Category Archives: Appalachia

Queer Activist Perspectives from Southern Appalachia

Queer Activist Perspectives from Southern Appalachia

QTBIPOC flag with text from panel, "Fittin In, Sticking Out: Queer (In)Visibilities and the Perils of Inclusino
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This week on the show, we bring you the audio of an activist panel from the recent Queer Conference held online by University of North Carolina, Asheville, in March of 2021.

The conference was titled Fitting In and Sticking Out – Queer [In]Visibilities and the Perils of Inclusion. From the panel’s description for the conference:

This panel brings together 4 local (Asheville, NC) and regional groups working at different intersections of queer community support. We will learn about the work these groups do, the particular issues that affect southern queers, the changes in visibility and inclusion for queer community, and the building of larger coalitions of liberation. Representatives from four organizations will be part of the panel:

  • Youth OUTright (YO) is the only nonprofit whose mission is to support LGBTQIA+ youth from ages 11-20 in western North Carolina. Learn more about their work on their website, and support them financially here.
  • Southerners on New Ground (SONG) is a nonprofit aimed at working towards LGBTQ liberation in the south. Find out more about their work on their website, and support them financially here.
  • Tranzmission Prison Project (TPP) is a prison abolition grassroots organization that provides literature and resources to incarcerated members of the LGBTQ community. Learn more about their work on their website and donate here.
  • Pansy Collective is a decentralized, DIY, queer, music and arts collective that created Pansy Fest, an annual queer music festival showcasing LGBTQ musicians from the south and rural areas, prioritizing reparations for QTBIPOC artists and community members, and community education and organizing around the principles of autonomy, mutual aid, antifascism, love, and liberation for all. Learn more about their work on their website, or donate here

Announcements:

Phone Zap for Florida Prisoners in Mandatory Toxic Evacuation Site

From Florida Prisoner Solidarity on Twitter and Instagram:

Over 2,000 prisoners in Florida are trapped inside an evacuation zone less than a mile from a retention pond that is in imminent danger of failing, sending 800 million gallons of acidic radioactive waste water flooding over the local area. According to Deputies, the local jail has no plans or intentions to evacuate prisoners.

Please CALL AND SHARE NOW demanding the safe evacuation of all prisoners at the Manatee County Jail.

Sheriff Rick Wells
941-747-3011 ext. 2222
rick.wells@manateesheriff.com
Twitter- @ManateeSheriff

Central jail information
941-723-3011 Ext. 2915

County Commission
941-745-3700
EMAIL FOR ENTIRE COMMISSION: tinyurl.com/EmailAllCommissioners

Emergency Management
941-749-3500
emergency.management@mymanatee.org
Twitter- @MCGPublicSafety

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Transcription

Scott: Okay, so welcome everyone. This is our the final event of the first day of the 2021 Queer Studies conference. So happy to see you all here, we made it through the day. This is a really special panel because we’ve invited representatives of local organizations and groups that do work in the community in the region to help queer community – and we’ll hear more about the work that they do specifically – but this is in the spirit of the conference, which is going back to its founding, conceived as a way of like having academics and organizers and activists meet to talk about queer issues. So this is special to highlight the work that queer folks are doing on the ground. So I’m gonna be moderating, my name is Scott. And I’m going to now turn it over to each of our panelists to introduce themselves, the group that they represent, and give a brief overview of the work that the group does in the community and beyond, and then we’ll get into more involved discussion from there. I can name y’all, or if someone just wants to go, go ahead. If the spirit is calling you…

Leroy: Alright, I will jump in here so that then I can sit back and listen to all the rest of you. Hello, I’m glad y’all are all here. My name is Leroy Kite, I use they/them pronouns. I’m here with Tranzmission Prison Project, we are a queer and trans powered abolitionist books -to-prisoners group that serves the entire country…with a few exceptions of states that have banned us. And we are a sister organization, a sibling organization with Asheville Prison Books, which just serves general population prisoners in North Carolina and South Carolina. For those of you that are Asheville specific, we are located out of the back of Downtown Books and News, you can drop by and see us.

And, yeah, we’ve been around for like a little over 20 years somehow? So a very long time. It’s kind of a mystery to me, how that has really sustained this long. I’ve been involved for about seven years, and there is some historical memory losses, there’s just been a lot of turnover over those two decades. Basically, we are still in the process of reconnecting with the origins of how this group began and trying to call up those long lost elders of this project so that we can kind of seam some of the pieces together of what has changed from then and now.

But that pretty much gets up to date. The arc of our work is we receive requests from prisoners around the country, across the LGBTQIA and two spirit spectrum, and mail them back books that they are asking for whether that is romance, thriller, sci-fi, erotica. You know, we try to highlight getting people materials that a lot of other organizations are either unwilling or under-equipped to send to those populations, particularly when it comes to things that regard people’s sexual and gender autonomy. That’s a area that it can be very, very hard to find free resources from organizations that are willing to send that to people. So that’s kind of one gap that we see ourselves filling that’s kind of unique. And with that, I’ll pass it off to whoever wants it. Thanks.

Adrian: I can pop in. So my name is Adrian, I use they/she and he pronouns. I’m the executive director of Youth OUTright WNC. We are a support and advocacy organization for LGBTQIA young folks between the ages of 11 and 20, which kind of led up to 24 during COVID. Thanks for dropping our link, Shawn. So our programs focus in on racial justice, gender justice, and sex and relationship education. So right now we’re running programs Tuesday through Thursday, we have chat rooms on Tuesday and Thursdays that are held on Discord. And we have a video call on Wednesdays that run 6 to 8pm. And that’s those programs are run by Brian Thompson, our youth programs manager, and they’ve been doing a great job there.

We also do some work supporting the GSA clubs across the state of North Carolina. If you’re not familiar with GSA’s, those are “Gender and Sexuality Alliances”, formerly known as “Gay Straight Alliances”, and those clubs really vary between social support and activist groups. But we support them wherever they’re at and with whatever they have self determined to be their goals, right? So if they’re focused on building community with each other, that’s awesome, we’ll talk to them about that if they’re looking at changing policy at their school, also awesome. And we’ll talk about that we try to meet them with wherever they’re at and with what their goals are.

Self determination is really important to our work. Over the past few years, we’ve been really incorporating youth leadership, all the way up through the board level. And so that’s been really important to us as we progress. We like to create professional opportunities for young people as well. We had some part time staff positions last year as educators and facilitators, there’ll be more opportunities for that later this year. And we’ve provided stipends for peer education around sex ed, or mental health, different things like that. In 2019, we held a GSA summit, we hope to do that again. We were a little shaken by the by the pandemic, as most folks were, so we’ve had to postpone that but we’re looking at a virtual version soon. Keep an eye out for that.

And beyond the direct Youth Services, the GSA work, we also do advocacy around policy. So we’ve been working with Campaign for Southern Equality around the Department of Public Instruction’s name policy within the virtual learning system. We were seeing last year that a lot of trans young people were being outed just by the virtual learning system, and so we now do have a preferred name field that will be integrated into Buncombe County and implementation is happening now.

We work with Equality North Carolina on things like non-discrimination ordinances here in Asheville and surrounding counties. And we’re also working right now to put together a storytelling campaign around the anti-trans sports bill that just hit earlier this week. So we’re working with some trans athletes at a couple different high schools to uplift their stories, and really raise awareness to that.

One last little plug I’ll make is for our racial justice and gender justice panels, which happened once a month on our Instagram Live, and that Space A Digital Place to Talk About Race, and TYME (Trans Youth Movement and Education). Those panels are led by young college and high school trans folks digging in deeper to racial and gender justice. And I’ll stop taking up space.

Monse: I’m happy to go next. Hi, everyone, my name is Monse, I use they or she pronouns, and I’m here at repping SONG, or Southerners On New Ground. We are a 28 year old LGBTQ base-building membership organization. We are definitely unapologetically abolitionists, Black and Brown, and all things queer and magic. So we have chapters all across the Southeast. We have chapters in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, in Louisiana. We currently don’t have an Asheville chapter but we have lots of Asheville members who, in the past couple of years, have been engaged in our bailout action that we have done for Mother’s Day where we have raised money to pay the bails of Black mothers and caregivers who are in jail due to bail. And this was definitely to bring awareness to the issue of money bail used as a racist, classist practice in not only Buncombe County, but all across the south, where folks are held pretrial. So before their conviction, and if they don’t have the money to pay to get out, they have to stay in jail and await their court date when people who do have access to wealth or money can wait for their court date from the comfort of their own home. So further criminalizing folks who are already targets of the state.

So SONG was founded in 1993 by three Black lesbians and three white lesbians, and was definitely founded as a way to kind of infiltrate into the queer and gay movement in the moment, and really saying that money bail, that criminalization, that all these things are people facing oppression, like, is the gay issue. So we definitely wanted to make space for folks who are Black and Brown, who are facing oppression and criminalization every day, to be able to be in these spaces and organize and bring their full selves and not having to be closeted.

So SONG is an LGBTQ feminist organization, with core Black leadership. And we believe that until all of us are free, none of us are free. So that’s why we’re really wanting to move this work. Currently, we have campaigns to end money bail, so really connecting to our direct action to bail Black mamas and caregivers out of jail, and bring more awareness to the issue to end money bail and pretrial detention.

We also have been doing research around campaigns to end the collaboration with local law enforcement and ICE – so Immigration and Customs Enforcement – because we know that police and ICE are the same beast under the prison industrial complex. But we do a lot of training, a lot of just skilling-up and building community across the South because we know that the South is where all the shit goes down, and where all our people are. Where we have roots, where we have community, and we want to be able to grow and build and organize in the South. So that’s a little bit about SONG. And hopefully, you’ll get to hear more about the work that we do. But thank you all so much for having us.

Beck: Thanks Monse. I’m Beck, I used they/them pronouns and I’m here as the representative of Pansy Collective. And so Pansy Collective is a DIY decentralized queer LGBTQIA arts and music collective. Our biggest thing that we do is Pansy Fest, and it kind of started out as like, a queer visibility type of thing. Like the punk scene in the South and in neighboring regions around Asheville has been pretty bro heavy, pretty homophobic, racist, and we’re trying to make space that was an anti-racist, anti-homophobic space in the punk community. And then from that, it kind of started to build into more like Southern and rural coalition building and then specifically around moving from like, visibility to BIPOC reparations. So the first fest we actually worked with SONG’s Black Mama Bailout, and that was like the first beneficiary we had, and TPP was another one! But it’s like, it’s so cool that we’re all here right now.

But yeah, it was kind of a way to engage like queer folks into to put a public space that wasn’t some liberal kind of, I don’t know, upitty Asheville…you know? [laughs] People who are living here, you know. But yeah, so it was it was cool to like, create a space where we felt okay around each other, where we can have hard conversations. And also like, where we could bring some of the anarchist principles and things like that, in kind of a more tangible way into the punk scene. It’s like, “Okay, we’ve got all these lyrics that are like, ‘fuck this, like, hate cops’”, follow that. But also, do you know about prison books? Do you want to sign up? You know about Black Mama Bailout? So you know, having people tabeling there at all of our shows and events was really big. Making sure we have Narcan, you know, bringing in harm reduction into the scene…just kind of trying to, like, the spaces that we have idealistically in our head as like “a queer scene”, just trying to make it happen to the best of our ability.

And so we’ve been around since 2016? 2017! And it was such a bummer last year: we were like getting ready for a really cool event with HOT BITS. It was going to be like a really cool coalition building, with sex workers rights, and having a really cool, I don’t know, sex positive space, which was like something new for Pansy. And it kind of went all down because of COVID, of course. But we’re still meeting together! We’re still organizing, we, you know, try to coalition build where we can. It’s not looking like events around music and art right now. It’s more like, “Okay, let’s do a noise demo at the jail with Charlotte Uprising.” How can we be outside and distance and really do the work that we believe in, which is like mutual aid, it’s love, it’s like anti-prison, you know, it’s not queer assimilationist, right? So it hasn’t been so much “festy”, like punk stuff going on, but we’re still here doing it. And yeah, super stoked to be here. Thanks for having us.

