The Red Umbrella Project
Director, June 2010 - Present
The Red Umbrella Project is founded on the belief that storytelling is a building block of movement building and solidarity. People who have spent time in the sex industries know all too well the social and legal stigmas that prevent us from being treated with the dignity and respect we deserve. While researchers, the media, and myriad others fill up page after page with stories about the sex business, the voices of sex workers are consistently denied and erased. Everyone has a story, and the people who are best equipped to tell the stories of people in the sex trade are the people who have personal experiences in the industry.
The Red Umbrella Project builds the media, communications, and advocacy capacity of sex worker-serving and sex worker member-based institutions as well as the skills and resources of individual sex workers themselves through training and support.
The Red Umbrella Project has several programs:
- The Red Umbrella Diaries is a monthly storytelling series in New York, where people who’ve tangled with the sex industry tell personal stories about the complications that arise in the mix of sex and money. The event takes place the first Thursday of every month at Happy Ending on New York's Lower East Side.
- The Podcast features favorite performances from the live events plus select stories from the monthly blog carnival. Weekly episodes are posted on Sundays, and listeners can subscribe via RSS or on iTunes.
- Speak Up! Workshops are trainings for communities that are interested in storytelling, media advocacy and messaging, and media production.The training started as the session “Journalism for Sex Workers” at the 2006 Desiree Alliance conference and has blossomed into an annual, weekend-long workshop. The seminar teaches sex workers how to evaluate media requests and to formulate strategic responses to the media in a variety of formats. Along with skill-building, participants examine already existing regionally and nationally-focused sex worker media and talk about how sex workers can contribute to these and other efforts. Audacia produced a 50 plus page training manual for the public to access for free. The second edition PDF, which was released in June 2010, can be downloaded hereLasix Online (link starts automatic download). Audacia also provides ongoing support to the participants of the workshop as they move into the public sphere and use media to forward their projects.
In 2009 and 2010, participants in the Speak Up! Media Training collaborated on awareness-building online media campaigns.
The 2010 campaign, Nothing About Us Without Us: The Shared Goals of the Harm Reduction and Sex Worker Rights Movements, features a video and supplementary documents designed to spark discussion and create inspiration for looking at the ways that peer-led groups providing support and services to sex workers in their communities can collaborate with harm reduction agencies. The group of nine participants created a strategy for the communications output of the project, collaboratively wrote the script to the video, and some members of the group appeared on camera. The written materials were gathered with the guidance and support of the group and our colleagues.
The 2009 campaign, “I Am a Sex Worker,” centered around an one-minute public service announcement video which has gotten more than 45,000 views and has been screened publicly at awareness-raising events in New York, San Francisco, and Amsterdam. It was updated with the addition of new faces in 2011.
NOTE: The Red Umbrella Project is built on the work of Sex Work Awareness, which operated from 2008-2011 and offered media training to sex workers. The two organizations merged in 2011.