Every year, The National Young Feminist Leadership Conference gets better: more intersectionality, more interesting panels, more useful workshops. This year was definitely the best, and here are some of my favorite takeaways.
First, I went to the Protecting Immigrants panel. Obviously, we need to recognize that for many people, especially trans and queer people, getting deported could literally be a death sentence. According to Catalina Velasquez, there are about 80 countries where being queer is illegal and punishable by death. It’s important that we help educate immigrants on their rights because education, including the internet, is a privilege. Above all, we have to combat invisibilization of immigrants. They are people who deserve to have their voices heard, so let’s make space and fight with them.
The Prioritizing Black Women’s Agenda panel was equally as informative. As a white person, it is incredibly important to take time and just listen to what people need and how they feel. As we know, the reasons for racial inequality are tied to systemic barriers and institutions designed against them. There is no simple solution, but there are ways we can combat this. We have to shift paradigms and eliminate tokenism to make black women in any position a norm. We can’t forget that local elections matter! And when Black women do take these roles, we have to keep encouraging and empowering them because there are endless people on the other side trying to tear them down. As allies, we should make sure we aren’t taking space from BW and check ourselves and friends. We have to call people out, question what more we can do, and follow BW. BUT we shouldn’t expect Black women to always lead. Ask what they need. Listen.
Lastly, the Incarcerated Women panel gave me much more insight into conditions we rarely discuss. Incarceration is state violence. State violence is comprised of systems/bodies/institutions that physically, mentally, and emotionally abuse people. They enforce oppressive systems within it. In these systems, profit and business is put before human needs, and the state uses its power to rob people of human dignity. This is true for both public and private prisons. There are more people of color in prison today than there were slaves in this country.
Incarceration affects women severely; 90% of incarcerated women with children do not have a partner to leave their children with. Keep in mind that they can be put in prison anywhere in the country, and often there is no public transportation to these prisons which eliminates visitation. On top of that, if their child is not biologically their own, the state will not help with visitation costs. This obviously affects communities without the “nuclear family” design, usually communities of color. To top it all off, domestic abuse and drugs are the reason most women are in the criminal justice system. The more I learn about the prison-industrial complex, the more I believe we should tear it down.