A guest posting by our friends at the Red Umbrella Babies Collective to honor the amazing Shannon Williams, who was an activist with SWOP in the Bay Area, a founder of the sex worker rights movement, and is very much missed by all…

Shannon Williams: the hottest mama (photo from Naomi Akers)

Shannon Williams died this week, catching us all off guard. During the MLK long weekend, she had a bad headache. She went to the emergency room, a tumor was found in her brain stem. It was inoperable. Almost immediately she lapsed into a coma. On Tuesday January 20, 2015, her family removed her from life support. This had been her wish.

We are her friends at Red Umbrella Babies, a forthcoming anthology developed by sex workers who are parents and our children. When we learned of what had happened, we called each other, torturing ourselves with questions: did she know that she wouldn’t wake up? And, did she have time to say goodbye to her sons who are twenty-one, nine and seven years old? One of our children, Blaze who is seven and knows Shannon’s younger kids asked through her tears, “who will take care of the boys?”

Although our hearts ache we know the answer, because we knew Shannon. She was dedicated to the beautiful art of raising children in the most thorough and thoughtful way.  We know that those boys will be okay because Shannon has laid the groundwork for them and because their dad is there too.

Shannon did everything in her life with such grace and apparent ease. She was a gorgeous, sensual babe. She dressed in cool, funky outfits, radiating raw energy. But her casual demeanor was underpinned by thoughtfulness and steely determination. She was completely grounded, practical and not given to pointless abstraction. She was a successful sex worker, proudly taking courses in techniques—such as Bondassage and Tantra—to hone her skills. She created a schedule that allowed her to live her life on her terms and bring up her children well.

“I’ve been asked if the fact that I was a parent made me more hesitant to do sex work,” she wrote in her contribution to the Red Umbrella Babies anthology, “ It didn’t. I never felt like being a parent and being a prostitute were at odds with each other. In fact, I thought it was absolutely the most perfect job for me BECAUSE I was a parent.”

But a nosy parker neighbor and the law did not see it that way. In 2003 Shannon’s house was raided. “Seventeen of Oakland’s Finest came crashing into my bedroom with their guns drawn,” she recalled. When the press found out that a Berkeley High School teacher had been arrested for prostitution, “it instantly became a national news story and blew my life to pieces,” Shannon added. Her case was a catalyst for organizing in the Bay Area. Other sex workers like Robyn Few and her compatriots took to the streets in protest, wearing leopard skin-patterned lingerie in solidarity. The cops had dragged Shannon into a police car in her underwear in order to humiliate her.

The powers that be still have yet to figure out that sex workers are a force to be reckoned with, and that shabby attempts to sexualize a woman like Shannon will always be subverted by the sex worker rights cause. The leopard skin lingerie turned into an emblem of freedom.

Shannon—with her certification as a teacher and her mentoring heart—turned the public nature of her arrest into a “teachable moment” when communicating with her then nine year old son. “The story was running in every local paper, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh featured segments about me on their shows, and everyone around us was talking about it. I took my son up to one of our favorite parks up in the Oakland hills to have the conversation,” Shannon recounted. She had only six months before explained her job to her son when other kids had taunted him saying that his mother was a whore. ‘You know about my job, spending time with people who are lonely,’ I began. He said, ‘Yes.’ I went on. ‘You know how I told you that I might have sex with them sometimes, if we both wanted to.’ He said, ‘yes’ again.  ‘Well, I’ve been arrested because of my job.’ ‘Why?’ he asked and I said, ‘Because it’s illegal to have sex with someone for money.’ And my brilliant, wonderful, nine year old son said to me, ‘Well that’s dumb. You should be able to have sex with whoever you want.’ And that was the end of that.”

So very few of us are as brave and as open as Shannon Williams when faced with arrest and public humiliation. So very few of us could have laid the groundwork for this conversation with our children. How many of us can speak to our children frankly about sex at all? How many of us would be proud of our child’s candid answer? We are so lucky to have had Shannon Williams in our lives, we are so lucky to have her example. All parents must find their own path, but knowing how others have handled devastating situations with poise and affirmation, strengthens us. Enlightens us.

