Category: Campaigns

Sex Workers Unite for AIDS2018

The next International AIDS Conference (AIDS2018) will be held in Amsterdam, July 23 to 27, 2018. The Best Practices Policy Project regularly communicates with our networks to ensure that communities in the US have the most up-to-date information about activities at AIDS2018. If you are from the community of sex workers in the US and need support, please contact us at hivaidsbppp@gmail.com to get information and assistance in regards to applying to attend. Sex worker rights advocates interested in health and rights, and creating a presence at the AIDS2018 are encouraged to:

  • apply for a scholarship from the International AIDS Society by February 1, 2018. According to the AIDS2018 website scholarships are for “people from resource-limited settings and communities, researchers, young people, community activists and civil society representatives” which in BPPP’s experience does include sex worker rights advocates. Please note that a “letter of recommendation” is needed to apply. The AIDS2018 website also states that “priority will be given to those whose participation will help enhance their work in their own communities, to those who are able to assist in the transfer of skills and knowledge acquired at the conference, and to those whose abstract, workshop or programme activity submission has been selected.” So, applying to be part of the conference by presenting, organizing a workshop or taking part in the “global village” will enhance chances in getting a scholarship. More details on how to apply for are available AIDS2018 and via the IAC’s webinars online. If you are a representative of the movement for the rights of sex workers in the United States and/or a community organizer for the rights of people in the sex trade and need some help applying or a letter of recommendation, then email hivaidsbppp@gmail.com by January 20, 2018 to see how we might be able to assist.
  • Submit an abstract to present about your work or research by February 5, 2018. The AIDS2018 abstract mentoring program is open to provide support if you register by January 15, 2014. If the AIDS2018 mentoring program is not what you need, please email hivaidsbppp@gmail.com by January 25, 2018 to see how we might be able to assist.
  • Apply to present about your work, organize a workshop or to showcase your cultural works at the Global Village and Youth Program by February 5. If you are a representative of the movement for the rights of sex workers in the United States and/or a community organizer for the rights of sex workers and people in the sex trade and need some help applying then email BPPP hivaidsbppp@gmail.com by January 25, 2018 to see how we might be able to assist.

The International AIDS Conference is a very large event and can be daunting. Sex workers have organized protests and actions about specific issues at the conference over the years and have demanded change from the conference itself. If issues emerge that you want to talk about or if something concerns you as a community organizer for the rights of sex workers and people in the sex trade then email hivaidsbppp@gmail.comat any time in the run up to the conference and we will do our best to connect you and to hear what you have to say.

Why attend? Globally and within the US sex workers organize to address the impact of HIV/AIDS. Even though criminalization and stigma compound the impact of HIV on the sex sector, community based organizing, peer lead programs, harm reduction and grassroots research lead by sex workers are extremely effective. Sharing the achievements of sex worker communities and providing accurate information about what sex workers need in terms of services and policy are two very good reasons why representatives of sex worker rights organizations attend the International AIDS Conference. Sex workers also converge on the conference because it is one of the very few opportunities for folks to spend time with their colleagues from all over the world, to forge new connections, to learn and to inspire. We have supported sex workers attendance at International AIDS conference for more than a decade and are here to help.

#freeGigi sentencing tomorrow

Tomorrow May 9, 2017 Gigi Thomas will be sentenced as a result of being found guilty after a trial earlier this year in which she was repeatedly misgendered. On March 2 the jury returned with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder. In Maryland sentencing is carried out by the presiding Judge who in this case can sentence Gigi to a minimum of “time served” up to as long as 30 years in prison. Gigi has asked us to be present in the court in support of her on May 9 but for friends and supporters of Gigi who cannot make it please be sure to keep her in your mind and to share about her achievements as widely as possible. Below are some ideas for social media and you can find more about Gigi’s work and achievements at these links.

Some ideas for tweets, please tweet at 9 am EST May 9, 2017 if you have a moment. Let’s flood twitter with #FreeGigi

In solidarity with #GigiThomas as she faces sentencing May 9 #SurvivedandPunished. Pls Judge #FreeGiGi, not give prison time #Gigisaveslives

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9, she has saved so many lives #freeGigi read about her achievements & donate if u can https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/support-gigi-thomas/x/1778989

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9. She survived and has been punished for it. Tell the judge 2 #FreeGigi

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9 #SurvivedandPunished. Power to all Black women fighting for their lives! #FreeGiGi #BlackTransPower

As we mourn the latest dead, let’s also support those who have survived like #freegigi #stopkillingblacktranswomen

Gigi Thomas: Last Call for Letters of Support in Sentencing

The window of opportunity to send a letter of support for Gigi Thomas, a social worker and leading advocate for the transgender community, is closing. Letters must be received by her attorney by April 15 if they are to be used at her sentencing hearing next month. We have checked with the attorney’s office and letters can be faxed to 301/474-9639. And/or sent to this email: dsimpson@davidsimpsonpa.com

There is a template that you might find helpful here in terms of how to write the letter. This template link focuses in on DC connections but do not fear that this means you cannot write a letter. If you know, have been assisted by or have been inspired by Gigi Thomas from across the nation and the world, use your own experience and write the letter. Every letter counts to help Gigi.

