Please support us!

Nov. 30, 2011

Dear Friends and Allies:

We are reaching out to ask you to help us raise money to support the important work of Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP). YWEP is run by youth of color in the sex trade and street economies. We are a member based social justice organization that is led by and for our constituency. Our organization is staffed and run by us,  people between the ages of 17-25.

Our mission is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women, including transgender girls and transgender women in the sex trade to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. YWEP is Chicago based project that was founded in 2002 by a radical feminist and harm reduction based collective of women and girls involved in the sex trade and our allies. We were created by women and girls who believe that any young person can be empowered and that we are all priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in our communities.

By making a donation, you can know that you are connected with work that advances young people, people of color, LGBTQ youth, and youth who are living and surviving on the street to positions of leadership and decision-making. We are building a movement of self-determination, connecting with each other to create and share resources, and realizing new ways of honoring our rights.

YWEP is my anchor to reality; a needed reminder that I am not the stereotype or statistic the world tells me that I am. YWEP validates me, supports me, encourages me, doesn’t judge me and empowers me to continue to grow into the self sufficient woman I am supposed to be. YWEP provides the necessary safety that my heart needs to grow wings.”

Our first Campaign and our Bad Encounter Line

In 2009, YWEP completed a youth led research study on ways girls and transgender girls in the sex trade & street economy are resistant and resilient to violence. In this research we looked at two categories of violence, individual and institutional.  Although both categories had surprising results, we were most surprised at the amount of girls and transgender girls facing violence from institutions-like police, hospitals, and social services. Out of this research, YWEP created a hotline called the Bad Encounter Line (BEL).  The BEL is a way to report bad experiences street-based youth encounter with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being harmed.  Results show that street based young people in Chicago are being harmed and/or denied help from systems set up to serve our needs. Since 2009, 146 Bad Encounters have been filed over the computer, via phone, text and through filling out a paper form.  Of these 146 encounters, law enforcement and health care are the most likely institutions found to deny help or cause violence to youth involved in the sex trade and street economy.

In response, YWEP has created a campaign called Street Youth Rise Up and organized a city wide task force made up of 122 youth from around Chicago. 

Street Youth Bill of Rights

The Chicago Street Youth in Motion Task Force has also drafted a Street Youth Bill of Rights.

This collectively written document seeks to hold institutions accountable by asking them to sign on, display our Bill of Rights posters, offer a clear grievance procedure, and participate in a training series using a curriculum written by us about how to work effectively with our constituency.

Here are some more 2011 events that highlight the way we are working to change the way people THINK  about and SEE homeless, home-free, and street based youth:

In September, YWEP led our first march through Chicago with nearly 100 adults and young people coming together to demand being heard.  In July, We released a hip hop CD that includes spoken word and jazz that we wrote, produced, performed and recorded ourselves. Throughout the year, we learned about herbs, how to make herbal pills, do self exams, use speculums and we have been teaching other young people about this with our zines and outreach so that we know how to take care of ourselves when we are turned away from, can’t afford or unable to get the help that we need.

When everyone in my life judged me and told me I was worthless; when every service provider believed that I couldn’t do anything for myself because I was just another victim—the women at YWEP were the only ones telling me that I could protect myself, that I deserved to take care of me and that I had the power to dream a new life. The women of YWEP were the only ones who really cared about ME.”

We’re a small organization, so every dollar is important. For an idea of where your money will be going:

$10 a month makes it possible for a young person to participate in Girls in Charge, our leadership group that makes all the major decisions at YWEP.

$25 a month makes it possible for a youth outreach worker to provide harm reduction information on reproductive health and drugs, legal rights, responding to violence and reducing harm / increasing safety in the sex trade.

 $50 a month makes it possible for our members to conduct workshops with young people throughout the city of Chicago about the realities of the sex trade, who benefits from the sex trade, and what young people can do to support young women in the sex trade.