Rest in Power, Shannon Williams. We imagine that you are with Robyn Few, Gabriela Leite and all the rest from our movement who have passed after giving us so much of themselves. Our other mothers, that we hold so close in our hearts. Your children will proudly carry their memories of you for the rest of their lives, we are sure.

The Red Umbrella Babies Collective

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Trafficking/ Prostitution: A survivor shares her story on how Anti-Human Trafficking Laws Hurt more than Help


M. Dante shares her story about sex work and anti-trafficking laws with SWOP-Philly.

Originally posted on SWOP-PHILLY:


If you missed ELS: AK Trafficking / Prostitution discussion, M. Date, advocate and sex worker, explains how Anti-Human Trafficking laws harm more than help. Similar laws now exist in PA. Please read her story and join us as we continue to campaign for decriminalization of sex work in all forms. 


From M. Dante

 Under federal criminal law, sex trafficking must involve force, fraud, coercion, or minors.

Alaska’s 2012 sex trafficking law redefines many things related to prostitution as sex trafficking.  Things that sex workers do to increase their safety, like working together (a prostitution enterprise), working indoors (maintaining a place of prostitution), facilitating prostitution (buying condoms, advertising, everything sex workers and sex trafficking victims do) and associating with each other are confused with media images of kidnapped children being held in sexual bondage.  These laws make all people in the sex trade (including those who are…

View original 2,545 more words

Strategies for Survivors

The Philly Survivor Support Collective (PSSC) has been working in West Philadelphia since 2010. They strive to create and maintain systems of support for survivors of sexual assault and abuse in directing their own healing.  PSSC assists survivors seeking justice and safety outside of the criminal “justice” system.  They also work to transform our communities to end sexual violence. Lucky for us, they have just released a new zine. Check it out here and please share!
strategiesforsurvivors <—Click here to download!

Got Condoms?

Hi Friends!

For many years we have received free condoms from the health department. Condoms are crucial to our mission of providing harm reduction to services to women working in the sex trade.

The health department is only able to provide us with the condoms pictured. While these condoms are totally awesome for many people, they are not ideal for folks in the sex trade.
Sex workers, even survival sex workers, have a right to take pride in the work they do. Providing a “FREE” condom to a client isn’t a cute look for us.

We are reaching out, especially to those of you connected with AIDS Service Org’s, who might have access to regular size “male” condoms to share with us.

Please let us know if you can hook us up! We prefer Lifestyle brand, but are open to others. Please contact or message us.

Project SAFE

Tomorrow is #Dec17

Tomorrow is the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. We come together with sex workers, allies and advocates from around the world to recognize that the stigma surrounding sex work contributes to violence committed against us. We cannot achieve the justice we deserve, such as safe working conditions and fair treatment by police, without your donations!

This day of recognition was originally founded in 2003 by the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) and Annie Sprinkle. “Every year when I create or attend a gathering on December 17, it is a deeply moving experience. I take some moments to feel grateful that I worked as a prostitute for so many years and came out alive. I remember those who didn’t survive and I fear for those who won’t unless real changes are made — namely safer working conditions and the same police protection other citizens get without recrimination,” Sprinkle said in a 2008 Op-Ed. Over the past 11 years it has grown into a day of vigils, actions, and events in cities around the world. We seek call attention to the all-too-frequent violence committed against sex workers. These events address a plethora of issues relating to the discrimination and stigma surrounding sex work, all of which allows violence committed against sex workers to remain unchecked by our collective communities and justice system.

Flyer 12.17 Philly

On a daily basis, sex workers in the United States and across the globe face severe repression, stigmatization, marginalization, violence, and human rights abuses. They are often left vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by the police. This impacts extend beyond their daily safety and also contributes to a reluctance to seek medical care and other social services, for fear of stigma, mistreatment, risk of arrest, or refusal of services.

This year we ask you to join us in our efforts to fight for sex workers’ rights, protection against violence, and the elimination of stigma. Make a contribution today so we can continue to honor this day and remember the strength of those we have known, loved, and worked alongside of. Help us raise funds so we can raise the voices of sex workers around the globe!

