The Sex Workers’ Outreach Project Los Angeles Holds Vision Quilt Workshop for International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
by Lauren Levitt
On December 17, 2018 a group of sex workers and their allies gathered in the conference room of the East Los Angeles Women’s Center to observe International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers. The event was organized by the Sex Workers’ Outreach Project Los Angeles (SWOP LA), a local chapter for SWOP USA, a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of people involved in the sex trade and their communities, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers was started in 2003 by sex worker, artist, and activist Annie Sprinkle and SWOP USA to memorialize the victims of the Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, a prolific serial killer who preyed on sex workers and other marginalized women in Washington state during the 1980s and 90s. Today, on December 17 the sex worker community remembers all those lost to violence in the past year.
As people began to fill the room, they enjoyed a warm meal and visited with each other, appreciating the warmth and comfort of community, before musician and adult performer Petra Blair gave a presentation on the connections between gun violence and violence against sex workers. 14 of the 49 sex workers who died in the United States in 2018 were killed by gunshot, higher than any other cause of death, and over half of the women in the United States killed by intimate partner violence, which includes violence from clients, are killed with a gun.
The presentation was followed by a Vision Quilt Workshop, during which participants created panels imagining an end to gun violence against sex workers. During the workshop, Mariah Castañeda, a journalist from L.A. Taco, asked organizers and participants about the impact of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Acts (FOSTA), a federal bill package passed earlier that year which made conditions more dangerous for those in the sex trade by shutting down online advertising platforms and safety resources.
After the workshop, SWOP LA director Zooey Zara led guests in a candlelit vigil for the sex workers who were lost in 2018, during which many tears were shed. The list was longer than the year before, and in addition to the many women who had been murdered, there were a number of adult performers who had taken their own lives. Following the ceremony, everyone pitched in to help clean up the center before wishing each other goodnight.
The following blog post is written by Carlos Rodriguez, a member of the Vision Quilt/Lighthouse Teen Council and our internship program. As a seventh grader at Lighthouse Charter School, Carlos completed the three-month learning expedition focused on gun violence. His piece focuses on his perspectives on gun violence, then and now.
It’s pretty wonderful seeing how my mindset hasn’t really changed since seventh grade to tweflth grade. I still hold loyalty, respect, and agency as the highest values a person can have for others and themselves. These values elevate one onto a different plane from those who go around disrespecting, backstabbing, and being complacent with where they are.
Although I have matured and some of my ideas are more refined, I would say that my main understanding of gun violence and how to deal with it has stayed relatively the same. When I went through the Lighthouse/Vision Quilt expedition in seventh grade, I was still pretty young and couldn’t properly express exactly how I felt about gun violence. But I still believe that the best way to improve the situation with gun violence is to have more education, and social and mental checks to whoever owns a firearm.
Now I am an twelfth grader. I am more articulate, and I’m able to express myself as an educated person and a critical thinker. Although this wasn’t always the case, I feel that my experiences of gun violence, and other personal and family issues, helped me to mature at a young age.
Most of the arguments people have about gun control are caused by people being unable to see or imagine the bigger picture. This comes from ignorance and being close-minded. When I started studying gun violence in the seventh grade, I was still pretty sensitive about the topic. Although I had experienced it multiple times in my life, I didn’t really have a thick s be kin to able to deal with it. One example I can easily think of is when I used to live in West Oakland and three people were gunned down in front of the apartment complex where I lived. It was the first time I had experienced gun violence so close to where I lived. I knew that it happened in all of Oakland -- and the world -- but it had never had it happened so close to home.
Gun violence is a big part of why my mom left Mexico. The majority of the people in her neighborhood have been killed or traumatized by guns. I have dealt with gun violence my entire life but now that I am a twelfth grader, I am able to process it in better and healthier ways..
