The Unexpected Miracle, The Miracle in Peril

Last night, a desperate call was put into the Mayor’s Kenney’s office.

“There is something important happening at the camp. Something no one expected, and something the Mayor needs to understand. The unhoused activists, they are starting to blossom and thrive. There is something about what they are doing there that is helping them in ways no one predicted…”

The Occupy ICE PHL encampment began as a non-violent civil disobedience action intended to protest ICE. It’s first incarnation was set up outside the ICE administrative building in Philadelphia, and was staffed mostly by the more traditional activist groups. After the camp was forcibly dismantled by the police, it resettled outside City Hall where it worked to pressure Mayor Kenney to end the city’s participation in the PARS system.

It was at this new location that the demographics of the camp began to shift. The camp began to welcome anyone willing to respect the community and also worked to feed anyone who came to the camp. This began to attract a number of the unhoused from around the city. As the camp progressed through its next 3 weeks of sustained protest, many of the more traditional protesters began to be pulled away due to duties to work, families, school, etc. As a result, the unhoused community members who had been drawn to the camp began to step up into the leadership roles to maintain the movement. It was after this change that the miracle began to manifest.

Lives began to change while in the camp. A number of reports began to emerge of how many of the unhoused, who had been initially showing signs of mental illness, behavioral outbursts, and substance abuse, started to improve. People who started off as being disruptive started taking up roles to support the community, substance use reduced, and some people began to come out of their shells in beautiful ways.

“See that guy over there?” the activist manning the kitchen pointed, “When he first came to the camp he did not speak. He just sat there for a few days. And then one morning he picked up the guitar and sang us a song he composed on his own as gift for the camp.”

People are inherently social creatures. We all need to be part of something bigger. When we can’t be contributing members to the larger society, we feel a unique stress known as “Role Strain,” which can take a traumatic toll on a person’s psyche and self-esteem. The impact of the role strain can often result in depression, aggressive behaviors, substance abuse, and in severe cases, the stress can trigger psychosis. It has been well established that homelessness can actually cause or aggravate mental illness. Most of the explanations given for this focus on the stresses that occur when you face the threat of death every day due to lack of food, shelter, medical care, and the threat of violence. But what we are seeing at the camp is that there is another factor that most analysis has missed. The unhoused are also severely stressed due to the role strain of not being able to be a contributing part of society.

The miracle that occurred at the camp happened because the unhoused were not just given food and a safer place to sleep, but a chance to give back as well. By welcoming them into the leadership and giving them a chance to participate in a cause, they were no longer just charity recipients but full partners in a larger community. This is important because it reveals an important unseen social need that gets lost as people focus on only filling the more apparent physical needs.

At the time of the writing of this article the city has started to move in to dismantle the camp. The city claimed that they were going to send in housing and mental health workers to help the unhoused as part of this action. The reason for last night’s desperate call was an attempt to try to get Mayor Kenney to see that those services are not enough. Just taking care of the physical needs will not be enough, and looking at the individual component of the mental health still neglects what we have seen about this need for the larger social connection. Taking away that camp without a plan to provide some other way for the unhoused to contribute to a larger cause is stealing from these activists an important source of psychological sustenance that we are now learning to be just as important as any other physical need.

 

Occupy ICE Philadelphia – Week 1 7/2/18-7/8/18

On Monday, July 2nd, 2018, Occupy ICE PHL began their first week of non-violent civil disobedience. Joining in a mass action that has sprung up from New York to Portland, the brave activists set up a camp outside the ICE building in Philadelphia in opposition to ICE and its human rights violating policies. The camp was set up on Monday, and was met with threats from DHS, ICE, and Philly PD.

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(Image courtesy of Philly Socialists)

The next day, support started to come in from all over the state in the form of people joining in, material resources, and donated funds. On Tuesday, the non-violent activists remained despite intimidation, and the camp was raided, with DHS, ICE, and Philly PD damaging personal property, injuring activists, and arresting about 2 dozen. All those arrested were released that day, and the encampment showed it would persist.

Wednesday was July 4th, and the non-violent activists at the Occupy ICE PHL camp truly embodied the spirit behind Independence Day. We have all been told that this day was the commemoration of our nation’s birth, born out of the spirit of protest, dedicated to opposing tyranny, with the goal of building a nation where all people are equal and free. Occupy ICE PHL came together in belief in those ideals and the recognition that we are still far from realizing them. They joined together on this day in fellowship to continue to push forward the changes to make the unmet ideals of this day a reality.

