Activism Roundup

How to take action this week

Farmworkers and advocates in Whatcom County are mourning and organizing after the tragic death of 28-year-old Honesto Silva Ibarra, a worker on a blueberry farm outside Sumas, WA. Seventy workers hired through the “guest worker” (H2A visa) program were fired for “insubordination” when they stopped work for one day to push for safer working conditions. Many of the fired workers are Mexican nationals who are now stranded with no jobs, no work visas, and no way to get back home.

Here is how you can help the workers in Sumas fight for justice, and why this matters to anti-violence advocates everywhere:

  • Migrant workers are vulnerable to abusive labor practices in the same ways that immigrant survivors are vulnerable to abusive partners. Employers hold immense power over workers’ livelihood and legal status. That makes it difficult and often risky to complain about poor working conditions, or report abuse and harassment on the job.
  • When immigrants are marginalized and threatened, our whole community is endangered. The threat of detention and deportation keeps victims from turning to law enforcement for help, and abusive partners commonly use that fear to further isolate and control victims. When victims are afraid to turn to law enforcement and community resources, all of our safety is at risk.
  • Workers’ rights = immigrant rights = women’s rights = human rights. We cannot have safety and justice for survivors without justice and safety for migrant workers.

Take action:

  1. Support the workers fired from Sarbanand Farms
  • Contact Munger Farms (Sarbanand is a subsidiary of Munger)
  • Call 661-725-6458 (then dial 9, then dial 686)
  • Talking Points:
    • Renew all workers’ visas.
    • Immediately pay wages owed to displaced workers. Sending paychecks to Mexico is NOT adequate.
    • Pay airfare for any workers wishing to return to Mexico.
  1. Attend a Dignity Vigil to stand in solidarity with undocumented and immigrant workers and families organized by Keep Bellingham Families Working.

Monday, August 14th

11:30 AM – 1:30 PM at Bellingham City Hall

and

5:00 – 6:00 PM at the Bellingham downtown bus station

  1. Donate to Community to Community Development and Familias Unidas por la Justicia. These organizations are doing grassroots work on the ground every day to organize for farmworker rights, and support survivors of domestic violence.
  1. Follow Community to Community Development and Familias Unidas por la Justicia on Facebook to keep up-to-date on what immediate support is needed.
  1. Get more information on how to support immigrant survivors.

Five good things

This week we’re sharing a post from Eleanor Powell, our summer intern.

I don’t think I know anybody who could argue that the first six months of 2016 have been the best months of their lives. The continued police brutality against black Americans, the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States, a rise in blatant xenophobia—all these things have made it hard to be positive and keep fighting for justice.

So, here are five things I have been trying to think about when everything else seems hopeless:

  1. Over $150,000 was raised at the 2016 Goodwill Refuse To Abuse® 5K!
  2. Beyoncé, always.
  3. Leslie Jones, and the love shown towards her after she received hate on Twitter.
  4. Pokemon Go (What can I say, I’m a technology-obsessed millennial)
  5. The WSCADV staff. Thank you for working so tirelessly to end violence against women, and for making this internship special. Since my first day, I felt welcomed and included. I learned so much about the work you all do, and discovered what kind of work I want to be doing in the next five years. I truly cannot thank you guys enough for giving me such a great opportunity.

News you can relate to

WSCADV is mourning this week in the wake of the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and the Dallas police officers who were protecting a peaceful black lives matter protest.

‘This is the brain on horror’: The incredible calm of Diamond ‘Lavish’ ReynoldsHopper, who studies the impact of trauma on the brain, compared Reynolds’s reaction to what he has witnessed among victims of sexual assault. When they report attacks to authorities, he said, they often sound like they’re reading from a grocery list. Trauma can trigger pain-regulating hormones, which can make a victim appear to be relaxed, even apathetic.”

Rape, Alton Sterling, And The Complexity Of JusticeDoes a rapist deserve support from Black women after his unjust murder? Were the police justified in killing him because of his past deeds? Are we willing to discard him solely on the basis of a conviction in a justice system we know to be deeply biased and anti-Black?”

We could be heroes: an election-year letter “Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends. The desperate are often much more hopeful than that.”

Opinión vs. acción (Opinion vs. action)

Estamos en año de elecciones, inevitable no hablar de esto. Hoy más que nunca es necesario ser responsables de nuestros actos e involucrarnos como ciudadanos, es un deber y un derecho que tenemos para poner nuestro granito de arena y ser parte del cambio en nuestras comunidades, en nuestro país, y elegir juntos un buen liderazgo.

