Check out the latest updates & statements from to Gender JUST!
On Monday, July 16th,
Gender JUST (Justice United for Societal Transformation) organizers agreed to
meet with Center on Halsted (COH) staff. After 2 years of negotiating and
attempting to bring a Restorative Justice
to the Center on Halsted, and after taking it to the public at large, we
anticipated a meeting that would help jump-start a much-needed process. The
outcome was disappointing.
Staff present from
the Center included: Dr. Claudia Mosier, Director of Youth Programs; Julie Walther,
Chief Programs Officer; Jim Klein, Chief Operating Officer; Tim'm West,
Assistant Youth Director; and Rayna Moore, Youth Liaison.
Below are some of our
salient points from the meeting, and what we take away from them.
A bad faith
invitation to dialogue.
After committing to a meeting to discuss implementation strategy for Restorative Justice (RJ),
it was disappointing that chief staff present clearly had not considered the
program recommendations in the proposal, nor were engaged with it. It was
also clear that they had not been apprised of the development of this two-year
process. Dr. Mosier inquired about what sort of funding we would bring, either
unaware or inconsiderate that GJ has, for the last two years, provided
invaluable consultation and research, and has been clear about its position as
a volunteer-run organization (except for one paid staff member who is no longer
with the organization due to reduced funding).
Vulnerable youth will
“vote with their feet.” We
found it shocking and problematic that Walther’s confidence in the Center’s
Youth programming rested on the notion that “youth would vote with their feet”
since, “If they choose not to be a part of the programming, it’s okay. There
are lots of opportunities in this community.”
These comments reveal
that COH leadership regards vulnerable youth patrons as consumers, poised to
employ the logic of the profit oriented marketplace. COH has, from the start,
been a troubled and troubling institution precisely because of its divided and
divisive record in the community. On the one hand, it refuses to acknowledge
its critical location on the north side, as an institution that receives
significant awareness and funding for various essential services. On the other
hand, it uses that status to position itself as the only such credible
Framing the dialogue
as competition between organizations. Walther expressed that Gender JUST was “one
organization telling another organization what to do.” In reality, COH operates with
$1.69 million in reported government funding (at least $390K of
which comes from Cook County department and agency contracts), and reports annual
revenues at nearly $4 million. All of the staff at this meeting were salaried,
full time employees (no youth, not even those involved in authoring the
proposal, were present). COH could not depict itself as being vilified by
Gender JUST, a tightly resourced and entirely volunteer-run grassroots
organization. We also reiterated that this entire process had begun in good
faith – and that we had in fact been invited by the former acting Director of
Youth Services to participate in this process nearly two years ago.
We don’t understand
this as a competition, but as community members represented by Gender JUST
holding a well-resourced institution accountable and requesting transparency.
There seems to be little awareness of their position, resources and leverage in
the community, as well as the sheer imbalance of the same, vis-a-vis
organizations and youth who avail of their services and feel compelled to point
out all of this.
We experienced the
Center’s overall attitude in this meeting as dismissive and even pejorative. We
feel the need to point this out not to vilify, but for the sake of providing a
historical memory and a caution to all organizations and entities working in a
long-term process of engagement with the Center.
COH has determined
that the problem is not that it has no Restorative Justice (RJ) practices in
place, but that it has not conveyed that it has RJ in place. We find this distinction specious,
given the complete refusal to actually document these practices in writing or
on the Center’s website, when we requested this in the meeting. When
pressed for details, staff simply referred to an unspecified “process.”
Midway into the
discussion, we were informed by Julie Walther that the Center would be ending
collaboration with Gender JUST and moving forward with its own Restorative
Justice plans because, according to those present, the Center has more than
enough expertise and resources in its own ranks to do so. She also mentioned
that they were/are collaborating with other groups around these issues.
We pressed, a number
of times, for specifics. What steps were being taken to train/resource staff
and youth patrons? Is there a timeline in place to publish a verifiable
process? What specific community partners are collaborating? We were told that
leadership was not obligated to “open their books” to work being done.
COH’s commitment to
RJ is unclear.
While individual staff members they may have some structural commitment to it,
their procedures and processes of mediation and conflict resolution, and
oversight structures therein, are not bound by any system of accountability.
The success (or failure) of programmatic RJ practices appears to rest solely on
the shoulders of mid-level Youth staff hires, led by Mr. West, as opposed to RJ
being an immersive value of the entire organization.
Lack of oversight
from City Government.
Tax-exempt organizations like the Center are funded at the local, state and
federal level to do the business of the people. Cook County must take
steps to ensure that organizations receiving large contracts and grants from
city agencies and departments comply with measures such as required public
board meetings, good faith efforts to appoint board seats to highly impacted
community members and patrons of that organization’s services, and keeping
financial records open to the public.