 A one-time $500 covers a youth staff person’s salary for a month and $1,000.00 pays 12 youth outreach workers to reach 500 street based young people a year with life saving information and supplies.

ANY AMOUNT makes it possible for YWEP to continue to reach other street based youth, provide learning tools, resources for survival and information about getting involved with our youth-led campaign.

The Recollection of Successes

          2011 has been quite the year for us (well let’s be real the whole freakin’ movement ;). All this has been in the making from the beginning conversations of YWEP and here we are- over ten years later still in control of our own lives, and echoing our realities for everyone to hear.  

On September 28th 2011 we had the privilege of witnessing history happen & magic happen. As we gathered that Friday at 3pm on Belmont, with all legalities covered and the proper “authorities” had been alerted we set it off. Young people marched to alert our local community that we are tired of being referred to as the problem, and ready to speak out- not just as the victims of these unjust systems, but also as survivors of circumstance!!!

 We stepped off at 3:45PM with our legal advisors (courtesy of Transformative Justice Law Project), lawyers (who came from as far away as New York), and youth from all over this city!! We organized over 70 youth and 15 adult allies to march to change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless, home-free and street-based youth for doing what they have to do to survive!

Our set up krew and outreach team acted as a mobile rest stops and offered water and a moments rest if needed. Feeling the power of speaking up and speaking out our own lives, we marched nearly 2 miles to have the Boystown and Uptown communities recognize the truth. People all along the March Route jumped in- asking questions, engaging our cause- and the youth had all the answers & spread the word! It was so motivating, moving, and needed.

Once we arrived at Alternatives Inc. we took a few moments out of our exciting and hectic day to reach the masses, by talking live to Volcolo 88.5 radio on the afternoon Overdrive

The day was a humble success and I’d say the most priceless moment was our Speakout. With a few motivating speeches sprinkled in, this was a gift because the stage belonged to the youth that night! We showed our colors, spirits, and realities.

Although this was only the start to a much larger fight –we already had a few more successes – as two more organizations reached out to us to sign on to our Street Youth Bill of Rights….. That night was our proof to our mission – that we are the leaders in our own life.  

Undoubtedly, we couldn’t have done this without the support of our amazingly super supportive adult allies and peace-keepers. But young people were in charge of the entire event- from the peace keeping, to the paperwork, to the set up, any way a youth could get involved and take leadership was open to them.

 They said we couldn’t be organized!!!!!!!

But I’M HERE TO SAY THAT WE DID IT!!!!! 

And we will keep doing it, like how our BEL will help us select our target for our Street Youth Rise Up! Campaign and our research will give us the proof and the power to show that our rights to need to be recognized!!!!

2011  is not yet over and there are still so many opportunities for work to be done to further the change we desire. There are more opportunities to see us and get involved- next stop Los Angeles for the New Leadership Network Initiative- a project of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Project.  

Stay tuned for more updates to come!!!

 

Our March Was AMAZING! Hear us on the radio

Live interview with C Angel Torre

We Are:

We are sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. We are gay, straight, trans, queer, lovers, friends, and families. We are artists, musicians, students, body piercers, tattoo artists, people pleasers, and street pharmacists. We are Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, undocumented immigrants, indigenous people, and nomads. We are young people, and allies who come from all across this city in the reality of what it takes to survive here. Doing what we need to and criminalized everyday for it.  We are here to hold the city accountable for the lack of help and the discrimination that comes from the places we are supposed to seek help from. We are a member-based social justice organizing task-force that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. We are here because we are tired, and ready to create change!!!!!!

What We Do:

We are the alternative, we are the resource. We are there when the system is not. We provide food for those who may not be able to access a meal. We safety plan with youth who need support around difficult situations. We help youth who need assistance accessing housing, clean rigs, health alternatives, or just someone to listen to them.  We are here to offer a safe, respectful, free-of-judgment space for young people in the sex trade and street economies to organize around issues that affect their everyday life and to recognize their goals, dreams and desires.

