FLOCK TOGETHER with us!! Now Accepting New Members

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For the Birds is a feminist collective organizing in NYC since 2008. Over the years we have loved reinventing ourselves through the addition of new members, and it’s that time again! We are a member-driven group using consensus and inter-group support to engage with feminism together.

MISSION:

For the Birds is a NYC-based feminist collective working to combat social inequality and challenge all forms of oppression through an intersectional feminist analysis of power both within our collective and in our larger society.

ABOUT US:

As a collective we value collaboration, shared knowledge, self-expression, and meaningful communication. We seek to combat transphobia, sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, ableism, capitalism and other forms of oppression, and to reflect on our own privileges. Our activism emphasizes the need for accessibility, safer spaces, and support within our communities.

Interested in joining the flock and live in the NYC area? Take a look at our new member questionnaire to learn more about our collective and share some information about yourself!

Marissa Alexander Accepted a Plea Deal, What’s Next for the Movement?

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Image created by Jennifer Kernica of Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Alexander.

On Monday November 24th, Marissa accepted a plea deal with the State of Florida, to serve 3 years in prison for 3 counts of aggravated assault.  Because the 1030 days she had already spent in prison could be applied to this sentence, she was taken into custody in November 2014 to serve the remaining 65 days.  The deal also carries two years of probation while serving house detention and wearing a monitor.

The plea offer came shortly after the judge agreed to allow testimony from several of Rico Gray’s exes, who each shared evidence that he was a serial abuser.  It is believed that this exposure of his pattern of abuse is what prompted the state to offer Marissa a plea deal that would drastically shorten her sentence.

At Marissa’s upcoming hearing on January 27th, there is a possibility that she will be sentenced to an additional 5 years in prison because the second count of aggravated assault remains “open.”  However, all parties have been instructed not to comment on the case until that hearing, so information on this has been scarce.

For the Birds was able to raise over $400 for Marissa’s legal expenses, in preparation for her expected trial.  However, Marissa will still need financial support in the years to come, as she has been prevented from working to support her 3 children.  We will continue to sell t-shirts as long as we have stock, and the Chicago Alliance to Free Marissa Now webstore remains open.

For the Birds stands firmly with other Marissa organizers to unequivocally support Marissa for making the decision she felt she needed to make to protect her life and her family from a looming 60 year jail sentence.  However, the sickness of the justice system is clear when survivors of domestic violence are forced to plead “guilty” to actions performed in self defense.

Alisa Bierria of the Free Marissa Now mobilization campaign said:  “The plea deal is a relief in some ways, but this is far from a victory. The deal will help Marissa and her family avoid yet another very expensive and emotionally exhausting trial that could have led to the devastating ruling of spending the rest of her life in prison….we have always believed that forcing Marissa to serve even one day in prison represents a profound and systemic attack on black women’s right to exist and all women’s right to self-defense.

We will not stop organizing until Marissa Alexander is free!” said Aleta Alston Toure, a Free Marissa Now lead organizer based in Jacksonville.  “During the next 65 days, we must continue to use the attention we’ve brought to Marissa’s case to highlight the broader ongoing crisis of mass incarceration, police violence, and prosecutorial abuse.  There are thousands of Marissa Alexanders still behind bars, still facing devastating prison sentences, and still being threatened in their own homes.  We must stay the course, spread the word, and change the system until all of our sisters are free.

As we join the national outcry against police and legal systems functioning under a clear “logic of anti-blackness”, we must acknowledge that the community building essential to the creation of a more just future have been going on for decades.  Consider donating to groups such as INCITE! Women Against Violence, Critical Resistance, or The Audre Lorde Project.  Get educated on the historical analysis of the relationship between the prison industrial complex and women of color (selected titles below).  If you are white, step up and have those tough conversations with your families, your friends, so that people of color don’t always have to be the teachers.  For the Birds will continue to engage in feminist struggles against racial injustice, in its many pervasive forms.

Reading List:

Locked Down, Locked Out by Maya Schenwar

Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women by Vikki Law

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

The Color of Violence: the INCITE! Anthology by the INCITE Women of Color Against Violence Collective

October Update

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UPDATE, 10/21: The #FreeMarissa t-shirts are available now! Order yours here. All proceeds go to Marissa Alexander’s legal defense. These shirts were hand-screened with love by our collective in a small Brooklyn apartment—and each is unique! Check out our store and get yours while the getting’s good!

