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Activist Spotlight: BARE on the Mass Closure of Strip Clubs in New Orleans

via BARE’s Instagram

An unholy mix of gentrification and trafficking hysteria created the perfect political climate to allow law enforcement to shutter several New Orleans strip clubs, leaving scores of dancers unemployed. The Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers rapidly sprung into action; they disrupted the mayor’s press conference and organized the Unemployment March the following night, which drew national attention. I talked to them about the situation in NOLA, their strategy, and their future plans.

So, to start, what is BARE? How long has BARE existed and what kind of activism does BARE do?

Lindsey: BARE is the Bourbon Alliance of Responsible Entertainers. We are an organization run by strippers, for strippers. I started coming to meetings a few months ago, but some of our members have been at this since the Trick or Treat raids of 2015. What we do first and foremost is provide a voice that’s been previously underexposed during the city’s assault on strip clubs: the voice of actual strippers. We’re attempting to work with city officials to influence policies and decisions that affect us. Outside of that, we really just want to foster community among dancers and show the people who don’t understand us that we are valuable members of the New Orleans community. During our first ever charity tip drive, participating dancers donated all of their tips from a Friday night’s work to a women’s shelter. Strippers literally paid that shelter’s rent for six months!

Lyn Archer: I arrived in New Orleans after being laid off from two seasonal jobs in a row, one in secretarial work and one in hospitality. I was on unemployment and got a job cocktail-waitressing at a Larry Flynt drag club. One night, a few weeks before Christmas, the club closed without notice and let everyone go. That’s when I saw how quickly fortunes could reverse on Bourbon Street and how little protection there is for workers. My first week on Bourbon, I was the likely the only stripper that didn’t realize that Operation Trick or Treat had just happened. I entered a work environment where strippers were scared, mgmt was over-vigilant, and customers were scarce. Everyone seemed confused about “the rules.” I later learned that’s because what’s written into the city code about “lewd and lascivious conduct” is different than state law and different than federal law. But these supposed “anti-trafficking” efforts are a collaboration of badges. Undercover agents from many offices move through the clubs. I began researching and writing on this for my column in Antigravity, called “Light Work.” I began to see how a feedback loop between press, law enforcement, self-styled “anti-trafficking” groups and civic policymakers can cause so much destruction for people they haven’t even considered. The club I started at was the first to close. The club was inside a building that was the house Confederate president Jefferson Davis lived in. The house I live in was the home of a Confederate general. We are working against, while inside-of, unfolding histories that are deeply, deeply violent. The more I learn about the history of sex worker resistance in New Orleans, the more I know this fight is lifetimes old and will replicate itself if we do not end it entirely.

The People vs. Kimberly Kupps

Though she’s been an adult entertainer since the 1980s, Kimberly Kupps is currently best known as half of the Florida couple who were arrested for shooting porn in the privacy of their own home. Like me, Kimberly operates her own independent porn site, so it’s a case that definitely caught my attention. Some sex workers mistakenly view porn as legal, easy, and even dismiss it as “sex work lite,” because supposedly, those of us who make porn don’t break any laws and face no risk. As a pornographer, even if you are trying to stay within the bounds of the law and don’t shoot anything “extreme,” you can find yourself dealing with an obscenity prosecution, as Kimberly and her husband have learned this summer.

The pair was arrested on June 3rd by their local Polk County Sheriff, who is going after them as a part of a war on porn to clean up the conservative area. (Sheriff Grady Judd is also facing a federal civil rights lawsuit for allegedly harassing another local woman for her atheist organization.) Kimberly and her husband are being represented by well-known first amendment attorney Lawrence Walters. Walters is donating part of his fee, but there are still plenty of costs being incurred with mounting a strong legal defense, so Kimberly has set up a defense fund. Although their computers were seized by the police, Kimberly recently took the time to do an interview with me from her iPhone.

The Week In Links: July 1

Source: http://moralhighground.tumblr.com/

Not-quite-strippers in Saskatchewan find a way around the laws against dancing for alcohol drinking patrons.

The Scarlet Alliance’s Elena Jeffreys explains why feminists should listen to sex workers.

Des Moines police have arrested two people, a man and a woman, for the brutal murder of a prostitute in 2010, while Liverpool police may have solved the 2005 murder of a sex working mother.

In Ghana, a prostitute was stabbed to death by a client. The news coverage ends with the vile recommendation that police renew activities around prosecuting sex workers.

New Delhi sex workers respond to Slutwalk: “We dress provocatively for work and are paraded in front of men every day. What will this walk achieve for us?” Meanwhile, New Delhi jailers were caught hiring prostitutes to come to their work premises and provide services while they were on duty.

Kat wrote about what really goes on at bachelor parties, and it should pretty much clear up any confusion created by this Marie Claire piece.

A popular commercial sex site in Uganda has seen rates of HIV infection rise dramatically. There’s also new findings that condom use is on the decline among sex workers in Belize. Thailand is beginning to address the disparity between safer sex education and services between male and female sex workers. And in this compassionate article, a Texas sex worker talks about living life as a former prisoner and HIV-positive trans woman.

Fabrication Used To Scam Sex Worker Community Funds

5/22: THIS WAS A FABRICATION. WE ARE DEEPLY SORRY, ESPECIALLY TO OUR READERS WHO ARE SEX WORKING WOMEN OF COLOR, AND TO THE WOMAN WHOSE PHOTOGRAPH WAS USED FRAUDULENTLY. SEX WORKER COLLECTIVE FUND LYSISTRATA HAS STATED IT WILL RETURN ANY DONATIONS GIVEN TO THEM FOR THIS. LILY FURY IS A FORMER CONTRIBUTOR, AS WERE HER INVENTED PERSONAS OF COLOR, “HARMONY” AND “BAMBI”, AND WE APOLOGIZE FOR GIVING HER A PLATFORM TO FURTHER HER FRAUD AND RACIST POLITICAL POSTURING. WE CONDEMN HER ABSOLUTELY.

On the night of May 15th, immigrant sex worker activist and Tits and Sass contributor Bambi and longtime Tits and Sass contributor and sex worker activist Lily Fury were raped and then arrested by an NYPD undercover cop posing as a client. He called himself “Thomas Carvan” and referred to a provider by the name of “Lucy Luxe” to vouch for him as a reference. Fury was held for five days until she was released on her own recognizance on the 19th. Bambi was held in Rikers without bail for 8 days, until this evening. Tits and Sass will continue to report on this story throughout the week. In the meantime, if you’d like to donate to Bambi’s legal defense, you can donate via her friend Harmony Ortiz through her Facebook profile, as well.

Strip Club Owners: Pay Your Damn Taxes

Natalia tweeted this photo during a raid that happened at the Dolphin II in Beaverton, OR last month. It wasn’t a drug raid but a tax one, as it turns out, the consequence of an undercover investigation. Portland’s Willamette Week published this story about a federal investigation into tax misbehavior by the owners of Portland’s Dolphin and Cabaret strip club chains. Why would either of these owners fail to heed the lessons of the downfall of Vegas’s Crazy Horse Too thanks to tax evasion and Seattle’s shuttered Colacurcio clubs and PAY HIS FUCKING TAXES?