by the National Executive Council and Chapters
Knowing that public shaming, denunciation, and pillory have been standard tools of the patriarchal ruling class against women who defy dogmas and orthodoxies, AF³IRM issues this statement with great reluctance. But in this time of disinformation, deep fakes, and historical revisionism, we deem it necessary to stand firmly on the facts and nothing but.
We find two clusters of grave allegations against us: a) Pertaining to the processes by which full membership, full chapter status, and national leaders are chosen, and b) Pertaining to the individual histories of certain leading members. A third cluster is in the nature of opinion and an attempt to redact the serious matter of building sisterhood to the equivalent of over-the-fence gossip or, in the current parlance of Filipinos, Marites tales. We add this caveat: gossipmongers are experts at playing the victim when exposed. So be forewarned.
What is AF³IRM?
AF³IRM is an all-volunteer organization; members, coordinators, and officers work without pay. Its national leadership is elected every three years from nominations from the chapters during its triennial Congress. Chapters are informed of the aggregate nominees and decide whom to vote for. Chapters each have one vote, so their choices must be unanimous at their level. This one-chapter-one-vote policy equalizes the voting clout of small and large chapters.
The chapters each elect their coordinators and such persons of responsibility as each chapter deems necessary.
This process has operated since its founding. For many members, the choice is factually based — on the record of work and contribution to the organization and an assessment of the nominees’ capacity to fulfill the duties of the office. Often, members meet nominees from other chapters only at the National Assembly.
AF³IRM Constitution and Its Provisions
- Chapters have autonomy and political power in devising their program of action and recommending to the National Executive Council (NEC) such issues or actions that need to be undertaken nationally. Chapter members can also elevate to the NEC such issues which the chapter cannot resolve by itself.
- Full chapter status is well-defined in the Constitution: The Constitution has specific criteria and operational rules. Until these are met, the germinal chapter remains an organizing committee and can neither attend nor vote at the triennial National Assembly. This rule prevents the mushrooming of pseudo-chapters just before the National Assembly to pervert its processes to serve others’ agendas. Anyone claiming to be a member and not knowing AF³IRM’s Constitution is perpetuating a hoax.
AF³IRM’s origins and reason for being are well-known — to wit, that it was born of a determination to place women’s liberation up front and center rather than a side-effect of the liberation of other sectors, which has consistently failed Womankind. It is dedicated to contributing to the practice and theory-building of women’s liberation; it recognizes that class societies of whatever socioeconomic formation parasitically rely on stealing women’s labor for their survival and continuity. AF³IRM’s policies are anti-patriarchal, anti-imperialist, intersectional, and transnational. It is also fiercely independent and self-reliant and recognizes the differing and different cultures of women, which have been suppressed, vilified, and criminalized by the patriarchal ruling class throughout class history.
On Allegations Against Individuals in the AF³IRM Leadership
Chairperson Connie Huynh
Chair Connie is serving her second term as AF³IRM Chairperson. She was re-elected in 2022 unopposed by the National Assembly in the presence of some now making the accusations. The allegations against Chair Connie attempt to hold her responsible for the supposed acts of her partner. It goes without saying that we take accusations of sexual and economic violence seriously; as such, we have thoroughly and carefully investigated the grave claims raised by the signatories. After scrutinizing the sources cited, conversation histories, and fact-checking with third parties, we stand by our conclusion that the reports of sexual misconduct allegations against Connie’s partner and the accusations concerning a former member are entirely untrue.
Allegations Regarding the Union
- The sexual assault and harassment allegations against Martin Manteca and, by extension, Chair Connie herself, are purported by reference to a blog article, which, upon close inspection, fails to support any of its own assertions against Martin Manteca.
- The article claims that 16 staffers provided testimony against Martin Manteca. In support of this contention, the article apparently cites to a 2016 petition calling for the union to investigate Martin Manteca for sexual harassment. However, the petition makes no mention of sexual harassment.
- The article links to several court filings that ostensibly also corroborate this assertion. While the staffers’ testimonies describe inexcusable and horrific incidents of sexual assault and mistreatment of women at a union, none of them accuse Martin Manteca of such misconduct or even mention him at all.
- The direct quotes regarding Martin Manteca, although unfavorable, do not evince that any staffers have accused him of sexual misconduct, either. This is conspicuous when, in comparison, the article features several direct quotes from whistleblowers detailing specific incidents of sexual assault and harassment by all other named individuals.