While the Night
Ministry’s queer youth overnight shelter project, The Crib, has been shuttered for the summer, only receiving
$250K in seasonal city funding, The Northalsted Business Alliance (which operates on
levied property tax revenue to the tune of $357K annually) has funneled at least $50,000.00 to off-duty CPD officers for “private” policing and
surveillance of the area. This dysfunction feeds a resource scarcity
crisis that maintains the status quo and delivers waves of shock and trauma to
the most vulnerable organizations and individuals in our communities.
Causations of Trauma. In this meeting, Dr. Mosier expressed concern about patrons
“feeling less welcome” in the Center as a result of our petition. Specifically,
she asked, “Are you creating more trauma?” She suggested that we were extending
the trauma to patrons who might not want to access the Center after hearing our
We found this a
bewildering and distracting proposition.
In the larger context
of a crisis in the non-profit world in general and in the LGBTQ non-profit
world specifically, it is hardly unwarranted that we should ask for
accountability in something as essential as Restorative Justice. In
implicitly admitting that the Center is in fact one very scarce mental health
resource for youth, it subverts its own claim of youth possessing the ability
to vote “with their feet” in regards to what service agencies they approach for
Our goal was simple:
to institute a transparent model of Restorative Justice at the Center. In
calling for such, we worked as a grassroots organization asking for
accountability from an organization that strategically uses our populations and
members to secure funding for its projects. In that, we have in no way
been “causing trauma,” but holding an important organization accountable.
Such calls for accountability have widened of late, in New York, San
Francisco, and other urban centers.
The dialogue between
Gender JUST and other concerned community members and the Center has led to
incremental gains (restrooms for gender non-conforming patrons, revised
grievance process). What is missing is the oversight required to make
sure that policies are actually adhered to, and that the principles of
Restorative Justice are followed.
The Center has
declared, in the bluntest possible terms, that it will now move on without
Gender JUST, after two years of hard work on our part. We trust and hope that
there will be an acknowledgment of our work, rather than the kind of
intellectual and cultural plagiarism so common in such situations.
For our part, Gender
JUST will continue to push the Center to implement and document their Restorative
Justice programming, and to call upon the larger community to do the same,
through our ongoing petition as well as through our work with other local
Gender JUST is developing
a wider and sustainable campaign to assess the city’s resource allocation
process such that they are distributed and valued more equitably, and
operated in full view of the public. We are also committed to working
with our fellow organizations to ensure that the principles of Restorative
Justice are actually implemented in form and not just in spirit or in dubious
SIGN THE PROPOSAL
We are 5 weeks into our petition campaign, and we know that the updates have been sparse. But we have been busy, and here's what we have to report:
Initially, we had decided not to release the completed proposal to the public, primarily in order to respect the anonymity of the student interns and youth patrons who graciously collaborated with us on this document. However, in appealing to the community for support on this issue, we realize that presenting the document to the public would contribute to a culture of transparency that we seek. That proposal, sent to Dr. Claudia Mosier, Dir. of Youth Programs on May 25th, is available here. The names of Center on Halsted interns and youth have been redacted from this document.
It bears mentioning that this proposal is broader in scope, and less comprehensive than we would have preferred, for several reasons:
1) The introductory and academic nature of the proposal, and the detailed overview of the history of the Center's programmatic history, were heavily suggested by Youth Program staff.
2) Due to limited response, involvement and data from Operations Staff (the department that manages security and oversees grievances) in the development of the proposal, the authors had a vague sense of staff capacity and specific security concerns (this is was a huge catalyst in choosing to launch the petition).
3) There was limited ability to receive feedback from youth intake patrons at the Center, given that the Youth Leadership Council programming was put on hiatus for the summer.
While we have been in dialogue with Dr. Mosier, and her Associate Director Tim'm West through emails and phone calls throughout June, we are disappointed that there has been no critical feedback or mobilization around the proposal itself, nor the recommendations made in it, and no timeline drafted outlining its implementation. Despite several requests, it has not even been confirmed that CEO Modesto Valle, or other Departmental leadership (Julie Walther, Dir. or Programming and Jim Klein, Chief Operating Officer), have viewed the proposal or presented any feedback, which was the objective of completing the proposal in the first place.
As we have stated previously, this is not a campaign out to punish or lay blame, but to inform and inspire action. We acknowledge that Dr. Mosier and Mr. West have their hands full in their new positions; we don't expect, or have demands, that they do this work alone. RJ is a participatory process that needs to be unanimously supported by all departments, social service agents, patrons and donors of the CoH community.
We will continue to call upon the Center on Halsted to follow through on its public declarations of allegiance to Restorative Justice. We are appreciative of all the continued support and allies as we continue this journey,
Love and Solidarity,
C.O.U.R.S.E. Campaign Organizer
Since the fall of 2010, Gender JUST has been engaged with the Center on Halsted (COH) to institute a Restorative Justice (RJ) policy on its premises. . In starting this process, we hoped to work with the Center in moving away from a punitive “zero tolerance” structure to one that is more responsive to the needs of the queer youth and adults who use its services. Most importantly, we sought to ensure that the Center would develop a model of accountability which drew upon community-based systems rather than one that called upon surveillance and punishment.
