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A Publicity Update and Definition February 19, 2009

Posted by cellardoor10 in Uncategorized.
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We have a couple events scheduled now (which are described on the Calendar page), and we have sent some posters to the copier (aka Dev).  Anyway, our posters follow two major themes – DID YOU KNOW? and HOME … We are pretty excited about them because they are simple, direct, and striking visually.  We think they will be on bright yellow paper, and probably everywhere (we’re getting 50 of them!), so keep an eye out.  The DidYou Know? posters detail some startling facts about the issue of LGBT homelessness, suchas that 26% of LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes when they come out, up to 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, and that around one-third of homeless gay youth engage in survival sex.

Survival sex is not always a familiar concept to people, so I will quickly define it for you.  It is especially overlooked in the U.S.A., where our government takes such a normative approach to sexual pleasure and sex work.  I do not endorse sex work, but the paranoia around “promoting prostitution” demonstrated in HIV/AIDS policies and the lack of support for sex workers, who I view as victims, is a disservice to this often vulnerable population.  Anyway, survival sex is when people, in this case LGBT homeless youth, prostitute themselves in order to afford food, shelter, or drugs to numb the pain.

Some people may say drugs don’t count as survival, but numbing the pain is sometimes a necessity if you are rejected from home (many are even physically assaulted when they come out), homeless, and forced to sell your body for food.  Anyway, that could be a completely different post.  My point is that while the government treats the people who engage in survival sex as deviant criminals, they should be treated as victims of systemis and cultural failings, and supported so they can remove themselves from a psychologically and physically detrimental mode of survival.

As for our events, we will be tabling Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoon of next week, the 24th-26th, and we are volunteering that Saturday, the 28th.  We may or may not have a speaker, since the group we were working with on that had to back out because of other commitments.  We will have a film we can screen about homeless youth if the speaker doesn’t work out, though, and so the backup plan makes me much more comfortable about our prospects.

Additionally, I was doing a lot of the organizing early in the process due to my status as contact person with the shelters, but now Alexandre and Ruth have both taken on a lot more logistical details – getting transport, tabling, a script for legislation, designing posters, etc.  I have really enjoyed getting knee-deep in this issue and my compatriots have been great so far, really keeping me grounded when I go off on crazy or overly ambitious ideas.  I am so excited for next week, now that things are finally falling into place.

– Jane

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Mobilization and Framing February 18, 2009

Posted by aufderhr in Uncategorized.
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So we have finally gotten to the point in our movement where we have actual dates and times for activities.  We have scheduled a volunteer day for the Saturday of 8th weekend and we are now working on organizing transportation and the other organizational details.  We had someone who volunteered to speak at Carleton as well, however they have not been in contact with us and so we have not been able to confirm.  Our original goal was to focus most out activities in one week; so in preparation for volunteering we booked a table is Sayles and plan to start our letter writing campaign to support the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.  Now that we have activities we face the challenge of selling in to the Carleton community.

To start, of course, we need to advertise so people know these activities are happening.  Carleton offers many ways to get information and event dates out to students: the NNB, the all-campus emails, and centrally located postering opportunities.  I also plan to email existing Carlton groups that might have an interest in our topic: the GSC, MPIRG, and maybe WHOA.  One of the advantages of having activism on a college campus is we have these communication resources available to us, however though we have all these resources we have to compete with the myriad of other activities and issues at Carleton.  How can we present this issue in a way that will make students willing to sacrifice a part of their Saturday to come up to the cities; what will make them willing to sign a letter or call their representative as we table; and, if we have a speaker, what will make them willing to sacrifice a Monday or Tuesday night to hear them speak?

Our goal is to make students notice not just our events, but also our issue.  In order to achieve this we would like to start with some posters.  Our plan is to have a few different posters around campus that begin with, “DID YOU KNOW” and then are followed by some fact about LGBT Homeless youth.  We simple posters with little text that people can read as they walk by, but that have a message.  The goal being that when they see our ads for a speaker, volunteering, and letter writing they will be more likely to stop and take notice.  My psychology professor would call this priming.