- Finally, the complaint challenging the trusteeship of a local union does not allege sexual harassment and concerns an entirely distinct matter.
- To ensure due diligence, we enlisted legal researchers to investigate beyond the linked filings, but the supposed allegations by the 16 staffers are nowhere to be found.
- We support the women pursuing justice and seeking to hold their abusers accountable, and we hope the author’s decision to publish unfounded sexual misconduct allegations does not undercut the whistleblowers’ legitimate claims against actual sexual predators.
- For context, Chair Connie’s partner is the organizing director at one of the largest unions in California. Allegations, even lawsuits, are standard against unionists brought by management and by those who view unions as their personal milking cow. We note that the journalistic integrity of the article’s author has already been called into question by national news outlets, such as The Guardian, which have declined to continue publishing his writings on this matter.
Allegations Regarding a Former AF³IRM Member
- The signatories further allege that Martin “was a catalyst” that pushed a former member into prostitution by firing her upon her gender transition. This is also false and easily disproved. The identity of this former member is known within AF³IRM because she internally shared her accusations against Martin Manteca alongside a link to the letter on the date it was published. Her claims directly contradict statements she made openly to several AF³IRM members while at the October 2022 National Assembly about exactly who terminated her. At the National Assembly, the former member shared that she was released from employment based on the decision made by her direct supervisor, a woman of color. In fact, Martin Manteca was never this former member’s direct supervisor.
- This former member’s subsequent interactions with Martin Manteca belie her accusations. After she was fired, the former member asked Martin Manteca to hire her in 2020. He did not have the unilateral authority to do so, and she was not hired.
- Martin Manteca supported this former member’s job search by recommending her to multiple union hiring managers. Her current employment was via a recommendation by another AF³IRM member, also calumniated against in the letter.
We are deeply disturbed by the weaponization of false accusations of sexual and economic violence to further the personal agenda of signatories to the letter, who continue their attempts to disorganize AF³IRM members into a separate political formation.
AF³IRM’s Recently Elected National Communications Director
- The recently elected National Communications Director (NCD) joined AF³IRM in 2016 and contributed to building and stabilizing the Hawaiʻi chapter.
- Despite being elected unanimously, the former NCD promptly stepped down from her post when the reservations against her — mainly her marriage to an Air Force trainee — were brought up.
- Aside from her marriage to an Air Force trainee, the former NCD has been slandered for working with the Department of Justice. She worked at the Immigration Court of the Department of Justice from September 2019 to August 2021; she was elected in October 2022. She informed AF³IRM of this when she was hired, well before she was nominated.
- At the DOJ, she conducted research for judges’ decisions as a law clerk. She did not deport immigrants since the prosecutors of the Immigration Court and ICE are part of the Department of Homeland Security, an entirely different agency.
- The former NCD’s partner only enlisted in 2022. He grew up in Hawai‘i and is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. His mother is of the first generation in their family to live outside a reservation because her father served during WWII. The military remains the second largest industry in Hawaiʻi. Until Hawaiʻi’s development is reoriented, economically disadvantaged communities will continue to seek employment in it and tourism, no matter how nefarious the social impact of those industries.
- There are undoubtedly other AF³IRM members and former member signatories with parents, siblings, and lovers (former or current) in the military. We choose not to condemn them but rather to help strengthen their understanding of how the military remains a bulwark of the patriarchal colonization of smaller countries whose societies differ from the orthodoxies of imperialism.
- The elected NCD is a fully accredited lawyer who chose to uphold the healer legacy of her family rather than enrich herself through a corporate job or by becoming a bureaucrat of a colonial state government. Native healing practices for both physical and mental health are community resources used to augment the chemicalized approach of Western medical care. In poor communities, they are often the only source of treatment available. To suggest that spiritual leaders, healers, and those who do spiritual work do not deserve fair compensation for their labor is White supremacist and anti-feminist. Like many other forms of feminized labor, spiritual work outside of patriarchal institutions is already subject to ridicule and belittlement, especially when performed by or for women of color.
- Spirit communication persists in many cultures worldwide, including within the former officer’s own cultures. The signatories ignore that the former NCD’s practices are rooted in her cultures and upbringing and traced through her matrilineage.
