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The Fight Continues

On June 27, 2012, our allies at the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a class action lawsuit to remove the more than 400 people who are still unconstitutionally on the sex offender registry list in Louisiana. To all our supporters out there, we will keep you posted on ways you can help us put the pressure on so the state does the right thing.

Click here for the full article.

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Saturday June 30th: Fundraiser at Twelve Mile Limit

On Saturday, June 30th, five fabulous friends of WWAV – Marisa Arrona, Lelia Gowland, Dana Kaplan, T. Cole Newton and Kris Schull – are hosting a fundraiser to support our rebuilding after the May 24th arson attack on our office.

Please join us at at Twelve Mile Limit, 500 S. Telemachus.  Doors open at 7pm.

A $5 recommended donation will also include a raffle ticket, and $1 from every drink sold during the event will be donated to the cause. A live DJ will also be on hand.

If you cannot attend but would still like to help, and for more information about WWAV, please visit our website, http://wwav-no.org/.

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Funders Invest in WWAV’s Future After the Fire

Within hours of the arson attack on our office, AIDS United, the Drug Policy Alliance, Broadway Cares, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Palette Fund and the Summit Foundation all reached out to us to pledge emergency funds to see us through this crisis.  We know how rare this kind of support is, and count ourselves truly blessed to be in struggle with such an incredible community of allies.  Together we are pressing forward towards the world our women envision:  a world without AIDS, a world free from the criminalization of drugs and drug users, a world affirming of LGBT people’s health and wellbeing, and a world where all of us, young and old, can grow up to realize our hopes and dreams.

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NOLA Fights Fire With Music!

On June 14, concerned New Orleans citizens threw a punk show fundraiser in honor of Women With A Vision. The “Benefit for Women with a Vision” event was a house show hosted by one of the many amazing performers who donated their time to help us rebuild and continue operating. Over several hours of conversation and laughter, guests watched outstanding performances from local bands, Small Bones, Scissorgrind, Mea Culpa and Jungle Dress.  Happiness and gratitude were in the air. The house was packed inside and out.

All of us at WWAV are very thankful for this immensely kind gesture.  Not only did you help us get the word out about WWAV and the recent arson of our office, but you also showed us just how much our work means to the New Orleans community we love.  We couldn’t do it without you!

If you are interested in throwing your own house party to support WWAV after the fire, please contact us!

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For All We Have Won, For The Future We Will Make

By Rebecca Gibson

Working towards my MSW at Tulane University’s School of Social Work, I was placed at Women With A Vision for my internship and began in January 2012. Within hours, I became involved in Women With A Vision’s Louisiana Women’s Advocacy Alliance and started corresponding with those of our clients who have a solicitation of a Crime Against Nature charge; individuals who are required to register as sex offenders due to their charge. Hearing their stories and meeting with some of the ladies in Baton Rouge in late February, I joined in WWAV’s fight in advocating to change the legislation that prevents these women from making a better life for themselves and their families. On March 29, 2012 we won; U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman ruled the Crimes Against Nature by solicitation statute unconstitutional.

Although the struggle still continues to have Judge Feldman’s ruling apply to the 400+ individuals still on the sex offender registry, a win is a win. It was amazing to witness the joy on everyone’s faces the day after the ruling was announced, to hear the cheers of happiness and disbelief as we ate celebratory cake, and to see the tears of unfathomable relief and gratitude. To say I was inspired would be an understatement; the day was a momentous one, and I was honored to be a part of it. The Win itself was an amazing breakthrough, for the women directly affected, for the women and allies of WWAV leading the fight, and for my future career as a social worker; a career I now plan to tailor towards social change and advocacy. I was (and still am) fascinated by the strength and resilience of these women, individuals who have experienced so many trials and tribulations, so many road blocks, and yet still the first thing they asked me was how I was doing.

Following The Win, I received over 30 hand-written letters from women who are currently incarcerated due to factors related to their SCAN charge. These letters detailed stories of displacement, loss, disappointment, heartbreak, and danger. Women who are my age, women the same age as a my grandmother, all reaching out to first and foremost thank everyone at WWAV and to then ask what they can do to help us—even from their position in jail. My responses were of gratitude and praise, acknowledging their struggle as the basis of our strength and the motivation for our fight. Their names were added to our growing list of individuals, those of whom we represent in an effort to have their names removed from the sex offender registry.

