Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana v2.5 has completed the fifth of his videos documenting the True Diversity Dinner on September 25, 2009 at the Snow Goose Restaurant in downtown Anchorage.
This video features our second speaker, Diane Benson. Diane was well-known in Alaska and nationally even before she ran for governor of Alaska in 2004 on the Green Party ticket & twice for Congress as a Democrat in 2006 & 2008 — she has a long history as an actor, dramatist, writer, dog musher, and advocate for the rights of Alaska Natives. The topic of her speech: healing racism in Anchorage.
One aspect of her speech that particularly stood out for me was her discussion of sexual and domestic violence in Alaska in relation to race. I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I work at the Justice Center at University of Alaska Anchorage. As a result, I have extensive familiarity with the research done by André Rosay and his research partners on sexual violence and violence against women. [Ref #1] We in Alaska have long had the highest rates of sexual assault in the nation — check out this chart published in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of the Alaska Justice Forum [Ref #2] — and much of that violence is fueled by racism and its correlates, alcoholism and poverty.
In two studies conducted of sexual assaults reported to Anchorage Police Department from 2000 to 2003, [Ref #3-4] it was found that Alaska Native women were victimized at 5 times the rate (20.1 per 1,000 population) of the next most victimized group (blacks, at 4.0 sexual assaults per 1,000 population; whites were next highest at 2.8). [Ref #5] Another stark statistic that Diane pointed out in her speech: since 1991, 41 women in Anchorage have lost their lives at the hands of rapists; of them, 32 were Alaska Native women.
But sexual violence wasn’t the only thing Diane talked about: watch her speech.
Diane also mentioned a recent accomplishment: her participation with Jeff Silverman of the Alaska independent film company Blueberry Productions in creating a new one-hour documentary, For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska. The film, set to be broadcast on PBS nationwide in November (we hope that includes KAKM in Anchorage), relates the struggle of Alaska Natives for civil rights which culminated in the passage in 1945 by the Alaska Territorial Legislature of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act — the first nondiscrimination law in the nation. Diane didn’t say so in her remarks, but she was the film’s writer and also portrayed Tlingit civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich, whose impassioned speech before the legislature swung legislators’ sentiments in favor the bill’s passage. Congratulations, Diane, for your work in bringing this much-neglected history to greater attention.
- Violence against women. Biblography of publications from the Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. Most are available online.
- Alaska Justice Forum 25(1–2): 1 (Spring-Summer 2008). Special double-issue on issues related to sexual crime in Alaska.
- Descriptive Analysis of Sexual Assaults in Anchorage, Alaska by André Rosay and Robert H. Langworthy. Report prepared under Grant No. 2000-RH-CX-K039 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Anchorage, AK: Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage, Oct 2003.
- Descriptive Analysis of Sexual Assaults in Anchorage, Alaska: 2002/2003 Update by André Rosay, Jeannie Sanders, Mary Lee Collins, Sandra Smith, Bonnie Caladine, and Donna Monahan. Report prepared for the Anchorage Police Department. Anchorage, AK: Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage, Feb 2006.
- “Sexual Assault in Alaska” (Powerpoint slide presentation) by André B. Rosay. Slide presentation presented to the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee, Anchorage, AK, 3 Aug 2009.