Scott: Thanks, everyone, for introducing yourselves and the groups and giving an overview. It’s really interesting too, to see where these local regional groups have intersected and work together. My first question beyond the introduction is specifically linking to Asheville, Western North Carolina, a larger region, the South, what do you think Southern queers need? And how does your work try to meet those needs? And you can, you know, get as specific to our town as you want, or think more regionally.

Beck: I’ll go ahead. I think one of the things pre-pandemic, when events were happening, was just having a queer focused event that you didn’t have to pay for. That it was like, sliding scale and all of the money, it wasn’t, you know, going to this model of building up, it was just going to go into the hands of folks who need it. The fact that you didn’t have to show up and pay. I feel like everything else in this area in those spaces, too, it’s like “pay to play” situation. And it’s not really inviting, you know, from a class perspective, but also just like…those spaces aren’t necessarily where, like, I want to be anyways, right? Like I want to be in a space where it doesn’t matter how I’m dressed, how I look, if I can afford it. So just creating those spaces, I think.

And something that I just think of, like, resources and education and coalition building is something…there’s like, there’s a lot going on in the South, trying to make it happen, but it’s much more of an uphill battle, I think, compared to West Coast, East Coast, right? And so, you know, tabling events and stuff like that, but also like teachings, where we learn how to do jail support, or, you know, like fun stuff too! Like, do you wanna learn how to screenprint? Just having this open space, you don’t have to pay to get in. And you don’t have to know everybody, you can just come in, and people are gonna be like, “Hey, what’s up? Welcome to the teach-in.” And you’re like, already welcome at the door. And a place where people can share ideas, and it’s not coming from this hierarchical like, “I’m going to educate everybody in this space.” It’s “everybody has something they can bring to it.” So I think that’s one part that Pansy Collective comes from, for sure.

Scott: Adrian, that made me think, like, what Beck was saying about kind of the educational aspect and like, maybe that fits in the mission of Youth OUTright, connecting to young people?

Adrian: Yeah, a couple of things were coming up for me when Beck was sharing. The first thing that came up for me around education and teach-ins’s is: I feel like young people really need us adults to step up and educate ourselves. Frankly. You know, I think that our young people are often in the position either at school or with their families, where they have to educate adults around them about sex and gender, or racial justice, or any number of social movements that are happening in our intersectional community, right? And so something that breaks my heart, but also makes me really proud is watching these young people really articulately say what they need to say, to these adults, right? It’s impressive, it’s great. And also, come on adults, what are we doing? And so you know, where that brings in Youth OUTright is we’re in the process of developing relationships with Buncombe County schools to provide training to all of their counselors and social workers, right? From the adults, providing them training about how to support young people, and we may compensate young people to record their experiences or, you know, provide some amount of input in there. But we don’t want them to have to expend that emotional labor and potentially re-traumatize themselves in entering a space where they have to teach their teacher, right?

And so I think that there’s a big need for adult allies to step up into this place of peer educator for, you know, the people in their community and having these conversations. Of the folks who do want to engage in those conversations, we’re hosting every third Monday, a space called Continuum, which is an intergenerational conversation for supporting specifically gender and sexual minority young people. And so that’s a space where people can engage in conversation with the community there. But you know, we obviously have a little bit more of a focus on young people, right?

So part of our work last summer, we did a direct action training at Carrier Park. And so we brought together a small cohort of young people. And we were socially distanced and talked about what power mapping looks like, talked about some of the changes they want to see in the community, and they identified the Trans Panic Defense, right? They said “the Trans Panic Defense is something that we think is abhorrent and needs to go away”. And that’s super valid. They also picked a hard one. But you know, I think that having spaces like that, centering the young people’s vision, is really what they’re asking for. And again, I’ll go back to self determination, right? And I think that when we allow young people to set the waypoint, we realize that a lot more as possible, right? As adults, I think we get a little bit salty, we get a little bit jaded and cynical, “we’ll never get there”, right? So I think young people need us to tap into that imagination, and tap into that vision and support that, right? As well as stepping up to educate ourselves and understand that like, I’m still learning new pronouns, y’all! Like I’m still…there’s a lot going on, and culture is always changing. So I think they need humility from us, right? They need us to recognize that, to disrupt that adultism in ourselves, right? There’s always this dominant cultural belief that adults know what’s best for young people. They might know what’s best for us! Let’s look at our planet and what the young environmental activists are saying, right? There’s so many ways to look at this and where young people really have the answers. So I think we need to take a seat and listen, and then start making some moves from there.

Scott: Thinking of like, you know, identify problems that they want to attack made me think also about the kind of particular terrain that we have in the South. Given the kind of like, Republican legislative power and the way that they can kind of steamroll anti-trans, anti-gay policies, and I don’t know if maybe that’s something that Monse, you could talk about, in terms of the work that SONG is doing? Because it’s like SONG is as a Southern thing and there’s like, simultaneously kind of invisiblization of queerness in the South, but also this huge social war being waged by the state against queer people in the South. So yeah, that was a way to start to throw it to you. If you have some ideas.

Monse: For sure, I can definitely speak on that a little bit. Yeah, and I would say, like, the South is a region of both great despair and historical trauma, but also great organized resistance and resilience and magic. Like, we really organized in this region because we want to build up. And because we are a part of a long legacy of organizers and cultural workers, freedom fighters who have been committed to the South, and this is a place where folks live, where folks build their lives, where they love, where they organize, and continue to build their families, regardless of all the things and history that has. And I really would want to highlight that resistance piece, because there has been so much resistance that has happened in the South. And I think that’s the beauty of it. I think that folks, we’re naming, like, we organize in the South, and we have that kind of like a southern hospitality where we can find our people, where we can create the potlucks and invite folks in and like, making sure that our neighbors have what they need, that our community is good. And we are doing mutual aid, and we are doing those things. And there’s also like all those things against us, too.

But I think that organizing in the South, to me, is about kind of like that resilience that you’re like, “I’m not leaving this place, because this is where my legacy is, my history is.” And a lot of the times that negative and racist rhetoric is highlighted in the South, but I think, like, right alongside with it is where we grow, like where we are making everything out of nothing. And we are doing that pushback, and we are seeing some wins. And I think we have been able to see some wins, like even specifically throughout this year. Like folks organizing and doing the uprisings. Like we saw so many wins from that, like, where folks, like we are literally, everyone was talking about “what does it mean to defund the police? Like, what does it mean to believe in a world where we don’t have policing, where we don’t have jails and prisons?” And I think that that is because of years and years worth of organizing. It didn’t happen just out of nothing, and like folks rioted and stood up for what they believed in, just like, overnight. I think it has been years of oppression and resilience that ignited folks to continue that conversation. I think that the work is not by any means done yet. But definitely we’re making, we’re seeing the fruits of those commitments and those sacrifices happen. I think it’s up to us here in the South to continue to say like, “Fuck that” – [smiles] I’m gunna cuss on here – but like, “Fuck that, like, we’re gonna keep fighting and we’re gonna keep doing what our ancestors wanted us to do and what rightfully we have to do”.

So yeah, and I think in Asheville there are so many nonprofits, and like so many folks already organizing, and there is a great need for folks to organize. And we definitely saw that even locally in Asheville, when, like, we need to hold local and county government accountable. Like we saw that in the summer, we saw demands of Black and Brown organizers being ignored. We saw that there is a big need, like, we can’t, in Asheville at least, we can’t hide behind liberal organizing and expect things to to move. I think that we have to continue to push and continue to make space for Black and Brown organizers and for demands to to move, so that we can organize and build the world we want to live in, even here, on a local level. And I think that what SONG has to offer, at least here in Asheville, is like training, skill-up opportunities. Like, this 28 year old legacy of folks who have been fighting and organizing in the South because the South is their home, and definitely connection to those folks all across the south, and years of like trans and queer abolitionist organizing. So that’s what I have to say,

Scott: Thanks. And then, you know, building on that idea of like, how the queer communities in the South can get invisiblized in the racist and bigoted ideas of the South, I was gonna use that to sort of transition to the work that you’re doing Leroy with Tranzmission Prison Project, because also a community that gets invisiblized, is the people who are incarcerated, and specifically people like trans and queer people who are incarcerated. And I don’t know if you have something to say about that in terms of like, the way that you’re working with them to get their voices out or get their needs met. Because that’s also a site of like, tremendous resistance, building off what Monse was saying.

Leroy: Yeah, I think that there’s both so much potential here, and in full transparency, so much room for TPP to continue growing in ways that move beyond where the reality of, you know, most of our work to date has, even as an abolitionist group, typically shown up as service provision. Where we’re not as involved on the policy end of things, or able to keep up with all of the specifics of what is happening in this state in the South that specifically targeting these queer and trans prisoners. We, you know, have occasionally popped in to, like, offer a statement here or there about things that have happened on the federal level. Like in 2018 there was this change to the Transgender Offender Manual from the Bureau of Prisons, that really fucked over, altered, the safety of trans folks in prison across the country.

But as far as specific to the South, I personally don’t feel like I am informed enough to be able to say where, you know, we have as a project not yet had the capacity to orient towards how can we show up more and do more coalition building and outreach beyond our little silo of what this project has been maintaining over the years. But I think that that’s the real growth edge for us right now. And where the conversation has really been building over the last several years as we’ve gone from, basically like myself, and like one other person, when I first joined this organization, we sort of went through a period of so much burnout, and turnover seven years ago that the last seven years have been really just building back up our own base and trying to just keep up with the mail. We have, like, 100 to 150 pieces of mail on average that we get a month.

And so we’ve sort of been stretching to make space to have conversations within our group that are more than just “how do we sustain our own morale in this work?” And how do we actually network with some of these bigger, juicy or more challenging questions of “what does it mean to be abolitionists doing books to prisoners work”, and I think that networking with other folks in the south like SONG, like Pansy Collective, like Youth OUTright, is really where the work is headed for us. So that we can kind of use the best of what everyone else is already tapped into, on sometimes more of the policy end of things, sometimes more the grassroots end of things, but just where people have their ear to the ground in places that we don’t always.

I will say, as I kind of alluded to, I think in my first answer – and maybe this is foreshadowing for like another question that I don’t know, it still coming up – about like challenges of working in the South. But I think that the irony is that for longer than I have been involved with this project, North Carolina specifically has been one of the states that has banned us, Tranzmission Prison Project specifically, from sending mail in. And we have – for the cop who may be sitting in this room right now, this is the time where I’m gonna say “Fuck you, and you can leave this call” – but, you know, we we have done what we’ve needed to do to get folks books that they’ve requested. Like, we still get requests all the time from prisoners in North Carolina, and we’ve basically just found some ways to fly a little lower on the radar when mailing those books back to people. But things like we can’t use our letterhead, we don’t use our mailing address when we return those. And so there’s room for us to potentially challenge that.

I mean, in the last seven years, again, as a group we have not had the capacity to necessarily even investigate, like, is this really still a thing? Like, could we run a campaign to get this overturned? And so that’s where having a real upsurge of interest in prison abolition in the last year has been starting to put some more wheels under what feels possible for us, in terms of maybe doing some bigger work, then has really just been on the table for us. Just trying to like keep up with the need that has been there, you know, not not to fall into like, capitalist supply demand lingo, but I mean the reality is like, the prison system is a part of capitalism and we are often in our own constraints that are placed upon us by it by the nature of the prison industrial complex.

So there’s this real tension between like, “how do we ensure that our baseline commitment to just getting people the books that they are asking for is being met”, while also being like “is that in and of itself, abolitionist”. We really situate what we’re doing as centering people’s humanity, and really just restoring that sense of dignity and autonomy to people, that having information is something that we believe everyone should have. Having access to pleasure is something that everyone should have a way to expand their own minds beyond, you know, what’s often a cell smaller than a lot of people’s bathrooms. How do we, again, just connect the dots of the bigger constellation of “how do we keep these prisons from becoming kinder and friendlier to trans people” – whether that’s in the South or around the whole rest of the country – towards “how do we really shrink the system into nonexistence”?

