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Update: Emi’s Buttons + Zine Shipping Again after 7-month COVID moratorium

Date: October 12, 2020

Hello friends,

When the COVID-19 crisis began, I was forced to move rather quickly into a studio set up in the garage of my family home to isolate myself, as I have multiple high risk factors. All of my buttons, zines, and supplies were left behind in my old room (in a shared house) and packed up by others. I have also almost completely avoided going out of house at all (less than once a month) until last month, when the swimming pool I go to opened in limited capacity. So as a result, I have not been able to fill any orders you’ve placed since March.

That is about to change. Because I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer, especially since the crisis is likely to continue for a while longer, I ordered more supplies and decided to begin making and shipping the stuff again. So:

1. If you have ordered my buttons and zines and have not received them, I’m sorry for the delay. I am planning to ship them in the next week or two, so please confirm your shipping address (include the order number if you have it) to make sure that the address still works.

2. If you were thinking about placing an order but was discouraged because of the message on the site stating that I’m not going to able to fill them anytime soon, *now* is the time to order. After this batch, I will likely not be able to do another batch of shipments until 2021 because I’m not ready to go out regularly yet.

If you have any questions about your order or anything else, please feel free to email me.

Thank you for your understanding,

Emi

Seattle Unanimously Repeals Prostitution & Drug Traffic Loitering Laws

Date: June 26, 2020

Reposted from Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade.

Seattle City Council has just unanimously approved a pair of bills repealing prostitution loitering and drug traffic loitering laws after dozens sex workers and allies gave testimonies in support. We have been working on this issue since 2018, meeting with Councilmembers as well as folks from Seattle City Attorney’s Office, and it feels really good to hear so many of our sex worker and ally friends speaking out and see the entire Council agreeing with us today.

Both ordinances have negatively impacted communities of color, but prostitution loitering law in particular have been used as a pretext for the Seattle Police Department to profile young women of color as suspected “prostitutes,” leading to unnecessary and unwarranted police interactions, background checks, unconsented and possibly illegal searches, harassment, and other harms. The City’s own Reentry Workgroup released a report to the Council in October 2018 which recommended repealing these ordinances because they disproportionately target communities of color based on who and where they are.

During the Council discussion, Councilmembers Andrew Lewis and others pointed out that it would be incorrect to say that these ordinances are “outdated.” To say so implies that they served a worthwhile purpose at some point in the past before they became obsolete since then. The truth is, they always had racially disparate impact and have always been wrong, serving no good purpose worth defending.

But the Council needs to go further. As long as the crime of prostitution (offering sex in exchange for money or other items of value) remains on the books, even if it is rarely prosecuted, similar profiling and harassment of young women of color will continue. Further, the City needs to stop the police from enforcing SOAP (Stay Out of Areas of Prostitution) and SODA (Stay Out of Drug Areas) orders, which are used exactly the same way as the loitering ordinances against exactly the same population despite having no basis in Seattle Municipal Code.

Also during the discussion, Councilmember Tammy Morales expressed willingness to work with sex workers (yes she used the phrase multiple times) to decriminalize sex work in Seattle so that sex workers and people in the sex trade can be safer and have access to emergency assistance. Other Councilmembers also committed to continue working with sex workers to improve safety and health for people in the sex trade. We are excited to be involved in these future conversations.

We also want to respond to a point made by a couple of people who identified themselves as survivors of trafficking and testified in opposition to repealing the loitering ordinances. Their concern was that repealing prostitution loitering ordinance would also prevent “johns” or buyers of sex, whom they consider perpetrators of harm against people in the sex trade, from being arrested or charged with prostitution loitering.

We generally believe that criminalization of clients of sex workers for purchasing sex from a consenting adult diminishes safety for people in the sex trade, but that beside the point here. Prostitution loitering ordinance has been used disproportionately against men of color (as suspected sex buyers) as well as cis and trans women of color (as suspected “prostitutes”), both for being in the wrong place as someone of a wrong race and gender, and therefore it needs to be abolished for that reason regardless of what one believes about paying for sex. Nothing in the bills passed today will legalize or decriminalize buying sex, human trafficking, or sexual violence in any way. That said, their voices belong at the policy table and we hope they will be part of future conversations about keeping our communities safe without over-reliance on the violent police system.

