This weekend I was not able to attend a vigil for Shanesha Stewart, a young Black transgender woman murdered in the South Bronx here in NYC. I’ve gone to lots of vigils like this over the years, and have known many stories where no such vigil was held.
Instead I was at Hampshire College at the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Annual Reproductive Rights Conference. CLPP’s annual April conference for students and community activists connects young people to reproductive rights organizations and campaigns locally, nationally, and internationally and provides them with information, analysis, and “how-to” organizing to bring back to their own campuses and communities. The conference presents a broad view of the issues and links reproductive rights to civil liberties, LGBT rights, environmental justice, peace and security, youth liberation, disability rights, access to health care and child care, and freedom from violence and abuse.
Besides reconnecting with other activists and organizers I know, or meeting some new people, the standout experience was attending a workshop by an organization in Springfield, Mass called QuEST. QuEST is comprised of youth dedicated to educating themselves and others on the intersections between queer youth and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). We are a member of the State Wide Harm Reduction Coalition (S.H.a.R.C) which includes 30 organizations and individuals spanning Massachusettes.
The most moving part of their workshop was this 20 minute audio documentary about their experiences with as queer youth with family, students, teachers, police, and community members. But it also documents their resiliency, beauty, and joy. LISTEN to their stories.