VQ Interns Isabella Altamirano and Xitlalic Castro on "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline"
A blog post written by Vision Quilt Teen Council member and youth intern Isabella Altamirano on Oakland City Hall's recent "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline" Youth Town Hall. The town hall featured fellow Teen Council member and intern Xitlalic Castro.
On Thursday, July 23rd at Oakland City Hall there was a virtual youth-led meeting. Student leaders raised questions, shared testimonies, and moderated discussions on “Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” The Vision Quilt Teen Council had the honor of being a part of this impressive group of young leaders with intern Xitlalic Castro to represent them. She shared the mission of Vision Quilt, which is to empower communities to create solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue. Xitlalic also shared Vision Quilt’s proactive vision for alternatives to the school-to-prison pipeline:
I spoke with Xitlalic to get an understanding of what she thought about this opportunity to speak. She said it was really exciting, but nerve-racking. “Getting the chance to go to meetings to prepare and connect with the other youth speakers,” Xitlalic said, “was really great.” From this opportunity, Xitlalic has learned that it’s important to step out of your comfort zone because it’ll help you grow and get your voice out there, and having a great support system helps you to feel more prepared and less nervous.
You can watch a recording of the "Alternatives to the School-to-Prison Pipeline" Youth Town Hall here. The section with Xitlalic begins at 23 minutes, 50 seconds.
About the Lighthouse and Vision Quilt Curriculum
For the past four years, Lighthouse and Vision Quilt have been working together starting when two of our middle school teachers created a 3-month program to study the causes and potential solutions to gun violence. They decided to have the students interact with the Oakland community by inviting Vision Quilt to help us students get our voices and the issue of gun violence out there. We did this by holding an exhibition in the month of June (the end of the program) to showcase our panels and spread awareness to the public about gun violence.
With funding from the National Writing Project (NWP)’s LRNG Innovators Challenge Grant, Lighthouse and Vision Quilt are working on a digital toolkit to share our curriculum with other teachers and schools. Stay tuned for updates!
I am Yafet Aklilu and I am part of Vision Quilt’s Teen Council in Oakland, California. I attend Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland California, and I will be talking about what it feels like being an African American in America. As a young black man, I wonder what encounters with the police and racist people will be like. I wonder if I’ll end up another statistic along with #sayhisname. I wonder if I’ll ever be held at gunpoint for a non-legitimate reason. Lastly, I wonder if things will change in America or my future children have to worry about these same fears.
America was built on systematic racism/oppression and wasn’t made for black people to succeed. I believe that black people in America face oppression and unfair treatment because of racist laws that have been implemented before and after Jim Crow. As many black Americans will tell you, being black means you're already a criminal in some police officers’ eyes. It’s sad that Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, and many more black people died fighting for equal rights but systematic racism and police brutality is still a problem.
For my Vision Quilt panel that I created in 7th grade (2019), my image is a picture of a black man putting his hands up and a quote from Malcolm X. The hands up sign and the quote from Malcolm X are related to police brutality. I chose the Malcolm X quote because it sends a strong message about police brutality. “If someone puts their hands on you make sure that they never put their hands on anybody else again.” The image also has years of when innocent black people were killed by cops which are also related to police brutality. The words I chose was to show the number of black people who are yearly killed by cops for no reason. I want someone to know that a lot of innocent black people are getting killed by cops for no reason. There should be stricter gun laws for the police and communities because neither cops nor community members need guns.
My Vision Quilt panel means a lot to me because it sends a strong message about police brutality. We can prevent police brutality by better training and police must be randomly tested for illegal drugs. We can also prevent police brutality by regularly testing police for racial bias and banning violence usage based on their imagination of a threat. This ban would look like questioning the threat as any other civilian unless there is clear evidence they are a threat.
I hope that my Vision Quilt panel can raise awareness about police brutality. I also hope that my Vision Quilt panel can impact police and people who are against police brutality.
In conclusion, not all police officers are racist or kill innocent black people, I’ve seen multiple acts of kindness from police officers towards black people. I also hope that all of the peaceful protests cause change because many black people (including me) are tired of the injustice we're still receiving.