Recent events and statements by the Center indicate that our good faith was misplaced. We are now taking our appeal for a full and transparent form of Restorative Justice into the community that would most benefit from such a process at the Center.
We did this with some concerns, given our issues with the Center and with non-profits in general, which tend to see themselves as answerable to wealthy donors rather than the communities they are ostensibly funded to serve.
But the Center receives funding from several sources: private, federal, and local. For better or worse, it is the largest such organization on the north side and a source of social and cultural resources for many who travel there from the south and west sides. We felt that it was important for Gender JUST to maintain a presence at the COH and ensure that a true system of RJ was instituted.
In a culture and climate of fear and outright hatred, as documented in several news reports over the past few years, we felt the need to ensure that queers of color would become a part of a process that began to change procedures for the better. Restorative Justice practices have been theorized and implemented by several local groups, including the High H.O.P.E.S Campaign and Community Justice for Youth Institute. While Restorative Justice has become somewhat fashionable as a talking point, it is not often implemented in the spirit or form in which it was intended. The High H.O.P.E.S Campaign has been working on holding Chicago Public Schools accountable for its rates of suspensions, which have actually risen since CPS implemented Restorative Justice in name only. Project NIA has also documented and researched the predominance of the schools to prisons pipeline in CPS. Working with the Center has been a slow and often frustrating process, and that has sometimes been due to transitions in both organizations. The Center has seen a huge staff turnover over the years, and working on a proposal for RJ meant constantly re-introducing ourselves and the purpose of the work to new staff. In Fall 2011, Gender JUST underwent significant structural changes, and that included my becoming Policy Director and Jason Tompkins heading up our COURSE (Committee on Urban Resource Sustainability & Equity) campaign. Benjamin Perry began the work with COH, and still works with us even if not always in a direct capacity. Past GJ Staff Organizer Andrés Gallegos was also part of the process.
It appeared, for a while, that both groups were working together in good faith.
By April 2012, we felt that we had reached a satisfactory place; we submitted a final proposal, which we worked on with COH interns and a revolving series of mid-level staff. We had been told that the proposal would have to go through the Center's process and would be vetoed or accepted by Modesto "Tico" Valle, CEO of the Center.
We were not entirely hopeful about the fact that so much hard work would fall or rise on the ultimate say-so of a single individual, and we were frustrated by the fact that senior management and Operations staff (those directly responsible for responding to disputes, misconduct and grievances) showed little interest in the proposal, which made us wonder about the Center's ultimate commitment to the matter. Still, we showed up nearly every Friday (I was not at every meeting, but was kept apprised by Jason and by the regular emails on the google discussion group) for regular meetings, for two years.
Imagine our surprise when, in an interview with Windy City Times, Valle, in response to a question about consequences for stealing, said, “If you are caught stealing and you're a patron of the Center, there is restorative justice. Restorative justice means you're banned; you have to come back and meet with everyone that is involved in the consequence and how are you
going to make it right. Whole Foods works really closely with us and in most cases, they let it go.” [italics mine]
Most practitioners would agree that this is not a satisfactory application of Restorative Justice principles; Valle invoked the name of the process but not the spirit of our detailed proposal or that of Restorative Justice in general, where the opportunity for dialogue and restitution is not granted through a retail agent – or through banning – but a community panel that attempts to get at the root causes of alleged or real infractions.
We were also dismayed about the claim of having Restorative Justice in place when he had clearly not even looked at the proposal or discussed implementing a process with us. Recognizing that the Center had no commitment to instituting Restorative Justice except in name only and when it seemed publicly expedient to do so, and shocked by the cavalier erasure of a two-year-long process that had gone into the proposal, we launched a petition to the public to institute a real process of Restorative Justice at the panel. In the meantime, I was invited to speak at the first “Queer Is Community” at the Center on Halsted on May 28, designed to begin a larger dialogue to address what too many Chicago queers know will in all likelihood be yet another summer of conflict and race-baiting in Boystown. I was not happy about the location of the event, and made that clear from the start; to their credit, organizers like Nico Lang, Jamie Royce, and ellie june navidson were open to the critique I offered (one, I should add, shared by several attendees, community members and former patrons and employees – the Center has been a controversial space since its inception, in large part because of its policies toward queer youth of color). My speech at the event addressed the politics of story-telling, and touched upon the fiction of Restorative Justice at the Center. We also gathered over 50 signatures that night, and continue to gather more online. You can sign, share and embed the petition online at chn.ge/changethecenter. In the weeks since we launched our petition, the Center has attempted to distort and manipulate the facts. In the process, it has revealed its own contradictions. A recent Windy City Times report reveals that, in its haste to cover its tracks, the Center has adopted the posture of never having seen a copy of the proposal in the first place. This is easily disproved by several emails in the google group explicitly set up to draft and complete the proposal. One staff member has declared, “We don't even use words like “banned” anymore,” contradicting the evidence of Valle's own words in April.
