Last year, No Justice No Pride (NJNP) worked with SWAC to organize community members to provide testimony preventing a toxic “Nuisance” Bill in DC’s City Council — that would have further criminalized trans sex workers and people who are perceived as sex workers — from ever reaching a vote. We saw a need to bust myths, and build community-based support for SWAC’s goals. Shortly after, we launched the first phase of a Community Storytelling Project with 20 stories collected through surveys and small storytelling events led by directly-impacted trans community members around experiences related to Fare Evasion, Street & Public Harassment, Sex Work, Wellness, Housing, and Community Safety.
To help facilitate this, NJNP started a pilot program last spring (The Organizing Training Project) to develop the organizing, storytelling and leadership skills of Trans folks of color disproportionately impacted by violence resulting from the criminalization of sex work while providing stipends as an safer form of employment to street based work. NJNP has since completed two rounds of Organizer-In-Trainings (OIT) with eight participants having completed the program. Four of these participants were organizers for the first phase of the Storytelling Project and since joined NJNP’s Steering Committee where they make strategic and administrative decisions for the collective. Now a year after starting this project we would like to do a second phase of the project to continue to build on the momentum and past successes towards our end goal of decriminalizing sex work in D.C.
In Phase two, the four original storytelling organizers from the first phase will train new participants on the basics of organizing and storytelling before working with the broader coalition to review and update the current Survey questions and Narrative criteria. Organizational partner Lambda Legal will work with coalition and community members to refine and further develop questions that could be helpful in litigation challenging SESTA/FOSTA or legislative advocacy to repeal the law. Lambda Legal will use their experience in impact litigation supporting the rights of LGBT individuals and people living with HIV — a particularly relevant example of this work is their 2017 amicus brief in Erotic Service Provider Legal, Education & Research Project v. Gascón (9th Cir.) outlining the negative public health impacts of sex work criminalization — to help develop and analyze survey and storytelling outcomes.
Storytelling Organizers — NJNP Organizers will then map out and recruit participants to tell their story via the storytelling survey (an open ended narrative where the organizer makes sure the participants covers the criteria agreed upon) or a brief/short survey, used with when participants are on the go; that allows for a more thorough follow up. Storytelling Organizers will receive a stipend as a safer employment alternative to street based work that will also allow sex workers to hone in on their organizing skills.