On Thursday, Occupy ICE PHL met their hardest day to date in their non-violent civil disobedience action. They announced a press conference for 3:00 pm. As the time for the press conference approached, Philly PD started to try to find reasons to give warnings based on where supplies were placed and activists were standing. Legal observers on site worked to help the activists respond. When the Occupy ICE PHL was within their legal rights, those rights were reinforced, and when the cited issues were justified, the activists complied quickly. At approximately 1:15 pm, DHS, ICE, and Philly PD moved in to the camp to break it up, destroying property, and violently arresting activists. Occupy ICE PHL still persisted, the arrested activists were quickly released, and the press conference happened as planned.

On Friday, Occupy ICE PHL moved their non-violent disobedience action to City Hall itself, where it currently stands. Despite some agitators trying to test the activists, they were able to grow the camp without incident. Support continues to come in for those who wish to participate, and a children’s area has even been established to support parents who come down to participate in the non-violent civil disobedience.

But as this camp grows, help is still very much needed.

How you can help:

1) Show up to City Hall and join the occupation. The more people present at this non-violent civil disobedience action, the safer everyone is. If you have any sway with the larger protest groups that worked the #womensmarch, #marchforourlives, #endfamilyseparation, #sciencemarch, etc., please get them to use their platforms to get more people to grow this camp and make more noise. If you can pull thousands in and fill the area, that will make the impact we need.

2) Bring supplies to help the occupiers. Their needs list can be found in the event description here: https://www.facebook.com/events/215509789282139/

3) If you can’t bring the physical goods, Occupy ICE PHL is also accepting donations via Venmo at the ID of @bird-poet

4) When you go, bring your phones and prepare to take videos. Philly We Rise has been trying to put together a civilian journalism corps, and they can help you coordinate your efforts to document the occupation. https://www.facebook.com/phillywerise/ If you do this, please respect any requests for anonymity among the activists. If the police move in while you are there, and you record acts of police brutality, rather than post it on social media, please go to the legal observer present among the activists, or get the video to the Up Against the Law legal collective https://www.facebook.com/UpAgainstTheLaw

5) Call Mayor Kenny (215-686-2181) and hold him to his pledges to make Philadelphia a sanctuary city. Specifically request for him to end the city’s cooperation with the PARS system and not renew the city’s contract with ICE when it expires next month on 8/31/18. He claims to oppose ICE. He claims that he supports the protesters. But right now these are just words, and we need him to follow them up with real solid action.

#ShutDownBerks
#OccupyICEPHL
#OccupyICE
#EndPARS
#AbolishICE

Speaking for others: When a right becomes a duty

The first amendment has become a battleground in this era of protest and dissent. There is a lot of focus being put on showing the world that we can speak, that we can get our voices heard, and that we will not be silenced.

There has arisen, however, an unintended consequence in the way we have pursued our right to speech. In our rush to prove we can speak, we have inadvertently helped to contribute to the silencing of people who need to be heard the most.

“You don’t know how privileged you are to be able to afford to protest,” is a common issue pointed out by Sam Marks, a local activist leader in Philadelphia. When he talks about this, he goes on to explain how many of the people who are the most disenfranchised can’t attend rallies, protests, or other mass events because they financially can’t afford to do so. The people who are hurting the most in this nation are also the ones living paycheck to paycheck and are lucky if they can pay their bills every month. They are often assigned to weekend or evening shifts, the times when most activism takes on visible forms. For them, going to an event would require taking off from a work shift, and forces a choice between protesting and eating.

“I wish I could have gone yesterday, but I had to work. There is another one in Doylestown today, but again, I have to work,” I was told by the lady behind the coffee shop this morning as I wrote this and we discussed recent protests.

In addition to the economic barriers to speech, a number of other factors many people forget about can also play huge roles in silencing those who should be heard. Transgender people are targeted for assault and murder, are at risk to lose their jobs, and suffer other brutal forms of oppression and discrimination. Showing up to a rally and disclosing their transgender status in public can create real dangers for them. People of color are often met with a stronger police presence when they assemble for peaceful protest. And if you are protesting immigration policies in this time of aggressive ICE raids, fears of being swept up from the stage are very realistic.

The mistake we are unknowingly making is that our push to stand up and speak for ourselves, we have assumed that everyone else can as well, and we have forgotten those who can’t. Those are often the voices that need to be hard the most.

The controversy that arose during the 2018 Women’s March in Philadelphia arose because of this issue. There was a decision to include a heavy police presence with guarded entry points to the rally where bags would be checked. From the viewpoint of people who have had a mostly positive relationship with police, this seemed like a reasonable idea. What was forgotten was that many of the women who are being hit the hardest by the current administration, and have been hit the hardest even before the current administration, are the ones who have had traumatic relationships with the police. This caused a huge outcry from those who were afraid that this safe space for women would become another opportunity for them to be harassed. And despite a last-minute policy reversal, the damage was already done, and many of the people who provided such strong voices last year, representatives from the transgender community, women of color, the Red Umbrella Alliance, etc. did not show either because of formal boycott, or out of personal concern of the repetition of the abuses they faced in life occurring when they crossed a checkpoint.

