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Whose Corner Is It Anyway

$76,922 of $77,927 goal

Raised by 1,198 people in 22 months
Whose Corner Is It Anyway is a Western MA mutual aid, harm reduction, political education, and organizing group led by stimulant and opioid using low-income, survival, or street-based sex workers.  All members are current or former low income sex workers. All members either inject drugs, are/have been homeless, or work/ have worked outside. We low-income sex workers have created a weekly community and organizing meeting for ourselves--a haven.

At each weekly meeting we provide a high-calorie meal/snacks and cigarettes for each other, as well as access to a bad date list, needle exchange and other harm reduction materials such as Narcan and fentanyl test strips, childcare, transportation, and often, toiletry and clothing donations.  At the larger meetings every two weeks, we hold trainings led by local and national organizing and social service experts on  harm reduction/social justice topics that are relevant to us as a community. These have included a Know Your Rights training with SWOP Behind Bars, stimulant harm reduction with Magali Lerman of Reframe Health and Justice, debunking injection myths and how to reduce risk when injecting outside with Jess Tilley of hrh413 and New England Users Union, migrant sex workers' rights with Elene Lam of Butterfly,  being out as a drug-using sex worker activist with ex-Scarlet Alliance president Ryan Cole, wound care with harm reductionist UMass nursing professor Kim Dion, navigating the Department of Children and Families with Arise for Social Justice, a session on the housing and shelter system with YWCA staff,  and a PEP (post exposure prophylaxis from HIV) and PrEP (pre-exposure prohylaxis from HIV) info and access informational session with Tapestry Health workers. Some trainings we have in the works are ones on sealing old criminal cases, disability rights, and unlearning transmisogyny. We also have many campaigns we're working on in the long term, such as a partnership with the Massachusetts Bail Fund to bail our members out directly from lock up.

The focus of the project is on the needs and goals of  low-income, street-based, and/or survival sex workers who inject drugs. These workers take the brunt of the criminalization and stigma of sex work and so they deserve to be the ones calling the shots on how to fight back. The problem is that in order for survival sex worker activists to lead projects like this one, they need to have the resources to do so. Time spent meeting and organizing is time away from survival work, which is often a financial loss low-income workers can’t afford. The gift cards provided by some non-profits to pay drug users and sex workers for their labor do not meet the needs of their recipients. They also demonstrate how non-profits and social services often infantilize poor people and drug users, not trusting them to make the best choices for themselves with their own money.

That’s why we've been raising cold hard cash for a task force meeting every week, to provide a $25 stipend for street workers or other low-income sex workers to attend, as well as $15 on the off weeks for attendance at the agenda-setting premeetings. Our work and leadership are valuable and deserve to be compensated. The street based and survival sex workers of this region constantly suffer from assaults, arrests, and police harassment. A $15-$25 stipend every week is the least we can give them as a community to support their struggle against this marginalization.  

However, the scale of our project has been growing at an astounding rate, and we are now seeing 70 plus sex workers attend every weekly meeting when we started off seeing  8-20 people at each! Months ago, we had to cut stipends for the first time in a year by $5 for two meetings. We want to continue to offer every drug-using low-income sex worker who needs one a place at our table. We aim to keep offering a stipend close to living wage and will not hold meetings in which we have to offer one below minimum wage.  The organizing efforts of low-income injection-drug-using workers are unique and invaluable in a sex workers' rights movement where privileged sex workers are over-represented and a harm reduction and drug users' union movement in which women/non-men and sex workers have often taken a back seat. We hope that you can help us broaden our fundraising efforts to keep up with the amazing recruitment efforts of our membership and the obvious, desperate need for our group's work in our area.

We've already been aided in achieving our goals not only by a growing network of individual donors, but also by community partners.  Besides the many organizations which help us with material goods, services, and presentations, both locally and nationally--like  New England Users Union, hrh413, Tapestry Health Systems, the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community, SWOP Behind Bars, Reframe Health and Justice,  Lysistrata, the Western Mass Bail Fund, Western MA YWCA,  SWOP Boston, MASWAN, Arise for Social Justice, and many others--we've also been helped by organizations acting as donors.

We were the Western MA  Chapter of Resource Generation's featured cause for December, and their substantial donations allowed us to create a small cushion for our organizational account for the first time, instead of simply subsisting week by week. SWOP-USA awarded us a mini-grant for our International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers in-house event this December 17th. Now SWOP-USA will also be disbursing two needle exchange mini-grants to us this year for buying harm reduction supplies we can't access regularly through our local syringe service provider--finer gauges of syringes, sniffing and crack pipe smoking kits, more fentanyl test strips, and lube. We were also recently chosen by feminist sex toy store Good Vibrations ' fundraising program GiVe as a seasonal partner. GiVe allows Good Vibrations store customers to choose to donate to their charity partners at checkout, and 100 percent of these donations last season went to us. The result was a substantial donation which will help us stabilize further as well as launch new programming.

