A good twenty or so links from the past several months.
Lesbians sentenced for self defense
Plenary session for saturday night
Update on the Jersey Four
FIERCE, violence against women of color, support
Support the Newark women
Lesbians sentenced for self-defense
This is Just Depressing
No Snow Here: Three things
Automatic Presence: The Newark Women
without grace: Sakia Gunn and the Newark lesbian conviction
Carnival of Radical Action: The Education Edition
Don’t forget the Newark women!
More Reasons the (in)Justice System Has Me Down
East Coast Lesbians of Color Sentenced for Self Defense
A couple things
It’s not the oppression olympics
Free the New Jersey Four!
Hate Crimes on the Rise
Media Representations of New Jersey 7
FIERCE on sk*rt (yes, the queen of link posting, shannon, did post a link there!)
donate money for Mariah Lopez’s bail
Support the Newark women
Sylvia: Support the Newark Women
Slant Truth:Jersey Seven/Four Updates (with link to Facebook page and online petition)
The Silence of Our Friends (specifically requested by Donna to repost for her readers)
Go to Women of Color Blog for the rest of the hyperlinks.
The erasure of work through the creation of “nobody” discourse=the continued marginalization of the worker.
It’s funny how “nobody” is always so damn colored.
"She's got a point there, kids."
The basics from FIERCE!:
YOUNG LESBIANS FROM NEWARK NEED OUR SUPPORT!
On August 18, 2006, seven young African American lesbians traveled to the West Village from their homes in Newark for a regular night out. When walking down the street, a male bystander assaulted them with sexist and homophobic comments. The women tried to defend themselves, and a fight broke out. Thus began the women’s nightmare for almost a year. Three of the women accepted plea offers. On June 14th, 2007 Venice Brown (19), Terrain Dandridge (20), Patreese Johnson (20), and Renata Hill (24) received sentences ranging from 3 ½ to 11 years in prison.
The women and their families now call on our communities for support. Their emotional and financial burdens have already been immense. These hardships will only continue as the women begin their prison terms and the process of appeal.
Thanks to the dozens of you that turned out to the community support meeting for the NJ4 on July 10th. For an update on how to write letters of support the young women or to send them a donation directly, click HERE. [pdf hyperlink at site]
yahoo group here.
What I found interesting about this story was Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin's statements during sentencing stating he had no sympathy for the women, ages 19-25, none of whom had a previous record and who claimed self-defense.
Also interesting was the judges disbelief in the testimony of Patreese Johnson that she carried a knife because she was 4-foot-11 and 95 pounds and came from a dangerous neighborhood. Johnson not only lives in one of the most dangerous areas of Newark, she and several of the other defendants were also high school classmates of Sakia Gunn, a lesbian who was stabbed to death on the street in downtown Newark four years ago after she spurned a man who tried to pick her up.
After hearing of a classmate's death by stabbing, at the hands of a man who made advances on a similar group of young women who did not have the means to defend themselves in an attempt to kidnap one of them, I can understand why a young woman might find it prudent to carry a weapon to defend herself. I do not condone using a weapon but I certainly understand considering how and why Sakia Gunn was killed...
Imani Henry (syndicated via Worker's World):
None of them had previous criminal records. Two of them are parents of small children.
Their crime? Defending themselves from a physical attack by a man who held them down and choked them, ripped hair from their scalps, spat on them, and threatened to sexually assault them—all because they are lesbians...
On Aug. 16, 2006, seven young, African-American, lesbian-identified friends were walking in the West Village. The Village is a historic center for lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) communities, and is seen as a safe haven for working-class LGBT youth, especially youth of color.
As they passed the Independent Film Cinema, 29-year-old Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVDs, sexually propositioned one of the women. They rebuffed his advances and kept walking.
“I’ll f— you straight, sweetheart!” Buckle shouted. A video camera from a nearby store shows the women walking away. He followed them, all the while hurling anti-lesbian slurs, grabbing his genitals and making explicitly obscene remarks. The women finally stopped and confronted him. A heated argument ensued. Buckle spat in the face of one of the women and threw his lit cigarette at them, escalating the verbal attack into a physical one.
Buckle is seen on the video grabbing and pulling out large patches of hair from one of the young women. When Buckle ended up on top of one of the women, choking her, Johnson pulled a small steak knife out of her purse. She aimed for his arm to stop him from killing her friend.
