Some days the violence of colonisation and capitalism is so palpable that I can barely bring myself to get out of bed. In the face of so much cruelty and oppression it’s hard to maintain that sense of hope that is an essential prerequisite for struggle to continue. That’s why it’s so important to celebrate victories, no matter how small.
Today I am celebrating two victories.
In Aotearoa, Tāmaki Makaurau-based group No Pride in Prisons won their campaign to have prisoner Jade Follet transferred to a women’s prison. Jade is a trans woman who’s been in prison since July 4 (she previously spent 6 months in custody before she was even sentenced) for stabbing a man who showed up at her home after weeks of harassing and stalking her. At the time she was a teenager and he was in his 40s.
Jade applied to be transferred two months ago and never heard back from the Department of Corrections, who appear to have lost her request. Her case only became a national media issue after No Pride in Prisons announced they would set up camp on Karangahape Rd and go on hunger strike until Jade was transferred. The hunger strike lasted a few hours before Jade’s transfer was approved.
It’s a sign of how dire things are, that having a woman incarcerated in a women’s prison for the crime of defending herself is a victory. But now Corrections have learned that when they endanger trans women, people take note. Hopefully the next trans woman who’s sentenced doesn’t spend a single day in a men’s prison.
It’s a small victory, when what we really need is to abolish the prison-industrial-complex, but it makes a hell of a difference to the women it affects.
Across the Tasman Sea, on Cadigal land, the Redfern Aboriginal Tent Embassy won their 15-month battle for Aboriginal housing. The Australian Federal government has committed $5 million to build 62 homes for Aboriginal families on the Block.
Here’s what Embassy organiser Auntie Jenny had to say:
I’m old school. My teachers taught me the principles of our resistance – we never ceded our land to anyone. The Embassy has demonstrated that for our people, resistance is the only way to go. For all the communities around the country facing closure – don’t talk sovereignty, assert your sovereignty. Put up an embassy and demand the funding for your basic rights. We will fight with you every step of the way.
We still have major concerns about the AHC and its lack of transparency. People seem to forget that we have been the targets of threats, assaults and intimidation from the family of the office manager since we started. These criminal matters are still before the courts. But we were unmoved. It will take more than thugs to stop our fight. We will always be watching.
I live for the day when the system treats us all as equals, regardless of colour and our long, proud history and traditions are recognised as the bedrock of this country.
The Block was originally earmarked for Aboriginal housing back in 1972, but more recently the Aboriginal Housing Company [AHC] decided to build a commercial complex of student apartments, a gym and childcare centre instead, and postpone building Aboriginal housing to some time in the future. Last year activists occupied the Block and established a tent embassy to demand that AHC prioritise housing for Aboriginal people over revenue-generating enterprises.
Again, this is a small victory in a country where Indigenous people are still being ethnically cleansed, but it’s a significant one. This isn’t just about the families who’ll be able to continue living in Redfern, the tent embassy also established relationships and gave people skills and experience that will be useful for the next battle.
That’s the thing about small victories—they don’t win you the war, but they give you the hope you need to keep going. To quote Janelle Monae: ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things’.