Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Blog Post: JT Mikulka Wouldn't Take the Pill aka Check Your Privilege!

Today's blog post is a guest post from JT Milkuka, a graduate student in the Social Work program at Hunter College in New York. JT also works with Queers for Economic Justice.

The original post to which JT is responding can be found here. It was originally posted on Towleroad.

I just watched Randy Phillip's latest video you just posted and while I agreed with his general message I'd like to comment on his introduction; specifically, his hypothetical desire to change his sexuality if that was possible. I'd like to offer a different viewpoint.

We live in a society that loves to put people in boxes and categories. If society can't categorize someone, it tries to wipe them out instead. Mr. Phillip's comment implies that there are only a few ways of being sexual: gay, straight, (and I'll assume he'd imply bisexuality, since it's been socially accepted, if only barely). However, the fact is that human sexuality is complex and messy. It ebbs and flows and fluctuates through out our lives. I'd like to applaud Mr. Phillip's for his recent coming out and for being a huge means of support for many LGBTQGNC folks who have been following his videos. I'd also like to remind him, and his followers, that we don't have to feel constrained by the roles society tells us we must play based on one identity or another. But that we can decide for ourselves what these identities mean for us and how we would like to enact them (or not) and on what spectrum of human existence we would like to live.

Further, as a gay man who identifies occasionally as gay and occasionally as queer, I'd like to also state that I am so thankful that I am gay and would never wish for my sexuality to be any other way. It's true, growing up gay has not always been easy. Like many of the young gay, queer, and trans people out there, growing up was a struggle and I did not always feel connected to the people around me. I continue to struggle with these issues of belonging and connectedness to this day. Unfortunately, I have also walked through various streets of this world unable to hold my boyfriends hand for fear of being attacked, because my sexual identity may threaten another persons sense of self. However, it is precisely these struggles that have allowed me to see beyond the white, middle class world that I was raised in and see the rampant homophobia, racism, classism, and sexism that exists in this world and this country. It has allowed me to join with communities and friends in the fight for equality and liberation in an attempt to fully realize my human potential and help others fully realize theirs along side me. I view this fight as both my duty and my privilege. I am thankful every day that I am more aware of the ways in which people of color are discriminated against. I am thankful that I am aware of the ways women are abused and harassed by men. I am thankful that I have been given a lens to view the world differently and work towards undoing the systems that have allowed these acts of hate and violence to continue.

No, I would not take that magic little pill to turn me in to just another straight white man. I encourage Mr. Phillips, and the many LGBTQGNC youth and non-youth a like to view their non-majority identities as a gift they can share with the world and with those around them who love them. Not everyone will listen or be kind. People are often scared of change and by ideas that threaten their identities. I am not saying this struggle is an easy one. But there is a vast community of love and support to tap in to. A community that will stand by you in the struggle and lift you up. A community I feel lucky to be part of.

Read more:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poetry at the Heart of Revolution: Working at the Intersection of Feminism, Queerness and Social Change


This week, I have had the amazing opportunity to spend the bulk of my time at Davidson College in Davidson, NC. I was invited to visit the school by Dr. Shante Smalls, and for the last three days I have had the privilege of sitting and thinking and building with some truly great students and some amazing professors. Last night, I gave my first formal public lecture at a college. Though I have done a number of classroom lectures over the last seven or eight years, this was my first all eyes on me (actually us...I shared the evening and the week with the stunningly amazing, beautiful and transformational Sophia Wallace...I am SO in love with her and her work and her--did I mention she is amazing) scholarly conversation on why I do the work I do and how I do it.

I have decided to publish my remarks here. Each section of the discussion was paired with a poem from my collection, It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt, which you can purchase by here.

Davidson College Remarks
Queer Communities/Queer Critiques

Given at the College on October 25, 2011 at the invitation of Dr. Shante Smalls and in dialogue with visual artist Sophia Wallace

Owning the Space We're In

Poetry: Stump Speech

I want to thank Davidson College, Professor Shante Smalls, Dean Ross, Sophia Wallace, the English Department support staff, and the students of Davidson for having me here to share some time and thoughts with you. And I am particularly pleased to be back in North Carolina. I will forgive all ya'll for deciding to go to Davidson when you could have gone to Warren Wilson, my alma mater, just up the road in Swansong.

