Tag Archives: solidarity

SO REAL IT HURTS: Notes on Occupy Wall Street

by Guest Contributor Manissa McCleave Maharawal, originally published on her Facebook page

Occupy Wall Street

I first went down to Occupy Wall Street last Sunday, almost a week after it had started. I didn’t go down before because I, like many of my other brown friends, were wary of what we had heard or just intuited that it was mostly a young white male scene. When I asked friends about it they said different things: that it was really white, that it was all people they didn’t know, that they weren’t sure what was going on. But after hearing about the arrests and police brutality on Saturday and after hearing that thousands of people had turned up for their march I decided I needed to see this thing for myself.

So I went down for the first time on Sunday September 25th with my friend Sam. At first we couldn’t even find Occupy Wall Street. We biked over the Brooklyn Bridge around noon on Sunday, dodging the tourists and then the cars on Chambers Street. We ended up at Ground Zero and I felt the deep sense of sadness that that place now gives me: sadness over how, what is now in essence, just a construction site changed the world so much for the worse. A deep sense of sadness for all the tourists taking pictures around this construction site that is now a testament to capitalism, imperialism, torture, oppression but what is also a place where many people died ten years ago.

Sam and I get off our bikes and walk them. We are looking for Liberty Plaza. We are looking for somewhere less alienating. For a moment we feel lost. We walk past the department store Century 21 and laugh about how discount shopping combined with a major tourist site means that at any moment someone will stop short in front of us and we will we bang our bikes against our thighs. A killer combination, that of tourists, discount shopping and the World Trade Center.

The landscape is strange. I notice that. We are in the shadow of half built buildings. They glitter and twist into the sky. But they also seem so naked: rust colored steel poking its way out their tops, their sides, their guts spilling out for all to see.

We get to Liberty Plaza and at first it is almost unassuming. We didn’t entirely know what to do. We wandered around. We made posters and laid them on the ground (our posters read: “We are all Troy Davis” “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “Tired of Racism” “Tired of Capitalism”)

And I didn’t know anyone down there. Not one person. And there were a lot of young white kids. But there weren’t only young white kids. There were older people, there were mothers with kids, and there were a lot more people of color than I expected, something that made me relieved. We sat on the stairs and watched everyone mill around us. There was the normal protest feeling of people moving around in different directions, not sure what to do with themselves, but within this there was also order: a food table, a library, a busy media area. There was order and disorder and organization and confusion, I watched as a man carefully changed each piece of his clothing folding each piece he took off and folding his shirt, his socks, his pants and placing them carefully under a tarp. I used the bathroom at the McDonalds up Broadway and there were two booths of people from the protest carrying out meetings, eating food from Liberty Plaza, sipping water out of water bottles, their laptops out. They seemed obvious yet also just part of the normal financial district hustle and bustle.

But even though at first I didn’t know what to do while I was at Liberty Plaza I stayed there for a few hours. I was generally impressed and energized by what I saw: people seemed to be taking care of each other. There seemed to be a general feeling of solidarity, good ways of communicating with each other, less disorganization than I expected and everyone was very very friendly. The whole thing was bizarre yes, the confused tourists not knowing what was going on, the police officers lining the perimeter, the mixture of young white kids with dredlocks, anarchist punks, mainstream looking college kids, but also the awesome black women who was organizing the food station, the older man who walked around with his peace sign stopping and talking to everyone, a young black man named Chris from New Jersey who told me he had been there all week and he was tired but that he had come not knowing anyone, had made friends and now he didn’t want to leave.

And when I left, walking my bike back through the streets of the financial district, fighting the crowds of tourists and men in suits, I felt something pulling me back to that space. It was that it felt like a space of possibility, a space of radical imagination. And it was energizing to feel like such a space existed.

And so I started telling my friends to go down there and check it out. I started telling people that it was a pretty awesome thing, that just having a space to have these conversations mattered, that it was more diverse than I expected. And I went back. Continue reading

Brown Power at Occupy Wall Street! 9/29/11

by Guest Contributor Hena Ashraf, published at Hena Ashraf

Once again, it is Thursday night, and once again, I am writing this because I think it needs to be documented and shared. And once again, this is about mass actions taking place in NYC. Once again, please feel free to share this.

The following is from my perspective:

Tonight was my 4th time down at Occupy Wall Street. I felt drawn to the protests, like I needed to be there, and I guess I was meant to be, as well as the people I ended up with.