GiVe had this to say about working with WCIIA: "Good Vibrations is committed to sexual justice of all kinds. Since our founding, we have strived to provide education and resources so that each individual can work towards cultivating their own best sexual health. Knowing that resources often means economic resources and seeing the impact of the current social and political climate on the sex workers in and around our community, we feel compelled and honored in this moment to work to support the mission and community of Whose Corner is it Anyway."

If your organization would like to become a patron of ours or throw a benefit for us, please message us over GoFundMe!
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[TLDR--direct appeal to larger donors in this fundraising sudden death round as the autumn is thin for us--need 1k by Sun morn--all the many goings-ons of the week, Kacey Byczek facilitation presentation, Lysistrata party, all exciting presentations coming up, subcommittee work] Fundraising, SUDDEN DEATH ROUND--really need help this week--I started fundraising incredibly late, and we need $1000 by Sunday morning. We're directly appealing to our larger donors to help us this week.Things are going to be difficult for us through Sept/Oct/Nov with our surging attendance. If we can secure one of the grants we're applying for, some relief's in sight, but we barely have a cushion right now.

We had an amazing meeting presentation this week with Harm Reduction Coalition's Kacey Byczek on facilitation! Had a fruitful brainstorming session where we thought about breakout groups and group agreements, all sorts of ways to make rotating facilitators to run a meeting of 70 plus sex workers easier. It was one of the best video presentations we've ever had--everyone was so engaged we went way past time for our sacred cigarette break, and the group invited Kacey to share her expertise with us in person the next time she's in MA. Again, this work is the essence of Whose Corner--not just paying lip service to developing leadership capacity, but going over all the building block activist skills us most marginalized sex workers need to know to succeed at organizing.

Kacey was so touched by the group's warm reception she legit had a tear in her eye--I had to tease her about that. But seriously, it was heartwarming as all fuck.

Tonight, a few of our grant writing subcommittee members had the privilege of attending Lysistrata Mutual Care Collective Fund’s digital red carpet. I know you want to know what our party contingent was wearing, so I'll tell you--one wore a short red mini-dress, one wore a stripper onesie and jeans, and my co-organizer Naomi Lauren felt she really "hit the 1940s lesbian salon host vibe [she] was going for." Our grantwriting subcommittee members were honored to join prominent leaders like Jenna Torres, Ceyenne Doroshow from Glits Inc, and Cora Colt on the zoom meeting stage!

We value our alliance with @LysistrataMCCF so much, and if you can afford to give to two direct service sex worker orgs today/this week/this month, please take a gander at their donation options: https://www.lysistratamccf.org/additionaldonationoptions

We missed a lot of you at Woodhull this weekend--we really regret that we couldn't afford to go! Phoenix Calida, Whose Corner could've fangirled over you all day. That's why we so appreciate Lysistrata and other orgs who offer us low-cost or no-cost opportunities to join the broader sex worker community and not be so isolated as a bunch of poor drug-using sex workers in Bumblefuck, Massachusetts. We appreciate all the ways the broader sw community helps us, down to Kate D’Adamo and Jill McCracken's most recent offers to help our grantwriting subcommittee reading our grant apps, offers they surely will regret soon but which we love them for making.

Just this morning, we used our Uber fund to get a member to a probation appointment.Our grantwriting subcommittee, our syringe access/safer bathroom subcommittee,our cooking subcommittee, and our nascent translation subcommittee continue to do regular, tireless work.

We ARE feeling much luckier about grants as we continue to write applications.However, we've run out of our dildo money (the generous large donation we got from sex toy shop Good Vibration's charity arm, GiVe) with this surging attendance, so we desperately need help these next few months till one of the grants we've hopefully secured is disbursed.

We've got a slate of incredible presentations coming up--Sarah Mann on being a marginalized sex worker in a happy hooker movement; Kate Zen on her work with migrant massage parlor workers in Toronto & NYC with Butterfly and Red Canary Song; Respect Inc's Elena Jeffreys , a veteran drug user, sex worker, and HIV activist and researcher who will be speaking on whatever the hell she wants, really; and Meg Vallee on the spectrum between choice and coercion.

We'd love to be able to survive to have all these presentations! Thank you thank you thank you for helping us reach this point--we hope you can help us get through the next few days and the fall. We're specifically asking our previous larger donors to give over the next few days. Give if you can, and please SHARE the fundraiser, especially if you haven't before, to new communities certified terf/swerf/drug warrior free, with some words of love for us. Or share/retweet/react/comment/storyshare etc, boost us in the algorithm. Or become a monthly donor & make life easier for us by P**p**ing us at whosecornerisitanyway@gmail.com with a note saying the gift is recurring--we'll set up invoices.

As usual, your money goes directly into our materialist priorities as poor sex workers--syringes/Narcan/fentanyl test strips; meals/snacks; clothing/toiletries; bad date list; transport; childcare; cigarettes; stipends; presentations--provided by and for us weekly. No bloat, all mutual aid.