To have the opportunity and space to sit in dialogue across disciplines, within academia, while connecting the practice and function of artistic form to grassroots revolutionary change is a privilege that most people do not have nor get to have. It is a privilege that most practicing artists of whatever genre or medium are never privileged to have, and so I want to acknowledge, sitting in this space, the presence of folks doing the work of radical social change, public critic and power building using art are many, varied, and often doing their work outside of they academy, and sometimes, in opposition to it—not from any particular hatred of academia but often because of the particular role that academia plays in propping up certain forms of oppression and the role academia has often played in determining which art forms are valid, valuable and respected. Page poetry versus spoken word, oil on canvas versus spray paint on a train trestle, museum art versus mail art, pop art (aka the art of the people) versus high art. As a spoken word artist, I have felt distinctly that disconnect, and so this conversation today, with two practicing artists that have connections to the academy but work outside of it, is important not only for the content of our work but also for creating intentional relationships within a system that has, traditionally, undervalued our work or tokenized it, relegating it to classes and studies that are themsleves marginalized within the academy (raise your hand if you are only able to encounter significant subject matter of value to communities of color within the context of “ethnic” studies department or have submitted an idea for a paper or project and been told that it doesn't have enough “theory” in it.)

Theory is oftentimes academic speak for bullshit. Don't get it twisted, the ghetto is alive and well behind the ivory walls. But I digress. I am supposed to be here talking about poetry and politics, queerness and feminism, gender fucking and fucking in general, the personal as political as political as personal.

So let's talk about that for a minute. I don't mind getting real personal with all y'all.

I came to my life as a writer very personally. Poetry was how I survived the self-awareness process that is the phenomena of coming out of the closet. All through high school I wrote terrible poetry about tear drops falling and lighting and broken hearts and the moon. In fact, a good friend of mine still has all the poems I wrote to her, and I have told her that she had better be buried with those poems as I never want to see them again. Poetry and other forms of writing that I practice, very simply, is how I see, feel, and process the world. Whether I am talking about love, a break up, a one night stand, going to war, racism, addiction, or living with HIV, my poetry is very personal yet to walk in this world as a queer man, a positive man, a descendant of slaves, a survivor of abuse, a child of the Ojibwe Nation, light skinned, college educated, from a family full of immigrants, is to understand that everything I do at all times is influenced by and takes part, actively or passively in fundamental political systems and systems of privilege and oppression.

Poetry: Big Sam

Poetry As An Act of Feminist Resistance

Beyond the fact that I know and love and have organized and worked with Dr. Smalls for over a decade, there is another reason that I am sitting here instead of a queer woman of color doing the same work. I now have the privilege of having published a book, and being a male with other male friends that have benefitted from male privilege, I was able to circumvent the normal publishing process, take my work straight to the publisher and here I sit. I didn't think about any of that at the time but just because I didn't think about it doesn't make it any less real or any less connected to real political systems that are foundational to who gets to make, create, and publish art. And so I'd like to honor and bring into this space that I am grateful to be here but I am here not entirely because of my own work but because of work that is done before I even wake up in the morning by a system that maintains a reserve of privilege for the male body in which I move.

I also want to talk to you a little bit about why I identify as a feminist and do my work through a feminist lens. Listen closely because I am about to lay something on you. I firmly believe that women have a choice of whether or not they wish to move in the world as feminists. While I would thoroughly want to shake my little sisters until they looked like bobble heads if they came home talking about submitting to their husbands and birthing babies and the like, I would resist the urge and instead make a bee line for her intended to let him know that if he ever asked her to submit, I would submit my foot to the back of his head.

