Healing is an Act of Liberation

Mar 25, 2022

Old Pro News writer and host, Lakeesha Harris welcomes Esther Kao, a core organizer since 2019, a sex worker, and one of the leads on the recently introduced Massage License Decriminalization Act, and Yeonhoo Cho, the group’s Korean outreach organizer.

On March 16, 2022, the grassroots organization Red Canary Song held a vigil in New York City to honor the 8 lives lost one year ago in a mass shooting outside of Atlanta, Georgia. The killer targeted massage parlors where many of the workers were Asian migrants. Asian American Pacific Islander communities are a powerful force in the sex worker rights movement, and we asked 2 members of Red Canary Song to come on the show to discuss how they fight racism, xenophobia, whorephobia, and more through art, protest, policy work, and community healing.



Excerpted From: A Song of Freedom – with Yeonhoo Cho and Esther Kao / Old Pro News written by Lakeesha Harris:

Healing is an act of liberation when freedom is a constant fight. For those who are consistently at the mercy of violence condoned by the state, we are stuck in cycles of healing against the backdrop of deep oppression — searching for the joy, motivation, and courage that will sustain us for another day. On the day that Robert Aaron Long opened fire at the two massage parlors in Georgia, the customers inside were seeking healing and sanctuary. The massage workers were earning their living to care for themselves and their families. All were seeking that which they needed to survive for another day. 

On this one year anniversary of the mass killing of Asian Massage Workers in Cherokee County and Fulton County Georgia, what we know is that the battled cry for sex worker safety and rights are ringing loudly across the United States and globally. And while many Asian Massage Workers don’t identify as Sex Workers, we understand that their vulnerability to violent acts such as the one carried out on March 16, 2021, lays at the intersections of race, gender, economics, and community shame. This is the same mechanisms of oppression for those of us who openly identify as Black sex workers or sex workers of any background. 

It’s here where I want us — so badly — to make the connections of patriarchal dominance, and white supremacy, and body politics — to those of us who are targeted for state and community violence. In order for us to continue to feel the weight of oppression upon our bodies, oppressive forces demand that we always adhere to the wedge of differences between us. Though cultural differences do exist between our communities; when it comes to targeted assaults, which are sustained by a history of white supremacy – we must see the similarities in order for ALL of us to survive. 

Gratefully, Asian Sex Workers — members of  Red Canary Song and Survived and Punished — in their deep grief post the Georgia massacre, made these connections and placed them into carefully constructed words. This is their Rapid Response on March 16, 2021.