Thank you for your continued support, and thank you to POC SWOP/Green Light Project, UTOPIA-Seattle, Surge Reproductive Justice, Legal Voice, Coalition Ending Gender-Based Violence, and other allies as well! Join our email list by contacting us or follow our facebook page for future updates.

Seattle: Uprising’s early victories & further opportunities to participate

Date: June 15, 2020

Reposted from Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade.

As many of you know, things are happening at the Seattle City Hall and around the country as a direct result of #BlackLivesMatter organizing in response to the police murders of George Floyd and countless other Black and indigenous people. For example, here is a (very partial) list of victories documented by Chicago-based activist collective Rampant: Rebellions Get Results: A List So Far (note this post was written on June 8th, and there have been many more victories since then, not to mention victories before June 8th that were not included in the list!)

In seattle, here are some of the victories that we are aware of:

  1. Mayor Durkan issued curfews to stop demonstrations, but demonstrations continued and she was forced to withdraw the curfew.
  2. Mayor ordered a 30-day moratorium on the use of tear gas. The order came with the caveat that Chief Best could still order its use if she felt the necessity, which she did just a couple of days ago, but still both leaders faced criticisms for going back on their promises.
  3. City of Seattle is withdrawing a lawsuit against King County which had prevented inquest into killing of civilians by the police for the last two years.
  4. City of Seattle withdraws its petition to be free from federal oversight placed on its police forces due to patterns of racial profiling and civil rights violations.
  5. Peaceful demonstrators persisted in Capitol Hill for over a week despite being attacked by the police with chemical weapons, flash bangs, stan grenades, etc. and forced SPD to retreat, creating what became known as Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone or Capitol Hill Occupied/Organized Protest.
  6. Seattle City Council unanimously passed a resolution rebuking President Trump’s threat to send in active duty military to Seattle.
  7. Chief Best ordered officers to stop concealing badge numbers with “mourning bands.” They did not follow the order, so the City Council is working on a legislation.
  8. City of Seattle agreed to transfer old fire station in Central District to the local African American community to use as a community center.
  9. City Council member Kshama Sawant proposes ordinances to ban the use of chokehold by police officers and the ownership, purchase, rent, storage, or use of “crowd control weapons” such as tear gas and flash bangs. [Update: Both bills passed unanimously!]
  10. City Council member Lisa Herbold proposes an ordinance to prohibit police officers from covering their badge numbers. [Update: Passed unanimously!]
  11. City council members Lewis, Pederson, and Morales propose an ordinance to abolish the crime of prostitution loitering (which the SPD uses to profile and harass women of color). [Update: Passed unanimously!]
  12. City council members Lewis and Morales propose an ordinance to abolish the crime of drug loitering. [Update: Passed unanimously!]

Do you have more? Please send it to us so we can add to this list!

ANYWAYS, Today (Monday, June 15th) at 2pm the City Council is discussing CMs Sawant and Herbold’s bills on banning certain police behaviors that have been used against protesters. The Council meetings are held online due to COVID-19, but you can sign up to testify and/or watch the meeting (direct YouTube link) live.

We are VERY interested in CMs Lewis, Pederson, and Morales’ bills to eliminate prostitution and drug loitering ordinances. City’s own working group had recommended repealing these ordinances TWO YEARS AGO and we’ve met with council members to ask them to follow up on the recommendation, but the Council has so far failed to act on it. The ordinances are likely to be discussed at a later time, but you can submit comments on them NOW on the link above.

Lastly, the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade has endorsed “Defund Seattle Police” campaign, which seeks to immediately cut at least 50% of SPD budget to fund community-based programs that prioritize health and safety strategies and free all protesters arrested during the recent protests. If you agree, please sign on to the campaign as an individual or as an organization.

Not another bs PR statement about #BlackLivesMatter

Date: June 5, 2020

Reposted from Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade

It’s been a rough week of sadness and outrage. I am forced to be in quarantine to avoid coronavirus because I have many compromising medical conditions but every day I’ve been following many of my friends fight for systemic changes we seek, whether they are on the street or online. I feel heavy yet hopeful that this time, the national uprising will lead to lasting movement toward a more just society. When the coronavirus is sufficiently contained or vaccine becomes available, I anticipate that the struggle for racial justice and liberation of Black and other marginalized people will still be ongoing, and I look forward to joining you out there.