It’s been a while! As a collective we’ve been working mainly offline over the past few months, but we are excited to unveil our latest project: Justice for Marissa t-shirts. We hand screened these last night and will be selling them to help raise funds for Marissa Alexander’s legal defense. Stay tuned for details on how you can purchase one (or more) soon.

Also, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We recently attended “Prison is a form of violence against women,” a panel discussion on women’s prison issues with Cecily McMillan, Amy Meacham and Sharon Richardson, moderated by Victoria Law. There we learned about the Domestic Violence Survivors Justice Act (DVSJA), a bill in New York state that seeks to establish more compassionate sentencing guidelines for domestic violence survivors and provide DV survivors currently in prison the opportunity to apply to the courts for re-sentencing, granting much-deserved relief for incarcerated survivors who pose no threat to public safety. You can read more about the act here, and if you live in New York, you can help advocates pass the DVSJA by signing this letter.

October is also the Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration. 75% of women in New York state prisons suffered severe physical violence by an intimate partner during adulthood. 67% of women sent to prison in 2005 in New York state for killing someone close to them were abused by the victim of their crime. The Free Marissa Now campaign is making connections between domestic violence and mass incarceration with its October action. You can download this brochure and circulate it to raise awareness about Marissa Alexander’s case and the links between domestic violence and state violence.

ShinetheLight2014[1]Finally, there will be a Domestic Violence Awareness walk next week in Harlem, on October 27th at 5:30pm. For more information call 646-422-3100 or email at shinethelightharlem@ls-nyc.org.

We’ll have info about purchasing t-shirts up very soon. In the meantime, check out freemarissanow.org and the #freemarissa hashtag on Twitter for updates on the case and more ways to help.

 

Checking In on Collective Process: An FTB Update

Over the past few months we’ve been in a period of exploration; looking inward to reconnect with each other and with our feminist selves.  We began with a wish to expand our focus through and beyond punk cultural feminism to create a more expansive praxis of our intersectional, social justice model of feminism.  But the needs are endless and the matrix of oppression feels ubiquitous.  The choice of what frontline* we can most effectively claim requires thorough examination of both ourselves (including our privileges) and of the circumstances in which we are organizing. It’s also required that we get real about our capacities and reconnect with our desires and feminist imaginations.

Within our current context of late neoliberal capitalism, marked by a relentless demand for the professionalization of Self, to always be improving oneself as a worker to compete for limited resources in a climate of precarity and extreme anxiety around financial survival and debt, we have become exhausted.  Our web presence has slowed within this context; as we’ve struggled with the imperative to produce online media content that is at once social and non-social; productive, and ephemeral.  We are grappling with the dual truths that important feminist dialogues are occurring over the internet every day and also that blogging is work (even a full time job for some of us).  We are looking for ways to engage in feminist process that feel more productive to us in this moment; to help bridge us to new forms of empowered community action.  We are learning how to care for ourselves both alongside of and as part of our vision of social justice, and this is no simple project in a patriarchal culture that seeks to silence our needs and constantly dehumanize us.

The Institute for Precarious Consciousness asserts that the dominant affect, or lived experience of these times is anxiety.  Anxiety paralyzes us into worry about “what ifs” and avoidance of risk at all costs to empowerment and autonomy.  Anxiety moves us even at times to dissociate and lose skill in being able to articulate our own traumas or to bear witness to the traumas of others.  Our collective has moved to focus inward, through longer, intimate discussions where authentic communication defines our project of trying to hold a safer space for each other.  This holding, for us, has been deeply regulating; producing security and trust in the face of destabilization.  Four members currently remain, and our survival as a feminist entity depends upon this process.  Print

Our web presence will likely remain less active as we embark on a larger journey of connection with other feminist groups and individuals; seeking to archive, understand, and make connections between other groups struggling to maintain momentum.  Through an analysis of the web of power that seeks to make us doubt ourselves, seeks to drain and demoralize us, and relies on our acceptance of cynical immobilization to keep us effectively policed and contained, we hope to uncover an updated logic of resistance.  A logic that speaks to where we are now and where we need to go.

Our website will remain as a bookmark to hold and display the work we’ve done so far.  Please get in touch if you have thoughts or would like to dialogue with us about similar struggles you’re having as an individual or in a group to build sustainable feminist networks; we’d love to hear from you.  forthebirdscollective@gmail.com
*(For more about frontlines, check out the amazing zine Organizing Cools the Planet).

