Tuesday, May 26, 2009


INCITE! has saved my sense of self and my confidence in social justice more times than any other organization. In 2007 I read Color of Violence: the INCITE anthology on my meal breaks at the restaurant I was managing at the time and after-hours in my never-heated apartment in St. Paul. These essays exposed a system I had suspected and been taught to recognize in my classes. However unlike the texts and discussions of the classroom, these essays exposed the system through intense personal stories that told not only the truth of these systems but the lived affect of these truths.

Moreover, these stories gave me strategies and examples, testimonials and history lessons that taught me all about the methods of anti-violence that addressed all of our multiple needs. I learned about Sista II Sista/Hermana a Hermana, Transjustice of the Audre Lorde Project, CARA, and other amazing people and movements that have managed to address issues of race, class, immigration, identity, sexuality, and state violence without going under or being forced out of organizing. Color of Violence was my introduction to INCITE!, and after that I was sent a gorgeous poster that read "Stop Police Violence Against Women of Color & Trans People of Color" featuring wonderful art by Christy C. Road - this of course has traveled with me from job to job. (To the left: Copy of poster "Stop Police Violence Against Women of Color & Trans People of Color". It is bright orange with lots of text, a group of younger people stand in assertive poses facing the viewer. One individual has her hand out in the universal "stop" pose.)

Finally though, I read the book The Revolution Will Not be Funded: beyond the non-profit industrial complex which I put off reading for nine months as I could not bear to learn the truth of the organizations I was/am working for nor the truth of the career path I have placed myself on. I, like so many Liberal Arts students, am geared and trained professionally towards non-profit work...and it is precisely that work that is tearing apart our communities and keeping us oppressed.

And I knew this. I felt this in my gut and in the ever-rising anger and irritation at the constants placed around me and my community "for our benefit" - but I didn't want to face it. Because facing the truth about the irrationality, capitalism, and bureaucracy of the non-profit industrial complex (NPIC) would mean I'd be obligated to address it and change my interactions with the NPIC. This is akin to a recent incident I had with a co-worker who ranked above me hierarchically. After I told him that his inaction towards trans-inclusion was unacceptable he began to yell at me about an unrelated event. Not ready to face his own gender normativity and transphobia he attacked me for bringing it to his attention - forcing him to become aware before he was ready.

At any rate, I was finally ready to learn more and become accountable in March. And I'm glad that I did because the book is astounding. Each essay tells another story about how to survive in a world that is supposed to nurture and empower your community, but ultimately fails at some fundamental level to truly empower the actual community. For instance, a community-based non-profit might be doing amazing work revitalizing he community but if all the money comes from a foundation of people who have never been anywhere near your community then how dependent have we become relying on the very system we're fighting against to fund our fight against them? Or, alternatively, an organization is set up to create comprehensive systems of care for Indigenous populations living with HIV/AIDS, but despite the desire from within the community to see this work done the entire organization is staffed by people with degrees in non-profit work non of whom are either Indigenous or living with HIV/AIDS. So where is the community empowerment? how do we learn from each other in a communal sense and grow stronger together if the people making change come from the same privileged backgrounds they always do? This is something of incredible interest to me as I blogged about previously. I want to create change and it's difficult for me to find a venue for that change.

The most important thing I took away from the book was creating systems of accountability. Constantly checking in with the direct community to see how they feel about you and your work. Are you addressing their/your needs? Are you active in other community organizations and/or events? Is there transparency in every thing you do - can community members voice their opinions and make suggestions or give alternatives? For more and better suggestions you can also go to the INCITE! web page dedicated to Resources Beyond the NPIC and you can learn strategies your own non-profit can follow, or strategies you as an individual looking to make change can follow.

1 comment:

Molly said...

Hi- is this Mik from Macalester? I read Questioning Transphobia, and your post on the survey was linked there. Not too surprising, but a funny coincidence if I ran into a former WGSS classmate in the blog world post-Mac.
Also, now that I am done with Mac and have time to read what I want, I will have to take a look at your recommended books. not so sure I'm ready for the NPIC book yet, though. still in denial on that one.