photo by Carol Queen of the altar at the Dec 17th event at the Center for Sex and Culture

photo by Carol Queen of the altar at the Dec 17th event at the Center for Sex and Culture

Yesterday we gathered, remembered, celebrated, and honored the lives of sex workers loved and lost. In addition to being a vigil and memorial service, the December 17th event and International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers, is a day of inspiration for action. SWOP member Shannon Williams MC’ed the event and introduced speakers who shared stories, poems, blessings, and updates on activism and projects for sex workers’ rights. We were excited to have local queer event organizer Durt as our DJ for the evening at the Center for Sex in Culture.

Carol Leigh announced the return of the Desire Alliance Conference, a convergence of sex workers from around the country (and world) here in the US for workshops, skill shares, and community building. The next conference will be July 14th-19th 2013 in Las Vegas and those interested in attending are encouraged to submit workshop proposals.

Sandy Bottoms gave an update on future projects by SWOP Bay, an organization with chapters nation wide working to end violence and stigma through education and outreach. SWOP is a sex worker lead initiative, and is helping launch the start of a new group called SWAFF (Sex Worker Allies, Family & Friends) lead by the families, friends, lovers, and allies who want to see things change. SWOP will be doing an educational series this Spring for sex workers.

Our friend Cyd from the St. James Infirmary gave an exciting update on work to get the local police to stop using condoms as evidence for arresting people for prostitution and “intent to prostitute”. Cyd and St. James are working to recall the statute. Their efforts have successfully persuaded law enforcement to put a temporary hold on using condoms as evidence for arrest for 90 days. A review of results will happen before before its reinstated. Let’s keep the pressure on law enforcement and local government to end this form of criminalization. In New York, people are too fighting “condoms as evidence”   laws.

We finished the evening and announced the launch of SWAFF and gave T-shirts to attendees with “I LOVE A SEX WORKER” across the chest. A certificate of appreciation as SWAFF’s first Honorary Member was given to Augusta, mother of Carol Leigh AKA Scarlot Harlot. Augusta has been accompanying Carol and participating in the sex worker rights movement since the 1970’s when Carol began doing activism.

Siouxsie Q. recorded interviews and stories from attendees for her podcast This American Whore. We are grateful for Siouxsie and the podcast for doing the much needed work of documenting the social history of sex workers and the movement by amplifying our voices to speak up and speak out.

And a special thank you to the Center for Sex and Culture for hosting the event and offering the use of their fabulous space!