- AF³IRM has never used organizational platforms to market her work. Members have undoubtedly benefited from her services and have even provided public, laudatory testimony in their individual capacities. Similarly, individual AF³IRM members and their families have assisted many of the letter’s signatories — anonymous and named — in significant and material ways. This included contributing to a supposed “hardship fundraiser” by one of the signatories, which turned out, to members’ shock, to fund a vacation to the occupied territory of Hawaiʻi. Furthermore, though the organization has not platformed any sister’s business, the organization has been used to prop up the paid work of the two major signatories, Khara and Esperanza. The latter was also directly paid for speaking engagements and projects obtained as an AF³IRM representative.
- We are offended by the characterization of native cultural practices as “bourgeois spiritualism” by those who purport to be “scientific,” on the one hand, but remain ignorant of scientific studies that show the brain/mind operates in eleven dimensions. The mind/body interface, according to such STEM studies, is not reducible to a linear or even bilateral relationship. We see this daily in the struggle to bring mind and body into alignment and the furious discourse from orthodoxies objecting to such an alignment.
In summary, it will perhaps add to our understanding of how cultures impact the evolution of thought in widely differing civilizations if we look at the Taijitu and the 17th-18th century fascination with Chinese art and culture, a time which saw Hegel doing his work on dialectics.
On the White Supremacist and Patriarchal Worldview Denouncing Spiritualism in Organizing
- It is White supremacist, misogynistic, and anti-Indigenous to devalue and dismiss spiritual work and spirituality. In precolonial Hawai‘i and the Philippines, for example, spiritual leaders (often women or gender-diverse) were also political leaders and, therefore, the main targets of the missionary colonizers. It is also a racist, colonial worldview which posits science as antithetical and diametrically opposed to spirituality (see, for example, supporters of the Thirty Meter Telescope painting Native Hawaiian protectors of Mauna Kea as anti-science). We acknowledge Indigenous peoples as the originators of many theories of modern science.
- For many of our members and our communities, spirituality and political work cannot exist without the other (see, for example, Mauna Kea, Standing Rock, Oak Flat, Puvunga). Thus, our Native sisters in the illegally occupied Hawaiian Kingdom and Tongva territory take personal offense to and feel mocked by this particular section of the letter and statements made by the signatories. Non-Indigenous persons have no jurisdiction over defining what religious and spiritual practices are legitimate or illegitimate. Asserting these claims with no connection to Indigenous communities reflects the severe disconnect one has to land and community. To say so is egregiously anti-Indigenous and an act of White supremacy. Let us not forget that Leftist politics are still largely a product and project of the West. If we are truly about revolution and material decolonization, spiritualism and ceremony must be recognized as foundational and serious principles of our organizing practices. This recognition by Native and Indigenous peoples is reflected in the intentional incorporation of ceremony and spiritualism at the heart of important land justice and sovereignty struggles, like the fight to protect Mauna Kea.
- Political work for many of our sisters and for Native and Indigenous protectors worldwide honors ancestors and descendants alike; the section of the letter denouncing spiritualism in organizing is blatant, colonizer-aligned disrespect for the generations we honor in our work and relationship building. This demonstrated failure to understand the true underpinnings of decolonization efforts and, more specifically, the LAND BACK movement renders the group of individuals who signed onto the letter unable and unworthy of carrying on the work of the BODIES BACK model, in which spiritualism is a crucial component of the model’s decolonization process.
On Allegations from a Former AF³IRM Hawai‘i Chapter Coordinator
- Khara, former Hawaiʻi chapter coordinator and former member, ran for and was elected National Organizing Director in 2019. It was a tight race. While her ability to galvanize popular support for issues that AF³IRM had unearthed and was unearthing was known and applauded, neither she nor her chapter understood the full measure of the work of a National Organizing Director. In the middle of the election, her chapter realized this and said they had meant to nominate her for the position of National Program Coordinator.
- Shortly after her election, Khara spoke to another member of AF³IRM who had held National officer positions before and after becoming a mom. This mom expressed her concern for Khara, a new mom of two at the time, being expected to fulfill the Organizing Director position, as the post of Organizing Director requires frequent travel to wide-flung US states and territories, staying in such areas for as long as five days, and constant communication with budding organizing committees to help them become a full chapter.
- Text messages and emails between Khara, various officers, and members would belie her claim that she was told hurtful things. Khara said via text about her conversations with the aforementioned mom and former officer, “She was being super nice about it, and I know she’ll support me no matter what.”