We also want to convince people that something like going to a speaker, writing a letter, or volunteering once can make a difference.  I have found that if people feel like what they will be doing will not help anyone then the probably will not participate, and of course on the reverse, increased efficacy leads to increased participation.  I have talked to people in the organization we contacted that are very excited that we want to help support the MN Runaway and Homeless Youth Act and have assured me that some letter writing and a few calls could go a long way, so while we still have to convince Carleton students of the same thing, this is a start.  Convincing people to volunteer may be more difficult because it is a greater donation of time, however we are not trying to recruit as many people to participate in the volunteer work and hopefully we can use the social networks at Carleton to convince people already interested in these sort of issues to come a long and bring their friends.  But even to recruit these people, we still need to make the not-particularly-glamorous volunteer work sound a like a good use of time.  We probably will not really be interacting with the kids at the shelter because unless there is some sort of organized activity just socializing often makes the kids uncomfortable which is obviously not what we want.  Instead we will probably be helping sort through the clothes that are donated to the shelter.  It is something the shelter needs but might not be something that will inspire people to action.  I have never really tried to organize people that were not already interested in an organization and I am very interested to see how it goes.

Ruth

Contacts and Partnerships February 11, 2009

Posted by aufderhr in Uncategorized.
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It always amazes me how much time sending a few emails can take.  This reality has become more and more apparent to me this year.  Now that I have reached my junior year of college and have “worked up the (organizational) ranks” in many of the clubs and groups I have been involved in, I suddenly find myself responsible for organizing what I once took for granted.  I have found the same to be true as we attempt to organize a few activities for Carleton students.  In fact it is harder because those we are trying to contact are not on “Carleton time,” where students check their email multiple times daily and usually respond to emails within a few hours.  Those we are trying to contact have their own busy schedules and preoccupations as I have discovered that are not structured around a Carleton schedule.

For example, on the recommendation of Adrienne Falcon, the Carleton Coordinator of Civic Engagement, I emailed a woman in Grasstops, an organization that I mentioned in my last post.  Though they had been coordinating lobbying and community organizing around the Minnesota Youth Advancement Act (MYAA) since 2006, responsibility for MYAA coordination had been transferred to another organization.  The woman I contacted emailed me this information, but wanted to try to organize a phone conversation sometime in the next week.  This required a few back and forth emails about what times would work, and then a bit of phone tag, and then finally (about a week and a half later) she was able to reach me.  She explained a bit more about the reason that the MYAA coordination had been transferred and gave me another possible contact person.  I emailed this other person and likely, if I get a response, the email/phone tag will begin again.

My Grasstops contact highlighted another factor that has likely made corresponding with contacts more difficult: the economy.  Many of these smaller non-profits are experiencing severe budget cuts.  Funding was one of the reasons the MYAA coordination was transferred from Grasstops to the MN Coalition for the Homeless.  I mentioned to my Grasstops contact that though I tried to contact a man she had referred me to at the MN Coalition of the Homeless he had never gotten back to me.  She was not surprised.  Apparently in the last few days he had been forced into a supervising position that he was not prepared for and has been extremely busy.  She implied that these organizations were in the process of undergoing some major organizational shift.  If this is the case it does not surprise me that we have had trouble finding contacts.

As well impressing upon me the crisis that many non-profits are likely now in, this conversation further impressed upon me the interconnectedness of those involved in the organizational aspects of social networks.  Though the groups themselves may be factionalized, the organizers of these groups all seem to know each other.

One downside to the approach we decided to take in our activism project is that we are a bit reliant upon the help of other organizations.  We plan to get a speaker from a local community organization, organize some legislative activism, and hopefully organize a volunteer day.  The first and last in particular really rely upon the cooperation of other organizations, though if we succeed at organizing these events, I believe this cooperation will in the end be for the better.  These are kinds of events that we would have extreme difficulty doing on our own.  However, having to cooperate with other groups that have there own time commitments and worries does really complicate the process.

Ruth