Tag Archives: Decolonization

Open Letter to Occupy San Diego

by Isang Bagsak, originally published at All People’s Revolutionary Front

Occupy San Diego

Dear Occupy San Diego,

We, the All Peoples Revolutionary Front, have been intrigued by the developments of Occupy Wall Street and the way this action has compelled many around the world to engage in public protest. While acknowledging the ways in which our struggles converge, we must articulate the ways in which our struggles diverge. We continue to observe brutality in the legacy of capitalism, a system that relied upon the enslavement of African and Caribbean peoples, the genocide and displacement of Indigenous peoples, and the violent seizure of lands for colonial profit. Economic exploitation of labor and resources is only one process of continuing colonization that disproportionately impacts communities of color and third world peoples. Our struggle for self-determination in the present moment contributes to the histories of resistance that began long before us.

APRFront is a collaboration of all abilities, generations, genders, gender non-conforming, sexual orientations, indigineity, race, ethnicities, cosmologies, faith and spiritual practices, and identities. We are a constellation of collectives involving students, activists, community organizers, artists, educators, justice advocates, and all those who engage critical knowledge to inform political struggle. APRFront identifies with a diverse range of practices, including Social Justice Education Pedagogy, anti-oppressive movement building, critical consciousness development, and privilege-checking strategies. We acknowledge all levels of education in our coalition, and welcome folks with a willingness to learn, teach, and engage in the different political ideologies of revolutionary liberation such as socialism-marxism-womyn of color feminism, intersectionality, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and zapatismo. We realize these terms and ideologies may not be immediately accessible, but we will provide explanation to those who desire to learn and practice our methods. While we believe in education, we also believe that part of our self-determination is not having to fully disclose our identities and the practices we study in every public statement we make to “Occupy” movements.

We recognize the necessity and strategic importance of visible demonstrations which movements for social change rely upon, understanding that our struggle continues the legacy and knowledge of critical consciousness in direct action. We are concerned that Occupation is a romanticized and idealized form of activism, one that does not consider what must follow civil disobedience in the long-term. We envision the sustainability of organizing within our communities and collective contribution to accountable leadership, involving structured consensus-based decision making through the guiding power of the masses. Within this framework of self-determination, the colonizing language of Occupation does not translate. Because this land called “San Diego” has endured centuries of colonial conquest and domination at the expense of Indigenous Kumeyaay peoples, APRFront cannot support, endorse, or conscientiously mobilize in solidarity with the concept of Occupation. Our level of engagement with Occupy San Diego serves the purpose of claiming space for people of color and articulating the movement to decolonize on a local and global scale.

When we imagine decolonization, we do not make demands of those in power or those who are behind Occupy movements; we create power and frame the alternative. Continue reading

Decolonization and Occupy Wall Street

by Guest Contributor Robert Desjarlait

Decolonize Oakland

The Occupy Wall Street protest has become a matter of debate in Indian Country. Some have chosen to be included under the slogan – “We Are The 99%; others, like me, have chosen to be excluded from the 99%. Many of those who support it have come up with their own slogan – DECOLONIZE WALL STREET. I simply don’t believe that the indigenous nations on Turtle Island are a part of that 99% equation, let alone that the Occupy Wall Street movement is about decolonization.

One protester, Brendan Burke, said: “Everyone has this problem. White, black. Rich or poor. Where you live. Everyone has a financial inequity oppressing them.”

I assume from his statement that Burke only sees things in white and black. Apparently he is color blind when it comes to red and the brown. As far as financial inequity is concerned, we, the red and the brown peoples of the Americas, have suffered financial inequity ever since the oppressors first invaded our shores. Financial inequity – perhaps better termed as socio-economic inequity – began with the subjugation of our lands through treaties. Annuity payments were often late and were never the amount negotiated under the treaty. Supplies and food rations that were part of annuity payments were often appropriated by Indian agents and resold for higher prices.

The tragedy at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag (Sandy Lake) exemplifies the socio-economic inequity of annuity payments. In the fall of 1850, nineteen Anishinaabeg bands from Wisconsin journeyed to Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag for annual annuity payments and supplies. The annuity payments and supplies were late and the people had to wait until early December before they received limited sums of money and available supplies. Trying to survive on spoiled and inadequate government rations while waiting for the annuities, 150 Anishinaabeg people died from dysentery and measles at Gaa-mitaawangaagamaag. Two-hundred and fifty more, mostly women children and elders, died on their way back home to Wisconsin. This is but one example of the economic inequity that has been part of the indigenous experience in the United States.

One of the things that the Occupy Wall Street organizers have repeatedly stated is that the inspiration for their protest is the Arab Spring movement. If this is the case, one may ask how did the indigenous peoples of the Middle East fare from the Arab Spring?