So, what can we do?

The first thing we must do is change the narrative of speech being about out first amendment rights and make it about out personal duty to take care of others. Every right, after all, comes with it a responsibility to use it properly. Without this moral responsibility, that right can degrade to an infantile entitlement focusing on self-interest, which is the problem that we see in the groups we often protest against. To counter this, we must make certain that our speech is more than just about us. We must adopt the duty to make sure we are speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves.

But even before that, before we speak, we must make sure we are taking every step to help others to speak. A mistake commonly made by groups that do want to do the right thing and speak for the right people, but we forgot to make sure we really know the issues. We made this mistake when we started out as well. At our transgender rights rally, there was decision made to include one of our leadership in the list of speakers, focusing on his status as a doctor of psychology and overlooking his status as a cisgender male. When the problem of that decision was realized, there was a rush to make sure the speech was as informed in the subtleties of the transgender issues as could be, but the agreement was made that next time we spoke for a community, we would work to identify experts of those communities to represent the issues and speak for themselves. In addition, we must make sure to provide for the safety of the more vulnerable people as well. In one of the early protest actions in Philadelphia, there was a fear by a woman of color about the police being there, and she worried about being targeted for harassment by the police. One commenter on the thread gave her this promise, “I will be there and use my white privilege to protect you.”

Finally, we must make the promise that before we speak, we will listen. We must acknowledge that when it comes to the problems of the world, we each approach the problem from the perspective of our life experiences, and this perspective is as much limiting as it is informing. The phrase “check your privilege” is often uttered in social conversations, and many people wrongly associate this this with an attack. But the truth is, the phrase is meant to just remind you of the limits of your understanding that come from the fact your experience of life is not the same as the others, and what has been true for your experience may not be true for others. The request made is not asking you to invalidate your own thoughts and views, it is a warning that if you proceed down the path of speech you are going, you are risking invalidating the thoughts and views of the people who are in need. But if you heed that warning, or even better, spend some time just in circles with the intent of listening without responding, then when the time for you to speak comes, you will be better informed by the multiple perspectives of the issues we face.


So this is the challenge we are offering to you. When the time to speak comes, don’t just speak because you have the right to, but be intentional about your words. Don’t just speak for yourself, but remember that there are those who are being blocked from their right. Make every effort to give them a voice, whether that is directly by giving them the tools the to speak for themselves, or by learning enough about the issues of those silenced so that those issues can be represented in our speech.

If we can do this, we can be a stronger force for facing the many social issues in the world. We will have the power to speak effectively on the issues that really matter. But if we fail in this duty, if we forget those who cannot speak for themselves, we risk splitting the activism community into two ineffective halves. The first half is loud and proud, but unaware of the larger issues in play, which  can get placated by the easiest concessions so that it fades out easily. The second half will be rooted in the larger problems that attack our most vulnerable members of society, but it will have too small a voice to protect and aid those that need it the most.

We are now the Equity Coalition

equity coalition

Approximately two months ago, we began the process to change the name of our group to The Equity Coalition. We are the same group that has stood by you all at protests and rallies, labored with you on projects, and worked with you towards a more just society, but we have decided to change our name, and wish to present the rationale for that change.

The choice to change from Equality to Equity was inspired by this comic :
(Image source: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/94/b9/cf/94b9cff6e57f8bff9db127a2114ce404.jpg)

Within that image we saw the artist make a very powerful statement about both our society and the common mistake people make when pursuing justice. Though it is true that in an ideal and  just society all people would have equal access to rights,  resources, and opportunities, the nature of the unjust world as it is means that prematurely pushing the ethic of equality can do more to perpetuate injustice than fight it.

The most direct cause of this comes from the fact that different groups can be more at risk than others and therefore their needs can be greater. The overall suicide rate in the US, for instance, is 13.26 per 100,000 people, but the suicide rated for transgender individuals is 32%-50%. Where all suicide deserves attention, and there needs to be prevention efforts aimed at all groups, the increased rates among trans individuals necessitates extra attention, and a strict ethic of equality in application of time and resources would cost lives. When inequality exists, equity is the more effective solution.

