Friday, March 10, 2006

Rebellion is in Full Swing!

So we are off to a great start with the R. Kelly protest that we've been working on. Today we had an open letter to the University and Performing Arts Center administration published in the newspaper and we have a ton of stuff to work on before next Friday. In any case, the response to all of this has been rapid and a bit overwhelming. But I have to say that it is so encouraging to see so many people support the work that Feminists of Color United (FoCU - yes, the acronym reads like "fuck you") is trying to do.
In any case, I wanted to give you all a chance to check out the open letter we published in the Texan. We will be submitting a hard copy to the PAC so if you or any organizations that you are a part of would like to sign on to this work, leave a comment on this post and I will gladly add you.
Peace and Blessings to All, I'm afraid I'm full of revolutionary love tonight.

To the University of Texas at Austin Administration, UT Performing Arts Center Administration, University students, faculty, staff and the greater Austin community:

We are a coalition of women, men, students, faculty, people of color and white allies. We are taking a stand against the University's decision to allow an accused child pornographer to perform on our campus. We are taking a stand against sexual assault and exploitation of women of color on our campus and in our communities.

We discovered that the UT Performing Arts Center (PAC) invited R&B singer and accused child pornographer R. Kelly to perform at the Bass Concert Hall. We are offended that money generated from student fees to support the arts on campus are being used to sponsor a performance with an individual who has a history of dodging allegations of child pornography, statutory rape and exploiting young women sexually. After speaking with a representative of the PAC we were informed that they invited Kelly to perform despite his background and the fact that he is currently on trial for 14 counts of child pornography. Their reason: Kelly should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Regardless of his guilt or innocence, as women and men of color who attend and work at this University we are appalled at the use of University funds to support such an individual. In order to make our case more clearly perhaps it is necessary to know the background of the Kelly case as well as our political position. In February 2002, a videotape depicting a man who appears to be Kelly engaging in sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl. Kelly was indicted in Chicago in June 2002 with 21 counts for charges of soliciting a minor for child pornography, seven counts for videotaping these acts and seven counts of producing child pornography. Kelly was further indicted in January 2003 on 12 counts of possession of child pornography in Florida. Currently 14 of the 33 charges still stand and, despite his busy touring schedule, Kelly is on trial for these charges.

Although we are specifically targeting Kelly, because he is coming to our campus, we feel that it is critically important not to lose sight of the larger issue in this matter: sexual violence against women of color and sexism in communities of color. The fact that there has been no collective critique of the Kelly case either by prominent black or feminist leaders clearly demonstrates the lack of value that is placed on the lives and general well-being of women of color. While it is necessary to fight against the racism that affects both men and women of color, we feel it is our responsibility to also fight against the sexism within black, Latino, Asian and indigenous communities, as well.

In the tradition of Fredrick Douglas, as a community we must acknowledge and act upon the reality that the structural oppression of racism is both historically and contemporarily informed by gendered violence against black women. We recognize that until men of color deal with this reality they will continue to reproduce terror upon women of color. Sexual assault against women of color in the U.S. is a pervasive social reality that we all must struggle to overcome.

By inviting Kelly to perform, the University and the PAC demonstrate a lack of awareness of the reality of sexual assault against women of color and in so doing, implicitly support the perpetuation of this particular and pervasive form of violence.It is time for those of us who believe in freedom, justice and the right to a safe and healthy life to stand up for ourselves. As women of color (and allies of women of color) who are a part of the University community we are appalled at the University's blatant disregard of sexual violence against women of color.

We are here to stand up in defense of ourselves, our lives and our communities!

It is clear that the PAC has no intention of retracting their invitation to Kelly or canceling the show. Barring such a response we demand the following:

* That the PAC contact Kelly's publicist/manager and invite him to participate in a dialogue with Feminists of Color United. FoCU will be hosting a Sexual Assault Teach-In at the Center for African and African American Studies, Friday, March 17, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
* That FoCU be given space in the concert program to share our concerns with people attending the event.
* That we be given a brief time slot prior to the show to directly address the audience and present our analysis of this situation.
* That we be granted space to host an informational demonstration outside of the Bass Concert Hall as the audience arrives and be permitted to distribute educational literature.In this manner, we believe that we can truly shed light on the critical issue of sexual violence against women of color while also holding the University responsible for its actions.

If the University administration and the PAC truly believe in making this University a space where all people can thrive and feel safe, these demands should cause little problem.

Regardless, we will be at the Bass Concert Hall on March 17, letting R. Kelly and everyone else know that we are serious in our criticism and our outrage. Sexual assault against women of color and sexism in communities of color must stop. And we know that it will only stop when we stand up for ourselves and say "Enough!"

In Solidarity,
Feminists of Color United
Juli Grigsby
Courtney Desiree Morris
Jacqueline Smith
Sonia dos Santos
Raquel de Souza
Damien Schynder, ally

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