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Archive for the ‘radicalism’ Category

My place in the world is right here.
On the back porch of a house in Detroit:
A breeze stirs from time to time, cutting through the June air.
It catches the wind chime. I close my eyes and hear: clinking glasses, the hum of a Tibetan singing bowl still carrying on after contact.
The sun lights up the leaves at the top of a young tree.
One of my feet touches the ground.
The other is suspended a few inches above, as I sit one leg crossed over the other.
My place in the world is right here.

The above is excerpted from a free write on the first day of the Allied Media Conference. I had just been at the UAW Constitutional Convention and was feeling a little disjointed from switching from one gathering to another and anticipating a third: the US Social Forum.

The AMC was a totally new experience for me. I’ve wanted to go for several years and finally got to.

I was immediately grateful to be in a space where “we spend more time building than attacking” is one of the core principles.

I moseyed through the AMC, pacing myself and resting. I started out by participating in make/shift’s collaborative editing workshop. Collaborative editing is one of the ways make/shift practices feminism(s).

Next was the workshop on radical m/othering, parenting, and childcare collectives. I appreciated the tips for how to be more inclusive of parents and children in meetings and community gatherings. These were simple things, including: saying up front that children (and the sounds they often make) are welcome, offering childcare is helpful to parents even if they opt not to use it, acknowledge children, and offer to hold them or play with them if their parenting is occupied.

Poor magazine schooled us all on “poverty scholarship” and the difference between research done by academics outside the community and the “we-search” that they do. The folks at poor magazine take media-making and research into their own hands.

Finally, in a workshop focused on responding to violence in our communities outside the formalized police state, we explored the “middle path” in responding to violence: community accountability. The Audre Lorde Project’s Safe OUTside the System uses a step team to raise awareness and do outreach. Always a Safe Space (ASS) hands out guides on how to pick people up in safe and respectful ways in the bathroom lines at queer clubs. And Community United Against Violence hosts a fun “safetyfest.” One thing that the person from CUAV said that stuck with me is that isolation is one of the major things that contributes to people both being harmful and being harmed.

At the USSF, a lot of the things I participated in were with UAW. At a discussion on labor, faith, and community activism, the new UAW president, Bob King, said that unions are strongest when we’re active participants in our community. He said that over the years we’ve done a good job building up great contracts for those we represent, but haven’t done enough to protect other workers in our community. He said that unions must fight for everyone in society. I couldn’t agree more.

The next day we marched to Chase bank in protest of Chase’s role in the foreclosure crisis that Michigan is experiencing and their bankrolling of JR Reynolds which is currently denying its workers decent wages and working conditions.

One of the evenings, I caught some of the art programming outside at the amphitheater. A poet talked about non-cooperation in two specific ways that resonated with me: 1. not believing the lie that you are not good enough and 2. challenging our over-consumption. Of course, these two things are very intertwined.

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Tuesday, May 26th

10am: California Supreme Court upholds Prop 8—the ballot initiative that denies same-sex couples marriage rights

I am in an appointment till 10:45am, so when I get home at 11am, the first thing I check is the LA Times website.

From there I twit, er, tweet:

11:01am: RT @BreakingNews CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT DECLARES 18,000 EXISTING SAME-SEX MARRIAGES VALID BUT UPHOLDS PROPOSITION 8

11:03am: RT @AlterNet: Shameful: California Upholds Proposition 8 http://tinyurl.com/o746ut

11:04am: RT @ccj*: or we could put more faith in love and liberation than we put in the state (re marriage)

*I have shortened the names of non-blog/media projects/orgs.

And, then in twitter-sized chunks:

11:09am: marriage for all people (of legal age*, who desire it) is an important issue of equality as well as separation of church and state. which is why i am sharing with you my commitment to not get married until marriage equality is a reality.**

*Did I really need to write this? Yes. There are many people who are in my social-networking stream who I could see taking it there: “If we let gay people marry, then what’s next? Pedophiles marrying children? People marrying animals?” Surprisingly, there was none of this chatter on Tuesday. All was quiet on the anti-gay front (at least in my stream). “Why do you have such people in your steam?” I imagine you asking. Well, there was a time when I used to disengage from anyone who wasn’t as radical as I perceived myself to be, and I found that to be really isolating and ineffective in really CHANGING anything. To a certain extent, I buy into the liberal education-as-the-answer “contact hypothesis” sort of approach to relationships (though not fully, hence the “to a certain extent”). I also recognize the need for separation and strategery. (I also acknowledge that strategery is not recognized as a real word. And, also, language is constantly evolving, so maybe it will be one day.)