The video captures two men finally running over to help the women and beating Buckle. At some point he was stabbed in the abdomen. The women were already walking away across the street by the time the police arrived...
After almost a year of trial, four of the seven were convicted in April. Johnson was sentenced to 11 years on June 14.
Even with Buckle’s admission and the video footage proving that he instigated this anti-gay attack, the women were relentlessly demonized in the press, had trumped-up felony charges levied against them, and were subsequently given long sentences in order to send a clear resounding message—that self-defense is a crime and no one should dare to fight back.
Political backdrop of the case
Why were these young women used as an example? At stake are the billions of dollars in tourism and real estate development involved in the continued gentrification of the West Village. This particular incident happened near the Washington Square area—home of New York University, one of most expensive private colleges in the country and one of the biggest employers and landlords in New York City. The New York Times reported that Justice Edward J. McLaughlin used his sentencing speech to comment on “how New York welcomes tourists.” (June 17)
The Village is also the home of the Stonewall Rebellion, the three-day street battle against the NYPD that, along with the Compton Cafeteria “Riots” in California, helped launch the modern-day LGBT liberation movement in 1969. The Manhattan LGBT Pride march, one of the biggest demonstrations of LGBT peoples in the world, ends near the Christopher Street Piers in the Village, which have been the historical “hangout” and home for working-class trans and LGBT youth in New York City for decades.
Because of growing gentrification in recent years, young people of color, homeless and transgender communities, LGBT and straight, have faced curfews and brutality by police sanctioned by the West Village community board and politicians. On Oct. 31, 2006, police officers from the NYPD’s 6th Precinct indiscriminately beat and arrested several people of color in sweeps on Christopher Street after the Halloween parade.
Since the 1980s there has been a steady increase in anti-LGBT violence in the area, with bashers going there with that purpose in mind.
For trans people and LGBT youth of color, who statistically experience higher amounts of bigoted violence, the impact of the gentrification has been severe. As their once-safe haven is encroached on by real estate developers, the new white and majority heterosexual residents of the West Village then call in the state to brutalize them...
Deemed a so-called “hate crime” against a straight man, every possible racist, anti-woman, anti-LGBT and anti-youth tactic was used by the entire state apparatus and media...
Court observers report that the defense attorneys had to put enormous effort into simply convincing the jury that they were “average women” who had planned to just hang out together that night. Some jurists asked why they were in the Village if they were from New Jersey. The DA brought up whether they could afford to hang out there—raising the issue of who has the right to be there in the first place.
The Daily News reporting was relentless in its racist anti-lesbian misogyny, portraying Buckle as a “filmmaker” and “sound engineer” preyed upon by a “lesbian wolf pack” (April 19) and a “gang of angry lesbians.” (April 13)
...All of the seven women knew and went to school with Sakia Gunn, a 19-year-old butch lesbian who was stabbed to death in Newark, N.J., in May 2003. Paralleling the present case, Gunn was out with three of her friends when a man made sexual advances to one of the women. When she replied that she was a lesbian and not interested, he attacked them. Gunn fought back and was stabbed to death.
“You can’t help but wonder that if Sakia Gunn had a weapon, would she be in jail right now?” Bran Fenner, a founding member and co-executive director of FIERCE, told Workers World. “If we don’t have the right to self-defense, how are we supposed to survive?”
From Trouble: More Than Bargained For
I love this article. I do. Because it's written like an exact "How To Belittle The Experiences Of Women and Gay People Who Talk About Harassment" Primer.
"The girls started coming out of nowhere," Dwayne Buckle told a Manhattan jury yesterday, describing the bizarre beat-down he suffered last summer, allegedly at the hands of a seething sapphic septet from Newark, N.J. "I felt like I was going to die."
"Seething sapphic septet"? That's actually funny. I will totally give it extra points for that.
... Buckle told a different story on the stand, assigning many of his alleged attackers monikers. There was Brown, the one he admittedly called an "elephant." Then there was the one with the "low haircut," do-rag and wife-beater T-shirt,whom he admittedly called "a man," and the "slightly pretty" one to whom he first said hello. It all started, he said, when the first two walked by. "They looked effeminate [sic] and one of them was slightly pretty, so I said 'hi' to them," he said. But the "heavier girl, she started to dog me out," Buckle said. "What does that, perchance, mean," asked the judge, Justice Edward McLaughlin. "Just disrespect me," Buckle explained. Then "more girls started coming out of nowhere."