The Center now simultaneously claims that the proposal did not come from the Center (which is only true in the sense it came from GJ and the Center) and also acknowledges that those listed on the document “did work with Gender JUST on implementing restorative justice.” What, we might ask, was this document produced after two years of regular meetings between Gender JUST and the Center, if not something produced in collaboration? Why deny its very existence, a cavalier and dismissive move that erases the work of a community partner? Why would we, Gender JUST volunteers, COH interns,
and staff meet at the Center on Halsted for two years if not for the explicit purpose of producing a collaborative project at the end of it? I was present at meetings where a staff member held the proposal in her hands, but she now describes the meetings as as “theory-based conversations.”
Gender JUST has throughout acted in good faith. Currently, the Center is attempting to paint this as a matter of miscommunication. Gender JUST has no interest in trading accusations with the Center on Halsted on such flimsy grounds and allowing the Center to distract from the real issue: its lack of commitment to RJ at the top level and a lack of transparency. We are committed to ensuring that the Center institute a model of Restorative Justice that is transparent to the public. Transparency of process does not mean that those involved are at risk of having their private information revealed, also an issue raised by a staff member.
We have gone so far as to offer safeguards – in this mysteriously non-existent proposal that is now being erased from historical memory – to ensure confidentiality, including non-disclosure agreements. As a community grassroots group that fully understands the population that would be served best by Restorative Justice, and as the group that initiated the call for Restorative Justice in the first place, we are fully aware of what we mean by “transparent.”
Our aim is to ensure social justice for those most marginalized in and around the Center. We know too well how fragile are the networks of support for youth and adults who must negotiate a larger neighborhood environment where they are stigmatized from the start for being of colour/gender-non-conforming/a host of reasons. A recent Windy City Times report indicates that even area police, ostensibly there to maintain order on an impartial basis, have allegedly made calls where they describe gender-non-conforming people in statements like, “If you wouldn't mess with boys in dresses, this wouldn't happen.”
Such instances only form the tip of the iceberg in an area that is steeped with hostility towards queer youth and people of color and they indicate what we know too well: The work ahead of us, Gender JUST, the Center, and various community organizations in the city devoted to the betterment of the lives of queer people who need these services, is difficult and fraught. But we cannot move forward if there is not, in the spirit of Restorative Justice, first an acknowledgment that there are problems in the process so far.
There is clearly a problem with communications but it is within the Center and, as we in Gender JUST feared, the leadership has been disconnected from the intensive process engaged by its junior staff, interns, and Gender JUST members. There is clearly a disjunction between senior staff, who know little about Restorative Justice, and the many admirable interns and mid-level staff who are devoted to instituting the process but are now stymied by a public relations effort to erase and/or rewrite the history of this proposal.
We demand that the Center stop hiding behind a public relations blitz and, instead, first acknowledge the work, by Gender JUST and various interns and staff, that has gone into instituting a model of Restorative Justice at the Center. Second, We demand that the Center begin to instate Restorative Justice in an open and transparent way that structurally and fundamentally shifts the ways in which it operates. We will not be satisfied with mere tinkering to existing policies; we insist that all levels of staff understand, recognize, and work to implement the principles of RJ.
In recent emails, Center staff have reached out and attempted to restart the meetings; we have made it clear that these will only happen if senior and operational staff are present and if the Center takes this process seriously. At this point, the Center is more concerned with saving its face and yet has failed to even acknowledge the presence of a document worked on for two years by volunteers, interns, and community activists.
We wish to move forward, but only in the spirit and form of true social justice. This is not a crisis of communications, as the Center would have it; this is a crisis arising from a failure to act.
Yasmin Nair, Policy Director, Gender JUST
A proposal for a Restorative Justice pilot program at the Center on Halsted, authored by a coalition of Gender JUST's C.O.U.R.S.E. (Committee on Urban Resource Sustainability & Equity) organizers, youth patrons and Youth Program staff and interns was recently completed. This proposal was compiled as a response to the "zero-tolerance" culture that youth experience when entering the Center for support services.
Inefficiencies in the grievance process, security management and "zero tolerance" operational policies often escalate harm and lead to further criminalization of youth patrons, obstructing the stated mission of the Youth Program to "support youth…through a comprehensive program which helps youth increase their sense of self-respect and confidence, while gaining the knowledge and skills needed to attain education, personal and other life goals."
We have been encouraged by the collaboration and hard work of Youth Program staff, interns and youth participants on this proposal, but are concerned about the minimal engagement, feedback and data support from Operations and Executive leadership. CEO Modesto Valle has recently declared that "there is restorative justice" for youth patrons at the Center even though there is currently no publicized process for this. We are also concerned about talk of some youth programming being put "on hiatus" for the summer, and no news of a full time hire for the Youth Director position. The Center must be held accountable to the community about its policies regarding these matters.
