Necessarily left out of Emi’s excellent recount of the ways that members of the NOMAS council silenced and intimidated her and other women of color at Forging Justice was the concern about conference funding. This was left out because it is confusing, and without substantial explanation, could have opened the door for detractors to discredit her. I did not, and do not, want to provide that opportunity.
I entered into the conference with the understanding that NOMAS was going to cover any expenses that were not met by conference registrations. The NOMAS council entered the conference with the understanding that when they provided the seed money at the beginning of the planning, the bulk of their financial obligation had been met.
This is the place we were in when the co-chairs of the NOMAS council approached me on Thursday to cut off the livestream when Emi spoke on the panel. I believed that they did, in fact, have financial leverage over me and the conference. They had no such assumption of leverage beyond partnership for the conference.
On Saturday, I overheard a conversation wherein I learned that NOMAS believed their financial obligation to be met. I did not feel prepared or able to bring up my understanding in that moment. Perhaps I should’ve anyway. I did, however, send a message to three of the council members a few hours later explaining my understanding and asked that they discuss it at their council meeting the following day.
They expressed shock at my guess of the expenses, but agreed to discuss it. When we met on Monday to talk about it collectively, what we all admitted to was a profound and destructive lack of communication. I was not diligent in seeking clarity with NOMAS about the funding for the conference, which led to Emi Koyama being silenced on the livestream and our community believing that NOMAS was holding HAVEN financially hostage to control the situation. Had I sought more clarity, I may have felt empowered to say no when I was approached by the NOMAS co-chairs to cut off the livestream because I would’ve known that money was not leverage they held.
While I firmly maintain that NOMAS had more relative power in this situation, and as such, they were responsible to make sure I understood what exactly they were providing, I did not make enough effort to have concrete communication about finances with the council. I proceeded with carte blanche to make the conference we wanted to have. I could’ve done better in communicating with the council from the beginning in regard to our financial arrangement and our expenses as we moved forward.
I shared this information as soon as I had it with the women closest to the situation, Emi Koyama included. However, I did not take the information public right away. I have an obligation to the organization I work for, and ultimately my accountability regarding finances is to my boss, our CEO and the board of directors. It would have been irresponsible of me to share this information publicly before I had discussed the issue with them. I was not able to have that meeting until today, which is why I am sharing this now.
The day after the conference, I also made the following tweet:
A lesson I learned from @emikoyama this week & wish I’d heard 6 months ago: get the money first. Sigh.
What I was trying to say is exactly what I have said here: that if I had taken care of the money upfront, this current mess might not have even happened, and wow, did I screw up. Twitter being Twitter, with little room for nuance and good faith, that tweet was heard very differently. I want to thank the person who brought this to my attention, and I apologize for misrepresenting the situation, however unintentionally it may have been. I also apologize to NOMAS for furthering any animus against them that was borne of that tweet.
I aspire to be accountable, which by necessity means I make mistakes. I resolve to continue to work on this issue with NOMAS, who have committed to making things right financially. I resolve also to be more direct around financial arrangements in the future, to be completely transparent and have the money attended to before any event moves forward. I also welcome suggestions for continued accountability around this issue.
sincerely (and I mean that),
Cristy Cardinal is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has worked in the field of ending gender-based violence since 1997. Cristy has three kids, all of whom she is happy to share (gross or funny or weird, whatever) stories about any time. She is an avid fabric artist in addition to being a loudmouth feminist. Cristy is the 2012 winner of the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Wave of Change Award, honoring excellence in social change and prevention of gender-based violence.