On April 13, 2007, the WOCN office received several phone calls and email from members of the WOCN Advisory Group, Mentor Group and general membership asking that WOCN staff take action in response to the termination of a woman of color at a state coalition by upper management, and another woman of color, her direct supervisor, who chose to resign on the spot in a show of support. The number of calls in support of these women coupled with the severity of other concurrent workplace calls lead WOCN staff to immediately release the national correspondence entitled:
That correspondence declared that the pushing of women of color out of their programs and potentially the movement as a whole has happened to “one too many” women of color. It stated that WOCN will no longer address the endangerment of the woman of color advocate in isolation – women of color and those aspiring to be allies MUST work together to uncover the problem and to seek solutions. The correspondence asked advocates to answer four questions related to what they are seeing regarding the endangerment of women of color advocates in their programs, their feelings about this issue, how they would define the problem, and any solutions that they would like to offer. The response was overwhelming and lead to the release of a 28-page document on April 20, 2008 entitled:
The Special Edition Update spawned a rigorous national dialogue addressing the experiences of women of color in programs and in the movement in ways that had never occurred before. State Coalitions were particularly responsive and sent in their own statements to be included in the following Special Editions:
DOCUMENT: “Special Edition: WOCN Update #102 – Included a Statement from the Northeastern Domestic and Sexual Violence Coalitions” May 16, 2007
DOCUMENT: “Special Edition: WOCN Update #105 – Included a Statement from the Women of Diversity Taskforce of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women” May 23, 2007
WOCN was then faced with the question from the field, “Where do we go from here?” This very question sparked the first Call to Action teleconference implemented through the vehicle “WOCN Training Without Walls” teleconference series. The goal was to provide a national forum for women of color and allies alike to talk about women of color as a valued but endangered group within the movement, and to not only examine the problem of endangerment but to move forward with action and learning.
- First Aspiring Allies Teleconference: A “CALL” TO ACTION – A NATIONAL FORUM TO DISCUSS HOW YOU WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE: A Call for Aspiring Allies in the Presence of Women of Color, Conducted June 13, 2007
- First Women of Color Teleconference: A “CALL” TO ACTION – A DISCUSSION OF SAFETY PLANNING AND EMPOWERMENT AMONG WOMEN OF COLOR ADVOCATES AND ACTIVISTS: A Call for Those Who Identify as Women of Color on a Daily Basis, Conducted June 20, 2007
The initial teleconference led to a series of calls – one set of Call to Action calls with women of color only, and another set of Call to Action Calls with women of color and allies together. Out of those calls came two documents released in July 2008 entitled:
DOCUMENT: “National Women of Color Statement: Call to Action 2008 by Women of Color Advocates and Activists”
DOCUMENT: “National Ally Statement: Call to Action Statement 2008 by Those Aspiring to Be Allies to Women of Color Advocates and Activists”
These statements represent over 25 national teleconferences and the voices of over 600 women of color, male and mainstream advocates which help to frame the problem and provide solid recommendations for individual, systems and policy change within the anti-violence against women movement.
In 2008, WOCN also answered the call among young women of color (YWOC) advocates to support and advance YWOC in leadership at all levels across the movement.
First National Call To Action Teleconference for Young Women of Color Advocates and Leadership, Conducted in June 2008
The YWOC call was intended to unify and create a safe space for YWOC to identify issues related to fostering inclusion and empowerment for YWOC in the anti-VAW movement. A Young Women of Color Advocates and Leadership Initiative was formed and is comprised of YWOC advocates and activists from various domestic violence and sexual assault state coalitions, national organizations, and community-based programs.
One of the needs identified within the YWOC Advocates and Leadership Initiative was the greater dirth of access to mentorship. Therefore, they wrote and released the following mentorship tool:
DOCUMENT: Young Women of Color Mentoring Tool – A Mentoring Tool for Advocates in the Anti-Violence Against Women Movement, June 2009
Another thread of calls that came out of this was a series of intergenerational calls with women of color across the lifespan:
First Intergenerational Women of Color Call: “A Call to Action for Women of Color Advocates & Activists: An Intergenerational Dialogue” Conducted July 9, 2009
These National Call to Action calls with Women of Color only, Aspiring Allies in the presence of Women of Color, YWOC, and intergenerational calls helped to forge a movement that would lay the foundation for new and emerging programming under WOCN heading into 2010.
The NCTA Conference Model
From the first National Call to Action calls in June 2007, teleconference participants listed a national conference as an expected outcome of the calls, and without any more than hope and commitment, WOCN agreed to make it happen. By the time the conference took place, close to 1000 teleconference participants weighed in to help shape the NCTA Conference Model.
On May 10-14, 2010 at the Westin Canal Place in New Orleans, Louisiana, WOCN hosted the 1st National Call to Action Institute and Conference: Supporting Women of Color Advocates and Activists Working to End Violence Against Women and Families. WOCN received seed funding from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Special Programs, Department of Justice to make this dream a reality, demonstrating the power of collective voice and action. Additional funders include Family Violence Prevention and Services Office – Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Pittsburgh Foundation. Partners included A CALL TO MEN, People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, and California Coalition Against Sexual Assault – Prevention Institute.
Close to 400 people participated in what has become the signature model for the NCTA Institute and Conference:
Three 2-day pre-institutes occurred simultaneously on May 11-12, 2010, which consisted of:
Women of Color Institute;
Men’s Institute (in partnership with A CALL TO MEN); and
Mainstream Women Allies Institute.
A 2-day national conference on May 13-14, 2010 occurred bringing all three groups together.