Research:

In 2009 we did a massive research study and published the results. Our study’s findings even went to the United Nations! Our campaign is based on the findings from our participatory action research project called Girls do what they have to do to Survive: Illuminating Methods used by Girls in the Sex Trade and Street Economy to Fight Back and Heal. This study was coordinated by our youth staff Jazeera Iman and Naima Paz with adult ally support from Catlin Fullwood. Over 65 members participated in creating, implementing and documenting our research report.

We had 3 main findings:

1. Resilience is a stepping stone to Resistance- this means that the more we take care of ourselves the more we have the power to fight back

2. Denied Help- young people in the sex trade and street economy are being denied help from social services and non profits and even police because they are involved in the sex trade, street economy or are queer or transgender.

3. Institutional violence makes individual violence worse- this means that when some goes for help (lets say because someone is hurting them) and then they are turned down for help (because they are in the sex trade or another reason) this makes the situation and the experiences much worse.

We created our campaign that uses ALL 3 of these findings because we wanted to build our resilience and fight back against institutional violence.

Campaign: Street Youth Rise UP!

Our campaign is to change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless homefree and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive. We are doing this in 4 ways:

•    Our BAD ENCOUNTER LINE is a form youth can fill out if you have been denied help from a social service or someone who was supposed to help them like a doctor or police officer. THIS FORM IS ANONYMOUS and helps us figure out who, where and why our community is being turned away from help. Youth can fill it out online or by calling 773-728-0127 and pressing the button to speak with a person or by coming to our office and filling out a form.

•    Chicago Street Youth in Motion is our grassroots organizing city wide task force for street based youth. This task force is for all genders. These are the youth who organized and planned for this March/Speak out.

Our task force just wrote a Street Youth Bill of Rights and we will be asking social services to sign on to this Bill and display this poster in their offices to make sure that all young people know our rights and that we can’t be denied help!

•    Healing in Action teaches us how to do our own self exams, about herbs and how we can take of our bodies in case we cant get to a doctor or we are denied help. We made a Universal Self Exam guide and a Healing in Action Zine with tips and tools for going to the doctor, for how to take care of yourself if you can’t get to a doctor and what to do if you are denied help. For more information email selfcare@youarepriceless.org

•    Media–we have made CD’s, Zines and Posters! You can get free stuff here and soon you will be able to order a copy of our CD online.. all the tracks were written and produced by YWEP

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW RESEARCH FINDINGS LEAD TO the ‘Street Youth Rise Up’ Campaign: To change the way Chicago sees and treats its homeless, home-free and street based youth who do what they have to do to survive.

Because Young Women’s Empowerment Project’s [YWEP] new research- called The Bad Encounter Line [BEL]– shows that girls and transgender girls and all street based young people in Chicago are being denied help from systems set up to serve our needs: We are coming together on Friday, Sept 30th in the Lakeview (Boystown Area) at 3:30PM on the corner of Belmont and Broadway to march as a peaceful action. This demonstration is to alert others that we are tired of being criminalized for our survival in this city. The march will lead into a Speak out at Alternatives Inc. where we will have many youth come to share their talents and voices. We demand accountability for the criminalization of our survival, and require the basic necessities that helping systems are not providing our community.

New Research: BAD ENCOUNTER LINE FINDINGS: The BEL is a way to report bad experiences street based youth have had with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being denied help. Since 2009, 146 Bad Encounters have been filed over the computer, via phone, text and through filling out a paper form. Of these 146 encounters, 20% (the largest percentage) was in the Lakeview area with Police & Health Care as the most likely institutions found to deny help or cause violence to youth involved in the sex trade and street economy.

A full report will be released during the march and speak out and shows details information and graphs.

WHO WE ARE: YWEP HISTORY: The Young Women’s Empowerment Project (YWEP) is a member based social justice organizing project that is led by and for young people of color who have current or former experience in the sex trade street economies. Our mission is to offer safe, respectful, free-of-judgment spaces for girls and young women in the sex trade to recognize their goals, dreams and desires. YWEP is Chicago based project that was founded in 2002 by a radical feminist and harm reduction based collective of women and girls involved in the sex trade and our allies. We were created by women and girls who believe that any girl can be empowered and that all girls are priceless, creative, and smart and can be leaders in their communities.