**I felt a little conflicted about putting this commitment out there. I’ve had this perspective for a long time and have articulated it as one reason to not marry—but not AS my reason to not marry. I did qualify this commitment by later writing, “i may never marry, but that is another issue that doesn’t have to do with marriage equality.” I have also said in the past that I don’t feel the need to “register my love with the state.” I have also considered, but not too seriously, marrying friends who could benefit from immigration status and my partner if it meant securing healthcare for him. And that’s where I begin to feel conflicted about the current push for marriage equality. Why do some people get basic rights because they are able/willing to marry another person who is privileged enough to have healthcare, citizenship, etc.?

11:28am: Empty words? “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

11:44am: RT @lbreport: LBReport.com has full text of CA Supreme Court opinion upholding Prop 8, plus reactions as received at: www.lbreport.com

1:22pm: RT @racialjustice: I Don’t Want Marriage, I Want Equity: http://tr.im/mt9x

And: RT @bilericoproject: New on TBP: Prop 8 is a Distraction, or: NOW can we Dump Gay Marriage as a Cause? http://tinyurl.com/pqbkc6 *

*So, while I do think these critiques of marriage are important, I still think fighting for marriage equality is important. ‘Cuz last I checked “straight” people are still getting married (and divorced) in droves, and special rights are still conferred on those people. As long as that’s happening, then marriage equality is worth fighting for. Not your battle? Okay. Is universal healthcare a better battle? Sure. Immigration reform? Yes. Prison reform/abolition? Absolutely. But getting rid of such a basic inequality is key to … Is this right? I am still figuring out how I really feel about it. I just feel like don’t shit all over marriage equality just ‘cuz you think there are more important things to fight for. Like, voting rights aren’t that radical, but if LGBTQ folks didn’t have the right to vote, um, that would be an important struggle, no?

3:08pm:@pp hear, hear!*

*A response to pp’s tweets: “here is the one question about marriage equity that really resonates for me: As for the issue of health care, why should marriage be the way to guarantee something so basic? that’s the argument that resonates… arguments revolving around whether the state ‘recognizes’ a commitment – which usually deride such an impulse – are well-intentioned but, for me, misguided. the state is not going to cease to exist; I’m a socialist, I WANT a powerful state intermediary. so state recognition doesn’t disturb me. but if it deprives people of rights like health care? that does. also my ideas about the State are not so monolithic… like universal health care can only become a reality once it’s adopted at federal level – but the ways that access, coverage are determined should be up to communities.”*

*Well, I already said it, “hear, hear!” Also, pp is getting married in September and despite my declaration to not get married until same-sex couples have the right to marry, I was thrilled to get her wedding invitation in the mail on Wednesday. And as I said in an online exchange with someone who is getting married in part to secure much-needed medical benefits for herself, I ”understand that there are many considerations people take into account when deciding whether or not to marry (when they have the choice to decide).” But I made my declaration because of the diversity of friends and family in my “social-networking stream.” I thought it might be useful or interesting to put another perspective out there. I’ve heard about people using their weddings as a platform to discuss this inequality. But I feel like my online version of a soapbox is just as effective and a lot less expensive.

6:57pm: heading to prop 8 march and rally … #rejectprop8*

*And so I went to this protest because it was a big day and a big blow to a lot of my friends and neighbors. Tony and I walked a few blocks from our apartment building to the start of the march, then we marched, and rallied, and held hands as we walked back home. Will we make the trip to “meet in the middle”, to rally in Fresno tomorrow? No. Will we give gobs of money to overturning Prop 8? Well, we don’t have “gobs” to give, but we probably will give some. Will we continue to teach and learn and organize and struggle and look for ways to build and expand our notions of community? No doubt about it. But this isn’t an either/or thing, you can have marriage equality AND revolution.