Scott: Yeah, so jumping off of the obstacle point, that was a question that I had prepared. And I’m thinking also of just specifying a little bit because it’s come up – and this is the place we’re in, like, you know, post or not post pandemic, but in the middle of the pandemic – the pandemic hit, right, and like changed the terrain for organizing for everyone. So that, obviously, is an obstacle. I’d be interested to hear how a little more about how have you dealt with that. And also, potentially, on the plus side, the way the uprisings, rebellions last year affected the kind of energy and work that you’re doing, because that’s also something you’ve all been mentioning, in terms of the hearing more about abolition. So obstacles and but also like the recent sort of things that have occurred that have changed the nature of organizing.

Monse: I’m happy to kick it off. I think that yeah, definitely, what has been shared is definitely what we’ve been experiencing too, within SONG. I think even the election was a huge obstacle. I think that that brought up so, so many conversations, but also like, we were able to run a Free the Vote program within SONG in particular parts of the South, where we were doing voter registration and in the jails, for folks who are incarcerated, trying to get absentee ballots. And then we also face that same like, trying to mail stuff in trying to get to talk to people, it was those same things. So I definitely resonate with that, like trying to navigate and even just reach our people who are inside, making sure that they know that we’re out here and just trying to communicate with them has been a barrier put up by the state. And I think it’s very intentional, you know, they don’t want us to talk to them, they don’t want them to talk to us. So I would say I definitely resonated with that.

And I think even, yeah COVID in itself changed so many of the conditions which our folks were living in, and organizing in too. And we as SONG were definitely trying to figure out like, “is this the moment like to free them all? Like, are we trying to push for that, like, get everyone out of jail?” Like, of course they’re not following the CDC guidelines. Of course, they don’t care about the people who are in there. And really trying to see like, what ways that we could turn up on the state, and also keep our people safe from from COVID. We definitely started to do car caravan actions, like honk-ins at the jails all across the South, making sure like, hey, like we haven’t forgotten about y’all out here. And trying to do that. Folks in Atlanta and the Atlanta chapter were definitely turning up and putting pressure so folks could be released. Like, if they didn’t have to be there – of course, nobody has to be there – but like, if they were their pretrial, that they should be free.

So definitely trying to push on the campaign’s that we were already moving, in relationships to like, we need everyone out of that jail because it’s just COVID in there. So yeah, I think that even our tactics of organizing changed so much, and finding our people, and being able to do direct actions…we were thinking, a lot of like, “what does it mean to continue to turn up on the state and keep our people safe from getting sick?” Because we know that historically, our people don’t have access to health care, like our people don’t trust the health care systems, at all, and in fact, have been victims of violence by the healthcare system. So all the things, all the things. And I think, even just locally, some obstacles that have been coming up is also the fast-paced gentrification here in Asheville. Black and Brown folks, especially queer trans folks, are being pushed out of Asheville, so, so quickly, so so rapidly. And I think that that’s also something that my brain goes to is like, how are we like turning up against all these developers who are trying to take our towns, trying to take our people’s homes? And how are we creating space for folks to continue to live here, and work here and organize here in Asheville? It’s something that I would love to get into with any of y’all. But yeah, some of the obstacles.

Adrian: Thanks for sharing all of that Monse, a lot of that really resonates. And I think that, you know, with what’s coming up for me and the young folks that I work with, is I think that we’ve really shifted into more of a survival mode, right? You know, sex ed, and sexual violence prevention work was really integral to our programs before the pandemic, like every single meeting we’d talk about consent. Once we hit quarantine the kids were like, “We just need to hang out with each other, like, we need a little bit less educational stuff.” And we stepped back a little bit because they didn’t have the capacity to keep learning and keep learning. And they were also doing virtual school, right? I think the capacity for everybody, not just young people, just really got lowered.

And, you know, I have been fielding a lot more crisis calls over the past year. We have young people who are stuck at home in transphobic families, right, abusive families. And so, you know, we move from potentially thinking about targeting a trans inclusive policy at school to, oh, I might get kicked out of my home, right? And so I think that’s one of the challenges for us, is that while we try to build power within the youth community, so many of our young folks are just dealing with a different level of marginalization, by the pandemic, right?

One thing I’d point to is our GSA clubs, right? Like we before the pandemic, there were upwards of 35 clubs across North Carolina. Now we’re under 25. And a lot of those 25 are folks who have registered, but like, their club isn’t really meeting right now, or maybe they don’t have the tools to meet digitally, or, you know, they’re running their meeting but they’re only getting 5 of the 20 and 30 people that used to be coming to their meeting, right? So there’s this really big challenge in reconnecting with all of our young folks that have been a part of this network, and making sure they’re alright.

We launched a mutual aid fund over the past year, to support young folks 24 and under who were economically impacted by the pandemic, and we’ve distributed about $14,000 now, mostly to young folks who are housing insecure, and a good number of them are already homeless. And so, you know, in my conversations with the McKinney Vento liaisons who work within the Buncombe County school district and support the homeless youth there, they told me that they expected to see the homeless youth population balloon, maybe even double, over the course of the pandemic due to just the economic impacts, right. And the family impacts again, putting, you know, trans people back at home in spaces that aren’t safe for them.

So, all of those things are hard, but I do want to add a silver lining that has come out of some of these pivots. You know, we moved to digital programming pretty much within a week, right? It was pretty quick. But what was really awesome about it was a lot of our young people took a lot of initiative, right? They’re like, “Oh, discord, yeah, I can make a server, I can make you a robot. I can make you all these things.” And It was incredible and inspiring to see these young people step up to the plate…wow, a sports metaphor, how butch? Okay, that was weird. That doesn’t happen a lot. So, you know, these young people really stepped up to support each other and advocate for themselves, right? That’s been really incredible. And the other thing that comes from that, in the beginning of the pandemic our groups were smaller, but they were rural people, they were POC folks, and so we were actually getting to these young people who really need our services a little bit more. Not to say that young folks don’t need our services – we’re here for them as well – but there tend to be more GSAs within Buncombe County, there tend to be more supportive adults within Buncombe County. And so to see young people from Candler, Lake Lure, Cherokee, these other places, checking into our call, that’s a huge impact for me and for I think the folks in the community.

I think that moving out of the pandemic, as we slowly start to, we’re going to be keeping a lot of these digital organizing strategies that we’ve developed, and need to find this balance between, “okay, we’ve created access to our world programs, and there’s this thing that’s lacking from our in person programs that we need to bring back”. But I tell you, I’m not going to remove all the digital programs, because I’m like having those rural kids around.

Leroy: I can jump back in. Yeah, I’m really feeling the themes of COVID challenges plus, like weird COVID boons that no one necessarily saw coming. Yeah, at the very start of the pandemic, we definitely went into rapid response mode in a way that like, isn’t very typical for us. And again, wasn’t necessarily sustainable for us, but I think, as Monse already touched on – everyone’s familiar with this, I think, on the global level, but for those of us, especially with our finger on the pulse of what life inside of prisons is like, it was just like watching the storm rolling in times 1000 – it was just like the contagion of this is going to kill so many people so rapidly. And there was also this potential, like no one had really ever seen before, for these mass releases.

And so again, even though that’s not something that we, as a group, necessarily had a lot of power to help push for – I mean, I think individuals within our group are kind of like tapped into other campaigns outside of the work of TPP – but what we did do was reformatted a pamphlet that was a collaboration between Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross and Asheville Prison Books, which was basically just an informational two to four pager about what is COVID, and how can you keep yourself safe? And obviously, there were ways we were like ”We don’t know if people are going to be able to apply this.” I mean, obviously, there’s no PPE, there certainly was no PPE inside of prisons at the beginning of the pandemic, we were worried if people were even going to have soap. Hand sanitizer was like, not allowed for a lot of folks because of alcohol. But we were like, “We don’t even know what people are being told at this point, so it seems like the least we could do to just share what we were hearing, as we were hearing it on the outside, with those that we love on the inside,” to just say like, “this is what we know so far about this virus. And this is what we are hearing about what you can do to keep yourself safe as much as possible. And we realized that a lot of this may not be possible for y’all.”

The flip side of what those pamphlets offered was a sliver of hope, for those that were able to receive them, about some of what was happening in terms of folks being released in the South, actually, as well as around the country. And while that did not happen, I think as much as a lot of us in the abolition movement hoped that it could have gone further, there were also some prison breaks. And they were also just stories of people freeing themselves from the cages that they were in. And so there were some little blurbs about that. We also had some of those pamphlets bounce back, and we assumed that that was for that reason. There was like one or two that came back to us that something on the return to sender said something along the lines of like “this is a threat to our security and that’s why this wasn’t let in.” And so you know, it’s not really surprising because we know that knowledge is a threat and prisons don’t want prisoners to even think about the fact that they might one day have the power to liberate themselves, let alone be granted clemency. So, you know, the vast majority of them we think reached the folks that we intended them to get.

But we also weren’t sure for a while when we were going to have access to our office because as the original shutdowns were going on – like I said, we’re out of the back of Downtown Books and News – we lost access to our space for the first like, three, four months that things were going on. So part of those pamphlets, too, was this very kind of frightening disclosure that we were like, “Hey, we don’t know when we are going to be able to send you books, because there’s just a freeze on our ability to maintain this right now, but we want you to know that you are in our hearts and we are thinking of you.” And even just being able to send that little bit of personal love to folks, that in and of itself, I think, was where we were able to put our hearts forward at the start of this pandemic and let people know, like Monse, you were saying, again, like, “you are not forgotten even in this, and we’ll be back with you as soon as we can be”. And so yeah, it took some time for everybody to kind of get their feet back under them again, but by the summer last year we were starting to socially distance gather ourselves in the park to just like, reorganize our core group.

And then as we started to launch our packaging parties back up, which is how we kind of make room for more community engagement than just our regular core folks who come and pick out the books – in the pre-pandemic times used to do this out of Firestorm Books and Coffee, where we would take the books that were ready to be wrapped up and we would just do like a big almost holiday style wrapping where we just brown paper bag everything and address stuff and tape it up, and then it’s ready to go to the post office – we started to do that outside, also in Carrier Park, so that we could continue to do the work. And really, I think this is where this work gets really intersectional. I think that with everything that happened, with the uprisings of the summer and abolition starting to be talked about more and more, we started to see more people show up at those outdoor packaging parties than we had ever seen before. And we have been continuing to get new interests through our Instagram, through our email inbox. And yeah, I think that that’s where the last year has presented some really unusual, but exciting opportunities for where we’re now positioned, just with more folks plugging in all the time than we previously had. So that’s the upside of things. Beck, you want to get in on this?

Beck: Sure. Yeah, I mean, it’s pretty quick and easy. COVID really threw a wrench in like everything we do. [starts laughing] We created physical spaces for queer community to come together and learn in sheer joy and you know, art, music. So, yeah, we really were at a loss for how to adapt, and none of us were in a place where we were like, willing to switch to digital. So we’re like, “Okay, what can we do right now”, we had applied for a mini grant from the Trans Justice Project. And we got it! And we’re like,” oh, dope, but there’s not a fest going on. So what are we going to do?” And so we decided to do a kind of like reparations drive project, community reach, outreach type thing, where we used all those funds from that grant, to BIPOC artists who are now like, without work. So focusing on Black and Indigenous queer and trans artists, and making sure they’re getting their needs, uplifting the work that they’re doing, you know, from a distance, and also just like, literally just fundraising for them and having our own reparations pool every month. So that kind of shifted that way.

I think a lot of it though, like Pansy Collective as individuals, was just like showing up in the summer, showing up in the street, showing up for aftercare type stuff, showing up where we could, as individuals, for our friends in our community. And so yeah, I think, you know, as things start kind of shifting and maybe outdoor meetups and stuff is possible, it’ll kind of start to go back to what Pansy is used to doing. But really, it’s just been, I mean, as a collective, just kind of being there for each other, and for the folks in town, showing up just as people has been the work, just giving love in a really isolated time.

