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July 23, 2020

When is a crisis when it has no beginning or end? – Satya Varghese Mac, BFA Sculpture 2020

by satyavm
Sylvia Rivera (left) whose legacy the Law Project commemorates, and Marsha P. Johnson (right) a mother of the movements for trans and queer liberation

With the confluence of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter Uprising in response to the onslaught of police killings of Black and Black trans people, the beginning of my time at SRLP has been illuminating about the work of collective organization in a time of crisis. The reality is that these crises that the nation is reckoning with are only outer layers to the perpetual crisis of transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex (TGNCI) peoples’ daily survival and self determination, specifically when their identities intersect with blackness, and/or the realities lived by indigenous people, people of color, people with disabilities, and low income people.

Black Trans Lives Matter protest in Brooklyn NY opposing violence against Black trans lives and the killings of Layleen Polanco, Dominique Rem’mie Fells, Riah Milton, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and too many more lives lost to the hands of the carceral system, the police, and a society built on transphobia

My work with SRLP is co-supervised by SRLP’s Director of Membership, Sasha, and Director of Outreach and Community Engagement, Kimberly.

With Sasha, I have had the opportunity to interact directly with SRLP members engaging in the community organizing and leadership development opportunities provided by the Movement Building Team and the Shelter Organizing Team (online for now).

Currently, the Movement Building Team is focused on developing the leadership of SRLP’s membership through member-led panel discussions. Based on the group’s interest and experience we began planning two panels: Disability Justice for TGNCI People, and Ending Violence Against Black Trans Women.

Instagram post of SRLP’s Shelter Organizing Team protest against unsafe shelter conditions

Meanwhile, the Shelter Organizing Team is working to change the conditions for TGNC people in shelter and experiencing housing insecurity – a task that is directly affected by the pandemic. In a meeting with NYC’s Department of Homeless Services, I learned that there is a deep disconnection between the city office and the on-the-ground experiences of unhoused people. In a meeting with the Legal Aid Society of NY I was able to hear more about the history of the right to shelter in NYC, and the urgent need for reform to make shelter conditions livable, and to make shelters accessible to TGNCI people.

With Kimberly I am working on projects related to the Prisoner Advisory Committee (PAC) and a forthcoming report on the lives and experiences of TGNCI people in NY state prisons. The PAC is a group of SRLP members who are incarcerated and advise the organization of the needs and experiences of incarcerated TGNCI people. This link with these incarcerated members is crucial in making sure SRLP’s work is done with not for the people it serves. 

Through this work with the forthcoming report I have been doing my own research on the current prison reform and abolition efforts in NYC and nationwide including the HALT Solitary Act which refers to the Mandela rule asserting that prolonged use of solitary confinement is torture, and the Sepulveda Bill which aims to amend correctional law to allow for the early release of certain people in order to lower the impact of COVID-19 on prison populations. I am also researching SRLP’s past initiatives and actions to put together an understanding of the collective’s strategies and message.

The work has fallen into a rhythm that I hope will pick up as I begin the process of relocating to NYC to transition from fully remote to partially in person work. I am hoping that being in a place where my expressed purpose is to dive into the work with SRLP will accelerate things.

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