‘Speak with your heart and they will listen to you’: Bay Area organizers discuss their experiences as gender-marginalized activists

As society fights for collective liberation, people must come forward for all members of their community, according to speakers at Friday’s gender and justice summit. Hosted by the Stanford Women’s Community Center (WCC) with support from the Centers for Equity, Community, and Leadership, the event featured keynote speaker Dominique Jackson from FX’s POSE and local activists from the Bay Area. The summit focused on the experiences of gender-marginalized activists.

“You want to be an ally, you’re going to have to put yourself in danger because for a very long time we have put ourselves in danger just trying to survive and we can’t do it on our own,” Jackson said. “We need each of you who can to say yes, I am with you.”

Jackson is an LGBTQIA + model, icon, actress and community activist best known for her role as Elektra Abundance in POSE. The show – which features the experiences of stay-at-home moms and transgender women in New York City and the underground ballroom culture of the 1980s – made history by featuring a record number of actors and performers. transgender actresses.

Jackson spoke on Friday about how allies can best support the transgender community.

“Open up or open your space to people with trans experiences and people of color. Give that opportunity, ”Jackson said. “Give space for people to live in their truth – even if it’s only for one night… give us space to come out, be safe and be ourselves.”

Prior to assuming her role on POSE, Jackson was Director of Programs for Destinations Tomorrow, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting LGBTQ + people in the Bronx. She was just one of the many activists who shared their story.

The summit also hosted a community lunch for students to come together and discuss the impact of POSE and hosted a panel of Bay Area activists. Panelist Isabella Zizi of Idle Know More in the San Francisco Bay Area, a grassroots volunteer organization run by generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous women dedicated to climate activism, said the Chevron refinery explosion in 2011 in Richmond had pushed her to become an environmental justice activist. .

Elba Morales of Centro Legal de la Raza – a non-profit legal organization dedicated to the legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of low-income, immigrant, black and Latin communities through bilingual legal representation, education and advocacy – highlighted the influence of faith in his activism.

“I really saw how justice was related to faith, race, sexuality… I need to believe in something bigger and sometimes it’s God, sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s God. ‘are my friends, but I believe it’s faith that keeps me in this job, ”Morales said.

Speakers explained that there is no single path to activism. Jenny Wun of AAPI Women Lead, an organization that aims to strengthen the progressive political and social platforms of Asian and Pacific Islander communities, said people should pursue their passions and then bring activism into those spaces.

“If you’re good at tech, do tech. If you are a good scientist and you dream of being a scientist, be a scientist. But when you get there, be ready to organize and mobilize people, ”said Wun, paraphrasing advice she received from a former member of the Progressive Chinese Association, a nonprofit group involved in education. , organizing and empowering low-income Chinese immigrants and the working class. community in San Francisco.

Speakers reminded students that pursuing activism is not always a choice. Juniper Yun of the Transgender District of San Francisco, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering the transgender community through ownership and safe community spaces, said she turned to activism after feeling the effects of discrimination on one’s own life.

“I truly believe that for anyone who is black, brunette, native, who is API, who is a person living on the margins of society, who is trans or gender non-conforming: we must fight for liberation so that all can we find ourselves able to live in a society that so often sidelines us or even hurts us, ”Yun said.

No matter who you are or why you engage in activism, speakers emphasized transparency and coalition building in order to mobilize others and effect change.

“Be grounded in your principles and be very transparent. Many of us talk about transparency, but be transparent about who you are and as a firm believer, if people want to rock with you based on their principles, they will come. So stay grounded in what you stand for, ”Wun said.

Recordings from the Gender Equity and Justice Summit will be available next week on the Community Women’s Center website.

About Dwaine Pinson

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