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Mar 3, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Nightfairies and Radical Hustlers: Sex Workers as Activists

With Anna Saini, Erika Smith, Paul Silva, PJ Starr and Kyisha Williams

Join the Sex Workers Outreach Project-NYC (SWOP-NYC) and Sex Workers Action New York (SWANK) as we celebrate International Sex Worker Rights Day by showcasing the fierce activism of sex workers in an exciting night of film.

Whether it is by taking to the streets in protest, delivering vital services to our fellow workers or simply reclaiming our stories and our lives, sex workers are transforming communities and having our voices heard.

We will begin the program with a diverse selection of short films that highlight the activism of sex workers in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and here at home in NYC. Then we will focus our gaze on the actions of sex workers in India, a motherland of sex worker activism where March 3 events originated, with our feature length showing of Tales of the Nightfairies. This film explores the power of collective organizing and resistance of 60,000 sex workers in Calcutta. A panel discussion including filmmakers and sex worker activists is part of our action-packed event.

SWOP-NYC and SWANK proudly acknowledge the San Francisco Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival www.sexworkerfest.com for sponsorship and assistance in curating this inspiring night of film. Film night program developed by Anna Saini and PJ Starr of SWOP-NYC.

First Session

Red Lips (Cages for Black Girls) by Kyisha Williams,

16 min., 2010

This film explores black/racialized/criminalized/queer/trans identity and its relationship to the prison industrial complex. It articulates links between interpersonal and systemic violence – while celebrating the (sexy) ways in which we survive and celebrate ourselves.

Nothing About Us Without Us by Speak Up! Media Training

2 min., 2010

Video and supplementary documents are 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.

Sex Workers and Anti-Trafficking (trailer) by Carol Leigh

18 min., 2012

Anti-trafficking is a sacred cow, but behind this humanitarian concern is a century-old movement that historically reflects xenophobia and prostitution abolitionism. When Carol Leigh first heard about the resurgence of the white slavery/trafficking framework, she knew she had to show how this moral panic has historically resulted in discriminatory immigration policies, increased criminalization of sex work and few solutions for individuals who are victims of forced labor. This trailer introduces Collateral Damage: Sex Workers and The Anti-Trafficking Campaigns with a summary of Trafficking in The Media: Sex, Power and Representation.

MTV and the Trafficking Law in Cambodia by No Exit News

9 min., 2009

Sex workers in Cambodia respond to the MTV Exit Campaign against trafficking and exploitation.

Rights Not Rescue by closed Society Foundations

9 min., 2010

Sex workers are subjected to widespread human rights abuses, including police violence and unequal access to health care, in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Despite enormous challenges, they are organizing to protect their rights and demand an end to violence and discrimination. A report published by the closed Society Institute, Rights Not Rescue, is based on a series of interviews and focus groups with sex workers and advocates throughout the three countries. In this animated short film, sex workers who participated in the research tell their personal stories and collectively call for hope and change.

Ni coupables, ni victimes by Sexy Shock in collaboration with the ICRSE

5 min., 2005

“Ni Coupables, Ni Victimes” is a video record of the words and actions of sex worker and ally participants at the European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour Rights and Migration. Media activists SexyShock and Scarlot Harlot were invited by the ICRSE to create a “video booth” at the “European Conference on Sex Work, Human Rights, Labour, and Migration 2005”. This made it possible to film participants willing to be on camera while protecting the identities of those who did not. Interviews were made with conference participants who are sex workers and allies. Interview segments are blended with images from the street demonstration, performances and images with Scarlot Harlot and text taken from the Sex Workers in Europe Manifesto.

No Human Involved by PJ Starr

5 min., Work in Progress

Anti-prostitution laws have a devastating impact on many communities as shown by this work in progress which exams how one woman came to die in a US prison after being arrested for “solicitation.” The documentary when completed will chronicle how a movement was formed around this case, one that seeks both justice and rights for sex workers.

TORN by PJ Starr

4 min., 2011

Times are hard in Sexxxys town, the cops harassing, the stroll not paying and a new law is being drafted that will ruin things for everyone. With a little help from her friends she finds stability and success until an unexpected betrayal challenges her comfortable new existence. A political education puts her in the drivers seat but she cannot help but be torn by the decision she has to make.

70 min

Second Session

Tales of the Nightfairies by Shohini Ghosh

74 min., 2002

Five sex workers – four women and one man – along with the filmmaker/narrator embark on a journey of storytelling. Tales of the Night Fairies explores the power of collective organizing and resistance while reflecting upon contemporary debates around sex work.

The simultaneously expansive and labyrinthine city of Calcutta forms the backdrop for the personal and musical journeys of storytelling.

VAMP Responds to "Prostitutes of the Gods"

4 min., 2010

This clip by the Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP, Prostitutes’ Collective Against Injustice), encapsulates a succinct response to ‘Prostitutes of God’, a sensationalized and factually flawed documentary produced by Sarah Harris for VBS TV. Countering the distorted perspective in the film, women from VAMP present their incisive views about sex work; religion and faith; livelihoods; issues of consent; ethics and cross-cultural sensitivities while making documentary films.

80 min

Kyisha Williams is a radical, Black, queer, high femme, ma’star, sex positie vibrant, survivor, fighter, writer and film/video maker. kyisha is a community organizer and support worker who does work with Black/ queer/ trans/ racialized/ crimanlized/ HIV+/HCV+ communities. kyisha has used art as a means of survival and celebration since her was sixteen. kyisha has an honours degree in policy and human rights. Red Lips (Cages for Black Girls) is her first video work.

PJ Starr, filmmaker and human rights advocate, explores the complexity of sex workers experiences via documentary and fictional film projects. She will comment on the impact of the prison industrial complex on sex workers and people profiled as prostitutes (such as transgender people) and detail the community organizing around these issues in the US that she has captured on film for her work in progress No Human Involved.

Paul Silva is a senior communications officer for the closed Society Foundations, where he focuses on health and human rights issues. He is a former board member of the Positive Health Project, a nonprofit organization in New York that provides health services to vulnerable populations, including people who use drugs, sex workers, and transgender individuals. Prior to joining the closed Society Foundations, he worked in media relations for the national office of the American Civil Liberties Union and the reproductive rights group Catholics for Choice.

Erika Smith is a DC activist and indie film star.

Anna Saini (panel moderator) has lived many lives as a political scientist, radical activist and multi-media artist. She completed a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from the University of Toronto and McMaster University respectively. She works as a community organizer on issues of equality in higher education, drug policy reform, prison abolition, women’s abuse issues, police brutality, and labor rights. Her writing appears in Bitch Magazine, make/shift Magazine, various journals and in her self-published anthology Colored Girls. An interview with Anna appears in the book “Feminism FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism!”


Mar 3, 2012
7:30 pm – 10:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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