Men, you have no choice. You are required to be feminist if you ever want this world to even begin to consider dismantling systemic oppression. Like racism and classism, sexism is the third leg of the stool that is the fundamental and foundational underpinning of the capitalist system and like those two other legs of oppression, sexism is combined and recombined to create other forms of oppression such as heterosexism, transmisogyny, feminist racism (I wish that were an oxymoron), etc. Just as white power and privilege is propped up through the vehicle of racism, male power and privilege is propped up through sexism and committing oneself as a man to feminist principles, action, and living means to be not only staunchly anti-sexist but proactively pro-woman and to use the power, privilege, and opportunity you have been given by virtue of being born with a penis, or the ability to pass (for the trans men that may be in the audience), to smash oppression as it impacts women, batter down the glass ceilings and, wait for it, step away from advancement and opportunity at times when it would be more effective, meaningful, and powerful for the work to be done by a woman.

Now I am not talking about turning down a job to feed your family, but I am talking about making sure that you are actively opening up space in your student groups, in your classrooms, in your daily life and actively asking the question of yourself AND other men, “What can I personally do and SYSTEMICALLY support to ensure that the voices of women are centered in the world and in the spaces to which I have been given access.”

Without women, and specifically radical feminist women of color—queer and straight—I would not be a poet today. In 2003, I attended a International Women's Day spoken word performance at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, MN. It was called Women Holding Up Half the Sky. Poets Juliana Hu Pegues, Sha Cage, and Coya Hope White Hat Artichoker gave spoken word performances. That evening changed my life. That night I wrote my first spoken word poem. Unfortunately, due to a combination of electronic misfortune and a brain malfunction that poem is lost forever. What remains is a commitment to using poetry as a way to challenge misogyny and heterosexism and male privilege.

Poetry: Stolen

Racism/Classism/Poetry Oh My!

I'd like to share another poem with you now. And though my friends often refer to me as an I.R.A—I require attention, I am going to prove them slightly wrong by reading to you an excerpt from another poet. I am not going to tell you who this poet is, in fact, I am going to ask you to tell me who this person is once I have read to you this excerpt, please note that in order to keep from handing you the answer any more than the piece already does, I will be omitting a couple of lines from the work:

...if I were standing at the beginning of time, with the possibility of taking a kind of general and panoramic view of the whole of human history up to now, and the Almighty said to me, "Martin Luther King, which age would you like to live in?" I would take my mental flight by Egypt and I would watch God's children in their magnificent trek from the dark dungeons of Egypt through, or rather across the Red Sea, through the wilderness on toward the promised land. And in spite of its magnificence, I wouldn't stop there.

I would move on by Greece and take my mind to Mount Olympus. And I would see Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around the Parthenon. And I would watch them around the Parthenon as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would go on, even to the great heyday of the Roman Empire. And I would see developments around there, through various emperors and leaders. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the day of the Renaissance, and get a quick picture of all that the Renaissance did for the cultural and aesthetic life of man. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even go by the way that the man for whom I am named had his habitat. And I would watch Martin Luther as he tacked his ninety-five theses on the door at the church of Wittenberg. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would come on up even to 1863, and watch a vacillating President by the name of Abraham Lincoln finally come to the conclusion that he had to sign the Emancipation Proclamation. But I wouldn't stop there.

I would even come up to the early thirties, and see a man grappling with the problems of the bankruptcy of his nation. And come with an eloquent cry that we have nothing to fear but "fear itself." But I wouldn't stop there.

This is an excerpt from Martin Luther King's speech, “I've Been to the Mountaintop,” which he gave the night before his assassination in Memphis, TN. This speech was given in support of the sanitation workers strike in Memphis. It is pure spoken word. It was also part of a larger rallying cry to make sure that by marching for racial justice we did not forget or were not divided from a movement for economic justice.

Dr. King understood that one of the ways that capitalism was maintained and that slavery had been maintained and Jim Crow had been maintained was a systemic division of poor black and poor whites from one another. He understood and colonialists understood that poor whites and poor blacks had more in common simply by being poor than they had in a difference created by skin color. It was thus that race based oppression was systematically created in this country as a way to do two things at the same time: maintain a system of control by intrinsically linking working class whites to slaves while also keeping them from seeing each other as allies and create a permanent basis of low wage and free labor.

