Letter to the WOW Mailing List

This letter was sent to the WOW Café Theatre mailing list. It outlines the concerns of former Rivers of Honey producers around trans inclusion, stifling of dialogue, and the decision-making process at Rivers of Honey. It also requests that these issues be addressed at the 8/16/11 WOW meeting.

Dear WOW –

As former producers of Rivers of Honey, we are writing to the current ROH producers and the entire WOW community to express deep concerns over the current direction of Rivers of Honey as evidenced in recent public and private incidents.

Last week Jack, a former WOW member who helped produce Rivers of Honey, posted a question on the Rivers Facebook wall asking for clarity around the gender inclusion language for the ROH underwear party and ROH in general. She specifically asked whether trans women are now being excluded from Rivers of Honey. That question was never answered by ROH producers. After a continued exchange, Jack was blocked entirely from the Rivers of Honey Facebook page and many of her posts were deleted by those, who retain sole access to the Facebook page.

After seeing this exchange on Facebook, Arianne wrote to the Rivers of Honey Google Group to express her concerns over the manner in which Jack was addressed and the apparent decision to exclude trans women and other trans folks from Rivers of Honey. Shawn responded saying that Rivers of Honey is now a collective of two, comprised of Shawn and Jaz, and that they decided to change the structure of ROH and the gender inclusion policy. Shawn also stated that Arianne could not step back into the Rivers of Honey collective at this time. Shortly thereafter, the ROH Google Group was switched to read only, so no further emails could be sent to the entire group. Cris, Z, Arianne and others have continued to express their concerns around trans inclusion and more general issues of decision-making, control, and ownership of ROH via email to Shawn and Jaz, but these concerns remain unaddressed.

We are dismayed to see this direction that ROH has taken in just a few short months. Core decisions about the nature of Rivers of Honey have been made unilaterally by the current producers. Past ROH producers – some who produced as recently as March – have been told that they have no place in ROH and their concerns have been dismissed. The ROH Facebook and Google Group are completely controlled by Jaz and Shawn, and they have used this control to shut down dialogue, exclude people entirely from public forums, and sanitize the public discourse around these issues. Finally, Jaz informed Arianne that she now owns Rivers of Honey and that her lawyers should be contacted for any discussion. We are not sure about the truth or details of that claim, but that the claim should be made at all is of grave concern.

The decisions being made around gender inclusion, the manner in which these decisions have been made, and the ways in which discussion around the decisions has been silenced all go against what we understand the nature of Rivers of Honey and WOW to be. Rivers of Honey has been produced by many women of color in its nearly thirteen years of existence; it was never owned or controlled by any of those producers, but rather has passed through many hands that have done the work to hold it and build it through the years. It is a community cultural institution. We have all put great amounts of energy and sweat and love into Rivers of Honey, and we do not wish to see it go further in this dangerous direction of silencing and exclusion.

Therefore, we ask that these issues be addressed at next Tuesday's WOW meeting (August 16.) We will be there to engage with the larger WOW community about these concerns, and we hope that Jaz, Shawn, and others who are or have been involved in Rivers of Honey will join us in this important dialogue.

A late note: shortly before sending this email, we and others received an email from Shawn stating that she would soon send out a public response to questions that have been asked in recent days. We appreciate that and look forward to reading that letter. We hope that it will bring a return to openness, dialogue, and transparency in ROH organizing; we also hope that the issues we have raised here will be addressed in that letter.
In solidarity,

Jack Aponte
Arianne Benford
Cristina Izaguirre
Zakiyyah Shabazz
Dex Thompson