Tag Archives: solidarity

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

Hate Crimes

by Guest Contributor Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed

I stepped out of my car, pink skies streaking dusky blues overhead. The hot desert heat stung my skin while the temperature simultaneously dropped dramatically, stirring up that Maghrib winds that conjures up images of swooping invisible jinns snatching at your uncovered hair. Apprehensively I stood, looking first at the large American flag gracing the chain linked fence of the house across the street. I then looked at the mosque, which was really just a 1970s California ranch style house that was being used as a mosque–the Al Nur Mosque located in Ontario, CA. It was hard to think that this was the “scary Mozlem temple” that elicited three pig feet being thrown in the driveway only days earlier by two women in a white truck during the sacred late night Ramadan prayers.

Last time I had been in a mosque was last year when my mother had died, and the last time I had been in this mosque was for the special prayer we held 48 hours after her burial. It was the most spiritually connected moment of my life. I hadn’t been that connected since then, and it held me paralyzed as I stood breathlessly by my car. I wondered how I’d be accepted in this space, showing up alone without my Mom by my side. She was my community conduit. The mosque was created and attended by the Bangladeshi immigrant community that raised me but I was an adult now and building my own communities. But the events of the week weighed down terribly on me, and I knew that I had to be present in this particular mosque as a show of solidarity–or maybe more as a statement. I practiced my Islam defiantly, wore my religion on my brown skin politically. I was Muslim, despite America’s fear.

I stepped into the backyard. I was greeted by foldable tables lined up in rows, paper tablecloths whipping in the wind. The tables were covered with plates of pakoras, channa, dates, and glasses of rose flavored pink drink. Men in white kurtas and thupees sat on one side of the yard, women with dupattas wrapped around their heads sat on the other. The imam caught my eye and smiled at me in recognition. I meekly smiled back. Last time I had seen him we had gotten into a fight over my insistence of having the women’s prayer section up front next to the men’s section for Mom’s funeral prayer instead of hidden in a back room. My Islam was radical in that way.

The mood was calm, normal even. There was no fear hanging in the air, nor were there giddy pleasantries. It felt placid. People saw me and nodded wordlessly, as if after all these years, they’d been expecting me. It had been a long hot day of 109 degrees and people were ready to break their fast. Somewhere in the house, the imam began azaan and the call for prayer. Dates were eaten, water sipped. The tables emptied quietly as people filtered in to pray and as if on cue the desert wind kicked up, knocking pink drinks all over the paper lined tables. The calm mood struck me as odd, but it made sense given the context. If there’s something you learn from a day of fasting in long and hot weather, it’s that you have no time for bullshit.

I, on the other hand, was festering from the weight of the Islamophobia of the week. Continue reading

The Line Between Solidarity and Appropriation: Learning from Jewish Blackface in History [Essay]

by Guest Contributor Wendy Elisheva Somerson

“I remember your grandfather leaving the house in blackface to perform at the local Jewish community center,” my mom told me. “They just didn’t know what it meant back then,” she explained, “not until after WW II.” As an activist involved in contemporary solidarity work across racial lines, I was shocked to discover this racist history in my near past. As an Ashkenazi Jew* (of European descent) whose grandparents immigrated to the US around the turn of the century, I don’t always see myself implicated in the American legacy of slavery, but I was forced to reconcile the fond memories of my jovial grandfather with this haunting image of him performing racial minstrelsy. Trying to make sense of this image, I began researching the history of Jewish blackface between WWI and WWII and was surprised to discover a connection between my current activism and this history of blackface: When we are not rooted in our Jewish identities, we risk stereotyping, appropriating, and over-identifying with other cultures.

To understand the complicated history of alliance, disconnection, and overlap between Ashkenazi Jews and African Americans in between the world wars, I turned to Eric Goldstein’s The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity, which considers how Jews negotiated competing claims on their identities and Michael Rogin’s Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot, which looks more specifically at the role of blackface in Americanizing Jews. As European Jewish immigrants arrived in the US, their presence intersected with the dominant black/white system of racial relations in various ways. At different times, Jews and African Americans were linked tightly together in American consciousness as evidenced by the case of Leo Frank (1913-1915), which sets the stage for Jewish-Black relations in between the wars. A Jewish factory manager in Georgia, Frank was accused of raping and murdering a white girl who worked in his factory. Frank was found guilty (in spite of flimsy evidence) and sentenced to death, but the Governor commuted his sentence to life in prison. A journalist warned in a headline: “The next Jew who does what Frank did is going to get exactly the same thing we give to Negro rapists” (Goldstein 43). Frank was then kidnapped from prison and lynched by a white mob.
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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

It’s Not Just About The Word

355 Woman is the Nigger of the World

The Slutwalk controversy keeps rolling. As a moderator, it’s always a bit disheartening when you get the same level of denials and racist comments due to high activity from feminists that you do when you are linked to from a racist hate site. It’s not quite as bad as when we linked to the picture of Giselle being carried around by black men, but it’s close.

In my first piece on the controversy, I made this statement:

But can you appropriate a term like nigger if your body is not defined/terrorized/policed/brutalized/diminished by the word? Can we use it in a context that is supposed to belie gender solidarity, without explicitly being in racial solidarity?

