Nan-Hui Jo, guilty of dignity and survival

 

#StandWithNanHui

Nan-Hui Jo is a single mother, Korean immigrant to the United States, survivor of domestic violence, and prisoner. She stands, and struggles, at the intersection of State violence against immigrant women, women of color, and domestic violence survivors. While her story of being subjected to at least three forms of State violence is in many ways tragic, Nan-Hui Jo does not embody a failure of the State. The State wants Nan-Hui Jo suffering in prison and that’s what’s happening.

Nan-Hui Jo’s story is complicated, because of the innumerable details and turns, and yet simple, because of its familiarity. As a survivor of domestic violence, her story joins with those of Marissa Alexander, Tondalo Hall, and so many other women of color survivors who have been sent to prison for the crime of survival. As an immigrant woman, she joins Kenia Galeano and the mothers in Karnes Immigration Detention Center, in Texas, who are struggling to end State violence against immigrant women. In both categories, the women’s crime is having asserted their dignity.

Very briefly, Nan-Hui Jo came to the United States as a student, met a guy, fell in love, returned to Korea to get a fiancé visa, returned, married. Her husband abused her, and so Nan-Hui Jo filed for separation, moved across the country to California, returned to school, met a guy. Soon after, Nan-Hui Jo became pregnant, the guy pushed for an abortion, she resisted, they broke up, they re-united, they broke up again. Two months later, Nan-Hui Jo gave birth to Vitz Da, a beautiful baby girl. The father re-entered the picture a few months after Vitz Da’s birth, seemed to love the child, and the two adults re-united. The father exhibited unpredictably violent behavior, striking at Nan-Hui Jo at least once and threatening constantly. In July 2009, the two separated.

Here’s where it gets `complicated.’ Because Nan-Hui Jo had separated from her husband, she lost his sponsorship, and so ICE denied her application for a green card. Because no one told Nan-Hui Jo that she had rights as an immigrant survivor of domestic violence, she agreed to return to South Korea, which she did with her daughter. Five years later, in July 2014, Nan-Hui Jo and Vitz Da returned to the United States. Jo was arrested for child abduction. Her daughter was taken away. Despite his violent history, the father was given full custody of the child. Mother and daughter have not seen each other since.

Nan-Hui Jo’s trial ended in a hung jury. She stayed in jail, awaiting a second trial, where she was found guilty. In April, Nan-Hui Jo was sentenced to 175 days time served and three years probation. Immediately, Nan-Hui Jo was turned over to immigration authorities, who decided to place her in prison. She could have remained in the community until her hearing. Instead, she sits in jail.

Many organizations, such as the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse, have campaigned for not only Nan-Hui Jo’s release but for her exoneration and freedom. 170 Asian American organizations sent an open letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security. They note, “Ms. Jo’s case highlights the vulnerable and marginalized situations that undocumented people and survivors of domestic violence face … As a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting and advancing immigrants’ rights and providing support to survivors of domestic violence, we especially are concerned about Ms. Jo’s case, given her status as an immigrant, domestic violence survivor, and mother. We ask that the Department of Homeland Security drop the immigration hold request against Ms. Jo and release her from detention.”

Silence.

Who benefits from separating this woman from her daughter? Who benefits from her sitting in jail? In a related context, Silvia Federici provides a clue, “The struggle of immigrant domestic workers fighting for the institutional recognition of `carework’ is strategically very important, for the devaluation of reproductive work has been one of the pillars of capital accumulation and the capitalistic exploitation of women’s labor.”

When Nan-Hui Jo arrived in the United States, survival became her carework, and the State has extracted value from that since day one. The State passes laws that `protect’ women, and then the same State refuses to implement those laws when women need them to survive and to live. That is no failure; that is the program. This is the lesson those organizing the Stand With Nan-Hui Campaign are learning and teaching others. State violence against domestic violence survivors is wrapped in State violence against immigrant women is wrapped again in State violence against women. And the result? Women – survivors, immigrants, women of color, prisoners – have to work ten times as hard to survive and assert their dignity.

For the rest of her life, Nan-Hui Jo will have to struggle and labor furiously to have any contact with her daughter. This is the price women, and their daughters, pay for the crime of asserting the dignity of women.