WHY WE ARE DOING THIS: HISTORY, RESEARCH & HISTORY ABOUT THE BAD ENCOUNTER LINE: In 2009, YWEP completed a youth led research study on ways girls and transgender girls in the sex trade & street economy are resistant and resilient to violence. In this research we looked at two categories of violence, individual and institutional. Although both categories had surprising results, we were most surprised at the amount of girls and transgender girls facing violence from institutions- like police, hospitals, social services and even Department Children and Family Service.

We wanted to tackle this problem from a community organizing approach from this idea the Bad Encounter Line (BEL) was born. The BEL is a way to report bad experiences you have had with institutions and tracks the neighborhood, gender and time of day so YWEP can learn more about how we are being harmed.

We also started a task force called “Street Youth in Motion” who organized this march and wrote a Street Youth Bill of Rights (attached) that we want all non-profits to sign to make them accountable to us and can’t get away with denying us help!

For more information contact Angel@youarepriceless.org

READ OUR STREET YOUTH BILL OF RIGHTS!

Taking Back Our City, and So Much More…..

Over the past year, we’ve been busy collecting Bad Encounters from all across the city. Recording institutional violence, and giving youth an opportunity to speak out, against these helping systems that don’t seem to be reaching our community. To date we have collected 132 plus Bad Encounters, we are still trying to collect more, but we are at that point in our data where we are culling and coding in hopes of finding a target, for our Street Youth in Motion Taskforce. Pushing our Street Youth Rise Up Campaign’s goal to change the way Chicago sees and treats its Homeless, Homefree, and Street-based youth for doing what they have to do to survive.

Yes it is that time, our Taskforce is moving forward!!! Our next meeting September 16th at the BYC will be the last opportunity for us to both come together before we march through our streets, and make some noise for the whole city to hear. We are coming together to publicly release our Street Youth Bill of Rights, and to get our campaign going and we’re getting everybody involved. We ask that if you wish to be a part of this planning process, that you be 25 years of age and younger, or bring a youth with you. Food and bus fare will be provided. Our time now, we have a location and a date and all we need is you and the streets!!!!! That’s RIGHT people!!!  It’s time for Chicago’s Street Youth to RISE Up!!!!!  September 30th is the date and Alternative’s Inc. is the place we will be holding our speak out, located on 4730 North Sheridan Road Chicago, IL. We are going to let the whole city know we are ready for some accountability, and ready to receive the rights to our basic survival needs!!!!!. We are so lucky to have such a great host for our speak out, and a great way for us to come together, after we take back our streets and MARCH for our rights!!!!! Stay tuned more details to come soon, Meeting place for the march will be posted shortly. It’s time for us to make our city listen to us, about our right to survive!!!! This will definitely be one for the books. Please come out and support we look forward to seeing you all there.

Motivating Our Street Youth, Pushing Forward!!!!

Last Friday we kicked things back of with an amazing taskforce meeting, pushing forward with our campaign goals.  Great to see new faces, ready to fight for our rights. Breaking into groups, to push our force out there, can get people ready to listen to us, speak up and speak out!!! So inspiring to see our force growing, look out Chicago!!!! You will be hearing us roar, about what is rightfully ours. Enjoy the heat because we coming out in the fall, taking the streets back, voicing our need for all to hear!!!!

Saturday was another great one we were out there for the 6th annual Latino LGBTQA Pride Picnic. Cooking up some burgers, and serving out some Movement Building!! It was great to connect with some amazing youth from The Center for Change. Look forward to building with them more around our campaign and many more ways we will stand in Solidarity with them. So many great people came out almost felt like a family gathering, and it was great to have this opportunity to surround ourselves with our allies. Our very own C. Angel Torres even got on the stage, for the drag show, bringing out Christopher Love who has been hiding from the public stage far too long. Well their back and hope to grace Latino Pride’s stage for many years to come.