On September, Daniel Gabriel, the SUA Human Rights and UN NGO Director, stated: “While the media focuses all its energy on the Palestinian search for Statehood and the ‘Arab Spring’, it is the reduced indigenous populations of the Middle East who continue to lose out. Time and time again, the world demands justice, democracy and freedom in the Middle East, but it fails in its obligation to demand the same for the minority groups like the Arameans. Today we barely survive in our homeland. But tomorrow we may silently vanish from existence. The SUA pleads with the global bodies such as the United Nations and the world community and media to prevent this imminent tragedy from happening.”

If the Arab Spring didn’t flourish for indigenous peoples in the Middle East, how can we expect it to flourish here? Continue reading

More Notes (and Voices) from #OccupyWallStreet

occupy wall street vivir latino

JohnPaul Montano on colonization and “occupations”:

It seems that ever since we indigenous people have discovered Europeans and invited them to visit with us here on our land, we’ve had to endure countless ‘-isms’ and religions and programs and social engineering that would “fix” us. Protestantism, Socialism, Communism, American Democracy, Christianity, Boarding Schools, Residential Schools,… well, you get the idea. And, it seems that these so-called enlightened strategies were nearly always enacted and implemented and pushed upon us without our consent. And, I’ll assume that you’re aware of how it turned out for us. Yes. Terribly.

Which brings me back to your mostly-inspiring Occupy Wall Street activities. On September 22nd, with great excitement, I eagerly read your “one demand” statement. Hoping and believing that you enlightened folks fighting for justice and equality and an end to imperialism, etc., etc., would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you – that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society. See where I’m going with this? I hope you’re still smiling. We’re still friends, so don’t sweat it. I believe your hearts are in the right place. I know that this whole genocide and colonization thing causes all of us lots of confusion sometimes. It just seems to me that you’re unknowingly doing the same thing to us that all the colonizers before you have done: you want to do stuff on our land without asking our permission.

Meagan La Mala on the colonization of Puerto Rico and framing movements:

What I didn’t see or hear was a self-challenge among the participants regarding the language they chose to use. “Occupation” does not sit well with me. As a woman whose country has been occupied by the United States for hundreds of years hearing white men hand out fliers, inviting people to “celebrate the occupation” made me cringe. In a conversation I has with a friend and her friend, I asked if they had heard any discussion of the language used in any of the general assemblies or anywhere really. It was clear that to some (many?) there is no sense of why using the language of occupation is a problem, how it could alienate the very people who are most impacted by the corporate/government policies.

“I saw a sign that said “occupy Wall Street not Palestine,” I was told, as if that was enough. It didn’t feel that way.
I also saw a lot of signs based in the idea of privilege and the bullshit notion of who deserves what. Young people held signs lamenting not being able to pay their student loans and how having gone to college didn’t bring the jobs and success they expected. I thought about the high Latino high school drop out rates and my own lack of a college degree. Were we included in this dialogue/narrative or even within this “movement” were there some who weren’t worth fighting for – some who don’t deserve the “American Dream” because of not following the prescribed order of things.

I didn’t see one sign about immigration. I didn’t see one sign about people of color and the prison pipeline. I didn’t see one sign in any other language except English.

I’m not saying they weren’t there – I’m saying I didn’t see them. [...]

It’s hard for me to fight for “an America” that has made clear that it’s success is to come at my domination – my erasure.
I challenge those who are so strongly supporting this movement hold themselves accountable for the language and framework they put their struggle in. It can’t all be about fighting the powers that be without the acknowledgement of how we be those powers.

Kai Wright, of Colorlines, on what OWS symbolizes from his perspective:

It’s clear to me that NYPD could and would behave dishonestly. It’s less clear, however, what any of this has to do with the fact that millions of people have lost their homes—many in fraudulent, illegal foreclosures on fraudulent, sadly legal mortgages. It’s also unclear what it has to do with the jobs crisis. Or the trillions of dollars in taxpayer money that banks ran away with, while ignoring congressional orders that they ramp up mortgage modifications and small-business lending in return. I mean, I can’t rightly say I know a thing about organizing a movement and I’m all for “a symbolic gesture of our discontent,” as organizers have described this one. By all means, take over the park, the bridge, the street—you name it. But it’s hard to imagine how this becomes anything more than what it is now: a running battle with individual cops over the right to public space in Manhattan.

Which, by the way, is an important issue. NYPD systematically undermines public protest of any sort, often using unnecessarily aggressive tactics. It happens widely enough to suggest it is driven by policy. You see it everywhere from anti-war marches to the Gay Pride parade. So this city could certainly use a movement designed to pressure the mayor and the police chief to change their “crowd control” policies and respect the right to public assembly. We could also use a movement against police brutality. I’d love to see a national movement ally, for instance, with organizers in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville to help the hundreds of young black men who get harassed daily as a matter of NYPD policy. They could stand in solidarity to occupy precincts until that racist policy changes. But none of this is happening, at least so far.

