Monday, September 10, 2007

Tongue to Tongue

Building Coalitions and Movement

This weekend, Friday, Sept 7 - 9, 2007, was the Tongue to Tongue Conference ( in Los Angeles, California. The conference was held at the Gay and Lesbian Center, called The Village, in West Hollywood.

I went to the trans history workshop, a useful backgrounder on the elite establishments vision of tranny hirstory, a medicalized view of "gender dystopia." We heard stories of tranny and queer folks, gender benders, and I wished we had shared stories of Mu Lan, of the Spanish daughter of an African mother who had a wife and children and was persecuted in the Spanish Inquisition for her gender bending, and of la tranny who was one of the instigators of Stonewall. That the trannies were the ones leading that charge.

The LGBTQI Immigration Workshop was moderated by Liliana Perez, who is queer liaison for the Fabian Nuñez, and the presenters were
  • Fran Hutchings, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)
  • Xiomara Corpeño, also from CHIRLA,
  • myself, Diana Pei Wu, from the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and
  • Jasmyne Cannick, a blogger, and now a community liaison for newly elected Congressional Representative Laura Richardson
I appreciated the efforts of our moderator and participants to model good behavior and comments, and trying to say something useful about LGBTQI movements and LGBTQI immigrants, as well as about the IRR movement in general.

We didnt' really talk about the situation of queer immigrants and refugees.

I mentioned our work on LGBTQI rights and Immigrant Rights, and our work trying to link movmeents.

Many of the people in the room worked on interesting stuff. service providers as well as organizers.

In retrospect we could have spent more time on the stories of LGBTQ migrants and refugees,
and not been derailed by one person trying to be the wedge, represent all African Americans, and at the same time tell the immigrant and refugee rights movement what we should be doing to include more black folk. and she didn't even do anything to find out what we do, and obviously who had no clue as to what else is going on in places where people take the time to create the space to know each other, and to knwo what we do, who we are.

Classic interventions:
  • we are not all immigrants. but most of us do have stories of forced migration, displacement, and movement and migration in our stories.
  • the immigrations system is not broken. it is racist. it works exactly the way it has been designed to work, since the chinese exclusion act of 1882 through the border security acts etc of the present day.
  • human rights not economic or political pragmatism
  • broad movements for racial, economic and social justice
  • there is good legislation out there that adheres to our values and principles.
classic comment: can't do it all in a 1.5 h conversation, especially one we don't control and don't even have a chance to frame..

if it had been me, i would have highlted the case of Ms. Arellano who just passed in LA and the case of the trans sister who is suing CDC for neglecting her repeated requests for safety from being raped by the man who was her cellmate, and the cases of the people in our BRIDGE curriculum.

it felt like mostly LA-heads but a lot of folks from the Bay too. yay.

Highlander Center, and Asheville, NC

this past labor day, i spent with generations of organizers and activists at the Highlander Research and Education Center's 75th Anniversary in New Market, TN.

We celebrated 75 years of organizing with poor white folk in rural Appalachia, black folk throughout the South, and more recently, with some Latino leaders in the rural South, using tools of cultural organizing, participatory research, popular education, grounded in local and regional history and culture - that is, invested in a sense of place. and working to ensure that language and culture are shared, and are not barriers to communication.

We are blessed.

So much music, a depth of relationship between music and performance and organizing and people's hearts, a body-knowledge of when which songs mights be appropriate. And new songs from old ones, playful floreos on lyrics and melodies and layers of harmony.

it's been years since i've been to the appalachian mountains, these rolling hills, their layers of blues and greens and purples.

tents, fans, ribs, song.

slave songs, dulcimer songs, banjo and bluegrass songs. freedom songs. jazz and spoken words as song. worksongs. love to the movement songs.

i met a woman with whom i shared the ribbon dance. and i treasure our meeting, watching the shared beauty of that silk ribbon moving in air. i appreciated that she saw the power of it,

and thanks to monica for showing us a little bit of the knoxville that she loves - the yummy sangria place, and Calhoun's, the BBQ place on the river near the boardwalk. flying out of knowville, i stopped at a little nature center called Ijams (pronounced I-yam, like ayam, chicken in bahasa indonesia-melayu). walked along the river, it's big and flat. i forgot how big the water is here ...

it is 1.5 h from knoxville to asheville, nc.

asheville, nc, is a little center for yippie's, new restaurants, all the trappings of fancy city living.

we are in the blue ridge, in the great smoky mountain range, this is cherokee land, where we shared cornmeal and milky way stories, and the stories of how the turkey vulture flew up over the soft earth when the turtle came out of the water, and in the wingbeats of the vulture flying north, drew up the earth into the ranges of mountains that run from what is now georgia through upstate new york.

it is a place of big rocks and broad rivers.

an old-new place for latinos and other immigrants and refugees, from south africa and mali, mexico and honduras, vietnam, and colombia.

our companeras in asheville. are doing amazing work.