YWEP has been extra busy with campaign work, from taskforce meeting to culling our Bad Encounter Line.  We still managed to find time to write an article for The Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls & Young Women latest Occasional Paper Series. Written by myself C. Angel Torres and Naima Paz we are very excited to be a part of this special paper series that seems to be putting youth at the forefront.   This article is all about our Bad Encouter Line and was even featured on the blog Feministing!

I would also like to take a moment out to thank, all of our allies, friends, and monthly sustainers. We could not be lucky enough to be doing this work if it wasn’t for you!!! I’d like to remind you though, we are still in the process of trying to build our independent base through our friends of YWEP monthly sustainers program we are asking folks to give $5 dollars, or whatever you can afford a month, to help us keep afloat in these tough economic times, I’m sure your aware fundraising is hard, but with you behind us, we can continue to push forth, and reach hundreds of girls through our outreach. You have no idea how much this means to us. So in gratitude for signing up to be a monthly sustainer we will send you our new Christie Road Campaign poster, and some Friends of YWEP buttons!!! If you can give more than $5 a month we will send you our exclusive limited edition silk screen campaign poster, few are even aware of its existence!!

Exciting NEWS!!!!

We have been busy redesigning our website, over the past few months. We are now Live!! You see the amazing design Susanna Kim has come up with us!  It will be much easier to access and viewable for everyone.

Our Research Coordinator Naima Paz, has been busy working on our needle exchange thinking of how we can better meet the needs of our constituency. So she has decided to lead a new research project specifically around Needle Exchange to identify the best practices and barriers for working with young people involved in the syringe exchanges towards the goal of helping more young people access adult operated exchanges and equipping young people with information to start their own youth run exchanges in other cities. So during this process we need your help spread the word!! We are trying to reach as many needle exchanges across the country as possible. Whether youth-led, youth program, or all adult we need your help, if you are a part of a needle exchange please email Naima Paz at naima@youarepriceless.org.

So the Allied Media Conference has come and gone were you there? Well I’m sure you know it’s always a weekend to remember. But did ya know? We released our awesome campaign CD there. Named Street Youth in M.o.t.i.o.n., Moving on The Institution of our Needs, created by our staff and membership. Promise this is one you want in your collection. Be sure to pick up your copy!!! We also held an amazing workshop. Called Street Youth Rise Up! Collective Media for Healing & Action!! This will break down all the campaign work we’ve been doing this past year, and what we’ve learned. As well as passing it along, we brought our attendee’s into the work, and gave them the opportunity to apply to their own work. From learning acu-pressure to brainstorming tracks around their passions this will definitely one for the books.

I would also like to take a moment out to thank, all of our allies, friends, and monthly sustainers. We could not be lucky enough to be doing this work if it wasn’t for you!!! I’d like to remind you though, we are still in the process of trying to build our independent base through our friends of YWEP monthly sustainers program we are asking folks to give $5 dollars, or whatever you can afford a month, to help us keep afloat in these tough economic times, I’m sure your aware fundraising is hard, but with you behind us, we can continue to push forth, and reach hundreds of girls through our outreach. You have no idea how much this means to us. So in gratitude for signing up to be a monthly sustainer we will send you our new Christie Road Campaign poster, and some Friends of YWEP buttons!!! If you can give more than $5 a month we will send you our exclusive limited edition silk screen campaign poster, few are even aware of its existence!!

And Speaking of Allies, our Ally wall is complete!!! The purpose of this wall is to remind us in our everyday that we do not stand alone in this work. We are asking folks to mail us a postcard either of your org, or you individually with a few inspiring words, so we can remember all of you standing in solidarity with us. To acquire the address to send the postcards to or any further questions about regarding the wall, please email me at angel@youarepriceless.org.