To our community:
We are responding to the outcry in regards to an incredibly racist sign carried by one of the participants in our rally on October 1st.
The sign read “Woman is the N—— of the World.” It was in reference to a song penned by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The sign was carried by a young white woman and it is clear that she was carrying it openly for some time before someone asked her to take it down. The woman who asked for the sign to be removed is a former co-organizer of SWNYC, and was at the march in solidarity. She is also a black woman.
We regret that the woman who was carrying this sign felt it was appropriate for our space. We regret that it took so long for someone to tell her how wrong it was; and that this woman was a Black woman, a woman of colour, as we know that anti-racism is not the sole work of people of colour. We sincerely apologize for the emotional trauma this sign has evoked in everyone who has been affected by it. We apologize for not making it clearer to everyone who attended on October 1st that racist, or indeed any oppressive language or behaviour, is unacceptable. We apologize that this space was not safer for Black women, Black people, and their allies.
SWNYC understands that the language of this sign erases Black women’s identities by creating a monochromatic identity for women and a monolithic identity for Black folks. We understand that no oppression is a metaphor for another. Our organizers represent a multiplicity of identities and voices, as did the participants and our speakers. The marginalized folks in our movement are also the leaders of our movement; we are grassroots, and we chose our speakers because they are leaders in grassroots movements.
This sign is in direct conflict with our mission statement. We believe that no matter who you are, no matter where you work, no matter how you identify, no matter how you flirt, no matter what you wear, no matter whom you choose to love, no matter what you said before: NO ONE has the right to touch you without your consent. No survivor or ally should be excluded from the table based on any other aspect of their identity.
We recognize that SlutWalks around the world have been critiqued from anti-racist standpoints since the first Walk. We agree with many of these critiques, and have attempted to engage with them in our organizing. We recognize that under the banner of SlutWalk, we put logistics over politics in many cases, and that this was a failing. But now as we are moving forward, we realize that we cannot cultivate an identity as a coalition without upholding all of the intersecting identities of our organizers and participants.
It is unfortunate that this young white woman’s voice has been amplified through media and all over the internet, and the voices of our intelligent, passionate speakers and MC’s, many of whom occupy marginalized identities, or are allies, continue to be ignored. In an effort to break this silence, listed at the end of this letter are the names of all our speakers, with links provided where available.
We find it saddening that three of our speakers who are trans women of colour, two of whom are Black women, are being erased from public dialogue around SWNYC. This speaks to a deeply rooted cissexism, which we are committed to interrogating. We thank all of our speakers for their passion, for challenging and empowering us.
We also stand by our MC’s, who were elected for their sincerity, intelligence, and personality. We find the personal attacks on any of our MC’s both highly unproductive and deeply hurtful. If we are all fighting for social justice and a world without rape, we must foster a movement that is both critical and respectful. We are committed to productive dialogue.
We realize that privilege within our movement must continue to be decentered. We are currently searching for strategies to resist replicating oppressive patterns within our organizing. We are willing to do this work for the rest of our lives, because we recognize that anti-oppression is life-long work. We recognize that we cannot do this on our own. We need to look to radical communities whose knowledge and experiences are as diverse as we wish to be.
Our weekly organizing meetings are open and democratic, and are currently held on Thursdays from 7-9pm at the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St at Houston, at the BDFM Broadway-Lafayette stop. Among other things, we are looking for a new name for our coalition, a discussion of our organizational structure, defining our political character and opportunities for mobilization. Furthermore, we are having an open dialogue session on October 13th, from 6-9pm at Walker Stage (53 Walker Street, between Broadway and Church, at the Canal N and R stop). We invite anyone to attend, bringing your critiques and your ideas for how we can move forward as a more representative and supportive community and movement.
The Organizers of SWNYC
Folks who spoke at our rally:
Stephanie Lane Sutton, Eboni Hogan, and Emily Kahan Trenchard (poets)
Kenyon Farrow (Queers for Economic Justice)
Amber Stewart (Radical Women)
Audacia Ray (Red Umbrella)
Sarah Patterson (Sex Worker’s Outreach Project)
Lourdes Hunter (Community Activist)
Mariah Lopez (STARR)
Chloe Angyal (Feministing)
Nancy Schwartzmann (The Line Campaign)
Ceyenne Doroshow (Trans Community Activist)
Jen Roesch (ISO)
Suzy Exposito, Kimberlynn Acevedo, Jaime Barak, Anoushka Ratnarajah (SWNYC MC’s)