Don’t have a fax? Don’t fear. BPPP has a fax. Email us at bestpracticespolicyproject@gmail.com with your letter midnight tonight April 14, 2017 and we will fax it for you by the deadline, no problem. We also have an email that seems to work for letters to her attorney: dsimpson@davidsimpsonpa.com

Who is Gigi and why are letters of support important? Gigi Thomas, MSW, is a leading human rights advocate and a transgender woman of color who has worked for more than 15 years in the support of people in need in the DC area. She has never hesitated to provide outreach, client advocacy and harm reduction services to transgender women, people in the sex trade, low income people of color and LGBTQ people in the DC area. Since October 2015, GiGi has been held without bail in a men’s prison awaiting trial. At her trial in February 2017,  the prosecuting attorney misgendered her and erased the context of her experiences as a trans woman of color, social worker, and community leader. In Maryland sentencing is carried out by the presiding Judge. Sentencing in this case will occur on May 9. Anyone who has had experience working with Gigi (or being the recipient of Gigi’s amazing support) can write a letter for the judge to read before she sentences Gigi. Her attorney is collecting support letters and will get letter sent by April 15 to the Judge. More about Gigi Thomas, her trial and why we need to write letters of support is also available here at her fundraising page and here from the Collective Action for Safe Spaces.

Read more about Gigi’s years of work at these links:

Community Growth

Death Strikes in Transgender Community

 

Gigi Thomas: “I am a survivor of violence”

Every year we mourn the loss of members of the trans community on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Yet what happens to transgender women of color when they face violence and survive it?

In October 2015 Gigi Thomas survived a violent attack on her life. After waiting 16 months in a Maryland jail, Gigi will face murder charges at trial on February 27, 2017. Gigi has written to BPPP saying, “I am a survivor of violence, now I’m fighting to get my life back.”

Advocates in the D.C. area, where Gigi is a well-known representative of the LGBTQ community and social worker, have maintained that the charges she is facing are an injustice. One person quoted in The Washington Blade last year said that the case must be understood against the “backdrop of black transgender women being killed in large numbers across the country because of their gender identity. Gigi knew about that as an activist and she fought back.” Casa Ruby, an organization led by transgender women in D.C., will be attending Gigi’s trial to show community support for her.

Concern about Gigi’s case is pouring in from around the nation. Ceyenne Doroshow, a transgender leader who is also the founder of GLITS and advisor to SWOP Behind Bars, has supported scores of community members who have ended up behind bars and has had the experience herself. “As a society we have become used to hearing the news of another transgender woman being killed,” she notes. “In this case Gigi did not die. She lived. She is one of our leaders surviving. I will be traveling to be in court so she knows that she is not alone and that we continue to recognize her as the leader she is.”

Other advocates have expressed similar sentiments linking what has happened to Gigi to high profile cases where transgender women survived brutal attacks only to be punished by the courts. “It is important that every black trans woman fights for her life and that together we are not erased,” notes Monica Jones, who like Gigi is a social worker and a black trans woman. “Here is how the system works. We are supposed to be erased, by the police, by the courts, and by cisgender men who commit violence against us. Gigi refused to be erased and she is still here. Now she is suffering the consequences of fighting for her life. Gigi’s case highlights, just like CeCe Mcdonald’s case, the value the courts place on cisgender lives and the costs imposed on transgender women.” Monica Jones is founder of The Outlaw Project at BPPP.

Gigi’s ability to assist people is legendary in the D.C. area. One woman who was the beneficiary of Gigi’s professionalism and commitment to helping people in need recalls, “I was at a fork in the road of my life. 9 month old on hip, no money, no people… Gigi showed up looking so beautiful, strong and loving. She was so safe and strong. Six weeks later due to her support and guidance I had my own two bedroom apartment. Gigi Thomas leaves love in her footprint and I am privileged to have met her. I would never have been able to become an advocate for human rights without meeting her.”

During the long wait for her trial date Gigi has continued her advocacy for the communities she cares about, joining the advisory of SWOP Behind Bars, a group dedicated to supporting incarcerated sex workers, and the advisory of the Best Practices Policy Project. “I’m advocating behind bars for transgender rights,” Gigi wrote to us, “keeping myself grounded in spirituality, and lifting up the spirits of others behind bars by giving them peer counseling, or even just a word of advice. I’m getting involved in programs to keep myself motivated.”

Representatives of SWOP USA have compiled information about Gigi’s achievements. In addition to working at many organizations in the D.C. area such as HIPS and being a founding member of several organizations including Different Avenues, Gigi was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the District of Columbia. She then worked at Family Medical Counseling Services until 2012, when she left to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Howard University as a full-time student. She graduated as an MSW in Spring, 2014. She worked as a job specialist and case manager at Jobs Have Priority, an agency in Greenbelt, MD, from the time she graduated until her arrest in October 2015.
If you plan to attend on February 27, please do not hesitate to email bestpracticespolicyproject [@] gmail.com to receive more information about our plans and to be connected to others. Please also keep in mind that Gigi’s trial date has been delayed several times before so keep your travel plans flexible if possible. If you are unable to attend but would like to assist, then please consider donating to the fundraiser for her legal support.