Tag Archives: activism

#WhiteHouseIftar and the Tactics of Activism

by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie

 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson via The White House Blog)

(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson via The White House Blog)

As many marginalized groups know, it’s not a party until we’re all arguing among each other. If you caught the #WhiteHouseIftar hashtag on Twitter, you saw some intense back-and-forth among American Muslims. But I’d like to share the two best pieces that characterize the debate, rather than focus on infighting.

I enjoyed the respectful consideration from Omid Safi, who asked those invited to the White House and State Department iftars to boycott them for the following reasons:

We should, all of us, collectively, politely, and firmly, decline the State Department Ramadan and White House Iftars until the following three measures are taken:

1)   The United States immediately abandons the policy of extra-judicial drone attacks in all countries.
2)   The United States immediately releases the political prisoners who have been cleared for release at Guantanamo Bay
3)   The United States immediately abandons the policy of profiling and surveillance based on race, ethnicity, and religion. Continue reading

An African Election: What American Women Can Learn From Ghanaian Feminists

By Tamara Winfrey Harris

The Manifesto therefore provides a platform of a common set of demands for the achievement of gender equality and equity and sustainable national development. It allows women to articulate their concerns in the 2004 Elections and beyond. Women are thereby empowered to use their votes as a bargaining tool and recruit others to do the same. The Manifesto provides female and male candidates with an agenda once they are elected to parliament and the District Assemblies.  Finally, it would ensure political party accountability as they would ultimately be assessed on the basis of where they stand in relation to issues that concern women as outlined in the Women’s Manifesto. (Read the full Women’s Manifesto for Ghana here.)

In America, we are so convinced of our brand of democracy’s superiority that we are loathe to look beyond our shores for inspiration. And if we did, it is safe to say we would not look to Africa, a place the mainstream still imagines as a “dark continent” of indistinct and disadvantaged countries and peoples. What could the U.S.A. possibly learn from a country like Ghana?

AfroPop’s documentary “An African Election,” which premieres at 8:30 pm ET, Monday, Oct. 1, illustrates that riveting, hard-fought elections; charismatic politicos; and engaged, change-focused electorates are not exclusive to America. In a short 55 years, Ghana won its independence from the British, experienced four coups d’etat, and successfully transitioned into democracy. And there is something else to be learned by American women concerned about legislative efforts to curb our freedoms–Ghana is exactly where we might look for a response to the “war on women.”

Read more at Clutch Magazine…

On Richard Aoki

Say it ain’t so.

When the news broke that beloved radical activist and former Black Panther Richard Aoki may have been working as an FBI informant, I was floored. I had the same reaction as Phil, over at Angry Asian Man:

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.

Granted, Aoki, who committed suicide in 2009, is not around to verify, deny, or explain these claims–claims that will no doubt help to sell the crap out of this new book. I’m not willing to accept this bombshell just like that, especially based on one article that happens to be written by Seth Rosenfeld, the same guy who wrote the book making these claims.

We’re also talking about the FBI, who definitely aren’t amateurs when it comes to shady discrediting tactics. It’s not hard to believe that there are holdovers from that era who would go to these lengths to tarnish Aoki’s legacy. Hell no. Not buying this. Need more information.

So I went looking for all the information I could find–and what remains is frustratingly inconclusive. Here’s a quick walkthrough of FOIA requests, COINTELPRO, other informants, and why the truth in these situations is so hard to find. Continue reading

Must Read: Jessica Colotl’s DREAM and Legal Reality

Jessica Colotl: Eye Of The Storm is a twelve page comic exploring one of thousands of stories behind the DREAM act. The description:

Jessica Colotl is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to America as a child – and who now faces deportation. Reporter Ryan Schill and artist Greg Scott bring to life the story that has become a flash point for America’s immigration debate. This comic was produced in cooperation with the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. It is available in Spanish here.

“Losing the Movement:” Black Women, Violence, And Prison Nation

by Guest Contributor MK, originally published at Prison Culture

Last week, I was privileged to organize an event for a project that I am affiliated with called Girl Talk. As part of the event, my friend, the brilliant Dr. Beth Richie, spoke about her new book Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation. I can’t recommend the book any more highly.

Beth suggested on Thursday that the book is to some extent autobiographical, in part tracing her personal involvement as an activist in the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement. In reading the book, I found my own story also represented in the history that she illuminates through her research.

Today, I want to focus on one key aspect of the thesis that Beth advances in the book. She contends that the “success” of the anti-violence against women and girls’ movement in passing legislation and gaining public legitimacy was in large part due to the increasingly conservative political climate that was emerging in a parallel way. That conservative political climate emphasized a “law -and-order” and “tough-on-crime” approach to addressing social problems.

Beth pointed out in her talk that many activists within the anti-violence movement (particularly women of color and queer people) spoke out about the fact that increasing criminalization would adversely affect certain populations. Their voices, however, did not win the day. Continue reading

Celebrate Mothers/Mamas/Mami’s Day!

Looking for a way to celebrate the folks who raised you–but from a slightly different perspective than you would get down at Hallmark? The good people over at Strong Families (a project of Forward Together/Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice) present Mama’s Day, a multicultural, queer-friendly celebration of the folks who do some of the most significant (and unpaid) work in our society.

