Getting to the root: Where do our missing girls go?

The #missingDCgirls have woken us up again. Black cis and trans girls & women reported missing across the country number close to 75,000. 37 of the cases in DC – all Black and Latinx – reported since January remain unsolved.

In the past few weeks, spikes in disappearances of young women of color – and notice of them – in the Metropolitan DC area sparked widespread concern and consideration about the status quo. 

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BAM FI understands minority to mean all people of color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amidst statements that this is only a spike in reporting, Derrica Wilson finds the community’s fears to be valid. Wilson is co-founder of and a spokesperson for Black & Missing Foundation (BAM FI), an organization working to spread awareness of and locate missing people of color. Viewing the chart above, keep in mind that the rate of those missing must be viewed relative to the size of the population. The US is 73% white, so it’s clear, about a quarter of the population – Black, Asian, Native, Latinx – is disappearing at an alarming rate.

As people who care and for those who see ourselves in this – how can we provide for and protect missing cis and trans women and girls of color in the US?

This is happening currently, every day.

 

Why? How?

Some will be runaways seeking refuge, or fleeing abuse. The girls missing from DC have drawn our attention to missing youth in particular, and rightly so. Cis and trans young women ages 11 to 17 make up approximately 75 percent of the runaway population. The National Runaway Safeline also reports that a range of 1.7 to 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the street each year.

Runaways list abuse as a major reason for running. That trauma is something they will need help building themselves up from – as we all would. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse still widely affects minors between the ages of 12 and 17. If they don’t have a safe place or trusted advocate to turn to, running away becomes a real option. They’re only human.

Look to support organizations like Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter and center of advocacy in DC. Sasha Bruce Youthwork engages and prepares young people to stabilize with work and social support. Seeking Shelter’s strong list of sheltering and transitional services covers 15 cities across the US, including DC.

We could all support these community hubs in our local cities, by donating time and resources as we are able. The Public Defender Service for DC provides a Directory of Youth and Family Services amongst other resources for navigating the DC Justice System.

 

They can be led astray

Black and Latinx youth are particularly vulnerable to predators via social media. People have always been enticed by the promise of romance. It’s often difficult to distinguish from what we may be really seeking like autonomy, self-love. Teens, statistically, have a harder time with that difference, especially when they are being manipulated or groomed.

At the same time, social media postings of missing kids can help bring them home faster. That’s especially true for teenagers. Their peers are more likely to see the alert and can notify police and those searching of any information they have. Derrica Wilson of BAM FI encourages us all to pay attention to missing persons reports and outreach efforts on social media.

Maybe we could more intentionally build with the young people around us. If you’re interested in volunteering try mentorship, get out in the community. They need to be listened to – as they all do. Life lacks stability sometimes, and it can be extra difficult as a young person. We don’t need to have it all together to share an ear and some experiences.

 

Seeking safe spaces

Some are afraid to disclose their personal beliefs and preferences, for fear that family would take issue. It’s the pregnant teenager, or someone struggling with expressing their sexual and/or gender identity. Teens are new to finding their place in the world and though they are resilient, sexism, racism, and transphobia are turning their insides too. So they run away when they can find no one to turn to without fear of judgment, or worse. And to whom? Where? The reality is, as Kimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) says, “outside of community, there are no safe spaces”.

 

And to whom?

It’s on track to be the most violent year on record for trans women of color. Casa Ruby and organizations like it around the country provide that sense of community and care for individuals in need of safe spaces and solidarity. As the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT safe space in Washington, DC, Casa Ruby offers companionship, along with access to hot meals, emergency housing referrals, legal services counseling, and support groups. We have to support these beacons for young people. They are right there at the intersections of identity, quality of life, and safety.