Scott: Thanks everyone for going into that. I want to ask maybe a final question that would have two parts and then leave room for anyone here who wants to directly ask you individually or collectively questions, but so I’m going to put a couple of things together and hopefully this will work. So on the one hand we see queerness kind of getting more visibility and inclusion and representation, and I’m wondering – because all the work that y’all are doing is still on the terrain that is disruptive for, you know, systems of power, state control – so I’m sort of just interested in what you think queerness still holds that’s disruptive or liberatory, and then kind of putting that into like, what sort of coalitional projects you envision your groups doing in the future?

Adrian: Right now the one sentence that’s coming to my head is like “pink capitalism sucks” right? And I don’t have a whole lot more beyond that right now, in this moment. No, I think that, you know, the sort of acceptability politics that’s happening in like the big LGB sometimes T circles is rather sex negative. So I think there’s growth we could do there together in coalition building. You know, I think that this is probably because of the particular lens that I approach this work, but I see a lot of ageism and adultism generationally, right? I see a lot of skepticism from my elders on the vision that my young folks have, and sometimes I look to my elders to say, like, “Look, I don’t quite see how all the dots connect, but can you help me connect the dots for these young people?” And I need that support from our trancestors. And so I think that’s part of the coalition building that can happen. You know, I think that also we see a lot of white LGBTQ representation, right? So I think there’s a lot of work that we can do around, you know, centering BIPOC experience and what they need, right? So I would really love to see more inter-generational coalition’s between the different LGBT and racial justice serving organizations, I think that could be really, really fruitful. And I’m just kind of curious what other folks are thinking to?

Monse: Yeah, I think you hit it spot on for me Adrian. And yeah, I think that there are a lot of visible spaces and like, spaces made for queer and trans folks here in Asheville at least, but they’re mostly white spaces. And I think that just making spaces for Black and Brown folks to lead the work, for Black and Brown folks to just even come together and organize is necessary. And I would love to collaborate with folks, and just like creating those spaces, like finding the folks that are looking for the spaces and being able to support and find joy to bring our beautiful queer selves and organize together. So I think that that’s where we have a lot of room to grow, where I could see SONG collaborating with folks.

And I think even just like, also language, I’m very passionate about language justice, and that we need to be organizing not only in English because queer and trans folks aren’t only white, don’t only speak English. And I think that these identities can be very intersectional and like, folks are trying to do all the things. And yeah, so I think creating more spaces that are language accessible, that are culturally accessible, and that folks want to come to, because I think that there are so many white, queer, trans spaces in Asheville that a lot of times my folks don’t want to be in, that I don’t want to be in. And I think that there’s a lot of room to grow and a lot of space for collaboration, where we can make these spaces together.

Beck: I’ll go ahead. Yeah, thank you Monse, Adrian. I think all of y’alls responses…what I’m thinking of, how Asheville in particular, and a lot of liberal Southern cities, loves to show it’s pride in like, “we just hired a lesbian cop! Look at this girl boss who just joined the local government!”. When we look at our roots, when we look at queer oppression as a timeline, we have all of the same evils, all of the same oppressive entities are still the same, and no matter how pink or queer, whatever we make them appear, they’re still creating the same evils and the same oppressions.

There was a TikTok of a local lesbian police officer that got really big, and I was just like, “I know her. I’ve seen you arrest some queer folks before. And your TikTok famous, cute.” So yeah, just when we really look at all of these intersections, we can’t be pro gay cops, while gay cops are arresting Black queer people, Brown queer people, are incarcerating and deporting Brown queer people, Black people, Indigenous queer people, all of these evils are still there. If we put queer in front of it, it does not change that. And that’s the same for pink capitalism, like you talked about Adrian. Like, sure, I can go to Target in July and expect to find some rainbow t-shirts, right? But they’re still made in fucking sweatshops. Just because we put a coat of pink on it doesn’t change the system of oppression and the same status quo that we’re really trying to fight against.

And when we think of like, STAR, Street Transvestite Action Revolution, and like that awesome organizing that was happening, it was focusing on people who were incarcerated, was focusing on trans Black and Brown people, it was led by trans Black and Brown people, like that is what, to me, that is where revolution is heading and has always been from. It’s not going to be from the lesbian white cop on TikTok who Asheville loves and had a meet and greet with a rainbow flag behind her, you know? Like, no, that’s not going to be it.

And thinking of, yeah, like Monse, you talked about earlier, there’s a gentrification that’s rapidly pushing Black and Brown folks out of Asheville. Like, that’s another thread that I don’t see a lot of queer organizing, like, really looking at, is that class piece, that racism and class piece, right? Yeah, like there’s a Save Charlotte Street going on in town – which is like important, right? This is a whole community – but it’s white folks that are affluent. And there’s a lot of build up and organizing around that, and like, what about all the Brown folks that were pushed out? What about all the Black folks that were pushed out during the 90’s?

So starting to bring all of that in together and look at that same root that is there, instead of just trying to, like, paint it pink and call it cute. Yeah, that’s the direction I would love for us to be heading in.

Leroy: [sighs exasperatedly] Yeah, “paint it pink and call it cute”, there is slogan to be dissected. Yeah, I feel like that was kind of where my brain was going as far as “where’s the liberatory potential of queerness still?” Is that actually still a thing, or is social capital and social hierarchy kind of just subverting this work into something really superficial? And where I see popularity as the potential thing that’s like drawing people into this, and social cred, more than what this work is actually about? I think that’s something that has been a really disturbing trend to try and assess.

Where it’s like, we have a very trendy logo, some might say, that was designed for us in the last few years, and to see our social media suddenly popping off has been really exciting. And it’s like, at the same time that we want people to come towards us and enter into this work, in the time that I have been involved with TPP, this has been primarily white led organization, and it has primarily been white folks involved. We have not had a lot of people of color come to us and say that they want to be involved in our work. And that isn’t to say, none, but I think that there are uncomfortable questions that I’m okay with being uncomfortable about that, for me, when I think about these things, I’m like, I just continue to sit with more questions than I have answers for. What does it mean for us to just continue to listen to other folks in the community, to continue to show up for other POC and Black led organizations in Asheville, so that we’re not just perpetuating part of the problem?

I’ve sat with this question of “if at some point this work needed to completely dissolve in order for something new to take form that was not the folks who have been leading this project for the time that I’ve been here to occur”…I think that’s part of what change is. It’s like death and rebirth and not being so attached to what we have carved out, what we have created, that we can’t still be humble and know that we, again, don’t have all the answers. So I’m excited for where we continue to get to connect, as you know, these four groups that are in this panel.

I’ll say as far as networking goes, TPP actually just got an email from Georgia chapter of SONG like last night about them wanting to start some books to prisoners work for LGBTQ folks in Georgia. And so we basically just send them like everything that we know about how to do this work, cause that was what they were asking us. And we are really like, “Yes, please. There need to be more groups that are specifically serving LGBTQIA folks that are incarcerated”. Because, again, whether it’s in the South or anywhere in the country that remains one of the most marginalized groups in prison, and we know that so many of those folks are Black and Brown and Indigenous.

And yeah, I think that more and more youth are starting to come to us. We have our first ever high school intern right now and she’s getting ready to plug us to the Racial Justice Coalition at her high school. So I feel like a lot of what’s being names as far as intersectionality in this conversation is really like coming to the surface. And it’s an exciting time for, you know what’s possible right now.

But there is a lot of cooptation at the same time. And so yeah, I really hesitate to say with great confidence like…yeah, there is some, I don’t know…the language might have to change. And I think that that’s actually the place where I want to insert this quote that I pulled from – for the old heads who still know who Critical Resistance is – this anthology Abolition Now from 2008, which at the time was the 10 year anniversary of Critical Resistance, a national abolitionist organizing group. I mean, at this point, it’s been more than 10 years since this book came out, but this is a quote from Alexander Lee, the founder and director of the Transgender, Gender Variant and Intersex Justice Project, or TGI Justice Project, of California. Alexander Lee says:

“As we go forward, we should expect to be forced to discard language that limits this movements to prison and the prison industrial complex, in favor of descriptors that foster prickly coalitions with others who don’t see themselves as anti-prison, but who do believe in the sacred nature of human dignity, however imperfectly expressed in practice. The prison abolition movement must expand its arms to envelop the same people who fight for housing but demonized prisoners, who protest war but love to watch CSI, people who marched for civil rights but yell trans slur at trans women, and queers who demand the death penalty when yet another one of us is murdered. We should move into these other sectors and act as the lodestar, pulling everyone towards the ultimate goal of building a world where liberation is the status quo. When we achieve these goals, the abolition of prisons will just be the icing on the cake.”

Scott: Thanks for sharing that. Powerful words. And yeah, I guess maybe if we can just transition. I mean, I’m really grateful for all of you kind of speaking out of your experience and knowledge of doing this movement work. That’s so important. All right well thank you everyone.

Pipeline Updates from Yellow Finch Tree Sit

Pipeline Updates from Yellow Finch Tree Sit

"Water Protectors / Mountain Defenders" photo from Yellow Finch Tree Sit
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690 days. That is how long the tree sit on Yellow Finch lane has been standing to block the progress of the Mountain Valley Pipeline’s proposed 301 mile corridor of pressurized, fracked liquefied natural gas.

This week, we speak with Dustie Pinesap and Woodchipper who are at the Yellow Finch Tree Sit in so-called Montgomery County, Virginia, who talk about the MVP, the recently-cancelled Atlantic Coast Pipeline, resistance during the pandemic, solidarity with the uprising against capitalism and white supremacist policing and a whole lot more.

Appalachians Against Pipelines:

Announcements

#DefundAVLPD protest Tuesday

If you’re in the Asheville area this week, city council will be conducting a hotly contested vote on the police and other budgets Tuesday, July 28th. According to the instagram account, @DefundAVLPD, there will be a rally that could turn protest starting at 5pm in front of Asheville city hall at 70 Court Plaza in downtown.

Phone Zap for Hunger Striking AL Prisoners

Anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble and fellow prisoner Brandon Oden began a hungry strike from all food other than water to protest the following:

the inept mishandling of the covid-19 crisis at Easterling Correction Facility

  • a lack of outside exercise time
  • a lack of access to law library
  • a lack of access to immune building foods and fruits
  • a lack of clean and fresh water
  • a refusal by administration to release all vulnerable prisoners being held at Easterling
  • a lack of proper testing and quarantining

Kimble and Oden are asking that everyone call and fax the Governor and Commissioner to demand that they seriously address and correct these problems.

GOV KAY IVEY (334) 242-7100 fax (334) 353-0004

Commissioner Jeff Dun (334) 353-3883 Fax 3343533967

Harm Reduction in Pandemic and Jason Renard Walker

Harm Reduction in Pandemic and Jason Renard Walker

Steady Collective ambulance in West Asheville
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This week we feature two segments, first up we got to chat with Hill Brown about Asheville’s response to the pandemic in terms of public health, drug use and the houseless communities. Then, Jason Renard Walker talks about his journalism, activism and troubles in the Texas prison system.

Harm Reduction in Asheville during Pandemic

First we got to sit down with Hill Brown who works with Asheville’s Steady Collective doing harm reduction outreach to people experiencing homelessness and addiction. We talk about a lot of topics, including how the current health crisis has affected Steady’s operation, how the city of Asheville is mishandling its resources right now, and how folks can plug in and have solidarity with this work.

If you are concerned about hotel access for oppressed populations, you can call:

  • The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) at 828-258-6111,
  • The County Commissioners at 828-250-4066 and leave a message,
  • and the City of Asheville, who funds the TDA, at 828-251-1122

You can also find ways to support the Steady Collective by visiting their website TheSteadyCollective.org. Visit our blog or show notes to see an interview Bursts did with Hill back in 2018 which was done at a time when the city was threatening to close Steady’s operations.

Incarcerated Journalist and Organizer, Jason Renard Walker

Then we’ll be hearing from Jason Renard Walker, an incarcerated journalist and activist at the Clemens Unit near Amarillo, Texas. Jason is the Minister of Labor for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) and his writing is frequently featured in the SF Bay View National Black Newspaper. Mr. Walker’s answers will be read by his girlfriend, Noelle. You can find more of Jasons writings at his blog, JasonsPrisonJournal.com, including a link to his recently published e-book “Reports from Within The Belly Of The Beast: Torture and Injustice Inside Texas Department of Criminal Justice” available from Amazon.com and hopefully soon in paperback. He also just published this piece on his blog about the coverup around covid-19.