 In addition, there are times when adherence to equality can serve to promote inequality. When people claim that they don’t see race, for instance, the intent is to extol some high ideal of equality, but the effect is that they end up ignoring and invalidating the inequalities and injustice that actually exist in the current world. People who refuse to check their privilege in discussions of inequalities do so because they want their voices to be on an equal ground with those affected by the inequality, but the result is they often end up hijacking the discussion, putting their needs above the group they are claiming to want to help. More disturbing is when the concept of equality has been directly co-opted with the intent of perpetuating an injustice that serves them, such as when the cry of “All lives matter” is used to silence the very real and very important message of “Black Lives Matter.”

It is for these reasons we felt that “The Equity Coalition” better reflects who we are. We understand that those of greatest risk need to have the most attention. We understand that privilege is real, represented in varying levels among our varying members, and that we will need to check it to make sure everyone’s voices are heard. We understand that justice cannot be achieved by forcing equal responses onto a world where people are not allowed to start from a place of equality, but rather can only truly be achieved when people are given according to their need while accepting that those needs will differ.

Our Explanation of the Drama Forced Upon Us

As many of you may know, The Equity Coalition (EqC), formerly the Equality Coalition,  has been forced to face a major crisis over the past several months. We have been hesitant to comment on it publicly because we really wanted to put focus on the work we are doing in the community. We have been working hard to create events that are aimed at serving the needs of our fellow Philadelphians, and every minute we spend answering baseless accusations is valuable time taken away from these initiatives. However, these attacks are getting more disruptive and recently the individual at the center of this is now deciding to co-opt the our events to make his attacks. Specifically, in May, he decided he would use a very important event created to support transgender youth as an opening to make his attacks. Finally, and most egregiously, we are being forced to come forth because of the pain he has been causing our membership by his harassment that needs to stop. Because of that, we have been forced to take focus away from our work to tell our side of the story. We do know the majority of you do know us for our work and character by your first hand interactions with us, and because of that, you may feel this explanation is unnecessary. There are many of you who, because of this, don’t need to read this any further. To those of you who feel that way, we thank you for your love and support.

 

Additionally, I would like to apologize for any confusion brought by the lack of people being named directly in this statement. There are several reasons for this, but among them is that this is a defense of our organization, not a counter attack on the person who is causing this drama. If in 5 years time he realizes his errors and no longer seeks to harm others, I am giving him this chance not to have his current harassing behaviors follow him forever in the immortality of the internet. So he will be referred to by “the individual” or by his title of co-organizer

 

On March 26th, the individual/Co-organizer held a meeting of the EqC the steering committee (SC), and announced a new rule that any member of the Steering Committee who missed 2 consecutive meetings, they would be removed from their position. It was then confirmed that that rule was effective immediately, as this meeting would count, and then it was pointed out that one of the SC members was not present. This member was immediately called and was surprised to learn of the meeting and the new rule. As the meeting was ending, the individual voiced a grievance against that member of our steering committee (SC) who had been absent and needed to be called into attendance, asserting that the member caused them harm and placed other members of EqC at risk. In response, the accused SC member offered to resign their SC role and leave EqC citing a desire to preserve stability. This offer was rejected by the rest of the SC, and instead the SC requested mediation between the two as was the  process for disagreement in the EqC. Both members agreed to mediation in that meeting and it was agreed that the EqC Mediator/Advisor was to be contacted to operate in their officially defined role. It was also at this meeting that the group was handed the 2nd edition EqC Guidebook, but it was neither reviewed in total nor voted into acceptance as new rules as there were some disagreements over the changes made.

On Monday March 27th, in a private Facebook Message, the Mediator/Advisor was contacted and the co-founder stated in the message “No need [SC member]. I am resigning from my position today.” The Mediator/Advisor then reached out to the Co-organizer personally to try to prevent the resignation and start the mediation process, but the offer was declined. The Mediator/Advisor answered with a standing offer to help work this out if they changed their mind.

At 11:13am on Tuesday, March 28th, the co-organizer sent an email containing an online poll to the SC stating it was to be completed by 12pm the following day. The Survey cited irreconcilable differences between SC members in regards to the March 26th meeting. The poll asked the SC to choose one of three options: 1) the co-organizer would stay with the ability to remove any EqC member at any time without question, 2) the co-organizer would resign 3) the co-organizer would opt-out and in doing so we would have to dissolve.  Uncomfortable with the offered poll options as they forced a choice between granting too much unilateral power, and therefore was against the EqC guiding principles,  having a founder and then friend leave, which was not wanted either, and having to dissolve the group, the SC came together and chose to abstain from the vote. The Mediator/Advisor offered again to try convince the co-organizer to join for a mediation and reconciliation. This mediation invitation was also declined and a formal resignation letter was sent out on March 28, 2017 at 1:35pm, 22.5 hours before the stated deadline on the poll. The SC was confused by all of this and began a series of online and in person meetings to figure out how to respond to the resignation. Our first decision was that we would not accept the resignation, but rather continue to have people reach out to the co-founder and hope that he would be willing to return. The individual rejected these attempts. When he became openly hostile, we were forced to accept his resignation.