Did you know that as of August 2, there were 11,4841 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 189 deaths in Alameda County? We want YOU to help change that! Vision Quilt is part of a county-wide initiative encouraging young people to wear masks.
We’re inviting young people ages 13-24 to submit original creative works focused on encouraging youth to wear masks.
The four categories for submissions are:
Youth can submit up to two submissions— once we receive your submission and evaluate it, you’ll receive a $30 Visa Gift Card!
Vision Quilt will share selected submissions on social media, and we will choose one submission in each category to compete in the Alameda County Public Health Department’s All Alameda County Mask On Campaign. The winners of the County Mask On Campaign will have their work used in public messaging throughout Alameda County!
Register here to participate in the contest: https://forms.gle/KJGV8AEZqPpQ7pAG6
Upon completing your registration, you must submit your piece(s) by September 10, 2020. Submissions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or texted to 541-690-6976.
Here is a powerful blog post from Samantha Pelayo, one of our Vision Quilt interns:
We hope everyone is doing well during these uncertain times. Since we aren’t certain whether we are going back to school this fall, Vision Quilt provided us with art kits that keep us learning and being creative. As students at one of the schools that received the art kits, we wanted to share our experience with the art kit. My name is Samantha and my brother’s name is Lorenzo, we both attend Lighthouse Community Charter Public School. I participate in the Vision Quilt Teen Council. My brother is currently participating in the project alongside his 7th grade classmates.
After completing his project, my brother reflected that the easiest part of the art kit was when he was brainstorming what his panel was going to look like. His brainstorming included what types of symbols and quotes would be best to represent the word he had chosen. The word he chose was "peace" because he thought it would be best to bring positivity to his panel, and to the idea of gun violence. The thing he enjoyed the most about this project was being able to share his message. At first, my brother was a bit confused and overwhelmed with all the papers he received, but with the help of Charlie’s video and myself, he was able to understand what he had to do in order to complete the project.
My brother also stated what his most helpful resource was: “The most helpful resource was my sister because she helped me with feedback. When I didn't understand something or I was confused she would clarify it for me. Finally, she both gave me inspiration and structure for my ideas.”
I believe the reason why I helped him so much was because he needed a reminder of his personal connection to gun violence. I was also present during the event he mentioned, where a man was shot by our home so I understand what he must have felt like, especially since I know him well. I believe every student should have a family member or teacher help out. This topic might be overwhelming or confusing but having someone else to be there with you helps -- especially if you are willing to share something personal you went through.
Overall, this experience was fun. The best part was the art kit, getting creative, and spending time with family. Although we did run into a bit of our dark past, we are still grateful that we got to share our experience.
The schools may be closed but we remain committed to working with students in Oakland. This video features Carlos Rodriguez, one of our youth interns from the Vision Quilt/Lighthouse School Teen Council. We are grateful to have Carlos working with Vision Quilt — bringing his creativity and thoughtfulness to our team.
As part of his internship, Carlos decided to create Vision Quilt panels with his sister Monserrat Morales. Carlos and Monserrat utilized the format of our Art Kits, which are designed to support socially distance at-home learning. The mini-panels from our Art Kits encourage youth to depict positive messages like hope, love, and courage.
Carlos and Monserrat created two powerful panels showing their visions of family and friendship.
We hope you enjoy this video from Carlos and Monserrat — stay tuned for more posts featuring our fantastic youth interns!
GAGV member, Gloria Hiller, uses her sheltering-in place time, not only to model our current safety measures, but also to send out an important message related to gun violence.
Vision Quilt is pleased to announce our newest partnership with Grandparents Against Gun Violence (GAGV).
A nonprofit from the Kansas City metropolitan area, GAGV focuses on reducing gun violence at home, at school, and in the community. They have enthusiastically adopted the Vision Quilt program, and GAGV members have begun making panels at home while sheltering-in-place. We invited GAGV's dynamic Executive Director, Judy Sherry, to write a guest blog post, below, which describes her organization’s work and their vision for collaborating with Vision Quilt.