 

Speak up

While we’re on connections – language can go a long way. In every day you can instill the use of Latinx in place of Latino or Latina, to support awareness, visibility, and acknowledgement for the gender nonconforming. It’s an extension of using “they/them/their” instead of assuming “his/her” identification amongst LGBTQ+ and allies. You can invite a safe space with your presence and help others do the same. It’ll continue to spread through conversation, verbal and written communication, and social media. (No excuses – the APA just recognized “they” as a singular pronoun.) I may have digressed there, but it’s about willingly shifting to a more inclusive society, starting with the narrative.
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Keep an eye out

We must be vigilant, we know some will have been abducted. People are calling on transparency in the way local and federal officials take action and #findourgirls. Black lawmakers are calling for the FBI and Justice Department to help police investigate the missing in DC. However, even police have been arrested for human trafficking. It’s a disgustingly lucrative business.

Human trafficking has become the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the United States. Activists and organizations across the country and world fight the forces perpetuating slavery and trafficking, both domestic and international. Based in DC, FAIR Girls prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor-inclusive advocacy. Courtney’s House provides outreach and protection for children and minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking in the greater DC area. You can find many other active Housing Resources and Emergency Shelters at the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights.

 

What now?

We must support the watchers. High attendance to “Where Are They Now?”, the March 22nd forum on the missing in DC shows a community mobilized, and passionate about the cause. They are at the heart of this in Ward 8, and authorities should recognize and include them in finding solutions for preventing and protecting against this.

Where Are They Now?, forum held March 22nd, 2017.

 

The public has to be more aware, inclusive, and active than ever in this time of heightened violence against people of color and the lgbtq+ community, redundant mainstream media, and building institutional oppression. Part of the response to the recent burst of black and latinx girls disappearing in DC is termed as a “perceived increase”. It feels a bit dismissive, like these lives will pass from mattering in the public eye.

We must stay raising awareness about our missing cis and trans young women of color and issues facing them. Since there’s always been a significant disparity in how much they are reported and efforts to find them, we’ve got ground to cover, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s say their names, keep an eye out for others, and integrate living, thriving safe spaces wherever we can. Maybe then we could find them before they ever go missing.

 

 

Support Black & Missing Foundation in providing equal opportunity for all missing. If you’re in the DC area in May, join their Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk fundraiser.

If you relate to this, and want to share here, contact us.

 

Women’s March NYC: Signs for the next steps

According to the Associated Press, over 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017, and the New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office counted 400,000 people marching in the Big Apple. Marches took place, not only in cities throughout the United States, but around the world, bringing that number to 2.9 million. Although this global show of resistance was sparked by the election of Donald Trump and was christened the “Women’s March”, as I made my way across 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue in New York City, I found myself amidst a sea of protest signs running the gamut of issues.


Reproductive rights seemed to be at the forefront, but slogans focused on gay rights, climate change, immigration, healthcare, police brutality and a general “fuck you” to misogynists everywhere were also on display. 

To me, the day was a cathartic, pre-emptive strike against an administration which has consistently promised to go right on the intersecting issues where sense of reason and heart go left.

In our own words

Below, the words of just a small handful of the women in attendance in New York City give a snapshot of the atmosphere of hope and sisterhood I experienced:

“My name is Bonnie Heller, I live in Manhattan. I’m a neighbor of Donald Trump’s. We’ve known him for many, many years. He has never done anything to help his city, so I don’t understand how he would ever help this country. Plus the fact that he’s a misogynist, racist asshole. So that’s about it.”

“My name is Carly Lissak, and I’m here because I don’t think anyone should feel that they are represented by someone who doesn’t believe in who they are or [the reasons] why they should be seen as equals. Also because I’m scared. I know that we are the pillar of the free world and when the face of the pillar of the free world is mentally unstable it’s just not good for anyone. Also this is an emotional outlet to feel better.”

“We are here to fight for our rights!” – Gia

“The reason why I joined the Women’s March is because I believe this day will be crucial and will go down in history. As an American female I have realized throughout my years of adulthood that there are so many right we take for granted each and every day. I protest to say ‘no more’. I protest because I am aware of what is at stake. I protest in the hopes that they don’t strip us women of our rights. I protest in hope that the planet does not go to shit because of some in-denial narcissist of a president that believes it’s all a hoax. I want my children and my children’s children to have the future they deserve. Ultimately, I protest because that’s all that we have left [in order to] fight back.” – Daniela

“I march because I need to use my voice to speak up for those that America is refusing to hear.” – Andrea

“If I didn’t care about this country I wouldn’t be doing this.” – Overheard on the train ride home


These words are nothing without continued action

Here are some links to help you get involved with just a few of the organizations empowering and connecting people to fight for the issues addressed at the Women’s March. Every action counts and the way forward is all about intersectionality.

