by Shira Hassan, forewords by adrienne maree brown and Tourmaline, afterword by Rosario Dawson
Liberatory Harm Reduction is one of the most important interventions of the 20th century, and yet a compilation of its critical stories and voices was, until now, seemingly nowhere to be found. Saving Our Own Lives, an anthology of essays from long-time organizer Shira Hassan, fills this gap by telling the stories of how sex workers, Black, Indigenous, and people of color, queer folks, trans, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit people are - and have been - building systems of change and support outside the societal frameworks of oppression and exploitation. This is a collective story of trans women of color, who were sex workers and radical political organizers, who created shared housing to ensure that young people had safe places to sleep. It is the story of clean syringes, liberated from empathetic doctors' offices by activists who were punk women of color who distributed them among injection drug users in squats in the East Village, and the early AIDS activists who made sure that everyone knew how to use them. It is the story of Black Panthers and the Young Lords taking over Lincoln Park Hospital in the Bronx to demand and ultimately create community-accessible drug treatment programs; and of bad date sheets passed between sex workers in Portland, who created a data collection tool that changed how prison abolitionists track systemic violence.
At a political moment when Liberatory Harm Reduction and mutual aid are more important than ever, this book serves as an inspiration and a catalyst for radical transformation of our world.
"Saving Our Own Lives is rooted in Shira Hassan's extensive experience and commitment to harm reduction as a liberatory practice. This is a book grounded in deep love for those who are most marginalized in our society and respectfully documents their stories and emancipatory analyses. This open-hearted book is illuminating, informative and inspiring. It will have a forever place on my bookshelf." --Mariame Kaba, author of We Do This 'Til We Free Us
"This vital book is a spark, a balm, an agitation, a blessing, a celebration. Through narrative and research and conversation and reflection, Saving Our Own Lives tears down the myths perpetuated by the medical-industrial complex and prison-industrial complex, and shows us how communities have been building ways to survive and heal in spite of -- and against -- these systems. Shira Hassan's book is at once expansive and personal, far-reaching and like coming home. I'm going to return to it again and again, and you will too." -- Maya Schenwar, co-author of Prison by Any Other Name and editor-in-chief, Truthout
"Grounded, brilliant, and generous - Saving Our Own Lives: A Liberatory Practice of Harm Reduction offers key tools, histories, testimony and analysis to deepen our everyday work to support ourselves and our beloved communities. As always, deep gratitude to the visionary Shira Hassan for this luminescent collection, resplendent with the power to shift hearts and minds. A must read for organizers, educators and all of us working to do more than struggle and survive." -- Erica R. Meiners, co-author of Abolition. Feminism. Now.
"As someone who has had the privilege of learning from Shira Hassan and her community of liberatory harm reductionists, I know what an incredible gift it is that now the rest of the world can too. Saving Our Own Lives fiercely reclaims the roots of harm reduction in disabled, Indigenous, Black, queer, trans, sex working, drug using, and migrant communities, and challenges conventional wisdoms around treatment, service provision, violence, trauma, survival, resilience, empowerment, and change in ways that are absolutely essential in the current moment, and to build the futures we want. Whether we are looking for lessons on how to tackle the opioid crisis, interrupt and heal from violence, or ensure reproductive justice for all, the chorus of voices gathered in this volume offer incisive, insightful, and practical real talk from the frontlines. Simultaneously irreverent and serious as a heart attack, Saving Our Own Lives tells it like it is and as it needs to be if we are all going to survive what is unfolding now and what is to come." -- Andrea J. Ritchie, Interrupting Criminalization and co-author of No More Police: A Case for Abolition
"Saving Our Own Lives is truly a priceless gift to the world. Each chapter or revolutionary love note recounts the beautiful, brilliant, and, at times, painful histories of the family of Black, Indigenous and People of Color organizers, people in the sex trade, sex workers, young people, queer people, trans people, and those whose street-based strategies for survival and love created what we now know as 'harm reduction.' There are so many lessons on each and every page, all exquisitely written to document stories that we should already know and principles of liberation that we should be practicing every day. This book should be read page by page by everyone and held close at hand for constant reminders of those to whom we owe so much. Shira Hassan in collaboration with her revolutionary harm reduction family has created an incredible book that has such relevance to our continued co-creation of a liberatory abolitionist future. -- Mimi Kim, founder of Creative Interventions
About the Author:
Shira Hassan is the founder of Just Practice, a capacity building project for organizations and community members, activists and leaders working at the intersection of transformative justice, harm reduction and collective liberation. She is the former executive director of the Young Women's Empowerment Project, an organizing and grassroots movement building project led by and for young people of color that have current or former experience in the sex trade and street economies. A lifelong harm reductionist and prison abolitionist, Shira is the author of Saving Our Own Lives: A Liberatory Practice of Harm Reduction; and along with Mariame Kaba is the co-author of Fumbling Towards Repair: A Workbook for Community Accountability Facilitators. Shira's work has been discussed on National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Nation, In These Times, Bill Moyers, Everyday Feminism, Bitch Media, TruthOut and Colorlines.