June 24, 2016

A Letter from Our Executive Director, Summer 2016

By:

Category: Newsletter

Merril_Celebration

 

Dear Coalition Supporters,

It’s impossible to start any letter right now without first acknowledging that we’re all still reeling from the mass murder in Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub. This horror directly affected our communities. We will feel its reverberations for years to come. I can’t add much to the expressions of grief, despair, fury, wisdom, and hope provided by others more articulate than I. But it is important to acknowledge. It’s heartbreaking and we feel it deeply.

Just last week we were reminded of the ugly reality that hate-motivated violence occurs in our own community too. Michael Volz, a community organizer and former Coalition intern who worked on the development of the Trans* Resource Guide, was the target of a hate crime. Leaving a Pulse Orlando benefit on Capitol Hill, Michael was attacked walking back to their car. In the aftermath, we are in awe of Michael’s strength—of their willingness to move into the spotlight and put a face and voice to crimes that so often are invisibilized. We’re grateful to member organizations, Gender Justice League and the NW Network, for their quick response and mobilization for Michael and the broader trans community. And we are inspired—by the thousands of people who have shown up, given generously, and offered encouragement to Michael and others in the aftermath.

It’s important to note that these are not isolated acts committed by a few individuals. These are a logical, predictable consequence of the intersection of so many issues the Coalition and our partners are committed to ending. They are about hate. They are about homophobia and transphobia. They are about sexism, heterosexism and gender-binarism. They are about racism.They are about the glorification of violence. The list goes on.

What must follow is productive dialog about all of these issues, with concrete policy changes to minimize the chance of similar instances occurring again. I need to hope and believe that we are at a tipping point—one that will spur change for the better.

Just days after Orlando, I had an experience that gave me hope—one that made me think that this is not an impossible dream. Thanks to the generosity of one of our members, the NW Network, I traveled to the other Washington for the United State of Women summit sponsored by the White House.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m still processing it all, but bottom line: it was engaging, exhausting, thought provoking, and exhilarating! In an airplane hangar-sized room filled with 5,000 others, I listened and watched as a star-studded parade of people spoke about gender equity, our collective progress, and the work we need to do now.

Panelists spoke eloquently and urgently about the intersections of violence against women, health and wellness, economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, education, civic engagement, and leadership. They elevated nuanced forms oppression—those that are interwoven within our daily existence and at the root of every intractable social problem we face. One theme emerged from speakers—from VP Joe Biden, to trafficking survivor Evelyn Chumbo, to TransLatin@ Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo, to 11-year old #1000BlackGirlBooks founder Marley Dias, to Michelle Obama (!!!) AND her husband—a clarion call for urgent, integrated, ongoing action for racial, gender, economic, social and political equity.

 

“We can never be complacent and think we have arrived….the work continues.” - Michelle Obama at United State of Women

“We can never be complacent and think we have arrived….the work continues.” – Michelle Obama at United State of Women

 

“This is what a feminist looks like.” - POTUS at the United State of Women

“This is what a feminist looks like.” – POTUS at the United State of Women

Meanwhile back at the Coalition, we’re also shifting our work towards a more holistic, intersectional approach under the explicit framework of “gender-based violence.” Perhaps you’ve noticed this reframing at some of our recent events.  You can read more about them and other Coalition news in this newsletter below.

Be on the lookout for a notice about our upcoming Shop Talk on August 25th, 2016 and stay tuned for some calls to action as we gear up for action around local budgets and policy issues.

Thank you for all you do, and happy summer!

Merril