Though folks like Bayard Rustin and Ralph Abernathy and others had, a generation before, tried to bridge the race/class divide by organizing within the union and labor movements of the 1920s, 30s, and 40s (through intentional work in both the north and south especially in places like the Highlander Center), Dr. King understood, and built upon the work of and worked in partnership with Abernathy and Rustin, that in order to bridge the race/class divide you first had to break down ENOUGH of the racist inculcation of working class whites and blacks for them to be able to stand side by side and see the humanity each other. Once those cracks were hammered into the side of racism, you could blow the basis of the entire system wide open when black folks, using the power and momentum built up by the Civil Rights movement, inserted themselves into the working class white/black struggle around economics as evidenced by the sanitation workers strike in Memphis.

Dr. King wasn't murdered because he had played a role in breaking down certain racial barriers/norms/mores that were already falling apart on their own due to the natural pressures of competition within a capitalist system, he was murdered because using the poetry of his words, he was attacking the fundament of capitalism itself, and it was working.

J. Edgar Hoover wasn't having any of that.

Poetry: These Streets

Poetry at the Heart of Revolution(aries)

There was a time in the American experience when poetry and politics went absolutely hand in hand. We listen still to Martin Luther King' Jr's speeches specifically because they are spoken word. And this is not some coincidence, it is not a rare phenomena in the black experience, in fact, this oral poetic history is a thousands of years old West African tradition tied to the griots. Politics and loss, weddings and death, regime changes and life changes were told as poetry from town to town by griots—poets of the people that created art out of the every day life and its circumstances. The griots work was not distinct from the needs, wants, and desires of the community. The griot reflected back and outward to a broader audience the goings on of the moment while also tying those same happenings to the history of the community. The griot and the poet were one and the same and art was inimically tied to the people and reached its peak at a time when, for example, the university at Timbuktu was the most respected place of learning in the Western world, where Europeans were considered too limited in their education to instruct students, and any notion of divorcing poetry from the people would have earned you side eye from just about everyone.

We are seeing a distinct resurgence of the art politic in grassroots communities and most definitely it is an integral part in much of the anti-racist, anti-police brutality, anti-corporate organizing happening in communities across the country. Spoken word is one of the rare art forms that the corporate state hasn't found a way to co-opt and market (beyond a short run of Def Poetry Jam) and as such it remains a distinct vox populi in a way that hip-hop has struggled to maintain and that mainstream rap ceased to be 20 years ago. In this commercial, corporate oligarchy with tendencies towards democracy when it suits the purposes of power, folks would have you believe that art has always been something for consumption by the idle as opposed to a tool for social change. Too many texts would have you study Diego Rivera divorced from his Marxist-Leninist ideology, Frida Kahlo from her first wave of feminism roots, Emily Dickinson's poetry is desexualized and denies the revolutionary content of her work on claiming women's sexuality and would have you study her as an asexual spinster pining for a missed love.

Every generation and every movement for social change has had artists as intellectuals as revolutionaries at its heart and is the reason why reactionary governments target artists first. A people without artists as prophets are doomed to wander in the desert until they can reclaim the artistic expression that gives articulation and purpose to their outrage. And we aren't just talking about Stalinist pogroms against the intelligentsia in some far off place, we are talking about cuts to the National Endowment of the Arts by GOP administrations (Robert Mapplethorpe almost gave several US Senators an apoplectic fit), and the subsuming of the creation of art inside of the nonprofit industrial complex where artists are often times required to tie their art to specified predetermined outcomes that naturally limit the scope and content of their work. They exchange their true voice for the right to eat or, more specifically, from the fear of going hungry. And this, frankly, is the curse of social movements no matter how they are devised and why Occupy Wall Street and its love children are scaring the beejus out of folks. OWS is a movement outside of the reigns of the nonprofit industrial complex, untied to the carefully crafted systems of control devised during the advent of the Great Society programs and large enough that it can easily push back against the relatively weak administrative attempts (permit denials and “park clean ups”) to mitigate its impact.