On behalf of the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade, I signed on to the call to Defund the Seattle Police Department, which demands the City of Seattle to: 1. defund Seattle Police Department (at least 50% of $363 already budgeted for SPD); 2. fund community-based health and safety initiatives that diminish reliance on the police to solve social problems; and 3. drop charges against protesters. You can join the call as an individual or as an organization by clicking on the link below:

http://tinyurl.com/defundSPD (individual)
http://tinyurl.com/defundspdorg (organization)

As the subject of this post says, I am getting fed up with bunch of self-serving PR statements arriving on my inbox from corporations and organizations expressing support for Black lives that do not reflect their day-to-day operations. Today, I received an email from a local (predominantly white, police-friendly) “anti-trafficking” coalition soliciting donations to themselves, claiming that their mission aligns with the goals of Black Lives Matter, after years of promoting more policing and prosecution of those involved in sex trade which further criminalize Black, indigenous, and people of color. They even quote a white academic “expert” who equates prostitution to slavery, comparing their white supremacist carceral politics to actual abolitionists who fought against American chattel slavery and continue to fight against the unjust criminal justice system and the Prison Industrial Complex. And of course they had to stress that they only supported “peaceful” protest by doubly emphasizing the word “peaceful” by italicizing and then underlining the word. This is opportunistic and shameful. You cannot promote carceral approach to social problems and then claim to be in the movement for Black lives at the same time.

I hesitated making a formal statement on behalf of the Coalition for Rights & Safety about recent police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and many other Black men and women that we have not even heard about because so many of those statements are fake and I wanted to focus on mourning and fighting and supporting my friends rather than taking part in the PR fray. But when I saw anti-trafficking organizations using the national attention to their own advantage, I had to say something. But this is not just a statement; we commit to continue prioritizing the rights and safety for the most marginalized sex workers and people in the sex trade, especially sex workers who are Black, indigenous, or people of color, sex workers who are trans, are immigrants, are disabled, and/or lack housing.

Thank you for being in the movement with us. Please call me if you want to talk more about how we can continue to (and better) advocate for Black lives and the lives of other marginalized communities.

Emi Koyama
The Coordinatrix
Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade

Also read:

You Can’t Say Black Lives Matter Without Including Black Sex Workers by Suprihmbé
Stop Calling Human Trafficking “Modern Day Slavery”

My multi-year struggle with self-doubt to start a Patreon page (it’s up now!)

Date: June 29, 2018

After years of contemplating and doubting myself I’ve finally set up a Patreon page where readers can pledge monthly contributions to support my work. If you find my work (most of which you can find or read about on this website for free) worthwhile please consider becoming an inaugural supporter. Also: zine and button purchases and college invitations also helps!

Below is the first post I made on the Patreon page as I set it up:

people who know me know that i have very low self-esteem and i have come to feel ok about it rather than thinking of it as a deficiency, but it still keeps me from promoting myself or demanding for what (some people tell me) i deserve, which means i am constantly struggling financially.

on the other hand i’ve heard from many people who use my work (zines, articles, ideas/frameworks, etc.) in their work in academia or nonprofit world or for their own survival and have asked for a way to contribute back to me. so after resisting it for several years, i’ve finally decided to set up a patreon site.

will this work? i don’t know. but if i can supplement limited income from my 10hr/wk job (coordinating the Coalition for Rights & Safety for People in the Sex Trade) with anything at all, it would stabilize my life so much and i will be able to spend more time writing and doing my activism.

anyway, i really can’t bring myself to engage in any more self-promotion or self-engrossment, so i’ll just post a cute picture of my baby Adrie (play fighting with my baby seal stuffie Stickyrice).

also – if you don’t have resources yourself but want to help me, please try to get your local college or university to bring me there to speak! see my website for list of my previous presentations.

chao!

Please visit my Patreon page to support my work and learn about my zine club (rewards)!