- Khara later stepped down from the Organizing Director position and accepted an offer to lead AF³IRM’s Purple Rose Campaign; she drafted a description of that function, which she gave to the new NEC in 2019. This description was approved. However, Khara turned cold to the idea in the subsequent months and vanished.
- At the time of Khara’s election and step down, AF³IRM’s Chairperson, Communications Director, and Finance Director had children of their own. It is exceedingly sad to see AF³IRM accused of being anti-mother, considering it counts among its members undocumented mothers, single mothers, mothers of children with disabilities, and economically stressed mothers working multiple jobs. AF³IRM members, collectively and individually, have extended assistance and support as much as they can to ease some burdens — from babysitting, tutoring, childcare, and gifts of such essentials as diapers, clothes, books, toys, food, etc. We are not an organization of the wealthy and privileged, so we know full well what it means to care for and nurture a child.
- In 2018, Khara resigned from AF³IRM when she accepted a position in the state government but became active months before the 2019 National Assembly. Since then, Khara’s engagement with the organization has been sporadic, even during her active membership. Regardless, AF³IRM continued to support her work, taking care at the same time not to convey the impression that she was not independent since she was and is a government official.
- Khara has personal grievances with certain members who have been in this advocacy work for decades. The organization knows how reactionary forces have used intrigues, gossip, and backyard talk to disrupt organizational unity, often with deleterious consequences. Hence, the organization and its leaders have a standing rule not to entertain reports of personal grievances from third parties. Khara knows this, yet to this day refuses to bring her one-sided grievances directly to the individuals with whom she has issues.
- Khara accuses the organization’s leadership of creating a whisper campaign about her when, in fact, she created a whisper campaign about the organization’s leadership over many months to breed distrust, fracture unity among members, and disorganize active members like Esperanza. Now, in the midst of the exited group’s disinformation campaign, Khara continues to shift the blame to others, despite having recruited Esperanza months ago to write a joint letter such as that which was published earlier this month. While it may not be the case here, this tactic aligns with the Hawaiʻi chapter’s experience of Khara as a lobbyist and political strategist, recruiting and hiding behind individuals with the “appropriate,” Left credentials and platforming them with her coaching. Recruited individuals were invested in a common goal to center love of community but were then expected to carry out an agenda not on their own terms and approach. These individuals with lived experiences, relationships, and expertise were treated as something to be leveraged and used in conditional circumstances of engineered “choices” when needed.
- AF³IRM has a Conflict Resolution Process, which Khara’s home chapter created and shared with the other chapters and National for use. Khara was, in fact, asked to participate in the conflict resolution process shortly after the process was created with a Native sister whom Khara had harmed; Khara showed up, but did not actively participate. Khara more recently created further rifts between herself and members when she privately defended a former member who was asked to leave after admitting to intimate partner violence against another member, and again when she asked some of our Native sisters to make misrepresentations to their community members to further Khara’s legislative work.
- The Hawaiʻi chapter, in particular, is deeply heartbroken by Khara’s involvement in the disinformation campaign against the organization. Khara personally stated to multiple Hawaiʻi chapter members that she made no effort to confirm the allegations in the letter before lending her name to give the letter more credibility. The chapter acknowledges Khara’s work to co-found the chapter and train members, and we know many of us will have to continue working with her in the community, hopefully on amicable terms. That said, the blatant lies in the letter that Khara has lent credibility to by signing her name, coupled with the unaddressed harm against our Native sisters, the distrust that Khara seeded amongst our members to manipulate and fracture unity, and the personal and professional gain that Khara has made off our work and our relationships taint any history we have with her as we bid her goodbye and good luck.
On the Failure of Leadership in the Seattle Chapter
- In the months before the last National Assembly, the Seattle chapter proposed an amendment to remove the word “woman” from the AF³IRM Constitution. It seemed that this was out of a lack of understanding around the concept of “women as a political class.” The then-Seattle chapter coordinator requested support from the NEC to train her chapter on this concept.
- NEC officers held multiple educational discussion sessions with the then-Seattle coordinator. Although NEC officers and chapter coordinators modeled it for her, the then-Seattle coordinator did not feel confident enough to facilitate the discussion with her chapter. So, three NEC officers supported her with an educational discussion specifically for the Seattle chapter, which two individuals attended.