Jason Renard Walker #1532092
Clements Unit
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107

You can hear our chat from 2018 with Kevin Rashid Johnson (co-founder of the NABPP and Minister of Defense for the Prison Chapter) which is also transcribed in that post, or printable as a zine here.

Jason Renard Walker also mentions Julio Alex Zunigo, aka Comrade Z, who is rustling up resistance in Darington Unit. Comrade Z was interviewed by ItsGoingDown and we will be airing a recording of an interview with him coming up this week.

Comrade Malik’s Covid-19 Update Update

The elder, politicized prisoner that Comrade Malik references in Texas as Alvaro Luna Hernandez also goes by the name Xinachtli, which you can use in personal communication. You can hear a recording of Xinachtli telling his story in his own words here. For the envelope or dealing with administration you can write to him at:

Alvaro Luna Hernández #255735
James V Allred Unit
2101 FM 369
NorthIowa Park, TX 76367 USA

. … . ..

Tracks heard in this episode:

AwareNess (from calm.) – No Regrets

Wu-Tang Clan – It’s Yourz (instrumental)

. … . ..

Jason Renard Walker interview

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself for the audience? Feel free to include any details about your background, political affiliation or current circumstances you think will give a good context for the conversation.

Jason Renard Walker: My name is Jason Renard Walker, Minister of Labor for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, Prison Chapter. I consider my political stance as a reflection of our party’s rules of discipline, principals, adherence to our ten point program and platform and our goals for the future.

For clarity, please feel free to learn about what I mean by reviewing the United Panther Movement section of my website at www.JasonsPrisonJournal.com . Just for the record, I don’t see myself as Democrat, Republican, Anarchist, Communist, or Socialist. I know this seems contradictory to the circumstances, but I’m all about positive change for society and the future of those to come. The New Afrikan Black Panther Party’s effort to carry on the legacy and goals fo the original Black Panther Party is my higher calling. And regardless of not holding an official political stance, my ability to execute my duties and help build the party would be the same if I did have a political stance. Though I’m certainly anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist.

TFSR: Would you mind telling us about your past, the case you caught and an overview of the conditions of your incarceration in Texas?

JRW: Just like a majority of our comrades and party members, I am a product of my environment. The streets of Est Oakland, wehre I grew up, is riddled with drugs, street gangs, violence, prostitution and so on.

If members in my family weren’t drug dealers, addicts, pimps, cons, prostitutes and so on. They held impractical religious views, empty of practical solution, coupled with the preachings of prayer and blief under the banner that this alone would make me a successful member of society.

The latter did little to persuade me from following the footsteps of people I admired; which were drug dealers and crooks that had more than their fair share of wealth and stability. While the so-called true believers toted the transit bus to spend their welfare checks and food stamps. Not only did I witness these contradictions within my neighborhood. I witnessed them within my own family.

By the age of 14 in 1994 I had dropped out of school, became a full time criminal and began experiencing the consequences of my actions. After spending two years in detention centers and a group home in Gilroy, CA called Advent group ministries. I moved to Garland, Texas with my grandma to stay with my aunt and cousin in 1998.

This was supposed to be my transformation from a criminal to a productive member of society… All this did was transfer a career criminal from committing crimes against the poor to committing crimes against the unwitting rich… There was no plan to rid me of my thoughts and behavior so I brought them with me to places no one knew such incivility existed, making these people easier and more fruitful targets of burglary, scams, drug sales and armed robbery.

I received an 18 year sentence in 2008 for robbery and have done 12 years on it so far, since then my outlook on life has changed. From my own experience and from what I read, conditions in Texas prisons are far worse here than most prison systems in the U.S. What gives Texas the edge is that it’s an overtly for-profit-only system. Prisoners undergo unpaid forced labor, grow, harvest and tend to the food we eat, and work and operate everything short of running the cell blocks.

I give a vivid account of the conditions on my kindle ebook on amazon.com called “Reports From Within The Beast: Torture and Justice Inside Texas Department of Criminal Justice”. I recommend that all your listeners get a copy. The writings span the years 2010-2019, including some of my work during my seven year stay in solitary confinement.

TFSR: We’ve seen your journalism featured in the SFBay View National Black Newspaper. Can you talk about your publishing, feedback you’ve gotten and repression you’ve faced for your expression?

JRW: The San Franscisco Bay View National Black Newspaper has been a big supporter of my writings. If they weren’t publishing journalism by me they published journalism about things concerning me and the bad conditions prisoners are facing in Texas. This includes our organizing and supporting the 2016 and 2018 National Prisoner Work Stoppage. And the reprisals we faced for doing so.

Not only have my journalism in the Bay View drawn the hatred of some guards, it has drawn negative feed back from white supremacist groups that conspire with these same guards to smuggle illicit drugs into the prison namely the deadly drug, k-2.

In the October 2018 issue of the Bay View I wrote an article called “Prison Assisted Drug Overdoses”. This forced Texas officials into giving guards more scrutinized searches before entering the prison, including the use of drug sniffing dogs. Guards have used my article as a manipulation tactic to raise smuggling fees by suggesting that my article in particular has made smuggling riskier. In turn I’ve been confronted by random individuals and groups about the article. These same individuals admit not having read the article so they are ignorant to the message I deliver. I’ve even tried suggesting they read the article to no avail. It only exposes ignored prisoner overdosing.

They are completely reactionary and tend to gravitate towards what guards tell them. Like I’ve been confronted about being a child molester, racist, terrorist, CIA operative and instigator with evidence supposedly the information. Combating this has been quite easy.

I’ve also gotten a lot of positive feedback from other journalists and Bay View readers in the U.S. and Europe who have become supporters of my work and who have chosen to investigate the conditions I describe in my articles.

TFSR: You recently published a book entitled ‘Reports from Within the Belly of the Beast: Torture and Injustice Inside Texas Department of Criminal Justice’ that, among other things, compiles some of your writings you previously published. Can you talk about your method of organizing your writing, who your audience is and what you hope the book achieves?

JRW: I really don’t have a method of organizing my writings. I tend to first document times and dates on things I see or learn of. I seek witnesses and victims, who are always willing to let me write about them. Sometimes I’ll ask a guard about something. Most of the instigators and abusers will openly brag about what they did. At the time they aren’t aware that an article will be written and who I am. After the hammer comes crashing down, they face me with looks of betrayal as if I’m not supposd to expose them because they may have given me extra food or recreation time in the past. Guard Darius Reed stole a Bay View, it mentioned him.

I have a large audience that includes Bay View readers, the Houston Chronicle, the Texas Tribune, SolitaryWatch.Org, the Anarchist Black Cross group, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and hundreds of people who have never written me but have sent me books and magazines like Sheri Black and Sam Rosen in Great Britain. Or those who send words of courage but fail to provide a reply address.

The message in the book speaks for itself. I hope and wish that it sets in the hands of as many readers as possible. I haven’t found a book by a Texas prisoner of this magnitude like it. It also includes unpublished articles, a forward by Maggie Ray Anderson, a 2011 Central Washington University graduate who got a B.A. in law and justice and a B.S. in social services and Kevin Rashid Johnson.

TFSR: Do you have any plans to publish your book in physical form so it can be available to people in prison?

JRW: Actually we are in the process of publishing 500 copies of the paperback version, specifically so that prisoner supporters can have a copy sent to an incarcerated loved one or friend. These copies will be available on amazon.com as well only costing $5 per copy. Before the paperback version is released we will have it available for pre-release ordering so we’ll know if more copies and how many more will need to be printed. The ebook and the paperback version have come to fruition by the funds and work of me and my girlfriend. But we could use the help of an underwriter or independent publisher.

TFSR: A year and a half ago we had the pleasure to speak with Kevin Rashid Johnson of the NABPP about the organizing he was doing, about the prison strikes, organizing on the outside and his organization. Would you talk about how you came to join the NABPP, what your position in it is, and how organizing in Texas has been as a member of that group?

JRW: Given the circumstances, it would be difficult for me to answer this question without this entire questionaire being banned by the mailroom. Not because of the content but to delay the radio interview entirely under the false pretext that it containes security threat group information. Some insight can be caught by viewing www.RashidMod.com.

TFSR: Are there any other groups you have organized with that you’d care to mention? For instance, you received punishment in the aftermath of the Nationwide Prisoner Strikes in 2016 and 2018.

JRW: Yes, during the 2016 and 2018 National Prison Work stoppage I had the joy to work with the IWOC, different branches of the ABC, the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) and a group in Colorado that published The Fire Inside Zine, which I wrote a piece for. The Fire Inside related to the 2016 work stoppage.

TFSR: A common concern raised around incarceration in the US is a lack of medical treatment, the high cost and low quality when it is available, overcrowding and under-staffing leading to medical and health emergencies. I’ve noted on the outside that the conversation is raised more frequently recently during ecological disasters like hurricanes or when people protest the use of solitary confinement in lieu of mental health resources. Now, with the panic and obvious lack of preparedness around Covid-19 (novel caronavirus), can you talk about health and preparedness in terms of incarceration in the US and what the public on the outside can be doing to support the folks in cages?

JRW: I’m glad you brought up the coronavirus. I just recently wrote a short piece on the lack of care we are provided in the midst of this and the prisoners failure to receive care to avoid paying $13.55 medical co-pay fees.

Since I wrote that piece five prisoners were moved to this prison with Corona Virus. They received it form a sick guard during transportation. Now guards at this prison have been confirmed to have it. It is spreading. My request to be tested, because I’m showing signs of illness, have been ignored. I submitted my request four days ago. Today is April 5th. Nurse Ms. Spencer came to see me. I was told I didn’t have a fever so no further care was necessary.

There is no obvious plan in place to prevent further spreading. Guards are wearing masks and there are notes posted about staying six feet away from others. Thus we are confined to our cells with another prisoner and have no way to read any postings that are located places beyond sight-and-walking authority.

I’ve learned that taking vitamin c supplements and driving citns flavored electrolite drinks slow down the manifestation of the germ, along with limited physical activity, lots of sleep and staying warm.

The key thing people on the outside can do for us is to constantly contact the prisons warden about the number of confirmed cases, requesting our medical records, as to monitor their response time to our sick call requests, our diagnosis and the tpe of treatment we are receiving. Sending us updates on how it’s spreading in our particular area and any info they have that can help prevent spreading and exposure. Hair scanning is the only prevention plan being implemented here (whatever that is).

We are being given false info on self diagnosis and testing. One thing that has to be a public conern is how nurses use our blood pressure results to determine if we are sick, hurting, having a stroke and whether we have a common cold or the common flu. I actually describe one instance in my book concerning a stroke victim who was denied hospitalization for over twelve hours based on his blood pressure results. He is now paralyzed and had to undergo brain surgery because of the long delay. No staff were held liable, they actually brought him back from the infirmary on a gurney and laid him on his cell floor, where he remained until we convinced the next shift that he was dying. This incident occurred here at the Clemens Unit. My advice to prisoners is to take matters into your own hands. If you feel you are sick and in need of medical care, keep trying to get it. Don’t let nursing staff suggest your blood pressure is the factor whether you are sick or not. Don’t let medical copay fees factor in either…

TFSR: Are there organizing efforts in Texas around prisoner issues that you would like to highlight or needs that need to be addressed that are particular to the TDCJ or any of the units you’ve been kept in?Where do you see the efforts in the US around prisoner issues? Similar to the prior questions, do you have any inspirations or challenges you’d like to pose to either those on the outside or the inside?

JRW: The only organizing efforts I’m aware of are the ones involving the NABPP, the IWOC and scattered anarchist prisoners in Texas. Since I’ve been in close custody (two man solitary) I haven’t had the chance to use the phone, limiting my access to information.

In fact, incarcerated anarchist Julio A Zuniga (aka Alex) is at the Darrington Unit in Rosharon, Texas organizing. His focus seems to be on conditions, medical care, filth, the treatment of the mentally ill and gladiator fights.

