We are women who participated in Forging Justice conference as speakers, attendees, organizers, and volunteers. We witnessed a series of extremely troubling incidents during the conference involving members of NOMAS national council, as Emi has reported in a separate article, and we would like to make following demands.
1. Acknowledge that NOMAS chairs wrongly censored (on livestream) a speaker who had been invited by HAVEN to participate in this conference, and threatened to step in and interrupt her presentation, thereby harming the integrity of both the speaker and HAVEN which had selected her as an important voice in our movement.
2. Acknowledge that by unilaterally making the decision to censor a speaker minutes before the panel rather than discussing its concerns with HAVEN or with the speaker, NOMAS chairs undermined its partnership with HAVEN, and by extension its part in the larger movement against violence against women, which must be women- and survivor-centered.
3. Acknowledge that NOMAS chairs wrongly characterized the censored speaker as un-feminist and "harmful" as a justification for the censorship, as if "pro-feminist" men could monopolize the definition of feminism.
4. Acknowledge that NOMAS chairs initially claimed, falsely, that there was a "mutual" agreement not to live-stream the presentation, when the decision was made unilaterally by the co-chairs, which resembles how rapists often claim that their criminal violation was consensual.
5. Acknowledge that NOMAS founder and council member Robert Brannon exhibited a pattern of abusive behaviors, including: attacking an invited speaker publicly by mischaracterizing her work, using his position as a white male social scientist to ridicule and dismiss activists speaking from their own lived experiences and that of their communities, and menacing a woman of color speaker by violating her personal space and another by sneaking around to approach her after being expelled from the conference twice already.
6. Acknowledge that other members of NOMAS national council have been aware of the pattern of abusive behaviors Brannon exhibited since at least 1992 and yet have failed to hold him accountable, or to practice "bystander intervention" while he publicly attacked a speaker during the NOMAS panel. Hold him accountable now.
7. Ensure that NOMAS will be transparent about what happened this year to any potential future co-sponsors of NOMAS conferences as well as all potential speakers so that they can make an informed decision as to whether or not to participate. Make plans to ensure the safety of speakers as well as all women attending any future conferences.
8. Issue a letter (or letters) of genuine apology to Emi, Lauren, HAVEN, and to the larger community that spells out in detail what went wrong, why they were wrong, and what NOMAS will do to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. These letters should be posted on NOMAS' website and included in its newsletter (electronic or otherwise).
9. Establish internal policies, procedures, and trainings that specifically address the intimidation and abuse tactics shown by members of NOMAS national council during the 2013 conference in order to hold national council members accountable before women are forced to intervene, or requiring women to continually intervene.
10. In the next conference of NOMAS, dedicate a plenary panel to represent the voices it has actively censored, namely, women in or with histories in the sex trade and analysis on violence and exploitation facing their communities. The perspective agreeing with NOMAS' particular analysis can be part of the conversation, but it cannot be the only voice represented in the panel, because hand-picking a "poster child" that one happens to agree with is not the same as being ally to members of marginalized communities. Be transparent about the incidents that took place this year, ensure the safety of the speakers, and compensate them well for their valuable contribution. We can help NOMAS find speakers, assuming that our demands are met.
We expect your response by September 1st, 2013. If our demands are not met to our satisfaction, we will use our personal, professional, activist, and social media networks to ensure that no feminist organization will co-sponsor another conference with NOMAS or collaborate in any other projects with NOMAS.
Amanda Levitt (@FatBodyPolitics, fatbodypolitics.com)
Cristy Cardinal (@masculine_lady; Program Director, Prevention Education, HAVEN)
Ellen Taraskiewicz (@notsaintellen, notsaintellen.tumblr.com)
Emi Koyama (@emikoyama, eminism.org)
Jessica Luther (@scATX, jessicawluther.com)
Kathryn Kucyk (Prevention Educator, HAVEN)
Kristie Dotson (Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Michigan State University)
Lauren Chief Elk (@chiefelk, Save Wįyąbi Project)
Leah Taraskiewicz (@leah_tea; Prevention Educator, HAVEN)
Melissa McEwan (@Shakestweetz, shakesville.com)
Addendum by Cristy Cardinal of HAVEN, the lead conference organizer:
I am very sorry for participating in silencing Emi Koyama at Forging Justice.
When I was approached by Moshe and Allen to not broadcast Emi's portion of the panel, I co-signed their white supremacy by agreeing to cut off the livestream. I also told them that Emi had expressed concerns about having her words shared in that way on the event Facebook page, giving them fuel to manufacture Emi's consent. I could have said no, and I didn't. Regardless of the situation, environment or my own socialization, I could've said no and I didn't.
I will not make excuses, or explain how I felt. Such words have little meaning. I will own that white supremacy is hard to resist, even for those of us with tender and caring hearts who work to center the lives of marginalized folks. I fucked up, and was not vigilant enough of my own behavior.
In an effort to be accountable, I have done the following to this point:
1. Directed our tech folks to record Emi's talk so that it could be broadcast later.
2. Immediately after her talk, I told Emi what happened, being very direct about what I said and did in the process. I also apologized and asked her what she would like to see happen. I told her that I would proceed as she wished, and that I couldn't guarantee an outcome, but that I could guarantee action.
3. Offered to pay for Emi to leave the conference at her convenience, desire or need rather than the time originally scheduled.
4. Organized other women and a few men at the conference to show support for Emi and to publicly ask them for accountability.
5. When NOMAS council members individually and collectively asked me what they could do to be accountable, I told them that the list of demands would come from Emi with my support.
Additionally, I resolve to signal boost Emi's demands, as well as her recounting of the events at Forging Justice so that folks can hear her lived experience. I resolve to leverage my resources as a white woman with institutional power to support Emi in whatever way she wants. Most importantly, I am approaching my accountability as an ongoing process rather than something I am finished with because I wrote this statement and shared it. I resolve to do what it takes to demonstrate accountability to Emi and the other women of Forging Justice, including my colleagues at HAVEN.
Cristy S. Cardinal