Sex Workers’ Rights are Human Rights!

Free Eye Glasses & Eye Exams

Four Eyes Optical @ 1631 Walnut Street is offering

Free eye exam and eyeglass vouchers: Dec 11-23

Contact 1-866-509 -7233 ext 3 for more information or support.

NO ID, NO Address needed!


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International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers


Please find this Dec 17 in Maryland – and spread the word!

Originally posted on SWOP MD:

Free massages, pedis, ambience, music, conversation. short films, art, moment of Silence for people lost due to violence. Sex Workers & Sex Workers Allies are invited.

RSVP for directions

In the spirit of remembrance and healing, the Sex Workers Outreach Project invites sex workers,
allies and advocates from around the world to join us in recognizing December 17, the International Day
to End Violence against Sex Workers.
Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers was first recognized in 2003 as a memorial and vigil
for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington. Since 2003, Day to End Violence
Against Sex Workers has empowered people from cities around the world to come together and organize
against discrimination and remember victims of violence.
As we approach this day, we seek to come together to remember those who we have lost this
year, and renew our commitment in the…

View original 263 more words

December 17th, 2014 Event —“Remembering Sex Workers”

Flyer 12.17 Philly (1)


December 17th, 2014—“Remembering Sex Workers”


Sex Workers Outreach Project- Philadelphia (SWOP-Philly) hosts memorial and film screening on the 12th International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.

On Wednesday, December 17, SWOP-Philly will be hosting a memorial and film screening to commemorate the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers.  An interactive commemoration wall, speakers and a screening of A Kiss for Gabriela will address the impact of violence and criminalization on sex workers around the globe.  The event will run from 6:30 to 9:30 at the William Way Center, 1315 Spruce Street.

SWOP-USA started the Day to End Violence in 2003 to honor and remember the victims of Gary Ridgway, the Green River Killer, who murdered at least 48 individuals in the sex trades. Since 2003, organizations and individuals around the world stage actions and hold vigils annually to call for an end to violence against sex workers. The events also work to bring communities together to recognize and address the multiple forms of violence that sex workers face.

The violence committed against sex workers occurs in a broader context of transphobia, racism, stigma and criminalization of drug use, xenophobia and police brutality and indifference.  For the majority of victims, violence against sex worker also means violence against transwomen, individuals of color, drug users and immigrants.

The SWOP Philly event is free and open to the public and we invite sex workers, allies, family and friends to join us in remembering the lives of those who have passed and honor the resilience and struggle of all who are involved in the sex trades.

Brothers on a Budget will be catering the event. During the first half of the evening, we will be inviting attendees to share stories, memories and experiences of individuals in the sex trades who have faced violence.  We also invite attendees to bring photos, items, cards or stories to post on the shout out wall to commemorate a victim of violence or celebrate moments of resistance.  Speakers will discuss the multiple forms of violence that sex workers face in Philadelphia and how these experiences connect to broader struggles for social justice.

During the second half of the event, we will be screening A Kiss for Gabriela, by filmmaker Laura Murray. Gabriela Leite was the first sex worker to run for the Brazilian Congress. The documentary tells the story of her 2010 campaign as she faced 822 opponents and challenged a male-dominated political system.


Sex Workers Outreach Project- Philadelphia [SWOP-Philly] is a grassroots collective a collective of sex workers and allies committed to ending stigma and violence towards those in the sex trades.


More information on December 17th can be found at:

Transgender Day of Remembrance‬

Our thoughts are with all those lost to gender based violence on this ‪#‎TransgenderDayofRemembrance‬.

You can follow the hashtag ‪#‎TDOR‬ to learn more about this day and the struggle for trans equality.

Project SAFE Director honored in “Poz 100″

Lindsay Roth, a long time volunteer with Project SAFE, has been recognized by POZ Magazine for taking a stand against HIV. This months issue of the magazine honors young people, under the age of 30, who are “a new generation of HIV advocates.” Check it out here!


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