Please do help! We love you in our pathetic fundraising way!
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Starting next week's fundraising a day late on Monday, b/c I'm hoping someone or someoneS has $195 tonight to get us to last week's goal! Money is going to be thin on the ground for us until at least November when some grants might come back, so any help would be appreciated.
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We now ONLY need $495 for tomorrow morning's goal--thank you all for filling in the rest. Also, the fundraiser for the burial of Western MA activist heroine and my first organizer mentor, Michaelann Bewsee, is now more than halfway to goal after a DAY (that's how much everyone loved her) but could still use help if you're into donating to two worthy causes today--or even just one: https://www.gofundme.com/f/michaelann-bewsee-burial-and-memorial-services
You can read my tribute to her in the previous update, if you'd like.
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[We're totally fucked and need $1120, also RIP Michaelann Bewsee]
We are once again in a shitty, SHITTY place and *emergency* funds are needed--we need $1120 by Sunday morning.

I would have posted this last night, but I was pole-axed by the death of Michaelann Bewsee, longtime executive director of Arise for Social Justice, a multi-issue low-income rights organization in our neighboring city of Springfield, and one of my first activist mentors. All the things that make Whose Corner what it is are things I learned from Michaelann, her sister Liz, Holly Richardson, and Solobia Hutchins when I was my early 20s, on Arise’s Women In Support of Each other committee for criminalized women. The importance of paying poor people for their time and organizing labor, the need for childcare for access, the primacy of community self-determination ....all things I learned eating pizza in Arise’s old building.

The first time I really saw a commitment to harm reduction above all else was when Michaelann and Tori were arrested in 2004 for doing needle exchange out of the Arise site before it was legal state-wide.

I learned my prison abolition ABC's at Arise--I remember the first time I was handed a copy of Angela Davis' Are Prisons Obsolete at the Arise office. Soon enough, I was handing out the book to what felt like everyone I met and I was able to recite the most obscure facts about what prisons did to town infrastructures and job opportunities.

It feels like I have a mental rolodex of everyone in the sex workers' rights movement now, but actually,besides Melissa Gira Grant (who's since eschewed the label), Arise was the first place I met another sex worker activist-the grandmommy of us all, Carol Leigh , when the org invited her to speak.

I can’t list everything volunteering at Arise under Michaelann’s leadership did for me in my early twenties. I learned about what failure in a campaign felt like, when we weren’t able to stop the building of the Chicopee Women’s Jail, despite all our efforts through Arise and the Springfield Harm Reduction Coalition. I learned what it was like to have my opinion valued. Michaelann and Holly and co. had honored sex work as a survival technique and were campaigning for its decriminalization in Springfield when I met them, but they really listened when I came to them with my early, primitive theory as a baby hooker in the aughts about sex work being work. As well as listening to me as a young mad movement/drug user activist and deciding to adopt an org-wide policy against forced treatment--looking back, this awes me all over again. I was a zygote, and they were experienced grassroots activists, yet they took the time to listen to me.

(They even trusted me enough back then to have me writing grants, something I was even worse at back then than I am now. )

Most of all, I remember the quiet times--smoke breaks with Michaelann, downwind from her evil smelling handrolled cigs. Maybe that’s gauche to bring up given her lung cancer, but I remember that with such fondness. Despite all her courage and ability, she never let you forget that she was just a woman who started this poor people’s org in the 80s with 3 other women on welfare. I remember her generously letting me “borrow” book after book from the Arise office library, how unsurprised yet totally charmed I was when I discovered that she loved Marge Piercy too.

I don’t know exactly what I can say right now--I’m upset and yet I feel I have no right to be b/c I didn’t make the time, didn’t keep the connection as well as I should.

I guess I should say that part of why I carry on the work of Whose Corner is in honor of, and now in memory of, Michaelann. Whose Corner has the same materialist priorities as Arise did, the same commitment to direct service work, awareness building, AND organizing alike. That’s where I learned that. I hope you can help us this week, so that we don’t start in debt for Harm Reduction Coalition's Kacey Byczek's excellent presentation on facilitation in drug user and sex worker communities next week, but most of all, I hope you can remember and honor your activist antecedents this week.

So if you’ve been meaning to give, PLEASE GIVE, or please share us along with your words of praise with new, undiscovered networks free of swerfs, terfs, and drug warriors.

As usual, if you'd like to give us some stability in this dicey week-to-week #crowdfundinglyfe, you can become a monthly donor by P**p**ing us at whosecornerisitanyway@gmail.com with a note indicating you'd like the gift to be recurring--we'll set up invoices.

Your money goes directly into our priorities as poor sex workers--syringes/Narcan/fentanyl test strips; meals/snacks; clothing/toiletries; bad date list; transport; childcare; cigarettes; stipends; presentations--provided by and for us weekly. No bloat, all mutual aid.

Thank you for saving our collective asses last week--please consider saving our collective asses once again this week. RIP Michaelann Bewsee, who taught us all here in this region so much.
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$76,922 of $77,927 goal

Raised by 1,198 people in 22 months
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