Disability discrimination at Super 8 Hotel in South Bend, Indiana: A complaint and responses

Date: October 31, 2016



The original letter

October 29, 2016

Expedia Inc.
333 108th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98004
accessibility@expedia.com

Ganesh Hotels
3252 Cassopolis St.
Elkhart, IN 46514
info@ganeshhotels.com

Wyndham Hotel Group
22 Sylvan Way
Parsippany, NJ 07054
wyndhamcc@wyn.com

Dear Customer Service Representatives

My name is Emi Koyama and I am writing to make a formal complaint about the experience I had at Super 8 Hotel in South Bend, Indiana operated by Ganesh Hotels on October 27, 2016. The room was booked on September 24th through Expedia.com. I was visiting South Bend to give the 2016 Gloria Kaufman Memorial Lecture at Indiana University South Bend.

I understand that some people (I’m not sure who they are) who read about the incident on social media have contacted some of you, but I thought I’d provide my own account directly.

At around 6pm, I was dropped off at the hotel by the ADA paratransit service (Transpo Access). I went in and asked to check in, but I was told that there would be a special fee for my dog. I explained to the clerk at the front desk that the dog was a service animal, to which she demanded to see a document identifying the dog as a service animal. I explained to her that there is no such thing, and the documents that some travelers may present carry no legal weight.

Still, she insisted on seeing the document. As I was prepared for this, I pulled up a Department of Justice guideline on ADA service animals on my iPad, which read, in part:

When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.

I have encountered resistance from restaurant and hotel employees who were not trained about these legal requirements, but usually showing this document resolved the problem. This time however, the front desk clerk suggested that the federal regulation I pulled up may be “fake” because I just got it off the internet, and continued to demand a documentation. I asked her to use her own computer or phone to look up the document from the Department of Justice website to make sure that it is legit, but she refused to do so.

The clerk then called her manager, and, after explaining the situation to the manager, handed the phone over to me. I explained the federal regulation on service animal and read the paragraph I quoted above to the manager, but she also insisted that the documentation was required, because I could be lying about the service animal or the federal regulation. Again, I asked her to go to the Department of Justice website herself to find out if I was “faking” the law, but she declined. I asked the manager for her name, to which she replied “Sara” but refused to provide her last name. I gave the phone back to the clerk at her request, by which point the manager apparently made the decision to refuse service to me.

After hanging up the phone with the manager, the clerk told me that the hotel has decided to refuse service, which is clearly an abuse of discretion a business has and a violation of federal civil rights law (and probably Indiana’s as well—though I have not done any research about the relevant state law). I asked the clerk if I could stay in the lobby while I ask the people from the Indiana University who invited me to South Bend could come meet me and help me figure out what to do, but she insisted that I had to leave the building immediately or she would call the police on me.

Thus, I found myself and my dog freezing outside in a cold rainy weather of about 40 degrees temperature with strong wind blowing at around 6:30pm. Because I was dropped off by the ADA paratransit, which requires a reservation at least a day prior to the date of travel, I had no transportation. Further, I use electronic wheelchair which does not fit in most cars or cabs, so I had no place to go or means to get there.

I was desperate for help from someone in the area who could take me to a different place or at least come and let me get in their car so my dog and I could be warm at least, so I posted an urgent request for help on social media. I did not ask anyone to complain to the hotel, but apparently some people did, and the clerk came out at around 7:25pm after almost an hour of freezing outside in cold rain, and told me that she was letting me check in. At that point finally I was told that the hotel would accept my dog as a service animal. (I posted an update to the original social media call for help letting everyone know what happened after entering my room.)

What happened to me that evening is not just a violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, but also a failure of basic human decency. The clerk was clearly not trained on the legal obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the manager was also ignorant about it, but they also lacked imagination about what it would mean to throw out a customer with a disability using a wheelchair who have traveled from afar in a remote area where there are no other businesses or public transit or anything nearby on a cold rainy night.

