On Sunday, March 8, various women’s and community organizations came together in Oakland to celebrate the 105th Anniversary of International Working Women’s Day. This year, the organizers of the event, representing various grassroots community and women’s organizations in the bay area, have made a call to celebrate the legacies of transgender women.

Faith communities were present, joining the of celebration and remembrance. Northern California Chapter of National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON), Network on Religion and Justice for Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ people (NRJ), and Center of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley  (CLGS) brought their voices together in the following joint statement:

“On this 105th Anniversary of International Working Women’s Day, churches, faith communities, and people of faith stand together, joining in the remembrance and celebration of the legacies and lives of women and transgender women. We remember and celebrate the women who have gone before us. We remember and celebrate with all who continue the struggle for jobs that provide living wages, quality housing and an end to foreclosures, quality healthcare which includes access to free preventative healthcare, and rights to education. We remember and celebrate the women who have provided us firm ground from which to resist violence in all forms. And we remember and celebrate the women who continue to nurture the fertile ground from which future generations rise.

We remember and celebrate because the lives of women and, especially, trans women, are always at risk.

They continue to be unsafe in their homes, in their neighborhoods, and in their workplaces. Since the beginning of 2015, we have lost the lives of 7 Trans women in this country alone: Lamia Beard in Virginia, Tyra Underwood in Texas, Yasmin Vash Payne and Taja Gabrielle DeJesus in California, Penny Proud in Louisiana, Bri Golec in Ohio, and Kristina Gomez Reinwald in Florida. 7 lives of trans women have been taken from us on the soil of this country. And with them, we lift up the name of Jennifer Laude, Filipina trans woman who was killed at the hands of a US Marine in the city of Olongapo in the Philippines; killed because of the US military presence that has been imposed on the people of the Philippines in unequal agreements that threaten the sovereignty of the people and threaten human rights there.

We, in the US, need to repent from the various ways we have failed to stop the systems perpetuated by our government and justice system that allow such violence to exist.

We, in the US, need to repent from the ways we have failed to protect the invaluable lives of trans women and women worldwide, and especially in the ways we have initiated the violence.

For people of faith, remembrance is not a passive act. For people of faith, remembrance opens the doors towards change and transformation. To remember and to celebrate trans women – for whom the very proclamation of who they are is a threat to patriarchal mindsets and systems – is to resist those systems that seek to capitalize off of the bent backs and sacrifice of the bodies of women and trans women all over the world. Every day that passes without our trans women beloveds is a loss to the entire community.

We will continue to grieve, but in our remembering we will work together to turn the grieving into the joyous collective struggle for liberation, having faith that death and hatred will never have the last word.

We – people of faith, churches, and faith communities – refuse to forget trans women, we refuse to stop lifting our voices, we refuse to keep silent, and we refuse to withhold our solidarity and presence with trans women any longer. We will do all we can to stop allowing trans women to die at the hands of oppression that so often target trans women in ways that devalue their bodies, their spirits, and their lives.

We join in with the calls of grassroots community organizations in the demands for accountability and justice.”

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More Information on Jennifer Laude:
Previous RMN blog on Jennifer Laude

Petition for Justice for Jennifer Laude
For more about Jennifer Laude’s story

Pastor Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola

Pastor Jeanelle Nicolas Ablola is a 2nd generation Filipino American. Her parents immigrated to San Diego, CA (Paradise Hills) in the early 1970's and raised her in the United Methodist Church, her mother being a PK (Pastor's Kid) in the Philippines. Both her parents remain very active at their local church.

She received her Masters of Divinity (M. Div.) at Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley in 2010. She spent two years of Field Education at Buena Vista UMC and served as Minister of Youth & Community Outreach. In this position she coordinated a program called JAMS (Justice, Art, Music, Spirituality), which organized opportunities for the church and community to come together and strengthen relationship, through exploring issues such as the occupation in Palestine, LGBTQ inclusion in Asian Pacific Islander (API) churches, human rights in the Philippines, and establishing affordable housing in the city of Alameda. She also cultivated the leadership of the youth at Buena Vista UMC, supporting their endeavors for outreach, spiritual growth, fellowship, and critical thinking.

She was appointed Lead Pastor at Pine UMC in July 2011. She is co-chair of the CA-NV Philippine Solidarity Task Force, board member of NRJ, board member of the Bay Area Immigration Task Force, and a member of the Annual Conference's Advocacy & Justice Committee.
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