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it’s time to get back to it: my life as the *head of an organization* that needs my leader/stewardship; my life as someone who wants to write more and talk less about her dissertation. (well, i actually love talking about it, but i feel anxious to actually write the dang thing.) today i finally got the desk that i found on craigslist up to my 2nd floor apartment with the help of the “2 strong guys” i hired off of craigslist. this desk was last home to 1 snail and somewhere between 1-2 dozen spiders … eeek! i am hoping my dissertation will move in in their place. today i’ve been reflecting on what the day-to-day goals for myself involve. over and over again they have to do with getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising–in other words, taking care of myself on a really basic level. over and over i am back to this spot of contemplating self-care and -love and just love and care period. and sometimes i get down on myself for not having something more important to say–missing the fact that these things are all important. don’t get me wrong, i don’t put primacy in the self–the individual. but these things are the very basic, the first steps, of progressive/radical change. i am reminded of my introductory psych classes and maslow’s hierarchy of needs. although it is couched in terms of the self and self-actualization, i am interested in societal actualization. first step: having our basic needs–physiological, safety, love–fulfilled. and so i keep coming back here. i have to in order to keep doing the work i am/we are doing. oh, and i must write more poetry.

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excerpt

from “in a whirlwind” by beverly gologorsky in “the friend who got away” edited by jenny offill & elissa schappell:

“It seems ludicrous now to have forfeited our deep friendship then over the issue … . Why didn’t we struggle it through? What in heaven’s name did we have to lose? I’ve thought a great deal about this and concluded that back then any disagreement threatened the entire structure of our beliefs. We were young, and our politics hadn’t been honed into a place of strength and confidence.

In one’s twenties being right is important, being wrong, humiliating, devastating. But it felt more complicated. What changes with time is not our moral sense of right or wrong or our principles per se but the rigidity with which we hold them. And herein lies the problem of political friends: the possibility of allowing a sliver of disagreement to upend or taint an entire friendship.”

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during the first CR10 workshops i attended, one of the facilitators asked the classroom full of people to raise our hands if we’re true abolitionists–if we truly believe we should get rid of police and courts and jails and … (i’m sure there was more to that list). the majority of people in the room shot their hands up without hesitation. i kept both of mine by my side. after the workshop i told a friend that i’d have been fronting if i put my hand up. i do consider myself an abolitionist and if i had the key to every prison and had the power to let everyone who is locked up out, i’d say that i’d let a good 90% plus of the people out. (the question of the key came up in a workshop that another friend attended.)

this was where i started the post-text-messaging convo with my sister on the phone last night. i told her that where i get stuck is on the people who commit the most violent crimes, repeatedly. i know that this is only a small portion of the prison population and that these people in no way account for the disgustingly inhumane and profitable expansion of the u.s. prison system, but i also know that i’m not the only person who gets stuck on these sorts of examples that are extremely complicated to deal with (as if the other stuff isn’t!). would i let people with drug convictions out? yes. would i decriminalize drugs (if i had the key to legislate as well)? yes. would i let people who have been criminalized for their poverty out? yes. would i let people who have been targeted because of their skin color, perceived race, immigration status, gender, etc., out? yes. but the serial killers? the people who prey on children? (a knee-jerk reaction, right?) …

i believe a lot of things will have to change in our society before I could say that i’m a “true abolitionist” in the way it was being defined in that workshop. my sister said that in her psychology class she’s been learning about the role of one’s environment in how they develop. and i chimed in about the way that our society is structured to shut people out, how our laws and modes of policing are targeted to criminalize those most discriminated against in our society. we agreed that we’d like a world without prisons, without police … we also agreed that it’s complicated. (no one at CR10 was saying that it’s not, by the way.)

in another workshop we discussed alternatives to state/police intervention. there were several examples of community responses to violence and other forms of wrongdoing that were helpful in beginning to imagine a world without prisons. i am glad to know that there are different ways to traverse offenses that can make communities and the people in them whole instead of even more fractured. “make whole all loses” is a legal term used in defining the remedy one seeks for a particular grievance. this concept of “making whole” is at the crux of abolition.

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CR10

i just got home from the critical resistance conference in oakland, ca. it’s a movement ten years in the making (well, many more given the long tradition of abolition work that CR comes out of) but this is the first time i’ve attended the conference. i have to admit, i was a bit reluctant to go and had some anxiety surrounding the experience. this has to do with some low-level form of PTSD that i have been experiencing after losing a number of friends and allies in a political/ideological struggle about a year ago. i was fearful that i might encounter the “more-radical-than-thou” model of radicalism that many people in my former crew are caught up in and that i would not be able to deal with it well. but instead i found an amazingly action-oriented and inspiring group of people as well as organizational models that were both all about the abolition that will only come with revolutionary transformation and concrete examples of what can be done in the here and now. it brings me such great hope to have experienced/been part of this weekend. thank you to everyone at CR10 and extra love to the old and new friends who got me there.

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