Gender JUST is committed long term to seeing sustainable, competent Grievance policies and Restorative Justice programming at the Center. We implore other community members, contributors and stakeholders in the Center to join us by signing the petition at http://chn.ge/changethecenter in support of comprehensive Restorative Justice.
NOTE: This message was originally posted on January 17th, 2011, and the following announcements went into effect at that time. That original post was erroneously deleted.
Dear Gender JUST members and friends,
I'm writing to, first, wish you a Happy New Year!
I'm also writing to give you news and updates about Gender JUST and the exciting new directions we're taking in this coming year and the future.
Sadly, Gender JUST saw a severe dip in our cash flow in 2011. The economy has been rough all around, particularly on funders, and this meant that many of our anticipated grants did not come through. This has meant cutting back on some of our paid positions, including that of Staff Organizer, Andrés Gallegos, who joined us in April 2011.
However, we are very fortunate that Andrés will be continuing to work with Gender JUST as a member and as part of Gender JUST's leadership team, helping to coordinate our campaigns. I hope you will join me in thanking him for his commitment to GJ and his passion for our work.
I will take on as Policy Director.
As of this time, Gender JUST will not have paid positions. Andrés and I are both working pro bono because we are deeply committed to Gender JUST and want to ensure that this organization continues to thrive, develop, and grow into its capacity to make meaningful change.
As you know, we gained attention in the summer of 2011
for our critical work around racism and transphobia in Chicago’s Lakeview area, when residents and business owners evoked racist and classist stereotypes to address issues of safety. Gender JUST youth leaders responded to the controversy by initiating dialogues with community leaders and the Center on Halsted, where we have been working to create a restorative justice policy that challenges the harsh and punitive measures that keep youth from accessing critical resources. COH staff and youth have been meeting with Gender JUST youth leaders for months, and we have had great success.
In 2012, Gender JUST is committed to continuing and expanding this work. Through our COURSE (Committee on Urban Resource Sustainability and Equity) campaign
, we will fight to address and correct the sometimes toxic anti-youth environment in Lakeview while addressing resources inequities on Chicago’s South and West side for LGBTQ communities. We have already begun doing important coalition-building work amongst health-providers in these neighborhoods. This year, we plan to bring this coalition into light to specifically address the lack of funding for LGBTQ-friendly HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs on the South and West sides.
All of this is a step forward to a more unified and cohesive set of campaigns, and it means that the vital work of Gender JUST will continue to move forward with clear goals and a highly motivated set of activists and thinkers who continue to shift the paradigms of organizing and social justice.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to email us at email@example.com
Yasmin Nair, Policy Director
LGBTQA Youth Address NHBA's Funding Priorities
CHICAGO, IL - Today, several Gender JUST members, accompanied by a group of allies, went to the office of Northalsted Business Alliance Treasurer, Anthony Almaguer. They delivered a letter expressing disappointment with the Northalsted Business Alliance's investment in private police enforcement in Lakeview, and demanding that the Alliance invest $50,000 in essential community resources that benefit LBGTQ youth, youth of color, and homeless inhabitants in Lakeview.
Brian Johnson, Jr., a member who was at our delegation today, said that Anthony Alamaguer seemed sympathetic to us, but didn't respond directly to our demand. We are asking that the Northalsted Business Alliance set a meeting with Gender JUST members and allies to discuss this in further detail. We asked that they respond by next Friday, August 26th.
Below is the content of our letter:
North Halsted Business Alliance
Gender JUST, a grassroots organization whose mission is to address racial and economic issues affecting the LGBTQ community, would like to express our disappointment with the Northalsted Business Alliance’s recent efforts to increase policing and surveillance in Lakeview.
In 2010, Gender JUST leaders and community members worked closely with the Northalsted Business Alliance to address tensions between business owners and youth. Young LGBTQ community members volunteered their time and energy to hold a workshop for business owners in which they shared experiences being profiled and discriminated in Lakeview businesses. We hoped it would be a learning moment for Lakeview business owners, to come to understand their contribution to making Lakeview an unsafe, unwelcoming space.
In light of our efforts, it is bewildering that the Northalsted Business Alliance feels comfortable prioritizing increased private enforcement (an approach whose broad based effectiveness is constantly in question) to the amount of $50,000, yet often a cabaret show is needed to raise residual funds for essential youth programming.
It is the concern of Gender JUST that community resources are not being used effectively. Creating a safer and more inclusive Boystown means valuing the needs, perspectives and leadership of the most vulnerable and displaced in our community, and recognizing them as vital stakeholders in our progress. ‘Taking back’ Boystown from violence, chaos and diminished quality of life is not possible without encouraging the participation and decision-making of LGBTQ youth—and more urgently, youth of color.
