Last month, ESWA’s inaugural BIPOC academy brought 17 racialised workers together in Brussels for three days of training and discussion. This included addressing issues that particularly affect racialised sex workers, resources available to the community, public speaking training to increase confidence and strategies on how to apply for asylum.
Marin: Sabrina, congratulations on completing ESWA's very first BIPOC Academy! Why are spaces and events like this so important?
Sabrina: Thank you! Sometimes in mixed in mixed spaces, even though it’s within the sex worker movement, there are slightly less secure spaces for racialised people. Sometimes our white colleagues haven’t learned certain things yet. It’s essential that we are able to come together with these life experiences in common, it’s really cathartic. I’ll read you this feedback quote…
Sabrina: “I would be honoured to join again, and have the opportunity to share and build something together. Thanks for all the hard work and dedication. Spaces like this are crucial for the collective mental health of the sex work community.”
Marin: That’s fantastic. ESWA has recently committed to using the term "racialised" rather than, for example, "person of colour". Can you explain why that is?
Sabrina: "Person of colour" is a little outdated, and doesn't properly recognise other groups who also experience discrimination, such as Roma or Traveller communities. It's our commitment to try to use more inclusive language and recognise the experiences of those who might not fit the "PoC" label.
Marin: So, did BIPOC Academy have any unexpected challenges? Did everything go smoothly?
Sabrina: One of our trainers came down with COVID two days before the start date!
Marin: Oh no…
Sabrina: Of course we knew that this was a possibility, so we to did our best to adapt to the situation.
Marin: Was there anything that came up in discussion that surprised you?
Sabrina: One thing that came up was environmental justice as climate change has the biggest impact on communities of colour. So we talked about the link between us and the environmental justice movement. That was something I hadn’t properly considered before.
Marin: Is the BIPOC Academy this something that you’d like to make happen again? Can we look forward to it being an annual event?
Sabrina: We would love that! It’s all dependent on funding, so we’ll be looking again for funding to make it happen every year. So if anybody knows any funding about this…
Marin: Shout out for a fairy godmother organisation!
Sabrina: Yes please, get in touch!
Marin: How did BIPOC Academy inform the anti-racism briefing paper about to launch?
Sabrina: In May last year, when ESWA (then we were still ICRSE!) started the anti-racism programme, we already had the idea to carry-on some trainings and skill building plan. Back then we made a call for a group we named the Anti-Racism Expert Group. Several racialised sex workers that had been in active in their national organisations put themselves forward to join. We had seven meetings in 2021 and one of them was a focus group session where we were able to get very important input from racialised sex workers. They helped us establish our BIPOC Academy as part of ESWA's broader Anti-Racism programme, which includes this briefing paper about to be launched!
Our new briefing paper "Sex Work and Racism: An overview of racism in Anti-Sex Work, Anti-Trafficking and Anti-Immigration (ASWTI) Legislation in Europe" launches on Wednesday 13th April 5pm CET.