NCTA Institute and Conference attendees came together to:
1) Promote and support the leadership of women of color advocates and activists and those on the margins of the margins; and
2) Develop and improve services to victims/survivors of violence and their communities on the margins of the margins.
The purpose of the NCTA Institute and Conference is to:
Unite women of color across ethnicity, race, age, citizenship, sexual orientation, disability, body type, faith, discipline, and locality for collective survival.
Inspire aspiring allies to aim for collective liberation in challenging racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, ageism, and other forms of oppression and bias.
Topics such as leadership development, anti-oppression, economic empowerment, ally support, culturally specific approaches and cross-cultural service delivery, and self-care were featured throughout the event, with a special Undoing Racism Track of workshops implemented by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
Specific attention was given to local efforts that were being made in Louisiana post-Katrina and the results from the Violence Policy Center at that time indicating that Louisiana ranked first in the nation in the rate of women killed by men, with the majority of homicide victims being Black women.
During this conference, 15 Women of Color focus groups occurred for Asian and Pacific Islander, Latina, Indigenous, African American, and Bi and Multi-racial women, as well as such topics as domestic violence, sexual assault, dual sexual and domestic violence, survivor, faith-based, LGBTQ, immigration, health/HIV and AIDS/reproductive justice, young women of color, and women of color over 40, and culturally/racially-specific groups.
See the 2010 Conference Program Book here: http://h7w.2dd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/programbook.pdf
See the 2010 Conference Report here: http://h7w.2dd.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/rev2NCTAconfreportjuly11.pdf
View the 2010 Conference Video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJueHiBAj10
Since the first NCTA conference in 2010, two more conferences have taken place:
2nd National Call to Action Institute and Conference: Collective Empowerment, Collective Liberation: From July 9-12, 2012 in St. Paul, Minnesota the Women of Color Network hosted nearly 400 women of color, aspiring allies and men victim advocates, activists and anti-violence movement leaders. Attendees participated in two-day institutes, each specifically designed. Three institutes included a Women of Color Institute, White Woman’s Aspiring Allies Institute and Men’s Institute. The institutes were followed by a joint two-day Conference.
Also, with 2012 being the five-year anniversary of the launch of the National Call to Action and similar issues remaining for women of color in their programs, WOCN released a new statement at the 2012 Institute and Conference:
DOCUMENT: 5-Year Anniversary – 2012 Women of Color Network National Call to Action Statement, July 9, 2012 (Appendix H)
3rd National Call to Action Summit and Conference: Coming Full Circle – Survivors and Communities of Color Leading the Way to Justice and Healing: Previous NCTA conference attendees requested that the term “Institute” not be utilized as it inadvertently reinforces “institutional” connotations for attendees, particularly those with disabilities. The term “Summit” was then adopted. Also, a new approach was established bringing together white women and men in one Aspiring Allies Summit. Finally, the event was shortened to enable attendees to participate with less concern of leaving for extended periods of time and for cost effectiveness. With a renewed approach, just over 300 attendees participated on May 20-22, 2015 in the 3-day NCTA Summit and Conference in San Diego, CA, with one Women of Color Summit and one Aspiring Allies Summit followed by a collective conference.
NCTA Governing Principles
Based on the National Call to Action Calls, the National Statements, and the implementation of the 1st National Call to Action Conference, several core values have manifested that govern the community building and work of the National Call to Action:
Women of Color Leadership at the Center: All work that is implemented within all realms of the National Call to Action is conducted with at least one or more women of color present to heighten accountability and to keep women of color leadership at the core. In additional, all sessions end with the words of women of color.
“Aspiring” Allies: Men and white/mainstream women are embraced as those who aspiring to be allies to women of color on a daily basis, just as women of color aspire to be allies to themselves and each other on a daily basis.
Race/ethnicity as portal to understanding all areas of marginalization: The National Call to Action has at its core the placement of women of color at the center, but its ultimate goal is to place ALL MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES at the center.
Inclusive/intersectional language: Each person is responsible to work one word at a time to evaluate and change language to be more inclusive and to maintain a connectedness to race, gender, class, and sexual intersectionality on a daily basis.
Accessibility at the core: All work and planning within the National Call to Action must address as central issues language, emotional, mental and physical access for persons within all levels of activity
Anti-oppression work as daily work: Women of color and all others who are the most marginalized must be made central within the anti-violence against women movement through ongoing anti-oppression work that moves beyond gender analysis and directly addresses racism, classism, homophobia/heterosexism, ethnocentrism, ableism, ageism and all other ‘isms.
Participation and leadership at all levels: All participants in the National Call to Action are essentially “called to action”, and are to take an active role in volunteering and demonstrating leadership from the planning, to the set-up, to the implementation of all activities.
Representation from the most marginalized: There should be work from all participants to work to include and place at the center representation and leadership from those that are most marginalized.
Intergenerational representation: There should be consistent work to ensure that youth, young adults, and those over 40 are present and working together to learn and serve as allies to each other.
Examination of privilege at all levels: All participants are called to examine on a daily basis, ways in which they may receive unearned, systemically assigned privilege.
Love for humanity as a foundation: All participants are encouraged to come to National Call to Action activities open to embrace the potential of love for humanity as a vehicle for endurance in continuing to do this work.
Honesty and support to stay at the table: Open communication and expression is encouraged with conflict of opinion among participants redirected to serve as learning opportunities and an opportunity for relationship building.
Use of the WOCN Values and Assumptions, and Assumptions from the Aspiring White Women’s Institute and Men’s Institute (and now Aspiring Allies Summit) as Core Values of the National Call to Action Process