Planned Parenthood

GLAAD

Black Lives Matter

Greenpeace

The first step forward in the Women’s March 10 Actions / 100 Days is to start contacting your senator about the issues that matter to you. They’re offering printable postcards to get you started and I’ve got some of the messages seen on signs in NYC for inspiration:

No human being is illegal.

Presidential does not mean bully.

I’m pro-woman. He’s a con-man.

Love trumps hate.

We shall over comb.

Eyes on the state.

Hands off my rights.

Respect existance or expect resistance.

Black lives matter.

Science is real.

Made in ‘gina.

It’s time to ovary act.

Conversion therapy is going to be lit.

 

Pie Face Girls: Angry, Attentive, and Anti-HB2

We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.

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Pie Face Girls at Tactile Workshop for The Hopscotch Oasis. Dani on guitar, Tiffany on bass, Klay on drums.

I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.”  Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.

Hey, Pat, happy Hopscotch. #hopscotch16

A photo posted by Grayson Currin (@currincy) on

 

At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.

So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.

Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.

They are definitely paying attention.

The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC.  Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.

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Tiffany, Dani, and Klay at Ruby Deluxe, handing out sexual health resources and getting people registered to vote.

Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.

I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.

Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.

When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.

“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.

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Follow Pie Face Girls on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

Upcoming Shows

October 14-15  Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill

October 22  Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh

October 27  Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh

November 19  Kosher Hut Raleigh

November 25  Smashfest, Scrap Exchange Durham

Messages from a movement: Charlotte, NC rises up together

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On this hot, sunny Saturday in September, the people of the Queen City and beyond marched together in protest to denounce and heal from the killings of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, to resist the presence of the National Guard throughout the city, and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly in statements against systematic violence and institutionalized racism.

Charlotte, like Ferguson and Baltimore, was declared to be in a “state of emergency”, in response to looting, violence, and property damage perpetrated by a few on the first night of demonstrations. Since then, the messages of this movement were again obstructed by the sensational media focus on “rioters”, and complicated by the conflicting accounts of these two cases. Instead of engaging with the community’s calls for transparency, accountability, and other demands of the people of Charlotte, it was decided to militarize the city by bringing in the National Guard.

Media narratives tend to place property above people, confusing various forms of resistance to state-sanctioned violence with criminality. Reverend William Barber III is a leader in North Carolina’s efforts to preserve civil rights and improve quality of life, who states:

“This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.” – Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Channeling my own intentions in joining the people in peaceful protest, formed by the sense of unity that I’ve experienced at vigils and community discussions, amongst people in solidarity with the movement for black lives, justice, and institutional reform, I went to Charlotte to document what we really have to say (or write, in this case).

It is said that this is a movement, not a moment. So, here’s a bit of what democracy looked like that day.

 

Speaking truth to power

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Accountability

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Solidarity and allyship

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Resistance

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Looking out for our fellow citizens

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The sign on his left reads, “United States Congress must pass a law that all police officers in every state in America must have, once a year, ongoing education and training required under federal law in order to serve with a weapon in public.”

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Visit Charlotte Uprising for more information on their demands, partner organizations, and ways to get involved.

Takin’ It To K-Street: Why I don’t regret my decision to protest

As we marched down to K Street and blockaded the traffic, car horns filled the air as members of our group spread out and started to paint the mural, which bore the words “reconstruct, reinvest and resist.”
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It was an overcast day as we seated ourselves in the middle of a park near one of the most notorious streets in America. We gathered to eat lunch and say goodbye to our new friends, César and River, who had guided us, all but one from UNC Asheville, to Washington, D.C., to join over a thousand individuals in a mass protest against the most hot-button issues in the country, racial injustice, environmental destruction and anti-immigration legislation.