As usual, Jamilah King at Colorlines has the scoop:

“I can’t find a Mother’s Day card that looks at our identities in a way that is sentimental for me and my mom,” says Shanelle Matthews, communications coordinator at Forward Together, an Oakland-based organization that’s leading the e-Card drive through its Strong Families initiative. Matthews grew up as one of three kids in a single-parent black household, and wants to celebrate her mother’s hard work. “This campaign is personally close to be because I can finally say something to my mom on Mother’s Day that’s actually of cultural relevance and value.”

Help support Mama’s Day!

(Thanks Perez for the tip!)

Quoted: Ethan Zuckerman On Parsing Kony 2012 And Digital Activism

It makes perfect sense that a campaign to create widespread awareness of conflict in northern Uganda would want to simply this picture down to a narrative of good versus evil, and a call towards action. While I resent the emotionally manipulative video Invisible Children have produced, I admire the craft of it. They begin with a vision of a changing global world, where social media empowers individuals as never before. They craft a narrative around a passionate, driven advocate – Jason Russell – and show us the reasons for his advocacy – his friendship with a Ugandan victim of Kony. The video has a profound “story of self” that makes it possible for individuals to connect with and relate to. And Invisible Children constructs a narrative where we can help, and where we’re shirking our responsibility as fellow human beings if we don’t help.

The problem, of course, is that this narrative is too simple. The theory of change it advocates is unlikely to work, and it’s unclear if the goal of eliminating Kony should still be a top priority in stabilizing and rebuilding northern Uganda. By offering support to Museveni, the campaign may end up strengthening a leader with a terrible track record.

A more complex narrative of northern Uganda would look at the odd, codependent relationship between Museveni and Kony, Uganda’s systematic failure to protect the Acholi people of northern Uganda. It would look at the numerous community efforts, often led by women, to mediate conflicts and increase stability. It would focus on the efforts to rebuild the economy of northern Uganda, and would recognize the economic consequences of portraying northern Uganda as a war zone. It would feature projects like Women of Kireka, working to build economic independence for women displaced from their homes in Northern Uganda.

Such a narrative would be lots harder to share, much harder to get to “go viral”.

I’m starting to wonder if this is a fundamental limit to attention-based advocacy. If we need simple narratives so people can amplify and spread them, are we forced to engage only with the simplest of problems? Or to propose only the simplest of solutions?

As someone who believes that the ability to create and share media is an important form of power, the Invisible Children story presents a difficult paradox. If we want people to pay attention to the issues we care about, do we need to oversimplify them? And if we do, do our simplistic framings do more unintentional harm than intentional good?

—From “Unpacking Kony 2012” by Ethan Zuckerman

(Image Credit: Colorlines)

Private Danny Chen, and why I will never again reach out to OWS about something that matters to me

By Guest Contributor Esther Choi, cross-posted from Some Thoughts …

I can’t stress enough that the following article only represents my opinions as an individual, and are not to be affiliated with any other person, organization or community.

December 15, 2011

Tonight was the march and vigil for Private Danny Chen, who was killed in the army on October 3, 2011. We don’t know how he died. The army is withholding all evidence, which it owes to the family, that could answer this question. What we do know is that he did not die in combat. We know he was constantly harassed and discriminated against by his fellow soldiers for being Chinese. We know some really twisted, violent hazing was committed against him by his superiors, right before he was found dead. We decided to hold a march and vigil because the army is currently carrying out an investigation, and we have to show them that the public is watching and that they cannot get away with another cover-up.

Just yesterday, board members of OCA-NY along with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Council Member Margaret Chin went to the Pentagon to meet with high-ranking army officials, where they made demands that may fundamentally transform the way that hazing and bias crimes are dealt with in the military. We need them to know that the public and the media are watching, and that if they do not meet our demands, we will redirect our campaign to focus on our young men and women who are thinking of enlisting. These young people need to know before they enlist, the Army will not protect them from harm by fellow soldiers.

Before the vigil, we reached out to many organizations to support, and 36 signed onto our cause. We also reached out to Occupy Wall Street because justice and government transparency are in its mission, and we thought we could use the numbers and networks in OWS to bring out more support for our vigil, and we also wanted to show our solidarity with OWS.

So imagine my surprise when protesters from OWS showed up with OWS signs, not to stand with others lining up for the march to Columbus Park in support, but to stand in front of everyone, trying to direct them. These people, who had not, until that very moment, put in one bit of effort into organizing this action, who had no idea what the plan was, who had no idea who we were or who the family was, decided that they were going to make this an OWS event.

Conflict erupted when one of the OWS-affiliated protesters came with a giant Communist Party of China flag. This white man decided that he was entitled to represent us, at this protest for an American soldier, with a flag that has been used by this country to vilify the Chinese American community. When people began asking him not to demonstrate that flag because it was not the purpose of the event and we were in no way representing China or political parties, he began screaming at us about how we were ANTI-COMMUNIST and trying to take away his first amendment rights. We told him that Danny Chen was an American soldier and we wanted to respect the family and their wishes, but he continued screaming violent accusations at us at the top of his lungs and disrupting the event, until one of Danny Chen’s family members, on the verge of tears, finally convinced him to leave. Continue reading