Final Straw listener, Matt Brodnax, did an interview with Alex that is published online. But there are many organizing efforts by unknown Texas prisoners who too face unwarranted acts of repression, including the destruction of ongoing / incoming mail and personal property. I’ve met several during my stay at the Ellis Unit, Michael Unit and Allred Unit. Their lack of firmness in the face of reprisals have kept their efforts to organizing limited to filing grievances and complaining amongst each other. In these circles I’m viewed as radical and going too far. Though they wonder why they can’t win false disciplinary cases.

We need more isolated and groups of prisoners to take their organizing to the next level. If using un-radical forms of organizing was effective, not one prisoner would need to take things to the next level. These groups must form bonds of unity as well. For example, a lot of prisoners chose filing civil suits challenging the 13th Amendments clause on legal slave labor. This was in response and following the 2016 work stoppage. Their focus was on losing commissary privileges, dayroom time and whatnot. So to circumvent foreseeable retaliation and applying some serious action, they used the governments recommended channel, getting each of their claims claims dismissed as frivolous, wasting both time and their own resources.

In a few instances some prisoners did file civil suits and participate in the work stoppage. But even the civil suit filers learned a valuable lesson, I hope they are building on.

TFSR: Where do you see the efforts in the US around prisoner issues? Similar to the prior questions, do you have any inspirations or challenges you’d like to pose to either those on the outside or the inside?

JRW: Efforts to organize in the U.S. around prisoner issues are scattered, contradicting and often misunderstood. You have some prisoner writers out there labeled activists, though their writings and disinterest in foot work reveals their Black Capitalist / White Capitalist / Brown Capitalist interest and agenda. You have others still engaged in the sale of drugs that hold a street mentality called revolutionary but gangsta. Allowing them to engage in some activism while holding the same criminal mentality and world view their activism supposedly opposes. It’s the do as I say not as I do thing.

The challenge to prison activists inside and on the outside is to stay firm at what you do. Continue learning how to strengthen your organization and or support circle, educate those around you about your program and be a positive representative in your community upon release.

For instance the NABPP has transitioned to the outside. Comrade, Chairman Shaka Zulu and others have created our outside headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. Giving us the opportunity to create and expand our community service programs. This includes our Black August BB9, No Prison Fridays protest, and Free Food breakfast and lunch program that occurs Saturdays between 10am and 4pm. These programs are sponsored by Panthers and service community volunteers. Shaka Zulu helped bring this to life upon his release from prison.

As it shows, the NABPP is among the most firm in regards to In-Prison activism, organizing and carry this on in the oppressed and impoverished communities. The role of the NABPP is not to pose as a rescuer of the people but to uplift, inspire and teach them. Through their own cooperation and collective power, they can solve their own problems, meet their own needs and free themselves from this racist, exploitative and oppressed society.

TFSR: Are there any subjects that I failed to ask about that you’d like to speak to?

JRW: No, there isn’t. But I’d like to take time to thank everyone that has helped me with my progress, education, development and needed support. Too many to name here. And a $1 donation will be given to the San Francisco Bay View for every paperback issue of my book sold!

Jason Renard Walker #1532092
Clements Unit
9601 Spur 591
Amarillo, TX 79107

Move 9 Speak, Yellow Finch Tree Sitters, and Pansy Fest//ACAB 2019

Download Episode Here

This week we feature three segments. As it is literally packed with jam, we suggest you check out our podcast for free online at our website or any number of streaming sites for longer, more detailed conversations on the topics plus, again, Sean Swain’s segment for this week.

Move call for support for Delbert Orr Africa

First we have a couple of shorter segments. Respectively, you hear the voices of Janine Phillips Africa, Janet Holloway Africa and Eddie Goodman Africa of the Move 9, a political and religious group that follows the teachings of John Africa and have faced heavy repression from the state of Pennsylvania over the last 50 years, who are recently released after 40 years in prison on some bull charges. The three are requesting peoples support calling in to the prison administration in Pennsylvania and to two hospitals to get contact with their fellow Move 9 prisoner, Delbert Orr Africa. Delbert has a parole hearing in September and has suddenly been heard to be suffering from swelling and possible prostate cancer. His blood daughter, his lawyer and his family members in the Move organization are concerned that so-called authorities aren’t letting Delbert communicate with them. As they say, two other members of the Move 9, Phil and Merle, died under mysterious circumstances in the dungeons of the PA prison system that has sought to bury Move and it’s supporters like Mumia Abu-Jamal, with an announcement of sickness that quickly turned to the death of their family members. It’s also good to note that Chuck Africa of the Move 9, while support in this moment is not being directed at him, is also still incarcerated after more than 40 years. More info at OnAMove.Org, OnAMove.com, Move9Parole.blogspot.com or the fedbook page, “Justice For The Move 9

There’s a statement from Move in our show notes, near the bottom of the post for this episode with more details. Those notes don’t include the number for Wilkesbury Hospital at 5708298111

Yellow Finch Tree Sit Against MVP

Then, we’ll hear from an anonymous tree-sitter and Dusty who are both in trees blocking the path of the Mountain Valley Pipeline cutting through Appalachia and threatening the immediate health of the forests, waterways and communities it passes by as well as the the wider future of life on earth as a project to pull fossil fuels for burning out of the soil for the profit of a few hucksters. More information on the Yellow Finch Tree Sit at AppalachiansAgainstPipelines on fedbook, InstaGram and Twitter or send them some money at bit.ly/SupportMVPResistance.

As a quick update, the efforts by EQT’s attempt at extending an injunction around the Eminent Domain for the Mountain Valley Pipeline to also criminalize tree-sitters, their supporters and lawyers have failed and the federal judge, Elizabeth Dillon, meaning that the construction will have to move from Cove Hollow around to the other side of Poor Mountain, ostensibly increasing the cost of building the pipeline by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consider visiting them and congratulating the tree-sitters

. … . ..

Pansy Fest and Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair 2019

Third up, we got to talk with members of the fast approaching Pansy Fest and Asheville Anarchist Bookfair, which is an exciting collaboration happening over the weekend of August 23-25. We got to talk here about this colab and many more things, if you are listening to the radio version and want more content that will be up at our blog thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.

To get in touch with these projects, for logistics and information, you can go to pansycollective.org and email them at pansyfestavl@gmail.com.

To donate to Pansy Fest, you can Venmo @cecilia-martuscelli

Instagram: @pansyfest

fedbook: facebook.com/pansyfestavl/

For the bookfair, their website is acab2019.noblogs.org, email acab2019@riseup.net

To see those shirts and totes, go here!

Instagram: @acab.2019

Facebook: facebook.com/AshevilleACAB2019

For housing inquiries for both events email housing.avl2019@gmail.com !

Announcements

Sean Swain Address

We want to share that the wrong address for writing to Sean was up at his support site and announced in his segments. You can actually write to him at:

Sean Swain #2015638
Buckingham Correctional
PO Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936/

Tom Manning

This week saw the passing of long-time political prisoner, alleged member of the Jonathan Jackson Unit and the United Freedom Front and revolutionary, Tom Manning. Tom’s death came after literally years of medical mistreatment and neglect at the hands of Federal Bureau of Prisons, ending at USP-Hazelton in West Virginia. The system had it in for Tom, that he would die inside, for even though he only had about a year left in the Federal System, he was bound upon release for the NJ state prison system, a system renown for it’s vendetta against prisoners accused of killing cops. We’ll link in our show notes to a recent writeup by Ray Luc Levasseur on It’sGoingDown.org. If you want to hear our interview with Ray Luc which touched on his relationship with Tom and Tom’s treatment by prison officials, we’ll link that in the show notes, too.

Jason Renard Walker on Kite Line

So, you heard the Kite Line jingle today. Due to this episode being a behemoth already, we’d like to direct you to hear the voice of prison organizer and Deputy Minister of Labor for the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter), Jason Renard Walker on the August 2nd episode of Kite Line. In the future we may feature some of Mr. Walker’s audio essays to get them on the airwaves further. You can also find his articles, for which he’s been punished by the Texas prisoncrats, at the SF Bay View Newspaper.

Delbert Orr Africa

ONA MOVE

The MOVE Organization would like to bring to people’s attention a very dangerous situation that is currently occurring with our Brother Delbert Africa . For the past two weeks Delbert has been suffering from severe swelling from the bottom of his waist all the way down to his toes . For the past two weeks prison officials at SCI Dallas has ignored Delbert’s request for medical until this past week when several calls were made to his counselor . A medical visit was finally scheduled for this past Wednesday 7/31/2019 where it was explained to Delbert that he has a fluid build up which required to be drained Delbert was immediately taken to an outside hospital, where as of today 8/3/2019 we still do not know where Delbert is .

For several days now Delbert has been kept incommunicado from calling his MOVE Family , His Blood Daughter, and even his lawyer . Prison officials and also hospital officials will not give any one information pertaining to where Delbert is at . Something very suspicious is happening here and it appears the same pattern that occurred with Phil Africa in 2015 where a simple stomach virus turned to A weeklong trip to the outside hospital held incommunicado from family and friends to return back to the prison and be placed in hospice care and to only die a day later. In 1998 Merle Africa who had a stomach virus was forced in her cell and told she was dying only to die a couple of hours later .

This system has no issue with murdering MOVE people and that’s what they are trying to do with Delbert now . They have already given ground by letting innocent MOVE people out on parole and they do not want to do this with Delbert . As we said before this system has always saw Delbert as the leader and isolated him and this latest tactic is no different . Delbert is set to go before the board this September after winning his appeal now this happens . As of now we have heard from Delbert’s attorney where he has stated based on the medical report given from Outside medical they are stating that Delbert has Anemia , High Potassium , High Psa’s , Acute malignancy of lower intestines , Kidney Trouble , and Suspicion of prostate cancer . The only thing that Delbert has agreed to with any treatment or exams is the submission of a catheter to be used Delbert has requested a phone call to his MOVE Family which the prison and Also Hospital will not allow . We are highly suspicious that this prison has done something to Delbert to bring on these symptoms on so quick . They could not kill Delbert August 8th after the brutal beating they gave him and now they want to finish the job before he can come home on parole .
These officials are so arrogant this is the same way they murdered Phil Africa and Merle Africa .

As we have stated before they have isolated our Brother So they can kill him. They won’t let know one speak to him and this is very Dangerous we need people now to call

SCI Dallas Superintendent Kevin Ransom 570 675- 1101

Geisenger Hospital 570 808-7300

We want people to demand that Delbert Orr Africa Am4895 be allowed to call his MOVE Family and let them know what’s going . Even Though it’s the weekend we are still asking people to call and Monday we are going full blast .

The MOVE Organization

People can reach
Sue Africa 215 387-4107
Carlos Africa 215 385-2772
Janine Africa 610 704 4524

. … . ..

This episode, we feature WIMP from Boston, MA, with the track AlwaysForwardNeverStraight. WIMP will be performing at PansyFest 2019 in Asheville.

Playlist

Anti-Repression in SC and Trans Resiliency in Appalachia

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This week, we’ll be featuring two segments, one on state repression against anti-racist organizers in rural Upstate South Carolina [10min 21sec] and on an upcoming documentary series on access/non access to mental health infrastructure for transgender people living in Appalachia [41min 39sec]. Plus, words from Sean Swain [3min 22sec]!

Facing Down FBI & Nazi Pressure in SC

First, Bursts shares a conversation with activists from the Scuffletown Anti-Repression Committee and the Michigan Anti-Repression Committee, left legal defense groups from vastly geographically distant areas of the so-called U.S. They are talking about the case of repression in what’s called the Upstate, or northern part of the state of South Carolina in the south eastern U.S., where anti-racist and anti-fascist activists have been surveilled, intimidated, harassed, detained while naked at home and arrested by local and Federal Law Enforcement, including the FBI, apparently on behalf of the local white supremacists. The agent having made such disclosures is named FBI Special Agent Tanya Evanina. You can learn more, keep up on the situation and donate to their legal support at norepressionsc.home.blog. A longer version of this chat will appear in the podcast edition, alongside Sean’s segment for this week, cut due to time concerns from the broadcast, alongside a couple of announcements.