At the general assembly a document was introduced called “The Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”. To my understanding, this document has been worked on for many days, by many people, in a working group. It was announced that this document would be disseminated to the media, to the Internet, to everyone who planned to occupy other cities in the country. Basically – this document is REALLY IMPORTANT, and the audience is meant to be everyone, we were told.

The general assembly read the document together, line by line. The GA has grown a lot in the past few days and has noticeably (finally?) gotten slightly more diverse. For me, reading the document together was a very powerful and moving moment, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Immediately after this I turned around and joined my friends Thanu and Sonny, who were with Manissa and Natasha. They had all just come back from the first local meeting for South Asians for Justice.

Without knowing we had spontaneously formed a bloc of South Asians present at the General Assembly. While it continued, we began to discuss the document amongst ourselves, specifically the second paragraph, and our issues with it. We weren’t the only ones who had concerns; numerous people spoke up and requested changes to the document. The facilitators kept wanting to go back to agenda items, but I personally felt, if people wanted to discuss this document, right here, right now, let’s do it, instead of pushing something else. To be heard, a person would shout “mic check!”, said a few words at a time, the crowd repeated their words, and so this process continued until the person’s message was finished.

I, Thanu, Sonny, Manissa, and Natasha felt that some language needed to be urgently changed. Please keep in mind that this document is a living, working document, and is unpublished, and is being changed as I type with the (as they are called) “friendly amendments” that were proposed. The line was: “As one people, formerly divided by the color of our skin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or lack thereof, political party and cultural background, we acknowledge the reality: that there is only one race, the human race, and our survival requires the cooperation of its members…”

The first major concern amongst us was that the phrase “formerly divided by” was unrealistic, and erased histories of oppression that marginalized communities have suffered. The second concern was that the “human race” language also felt very out of touch.

We debated amongst ourselves whether to speak up about this. As I mentioned, individual people were airing their concerns about the document, even though the facilitators had requested to email any changes to them, or to speak to them later. I felt though, that our thoughts needed to be shared with the general assembly, and not just to a few over email. I was urged by our impromptu bloc to be the one to speak up. So I did.

I started shouting “mic check!”, got the crowd’s attention, and said that we did not agree with the phrase “formerly divided by” and instead felt it could perhaps be “despite”, and said that the original phrasing erased histories of oppression. Unfortunately, even though about 4 or 5 presumably white people had spoken up before me about changes to the document, I was told that this was a time for questions, not changes to the document – by a facilitator who was a man of colour. Talk about feeling shut down. Continue reading

Quoted: Occupy Wall Street (New York, General Assembly) on Intentions

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known. [...]

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

–From Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

Through a direct democratic process, we have come together as individuals and crafted these principles of solidarity, which are points of unity that include but are not limited to:

  • Engaging in direct and transparent participatory democracy;
  • Exercising personal and collective responsibility;
  • Recognizing individuals’ inherent privilege and the influence it has on all interactions;
  • Empowering one another against all forms of oppression;
  • Redefining how labor is valued;
  • The sanctity of individual privacy;
  • The belief that education is human right; and
  • Endeavoring to practice and support wide application of open source.
  • We are daring to imagine a new socio-political and economic alternative that offers greater possibility of equality. We are consolidating the other proposed principles of solidarity, after which demands will follow.

    – From “PRINCIPLES OF SOLIDARITY – working draft

    The Wormiest of Cans: who gets to be “mixed race”?

    A few days ago on Facebook I watched two community activists have a throwdown over the phrase “mixed race.”

    It began when Activist X posted a link to this article about the Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and noted with some irritation that despite the festival’s claims to inclusivity, there were no Latin@s mentioned in the article. X asked: if Latin@ people are the largest group of multiracial people in the Americas and the festival is supposed to be open to everybody, why weren’t Latin@ people included? A few people agreed with X, and some people who had been at the festival said that they thought Heidi Durrow and the festival were great, but that they could see X’s point.

    Enter Activist Y: after expressing some trepidation, Y said that the festival was using the term “mixed race” or “multiracial” to refer to people who had parents of two or more different racial categorisations. Activist Y said that if your whole family shared the same ethnic identity, then you were not mixed in the way the festival intended.

    Dear Racializens, I am sure you can imagine what happened next: a veritable Facebook wall brawl — albeit one that was highly intellectual and restrained. Most people sided with X (it was X’s wall to begin with) and Y, after making several long attempts to explain themselves, eventually left in a digital huff.