 

(Image Credit: Korean American Coalition to End Domestic Abuse)

Did Mother’s Day end early this year?

Mother’s Day seemed to end early and abruptly this year.

In Australia, under the proposed new national budget, women who have a child, otherwise known as mothers, face paying 30% more on student loans than their male counterparts. No matter that another government policy encourages women to have three children, one for ma, one for pa, and for the nation down the road: “These aren’t choices we force on men. These are penalties we extract from women, based on their gender.”

Speaking of penalties, this week, the Pennsylvania ACLU revealed that in Pennsylvania, pregnant women prisoners are routinely shackled, including during childbirth. Pennsylvania is one of the states that actually has a law, the Healthy Birth for Incarcerated Women Act, which prohibits this kind of treatment. That law was passed in 2010. The ACLU has written to the Attorney General of Pennsylvania asking her to `clarify the law.’

Speaking of clarifying the law, Marissa Alexander still can’t catch a break. For having shot once in the air and not endangered anyone, in order to ward off an abusive partner, Marissa Alexander still faces a possible 60 years behind bars. While her lawyers may have all sorts of new evidence, the prosecuting attorney says the evidence isn’t new enough and the judge is worried about the precedent set by having a second Stand Your Ground hearing. Happy Mother’s Day.

But for the women farmworkers of Immokalee, it may just be a Mother’s Day to celebrate. For the fourth year in a row, farmworker mothers, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, stormed the ramparts of Publix, armed to the teeth with hope, a vision of a decent and dignified future for all, a dream of industrial democracy, and a letter, which read:

“May 11, 2014
Mother’s Day

To Publix:

We are farmworker women.  This is the fourth celebration of Mother’s Day in which we are writing to Publix to ask that you join the Fair Food Program.

As mothers, we work in the fields to support our families, especially to help our children through school.

As mothers, we do not make enough to fully support our family.  And the little that we do make is not easy to earn: We work under the sun and rain of Florida.  We do everything so that you can have tomatoes:  we plant, we tie up the plants, we harvest, and then we do it all again the next season.  In spite of all that, it seems that you do not understand and do not want to hear the voice of farmworkers.

Publix profits from the sweat of those of us who work in the fields.  We deserve respect and we deserve a fair wage.

Now is the time to join the Fair Food Program to protect the rights of workers and ensure a fair wage, with the penny per pound that 12 other corporations are already paying.  What are you waiting for, Publix?

Sincerely,

The Women’s Group of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers”

After delivering the letter, Lupe Gonzalo reported, “Publix presumes to say that they support families — but in reality, we don’t see this support. And we are not afraid to tell them that what they are saying is not true.  We are not afraid to come and protest in front of their stores.  Because we are speaking the truth, with our heads held high. For all of us, when we speak to our children, we tell them the truth.  And we tell them that Publix has not signed onto the Program because they are afraid.  Even children can see that.  But what does Publix say to its children?  Only lies?  Is that how they are educating their children?  That is not how we prepare our children for the future.”

Others, like Nely Rodriguez, mother of four, agreed. Now is the time!

Thanks to the work of women like Marissa Alexander, Lupe Gonzalo, Nely Rodriguez, maybe Mother’s Day didn’t end early this year, because, for them, the struggle of women continues, and that’s what Mother’s Day is all about.

(Photo Credit: Coalition of Immokalee Workers)

#YakiriLibre: Tod@s somos Yaki, tod@s merecemos justicia

The case of Yakiri Rubio is a celebrated case in Mexico, which has received practically no attention in the United States or in the Anglophone press worldwide. That’s a shame, because Yakiri’s case articulates with cases in the United State, and with the more general situation of women’s safety and wellbeing.

In December, 20-year-old Yakiri was seized by two men, brothers, and taken to a hotel, where she was raped. Yakiri picked up a knife and struggled with her attackers. She struck one of the attackers in the neck, and he subsequently died of his injury. Clothes ripped, bleeding and bruised, Yakiri fled the hotel, found a police officer, and described what happened. She was taken to the police station. No one believed her. That night in the police station, she received no gynecological examination or any medical attention. No medication, no treatment, no nothing. Then Yakiri was booked for first-degree homicide. The only eyewitness to testify against her is the other brother, also involved in the rape.