Ganesh Hotels: How do you train employees or hotel managers on legal obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act? How did this failure occur, and what are you doing to ensure that it will not happen to other people? Remember, I happened to have the knowledge of the ADA guideline and social connections that allowed me to get inside eventually, but other customers might not and they still do not deserve to be left freeing outside.
Wyndham Hotel Group: What protections are in place for franchisees bearing your brands (Super 8, etc.) are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act? How was it possible for the entire staff at a Super 8 hotel to be ignorant about their legal obligations, and what are you doing to ensure that the same thing will not happen at other Wyndham-branded hotels?

Expedia Inc.: What do you do as a market facilitator to ensure that companies that you partner with are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and that it is safe for people with disabilities to book their travels with Expedia and your other sites?

I would like to hear your responses to these questions and also receive a formal apology from the manager of Super 8 Hotel in South Bend or someone above her. My friends have suggested that I should sue the hotel or demand a full refund. I would not go that far at this point because I was otherwise satisfied with the room and the booking process, but I think it would be fair and reasonable to ask for a refund for at least one night’s stay after I was left freezing outside for almost an hour in a strange city, wondering where I would go and how.

What I want out of this incident most is the assurance that the practice of disability discrimination is discontinued at Super 8 Hotel South Bend as well as at any other hotel under the control of Ganesh Hotels or in partnership with Wyndham Hotel Group or Expedia, Inc.

Thank you very much for your immediate attention to this problem. I look forward to hearing from you in the next couple of weeks.

Best,

Emi Koyama



Response from Wyndham Hotel Group:

Case # 3749437
Site # 14645

Dear Emi Koyama,

Super 8 Worldwide is in receipt of your concerns regarding your stay at SOUTH BEND , IN on or about 10/27/2016. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this has caused you.

Super 8 Worldwide appreciates you bringing your concerns to our attention. We take these matters very seriously. While Super 8 Worldwide is solely the franchisor of the Super 8 Worldwide trade name, trademarks, and service marks to independently owned and operated Super 8 Worldwide guest lodging facilities, we require all Super 8 Worldwide facilities to comply with applicable law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and its directives. We have contacted the owner/operator of this facility regarding this incident and conveyed our expectation that he/ she take steps to address it adequately. As this matter is the responsibility of the owner/operator of the facility, the facility is in the best position to respond. Please direct further communications to:

Priti Jairam
4124 Ameritech Drive
South Bend, IN, 46628-9126
(574) 243-0200

Customer Care
Wyndham Hotel Group
Tele: 888-675-3379
Fax: 888-565-7707


Response from Super 8 Hotel South Bend:

November 1, 2016

Dear Ms. Koyama,

I, Priti Jairam, general manager at Super 8 South Bend, am writing this email to you on behalf of my employee to apologize. I deeply regret what happened on October 27th 2016 and hope that you accept my apology.

We do not handle situation like this lightly therefore, we would like to give you full refund of your stay with us. We would also like an opportunity to accommodate you in future as well.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention, if there is anything else I can further assist you with, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Priti Jairam
Super 8- South Bend
4124 Ameritech Dr
South Bend,IN 46628

Reclaiming Harm Reduction: a new zine released in time for the Harm Reduction Conference

Date: October 30, 2016

Just in time for the 11th National Harm Reduction Conference next week, I am announcing the publication of my new zine, “Reclaiming Harm Reduction: a collection” which compiles my writings related to harm reduction philosophy (excluding my numerous writings on sex trafficking and sex trade, which have been published in other zines). The new zine is available for order from my new online store.

zine cover

Here’s the introduction from the zine:

This booket/zine is a collection of my writings on the topic of harm reduction in my almost 20 years of activism.

Aside from the fact that I am presenting at the 11th National Harm Reduction Conference in San Diego next week (November 3-6, 2016) and wanted share my thoughts with people I meet there, I had a couple of reasons to compile some of my writings on this topic:

First, I live in Seattle area, where the phrase “harm reduction” has become a buzz word among people in the governemtn as well as in social service providers, which is welcome but its actual meaning is often lost in translation: many service providers use the term “harm reduction” when they simply mean that they don’t automatically exclude clients who are currently using drugs, but continue to have judgmental disdain for them or push a vision of “recovery” that does not reflect the needs or wishes of actual individuals who are coping with difficulties in their lives in the best way they know how.