I am fairly certain that it was one of Karl Rove's ancestors that created the myth of the starving artist. Just as revolutionary movements in the 60s organized to provide support and sustenance for their members--Black Panther food kitchens and the like--so too do artists have a long history of self organizing to sustain each other. This was and has been and continues to be so that they could create without relying on the very systems that piss them off to the point of doing art in the first place. And, of course, those self-same revolutionary movements (anti-war, black panther, brown power, women's movement, queer movement) had artists at their core and spawned and continue to inspire artistic expression generations later. That is truly revolutionary. Revolution is the essence of creation and is a requirement of the creative process, anything else is mass production...the art is there but it is so distant from the original as to be a glossy two dimensional distraction removed from the grit of its original intention.

To sustain ourselves as artists/organizers/change-makers requires that we actively disbelieve the notion that there is a limited supply of nourishment in the world. We know, for a fact, that the food produced in the U.S. ALONE is enough to feed the entire planet, and for those of us that grew up in poverty, we understand, to paraphrase that fantastic writer and friend Aurora Levins Morales, that sustenance can be created from empty calories. And I am, of course, not speaking solely of food when I speak of nourishment. I am speaking about love, affection, joy, peace, accountability, safety, creativity, attention, celebration, and liberation. So we have to make a choice to reject the “slice of the pie” that is served to us and learn to not only believe that we deserve a bigger, fatter, juicer slice but also, in fact, we need a pie baked the right way with the right intentions so that there is enough for every single person that has hunger. No one is going to feed us but us. It's beyond time that we start building a kitchen, with a house around it, that can feed, house, and hold us all.

Poetry: Resuscitation by Any Means Necessary

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Stop Violence Against Queer Homeless Folks

Support QEJ and the Shelter Safety Campaign!

On October 1, 2011, QEJ lost a member of our family, Yvonne McNeal, to police violence.
Yvonne was a member of QEJ's Shelter Support Group. She was openly queer, living in the New York shelter system, 57 years old, a woman of color, walked with a cane, and her life was taken by the police. Once again the police chose to use lethal violence in a situation that could have ended without loss of life or physical harm to anyone involved.

Once more the life of a poor, queer, butch identified, person of color was discounted and discarded by an act of violence. Both inside and outside the New York shelters, the lives of the most vulnerable are also plagued by violence, often from the people tasked with keeping us safe. Poor bodies, queer bodies, women's bodies, transgender bodies, immigrant bodies and homeless bodies are too often the targets of violence. These are lives and people with stories and the right to live free from harm, in safe and nurturing environments, and with the right to walk the streets without fear. This is our community.

QEJ's Shelter Safety Campaign was created in June 2011 as a direct response to the violence found in and around the New York City homeless shelters. Through direct action organizing, shelter support groups, and off shelter site programming, QEJ works in partnership with shelter residents to address the issues that impact their lives and provide the skills, training, and support needed so shelter residents can create accountability amongst themselves and within the shelters to provide greater safety.

In the wake of Yvonne's murder, QEJ created an offsite space for shelter residents to enjoy a meal and have the time and space to talk about Yvonne's loss while also sharing their hopes and fears around responses to this act of violence. The reality of living in the shelters is that systemic violence often goes unreported or unaddressed because of fear of retribution by the police or shelter staff. Homelessness is not a moral failing. Living in a shelter should not be dehumanizing.

QEJ, working with shelter residents, is creating a response to Yvonne's murder that will address the tragedy without amplifying resident's fear of reprisal. As part of a long term strategy, QEJ is using this horrific event to raise awareness and create a coalition of allied organizations to address the violence survived daily by our queer and trans family in the NYC Shelter System.

But doing this work comes at a cost, and QEJ relies on our community to support our work, hold oppressive systems accountable and create systemic change that radically alters power relationships. Justice is a fundamental human right but in a capitalistic system, it doesn't come freely.

Help us end the targeting of our communities. Your one time gift of $25, $50, $100, or $250 will change lives; for example, $25 will pay for one shelter group session, and $100 will pay metro fare and dinner for a Know Your Rights training at QEJ's office.

Or, partner with us long term, and become a monthly sustaining donor. A monthly gift of $15, $25, $50, or $75 over the course of the year may cost you a couple of trips to Starbucks but will give us the chance to fight to keep from losing another member of our family to systemic violence.