The Dirty 100: Get the Facts

birth controlMedia outlets from Colorlines to the National Organization for Women have been talking about the supreme court case which began today between Hobby Lobby and 99 other for-profit employers and the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employers not restrict women’s access to birth control on religious grounds.  We’re also watching closely, because the decision on this case could have implications beyond just birth control access (think: STI treatment, HPV vaccines, mental health care, maternity leave, HIV treatments, and any other health care need that could be argued to conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs).

Check out the Guttmacher Institute analysis of the case and this Talking Points Memo which provides all the facts at a glance.  Protests are happening across the country. Here’s a list of ways to take action on this case, and also check out NOW’s #Iheartbc hashtag to stay updated and join the conversation.

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UP YOURS Fest 2014:: All the Details

1509840_746677812026863_1164788360_nOur fabulous intern, Stephanie, attends SUNY Purchase and is throwing this amazing feminist music fest on February 22nd with FORTH (Feminists Organizing for Real Transformation Here) at The Stood in Purchase, NY from 5pm-midnight. We are SO excited to be presenting a short workshop on feminist organizing and communication, as well as tabling with our distro and networking with rad Purchase feminists:

“FORTH will put on a festival… that will utilize ART, MUSIC, WORKSHOPS, COMMUNICATION, and FUN to CELEBRATE female identifying // non cis male identifying folks. We strive for more inclusive, intersectional, and safer environments, and feel the use of ART, MUSIC, WORKSHOPS, and COLLABORATION will help to foster these safer environments, free of structural inequity and oppression.”

UP YOURS will feature music from:
Aye Nako
Downtown Boys
Nine of Swords
Tomboy
Evil Sword
Parasol
Whatever, Dad
Jawbreaker Reunion
Vanessa Grasing

Workshops and/or Tabling from:
For The Birds Collective
Asbury Park Feminist Collective
Complexuality
The Alt Clinic
Boy Tears
Willie May Rock Camp for Girls
Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic
and more!

We love that this is a Safer Space event; here is their policy, adapted from Ladyfest Philly:

-Be mindful of your speech and actions and the effect they may have on others.
-Do not make assumptions about people’s identities in terms of gender, race, sexuality, abilities, class, or background.
-Respect people’s boundaries and always interact with others’ consent, be it physically, emotionally, or verbally.
-Carry these guidelines through all forms of communication, physical and non-physical: in person, by telephone, and on the Internet.

Get more details and music previews in their promotional video.  See you there!

Marissa Alexander: Update & how to help

1390606_462278620553564_536067193_nLast month Kathleen wrote about Marissa Alexander, an African American mother of three who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot to stop an attack by her abusive ex-husband, even though no one was hurt. The guilty verdict was overturned in September and Alexander has been granted a new trial, now set for March 31, 2014. She has already served almost 2 years in prison.

Marissa Alexander’s bond hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, November 13th. The Free Marissa Now Mobilization Campaign is working to organize demonstrations at the courthouse on Wednesday, and is also raising funds for her legal defense. To make a donation, click here. For more info on the movement and ways to get involved, check out the Free Marissa Now campaign on Tumblr and Facebook.

BRASS IN POCKET: feminist art show & companion zine

Works by Liz Linden & Jen Kennedy @ BRASS IN POCKET, Booklyn Artists Alliance

Works by Liz Linden & Jen Kennedy @ BRASS IN POCKET, Booklyn Artists Alliance

Curators Aimee Lusty and Kate Wadkins seek submissions for a feminist art zine to be released at the close of BRASS IN POCKET, a group show which opened Friday, September 13, 2013 and continues through October 27th at Booklyn Artists Alliance.

The zine seeks to represent contemporary feminist artists who explore new possibilities in their respective media, producing work that breaks conventional boundaries in terms of subject and process. The zine also aims to challenge and play on traditional notions of “feminist art.” This is Booklyn Art Gallery’s third open call for submissions for a collaborative zine published in tandem with the gallery’s programming.

Submissions will be accepted in two sizes, 8.5 x 5.5 inches, or 8.5 x 7.5 inches. All submissions should be black and white, at 300dpi. The deadline for submissions has been extended to October 20, 2013. Please send all submissions to booklynopencall@gmail.com.