Second, connected to the first point, I feel that harm reduction can be a lot more than just “a better way to deal with drug problems.” Drug use/abuse/addiction has not particularly been an issue that I deal with in my own personal life, but I encountered many of the similar failures of systemic responses to social problems, such as homelessness, violence against women, sex trafficking, and racism/classism/ableism/homophobia/transphobia/etc. In fact, harm reduction is the analysis that connects my involvement in various social justice movements, including advocacy of survivors of domestic and sexual violence, sex workers, intersex people, people with disabilities, and others. I wanted to compile a collection of my writings in these different movements to demonstrate a potential scope of harm reduction as a foundational philosophy and perspective.

That said, I also encountered limits of harm reduction, which I discuss in one of the essays included in this collection. While harm reduction helps us promote social interventions that meet the immediate needs of communities and individuals facing difficulties, it does not necessarily and automatically address the larger context of injustices in which these difficulties occur.

An example of this limitation that I address in the aforementioned essay is a suggestion that the distribution of condoms to U.S. military service members was a successful harm reduction program to reduce the spread of venereal diseases. While I agree such program may reduce the risk of venereal disease among U.S. soldiers, it does not address the violence of U.S. military interventions around the world itself, or the sexual violence too frequently perpetrated by the members of the U.S. forces against native women and girls. If anything, it might enable the U.S. to more efficiently and aggressively pursue military interventions across the globe that ultimately may result in more harms to the nations and peoples the U.S. decides to invade.

Harm reduction without an intentional commitment to the broader social and economic justice agenda can be reduced to a mere technology of population management. There are “harm reduction” housing programs in various cities where drug dealing and use are completely unregulated and unsupervised under the guise of “meeting where people are at,” where residents die from overdose every week without anyone outside of the building even taking a notice. Harm reduction should not be our communities’ excuse for being indifferent: while ultimately respecting how members of our communities choose to live, we cannot stop advocating for a better living environment for all of us, rather than simply pushing some of us aside in “harm reduction” ghettos and forget about them.

Essays collected in this booklet/zine span over 15 years of my writings, so some of the circumstances have changed since I wrote about them (I intentionally left out many writings that critiques the anti-trafficking movements because there are too many and I have compiled them into other booklets/zines). My thinking has also evolved in some of these areas as well. But overall, a commitment to harm reduction combined with social and economic justice continue to motivate my research and activism and it has only become more solidified if not sophisticated.

Thank you for picking up this collection, and I would like to hear what you think about them, or learn what else you are working on. Please feel free to contact me in any of the following ways:

Emi Koyama
PO Box 40570, Portland OR 97240
emi@eminism.org
www.eminism.org
Twitter: @emikoyama
Facebok: emigrl2

Table of contents:

Stop Calling Human Trafficking “Modern Day Slavery” – Version 0.2

Date: October 30, 2016

This document explains why the U.S. movements against human trafficking should stop calling it “modern day slavery” or otherwise invoking the image of slavery by using terms like “abolition.” Please note that this document is intended for people discussing human trafficking in the United States context, and may not necessarily apply to discussions outside of the United States.

1. In the U.S., the word “slavery” inevitably invokes the specific historical experiences of the enslavement of African peoples by the white settlers in the U.S., which continues to negatively impact African Americans economically, politically, socially, and culturally today. Using the term “slavery” appropriates the historical and ongoing struggles of African American communities against the specific historical event of the Slavery.

2. Human trafficking is a crime. Slavery in the U.S. was criminal, but perfectly legal and supported by the full force of legal, economic, and political institutions. Human trafficking today does not receive such official backing, and cannot be compared to the Slavery. For example, courts today do not enforce contracts for trading humans nor the police detain and send back escaped trafficking victims to their traffickers.

3. It is the modern prison system, not contemporary human trafficking, that is the historical successor of the U.S. Slavery. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1865, abolished slavery “except as a punishment for crime,” and this caveat became a loophole to re-institute Black enslavement in the post-Reconstruction South under the guise of criminal punishment, where the State passed racist laws to criminalize freed slaves, then loaned out “convicts” as laborers to former slave owners. Modern prison system continues to criminalize and incarcerate African Americans at an extremely disproportionate rate while profiting corporations that build and manage prisons and employ prison labor at rates far below the legal minimum wage.