Escucho cientos de comentarios diarios sobre el ambiente político de hoy en día, en los medios de comunicación, en el trabajo, con mis amistades, en casa, en fin, y va a incrementarse conforme se acerquen las elecciones. Pero ¿qué tanto estamos siendo responsables? ¿Qué tanto estamos haciendo nuestra parte? Es sumamente sencillo hacer comentarios, enojarnos, y tener una opinión pero eso no es suficiente.

Tu Voto Es Tu VozSi realmente queremos que nuestra opinión tenga un impacto, y queremos que haya cambios sociales, justicia, avance, que se tome en consideración a todos y cada una de las personas, si queremos que realmente se refleje lo que este país es y puede ofrecer, entonces involucrémonos, informémonos, y si tienes el derecho de votar, hazlo. Tu opinión cuenta pero tu acción crea un impacto y genera cambio.

Alguna vez leí algo sobre reglas básicas de convivencia y recuerdo que iban algo así: ¿llegas? Saluda, ¿te vas? Despídete, ¿recibes un favor? Agradece, ¿prometes? Cumple, ¿ofendes? Discúlpate, ¿no entiendes? Pregunta, ¿tienes? Comparte, etc. Simples ¿verdad?, muy sencillo. ¿Quieres un líder que refleje tus valores? entonces haz algo al respecto.

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We are in an election year, it is impossible not to talk about it. Today more than ever we need to be responsible for our actions and engage as citizens. It is our duty and our right. We need to practice it and be a part of the change in our communities, in our country, and together choose good leadership.

Every day I hear hundreds of comments on the political atmosphere in social media, at work, with my friends, at home, and it will increase as the elections approach. But how responsible are we being? Are we doing our part? It is extremely easy to comment, get angry, and have an opinion, but that is not enough.

If we really want to make an impact, create social change, have justice, make progress; if we want everyone to be taken into consideration;; if we want  leadership that truly reflects what this country is and what we can offer; then commit, get involved, get informed, and if you have the right to vote, do it. Your opinion is important but your action creates an impact and generates change.

I once read something about the basic rules of coexistence and they go like this: if you arrive somewhere, say hi; if are you leaving, say goodbye; if you receive a favor, say thank you; if you make a promise, fulfill it; if you offend someone, apologize; if you do not understand, ask; if you have, share, etc. Simple, isn’t it? So if you want a leader who reflects your values, then do something about it.

Futures Without Violence Leadership Award

Futures Without Violence recently presented me and the organization I work for the Futures Without Violence Leadership Award at the National Conference on Health and Domestic Violence in Washington, D.C.  Futures Without Violence called out how our “efforts bridge the gap between advocates and health care providers, and create programs that have improved the lives and safety of countless victims of abuse.” What follows is the speech I gave when presented with this honor.

Leigh-award

I want to thank Futures Without Violence for this award. I also congratulate the other recipients and thank you for your transformative work.

It is humbling to receive this award and I share it with all of you. Each one of us works every day for women, children, and men to have the access and care they deserve.

We are a mighty group and I am so proud to be here with you.

After so many years of advocating for survivors of abuse and working for policies and practices that are shaped by their experiences, I find myself circling back to some of the most important foundations we have.

Self-determination, liberation, bodily-integrity, the freedom to do the things we want—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone.

When I think about what it means to do advocacy, what comes immediately to mind are my twin daughters, Basha and Rebekah.

Four years ago, they were Bat Mitzvahed. And as part of the ceremony, they had to write and deliver speeches about the Torah passages that marked their day.  Reflecting on the teachings and finding contemporary meaning.

Two young women with two singular perspectives. Basha talked about Glee (which she watched obsessively at the time). What she took from the show was not just the drama, fabulous singing, and the outfits—what she took were lessons about bullying and homophobia and young people’s experiences both of injustice and of justice.

Rebekah wrestled with her understanding of living an ethical life. What she came to realize is the importance of having an integrity that allows you to be whole, and directs you to live—publically as you do privately.

I am grateful my daughters had this experience. To think seriously, to speak seriously, to have adults listen and take them seriously.

Fast forward to 17, Basha and Rebekah have helped to organize a Feminist Union at their high school. Every week 30 teens show up, 1/3 of them boys, to hang out and talk. They talk about street harassment, rape culture, healthy relationships, international feminism, and gender equality.

That my daughters have had these experiences is a remarkable gift. It is all we want for every girl and every boy. In my work, and our Coalition’s work, we see the power of partnerships that give women and girls, men and boys, the opportunity to exercise their choices, to write their own futures. And, have lives filled with dignity.

I am so very proud to be a part of this movement—and believe that all of us, together, are creating a world of health and happiness, and justice and hope.