Resources pointed to by the guests include BARC and the EFF.

Just a heads up that when the activist from STARC references A12, it’s short hand for the fight against white supremacists in the streets of Charlottesville, VA, on August 12th, 2017.

Trans Resiliency and Mental Healthcare access in Appalachia

For the second segment, I (William) had the chance to talk with Basil Soper, who is a writer, filmmaker, and a man of trans experience from the Appalachian region. He is the founder of the education and advocacy group Transilient (@wearetransilient on Instagram), which seeks to uplift trans voices and trans experiences, and to also connect folks with resources from a place of relative safety and understanding. This group is seeking to undertake a documentary series focusing on mental health resource access for trans people in Appalachia. They are in their very last push of fundraising currently, and if you would like to see more about this project and get in touch with them, you can go to wearetransilient.com , and you can also email them at wearetransilient@gmail.com. You can also go right to their Kickstarter for the best way to donate! The deadline is June 23rd, so smoke em if you got em. Also stay tuned for less money oriented ways to support this project!

In this interview, we got to talk about many different things, about the social construct of Appalachia and where that might have originated, the people who actually live here, mental health concerns that trans people can face, plus many other topics. This interview was a really nice experience for me because I got to talk with another trans person from a working class, rural background about things we both personally understand.

So I had some technical difficulties which I was unaware of in the moment, the result of which some of my audio sounds a bit static-y. This is something I’m working on correcting for future episodes, thanks for your patience!

Announcements

ICE Activity in WNC

If you’re in the Asheville area, be aware that Immigration officers were responsible for kidnapping four individuals in Henderson County to our south last week. They are changing their tactics to blend in better, sometimes using vehicles that look like work trucks with ladders on top or mimicking the appearance of anti-ice activists at times. If you’d like to get involved and join community resistance to ICE tearing apart our families and communities, consider checking our show notes for a link to get involved or reach out to CIMA via their website and click the “get involved” tab.

Donations

If you care to kick some dollars to our podcast, check out our donate/merch page which also features t-shirts and other items up for sale to support the show.

 

 

Autonomy Meaning More Than Just Guns

Community Self Defense Post-Charlottesville-2017

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This week we share an interview I conducted a few months back with two folks, Inman and Bleep, about community armed self defense. They talk about their experiences of handling firearms, lessons learned from their visibly armed presence at the Charlottesville Unite The Right protest in 2017, wider ideas of community self-defense beyond open carrying firearms (like engaging in like unarmed self-defense, infrastructure for food and health autonomy). The guests also talk about skills expanded and muscles flexed in Appalachian and southern participation in autonomous disaster relief in the last few years, some resources and ideas to keep in mind or steal if your group is thinking about training in firearms or medic’ing and more.

There’s a lot cut from the radio version, so if you’re listening live, we suggest you check out the online edition up at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org where you can stream any of our shows or subscribe to our podcast.

Announcement

Blue Ridge ABC events upcoming

If you’re in Asheville on Sunday, June 2nd, you can join Blue Ridge ABC for their monthly political prisoner letter writing night from 5-7pm at Firestorm Books. No experience is requred. And on Friday, June 7th from 6:30 to 8:30 instead of Trouble, BRABC will be showing the documentary “The Bail Trap” and having a discussion about it afterwards.

. … . ..

Playlist

Out-Organizing Racists: ROAR Conference 2019 + Spencer Sunshine on Fascism

ROAR Conference 2019 + Spencer Sunshine on Fascism

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[Sean Swain at 2m40s]

This week on the show, we feature two segments.

First up, an organizer with the Revolutionary Organizing Against Racism, or ROAR Conference shares perspectives on the upcoming conference, May 18 & 19, 2019 on stolen Ohlone land in the so-called Bay Area. More info on ROAR Conference at roar-conference.com

[ROAR starts at 9m32s]

Then I spoke with journalist and anti-racist activist Spencer Sunshine about various far right and racist tendencies such as traditionalism and third-positionism, in relation to the current landscape of anti-fascist struggle in Turtle Island and in particular tendencies suspected in relation to the demolition of a building at the Highlander Education and Research Center in New Market, TN at the end of March, 2019. More writings by Spencer can be found at spencersunshine.com, at his fedbook author page or on twitter by searching the username @transform6789.

[Spencer Sunshine starts at 30m47s]

Announcements

Atlanta Solidarity

On Friday, April 12th at 8pm there was a ruckus noise demo outside the Dekalb County Jail where prisoners had been able to get out word of physical violence out of camera-view by guards, black mold conditions and more against the mostly indigent, mostly POC prisoner population in this Atlanta Jail. You can hear an interview with the mother of two prisoners mistreated in that jail who got the word out about conditions on IGD’s This Is America #68 from April 12, 2019. At the noise demo, at least two people were arrested and there’s a fundraiser up to help cover legal costs. You can find that fundraiser and kick in by visiting atlsolidarity.org

Immigrant Solidarity Rally, Asheville

Listeners in the Asheville area, on Monday April 15th there’ll be a demonstration in front of the Federal Building at 115 Patton Ave in downtown to mark the year anniversary of the 2018 ICE raids against our communities. The demo will be organized by CIMA, or Companeros Inmigrantes de las Montanas en Accion, and will focus on the continued danger faced by our undocumented loved ones, friends and families. This is also in opposition to HB370 currently in process at the state level that would force collaboration between sheriff departments and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. CIMA urges people to show up in force.

Asheville Black Mama Bail Out Benefit

Also, on Saturday, April 27th at show o’clock at The Bottle Shop next to Firestorm Books, Blue Ridge ABC will be hosting a benefit for Black Mama Bail Out efforts organized by Southerners On New Ground. The show will feature performances by XOR, Kangarot, Nomadic War Machine and more. Check out the flyer and more up at brabc.blackblogs.org
. … . ..

Indigenous Space and Decolonizing Prison Abolition

Indigenous Space and Decolonizing Prison Abolition

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(Sean Swain starts [00:05:12])

This week, we feature two conversations that from two different settler-colonial states on Turtle Island. First up, organizers in so-called Quebec called Ni Frontiers Ni Prison talk about resisting Laval prison and the border regime of the Canadian state. Then, Robert Free, a long-term Tewa resident of Seattle, WA, talks about the struggle to wrest territory from the hands of the US military and found the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center.

Ni Frontiers Ni Prison

[00:12:08]

Today we have a two part show! In the first part we are presenting a conversation with someone from Ni Frontiers Ni Prison, which is a group in so called Canada that is resisting the proposed construction of a new migrant prison in Laval, a town just outside of Montreal. This is a transcript of the original audio, read for the show by Grier, shout out to him! In this interview we talk about the prison and what it would mean for people who’d be most affected by it, the general rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many more topics.

The interviewee names the place they are based as occupied Tio’tia:ke (jo-jahg’-eh), which is the original indigenous name for so called Montreal, the colonizer name. The naming of indigenous land will continue throughout the interview with various locations in the name of decolonization, though Tio’tia:ke is the one which will be the most prominent.

As an audio note to all those paying attention, a fridge turns on midway through the interview then turns back off nearing the end, we’ve tried to minimize the background noise but it’s still somewhat noticeable.

Music for the intro and outro by A Tribe Called Red with Stadium Pow Wow.

Contact

To get in touch with this group you can email them at nifrontieresniprisons@riseup.net and for updates and further ways to get involved you can find them at facebook.com/nifrontiersniprison, or follow the link to visit the clearing house of information and pieces about this resistance. If you would like a zine copy of the transcript to this show, you can email us at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net or thefinalstrawradio@protonmail.com.

Some links to historical events mentioned by our guest relating to Canada’s’ treatment of immigrants and refugees:

Chinese Head Tax“, a policy which “meant to discourage Chinese people from entering Canada after the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway”, a government project which I conjecture used a bunch of precarious and immigrant labor in order to complete.

Komagata Maru Incident, the historic entry denial of a group of Indian refugees seeking entry into Canada on the Japanese steamship Komagata Maru in 1914, resulting in the death of 20 Sikh people at the hands of the then occupying British government.

None Is Too Many” policy for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, an anti Semitic stance that put people who were fleeing Nazi terror in further danger and possible death.

Robert Free on the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center

(starts at 38min, 04sec)

Next we’ll hear an interview with Robert Free, a long-term Seattle, WA resident and Tewa (pronounced tay-oh-wa) Native American. We discuss the history of the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center, a cultural and resource center for urban Native Americans in Seattle and the surrounding communities. The Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center was established after a series of protests and occupations in 1970 of Fort Lawton, an army base that had previously occupied the park. Robert Free discusses the influencing factors of that time, some of the finer points of the occupations, as well as the implications of protesting and occupation on stolen native land.

More info on the Daybreak center can be found at https://unitedindians.org/daybreak-star-center/

Some of the names and events mentioned in this chat you may recognize from our February 17th, 2019, episode of The Final Straw when we had the pleasure to speak with Paulette D’auteuil, about the case of long-term American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier. More info on Peltier’s case can be found at whoisleonardpeltier.info

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Next week we hope to bring you a conversation with support crew for incarcerated former military whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who is now imprisoned for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. More on her case can be found at https://xychelsea.is including links for donating towards her fundraising goal for legal costs aiming at 150 thousand smackeroos.

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Free Masonique Saunders!

From her support website:

On December 7, 2018, Columbus police murdered 16 year old Julius Ervin Tate Jr.. On December 13, they arrested his 16 year old girlfriend, Masonique Saunders, charging her with the murder they committed.

Masonique is being charged with aggravated robbery and felony murder, and is currently being held in juvenile detention. The police have alleged that Julius attempted to rob, and pulled a gun on a police officer, and that Masonique was involved in said robbery. Felony murder means that if you commit a felony and someone dies as a result of that crime you can be charged with their murder.

We believe that these charges are unjust, and demand the freedom of this 16 year old Black girl and justice for the family of Julius Tate!

To help Masonique and her family, donate to her GoFundMe.

Donate to the Tate family here.

BRABC events

A quick reminder, if you’re in the Asheville area this coming week, Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross is hosting two events. On Friday, April 4th from 6:30 to 8pm at Firestorm, (as we do every first Friday of the month) BRABC will show the latest episode of Trouble, by sub.Media. Episode 19 focuses on Technology and Social Control. After the ½ hour video we’ll turn chairs around and have a discussion of the film for those who’d like. Then, on Sunday, April 6th from 5-7pm as BRABC does every first Sunday of the month, we’ll be hosting a monthly letter writing event. We’ll provide names, addresses, backstories, postage and stationary.

Prisoners we’ll focus on are longterm political prisoners from Black liberation, to Earth and Animal Liberation, to anti-police violence activists caught up in prison whose birthdays are coming up or who are facing severe repression. Or, just come and write a letter you’ve been meaning to write to someone else. It’s a nice environ for that sort of thing.

Extinction Rebellion week of action

The movement to halt and roll back human driven climate change called Extinction Rebellion is planning some upcoming events in the so-called U.S. in line with a worldwide call for action over the week of April 15-22nd. Check out https://extinctionrebellion.us/rebellion-week for info and ways to plug in. If you’re in the L.A. area, see our shownotes for a fedbook link to some of their upcoming events. And remember, practice good security culture by not giving up as little info as possible. Keeping your info more secure today ensures your ability to fight with less hindrance tomorrow!

Marius Mason moved

Anarchist political prisoner Marius Mason has been moved to a prison in Connecticut, a change viewed as a success by his supporters as he’s closer to family by hundreds of miles. If you’d like to write him a letter to welcome him to his new place, consider writing him at the following site, but make sure to address it as follows:

Marie (Marius) Mason 04672-061
FCI DANBURY
Route 37
Danbury, CT 06811

Fire at the Highlander

Now, here’s a statement by the Highlander Research and Education Center outside of New Market, TN, about the fire early on March 29, 2019:

“Early this morning, officials responded to a serious fire on the grounds of the Highlander Research and Education Center, one of the nation’s oldest social justice institutions that provides training and education for emerging and existing movements throughout the South, Appalachia, and the world.

