AF3IRM NY on the 16 Days Altar Commemorating Missing, Murdered, and Trafficked Women

In the spirit of community activists and feminists targeted and killed, indigenous community leader Juana Ramirez Santiago in Guatemala and queer black city councilmember Marielle Franco in Brazil, AF3IRM participates in 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,  annually, with the heartbreaking consciousness that there are new names of women to remember, and so many more names and stories that will never be told.

As im/migrant women, as native women, as women of color, we know all too well the reality of violence. The entire 16 Days has been fraught with examples. The  first day of 16 Days was stained by US border patrol tear gassing women and children refugees at the southern border, incidentally, the same day as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which mourns the political assassination of the Mirabal sisters under the Trujillo dictatorship but also celebrates their courage and their feminist resistance to state violence. Last week, a border patrol officer was indicted for the September murders of Melissa Ramirez,  Claudine Ann Luera, Guiselda Alicia Hehmrnández, and Nikki Enriquez, as well as the attempted murder of a fifth woman, in Texas. It is reported that he was doing his “civic service” to kill women he suspected to be prostitutes. Amanda Dakota Webster, a native woman, was murdered in a Kentucky hotel, hundreds of miles away from her family and home in Arizona, during her stay for a contract job in construction.

These past two weeks have been a strong reminder that not only do we remember these names and women, but that we fight against misogyny and against an increased militarized reality. We engage in the struggle for our liberation in all spaces—to exercise autonomy over our bodies; to build community; to fight harassment; to challenge institutions; and to build a different world of our radical imaginations.

This year, the New York chapter held an annual public altar for missing, murdered, or trafficked women and girls with a focus on border violence, participated in public discussions on global rise of fascism and gender  based violence, and with over 80% of trafficked victims being women and children in New York, filled coat pockets on sex trafficking statistics at department stores.


Sex trafficking is in every borough…

In BROOKLYN… Two 16 year old’s were held captive on a nice tree lined street near Prospect Park Brooklyn in 2017. Their captors forced them to strip to their underwear, pose for ads and have sex with up to 10 johns a day. They were freed when 1 of them escaped and ran to police.

In STATEN ISLAND… At least 6 “spas” closed down in 2015, but many reopened or relocated in 2017. Over the course of 4 months in 2017, 11 women were arrested for prostitution. 5 of the women arrested were undocumented and almost 50% of the women had permanent addresses at the “spa.”

In MANHATTAN… Ads posted openly on Craigslist openly targeted kids at a Manhattan youth shelter, kids escaping broken homes were lured into a life of prostitution with offers of booze, cash and a warm bed. Ads read, “Are you a female that wants to stop living in Covenant House?” alongside photos of tequila and hundred-dollar bills.

In THE BRONX… Convicted sex trafficker Maria Soly Almonte repeatedly prostituted out three of her sisters and a 13-year-old girl at a Bronx homeless shelter, just blocks from Yankee Stadium.

In QUEENS… A 17-year-old girl trafficked by convicted Queens pimp Ricardi “Dirty” Dumervil escaped only to be kidnapped again, burned with cigarettes and bashed with a gun before being dragged to Atlantic City to keep working, according to Melton.

In the words of Ninotchka Rosca for our annual #MissingMurderedTrafficked altar: “When you speak of poverty, remember that the poorest of the poor in every community is a woman. When you speak of exploitation, remember that the lowest paid is a woman. When you speak of violence, remember that violence against women is pandemic. When you speak of liberation, remember that the one with the greatest need and use for it is a woman.”