4. Like earlier “wars” on crimes, drugs, and terrorism, the government’s “war on trafficking” center primarily on surveilling, policing, and prosecuting African American and other communities of color, immigrants, street youth, and other communities that are already heavily criminalized. This includes targeting young people of color as “gangs” engaging in sex trafficking, profiling immigrants as both traffickers and trafficking victims at the border and beyond, and treating queer and trans youth supporting each other engage in survival sex as “trafficking” each other. The simplistic rhetoric of “modern day slavery” distracts us from complex systems of power and oppressions that make our communities vulnerable to exploitation, and allows the government to intensify policing and criminalization on marginalized communities, thereby imprisoning and enslaving more descendants of freed slaves in order to rescue “modern day slaves,” rather than addressing social, economic, and political roots of these vulnerabilities.

Version 0.2 – Please send comments or suggestions to emi at eminism dot org.

Next Steps for Safe Consumption/Injection Site in Seattle, or why the City of Seattle should sell drugs and operate brothels

Date: October 29, 2016

In February 2015 the Indiana State Health Department announced an outbreak of dozens of cases of HIV infection in southeastern part of the State resulting from needle-sharing among prescription drug users. It was not particularly newsworthy, except it happened in white rural Indiana as opposed to urban neighborhoods with large Black and Latino populations, causing a shockwave that appears to finally be making drug policy reform an acceptable policy choice to the mainstream.

Among other cities, Seattle and King County are working on becoming the first U.S. city to open a safe consumption (injection) facility in the near future, and I have attended many meetings in which community members, public health officials, social workers, activists, and others discussed how to establish and operate such facilities, as well as what other preventative and treatment options should be pursued. I was initially concerned about some of the random comments made by community members and elected officials who did not seem to know much about the issue, but in the end I feel that the task force came up with a fairly decent proposal (considering the political climate) for the city and county to consider.

Referred to by various names including “drug consumption room,” “medically supervised injecting center,” or “supervised injection facility,” safe consumption sites are “professionally supervised healthcare facilities where drug users can use drugs in safer and more hygienic conditions,” according to a paper by Dagmar Hedrich, Thomas Kerr and Françoise Dubois-Arber. Enforcement of anti-drug laws are often suspended at and around the facility in order for drug users to enter and use the facility without the fear of prosecution. At this point, InSite in Vancouver, Canada which opened in 2003 is the only existing facility in North America, even though multiple cities in the U.S. including Seattle are considering starting one.

One of the key decisions made during the early stages of Seattle’s effort to establish a safe consumption facility was the adaption of the “equity and social justice charge” which guided the process. The document states:

The King County Heroin and Opiate Addiction Task Force will apply an Equity and Social Justice (ESJ) lens to all of its work. We acknowledge that the “War on Drugs” has disproportionately adversely impacted some communities of color, and it is important that supportive interventions now not inadvertently replicate that pattern. Interventions to address the King County heroin and opiate problem will or could affect the health and safety of diverse communities, directly and indirectly (through re- allocation of resources). Measures recommended by the Task Force to enhance the health and well-being of heroin and opiate users or to prevent heroin and opiate addiction must be intentionally planned to ensure that they serve marginalized individuals and communities. At the same time, the response to heroin and opiate use must not exacerbate inequities in the care and response provided among users of various drugs.

All recommendations by the Taskforce will be reviewed using a racial impact statement framework. The Task Force will not seek to advance recommendations that can be expected to widen racial or ethnic disparities in health, healthcare, other services and support, income, or justice system involvement. Whenever possible, these concerns should lead to broadening the recommendations of the Task Force, rather than leaving behind interventions that are predicted to enhance the health and well-being of heroin and opiate users.

One of the reasons the task force used the phrase “safe consumption facility” throughout its discussions (although political compromises resulted in it being rebranded as the “Community Health Engagement Locations” or CHEL in the final recommendation) was precisely because the group did not wish to further the disparities between communities using different types of drugs by offering legal and medical relief to people using drugs in one way without doing the same for those using them in a different way (smoking).

