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praxis

Robust Imaginaries
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Informed Practice

Welcome to the Praxis Center, an online resource center for scholars, activists and artists hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College. From action research and radical scholarship to engaged teaching and grassroots activism to community and cultural organizing, and revelatory art practice, we make visible imperative social justice work being done today.

Praxis is
the synergy between
theory and practice,
knowledge and relevance,
ideas, images, and the real.

Contact

Karla Aguilar
Program Coordinator
Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership
karla.aguilar@kzoo.edu
269-337-7033

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Labor Standards In The Sex Industry: One Sex Worker Shares Her Work and Vision

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

Female, with tattoos peeking out of her shirt partially covered by a black and white striped apron, Susan Davis is anything but a Hollywood image of a butcher. When you check out her Linked In profile you see she is much, much more: born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia she moved out to Vancouver in 1990. Her father was an environmental conservationist and her mom a marine biologist. Childhood summers were spent tracking down snails on the Atlantic seaboard or polishing rocks for her grandfather, the head of the Geology department at Dalhousie University. A conservatory trained musician, she’s played the piano, French horn and the flute for nearly 40 years. Susan has also practiced sex work since 1986, and she has been an advocate for sex workers internationally, nationally and locally for the past twelve years.

I sat down with Susan in her apartment in Vancouver above her butcher shop, which she runs with her partner. Bookshelves line the wall near the kitchen. I asked her if she had read Sin in the Second City, one of the most accessible texts about the clampdown on red light district and high-end brothels in Chicago. She pulled it off her shelf and a pack of lube serving as a bookmark fell out. We both laughed.

Memorabilia for a forthcoming sex workers museum 10 years in the making, including a parson’s bench and women’s bust from an old brothel, were placed throughout the apartment.   Continue reading →

Comments on Labor Standards In The Sex Industry: One Sex Worker Shares Her Work and Vision

Donald MacPherson says:

Susie, I stand in awe of your work, your compassion, your intelligence, your guts, your tenacity, your sensitivity to others and your incredible ability to see the whole picture and how the laws being proposed by this government are damaging to the heart and soul of real community in Canada. An honour to know you.

Esther says:

Very important and very useful article. Important because the public needs to hear from sex workers on their goals and their working conditions. Useful because it so helps people understand how complex sex work and how sex workers live this complexity every day and are, without question, the best placed to help government develop policies that will actually make a difference to sex workers and the broader community.

that is; WITHOUT GETTING BOGGED DOWN!! ooxx

Big kisses to you as always!! Strong and inspiring, with the memory to keep all this alive with getting bogged down in to much rhetoric. You keep it together for so many of us! OOXX

Raven says:

Well done Susie! You are the bravest person I know and this was a fantastic explication of the sex worker rights movement goals, stigma, grassroots organizing, state oppression, social exclusion, I could go on. Most importantly you have communicated that sex workers and their allies have clear strategies to increasing health, safety and wellness. Susie, the only risk you pose to this nation is in your holding leaders accountable to ensuring that ALL Canadians benefit from our legal, human rights and labour protections. You inspire all of us to reject misrepresentations, resist oppressions in all its froms, and to remain steadfast in the fight against legislative changes that have been imperically proven to foster the predatory violence that leads to harm and death for sex workers.

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On Possibilities and Organizing: An Interview with Labor Activist James Thindwa

By Alice Kim, Editor, Praxis Center

James Thindwa is a long time labor and political activist who is currently the Great Lakes Community Engagement Coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Prior to that, he was the Executive Director of Chicago Jobs with Justice, a labor-community coalition.Here, he talks to Praxis Center about the possibilities of organizing for workers’ rights and a more just world.

Alice Kim: First let’s get some background on you. Tell us your political history. How and when did you become politicized?