    This exchange brought back some of the most difficult writing that I have ever done on Racialicious: where readers challenged my right to call myself, as a mixed race person with parents of two different races, mixed in a separate way from those who are mixed race but share the same identity as their whole family, for e.g. folks who are mestizo, Creole, African American, Metis, Peranakan…

    (From here on in I will refer to people who come from mixed lineage as MRs, and people who have parents of two different and separate racial categorisations as MR2s.)

    So here is one of the most important things I have learned from all my years of toiling in the anti-racist trenches here at Racialicious: when you are talking about race with anti-racist people of colour, you are speaking from a place of pain, to a place of pain. (Ok obviously we are about more than pain, but pain is always on the table.) Many of us come to anti-racism through struggle. We are used to having things taken away from us, and we turn to anti-racism to try and arm ourselves against the corrosion of racism. We are sensitive, and we come by it honestly.

    Continue reading

    Quoted: Houria Bouteldja on “White Women and the Privilege of Solidarity”

    In 2007, women from the Movement of the Indigenous of the Republic took part in the annual 8th of March demonstration in support of women’s struggles. At that time, the American campaign against Iran had begun. We decided to march behind a banner that’s message was “No feminism without anti-imperialism”. We were all wearing Palestinian kaffiyehs and handing out flyers in support of three resistant Iraqi women taken prisoner by the Americans. When we arrived, the organizers of the official procession started chanting slogans in support of Iranian women. We found these slogans extremely shocking given the ideological offensive against Iran at that time. Why the Iranians, the Algerians and not the Palestinians and the Iraqis? Why such selective choices? To thwart these slogans, we decided to express our solidarity not with Third World women but rather with Western women. And so we chanted:

    Solidarity with Swedish women!

    Solidarity with Italian women!

    Solidarity with German women!

    Solidarity with English women!

    Solidarity with French women!

    Solidarity with American women!

    Which meant: why should you, white women, have the privilege of solidarity? You are also battered, raped, you are also subject to men’s violence, you are also underpaid, despised, your bodies are also instrumentalized…

    I can tell you that they looked at us as if we were from outer space. What we were saying seemed surreal, inconceivable. It was like the 4th dimension.  It wasn’t so much the fact that we reminded them of their situation as Western women that shocked them. It was more the fact that African and Arabo-Muslim women had dared symbolically subvert a relationship of domination and had established themselves as patrons. In other words, with this skillful rhetorical turn, we showed them that they de facto had a superior status to our own. We found their looks of disbelief quite entertaining.

    Another example: After a solidarity trip to Palestine, a friend was telling me how the French women had asked the Palestinian women if they used birth control. According to my friend, the Palestinian women couldn’t understand such a question given how important the demographic issue is in Palestine. They were coming from a completely different perspective. For many Palestinian women, having children is an act of resistance against the ethnic cleansing policies of the Israeli state.

    There you have two examples that illustrate our situation as racialized women, that help understand what is at stake and envisage a way to fight colonialist and Eurocentric feminism.

    — Houria Bouteldja, spokeswoman for the PIR (La Indigènes de la République) speaking at the 4th International Congress of Islamic Feminism, in Madrid, 22 October 2010

    (Hat Tip to Huimin)

    Black responses to the Arizona immigration law

    by Guest Contributor Daniel Hernandez, originally published at Intersections


    The signing of SB1070 in Arizona has sparked a wave of negative reaction across the United States and across the political spectrum, from Barack Obama on down. There are numerous calls for a boycott of the state, a pledge against the law for people of faith, and a statement from the Major League Baseball players association condemning SB1070.

    Some high school seniors are now deciding against going to college in Arizona. One comment on the New York Times blog post on the topic struck me as particularly intelligent, and hinting at the root of African American disdain for SB1070.

    Barbara, a Duke alumnus, writes:

    When I was a student at Duke there were many male African-American students who felt like they were being profiled because of the relatively high rate of crime on campus, and the fact that a disproportionate amount of it was attributable to young black men in the community. In some cases students were held even after they proved they were students. It made their college experience a lot worse than if they gone elsewhere. It’s a legitimate consideration.