A few weeks earlier, I was seated on the Quad, enjoying the quaint and cute maple-shaped cookies and cider that UNCA so generously hands out every fall, when a friend from the UNCA Divestment Coalition came and placed a flier in my hand, telling me about the “Our Generation, Our Choice” event taking place Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C.

My first thought was, “There is no way I can leave school, not with all the assignments I have to do.” My second thought was, “Hell, yeah.” I had never really been to D.C., unless you count gliding through on a Greyhound bus, and these are all issues that I am passionate about.

It was settled.

We first left for D.C. on Saturday morning, and aside from some mild panic in regards to obtaining rental cars, the trip there was fairly smooth. We discussed everything we loved about the world, hated about the world, talking ‘bout our generation all the while. The energy was good, and it was evident that we were all thoroughly excited and ready to jump into the action.

Rolling into the American capital at night, we first went to an art collective in a warehouse nestled in an industrial, sleepy side of the city. We met César and River, who, alongside the other artists there, were helping to make the signs and the mural that would ultimately be our group’s creation.

We worked for hours in the chilly, neon evening and the warm, comforting art studio, with some of us cutting out cardboard circle stencils, others painting the main banner that would be supported by over 20 hands on the day of the rally, others making the wood posts to hold the signs up, and still others spray-painting the stencils onto small canvases outside.

We were there from 6 to 9 p.m., weary but excited, envisioning how everything we were helping to create would be utilized in the rally.

After this, we departed into the twilight and found the church in which we were staying. Sleeping on the floor alongside other activists from across the country, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable situation, but I love my sleeping bag, so it was all good.

Some of the group went directly to sleep, while the other, perhaps less sensible portion of the group, myself included, retreated back into the night to roam the streets of D.C.

It was a fantastic night to say the least. We walked up and down various sections of the city, sipping beers and talking about life, engaging in various kinds of debauchery that won’t be mentioned here for various reasons.

However, the inevitable hangover that ensued the following day was nothing short of awful, and as I took off to our day-long civil disobedience training, running to throw up in trash cans at subway stops, I sort of regretted my decision to not be responsible.

The training was a lot of things, to say the least. There were intense moments, in particular when one person confronted the speaker about immigration issues and treatment toward minorities who were protesting, and by the end of the day, we were tired as heck and ready to crash.

The morning of the event, however, we were just ready. Even running off an unstable amount of sleep, we were possessed by a fervent energy to get into action and bring everything we had to the rally. We had been warned numerous times that we could be arrested that day, and while it was frightening, it was a risk that I wanted to take. The issues we were speaking out against, the impending crises that the United States is facing as the 21st century pushes forward, and the well-being of our generation and the generations still living on this earth were something to speak out about, and I wanted to contribute my voice.

thumb_IMG_0288_1024As we marched down to K Street and blockaded the traffic, car horns filled the air as members of our group spread out and started to paint the mural, which bore the words “reconstruct, reinvest and resist.” I held the art supply cart, mainly because I had managed to skin my already-skinned knee further by falling that morning, and would have been in too much pain to kneel on the ground and paint.

The snipers inevitably came out on top of the White House and pointed their automatic weapons at us, a bunch of “crazy hippies” promoting a world where people are kind and thoughtful, not ruthlessly given over to the behest and pursuit of the almighty dollar.

After two hours, we retreated back to the park from where we had originally marched . Al Jazeera and Reuters reporters were there, interviewing students about our protest that apparently was national news.

I have at times been skeptical of whether or not myself and a few others in our generation, a few planktons dominated by a sea of piranhas, actually have the chance to make a change in the world.

But as I sat there with my crew, smiling and taking in the soothing autumn air, I knew I wouldn’t have chosen to have spent the morning of November 9, 2015, in any other way. In the words of Regina Spektor, “All this hippie shit’s for the ’60s.” But it’s for the ’10s, too.

 

Photos by Larisa Karr. This article is opinion.