Friday, May 19, 2017

Free The Chechen 100 Emergency Action, Trans Violence, and Our Queer Commons, #ReleaseTheChechen100

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Eric McGregor 
Earlier in the week, Jay Walker sent me an invitation to the Free The Chechen 100 Emergency Action in solidarity with the gay men of Chechnya who've been jailed, tortured and killed by their government.

"Its chilling to use the word concentration camps," noted Ken Kidd at Judson memorial a few weeks prior.  "But this is what is going on."

A few of the notable activists, Ken Kidd, Betsy Andrews,  Erik McGregor, Kate Barnhart, Eric Sawyer, and many others were on hand for the vigil, to remind the world that never again means never again. We can't sit by when people are being rounded, tortured and sent to camps.  

Jay Walked welcomed everyone outside the arch. Eric Sawyer of ACT UP GMHC spoke about the situation from a human rights perspective, calling for people of conscience to organize, and speak up around this issue. 

"There is so much more we can do," he implored the crowd. I remember him giving a similar talk at at the Durban AIDS conference in 2000.  

Image result for Eric Sawyer at the Durban AIDS conference 2000
Eric Sawyer at the Durban AIDS conference in 2000.  His speech last night was just as impassioned.
Although we've come far, those suffering human rights violations need our support.  But even New York city is not completely a safe haven. Mx Bostick was beaten to death in Chelsea earlier this month, noted Kate Barnhart, of New Alternatives for LGBT Youth. 

According to AVP, a Mx Bostick was found unconscious with apparent head trauma on Tuesday, April 25th, 2017 at 7th Avenue and 29th Street in Manhattan. They were taken to Bellevue Hospital, where they died of their injuries, May 4th, 2017.

“Transgender people are targeted all too often for severe and deadly violence,” said Beverly Tillery, Executive Director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.  “We are facing a crisis of violence. Ten transgender people have already been killed so far in 2017 and this must stop. As a society we can stop this epidemic by hiring trans people of color, making sure they have safe places to live and standing up when we see or hear them being demeaned and attacked and simply by valuing their lives. The moment to act is now.”
That moment certainly is now.   This was a sentiment echoed throughout the vigil at Washington Square Park. 

After Eric spoke, poet Betsy Andrews read What Happens, by Tadeusz Rozewicz, a minimalist poet from Poland, reminding the world that we can always make up reasons not to speak out. When the old don't speak out cause they are old, or the young don't speak out because they are young, or the hip don't speak out cause they are too hip, or the sick don't speak out cause they are too sick - these things are allowed to happen. This is where fascism grows. 
It has happened
and it goes on happening
and will happen again
if nothing happens to stop it
The innocent know nothing
because they are too innocent
and the guilty know nothing
because they are too guilty
The poor do not notice
because they are too poor
and the rich do not notice
because they are too rich
The stupid shrug their shoulders
because they are too stupid
and the clever shrug their shoulders
because they are too clever
The young do not care
because they are too young
and the old do not care
because they are too old
That is why nothing happens
to stop it
and that is why it has happened
and goes on happening and will happen again.

Finishing the rally, Jay Walker thanked everyone for attending and speaking out, and reminded the crowd to attend the Brighton Pride event Saturday, see press release below.  Rise and resist is meeting at 10 AM at Union Square on Saturday. He later posted to Facebook. 

A huge thank you to everyone who came out to stand strong and resolute against the horrors occurring in Chechnya and demanding that the Chechen government #ReleaseTheChechen100 and that the US government do what is necessary to give asylum to those who can escape this atrocity. What a beautiful night of solidarity! Big thanks to our speakers: Nina Long from RUSA LGBT - Russian-Speaking American LGBT AssociationEric Sawyer from Gay Men's Health Crisis and RARer Betsy Andrews.

Kudos to the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network for inviting Rise and Resist and and New Yorkers to partner with them on this Bi-coastal action and our RARer-at-large, Brian Worth for reaching out.
After the vigil my friend Billy and I made our way to Marie's Crisis and the Cubby Hole  to sing a few songs, dance a bit, and enjoy some of the precious queer commons of New York City. 
New Yorkers to Gather at Brighton Beach for First-Ever Russian-Speaking Pride March in the United States
Brighton Beach Pride Calls for an End to Anti-LGBT Discrimination in Russian-Speaking Communities and Demands Equal Rights for All
Brooklyn, N.Y.—New Yorkers will gather on the Brighton Beach Boardwalk on Saturday, May 20 to celebrate the LGBT community and protest discrimination, as well as to show support for immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees. Brighton Beach Pride is organized by RUSA LGBT, a New York City-based network of Russian-speaking LGBT immigrants and allies, and it will be the first Russian-speaking pride march in the United States.
For years, New York City has welcomed newcomers leaving the repression of the Soviet Union and subsequent post-Soviet countries. Brighton Beach has particularly become a center for individuals looking to maintain a connection to Russian language and culture.
“Unfortunately, Brighton Beach and other neighborhoods attracting Russian-speaking émigrés remain very homophobic and transphobic,” says Lyosha Gorshkov, co-president of RUSA LGBT. “Every day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex individuals face discrimination in their homes, workplaces and medical facilities. Many of our members even encounter physical and verbal abuse.”
Concerns with immigration status, especially under Trump, compound problems for this already-vulnerable community. Many LGBT people from Russian-speaking nations immigrate to or seek asylum in the United States to escape persecution, and anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric threaten their safety.
The local authorities of the Russian republic of Chechnya torture and murder LGBTQ people. RUSA LGBT demands that the U.S. State Department issue humanitarian visas to LGBTQ people fleeing brutal persecution in Chechnya. RUSA LGBT asks international community to continue speaking up about human rights violation in Chechnya. President Donald Trump’s administration should strongly condemn persecution of Chechen queer people and request that Russian authorities investigate the crimes.
RUSA LGBT invites all New Yorkers to join the march and support their efforts to create a tolerant environment free of bigotry, hatred and hostility toward LGBTIQ people as well as immigrants, ethnic groups and cultural communities. Other groups supporting Brighton Beach Pride include Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, ACT UP, Rise and Resist, The Alliance for Positive Change, The Caribbean Project, Fast & Fabulous (LGBTQ cycling club), Queens Pride, Rockaway Pride, Queer Nation, and Rude Mechanical Orchestra.
RUSA LGBT is a U.S.-based network of Russian-speaking LGBT immigrants and their friends, allies, and loved ones. Formed in 2008, RUSA LGBT has welcomed many LGBTIQ immigrants, including asylum seekers, from Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and other countries of the former Soviet Union.
RUSA LGBT’s mission is to connect Russian-speaking LGBT people throughout America, building a strong and supportive network grounded in shared values, experiences, and culture. RUSA LGBT stands committed to fighting for social justice, and human and civil rights for all LGBTIQ individuals in America and the countries of the former Soviet Union.

A stroll through the queer commons of New York city. 

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