In order to address our shared concern for the safety and stability of Lakeview, it is the responsibility of the Northalsted Business Alliance to address its budget priorities and allow an amount of $50,000 to fund services which our community in Lakeview desperately needs: programming and recreational space for youth under 18, shelters and support for homeless Chicagoans, and other resources that contribute to the safety and stability of youth in Lakeview. We are asking that these funds be allocated by a collaborative decision- making body of various institutions and leaders that represent and advocate for LBGTQ youth, youth of color, and homeless inhabitants in Lakeview.
While efforts by the NHBA to address this issue through the Center on Halsted’s Lakeview Safety and Inclusion Coalition have merit, a long overdue conversation must be had concerning the overall distribution of resources in Lakeview. As an entertainment destination, issues of safety in Lakeview are not limited to residents and business owners, but also affect business patrons, local social service clients, and other neighborhood visitors. As business owners, you have the opportunity to foster a robust conversation that looks beyond single-issue politics and addresses the needs of all community members.
We await an invitation by the Northalsted Business Alliance to discuss this proposal in further detail. Please contact our staff organizer, Andrés Gallegos at (312) 869-9825 or COURSE@GenderJUST.org, by the 26th of August to discuss possible meeting times.
We hope to hear from you promptly,
Whatever Happened to Good Health?
By Lucky Mosqueda, Gender JUST Fellow
Whatever happened to good health these days?
A paper cut would be taken care of in a jiffy.
But bandages today cost your arm and your leg,
and toxins that slowly kill you.
Whatever happened to, "When I grow up,
I want to be a nurse or a doctor?"
We used to take care of our stuffed animals
and baby dolls when they were ill.
Now our dream jobs are turning away the elderly, the poor,
the women, the youth, the queer, the transgendered,
because of our skin color, how old we are, our gender identity,
and they, too, cost you your limbs,
whilst you scrap what's left of your T-Cells to survive.
Whatever happened to neighborhood
hospitals and trauma centers?
Now, we wait for death ten miles later
whilst the pandering rich
shamelessly spend on
gentrification and unwanted
wars and occupations
not worth fighting for.
Whatever happened to free clinics?
Nowadays, if we weren't covered,
we may sneak over to
The Great White North
to see a doctor for some
you sycophantic, parasitic,
bureaucratic conservatives call.
Whatever happened to nutrition?
Fuck it, while the food pyramid
tells you the servings,
poor people are excluded from
organic, fair-trade groceries
because they are "too ignorant"
to understand that a single
toxic-free carrot can save
polar bears from losing their homes.
Whatever happened to Roe vs. Wade?
Now, the tea parties are defining rape and incest,
whilst women are pushed to using wire hangers again.
Whatever, whatever happened to good health?
week, mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel appointed Jean-Claude Brizard as the new
Chief Executive Officer of Chicago Public Schools. Gender JUST, as an
organization deeply committed to safe and affirming, quality, public
education, poses the question of how this will impact our lives as
queer, transgender, and gender-non-conforming students within the CPS
system. Brizard has a track record of laying off teachers and closing
down schools, which makes us less safe and our education less secure.
JUST youth are reaching out to Jean-Claude Brizard to begin a
conversation about our safety in school, to make sure that he doesn't
make the mistake of ignoring systemic violence and focus solely on the
"bully" narrative, and mostly to ensure that he doesn't fall into the
trap of relying on punitive measures to "protect us." Brizard's record
on in-school suspension from Rochester is hopeful on this front - but
his record on engaging students, teachers, and community around
decision-making is troubling.
Gender JUST is going into this new
administration with an open mind. We are hopeful that Brizard will
follow-through on commitments made by the previous administration
around the grievance procedure and around restorative justice, we are
hopeful that he will work with the community, and we are hopeful that
we can transform the city into a place that is safe and affirming for
all people. However, we are ready and able to push back when needed
and challenge the system when necessary.
Through a process of
surveys, interviews, and candidate research, Gender JUST has scored each of the
Chicago Mayoral Candidates in 5 areas important to our communities[i]. This information was gathered first-hand by
Gender JUST members. This is not meant to be an endorsement of
any particular candidate, only an honest assessment of their policies and
proposals as they relate to our communities.
Any questions can be relayed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Area #1: Education:
Gender JUST members
surveyed candidates about their policies, proposals, and records on issues
related to education; this included privatization of education through
Renaissance 2010, militarization of Chicago schools, and school violence.
Gery Chico: F
Chico’s score is derived from his support for privatization and militarization
of Chicago schools; additionally Chico proposed addressing school violence with
greater police presence in schools.
Gender JUST stands firmly against privatization and militarization in schools,
and we believe that any attempt to address school violence MUST be based on
principles of restorative and transformative justice.