Yakiri has been in one prison after another for three months. Her family organized a major campaign. Women’s groups, civil and human rights organizations, and others have mobilized their forces. Yesterday, finally, a judge reviewed the case and decided to downgrade the charge from first-degree murder to self-defense with excessive force. While this downgrade did not absolve Yakiri, it did make her release on bail possible. She was supposed to be released yesterday but, thanks to bureaucratic foot dragging, as of noon today, people were still awaiting her release. Her lawyer, Ana Katiria Suárez, felt pretty confident that Yakiri Rubí Rubio would walk out of prison today, not a free woman, not an exonerated woman, but at least no longer behind bars and caged.

On line and on lampposts and walls, Free Yakiri posters have proclaimed: “#YakiriLibre: La violencia machista es un crimen, que te encarcelen por defenderse tambien”: “#FreeYakiri: Male violence against women is a crime, and they put in jail for defending yourself against it.” In Mexico, women and men understand that Yakiri defended herself against both an immediate physical assault and ongoing structural, cultural, political, economic and societal violence against her as a woman and against all women.

Yesterday, the State announced it will review the cases of women currently behind bars, in the light of Yakiri’s case. There will be others like Yakiri.

This is a Mexican case that speaks to cases worldwide. In Florida, Marissa Alexander shoots a warning shot to stop a murderously abusive partner, and is not only charged but also persecuted by the State. In California, Patricia Norma Esparza was 20 years old when she was raped and then struggled with and killed her rapist. In a preliminary hearing last week, the police argued that Esparza “consented to” being raped, and so it’s all on her.

In each case, the woman was offered a deal, and in each case, the woman turned it down and demanded either a trial or to be let free. From the formal rule of law – the police, the Courts, the prison – to the informal everywhere else, women reject the compromised position and status that is offered to them as a `gift.’ They know: When it comes to ending sexual violence, when it comes to establishing a material world of peace and safety for all, there are no deals. As one demonstrator’s sign read, “#YakiriLibre: Tod@s somos Yaki, tod@s merecemos justicia”. We are all Yaki, we all deserve justice.

 

(Image Credit: https://mediosindependientes.wordpress.com)

The tragedy of Sybrina Fulton, the agony of Marissa Alexander

Sybrina Fulton

“My message to you is, please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, ‘We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child… I speak to you as Trayvon’s mother. I speak to you as a parent, and the absolutely worst telephone call you can receive as a parent is to know that your son — your son — you will never kiss again. I’m just asking you to wrap your mind around that, wrap your mind around: No prom for Trayvon. No high school graduation for Trayvon. No college for Trayvon. No grandkids coming from Trayvon, all because of a law, a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for his awful crime.”

Sybrina Fulton spoke these words yesterday.

Sybrina Fulton and Marissa Alexander face each other across a chasm of tragedy and agony, a condition known by far too many Black women in the United States, women who live under the regime of more than Stand Your Ground laws. Black women in the United States today live in an internally coherent system of racial-sexual oppression.

When Trayvon Martin was killed, and even more when his killer was released, across the country, Black families understood that Stand Your Ground was code for Understand Your Place. Understand that your place is the crossroads of your race and gender.

This lesson is being lived out today by Sybrina Fulton. Marissa Alexander is also living out that hard lesson. Marissa Alexander is a Black woman in Florida, in the same jurisdiction as Travyon Martin. She is the mother of three children. One day, in desperation at the abusiveness of her partner, she picked up a gun and shot it, once, in the air. It was a warning shot.

When she was arrested and tried, she said she was protecting herself and her children, she argued their lives were in real, present and immediate danger. She invoked Stand Your Ground. The prosecuting attorney Angela Corey, the same prosecuting attorney in the Trayvon Martin case, rejected the argument.

Many want to know why. Why does a Black woman get such different treatment? Others respond, “Hey, welcome to Florida. Welcome to America.”

Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years behind bars. She now `awaits her appeal.’ For Black women in the United States, the options provided by the so-called criminal justice system are simple, agony or tragedy. Those options are unacceptable. Release Marissa Alexander from prison. Relase CeCe McDonald from prison. Reject the Stand Your Ground, `Stand Your Position program. Instead, Stand Your Dignity

(Photo Credit: Day & a Dream) (Image Credit: DignidadRebelde.com)