Speaking of political compromises, it was interesting to observe how the task force ended up recommending the establishment of “at least two CHEL sites,” one of which shall be in Seattle and another outside. Some task force members commented that the downtown Seattle business association would not tolerate establishment of the safe consumption site if they felt singled out, while officials from nearby cities of Renton, Auburn, and others fought to push the second facility on each other, fearing that the safe consumption facility would bring drug users to their cities (which is ridiculous: people will not travel to Auburn just to use drugs at the safe consumption facility unless they already live in the area). In the end, police officers representing Renton and Auburn Police Departments both opposed to the recommendation to establish safe consumption facilities, but the rest of the task force adapted it.

Even with the political compromises, I feel that recommendations that includes prevention, treatment (including changes to State regulations that are making access to medication-assisted treatments such as methadone and buprenorphine programs unavailable to many who need it), greater distribution of naloxone, as well as the safe consumption facility are positive steps toward protecting the health and dignity of our neighbors.

But before Seattle celebrates itself upon becoming the one of the first cities if not the very first city to establish a safe consumption facility (or CHEL or whatever) and brags about its progressive tendencies, as it did when they legalized same-sex marriage or marijuana use, or when they enacted an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over several years, I want to push forward with a couple of proposals to further protect the individual and collective health.

First proposal: Provide a public option. Here, I am not talking about heath insurance policies, which is an entirely different matter altogether. I am calling for the City of Seattle and King County to sell drugs to users directly at the safe consumption facility to remove third party suppliers and ensure the quality and safety of drugs consumed at the facility. In my proposal, consumers can purchase drugs that they consume at the facility, and would not be allowed to bring them outside. This will certainly increase the likelihood that consumers will use the facility–perhaps they might even travel to Auburn if this was available. Users will know exactly what they are putting in their bodies because the City can eliminate any contamination of drugs it sells, and it will make it easier to monitor their health while they us them.

Second proposal: Start a safe prostitution facility. The City of Seattle has been at the forefront of the nationwide effort to shut down Backpage, a website that many sex workers (and yes some traffickers) use to advertise their services, which has led to the recent raid on the site. But shutting down Backpage only pushes sex workers as well as potential sex trafficking victims further underground, perhaps onto offshore websites using encrypted and decentralized payment methods like Bitcoin that are harder to subpoena or investigate even when they needed to be investigated for human rights abuses. Safe prostitution facilities would provide client background check, physical safety, social workers on site, as well as safe and clean environment for sex workers.

In both proposals, it would be essential that the City does not receive fees and revenues exceeding what it costs to offer these products or services, lest the City would itself become financially entangled as a drug dealer or a pimp. The City should certainly promote the services to increase its use among people who already engage in drug use or prostitution, but the system should be designed to minimize the financial incentive for the City to overreach this aim, perhaps by requiring that any profit would go toward lowering the fees for the next year.

These proposals may not be satisfactory to people who demand full decriminalization of drug use and prostitution (and I support that as well), but I feel that they are what is possible under the existing laws under the same rationale that make safe consumption sites possible in Seattle. Some versions of these policies are already practiced in some parts of Europe, such as the prescription of heroin to those diagnosed with substance use disorders or the establishment of government-funded facilities for sex workers to operate at, and if any city in the U.S. could do it, it would be Seattle.

#ImNotQuiteWithHerButOMGTheAlternative

Date: October 13, 2016

i didn’t expect this to happen, but i’m starting to have deep empathy toward the first woman running as a major party candidate for the president in history, who has to share the debate stage with an opponent who is possibly the most outwardly misogynist man to be running as a major party candidate in history, and she must act like she’s just having a normal debate because she’d get penalized as a woman for expressing one millionth of emotional reaction or instability that he is freely displaying. and no this isn’t an endorsement for her but i’m identifying with her as a woman like i never expected.

*****

this is really getting to me hard. more and more women coming forward and speaking out about what this man did to them over the span of decades and how he always got away with it because he was “a star” as he said. his followers posting home addresses and phone numbers of these women online. his mocking the appearances of the women, suggesting that nobody would ever want to harass or assault someone who look like them. and i imagine that it must have felt like this for many american muslims and mexicans and others for many months before it started affecting me this way and it sucks.

(compiled from my ramblings on October 13, 2016 in Facebook)

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