New Article in
Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society
Volume 19, 2017 – Issue 3: Combahee at 40: New Conversations and Debates in Black Feminism
“There Is NO Justice in Louisiana”: Crimes against Nature and the Spirit of Black Feminist Resistance
By Laura McTighe, with Deon Haywood
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the leaders of the quarter-century-old Women With A Vision (WWAV) collective launched a coordinated campaign to expose and challenge the criminalization of Black cisgender and transgender women working in New Orleans’ street-based economies. For the simple act of trading sex for money to survive, hundreds were convicted of a felony-level Crime Against Nature by Solicitation (CANS) and forced to register as sex offenders for periods of fifteen years to life. After five years of organizing, WWAV successfully overturned the statute, thereby securing the removal of more than 800 people from the Louisiana sex offender registry list. This article brings a fine-grained analysis to WWAV’s process of organizing against CANS in order to trace the making of this criminalization crisis and to clarify the terrain of the organization’s victory. It argues that WWAV organized through a distinct southern Black feminist tradition in order to disrupt the use of CANS as a technology of post-Katrina predatory policing. By refusing their erasure from the city of their birth, WWAV staff and participants not only rendered visible the mundane terror of targeted criminalization against Black women; they also opened new horizons for Black feminist struggle and collective liberation.