roxbury Lateral pipeline, part of a major expansion of its Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline system. All told, their civil disobedience brought the number of arrests for nonviolent direct action along the construction route to more than eighty since October (including my own on April 28).
By Bernardine DohrnIn 1970, we received a “Letter from the Underground” from Father Daniel Berrigan, printed in the New York Review of Books. It was a note from a comrade, for Dan too was a “most wanted” fugitive from the FBI and federal law enforcement officials at that time. A Jesuit priest, an acclaimed poet, a committed anti-war activist, his “Letter” was delivered, as was much communication then, not by mail or (landline) telephone, but via the media.
By Melinda ChateauvertOver the last week and before the print edition appeared, Emily Bazelon’s cover story “Should Prostitution be a Crime?” for the New York Times Magazine, sex workers and their allies were sharing and discussing it widely through Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. I was thrilled to see people I know, activists I’ve admired and worked with, being given a national platform to have their say. This was and is a phenomenal media moment for the sex workers’ rights movement.
A Q&A with Margaret ReganStarting in the 1980s, we began to have a policy of detaining immigrants. We didn’t really have detention centers ever since we shut down Ellis Island and Angel Island in the 1950s. 1980s policy changed. We were going to do detention centers. So, what do you do? You suddenly start needing prisons. You go to the private sector because they’re agile, they can do things. Corrections Corporation of America began around 1983. Their first project was an immigration detention center in Houston, Texas. And they quickly moved into the regular prison sector also. So they are a for-profit corporation.
By Molly AltizerPresidential candidate Donald Trump demonstrated his brand of blatant racism when he accepted an invitation by local Republicans to speak in the town of Patchogue, NY, last week at a Republican fundraiser just blocks from where Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was murdered in 2008.
By Jonathan RosenblumMillions of workers across the country have won wage hikes under the banner of $15, and this week many more in California stand poised to join the parade. But three and a half years after the first picket sign was hoisted demanding $15/hour and union recognition, very few minimum wage workers are actually getting paid that much. That’s because among those crafting wage legislation, it’s become an axiom that increases must be phased in over time for the sake of business and economic stability. California Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez reflects a prevailing establishment view that what’s needed is “a reasonable, measured approach that would prevent sticker shock for businesses.”
A Q&A with José OrduñaHappy Publication day to José Orduña and his memoir, The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement! The Weight of Shadows chronicles the process of becoming a North American citizen in a post-9/11 United States. It is a searing meditation on the nature of political, linguistic, and cultural borders, and the meaning of “America.” Our executive editor Gayatri Patnaik spoke with Orduña to discuss James Baldwin’s influence, Orduña’s hopes for the book, and how he crafted the narrative.
A Q&A with Andrea RitchiePublic awareness of police brutality is growing, spurred by stories about individual Black men who have been murdered by police across the country. But Black women and women of color have been rendered largely invisible in discussions about state-sanctioned violence, even though they too are targeted and killed by police officers. What can we learn from their experiences of injustice, and from their resistance and activism? Black lesbian police misconduct attorney and organizer Andrea Ritchie, co-author of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Violence Against Black Women and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, takes on these issues in her forthcoming book, Invisible No More, due out next spring. With Women’s History Month still fresh in our mind, we caught up with Ritchie to ask what to expect in her eye-opening account.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.I was driving to a meeting listening to the news this morning and a special segment was announced. It was described as a discussion on the Supreme Court’s decision on “union dues.” The second time that I heard this promo I stopped my car and called the station. Though I did not reach a human being, I left a pointed message to the effect that this case—Friedrichs v California Teachers Association—was NOT about union dues. So, if it was not about union dues, what was it about and why would the news station make such a basic error?
By Laura A. JacobsTo pee or not to pee: That is the question facing transgender and gender nonconforming people in North Carolina. I first wrote on this a year ago when only a few states were considering anti-transgender bathroom statutes which seemed unlikely to pass. In hindsight, that time seems almost quaint. Now North Carolina and other states are enacting legislation that criminalize transgender and gender nonconforming people for using the bathroom aligned with their identity and/or expression. Behind the rationalizations are two main goals: to scapegoat us for political power, and to punish our community’s nonconformity by creating an environment in which it is impossible—or at least extremely challenging—for transgender and gender nonconforming people to survive.
What sacrifices does a Pakistani wife have to make while living under a military dictatorship? Why are there still so few women working in the hard sciences? Which historically misunderstood workforce forged alliances with activists in the women’s rights and black freedom movements? The answers lie in the books we are featuring this year during Women’s History Month, which explore and applaud the contributions women have made—through survival, activism, trailblazing—to history. Ranging from the individual voice of memoir to the joint voices of the collective biography, their narratives ring out with equal intensity.
By Premilla NadasenWelcome to the third entry in our Montgomery Bus Boycott Turns 60 Series. Domestic worker Georgia Gilmore was one of the little-known organizers and activists in the boycott, which is why, during Women’s History Month, we are putting the spotlight on her. Gilmore raised money for the boycott and founded the organization Club from Nowhere so that black donators could give money to the cause anonymously without drawing unwanted attention from their white employers and losing their jobs. She cooked out of her own home for people involved in the boycott after she was fired from her own job because of her activism. As this excerpt from Premilla Nadasen's Household Workers Unite shows, Dr. King would not have become the leading civil rights leader he was without the behind-the-scenes work of people like Gilmore who kept the cause afloat.
By Jeanne TheoharisOn Friday, the news broke of MSNBC’s silencing of Melissa Harris-Perry’s show and the dismantling of her editorial control. In her courageous letter to staff, she wrote why she was not willing to read the news and “provide cover” for MSNBC this weekend: “Our show was taken—without comment or discussion or notice—in the midst of an election season…I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head…I love our show. I want it back.” MSNBC executives later in the weekend called Harris-Perry “brilliant, intelligent, but challenging and unpredictable” and confirmed they were “parting ways.”
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-HartgroveIn a surprise turn of events, the exit polls at the Iowa caucuses showed a victory of 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz over Donald Trump. Pundits credit the turnout to Cruz’s advantages over Trump and the other Republican candidates—superior fund-raising and a strong campaign operation—as well as his success with Iowa’s majority voters, self-described “very conservative” evangelicals.