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins:
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins’
score is derived from her opposition of Renaissance 2010 and her support for
neighborhood schools; she did not receive an “A” because of her support for the
current CEO structure. Gender JUST
believes that the current CEO-business model must be replaced with a
democratically elected Superintendent-education model.
Miguel Del Valle: A
Miguel Del Valle’s score is
derived from his support for neighborhoods schools, his opposition to
Renaissance 2010, and his backing of restorative justice as the appropriate
disciplinary model to address every kind of school violence.
Carol Moseley Braun: B-
Carol Moseley believes that
Renaissance 2010 is a failure and promises to replace the CEO with a
Superintendent; she opposes privatization, saying “privatization will give our
schools over to private interests.”
While she believes that professional development for teachers is key to addressing school
violence towards queer and transgender students, she also says she wants to
foster a deeper relationship between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago
Police Department. Gender JUST demands the
cops out of the schools and believes that more policing will not help those who
are already targeted by law-enforcement.
Rahm Emanuel: F
Rahm Emanuel supports Renaissance
2010 and closing down low-performing schools, and opposes an elected school
board. Additionally, he believes that
increasing law enforcement presence will make schools safer for queer and
transgender students. As stated above,
Gender JUST stands resolutely against all of these points.
William Dock Walls: C
While William Dock Walls
opposes Renaissance 2010 and sees it as a source of gang violence in schools,
he also supports “zero-tolerance” disciplinary policies which ignore root
causes of violence. He says he will
support policies to remove military recruiters from schools, although he wants
to increase police presence in schools.
Area #2: Resource Equity
Gender JUST members
surveyed candidates about their policies, proposals, and records on issues of
resource equity, specifically issues of garnering adequate resources for
communities of color on the South and West sides of Chicago.
Gery Chico: C-
Gery Chico says we should increase funding in all neighborhoods but only
mentions Howard Brown and Center on Halsted when asked with which agencies he
wants to partner. Gender JUST stands with our social service allies on the
South and West side who are underfunded and perform excellent work with minimal
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins: A
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins has
a track record of working to develop and resources on the South side of Chicago
and she says that the best way to ensure resource equity to by funding
community organizing. She has also proposed
a system so that residents can see where city funding is being allocated in
Miguel Del Valle: B+
Miguel Del Valle expresses support
for resource equity and says that the best way to attain that is to hold
Alderpeople accountable to do their jobs.
While Gender JUST agrees, we do believe that the mayor can play a more
active role in ending a decades-long system of resource segregation to the
Carol Moseley Braun: B
Carol Moseley Braun says that the city’s current resource allocation for HIV prevention
funding does not reflect the trends of the virus, which has led to disparities,
and she commits to reevaluating resource development to follow the needs in
combating the virus. Gender JUST agrees
that reevaluation is necessary but calls for action and not just evaluation.
Rahm Emanuel: A
Rahm Emanuel says that he will “target prevention programs to communities and populations most
impacted, specifically promoting strong community-based programs…[on the] South
and West sides.”
William Dock Walls: A
William Dock Walls says that he
will focus on increasing the overall pot of funding by lobbying Federal and
State governments, so that communities do not have to compete for inadequate
resources. He also says that he will
support the development of a health center on the South side of Chicago.
Area #3: Criminal Justice
Gender JUST members surveyed
candidates about their policies, proposals, and records issues of criminal
justice, community accountability, and policing.
Gery Chico: F
Gery Chico wants more cops on the
streets and in schools, and also wants to expand the Gang Loitering Ordinance
to profile young people who appear to belong to a gang. Gender JUST believes that the
Prison-Industrial-Complex cannot be relied upon to support our communities, as
we are already disproportionately targeted for incarceration by that very
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins: A
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins
wants to address violence and crime by funding community organizing to empower
communities; she says “the last thing we need is to add more police on the road
because what we need is a street-level intervention where community people are
participating.” She wants to overhaul
the CAPS program to be an effective tool for community accountability and wants
to focus on programs such as Cease Fire and Safe Passage. She also thinks it should not be allowed to
ask felony background information on job applications.
Miguel Del Valle: A-
Miguel Del Valle believes that we can address disproportionate rates of
incarceration among queer and transgender young people through education and
job opportunities; he wants to work with community organizations to support community
accountability and institute violence prevention funding opportunities for
youth organizing groups to lead initiatives they develop. He believes that we will
prevent crime and violence by providing youth with opportunities to engage in
positive activities and wants to focus on safely reintegrating formerly
incarcerated individuals into society through programs and opportunities. He says “I believe that the best way to deal
with crime is to have an organized community.”
However, he does support increasing police presence on the streets of
Carol Moseley Braun: D-
Carol Moseley Braun believes that
the best way to address disproportionate rates of
incarceration among queer and transgender young people of color is by providing
sensitivity training to law enforcement
and that LGBT liaisons will improve relations.