    It’s not that I don’t understand that border states face special challenges and find the lack of progress frustrating, or that I don’t agree that Mexico has long shown lack of inclination to face its social problems because it has a safety valve next door — I share those concerns. But there is simply no way to enforce this law without targeting Hispanics. I don’t care if that was the intent or not, it is almost certainly going to be its practical effect. Continue reading

    Black AND Asian (and Jewish?)

    by Guest Contributor CVT, originally published at Choptensils


    I meant to write this post a long time ago – kept saying that I would – but it just didn’t happen, finally fell on the back-burner. Recently, however, I read another post (here) that addressed this topic, but in a manner that felt – to me – to retain the very same “Us vs. Them” theme that’s gotten us here in the first place. The angle taken, the examples given, some of the comments, etc. allow for a dangerous misunderstanding to continue (not the author’s intention, but nonetheless . . .). So I felt it’s time. Let’s do this.

    A while back, I was talking to a friend of mine (a black female, which is relevant) – we’ll call her “W.” She’s telling me about this guy she ran into at some store; this Vietnamese guy (“or Chinese or Korean or something”) comes over and starts chatting her up, hitting on her, trying to get her number and all that. She’s not feeling it. She gets irritated on a number of levels. But her primary annoyance is that she feels like he’s just messing with her, so she ends up telling him “give me a break, you don’t date black women,” and (tamely) telling him about how racist Asian guys are.

    She finishes her story, looks at me, and, laughing, says “can you believe that?”

    I give a one-word response. “Yes.”

    But my mind was reeling – because there was so much going on in this one interaction (sort of two interactions, including the re-telling) that just sum up the state of oppression-related affairs in the U.S. First, there’s a (black) woman getting hit on by some random guy, which always carries a tinge of objectification, dominance, etc. In this case, it’s an Asian guy – so we’re bringing together two notoriously “undesirable” race/gender combinations in this country. Then there’s her confusion over the exact ethnicity of this Asian dude. Then there’s her belief (based on real past experience) that he’s not really interested in dating her; that he’s more or less mocking her, because – as an Asian man – he’s probably crazy-racist against black people. And, finally, the beauty of it all – she’s casually relating this story to me, her friend – an Asian (okay, mixed-Asian) male.

    And it all made perfect sense to me. Because, you see, I happen to be a sort of connoisseur of the black-Asian interracial experience, and everything that happened in that story follows the confusing, tense narrative of a relationship that has been being shaped for the last couple-hundred (maybe far more) years. It’s a long story – with a lot of loops and twists – but it’s one worth reading, so I hope y’all follow me to the end.

    Prologue – “Setting it Straight” (aka “Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown”)

    We “all know” that there’s this big rivalry between Asian and black folks. The “opposites” of the PoC spectrum, there just is no bridging the divide. I’ve heard it a million times (from both sides).

    And so the look of shock on the faces of this one particular group of Asian folks I was with shouldn’t have surprised me when I asked what should have been a stupid question: “You all realize that there are black Asian people, right?”
    Continue reading

    Idealize This | Solidarity Tipsheet

    by Guest Contributor Catherine Traywick, originally published at Hyphen

    My last column, about the ethical differences between charity and solidarity, was a heavy-handed critique of NYT Magazine’s “Saving the World’s Women” issue. Good criticism, however, ought always be tempered by practical suggestions for improvement. So, for this week, I’ve distilled the opinions of other critics, suggestions of notable theorists, and my own rich reserve of activist foibles into 3 simple (albeit wordy) tips for doing solidarity work the right way.

    Tip #1: Realize that, no matter how much you know, you actually don’t know shit.

    When Americans set out to work transnationally, we have a tendency to assume that our education, or experience, or even underprivileged upbringing makes us both “insiders” into other people’s struggles as well as qualified to tell them how to address it. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that a poli sci major, a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, and/or a stint as the president (and incidentally only member) of your local Amnesty International Chapter makes you qualified to be anything more than an asshole just shy of completing an undergraduate degree.

    Third World activists, as well as scholars studying transnational activism, have long decried the Western tendency to speak for, over, and about people of the Third World under the seemingly benign mantle of “global sisterhood” or “global citizenship” or some other similar ideal that blurs the ethnocentrism of their efforts. The first UN Women’s Conference in 1975 is a well-known example of this conflict: many Third World participants took issue with the feminist manifesto drawn up by white American feminist Gloria Steinem, which had been touted as a common framework for action, but was crafted without input from Third World activists.

    Continue reading