Soon after, the EqC was targeted by a series of unprovoked hostile actions. We suddenly saw unauthorized changes in our facebook page, which included the removal of followers, removal of events from our timeline, and changes in our descriptions. These ended when we removed another member’s administrative rights. We do not think this other member was personally making these changes himself as this other member is known to be of exceptional character and is beyond such morally corrupt behaviors. After this change was made, The Co-organizer then began to exploit a facebook loophole to attack and libel the group and specific members. He found areas of the page which were open to public comment, and then blocked all the page admin so that he could comment and change comments without us being able to see what he said or respond to his accusations. In addition to this, we began to get reports of unidentified showing up at a protest wearing EqC clothing and committed actions that agitated other activist groups. The Individual has since created a copycat group and has been using that to attack us on facebook in ways that range from harassing to outright libelous.

 

As we were meeting to decide our next steps, we started to discuss individual interactions with the individual, and began to notice very disturbing games being played. Members reported that the individual had been secretly twisting information to turn members against each other which included the individual accusing members of plotting against him in ways that not even legally possible. The accused member reported that they had been forced to make a number of uncomfortable choices that were later explained to them  as “loyalty tests.” The disturbing web we unraveled prompted us to declare that we would not longer have secrets, would deal with each other openly and honestly, and we have processed all of this using the metaphor of the abusive ex.

 

Again, we initially resisted directly responding to these accusations up until now. This decision was made at the expense of the group members he continues to make personal attacks against. We wanted to continue to put all our focus on our work, but he is now making that impossible as he has been increasing his attacks and hijacking the work we are trying to do. Our members do not deserve his abuse, his power games should not come at the expense of those populations we are trying to serve, and anyone who works with him should know the games he plays because they will eventually be at risk of being his targets as well. So here is the definitive response:

1) The Co-organizer resigned, and in his resignation he handed over control of the group.

The Co-organizer resigned using this resignation letter:

 

I, [name withheld], National Co-Organizer, State Co-Organizer (PA), and Local Co-Organizer (PHL) of the organization I founded, called, “Equality Coalition for Bernie Sanders,” “Equality Coalition,” and “The Equality Coalition,” with [name withheld], am officially resigning today, Tuesday, March 28th, 2017.  I have decided to not provide my reasons.  I have enjoyed the positive things that we’ve done together, am incredibly proud of our accomplishments, and wish you all of the greatest success within the future of the organization’s due process, if there will be one, and with all of your personal endeavors.  Please contact [name withheld] or [name withheld] with any further questions as they are now the National Co-Organizers.  If you have any questions, please message our Facebook Page.  Keep up the good fight!”

 

        Please note the exact words he used in the message. This wasn’t a simple “I resign” statement, his words create a very specific context to understand his meaning when tendered his resignation. The reason I need to point out this very specific context is that the co-founder has been claiming he was kicked out, despite the fact he sent us the above letter of resignation. He bases this claim on the fact that the newly released guide book (which had only been released the night the disagreement began, and therefor had not been reviewed or agreed upon by the group, more on that to follow) has a 2 sentence statement on page 46 redefining the term “resignation” as akin to sabbatical, and designating the term “opt-out” to mean what resignation was supposed to mean. The problem he has trying to enforce this new redefinition was that the contextual statements of his resignation letter did not present this new redefinition, aka did not present it as temporary and did not make statements about maintaining any level of control or ownership, but rather use the traditional definition in the letter. If he had any other intention, he had ample opportunity to clarify at any time we asked him not to resign.

So when he tells anyone else that he didn’t really resign because of a technicality in the rule book, realize that he is telling them something different that what he told the EqC in his official resignation letter. He is telling people the part where he hid a redefinition in an unread rule book, but he is not telling them that he himself did not use that definition when he resigned. He wrote a 120+ page rulebook and in which he redefined the term “resignation,” then forced a crisis where he used the threat of resignation to force us to choose to hand more power over to him than he was supposed to have by his own design of the group, when we refused to participate in that forced choice and insisted on using EqC official conflict resolution procedure, he resigned using words that denoted the traditional definition and did not clarify when he had opportunity, and then used that technicality to attack and defame the group to others, expecting them to not question what he actually wrote in his resignation letter.