Booklyn event page: http://booklyn.org/events/brass-in-pocket/

Facebook invitation & RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/464151967015877/

We’ve also been posting updates with snapshots from the show and news on the zine; join us on Tumblr! http://brassinpocket-booklyn.tumblr.com/

Marissa Alexander Granted a New Trial. . .

marissa alexander. . .but will it be a fair trial?

Marissa Alexander, 32 year old mother of 3, has been serving a 20-year jail sentence for firing a warning shot into the wall in 2010 when her estranged abusive husband (against whom she had already filed a restraining order) entered the house where she was attempting to collect her belongings, and threatened her.  After a trial considered by many to be undermined by racist application of Florida’s “10-20-Life” laws, Marissa was convicted in 2012.

On September 26, 2013, Marissa’s legal team won an appeal asking for a retrial because the jury’s instructions on what was to be considered “self defense” were erroneous.  However, as she was denied the same immunity under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Laws that recently paved the way to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin, Marissa’s supporters are doubtful that a new trial by the same justice system will give her a fair chance to plead her case and are calling for charges against her to be dropped.

As detailed in this recent Colorlines interview with Mariame Kaba, who is working to free Marissa, tremendous doubt exists as to whether the racist American justice system (under which Marissa was convicted in the first place) will protect and acknowledge her inherent rights; both as a survivor of domestic violence and as a Black woman:

Kaba states: “My own personal sense of heartbreak has been around the notion, in this case, that Marissa couldn’t be afraid, that she couldn’t feel fear, and that the jury couldn’t believe that she was afraid. That’s deep. And that’s why having another trial feels to me like a recipe for disaster—because I don’t think her humanity is taken into account. I don’t think people think that black women can feel scared, or that we have the ability to feel pain.

If you’re interested, here is a petition you can sign in support of all charges against Marissa being dropped, or donate to help her with her legal fees.

Race, Gender and Allyship in the Fight for Justice for Trayvon

Protest_march_for_justice_for_Trayvon_in_Austin,_TX
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week Roz posted a great roundup of reactions and reflections in the wake of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. The ten days following Zimmerman’s acquittal have been a time for processing, organizing and mobilizing, and there has been much discussion among activists and bloggers about race, gender and allyship within the movement for justice for Trayvon.

In a Facebook post, the Crunk Feminist Collective called out white feminist silence around the verdict, prompting discussions about good and bad allyship in the comments.

Calling all white feminists allies: Where are y’all? <looking far and wide> Your silence around the Zimmerman Trial speaks volumes. Six white women (some say five) decided that a young Black man was responsible for his own murder, and they believed that a young Black woman could not be a credible witness. Where is your (OUT)RAGE?! Where is *your* intersectional analysis about white privilege, that not only calls out the operations of racism, but the particularly gendered operations of racism in the hands of these white women jurors? Where is the accountability? Where is the allyship? Why AGAIN do we have to ask you to show up? It is time for y’all to do the work. We refuse. We are tired. We are choosing to take care of ourselves and our communities.

Signed,

Crunk Feminist Collective

From Feministing (and included in last week’s roundup): “White womanhood, protectionism, and complicity in injustice for Trayvon

But I am ashamed, and women like these women on the jury ARE white women’s problem.

They are our mother’s friends. They are our neighbors. We are in social circles with them. Many of them may be reading this now and think I’ve taken it too far. But we should be ashamed at our core.

We shouldn’t be too afraid and ashamed to act, though. We shouldn’t be afraid and ashamed to speak. We will misstep. We will mess up. And perhaps we can hold each other accountable for that so that once again feminists of color don’t have to bear the burden of teaching us the ways in which we hurt them.

Do not be the safe white woman that people can talk to about their racism. Strive to be something better. Follow the lead of people of color. Stand up. Even when you don’t do so perfectly. And above all else, listen.

Juror b37 and the racist complicity of white womanhood

Juror B37 is the monstrous specter of white womanhood, the plantation mistress, the mother who said My child’s school will not be integrated!, the woman who puts her whiteness over her humanity again and again.

I say this as a white person who generally reads as a woman and who cares deeply about gender equity: this is the failure of empathy that Black women, genderqueer people and other WOC/TWOC/QPOC have been telling us about for forever and a day. There is a history of white women in the Klan and other racist organizations. There is a history of white capital-F feminist organizations ignoring the specific stories, histories and contexts of women of color. It is something that persists to this day and beyond.