In my second piece, I made this statement:

Arguing that black people don’t have a monopoly on the term nigger is just fucking disgusting. You want it that bad? Really?

Which one do you think more people responded to? Apparently, it’s easier to be mad that some people aren’t entitled to some words, than to engage with a heavy discussion of the requirements of solidarity.

So, for people who are still confused, let’s do a breakdown.

Reclaiming Words (Slurs) That Aren’t Yours

As a commenter pointed out, the tension between words used is a hallmark of Slutwalk itself – the reclamation of a formerly damaging term by the women who hear it. People marched for other reasons, not just word politics, but a key part of the framework was proud pronouncements of self.

The trouble is, all women have not been denigrated using the term slut, as Black Women’s Blueprint and the Crunk Feminist Collective have pointed out. Depending on your experience as a woman, you may have heard slut in regards to your sexuality – or you may have heard other things. This probably cuts to my ambivalence about Slutwalk from the beginning. It was never a word placed on my person. And, upon further reflection, slut did seem like the domain of white women – if it wasn’t Kathleen Hanna walking around with slut on her stomach in the Riot Grrl days or countless white women writing about the need to shed their virginity (read: innocence) by claiming a slutty identity, it was used as a pejorative specifically used to describe white girls people knew. This doesn’t mean that no woman of color has ever been called a slut, or had that term used to police their identity, or that a woman of color wouldn’t identity with the term – it just means that the aims of the march didn’t resonate with me on a “hey, I have to be a part of this” level.

But more to the point, the sign in question was about claiming identities. Slut isn’t an identity I would claim – I have no personal experience with it. But the application of the idea that woman is the nigger of the world to people who nigger has never applied is puzzling, to say the least. First, it would assume that all women are in the same boat. And as the statistics show when you start breaking down issues of wealth, representation, health, maternal wellness, and just about any other measure, that would be a lie. It’s also trying to pull the experiences and pain of a term on to one’s body without ever shouldering the burden that goes with that term. To me, that’s as asinine as me trying to adopt an anti-Asian slur or an anti-gay slur. Those kind of words would never be leveled at me. I never have to labor underneath their weight. I am not a part of intra-community discussions around those terms. No one has ever tried to make me fear them with those words. I don’t face that set of issues. I don’t carry those burdens. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep ham-fistedly applying terms that don’t fit. Continue reading

An Open Letter From Two White Men to #OCCUPYWALLSTREET

by Anonymous Guest Contributors

Occupy Wall Street

We—two white men—write this letter conscious of the fact that the color of our skin means we will likely be taken more seriously. We write this knowing that because people of color are thought to be too biased to speak objectively on issues of race, our perspective in this context will be privileged. We write this aware of the history of colonization, genocide, and slavery upon which this country stands, which has created this oppressive reality.

We write this letter to the organizers and participants (ourselves included) of #OccupyWallStreet out of great love for humanity and for the collective struggles being waged to save it. We write this letter because of our support for this nascent movement, in the hopes that with some self-reflection and adjustment, it may come to truly represent “the 99%” and realize its full potential.

#OccupyWallStreet has shown itself to be a potent force. The movement—which we consider ourselves part of—has already won great victories. New occupations spring up across the continent every day, and the movement for true democracy and radical social change is gathering steam worldwide.

According to the main websites associated with #OccupyWallStreet, it is “one people, united,” a “leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions,” and an “open, participatory and horizontally organized process.” In other words, it professes to be the universal protest against the greed and corruption rampant in our society, open for anyone to join and shape.

But a quick survey of the movement so far shows that that the good intentions outlined do not reflect the reality of the situation. 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)

Among the 99%

by Guest Contributor Esther Choi, originally published at Squirrels for Justice

Occupy Wall Street

(Note: These are my undeveloped thoughts about Occupy Wall Street, which may be unfair to many people. I would love to have my views checked and challenged by anyone who might see things differently. Thanks.)

For the past few months, the vague idea of a revolution had been constantly on my mind, and though I didn’t know how exactly it would be carried out or what specific changes it could achieve, it seemed like the only way out of the ridiculous state of our country. So it should have seemed like a serendipitous turn of events event for Occupy Wall Street, the vague idea of a revolution incarnate, to pop up in New York and very rapidly gain widespread support. Yet for some reason, I felt very hesitant to sign onto the movement in any way. I would never want to discourage or discount the efforts of people who recognize the need for change in our country and actually take a stand for it. But try as I might, I couldn’t seem to connect to the whole thing. It wasn’t a matter of being jaded or cynical – my ideals easily and constantly compel me into action, but nothing about Occupy Wall Street seemed to compel me. In fact, what I was seeing and hearing about it made me feel even more disempowered. I didn’t know how to explain it exactly, but thought it might have something to do with:

    · the fact that it was popularized by admittedly privileged organizations and individuals
    · the empty and misleading symbolism of “Wall Street”
    · the demographics drawn to it and the exclusive methods of communication used to reach out to them
    · and the disconnect I observed between this movement and the historic work of marginalized communities throughout the country, especially in this city, which continues to be carried out day by day with very little attention.

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