        So when we say that he resigned, it is because he sent us a letter explicitly stating that he was leaving the group and handing leadership over.

       

2) The individual is claiming an absurd level of control over things that are not really his.

        As we have been pointing out that the individual has resigned and he named the people he transferred control to.Since that resignation, he has been claiming we can no longer use the name “The Equality Coalition” because he thought it up. When you create a group and then leave a group, you do not maintain ownership of that group. Things just do not work that way. In addition, when all this started, we looked into the name “The Equality Coalition” and we discovered that this was a commonly used name by a number of national and international organizations representing multiple interests including Women’s issues, LGBT issues, and even general community development. Some of these groups are over a decade old. Whether willfully or through ignorance, he is making claims on an organizational name that has been used by many organizations before him. He was not the first to put the words “equality”  and “coalition” together for an organizational name, so therefor it is not his original work and he has no claim to it. He is claiming as his an idea that he was not the first to use

Also, he resigned granting all control over this organization, including its name, to new leadership.

        Furthermore, he claims we cannot use the structure we are using because he designed it and is therefore his intellectual property.  This is wrong for many reasons. The first is that copyright does not protect ideas, only the words used to express them. Anyone can use part or all of the structure so long as the words that are used to describe them are not reproduced. Since his book is specifically stated to be his property, we cannot reproduce it without permission; and trust me, we have no interest in reproducing that mess of a guidebook. However, that is only as far as his protections go. By copyright law, we can select and use the ideas we deem fit, as can any individual or organization, because ideas are not copyrighted.  But that point is largely irrelevant, because when it comes to the ideas that are important, they weren’t his. Shared 2 person leadership? The Romans had that. S.M.A.R.T. goals? Created By George T. Doran. Taking stack for communication? This has been used by activists for several years now. 198 methods of nonviolent action? Taken verbatim from the internet. The best ideas of the book were not even his. Again, he is claiming as his ideas he was not the originator of.

        Finally, the individual is trying to revoke intellectual property rights he has previously given to the group. Unlike the mess of a book that does state the book is his property, he has no such ownership on the flag. The flag was produced with the explicit intent of it being for the Equality Coalition and as such was granted as the intellectual property of the Equality Coalition. Even in his mess of a book, the individual refers to the flag as “The Equality Coalition’s Flag” (possessive term referring ownership to the equality coalition). Again, he spent a lot of time specifying the book was his, but when it came time to mentioning the flag, it was “The Equality Coalition’s”. And since the flag was created and used prior to the guidebook, it was not a product of the guidebook. Whatever contributions he made to the design, it was made to be the property of the Equality Coalition. And then he resigned, giving up any rights to the property of the Equality Coalition as he named his successors in leadership.

3) The individual’s new rules are not binding to the organization and actually violate his previously established rules

        Despite having resigned and handed over control to new leadership, the individual is claiming that he has the right to lead the organization by changing the rules whenever he feels without ratification from the group. He bases this claim on the fact that he wrote this into the rule book he handed over the night he created the crisis. The problem is that all rules within an organization must be accepted and consented to by a group in order to be ratified. Even rules that you are powerless in the creation of must be presented and reviewed, and then consented on even if the consent is given as “by continuing you agree.” This is why we have TOS agreements where you have to click “I agree” and why you get written policy change announcements at work that they ask you to sign. The new guidebook was presented, but there was no opportunity for full review of that 120+ page mess, much less acknowledgement and consent. His rule book was never ratified by the group, and therefor we were never bound by it.

This type of thing is important, because without such a system of acknowledgement and consent, a leader could wait for a group meeting in which he could ensure a co-leader he was hostile towards would not be in attendance. He could then, at the meeting, announce a new rule that if a co-leader missed two meetings in a row, they would be removed, and make the rule immediately active so that the absent co-leader was instantly at risk of being kicked out of their position. And this is not a hypothetical abuse of power, remember, but the actual incident at the March 26th meeting.

        Since we were never given the chance to fully review and consent to the 120+ page rule book prior to the full resignation of the founder, it was never ratified and we were never bound to it.

In addition, the guidebook and its introduction violated already accepted rules and procedures further invalidating its acceptance. Up until this point, there were a number of rules and guidelines that had been orally presented to group membership, and those were the rules and procedures we consented to. The guidebook was supposed to be reviewed by the National Co-organizer by agreement between the the Co-organizers, and never was, so it was never ratified on a national level  either or cleared for adoption, as its introduction violated that agreement. In addition, up to that time, every member of the EqC had been specifically told that as a principle and rule, there was never to be one person in the EqC who could hold unilateral power over the group. This is why there are always two individuals of equal power at every level of leadership. The guidebook granted one person, the founder, unilateral power over the group by making him the sole rule maker and that all rules are immediately accepted without the right of the group to negotiate in any way. This violated the verbal rules he had told us when we joined, and those are the rules we consented to when we agreed to join. Because of this, we maintain adherence to the verbally communicated rules and not the unratified mess of a rulebook.