To make a gift, go to

We are making the tools that will dismantle the master's house and build us all a safe, just, and powerful home in which to live.

With love and passion,

W. Brandon Lacy Campos
Development Director
Queers for Economic Justice

PS Again, you can donate at

Thursday, October 13, 2011

POETRY: Four Little Black Girls

Today, I had the privilege of hanging out with Mr. JT Mikulka, who is an amazing human being and a member of an NGO committee that supports and promotes the work of UNICEF and specifically the Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is an international treaty signed by every single nation on Earth EXCEPT for Somalia and the United States. The current transitional cabinet of the Somali government has signaled its intent to ratify the treaty leaving the United Nations as the sole nation on Earth not to recognize these otherwise universally recognizes protections of children.

This year marks the 21st Anniversary of the Ratification of the Conventions and the 52nd anniversary of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child. A few weeks ago, JT asked me if I would be interested in reading poetry at the UN celebration of the conventions, and I, of course, was overwhelmed and said yes. Today, I had an "audition" with the committee that throws the festival. After reading the poem that I am going to publish below, they asked me to read another. It was an amazing experience, and, according to a text from JT, the good people on the committee loved the poetry.

The festival is November 17th here in NYC, and if you are going to be in town, please come out and see me. Until then, here is a first draft of the new poem that I read today for the committee.

Four Little Black Girls

They died
On the church steps
Four little black girls
Lifted to Heaven
On wings with third degree burns
Bombs beneath the stairs
Blew open Heavens gates
Shrapnel in the halo of St. Pete
Racist landmines
Claiming the lives of lives barely lived
Livid lines of resistance poetry
Spread from Birmingham to the Dead Sea
There, the starving prayers
Offered up to four black angels
Little girls from Alabama
sent scrambling
trying to dry tears of those children
Caught in their parents wars

From Gaza to Giza
Oaxaca to Kigali
Rangoon to Detroit

pleas fall from throats scorched
By UN resolutions
paper shields used as kindling
To keep the war fires burning
Like their empty bellies
They open eyes wide
Seen to much, heard too much
Fed too little
They settle at their parents feet
Tell me a story of a far away place
Where people have enough to eat, water to drink
Tell us about New Orleans before Katrina
When  Voodoo Mamas conjured mana and loaves and fishes fell from Heaven
Then tell us about roads paved with high school diplomas
Where Papas tuck babies in a night
Frighten away fatigue wearing boogeymen
Never sleep again with one eye open
No more Fathers and brothers sent home in body bags
In wars fought for theology
While kids got aching tummies
Their dinner fed to the corporate war machine
Occupy Wall Street?
Occupy the Universe
Wrap it up
And give it to the least of us
They can (re) teach us
How to be human
Share your toys
Clean up after ourselves
Put your things away
Leave the room just the way you found it
This isn't rocket science
It's they key to our survival

Suffer the young ones to come to us
So we can come back to our senses
Before the final chapter
Remember the four black angels
That went to Heaven
are sitting up there with their fingers crossed
that no more little angels
go to Heaven on wings
with third degree burns.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-October 13, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Volunteer Positive: Changing Lives in Chiang Mai

For those of you that have had a chance to pick up a copy of my book, It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt (available in paperback or e-book), then you will have had a chance to see the amazing artwork of David Berube.

David is a working artist
in New York that received his training from the Columbus College of Art and Design, and is a fantastic printmaking and illustrator. He also has a passion for international travel and has spent significant time traveling and creating art in Southeast Asia.

After returning from his latest trip through China, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, David reminded me of a program that had come to my attention a few months ago called Volunteer Positive. Volunteer Positive brings together HIV positive volunteers around the globe to work in communities impacted by HIV and AIDS. The program is designed to provide HIV positive and allied individuals with a chance to do meaningful international volunteer work.

The Volunteer Positive program states as its purpose:

Volunteer Positive seeks to create a world where people living with HIV can openly serve as international volunteers promoting a global culture of understanding and acceptance through person to person diplomacy.

