Hey y’all, I’m sharing on behalf of our collective, both inside and outside members, but I want to give a special s/o to our comrade Alisha Walker who contributed heavily to the writing and shaping of this statement.
Alisha “LeLe” Walker is an incarcerated former sex worker and current inside organizer with the Support Ho(s)e collective. LeLe was criminalized for surviving a violent attack on her life and the life of a fellow sex worker. LeLe fought back out of self-love and out of defense for her friend and fellow worker. She was punished for this, sentenced to 15 years and is caged, right now, during this pandemic at Decatur Correctional in downstate Illinois. We’ve been fighting for over four years for her release, and we won’t stop fighting.
I’m thankful to be able to bring Alisha’s words and spirit into this space too. Thank y’all for inviting incarcerated sex workers’ voices into this action–it’s only right that we lift up our incarcerated comrades, since this day is so much about resisting state violence and criminalization and also about the state’s repression against those taking action!
Black Lives Matter.
Black trans Lives Matter.
Black Incarcerated People Matter.
Black Sex Workers Matter.
First let us begin by saying, our collective is firmly anti-prison, anti-police, and anti-capitalist. We believe we must embody these politics to fully decriminalize survival, dismantle racism, and meaningfully build toward all our collective liberation.
We believe we must say fuck prisons, because our friends and comrades are caged and they have taught us to know and feel the horror of incarceration. We have listened to and learned from so many Black feminists, and through their work, writing and care have raised our horizon line of imagination of addressing harm beyond carceral punishment.
We believe we must say fuck the police, because as the comrades of Critical Resistance remind us: “Instances of police killings, violence, and targeting of Black people & people of color are not instances of “bad policing” or “policing gone wrong.” They are the manifestations of policing itself.”
We believe we must say fuck capitalism, because our comrades are criminalized workers, or while incarcerated have had their labor stolen to profit the prisons and the state, or have precarious housing, or live in places where the air and soil have been poisoned by land development and environmental racism.
We believe we must name these things. We also believe sex workers have vital insight to share about building a world of safety and support outside of the state, outside of reliance on cops and courts. Those systems were set up to fail Black people, cash poor people, drug-using people, sex trading people–so let us work toward building a world without those violent systems.
Over the past three years sex workers have seen unprecedented organizing, resistance, and advocacy for our labor rights. We’ve seen struggles against racist transphobic anti-loitering ordinances, protests in the streets and the most writing on sex work we’ve personally ever seen. We’ve spilled into art and cultural spaces, demanding to be seen, heard and finding support. This has us shocked, in the best possible way. This is a fight decades and decades in the making, and I’m grateful to be able to share space today to honor our elders, our whoremothers, and celebrate however we can. We need to hold onto our joyful militancy, now more than ever.
Now let us say something else, we also believe our sense of solidarity and resistance needs to be strengthened by more than just our collective rage at the white supremacist in office. Our commitment to throwing down for one another must be based in radical compassion, an insistence that lives other than our own individual selves matter, and with common goals that honor the fact Black women, trans people, incarcerated people, drug-using people, and femmes of color have been doing this work for fucking ever forever.
Has a radical thought about harm reduction and mutual aid come to you in time of need? A Black sex worker probably planted that seed 50 years ago.
Our point is: we exist in a rich, messy, nuanced legacy from which to draw inspirations and lessons from. We should embrace it! Our vibrant and often explosively creative organizing history is often ignored or erased from labor and queer history–and we say, “Fuck that!” We struggle, we remember, we read, we listen, we learn, and we won’t stop!
We hold close these words from Mariame Kaba, “Hope is a discipline.” Let us practice and kindle our radical hope together.
We chant this mantra from Emergent Strategies “We practice what we want to create.”
Y’all, we must rise up together against xenophobia, whorephobia, environmental racism, and all state violence. Only together are we going to realize our goal of a just world without criminalization, without white supremacy, without whorephobia, without patriarchy, without exploitation and oppression!
In closing, I wanted to say something about remembering and honoring voices.
You may have seen the phrase “Whores Will Rise” circulating. This is a line taken from a piece written by our comrade Alisha Walker, called “Whore…?” These words, Whores Will Rise, remind us that an unapologetic resistance to state violence, policing, the criminalization of survival and whorephobia is what is needed now. Sex workers have been at the forefront of liberation struggles, these words are an articulation of a community ready to fight.
This is from Alisha’s introduction to her poem: “I wrote this piece, Whore…? because I’m incarcerated for being a whore who survived, so I’ll never turn my back on whores. Hasn’t the government done enough to try and separate us? I’m writing this as a young, queer, Black, multi-ethnic woman. I wrote this piece to celebrate International Whores Day. Whores are the hardest working people I know, I’m proud to be in their ranks. I didn’t know about this day when I was working, but now I’m locked up and I know about it, I need it. I wanna be connected to whores around the world fighting. I want us to shut down the shame, shut down the racist pigs. Whores will rise.”