 

The individual will tell people we are lying, but we have documented and backed up all of our communications with him so that we can provide direct evidence of the statements we have made, and we will provide the evidence as required.

 

For anyone currently working with him, please accept our account as a warning as to what you may be subjected to. Don’t just assume that what he tells you verbally are the rules he is expecting you to follow. Demand to read the current rules in total, and demand immediate notification when he initiates a rule change. Otherwise you may find yourself ambushed by a rule change. Also, beware of “loyalty tests”, divide and conquer strategies, and wild accusations. These are tactics used to isolate membership so that he can maintain power while under the guise of shared leadership. Finally, know that if he turns on you, it’s not necessarily because of anything you did as this pattern is being reported by other people.

As I have said before we have begun to use the metaphor of the abusive partner as we have processed these events amongst ourselves. He tried to isolate us, exercise absolute power over us, and threatened to leave us to make us comply with his absolute control. When we did not give into his power demands, he stalked and harassed us online, while trying to defame us, as, since he could no longer control us, he had to control the way people saw us.

QTPoC TAKE PRIDE BACK! Visibility in Action event to be held at City Hall in response to Philly Pride Presents Parade and Festival

19105532_1436891503057615_8112421496940622713_nFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2017

Media Contact: theequalitycoalition@protonmail.com
Other: http://www.Facebook.com/TheEqualityCoalition
Twitter: @EqC_Philly
Event Link: http://www.facebook.com/events/754722798018672
Host: The Equality Coalition (EqC), soon to be known as The Equity Coalition (EqC)
Hashtag: #TakePrideBack
*Please note, this host and event is in no way related to the Facebook page “The Equality Coalition Campaign”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: QTPoC TAKE PRIDE BACK! Visibility in Action event to be held at City Hall in response to Philly Pride Presents Parade and Festival.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – QTPoC, Trans & GNC folks, Queers, LGBTQIA+, and our Accomplices & Allies are holding an event to take back Pride and claim our space! We call for queer and trans visibility to counter the exclusionary narrative of corporatized Pride, to visibly show community members who have been excluded that there is a place at Pride for them, and that the fight for equity has not fallen into complacency.

The event will begin Sunday, June 18th at 10:30am at City Hall’s North Apron and will continue throughout the day.

It is imperative to publicly demonstrate the strength, endurance, and power in solidarity of the queer and trans communities and our accomplices in the resistance against the increased discrimination and violence towards our community perpetuated by the current political and social environment.

The corporate exploitation of our community along with the whitewashing in the media has brought us to diverge from the Philly Pride Presents Parade & Festival. The lack of inclusivity in the community has driven us from the spaces advertised to be our own.

Despite ongoing calls for accountability from the community members they purport to serve, Philly Pride Presents and their events have continually failed to acknowledge the immediate needs of a community facing discrimination and violence on a daily basis. The city has begun to take steps towards addressing these issues in direct response to the work of the Black and Brown Workers Collective (BBWC) and the community voices they helped to amplify. Philly Pride Presents has instead chosen to stay silent and unresponsive as community members face daily violence and discrimination, as community members seek space in the gayborhood only to be met with widespread anti-blackness, and as community members are murdered.

These events, these spaces, were created through the work driven and led by trans women of color and Philly Pride Presents refuses to honor this in the space they’ve created. This event is one contribution to a much greater community effort to provide a space for all that honors the historic work that allowed for Pride to come into existence.

As a group of trans & queer individuals and accomplices in the fight for justice and equity, we wish to participate in Pride, as is our place. Pride is not exclusive to Philly Pride Presents nor their official activities, but is a time and space for the entire community. We are hosting an event for those in the community who have been marginalized, excluded, and harmed by Philly Pride Presents and the community agenda promoted at such events.

-This is for historically marginalized communities that are still being oppressed.
-This is for the people who can’t afford to pay 15 dollars for an event because we are struggling to survive in an unjust system.
-This is for those who have suffered through anti-blackness in the gayborhood.
-This is for those who have been wronged and had to deal with transphobia in the community.
-This is for all those who have been silenced by the socially-engineered hierarchy within the LGBT community and the lack of justice.

We hope that the public visibility and representation at this event will help to reshape the media narrative of Pride and be a message to all of our community members who have been isolated, excluded, and discriminated against, that a community and a space is here.