Thank you.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Happy New Year! Are you into resolutions? Find some inspiration in Colorlines’ “Racial Justice Bucket List.”

The YWCA of Spokane is thinking about how the design of their shelter space can impact survivors’ healing process.

It’s stalking awareness month! Check out the presidential proclamation issued by the White House this week.

News you can relate to

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

  • September is Abortion Access Month, highlighting the struggles women, especially poor women, are forced to go through to be able to actually exercise their reproductive rights.
  • A great debate online this week on the tension between expecting girls to be ‘modest’ and expecting boys to be responsible for how they treat girls.

Equal pay (and dinosaurs and robots) are cool

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day—the day symbolizing how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012.

Oh for crying out loud. This is still a thing? Yes, it is!

Over dinner I was telling my 6-year-old son about it. I asked him to imagine that he and his sister were doing the same job for a day and that at the end of the day I paid him more than her for the same work just because he was a boy. I asked him what he thought about that. At first he said, “Well, that doesn’t seem fair.” And then he said quietly, “I wish Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive.” When I asked why, he said “because he would do something about it, and change it.”

Well then we started talking about legacies, and after I explained that a legacy was something you leave behind, I asked, “Do you know what Dr. King’s legacy is?” I explained that it’s that we all could realize that we are somebodies who can do something about injustices. And that I was somebody. And that he was somebody. And that his sister was somebody. And that we could all work to change things. After a pause and some deep thinking he responded, “Cool.”

And then we moved on to how cool robots and dinosaurs are. Because they are. And wouldn’t equal pay for equal work be cool too? Let’s get on it!

equalpay

Something old, something new

This week falls between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  This time of year in the Jewish calendar is focused on renewal, repair, and justice. Drop into any synagogue this week and you’re likely to hear a call to work for “tikkun olam” – a value often translated as “repair of the world” and used to invoke a broad array of social justice work.

I learned something new recently about the origins of the idea of tikkun olam.  One of the earliest uses of the phrase in rabbinic literature is from the 2nd century C.E. These rabbis were addressing a loophole in traditional divorce law that was a threat to women. Occasionally a man would serve his wife with divorce papers, and then rescind the divorce without her knowledge. If she went on to marry someone else, the second marriage would be illegitimate, jeopardizing her legal status and the status of any children of that marriage. The ancient rabbis ruled that a man could not cancel a divorce once the decree had been delivered to his wife, and cited tikkun olam as the reason for the change.  They recognized that this misuse of civil law – though technically legal – threatened the integrity of the system as a whole.

I was astounded at how much this nearly two thousand-year-old legal issue sounds like stories we hear from advocates today. Abusive men are still finding ways to manipulate the legal system to punish their ex-wives. Children suffer when they are used as tools to control their mother. Women are not getting “renewal, repair, and justice” in court.

These are problems that seem as intractable today as ever. Yet our challenge is to continue to bring new energy, creativity, and passion to fixing them.  Where do you get the inspiration to find new ways to right ancient wrongs?

The Revolution Starts at Home

What does it mean for an abuser to be held accountable? What does justice for a survivor look like? And how do we get there?

I’ve been studying domestic violence murders for the past 7 years and have seen time and again how the legal system is profoundly limited in its ability to provide justice, safety, or healing for survivors of abuse. But focusing on the failures of the police and courts can feel hopeless, because it is not clear where else to turn. I envision that our own communities can step up to confront abusers and support survivors. Yet it is hard to imagine communities where sexism, homophobia, isolation, and victim blaming don’t get in the way.

A new book, The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities, is a collection of stories from people who have also wrestled with these questions. The authors are activists working against racism and homophobia. It makes sense that the people trying to figure out how to hold abusers accountable within their own communities are those that have been the least served and most harmed by the criminal response to abuse—LBGTQ folk, people of color, immigrants.

The stories bring to life both the hope and promise of community solutions to domestic and sexual violence, and how painfully difficult this process can look on the ground. In one essay, a grassroots activist group describes how they organized to address abuse by one community member toward another. Their process had all the key ingredients for justice: a focus on the survivor’s safety and healing, treating the abuser with respect while demanding real change, and directly confronting the conditions that allowed the abuse in the first place. And yet, their efforts took years, required massive energy and commitment, and they found it was hard to know whether they were making real change.

Reading this book left me feeling both excited about the creative work being done and overwhelmed with the work left to do. The efforts, aspirations, and even failures in these stories felt like a call to action for all of us working to end domestic violence. As Andrea Smith says in the introduction, “the question is not whether a survivor should call the police, but rather why have we given survivors no other option but to call the police?”