I had been concerned about gun violence for many years. I responded in shock and horror to the Columbine massacre on April 20,1999, and continued to read about the rising toll of gun deaths in the following years. Shortly after the Aurora shooting in July of 2012, I was inspired after hearing a wonderful Presbyterian minister, James Atwood, who had long been outspoken about gun violence. He had just completed his first book -- America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose -- and was passionate about the issue. (Reverend Atwood died June 27, 2020 at age 85 from complications of COVID-19.)
Shortly after hearing Rev. Atwood, the tragedy of Sandy Hook occurred on December 14, 2012. I mourned with the parents and families who lost their beautiful babies, and their teachers. I believed that surely their lost lives would be honored by the passage of sensible gun regulations – starting with background checks. When the pleas of these families went unanswered, I realized it was time for me to become an activist and address the horrifying increase of firearm possession in our country. I wanted to address the position of guns as 2nd amendment “right”, but I was even more concerned about their use to resolve conflicts, settle old scores, and more.
Grandmothers Against Gun Violence was formed in 2013 by an activist friend and me in Kansas City. Our first meeting was attended by 30 people, mostly our friends and acquaintances. Our organization has since grown to include 300 dues paying members, and a database of 2,000 supporters. Today, seven years later, we remain a group of interesting, interested men and women (we changed our name in 2014 to Grandparents Against Gun Violence). We are touched by, and committed to, preventing the heartbreaking instances of gun violence.
A statistic that shocks most people is this: of the 40,000 firearm deaths annually, one-third are homicide and two-thirds are suicides or accidental deaths. Clearly, the alarming increase in incidents of homicide are tragic, and we must work to reduce them. However, they result from many systemic problems of society. Our hope is that the Black Lives Matter movement has opened the eyes of the people in our country to these inequities and we will now begin to address them.
The focus and passion of our organization is on educating the public about the various forms of gun violence and promoting gun safety. We accomplish this through our “Lock It For Love” project, which distributes high-quality gun locks and educational materials at events throughout the Kansas City metro area. Since July 2018, we have participated in over 115 community events and distributed close to 3,000 locks. By teaching people the importance of safely locking and storing their firearms, we believe we have saved at least one distraught person from taking a long-term solution to a short-term problem, as well as saved a curious toddler from accidentally discharging a firearm. We have worked with many wonderful people these past seven years and formed local partnerships with the police departments throughout the metro area, Children’s Mercy Hospital, and various suicide prevention groups. On a national level we are affiliated with States United Against Gun Violence.
I am particularly excited about our newest partnership with Vision Quilt, as we share the common goal of educating the public about gun violence. I am inspired by the passion of founder, Cathy DeForest, and excited to explore this new avenue to involve our members and reach the community.
Our goal is to add 100 new panels to the national Vision Quilt and to use the panels created by our members as part of our ongoing work in Kansas City. Like many other organizations, GAGV has been impacted by the pandemic, and the need for sheltering in place. However, we are confident that when we can safely re-open, we will reach people throughout our community to get them involved. We will follow the highly successful Vision Quilt model of hosting workshops, working in the schools and in our case, using our “Lock It For Love” events to introduce Kansas Citian to this opportunity.
We are inspired by Vision Quilt and know our partnership will enable us to move closer to achieving our vision that all people in our community are safe from gun violence.
Jodi Dinkins wears the Vision Quilt panel she created for GAGV during a recent event in Kansas City.
For her Vision Quilt panel, Rebecca Matthews honors Mike Moser,
a GAGV partner and friend who was killed while answering a domestic violence call.
Last week our partners Attitudinal Healing Connection (AHC) launched their stunning online exhibition "Planting the Seeds of Change," featuring artwork from Oakland youth and families.