Further information can be found on The Equality Coalition (soon to be known as The Equity Coalition) Facebook page at: http://www.Facebook.com/TheEqualityCoalition Follow us on Twitter (@Eqc_Philly) for updated event information throughout the day.

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Photo:

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera of S.T.A.R. at the Christopher Street Liberation Day, Gay Pride Parade, NYC, June 23, 1973
(Leonard Fink; Reprinted from National History Archives of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center)

Protest at Gay Rights Demonstration, Weinstein Hall, NYU Campus, 1970
(Diana Davies (Papers); New York Public Library Schwartzman Research Branch)

The Philly Trans Youth Q&A Series: Henry Sias

For Immediate Release

High Hopes with Henry Sias
Judicial Candidate hosts talk with Philly Trans Youth

The Equality Coalition of Philadelphia
May 3, 2017

Philadelphia, PA – Henry Sias, Judicial Candidate for the Court of Common Pleas, will join trans youth in a Q&A session at the William Way Center On Sunday May 7th at 2pm. Organized and led by trans youth, this free informational session will provide a platform for trans youth to ask questions relevant to their experiences, questions about how being transgender has impacted Henry’s career, and questions about the political and historical importance of Henry’s campaign.

“For the transgender youth community, I’ve found that it can be very powerful to interact with a successful trans adult, because we lack accessible role models.” reported Quentin Cruz, one of the event’s organizers. “This event provides an opportunity for trans youth to gain a role model, and learn more about Henry’s life experiences. I would love to see more events like this happen in Philly.”

The Sias campaign seeks to serve an important role in correcting the legal and social discrimination that many in the trans community face today. If elected, Henry will be the first transgender judge in Philadelphia and the third transgender judge in the nation. Through his presence as judge, he hopes to improve the culture in the courts as well as give hope to the transgender community.

“The event is important because any time trans people get together, the power of our existence is magnified,” Henry Sias notes. “We can replenish each other’s strength. We can stand stronger together. We can listen to each other and learn what is working in others’ lives, so that we can apply the lessons in our own lives in order to move forward faster. LGBTQ+ people have been systematically denied access to our elders because of bogus fears about “recruitment” and we are often kept from each other because of fears that we will be outed or face violence if we are in an identifiable group. What is actually violent, what is actually killing us, is the inability to stand together. It will help young people because young people need to see that they are not alone, and need to see that the future belongs to them. When I was younger, I had never heard of or seen a single successful, happy trans man (in fact, I had never seen an out trans man at all). I could not imagine a safe, successful future for myself. I couldn’t imagine that I, as a trans man, would ever be able to get married and have a good career, or contribute to my community and have my contributions recognized and valued. It’s vital that younger people see that there are beautiful futures available to them.”

Tickets for the event are available at www.TheEqualityCoalition.com. Even though this event is open to all, priority will be given to trans youth attendance. The event organizers aim to make this a safe, respectful, and accessible space.  The space for the event has been donated by the William Way Center.

About Henry Sias

Henry Sias is a candidate for the Court of Common Pleas. He holds a Law degree from Yale University, and has spent time clerking for Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justices, Justice James J. Fitzgerald III, and Justice Jane Cutler Greenspan. He is also the co-founder of the non-profit, Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity.

About The Equality Coalition

The Equality Coalition is a Philadelphia-based all-volunteer organization of queer, trans, straight, and cis folks working to create positive change in the community through events, direct action, and individual and organizational collaboration.

To learn more about this event, please contact

Sam Marks
TheEqualityCoalition@protonmail.com
www.TheEqualityCoalition.com

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*updated 5/4/17*

A statement from The Equality Coalition Philadelphia Chapter Lead Members:

In March there was a shift in the leadership of The Equality Coalition Philadelphia due to one of our lead organizers resigning. Although this has been a very big change for us we wanted to reach out to you and let you know we are still committed to the original goal of EqC, which is to work with the people and other organizations of our community to make positive, lasting change. This is why each of us joined The Equality Coalition in the first place.

Stay tuned for events we are planning in the next couple of weeks. Our group meeting is coming up soon, so if you are interested in attending please let us know and we will invite you!

We are The Equality Coalition. We are the same people who have marched the streets with you since the DNC, since November 9th, since Occupy Inauguration in DC and the March on the Inauguration in Philadelphia. We are the same people who have been spreading our positive mental attitude with the PMA Bike Ride. We are the same people who have been there for you when you need us.

We want to continue to do these things with you. We will continue to welcome anyone who wants to work on this mission with open arms.

In Continuing Solidarity,

The Equality Coalition
Philadelphia