From Criminalization to Liberation:
Organizing Migrant Asian Sex Workers Across Oceans
KK de la Vida, Chanelle Gallant, Elene Lam, Elena Shih and Kate Zen in conversation
Moderated by Yin Q and introduced by Mae M. Ngai
December 2, 6:30PM
Jerome Greene Hall Room 701 (Case Lounge)
Columbia University Law School
435 West 116th Street New York, NY 10027
Although multiple models of policing sex work, including global anti-trafficking effortas full criminalization (in the US), buyer criminalization (the Swedish model), legalization (in the Netherlands), and full decriminalization (as in New Zealand), currently compete in activist, governmental, and policy-making circles, they all disproportionately affect migrant sex workers. This conversation centers theories and practices that emerge from organizing with Asian sex worker communities embedded in complex migration networks that span East Asia, Southeast Asia, and North America. The dominant anti-trafficking discourse in relation to migrant sex work reinforces policing and surveillance networks, stigmatizes sex workers, and isolates migrants, with the result that it often harms those who it is meant to “save.” Understanding these discourses and their power within contemporary governance also requires revisiting racialized and gendered histories that must be traced back to Cold War geopolitics and earlier.
Based on research and organizing in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, and the United States, the speakers here insist that we think of sex work alongside rather than in contrast to other forms of work, shifting from criminal to labor law frameworks. The implications of migrant sex work organizing go beyond policy, suggesting new ways for transnational communities, arranged by differences of privilege based on language, education, immigration and citizenship status, race, gender, sexuality, and forms of sex work, to imagine futures beyond criminalization and toward liberation. This panel will be followed by a Q & A and then a series of small breakout group discussions.
Ritual of Homage to Yang Song at Red Canary Screams:
A Rope Bondage Suspension to capture the Fall/transform to Flight
Two years ago, a woman was scared for her life. She had been raped at gunpoint by a man who claimed to be an NYPD. After reporting the assault to the police, instead of investigating the violence done to her, they pressured this woman to become an informant on her neighbors, the women who worked by her side.
Her name is Yang Song. She was a Chinese immigrant massage parlor worker. She was a sex worker. She was a daughter, a sister, a wife.
Two years ago today, Yang Song would still be alive, working to send money to her family in China. Working to survive.
Working despite social stigma and threat of violence, still she worked
to provide for herself and her family and she chose to care for her community
rather than betray them.
In three weeks time that same woman would be on a window sill,
one side of that glass pane posed a life in handcuffs
A judgement of degradation over a fleeting moment of pleasure
in exchange for sustenance
and the other side a decision of noncompliance.
A step to be free. A hope to survive, to walk away, to live.
Perhaps to fly.
Yang Song chose to be free.
Yang Song, we ask you to lend your life,
your story, and your death to the work that
we wish to labor in your name for that community of sex workers,
those women whom you protected.
Yang Song, we offer you food, incense, and spirit money.
We offer you our love and protection of your story.
In your fall we hold you
In your fall we hold you so you may fly
In your fall we hold you so you may fly
and your wings may carry us
Rest In Peace: Fly in Power
KINK OUT EVENTS & RED CANARY SONG PRESENT
RED CANARY SCREAMS
AN ALL ASIAN AMERICAN ACTIVATION For Sex Workers’ Rights BURLESQUE / DRAG / KINK / TATTOO Hosted by WANG NEWTON
NOV 2ND 2-8PM at LOT45, BKLYN
Red Canary SCREAMS is a fundraiser for Red Canary Song, an organization advocating and providing resources for Asian migrant massage parlor workers in Flushing, Queens. It is a historic grand gathering of the Asian American underground: queer, burlesque, drag, fetish, tattoo, and circus communities UNITE for an extravaganza of entertainment and eroticism!
Red Canary SCREAMS is co-produced by Red Canary Song and Kink Out, hosted by the phenomenal Drag King, Wang Newton, and joined by an incredible line up, including: burlesque by Calamity Chang and Kitana Louise, kink experiences with Mistress Lucy Sweetkill and Domina Dia Dynasty, tattoo sessions with @arielisgood and @squids.ink, and drag by Emi Grate and Demon Daddy, to name a few of our many shining stars.
Local Politicians Ron Kim (Queens) and Yuh-Line Niou (Manhattan Chinatown) will be joining and speaking on their work and support of Red Canary Song and decriminalization of sex work.
ABOUT RED CANARY SONG:
Red Canary Song is a grassroots organization advocating and providing resources for Asian Migrant Massage Parlor Workers. It is led by Asian American Sex Workers and Allies, who advocate and gather resources for the Migrant Massage Parlor Workers based in Flushing, Queens, NY. Red Canary Song sprouted from the terrible tragedy of Yang Song, a Chinese massage sex worker, who fell to her death during a police raid in 2017.
Yang Song’s Story: A year prior to the night of her death, Yang Song, a massage parlor worker in Flushing, Queens, was sexually assaulted by a man who identified himself as a police officer. Yang Song filed a report with the NYPD, but identified the wrong man in a line up, a method that notoriously effects false positives. Later that year, and just months prior to Yang Song’s fatal arrest, the NYPD forcibly brought her to their station to try to convince her to become an informant on the other women who worked by her side.
On November 25th, over the Thanksgiving holiday of 2017, an undercover police officer solicited Yang Song with the intention to arrest her. The building’s video cameras show Yang Song shutting the officer out of the door and pacing in anxiety. There is no footage of what happened minutes before Yang Song’s fall, but a camera caught a glimpse of her body dropping past a window. The next morning at New York Presbysterian Hospital in Queens, Yang Song was pronounced dead with multiple fractures to her head and body.
Red Canary Song formed to advocate for a community that is exploited, demonized, victimized, and silenced. It has been recognized and awarded for service to the Asian community by Queens Assembly person, Ron Kim, and Chinatown Assemblyperson, Yuh-line Niou. Red Canary Song is working closely with DecrimNY.org to ensure that the most marginalized sex workers are protected in future decriminazation policies.
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