Volunteer Positive seeks to fight stigma by highlighting the power and efficacy of the HIV affected community.

Volunteer Positive seeks to provide a strong and vibrant image of empowered and self-sustaining HIV long term survivors using their health, passion, and compassion to transform the lives of others.

Volunteer Positive seeks to work with other international volunteer sending organizations to expand awareness of the contributions of people living with HIV.

David will be traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand where he will be working with a variety of projects including:

the most recognized and respected NGO's in the region. These include and HIV education groups run by Buddhist Monks, a program for HIV orphaned Thai children, LGBT advocacy groups, Arts organizations, refugees from neighboring Burma, HIV+ community support networks, primary and secondary schools, sex worker education facilities, 3rd gender communities, and public health facilities that serve those living with the virus. Each volunteer will be matched with a specific placement, and in addition will also participate in group service work as many different NGO's come together for the benefit of the community.

In addition, every volunteer will receive cultural training that highlights language, culture and current issues in HIV impacting the region. This is an amazing opportunity, but it doesn't come without a cost.

David has already raised 2/3rds of the roughly $4,000 in costs associated with the program, and he has about $1,000 left to go. He is relying on our community to support him in doing this work, which, in his own admission, is a big and transformational step in his own life and work. It is amazing, frightening, and exciting. Let's all help make sure that David can do this work, which is as important for him as it will be for the lives with which he will have a chance to interact.

You can make a personal contribution to David's trip and work through Paypal by sending a donation directly to his account at You can also mail him a check directly by check. And, to sweeten the pot, David will be sending artwork to those that are able to contribute to his trip.

Please consider supporting David and his Volunteer Positive trip...$20 may be a single meal out for you, but it would mean the world to him.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

QEJ Condemns the Police Murder of Yvonne McNeal

QEJ Condemns The Killing of A New Providence Shelter Resident

Queers for Economic Justice is shocked and outraged at the police shooting of Yvonne McNeal, 57, a resident of the New Providence Women’s Shelter in midtown Manhattan on Sunday evening, October 1st, 2011. QEJ has been working with residents and staff of New Providence Women's Shelter since 2003, and Yvonne was someone whom had become a part of QEJ's extended family.

After an altercation inside the shelter that moved to the sidewalk outside of New Providence where the police shot Yvonne McNeal, killing her. Yvonne’s killing on Sunday underscores the reality that the police cannot be relied on to respond compassionately to low income LGBTQ people when it concerns issues of safety in our communities. At QEJ, we are asking again how many potentially dangerous situations every year have to end up in a police shooting? It cannot be accepted that calling the police can be deadly for low Income LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Even in aggravated situations, the police have a choice to use non-lethal deterrents. A 57 year old woman with a cane that is attempting to re-enter a building, should not be the target of lethal violence. Like Oscar Grant in Oakland, the police had a choice; they chose to kill instead of preserve life. When police targeted largely white Occupy Wall Street protesters, they used pepper spray. When faced with a vulnerable woman of color, they chose to use lethal force as their first option.

“I feel that as homeless people, we don’t have a justice system,” said Gykyira Rodriquez, a member of QEJ’s LGBTQ support group at the New Providence Women’s shelter.

QEJ works at the intersection of sexual orientation and gender identity to do organizing and advocacy around LGBTQ poverty, homelessness and economic survival.

Ms. Rodriguez, who is a QEJ volunteer and support group leader, echoed the sentiments of many shelter residents, including other active members of QEJ's support group community. QEJ has seen this repeated pattern of racism and disregard for human life when the police are dealing with issues of violence because we are poor, from communities of color and may also be lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or perceived as such.

A report released last year by Queers for Economic Justice Welfare Warriors Collective in conjunction with the Graduate Center of the City University of New York found that calling or interacting with the police can be dangerous: 19 percent of 171 low income LGBTGNC survey responders in NYC had been physically assaulted in the past two years. Among those who were currently homeless, the number jumps to 24 percent. These numbers reflect broader national research that shows that LGBTQ individuals often find themselves victims of police violence when reaching out to the police for safety (NCAVP, 2008).

