What We’ve Gained And Lost Since Stonewall

Black trans people have been struggling for acceptance for 50 years. And we’re not even close to getting it.

By Miss Major

There is no because of this or that — Stonewall just happened. There was a tendency at that time for white people to think, well, she’s a junkie or she’s an alcoholic or she’s a drug addict. She’s anything but human, so why listen to her? That was the basic attitude towards us trans women in the 60s. And it just happened to be everywhere. Some of the girls back then, like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, tried to speak up for us, but just got laughed at. Everyone, especially the police, had been treating us trans girls poorly for years. They used to make trans women wear three articles of male clothing under their female attire in order to enter the bar. It was such a mental and emotional persecution building up over time — the shit just hit the fan, period.

I would love to say that things are so much better now because we’re more visible— but they’re not. It took 40 years to become more visible. What happened during all that time? What about all the girls whose lives were lost? What about all of those who were beaten and killed because someone was trying to put their own attitude and morals on our bodies? Strangers have no compunction. The police never did anything to catch those murderers. The way I see it, the government sanctioned those murders. Their silence was approval. They’ve been killing us girls for years. Is it anything new? No. Is the rate they’re killing any different? Since our visibility happened, there’s been even more brutality, harassment, mistreatment happening on a regular basis. People can’t get to Laverne Cox or Janet Mock, so instead, they go after a girl walking in a street in her neighborhood at night, just trying to make money to survive. And when the police come, the murderer goes home free of charge, while this trans woman nobody cares about lies dead in the street.

These days the police are shooting folks left and right, shooting all of our young black men every opportunity they get — and what happens? Everybody’s sad — they all sing prayers and rush to put the flowers down beside the deceased. But when a young 19-year-old transgender girl is murdered, who’s running to put flowers on her? Nobody. Who’s stopping to check on her blood family or her network of friends? Nobody.

What does the word ‘fair’ mean to you?

I started working with #BlackLivesMatter because people have to understand, black trans lives matter too — black means all black people. I was black before I became a transgender person. And I suffer because I’m black more than I suffer from being transgender. Which is better? There is no way to tell.

The world is not set up for black and brown people at all. So, we have to look out for each other — and for trans people of color, in general. Most black trans girls are on their own pretty early, because their families won’t accept them as trans. When your family smells perfume on you, they don’t waste time — you can’t live in their house and do that; if you don’t conform and pretend to be the black boy they raised, then you’re out of there. But then what do you do? How do you survive? How do you pay rent? How do you buy food? Where do you live? We don’t have a choice. If they won’t let you in to survive, you live on the outside.

I’m a person, so I want to make sure that the young people realize that they need to be themselves — even though it comes with a cost. This isn’t the kind of the world that lets you be who you really are for free! This isn’t a world where black trans people can be comfortable and exercise our rights as a human beings. The world doesn’t think we’re human; they don’t think we have any rights. Besides, what do the laws matter when the people enforcing them won’t acknowledge or act on them? The law has no teeth.

I want people to know that it’s rough for us. We’re a tough bunch of bitches. We’ve gone through worse. We’ll get through this. We just have to be strong. We do what we need to do to be okay and wake up tomorrow morning and start all over again. We can’t give in. We can’t go down without a fight. We’re not going to be pushed around.

**Miss Major’s pronouns are she/her**

This essay was adapted from an interview with Miss Major.

Read the original piece on Medium.com.

This article is part of a Black. Trans. Alive. We Won't be Erased: A Roundtable Discussion.

 

September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.

September 3, 2019

Capitalism and Racism: Conjoined Twins

By Marjona Jones, Co-Chair of Funders for a Just Economy and Senior Program Officer at Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock

Marjona Jones speaking at a podium.

A few weeks ago, Democracy Now! aired a segment with Ibram X. Kendi, author and founding director of the Anti-Racist Research and Policy Center at American University, where he discussed white supremacy, anti-racism, and the increase in mass shootings. What struck me about the segment was his illuminating statement about the origins of capitalism. Kendi views capitalism and racism as "conjoined twins" and that “…the origins of racism cannot be separated from the origins of capitalism… the life of capitalism cannot be separated from the life of racism.”

Kendi continued by discussing how the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade allowed for the massive accumulation of wealth in Europe and the Americas. Centuries of wage theft, trading in human bondage, insurance claims on "lost" cargo, and reparations for slave owners after emancipation entrenched this capitalist system with inequities based on race built into it. Slave owners protected their concentrated wealth by shaping our socio-economic and legal systems to benefit themselves and the industry of slavery, as well as limit democracy.

As I celebrate the worker movement’s victories on Labor Day this year, this segment and past conversations with grantees has triggered an important question for me: What does the notion that capitalism and racism are inextricably linked mean for our work as funders of racial and economic justice? Our grantee partners tell us how workers are implicated in the entangled web of these “conjoined twins” of racism and capitalism. Many worker-based organizations state that the best vehicle this country has in pursuit of economic justice is through organizing workers, but traditional labor hasn’t always been the best vehicle for racial justice. As Bill Fletcher Jr. and Fernando Gapasin discuss in Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice, while many unions integrated in the 1920s, some unionists decided to resist integration to ensure wins and job quality for white workers. These traditionalists understood the idea of “conjoined twins.”

Racial and economic justice movements have exposed exploitative and extractive practices within capitalism, making it less secure to accumulate wealth through those means. However, as Michelle Alexander points out in her book, The New Jim Crow, exposing capitalism for what it is forces it to transform and evolve. For example, following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, agriculture was still the main economic engine, and free exploited labor was needed for this industry to survive. Capitalism evolved while maintaining its racist and exploitative roots through policymakers passing the Black Codes of 1865 and 1866, making it easier to imprison recently freed slaves to continue that supply of free labor.

We are catching up to the fact that capitalism was never meant to work for everyone. What will the next evolution in capitalism bring as our movements fight even harder for racial and economic justice in the face of harm to workers and marginalized communities?

Funders for a Just Economy (FJE) has created an intentional space to begin discussing what these questions mean for our work and the grantees we support. Capitalism’s origin story is a critical part of analyzing how this system operates. By acknowledging the “conjoined twins,” we acknowledge the role of race and the legacy of slavery. FJE believes that there is a renewed opportunity to support a working-class movement that builds the power of all workers, especially Black, Trans and LGBQ workers, women, and immigrants—and lift their role as the main strategists to change the system. If we believe another world is possible, then so is another system that bakes in justice, equity, and respect.


  

Join FJE for these conversations and more at the upcoming Racial Capitalism, Power and Resistance event on October 17 & 18 in Brooklyn, NY. More information and registration link here.

Stay tuned for an upcoming Power Building Study Group for Neighborhood Funders Group members, and the Disrupt the System: How Labor and Philanthropy can Build Worker Power in a New Era event co-convened by the AFL-CIO, the LIFT Fund, and FJE on December 11 in Washington, DC. More information coming soon!