From Black Girl Dangerous, “We are NOT all Trayvon: Challenging Anti-Black Racism in POC Communities

This murder and this verdict are very specifically about anti-black racism – about the power of White supremacy and about what it means to have a black body in a White supremacist society.

And our inability to acknowledge these facts are hurting Black folks and African descended folks right now. This is not solidarity. This is not what solidarity can ever look like. It shouldn’t be that fucking hard to sit back and listen to the grieving voices of black people in this moment. It shouldn’t be this hard to not get defensive and keep your mouth shut and just listen.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Feminists and Trayvon Martin

Racism and sexism are intertwined, and we must fight them both.

Despite this, White women have traditionally been absent from the fight against lynching. Instead, we sometimes feed into the ideology of needing protection from violent Black men. Susan Brownmiller, a White second-wave feminist who wrote the famous Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, portrayed Black men as sexually violent and targeting White women. This type of discourse and lack of feminist attention toward lynching exposes some White feminist activism against gender-based violence as naïve and hypocritical.

From The Feminist Wire: ““We’re” Not Raising Trayvon: The Difference Whiteness Makes

On the heels of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin, I am again worried about white feminists’ silence in the face of brutality driven by racism (in the form of Zimmerman’s assault on Trayvon, delayed arrest, and sickening trial). But I’m deeply concerned about what white feminist non-silence in these moments often sounds like too.

“We’re feeling this exactly like you are.”

“Can we talk about how I can be a better anti-racist right now?”

“But not all white people see it that way.”

White feminist silence and bad allying are two sides of the same coin. Both responses are shaped by the very same problem. White feminists’ indifference and/or anxiety produces silence at the exact moment that solidarity is needed. And white feminists’ egoism and/or lack of empathy drives bad allying when deep listening is what is called for. In both cases, the perspective, emotion, or interests of white feminists trump Black women’s pressing needs.

From The Feminist Wire: “White Female Jurors and Florida Justice

If you are thinking “like a white female”—which would mean that you do not think you need to be self-conscious about this limitation for seeing and hearing and listening to the facts about an assault that involves racial profiling—then you are not able to see the difference between reasonable doubt and racism.  If you see “racially” to begin with, “like a white female” with no recognition of white privilege, then you won’t see the racial motivation in the killing.

(The above links from The Feminist Wire are part of a weeklong forum in the aftermath of the trial. All of the pieces in the forum can be found here.)

From the Crunk Feminist Collective: The Time Isn’t Right, But It Is Now: Processing Our Anger for Trayvon the Black Feminist Way

I know it may seem selfish for sisters to even suggest that our struggles matter in this moment. But if the treatment of Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon Martin’s friend, has taught us anything, it is that we are in this shit together. Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, has been an exemplar of Strong Black Womanhood throughout this ordeal. What other choice did she have? But while many folks may admire her strength and resolve, We Black feminists know that those regal robes of superwomanhood are much too heavy a load.

From The Frisky: “Mothers Of Sons Respond To The George Zimmerman Verdict

I agree that allies need to be willing to have the hard conversations and again be willing to be raggedy. That said, I think allies have to walk a fine line to make sure they don’t become the story. That said, for me the greatest thing an ally can do is speak up. If you see injustice, don’t let it slide. This may be painful because it can involve calling out people near and dear.

From XOJane: “Southern Trees Bear a Strange Fruit: Why People of Color Aren’t Surprised by the Trayvon Martin Verdict

A number of my very dear, liberal, white friends expressed the same sentiment as a result of the verdict; “Who would have thought that you could still be killed just for walking black?”

The answer is: black people. If you are black, you can be forgiven for adding “duh” to the end of that answer. We all thought that. We all live that. We have to. If we don’t live that way, we could die.

From RH Reality Check: “Eve Ensler Is Wrong That for Women and Trayvon Martin, ‘Our Struggles Are One’

With all due respect to Ensler, I don’t think a letter to Martin was the right place to push an agenda about her campaign to end violence against women, especially without first acknowledging the fear many people are taught to feel about men of color—a fear that is just as present in the women’s movement as it is in each of the United States of America. For many, the case against Zimmerman and his acquittal represented a symptom of the nation’s “unaddressed racism.” Ensler, then, had an opportunity to address this issue of race, particularly in the women’s movement, but she blew it.

Finally, check out this Justice for Trayvon Action Kit for white allies from Showing up for Racial Justice.