James Thindwa: My early political experiences were really almost by osmosis, growing up in a politically charged environment in Southern Africa. I grew up in Zimbabwe and at the time there was an anti-colonial struggle going on with major political parties – black political parties – taking on the struggle to dislodge the colonial rulers. The short history is that Zimbabwe was Rhodesia and it was under British rule. In 1965, the British were in the process of liberating, of conferring independence to its colonies, and the white people in Zimbabwe decided they didn’t want that, they didn’t want to give up the country so they declared their own independence from Great Britain, which essentially made them the new colonial masters. So it became this white ruled country outside of Great Britain that declared the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).

I was 10 years old when UDI was declared. Almost immediately a black liberation struggle was formed. All the political parties that had heretofore tried to engage in contact and dialogue to gain independence, they felt they had no choice but to declare war. So there was a war from 1965 to1979. These were formative years. I saw black leadership step up to take on the struggle for independence. I watched, as a kid, a lot of the violence aimed at political leaders, assassinations, and police firing into crowds of people who were peacefully protesting. It was very difficult to avoid being affected by those events. So I would say that more than anything else put me on a course to become active. Continue reading →

Comments on On Possibilities and Organizing: An Interview with Labor Activist James Thindwa

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Beyond Economic Development: A More Inclusive Immigration Reform Movement

By Jonathan Romero, Contributing Editor, Race, Class, and Immigration

On this day, thirteen years ago, attacks on U.S. soil cost the lives of 2,977 people. The consequences of this day, especially for unauthorized immigrants, continue on to this day.

The utter tragedy of the 9/11 attacks horrified the world, the vivid traumatic images seared into the minds of the public. As Americans experienced a collective trauma in the wake of the attacks, racist stereotyping enabled the rise of hostility towards immigrants, particularly towards those perceived to be from the Middle East. For example, two days after 9/11 in Salt Lake City, Utah an American man set a Pakistani-American restaurant on fire “in an attempt to destroy” it. That same day in Seattle, Washington, Patrick Cunningham shot at worshipers who exited Seattle’s Islamic Idriss Mosque. What began as the racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims has led to the marginalization of immigrants of color overall with anti-immigrant sentiment focused on those crossing the Mexican border into the United States.

The War on Terror fueled immigration enforcement as politicians and government officials pushed for increased homeland security. The growing population of Latinos in the U.S. was pointed to as an indication that the U.S. southern border was ill-equipped to keep “invaders” out. As this political message became more widespread, anti-Latino hate crimes rose disproportionally between 2003 and 2006 according to reports by the FBI and the National Institute of Justice. What’s more, self-driven Minuteman calling for an end to the Latino “invasion” took matters into their own hands. For example, Jason Ted Ready, a supporter of the Nationalist Socialist Movement, actively engaged in identifying unauthorized immigrants and scheming to kill them. Ironically, Chris Simcox, co-founder of the Minuteman Project, in an interview, expressed concerns about the rising violence and increasing number of people who went to the border to hunt Latinos. All these factors forced unauthorized immigrants deeper into the shadows of American life. Continue reading →

Comments on Beyond Economic Development: A More Inclusive Immigration Reform Movement

shayna says:

As an American living in Canada it is very interesting to see the shift in conversations here about immigrants. Whereas before Canada had a policy of encouraging immigration (albiet in a classist way) nearly all people who were issued work permits, temporary or not, had the possibility of applying for permanent residency and potentially citizenship. This has radically changed over the past 10 years. In a severe turn towards fearing immigrants in the name of protectionism and patriotism (note the bottom of this webpage http://www.esdc.gc.ca/eng/jobs/foreign_workers/reform/index.shtml) immigrants are now “taking our jobs.”

What Canada has not yet seen is the rise of people in precarious immigration status to be willing to take risks, to speak out. There is so much fear mixed with so much hope that if people are just quiet and compliant enough they may be able to squeak by. I have much admiration for people like Ivan and for the marches in 2006 — this speaks to both a desperation and a willigness to take risk but also a strength and solidarity in numbers and allies: no longer is “what is” the same as “what it ought to be.” We can change the system.

A good reminder that xenophobia and demonization of the Other is a common human prejudice but one we have to expose and eliminate.

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