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Free From Fear: SONG Launches Local Campaigns Across the South

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From SONG Press Release, January 16, 2015:

“What could be born in our communities if LGBTQ people and people of color were not afraid to walk our streets, lead in our towns, and fully lean into our own bodies and lives?”

This is a guiding question for SONG’s new work. Free From Fear is one organization’s pledge to a wider collective movement commitment to fight and defeat fear and violence our towns, cities, region and country that stems from state and institutional violence. Free From Fear is a campaign name, an aspiration, and a thread tying the work of SONG together.

When we began moving more deeply into immigration work, our Co-Director, Paulina Helm-Hernandez, said: “Our work is not to bleed out proving to other people we are human. Our work is to strengthen our people to transform our world.” Organizing that is guided by this value can change our own lives, and our towns, cities and states. We know the state of fear and violence today in our communities. We know because of the daily fear of harm and death that people in our communities live with, and because of the self-hatred and isolation forced onto many of our children. We don’t have time to wait for slow trickle down culture change promised by some national and conservative LGBTQ organizations: we know that we urgently need to build and move the biggest asset we have which is our people.

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Why Campaigns?
We need campaigns because they allow us to sharpen organizing tools and leadership, and win fights that really matter. Campaigns can make changes in communities that are not only on the books of policymakers, but between people and in the fabric of a community. We always hope to win, and fight to win. But even when we don’t, campaigns always send a town, a state, a country, a message: we see the attack on our people, we refuse to stand silently by, and we won’t take this lying down. SONG has come a long way in our learning as an organization in order to be able to do work that can impact our members and our own lives through campaign work.

Free From Fear campaigns will:
Demand an end to profiling and state violence against people of color and LGBTQ people in southern towns and cities. The campaigns will call the question in these towns of who gets to be safe in our homes, schools and streets; and they will answer that question with this simple answer–we do. That answer names a demand: safety, dignity, respect for our people. Now.

In some places, those demands will call forth campaigns in towns that rarely see campaigns. We will do our best to win these campaigns in places that need wins, where few other LGBTQ liberation organizations are working. The campaigns will work mostly (but not only) on the local municipal level in southern towns (primarily towns of 250,000 residents or less), under the same theme, but with some variation in demands based on local needs. Our first Free from Fear campaign will launch tomorrow, January 17th, in Durham, NC. The core demand is the implementation of an anti-profiling ordinance that would ban profiling and discrimination based on race, immigration status, gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.

Free From Fear will be the uniting vision with which we call forth new membership to SONG. Asking people to move with us not only to build SONG, but also to accomplish these goals. We call on our LGBTQ family to join us with this goal at the forefront: to secure our survival, yes, but also to create and strengthen our joy, by living beyond our fear. Free from Fear campaigns will attack, weaken, and transform sites of fear and violence NAMED by our people, for example: police departments, city governments, the streets, the public square, detention centers, mental health facilities that abuse our children through conversion therapy, and prisons.

Finally, Free From Fear will be the banner with which we continue to build with our sister organizations: prioritizing the alliances, campaigns, and collaborations that share this value. Special thanks for all we have learned from the following organizations and campaigns about anti-criminalization analysis and organizing: the Not1More Deportation Campaign, The Audre Lorde Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, SpiritHouse, Beloved Community Center, Community Justice Network for Youth (CJNY), Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Puente, Black Lives Matter Network, FIERCE, Streetwise and Safe, BreakOUT, Disability Justice Collective, SnapCo, Freedom Center for Social Justice, Project South, People’s Durham, PRYSM, NQAPIA, and the former Queers for Economic Justice. We look forward to the work with all the new leaders and partners that we know we will meet as we move this work forward.