Voices of Justice Now: New visions for reproductive and gender justice

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Vanessa Huang is a queer Chinese-American organizer, writer, and artist born to immigrants from Taipei. Vanessa is the Campaign Director for Justice Now , and also organizes with Transforming Justice and the Bay Area chapter of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence .
Our movements are at a turning point.
10 years have passed since Critical Resistance ’s founding gathering in 1998, when thousands of people converged in Berkeley to develop strategies to abolish the prison industrial complex. Back then, I was 14 years old and just beginning high school, unaware of this historic gathering taking place just across town.
As a queer female- and able-bodied kid of immigrants who came to the U.S. with papers, I’ve grown to understand my experiences along a spectrum of migration, recognizing the histories of coerced migration to this land connected with colonialism and slavery, and their legacies in ongoing U.S. confinement practices spanning ICE and the prison industrial complex more broadly. I’ve also grown to accept my role as a bridgebuilder for movements for collective liberation, and to understand that role stemming from both my experiences of not ever quite fitting in because of where my family’s from, my relationship with my body, how I present myself, and my sexuality – and from my ability and class privileges.
Since 1998, I’ve joined the prison industrial complex abolition movement at the tail end of conversations bringing the experiences of people locked in women’s prisons into public consciousness. Most recently, I’ve been able to help bring this organizing into conversation with emerging work centering transgender and gender non-conforming people targeted by the prison industrial complex. In this back-and-forth, the movement challenging the imprisonment of people in women’s prisons has shared lessons we’ve learned, i.e. how we’ve contributed to the rise of dangerous policy trends (“gender responsive� prison expansion) , and the movement challenging the imprisonment of transgender and gender non-conforming communities has significantly deepened our broader movements’ understandings and embodiment of gender justice alliances – across gender identities, gender presentations, and experiences of gender oppression.
This past weekend, Justice Now convened 17 key leaders engaged in work at the intersections of the reproductive justice and anti-population control, gender self-determination, prison industrial complex abolition, and anti-violence movements. We spent the weekend building groundwork toward a cross-movement effort to challenge “gender responsive� imprisonment as a form of reproductive and gender oppression – and to strengthen existing strategies to proactively reduce imprisonment; support communities, not prisons; and foster non-harmful responses to violence.
Right now – as my comrades and I shift gears into the final few months before CR10 : Critical Resistance’s 10th Anniversary Celebration and Strategy Session this fall in Oakland – I’m particularly present with the feeling of struggle, hope, vulnerability, and excitement that comes when we embrace and nurture our movements’ growing edges. Join us September 26-28!

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