On Thursday May 24, all of us at WWAV gathered for a night of awareness raising: to share the celebration of our win and the stories of these women. Community Book Center and the Renaissance Project hosted Deon Haywood’s presentation, The Prosecution of Women In Louisiana: Achieving A Policy Victory Ending Louisiana’s Crimes Against Nature Law. The night was a success, and we all left in high spirits, heads swimming with plans for WWAV’s future and our own plans for the Memorial Day weekend.

Less than 12 hours later, I received this text message from Ms. Deon:

“I wanted to let y’all know that our office was torched late last night.”

Even now, writing this post, remembering waking up and reading the text message while only half-awake, I am disconnected from the true meaning. It wasn’t until I saw the pictures and watched the videos posted on our website that I felt a sense of loss. Watching Ms. Zina’s video was the final piece that I needed. The pain in her voice as she told her story of strength and resilience illustrates the great impact WWAV has on the community of New Orleans as a whole.

It was with this great sense of loss, paired with such great strength, that I have been able to believe in a future for this organization even greater than its past. Even in the face of such blatant and directed hate, these women maintain their vision of social justice.  To say they are inspiring would be an understatement.

Together we have found a way to keep our work going—day by day, hour by hour.  This WWAV After the Fire blog is one small way for me and Shaun to keep all of you updated on our successes and trials as we work to heal and rebuild.

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Making Jewelry, Making Change

On Thursday June 7th, the staff and board members of Women With A Vision took a trip to The Bead Shop, located on Magazine Street in New Orleans. Aside from admiring the beautiful jewelry that the shop carries, we also attended a jewelry making class for beginners, a first step in launching WWAV’s new micro-enterprise program. In the class, each of us was provided with a beginner’s kit, which included wires, a set of pliers, string and beads. Co-owner of the shop Georgia, taught the class, providing us with basic techniques for jewelry making. She was full of enthusiasm and frequently offered phrases to help us remember techniques like, “Clamp before you crimp!” These simple techniques, Georgia assured, were key tools in creating beautiful jewelry.

The Jewelry making class provided an opportunity for us to learn a new skill while also partaking in the age old tradition of female bonding, a tradition that has been practiced by women for generations in order to create encouragement and self-esteem building in a safe space. The visit also served as a much needed stress-reliever after the tragic burning of our office.

By the end of the course, we had each had made a necklace, bracelet and a set of earrings. Along with teaching basic techniques, Georgia, also offered us tips for making a business out of this new skill, such as advice on how to get a jewelry making business started and finance strategies.  When asked how she felt about teaching the class, Georgia exclaimed, ‘I LOVE teaching this class, making ways for women to become entrepreneurs, and I also love how WWAV stayed committed to attending this class in light of the recent tragic events.”

WWAV looks forward to scheduling another jewelry making class at the bead shop, this time for our clients in the micro-enterprise program. We are so grateful to have such an incredible partner in our work of uplifting and empowering the women in New Orleans.

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Thanks for Your Support!

Dear friends and family,

ImageWith the fire at Women With A Vision now two weeks behind us, we wanted to reach out to each of you to thank you for your support.  Your donations, your efforts to publicize the arson through your networks, your sassy fundraisers, and your concern have brought us through the immediate post-fire crisis and clean out.  We begin this week at our temporary office space at First Grace United Methodist Church truly humbled.  And our work continues…

To keep all of you updated on our rebuilding process and search for a new home, we have launched this WWAV After the Fire blog, which features a letter from our intern, Shaun King, on his first day with us – the day of the office clean out – and several updates, like the launch of our new micro-enterprise program for women in street-based economies.  We will also be disseminating future updates through our Facebook Page.  Add us if you haven’t already by clicking on the link in the right sidebar!

In the coming weeks, we will be setting up a building fund to ensure that we find a new home and are fully operational by the end of 2012.  We  will be in touch with more details on that soon.

For now and in struggle,
All of us at WWAV

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