But I'm sure that he just "said hello", right? And then suddenly seven sapphic samarai just jumped him, for no reason!
...So, let's review:
- Women are just walking down the street, minding their own business, when some guy demands they buy his videos
- Women refuse, and for some reason that he's not their type comes up
- Man starts hurling abuse at them for daring to be lesbians
- At some point a cigarette is flicked, a woman is choked, stuff like that
- Women fight back against their attacker
- Man = victim
Yes, I will totally agree that the man was knifed and that is horrible and bad. And yes, I will totally agree that violence isn't the answer to street harassment (although did you hear about the woman who ignored the catcalls from a truck and the guy who was catcalling was so mad he ran over her. Last I heard she may die.).
But why the HELL is he being presented as an innocent victim in the lead in to this article? Why is it being presented as these wild and insane women (gay women!) just going off on him for no reason for the first few paragraphs?
This is my theory:
Because the women being lesbians is titilating. It's an amusing image. It's women's sexuality, and we can't make it not about the sex.
Look, I know sex sells. I do. But does it bloody well have to sell a violent attack on someone? Does it *really*? Can't it just be about how a group of women retaliating after a gay-bashing incident? Doesn't that make the whole thing a bit more serious? And shouldn't the whole thing be taken a bit more seriously? The guy was knifed, for crying out loud. After attacking the women for not wanting to sleep with him. After choking one of them for... what, not wanting to sleep with him?
At the New York Times, reporter Anemona Hartocollis described the women as "a pack of marauding lesbians" and Samuel Maull, an Associated Press reporter, wrote that they were "all avowed lesbians from Newark."
The trial did feature a moment that showed how these mainstream reporters can so easily use these characterizations.
Bruce Nussbaum, an assistant managing editor at Business Week, was screened as a possible juror on the case, but he was excluded after he expressed the concern that his wife might be threatened by this lesbian gang. For Nussbaum, "gang" connoted "a nationally organized gang, very powerful, that could reach out and try to influence members of the jury," he told the Times.
What does Nussbaum think he is dealing with? A lesbian crime family? A gay Mafia? Nussbaum was presented with four young lesbians charged with assault and he saw a sinister and vast criminal conspiracy.
It is no surprise that mainstream press stories about us are so consistently awful. As Nussbaum revealed, we remain alien and unknown to these benighted reporters. The result is that their stories are crap.
There is also the surplus complication of this being categorized as an “aggressive” crime - an “aggressive”* being a woman ‘of colour’ who sleeps with women, dresses in a masculine fashion and doesn’t identify with either ‘lesbian’ or ‘trans’ labels.
...It is almost as if their gender identity somehow puts these women on a ‘level’ with men when it comes to fighting or territorial protection - for example, if heterosexual men attempt to hit on femme girls that date aggressives. In the moment, it is man fighting man, defending their honour, not gay woman fighting homophobic man, or woman fighting man. Although in the most brutal, factual, physical sense - it is. There is likely to be an inbalance of strength and power.
There are other issues, of course, such as the fact that their sexualities were made clear to the male victim and any harrassment that follows such a declaration could be classified as a ‘hate crime’. Obviously, in this case, the crime was committed by a presumably “aggressive” woman, not against one, although it appears to have been not premeditated attempted murder at all but aggravated assault against a minority group.
...Groups of sexually voracious men seem quite adept at spotting ‘lesbians’ these days, either due to their behavior or their appearance and may actively seek them out - particularly in known gay areas. They do not approach these women to romance them, but to bully a minority group they cannot possibly comprehend. Aggressives in particular may be viewed as ‘copying’ heterosexual men, emulating them somehow or taking “their femme women”; as such, they are subject to ridicule, or being provoked into a “real man” standoff.
From Queer Woman of Color:
I'm not saying for one second that the media attention the Jena 6 are getting is undeserved. On the contrary. I think an even bigger ruckus needs to be caused. In that same vein the New Jersey seven's lack of attention seems questionable. Why isn't there more about these women and their case. What are the reasons one case gets more support than another?
With the New Jersey seven I have to wonder if there is sexism here. Or homophobia. Or genderqueer phobia. Or all of the above. Maybe it is just too much for us to think about that many levels of injustice and oppression. Maybe we can get behind men but not people who we consider immoral due to their sexuality and gender expression. Whatever the reason I figure it is important to at least ask.