Nor is it what the movement declared itself to be about. It’s supposed to be about the deeply entrenched economic inequity that has come to define our lives in the 21st century. I argue this inequity grew out of decades of predation on black families, specifically. But the organizers were wise to make room for as wide a range of perspectives on the problem as possible. The point, as organizers have so movingly put it, is that everyone gets screwed by an economic system that amasses so much wealth in so few hands. “We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent,” they have written.

RodStarz of the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, noted after heading to the OSW:

Out of curiosity we visited with the RDACBX team after a meeting and the result wasnt the greatest. Besides being stared at and looked at as if we were invading their space, the predominantly young, white and liberal Occupiers sent over one of the few African American men over to talk to us. When we asked them why they didnt approach us themselves and build with us, they replied that “they thought we would get mad because they were white.” The situation was pretty bizarre as a woman started ranting incoherently about Nazi symbols being seen over the skies of California, and another man from the Media Team repeatedly offering us the chance to perform if we spoke to the Arts and Culture team. He didnt seem to get that we werent there to perform, rather we were there just to build. After being mean mugged for taking a free slice of Pizza, we decided it was time to leave the hippie fest.

Our intention is not to dismiss it as just this, but the gut feeling was that there is a serious disconnect down there. We left with mad questions! Where was the hood? Where was the poorest congressional district in the USA, from The South Bronx at? Like we say in Hip Hop, where Brooklyn at? Could it be that perhaps the working class couldnt afford to just leave work and the responsibility of bills and family survival to camp out in a city park? Did folks from our communities not know about this? If people of color were occupying Wall St would we have lasted this long? All in all the questions remain, yet with time and reflection , we refuse to just dismiss it. Its a historic time in the world in which general assemblies are starting to happen all over, as cities across the US are also now having “occupations”.

We are looking at race and reactions to the march, but reader Sue sent in a picture that really does speak 1,000 words:

Girl Arrested on Wall Street\

The analysis from the BagNews blog:

Seems like everybody (1, 2, 3, 4- just for starters) led this morning with this Occupy Wall Street photo. Hmm, I wonder why? (The power of the image is not only the 10 for “beauty,” but that it also doubles down on the “martyr/saint.”)

If you can get past the saintly/insanely beautiful girl and her cleavage, though, what we’ve got here also is the latest law enforcement adjustment in the battle for Wall Street — women arresting women.

(Image Credit: Vivir Latino)

OCCUPY WALL STREET: The Game of Colonialism and further nationalism to be decolonized from the “Left”

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee

Decolonization, the Game
The “OCCUPY WALL STREET” slogan has gone viral and international now.  From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of “ending capitalism” – organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to “occupy” different places that symbolize greed and power.  There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now.

I also need to mention that New York City is Haudenosaunee territory and home to many other First Nations. Waiting to see if that’s been mentioned anywhere. (Author’s note: Manhattan “proper” is home to to the Lenape who were defrauded of the island by the Dutch in 1626 – see more from Tequila Sovereign).

Not that I’m surprised that this was a misstep in organizing against Wall Street or really any organizing that happens when the “left” decides that it’s going to “take back America for the people” (which people?!). This is part of a much larger issue, and in fact there is so much nationalistic, patriotic language of imperialism wrapped up in these types of campaigns that it’s no wonder people can’t see the erasure of existence of the First Peoples of THIS territory that happens when we get all high and mighty with the pro-America agendas, and forget our OWN complicity and accountability to the way things are today – not just the corporations and the state.

Let me be clear. I’m not against ending capitalism and I’m not against people organizing to hold big corporations accountable for the extreme damage they are causing.  Yes, we need to end globalization. What I am saying is that I have all kinds of problems when to get to “ending capitalism” we step on other people’s rights – and in this case erode Indigenous rights – to make the point. I’m not saying people did it intentionally but that doesn’t even matter – good intentions are not enough and good intentions obviously can have adverse affects. This is such a played out old record too, walking on other people’s backs to get to a mystical land of equity.  Is it really just and equitable when specific people continue to be oppressed to get there? And it doesn’t have to be done! We don’t need more occupation – we need decolonization and it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in that because COLONIALISM AFFECTS EVERYONE. EVERYONE! Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? How does doing things in the name of “America” which was created by the imposition of hierarchies of class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality help that?

I can’t get on board with the nationalism of  an “American” (or now “Canadian!”) revolution – I just can’t.  There has been too much genocide and violence for the United States and Canada to be founded and to continue to exist as nation states.  I think John Paul Montano, Anishnaabe writer captured it quite well in his “Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street Activists”:

I hope you would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you – that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society.

I will leave you with this new art piece from Erin Konsmo (also pictured above), our fabulous intern at The Native Youth Sexual Health Network she created on “OCCUPY: THE GAME OF COLONIALISM”.  Hopefully you get the picture now.