One QEJ study participant said, “I feel if you call the cops, the cops are going to think you are the criminal (when) they come.”

At QEJ, our hearts are broken at the senseless loss of Yvonne’s life. We are proud to remember Yvonne as she marched with us in the Gay Pride March this year. Earlier this summer, QEJ launched its Shelter Safety Campaign, directed by organizer Doyin Ola in partnership with Shelter Program Director Jay Toole. The violence inside and outside of the shelters, the threat from law enforcement and the wounding that comes from the prison industrial complex illustrates the absolute need for a project of this nature. The Shelter Safety Campaign will honor Yvonne by working to end the senseless and brutal violence bred by racism, poverty, transphobia and homophobia and aimed at the working poor, those in poverty, people of color, women, immigrants, mental health issues and the LGBTQ community.

For information on the Shelter Safety Campaign or the Shelter Organizing Project contact Doyin Ola, Shelter Safety Campaign Organizer, at "doyin at" or Jay Toole, Shelter Program Director, at "jay at".

For information on QEJ and our work, please direct yourself to our webpage:

For questions or comments on this statement, please contact Amber Hollibaugh at "amber at" or via telephone at: (212) 564.3608

Monday, October 3, 2011

POETRY: Resuscitation by Any Means Necessary

This poem was inspired by the following people: Keith Stiles, David Berube, Kenyon Farrow, Ashe Helm-Hernandez, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, and all my nieces and nephews especially the children of Rodrigo Sanchez-Chavarria and Nubia Esparza.

Resuscitation by Any Means Necessary

I. The Wedding

They gave me life
with their “I do,”
filled the room with satyagraha
Soul Power
and soul food
filled the spirits of the congregation of the community
unity behind this most holy union
Africa and Mexico joined in beloved matrimony
a bond we will help them hold
as they have held us
loved us
gave us life
in that old deep Southern style
sweet like cornbread ought to be
sustenance that we can feel
joy that we have seen
like the prophet said, “If we can't love and resist at the same time, we probably won't survive”
they gave us survival

II. The Murder

He gave life
to Troy Davis
brought him back from the dead
just a few days after Georgia killed him
He said, “Black bodies and innocence are an oxymoron.”
We done passed the point of righteous indignation
this nation has a place for us: prison, the streets, a box in the ground
He holds us down, keeps us real, gives words to the rage we feel
when we lose another black brother
to white supremacy
watch another lynching
on cable tv
this one done with a needle instead of a rope
but don't get it twisted
September 2l, 2011 was a good old Jim Crow picnic
while we ate, they set another nigger to swingin'
so this minister of the people spoke out
He gave us back Troy's spirit
raised his voice to almighty God
and gave us the key to our own redemption

III. The First Responder

He gave me life
that night in Central Park
Bethesda watched over me
kept me close
in the darkness
wrapped her wings around me
held me
until He could arrive
His voice got to me first
from above, like an angel
He came for me
a single phone call
a ten digit 9-1-1
and He was there
must have ran
the 10 blocks and two avenues
to get to me
before the paranoia could take me
it wouldn't be the last time
He saved my life

IV. The Family

They give me life
remind me with giggles, Skype messages
video recorded Glee covers
why I fight the fights I fight
it's not just for me but to see
a day when babies don't have to be taught swordplay
in the cradle
and the hurdles we've leaped over
will be dismantled
shackles hacked off
so that the ones that call me Uncle
and Tia (Aunty)
can dance (and giggle)
until this life is over
never knowing police brutality
or the need to Occupy Wall Street
those precious little feet will walk in Heaven
on Earth
give birth to little revolutionaries
with no need for a revolution
but who will stand love watch
over us all

V. The Puma

He gives me life
in the Thunder Cat mornings
Panthero and Liono
greeting the dawn in each others arms
He sees me as I am
and as I may one day be
believes in me
like I could part the sea
if I put my mind to it
sees beyond the modern day leprosy
understands my reality
but wouldn't let HIV
keep his love from me
it's humbling
the way he holds me against the sky
I fly when I am with him
I live when I am with him
I live
He gives me life
they give me life
I live