Vision Quilt collaborated with ArtEsteem and the Khadafy Washington Foundation on two of the exhibition's gallery rooms.
It is powerful to see Oakland youth depicting themselves as Super Heroes; Black families honoring loved ones lost to gun violence; and West Oakland Middle School youth responding to gun violence in their communities.
The ArtEsteem Vision Quilt Gallery
Included in AHC's online exhibition "Planting the Seeds of Change" is the ArtEsteem Vision Quilt Gallery, online now through July 13th.
The ArtEsteem Vision Quilt room also features a video introduction from Kenneth Johnson, a co-teacher in the ArtEsteem Vision Quilt program. "I hope," Kenneth says to viewers, "you will be moved, transformed, and motivated as you feel the spirit of these Oakland youth. "
Double-click on videos to view their contents. The virtual exhibition is best viewed on a computer or laptop. For further instructions on viewing, click here.
Vision Quilt panels from West Oakland Middle School students: "Innocents Die" by Susana Calmo and "Stopping Killing Families" by Malaki Tubby.
The Khadafy Washington Foundation Gallery
The work in the second Vision Quilt Gallery was facilitated by Marilyn Washington Harris and the Khadafy Washington Foundation.
Vision Quilt and the Khadafay Washington Foundation received grants from Oakland Unite and the Akonadi Foundation to work with gun violence survivors in West Oakland and beyond.
Although our original plans were changed due to COVID-19, Marilyn Washington Harris was able to host a panel making workshop for twelve families who had lost their sons and daughters to gun violence.
We are honored to work with Marilyn Washington Harris. After losing her own son, Khadafy Washington, Mrs. Marilyn dedicated her life to supporting families who had lost a loved one to gun violence.
“At the time of Khadafy’s death, I realized that the city of Oakland was missing something — because I was missing something," explains Mrs. Marilyn.
"Not only was I missing my son, I was missing the fact that nobody came to my rescue... So I began to do for mothers and fathers what no one had done for me. I began to reach out to help them.”
At a time when our country is crying out for Black Lives, the Khadafy Gallery honors these families and their stories.
Vision Quilt panel created by Anita Cole to honor her daughter Anika Crane.
"Planting the Seeds of Change" exemplifies the creativity, resilience, and heartbreak that runs through Oakland. We urge you to visit the exhibition, and share it with your friends.
Vision Quilt is honored by our partnerships with AHC, the Khadafy Washington Foundation, and the youth and families creating art and telling their stories. We are grateful to our volunteers and staff supporting this work.
After the conclusion of the exhibition, Vision Quilt will continue to display the panels in workshops, galleries, exhibition spaces, and through our online Virtual Quilt. Share this newsletter with friends and make a donation to support our work. As described by Andrew Vega, one of the Youth Ambassador curating the exhibition, the gallery “showcases textile art pieces created by students that express the awareness, loss, and passion that surrounds the issue of gun violence in their homes, families, and communities.
Vision Quilt grieves the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dion Johnson, Tony McDade, and others. This outbreak of violence reveals — once again — the pervasiveness of systemic injustice, police brutality and white supremacy that Black communities are confronted with everyday.
In Southern Oregon we have been in the streets, chanting and marching alongside passionate and courageous Black, POC, and white allies while white supremacist militias lurk on every street corner, carrying firearms to threaten and intimate the peaceful protestors. They know their reign is coming to an end, and they are afraid.
We are also supporting Black leaders in the Bay Area, through our work with Oakland's Violence Prevention Coalition and the Oakland Front-line Healers. While supporting nonviolent demonstrations aimed at justice and transformation, the Violence Prevention Coalition condemns the riots and looting, and grieves the death of Patrick Underwood, who was shot and killed during the protests last week.
Whether you are in the streets or continuing to shelter-in-place at home, we urge you to stay safe.
Thank you for your dedication to ending the systemic oppression of Black communities everywhere. Together we CAN end white supremacy.
News, events and announcements from Vision Quilt