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Movement Building Honoring the Legacy of Sylvia Rivera

“Unity does not require that we be identical to each other.” – Audre Lorde

miss major sasha and olympia

SRLP’s Olympia Perez (left) and SRLP’s Sasha Alexander (right) with Miss Major (center)

In the past few months I’ve been invited to share and connect SRLPs powerful work for racial, economic, and gender justice with other organizers and advocates from across the country. From Chicago’s National Convening on Anti Trans Violence, Yales Policing Post Ferguson Conference, Abortion Rights to Abolition in NYC,  the LGBT POC Summit in Washington DC, and recently at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference we are continuing to build strong relationships to each other, not just regionally but thru analysis, practice, policy, and movement building, but it’s not without challenges.

Since the new year began our communities have continued to be impacted by police violence, suicidality, bigotry, and interpersonal attacks. This violence builds upon histories of colonialism, racism, transphobia, economic disempowerment, and state violence that creates a feeling and reality that we don’t matter, as much as we really do- with institutions, like the medical, military, non profit, and prison industrial complexes deeply impacting our ability to thrive and build collective power. Along with these structural challenges what’s clear from leaders and organizers working across the country is that we also must continue to confront and heal from the isolation, erasure, and interpersonal violence within the LGBT community, TGNCI community, communities of color, and our intersections.

In Chicago at the Transgender Law Centers National Convening to address anti trans violence held during INCITE Color of Violence Conference in March over a 100 TGNCI community leaders came together. As we unpacked the root causes of our trauma what was clear is how important our relationship to eachother is to truly uplift the power and leadership of TGNCI, and all, people. We need to hold each other accountable along the journey out of love whether that harm comes from systems, institutions or individuals and confront and heal from what is preventing us from better organizing our peoples practices of self love and care for collective liberation. As peoples facing intersections of oppression; policing, immigration, healthcare, incarceration, housing and education we need accountability and love within and outside our organizations, leadership, and community that does not replicate the same systems we work to dismantle.

In DC early May I spent more time building with our growing movement of LGBTQTSGNCI led organizing at the LGBT POC Summit to convene leaders in Washington. Miss Major and Janetta Johnsons powerful trans-led work in the Bay with TGNCI Justice Project, Juan Evans action with Racial Justice Task Force Solutions Not Punishment (SNaPco), Women on the Rise and Ms. Dee Dee Chamblis’ work with La Gender, amazing organizers like Bamby Salceda, Kylar Broadus and the Trans People of Color Coalition, networks of leaders like the Brown Boi Project, Southerns on New Ground (SONG), to our Miss Major-Jay Toole Building for Social Justice (MMJT) comrades at the Audre Lorde Project, FIERCE, and Street Wise and Safe; there is such powerful work happening in our communities and we still have so much to learn from each other. We discussed issues of health and wellness, immigration, criminalization, indigenous sovereignty, and moreso how intertwined they all are in our movements and struggles. As we move forward building we need to uplift our legacies of intergenerational, multi racial, youth led organizing, and be in better solidarity with each others movement histories, visions, and work.

As we lead up to the date commemorating the stonewall rebellion, we honor the historic legacy of working across movements at the intersections of justice against police brutality like the Coopers Donuts Riot, Compton Cafeteria Riot, and1956 Deweys Lunch Counter Sit-In among actions. Stonewall was a police riot, much like many uprisings led by low income tgnci folks of color. As we navigate a month full of mainstream pride events that forget our movements have continued to address violence we must remain honest about the impacts of capitalism, gentrification, transphobia, and racism, on our neighborhoods and movements. Sylvia Rivera supported the Young Lords and Black Panthers, and also always spoke out against the erasure within leadership of broader movements for justice she saw and experienced as a low income bi-sexual trans person of color. We can not lose grasp off what really happened over those few days in June, the many people like Marsha P. Johnson, Miss Major, Sylvia, and those names we do not know- we must embrace our histories honoring the powerful tgncpoc and allies who have and continue to inspire our movements. There are so many names we need to know and celebrate like Eirleen Bud and Charlene Arcila-Ecks, we cannot contribute to the erasure of our own history.

In 1998 Sylvia Rivera spoke about Stonewall with Leslie Feinberg, among things she details the 45 minutes they barricaded the police in the building and the energy that led up to that moment, during the interview she said: “All of us were working for so many movements at that time. Everyone was involved with the women’s movement, the peace movement, the civil-rights movement. We were all radicals. I believe that’s what brought it around. You get tired of being just pushed around.”

This Friday June 26th SRLP is marching in solidarity with the Audre Lorde Projects Trans Justice during the annual Trans Day of Action. We invite you to support our work and communities however you can, liberatIon is a collective process and we need you! Come out and rally with SRLP! To get involved check out and please read more about the Points of Unity

In love and justice,

Sasha Alexander
Director of Membership
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project
212. 337. 8550 ext. 306

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