Additionally, she wants to create a stronger police presence in
Chicago. Gender JUST believes that
efforts such as LGBT liaisons and sensitivity training, while well-intentioned
efforts, only serve to create layers of bureaucracy between the people and
those in power, making it harder to enact real change.
Rahm Emanuel: F-
Rahm Emanuel supports more cops on
the streets and, as an advisor to President Bill Clinton, created the
3-strikes-you’re-out law and increased funding for the War on Drugs. He additionally led the Chicago Housing
Authority through the process of evicting countless families from their homes
to displace them from gentrifying areas.
Gender JUST, as an economic justice organization, opposes the punitive
and unjust policies which have marked Rahm Emanuel’s career.
William Dock Walls: D+
While William Dock Walls wants to
“stop police abuse of power [and]…profiling,” as well as hate crimes, he cites
zero-tolerance and increased penalties as a strategy. Gender JUST does not believe in
zero-tolerance punishment because it ignores the circumstances surrounding the
incident; we are additionally opposed to hate crimes legislation which
strengthens the very systems which oppress us.
Area #4: Reproductive Justice
Gender JUST members
surveyed candidates about their policies, proposals, and records related to
reproductive justice, specifically around comprehensive sex education and
Gery Chico: Incomplete
Did not respond to questions about
policies and record on reproductive justice issues.
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins: Incomplete
Did not respond to questions
about policies and record on reproductive justice issues.
Miguel Del Valle: A
Opposes Parental Notification Law
Carol Moseley Braun: A+
Opposes the Parental Notification
Law in Illinois and supports public funding for abortion services.
Rahm Emanuel: C
Voting record in Congress shows a
pro-choice stance but did not respond to questions about Parental Notification
Law in Illinois.
William Dock Walls: D+
While William Dock Walls supports
comprehensive sex education and increased funding for training of sex
educators, he said that Parental Notification Law in Illinois is “a reasonable
safeguard.” Gender JUST opposes the
Parental Notification Law, as it is dangerous and oppressive.
Area #5: How well do the candidates understand the
needs and experiences of our communities?
Gender JUST members
surveyed candidates about their policies, proposals, and records around issues
specific to queer youth, LGBTQA people of color, sex workers and people engaged
in the street economy, transgender communities, and other communities represented
by Gender JUST’s membership body.
Gery Chico: D
Gery Chico said that he believes that core issues impacting LGBT community include domestic
partner benefits, discrimination, and school bullying. While Gender JUST believes that these issues are
important to certain aspects of our community, we feel greater urgency around
racial and economic justice issues such as housing, healthcare, and poverty.
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins: C+
Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins
admitted that “growing up, I was not exposed to or
educated about the issues of LGBT individuals [but over the years] I have
gotten to know LGBT individuals and gained a better understanding and
appreciation for the issues of LGBT communities.” She went on to say that she believes that the
issues impacting LGBTQ individuals are the same issues impacting all
individuals, which is about human rights for all people. While Gender JUST agrees with her on this
point, we do not feel that her answer illustrates experience and understanding
of our communities.
Miguel Del Valle: A
Miguel Del Valle believes that the issues most impacting queer and
transgender youth are economic issues including access to education and job
opportunities, as well as social services; and he believes that we should put
more funding into HIV prevention services in communities of color. He also believes that the way he can support
queer and transgender youth is by challenging institutions and communities to
be more accepting and that his administration will represent our
communities. Finally, he says he wants
to provide resources for those involved in the sex trade to have options
Carol Moseley Braun: B
Carol Moseley Braun believes that queer and transgender youth face the same issues
faced by all youth, including safety and job opportunities. She additionally believes that the best way
to address the sex trade is by providing pathways to education and job
Rahm Emanuel: F
Rahm Emanuel believes that the best way to support queer and transgender youth is to enforce Hate
Crimes Laws and by increasing penalties for those who commit hate crimes. His website highlights same sex marriage and
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as key priorities for the LGBT community. Gender JUST is opposed to Hate Crimes Legislation
and does not share the priorities of DADT and Same-Sex Marriage.
William Dock Walls: C
William Doc Walls believes the biggest issue facing queer
and transgender youth is discrimination in employment, education, and public
safety. He also believes that the best
way to address the sex trade in Chicago is through “stiffer penalties for human
sex trade traffickers [and] jobs for those within the underserved community.”
Our “communities” is defined as the communities to which Gender JUST members
identify. This is not meant to represent
the entire LGBTQ community, all people of color, or all young people; this is
simply meant to illustrate how our communities, as Gender JUST, feel impacted
by the specific policies and proposals of the Chicago mayoral candidates.
In appreciation of your support this holiday season, we will give you a gift of a 12-month full-color Gender JUST calendar if you make a donation of $100 or more. All of the original artwork in the calendar was created by Gender JUST youth leader, Adrian Birrueta. This calendar will make a great gift for family and friends who know that this gift will truly be shared with the whole community!