- Although the requisites for attending the National Assembly were shared with all chapter coordinators beforehand, the then-Seattle coordinator improperly invited two ineligible members to attend. One had been inactive and unresponsive to the coordinator for several months. The other was too new to AF³IRM to meet the requirements to attend. The NEC shared this assessment with the then-Seattle coordinator, who agreed, and assured the NEC in the weeks prior to the National Assembly that she had informed the two individuals that they were ineligible to attend.
- The NEC learned days before the National Assembly that this was not the case. One of those ineligible members informed the then-coordinator days before the National Assembly that they had purchased a flight to attend and expected to be housed by an AF³IRM member. The then-Seattle coordinator failed to respond to the situation appropriately. Instead of directly speaking with the individual, the Seattle coordinator left a voice message informing them they were not eligible to attend the National Assembly, with no other reasons or information provided.
- Worried that the coordinator’s cavalier disregard for standards and procedures would create resentment toward the organization itself, the Chairperson called the ineligible member multiple times, left messages identifying herself, and requested a call back. The person never responded.
- Member attendees recall that as they left the National Assembly, the then-Seattle coordinator recounted the events that occurred within the Seattle chapter to them. She shared that the member was problematic, not ideologically aligned with the organization, and purchased their flight despite knowing they were not invited in the first place. She also commended the NEC officers for how they handled the situation.
- After the National Assembly, the NEC met with the then-Seattle coordinator to discuss the multiple risks and concerns regarding how the situation was mishandled. According to AF³IRM’s guiding documents, the appropriate course of action would have been to relieve her from her coordinator duties. Out of deference to her longtime membership, and in an effort to spare her from potential humiliation, the NEC offered her the opportunity to step down instead — which she accepted without resistance or question.
- The mismanagement of the chapter resulted in loss of members, which in turn caused the Seattle group to fall short of the requirements for maintaining a full-fledged chapter. Seattle thus reverted to “organizing committee” status, and, without a coordinator, went on hiatus, to be supported by the incoming National Organizing Director in 2023.
- AF³IRM officers and coordinators take their responsibilities seriously. Setting up the Seattle chapter consumed much of the time of the former National Organizing Director. This is time that is given pro bono and taken away from family, professions, or even me-time. Hence, coordinators should know the Constitution, the rules and procedures of the organization, and its political line of march.
- AF³IRM is a transnational feminist organization. We organize women as a political class and refuse to let women be submerged back into the shadows of the general Left. While some have made attempts to remake our organization into one which would have feminists referring to ourselves as “non-men,” they have, of course, failed. In their failure to understand feminism and the point of a women’s organization, some have attempted to paint AF³IRM as trans-exclusionary–however, practice and membership demonstrate this as false.
On the Central Texas Organizing Committee and Accusations of “Anti-Semitism”
- The Central Texas Organizing Committee liaison asked if their Jewish friend could join AF³IRM. The friend lived in the Washington D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area, where neither an organizing committee nor a chapter existed. How this rather obvious practical organizing situation blossomed into fraudulent claims about AF³IRM being anti-Semitic and having an Argentinian member whose grandfather was a Nazi — boggles the mind. AF³IRM does not have such a member, nor any applicant whose grandfather was a Nazi. We have had and continue to have members whose lineage comes from Africa, Asia, North, South, and Central America, and Oceania — including various countries of the SWANA region, except occupied Palestine (also known as “Israel”).
- On the last note, AF³IRM is criticized for using Gerda Lerner’s Creation of the Patriarchy because she received an award from “Israel” decades ago. It is a weird criterion to judge the utility of a book of knowledge, information, and analysis. Albert Einstein was offered the presidency of “Israel,” which he declined with “sadness” for lack of capability; would that debunk his Theory of Relativity?
AF³IRM is the sum of its membership’s dedicated practice, study, and theory building. It is relentlessly independent and self-reliant. It centers the search for the path to genuine liberation for Womankind. It innovates; its very existence is an organizational innovation that, it would appear, those mired in dogma wish to replicate. They completely miss the point of AF³IRM’s viability: its independence, its self-reliance in both theory-building and practice, and its centering the oppression and exploitation of women.
As we said before, we wish those who want to replicate or amend our model the best of luck. We hope that those who gained the most from being in AF³IRM — professionally, psychologically, financially, in thought, word, and deed — will put such gains to good purpose and not toward increasing women’s dependency. And do keep in mind the words of a man you seem to idolize: “no investigation, no right to speak.”