As of 6am, the main office building was completely engulfed and destroyed. One of ten structures on approximately 200 acres, the building housed the offices of the organization’s leadership and staff. Highlander’s staff released the following statement:

“Highlander has been a movement home for nearly 87 years and has weathered many storms. This is no different. Several people were on the grounds at the time of the fire, but thankfully no one was inside the structure and no one was injured.

“While we are physically unhurt, we are saddened about the loss of our main office. The fire destroyed decades of historic documents, speeches, artifacts and memorabilia from movements of all kinds, including the Civil Rights Movement. A fuller assessment of the damage will be forthcoming once we are cleared to enter the remains of the building.

“We are grateful for the support of the many movements who are now showing up for us in this critical time. This has been a space for training, strategy and respite for decades and it will continue to be for decades to come.

Fire officials are working to determine the cause as quickly as possible and we are monitoring the investigation closely.” –Ash-Lee Woodward Henderson and Rev. Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Co-Executive Directors, Highlander Research and Education Center.

Highlander has played a critical role in the Civil Rights Movement, training and supporting the work of a number of movement activists: Rosa Parks prior to her historic role in the Montgomery Bus Boycot, members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Septima Clark, Anne Braden, Martin Luther King Jr., James Bevel, Hollis Watkins, Bernard Lafayette, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis.”

Highlander will provide ongoing updates via their fedbook page and questions can be directed to Chelsea Fuller, chelsea@teamblackbird.org.

Police Killing of Danquirs Franklin

On March 25, 2019, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer Wende Kerl shot and killed Danquirs Franklin in the parking lot of the Burger King on Beatties Ford Rd in Charlotte. Police narratives posit that Mr Franklin was armed and posing a threat, while eye witnesses say that Danquirs Franklin interceded against an armed man bothering an employee and that the armed man ran away before the police arrived, who then shot the first black man they encountered. Friends at Charlotte Uprising have been holding vigil and fundraising for Danquirs Franklin’s family as the police’s actions leave his child fatherless. More can be found at the Charlotte Uprising twitter and fedbook pages. Rise In Power, Danquirs.

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Show playlist.

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Transcription

William Goodenuff: First of all, thank you so much for your time in coming onto this radio show! Could you first talk about what is attempting to be planned on the part of the Canadian state in terms of this migrant prison in Laval?

Ni Frontieres Ni Prisons: Yeah! So the proposed new migrant prison is actually one part of a plan that the Canadian government announced just over two years ago now. It’s called the National Immigration Detention Framework. And the plan came in response to a period of sustained resistance against the government’s practice of incarcerating migrants, many in provincial jails. Um, and for years, going back to 2011, migrants held by the CBSA (which is the Canada Border Services Agency), had been going on periodic hunger strikes in facilities across Ontario. And in the months before the governments announcement of this plan a new hunger strike was initiated, and there were mobilizations across the country in solidarity. There was a lot of pressure on the government to do something, especially because several migrants had died in CBSA custody over that same period.

And so the government responds to all this by announcing a new $138 million plan, but instead of ceding to the demands of the hunger strikers, most of the money ends up being dedicated to building two new migrant prisons, one in [Sur ABC] replacing the CBSA’s Vancouver Airport Facility, and one in Laval replacing the current one just across the street. So strengthening the detention system that the hunger strikers were fighting against. Many detained migrants in Ontario actually went back on hunger strike following the announcement but the government just ignored them.

W: Is there anything more to say about the sustained period of resistance on the part of people who were in custody and people who weren’t in custody?

NFNP: Because it’s been so long now I feel like I hesitate to talk more in depth about it because I’m worried I’ll get something wrong.

W: That’s totally fine. So you talked a little bit about how it got started, in what ways have people already been resisting the prison?

NFNP: Right, so in 2017 the government hired two architecture firms, one called Lamais one called Group A, to design the new prison. And Solidarity Across Borders, which is a migrant justice network that’s been based here in occupied Tio’tia:ke for over 15 years now, was one of the first groups to talk publicly about this, which brought the project to a lot of people’s attention including myself. And the resistance since then has been focused on the companies working on the project. Last year, an anonymous group released crickets into Lamais’ headquarters, that was great! A nice biblical flourish!

And last month the group I’m a part of, Ni frontiers ni prisons, organized a demonstration against Lamais that ended at their headquarters. Since then, a company that remediated the soil at the proposed construction site had their offices spray painted, and just a few weeks ago a group of about 30 people barricaded the road leading to what was called the “site visit” for companies who want to bid on the contract to build the prison. So that’s a bit of an overview of what’s been happening. Ni Frontiers Ni Prison which I’m a part of is focused more on organizing public actions and events which are just one part of the struggle against the construction of the prison which includes a diversity of tactics in multiple groups.

W: Does the group work in coalition with other groups that are fighting the prison or people that are detained in the prison?

NFNP: So there’s no formal coalition but there is dialogue and discussion between other groups who are also doing work against this specific prison but also against migrant detention more generally, working for status for all against the border. And so Solidarity Across Borders is a group that includes many people without status, many people who have been through the current migrant detention center and have been doing that work for a very long time.

W: So, I would really love to get a sense, and maybe listeners already know these things based on their own experiences, but what would this prison mean for those people who would be most directly affected by it?

NFNP: Right, so the first thing I should say is that migrant detention is central to Canada’s ability to deport people. And the CBSA has made a commitment recently to start increasing deportations by about 30%. So this prison represents an investment in both the continued violence of deportation as well as detention. But in practical terms, strengthening that threat of violence means that it’ll continue to be almost impossible to seek services here, or to resist exploitation. It maintains them as a source of precarious and exploitable labor.

But I mean, the violence of the migrant prison itself can’t be understated, people are often imprisoned in these facilities for years without charge. People die in these facilities, and I believe very strongly that prisons aren’t the answer to the challenges we face in our communities; locking people up, limiting people’s movement, deporting people to dangerous situations, or possible death, all of these things only cause more violence and harm.

Speaking for myself, I want to live in a world without prisons and without borders where people actually have the things they need to live their lives with dignity and respect.

W: Definitely, and it’s been my understanding too. In the US as well prisons are a huge source of capitaistic gain and a source of precarious and exploitable labor like you mentioned so that makes a lot of sense just for me coming from a US context.

So at the radio show we’ve been hearing about this prison couched in terms of humanity, like it would be a so called “more humane detention center”. And you mentioned that it was being built like right across the street or right next to a detention center that already exists. Would you talk about why the Canadian state is attempting this branding right now?

NFNP: Yeah, so the government has been marketing this entire project as creating a more humane approach to incarcerating migrants, but it’s just an attempt to change the subject from the question of why the government is putting migrants in prison to begin with, something a lot of people started asking following the hunger strikes. And if you look at the designs that the architects put together it makes it really clear whats actually going on, like the plans talk about how all the fencing around the prison needs to be covered by foliage to limit what it calls “the harshness of the look”, or that the iron bars over the windows have to be as inconspicuous as possible to the outside public, and that the children’s area needs to be bordered by what they call a 6 foot high visual barrier to make sure that no one outside can see the imprisoned children.

So essentially it’s just a new prison with a nicer looking face. And if you’re being separated from your family , your community, awaiting deportation to possible torture or death, I highly doubt you’re gonna be too concerned with how sustainable the concrete is or what color the ceilings are in the prison you’re being held in. But another element of this plan is something that the government is marketing as “alternatives to detention”. I mean, these programs only make up something like 3% of the total budget of the plan, but it’s been a central part of its marketing as a more humane approach than the previous government. These alternatives, they include forcing migrants to wear electronic ankle bracelets so their movements can be tracked. There’s this collaboration with the John Howard Society to force migrants into their halfway houses, they’ve also created this gps phone reporting system that forces migrants to make regular check in calls that test their voice prints. And so these are all ways that the government is actually expanding its capacity for surveillance and control of migrants outside of its prisons. Ya know, before the only option was detaining or releasing people but now they’re expanding their reach. And there was actually a renewed hunger strike by incarcerated migrants when these alternatives were launched last year, but again the government just ignored them.

W: And I’m assuming that the halfway house that you mentioned as well as the ankle bracelets, are those a for profit endeavor?

NFNP: So yeah, the halfway houses, the John Howard Society, got a multi million dollar contract to oversee that project. I’m not sure offhand what the company is that’s overseeing the ankle bracelets, but the technology was actually engineered as part of the post 9/11 national security certificate program here, which involved imprisoning non-citizens indefinitely without charge on secret evidence, mostly it was Arab and Muslim men. And some of those men who were caught up in the system in the early 2000’s, they actually requested to be transferred back to prison rather than continuing to live with those ankle monitors, because of how intense and repressive that system really was. But it’s really clear with these alternatives that all these carceral technologies that have been used in these post 9/11 sort of state of exception moments, but also through the federal prison system are leaking in and bleeding in to the system of how Canada relates to migrant populations.

W: It’s like bringing the prison into the home is kinda my experience of how ankle monitors generally work.

And I’m really bothered by this entire situation, but also this sort of softer, gentler prison where you can’t really see the kids and the harshness of the prison is dulled by some kind of fake foliage. The quality of the Canadian state is something that as a US resident I’m not really all that informed about but what I have been informed of, it’s just like extraordinarily toxic neoliberal cooptation of like “diversity” and “understanding” when it in fact is a genocidal machine.

NFNP: Yeah I think that was very well put!

W: I’ve been listening to a lot of From Embers (anarchist radio show at http://fromembers.libsyn.com/) so I’ve been like “this fucking Canadian state is a fucking hellscape!”

But yeah thank you for going into that, the ankle bracelets and the for profit nature of the John Howard Society.

So, speaking of the state, I think that people all over the world have been noting the increasingly frenetic attention that governments are paying to borders, with similarly increasingly racist rhetoric applied to many people seeking safety in places like so called Canada, so called US, and UK. Are there things to keep in mind about this proposed detention center in this current polarizing climate?

NFNP: Right. So over the past few years in Quebec we’ve seen the rise of far right anti-immigrant groups that have actually achieved a level of mass support here that I think is unique compared to the rest of the country. And this is for a lot of reasons, an important one is the turn of Quebec nationalism toward a very xenophobic form of state secularism. And that’s resulted in a huge increase of attacks on Muslim people, a formal ban on anyone wearing non Christian religious symbols from either working or receiving services from the Quebec government–

W: Wait, really??

NFNP: Yeah… And also of course there’s the mass murder at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City. But it’s also resulted in a new far right government that ran on substantially reducing immigration to Quebec and also introducing values and language tests for new migrants, which they’ve begun to put in place. And so, this more I guess local far right upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment is increasingly bolstering support here for the federal government’s deportation regime.

And I think this makes it an important moment to intervene, to help disrupt that. Because I think that fighting back against the rise of the sentiment needs to be more than a one pronged fight against the far right groups on the ground. I really think that the struggle also needs to be connected to sustained resistance toward the racist structures that pre-date these groups. These structures often share a vision with these newer far right groups, but I think there may be more fundamental parts of our colonial context here.

W: Yeah, definitely! I’m wondering if you would say more about fighting against the structures that pre-date the current governmental climate, or political climate that’s happening right now? What would you think would be involved in that?

NFNP: Oh! Well I think that migration policy is a great example of this, where so much of the focus of that conversation around the country and in Quebec right now is so focused around people crossing the border from the United States on foot into Canada. And talking about the influx of refugees who are crossing into Canada or applying for refugee status here, many of which are being denied.

But the entire apparatus of detention and deportation completely pre-dates this.

It’s in fact not linked to this upsurge in migration, it’s linked to the temporization of status for people here, which has been going back for decades. And if we’re only looking at what’s directly in front of us, we’re not gonna understand or be able to effectively confront these structures that are MUCH more deeply rooted in the fabric of the Canadian state and in Canadian history.

W: Thank you very much for bringing up that point! And I think that goes really well into the next questions which is, would you talk about how the concept of citizenship is being weaponized by the state in this case but also has always been weaponized by the state?

NFNP: Yeah, I mean the concept of citizenship has always been based on exclusion, and the Canadian context is no different! Things like the Chinese Head Tax, the Komagata Maru incident, the None is Too Many Policy toward Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, the Canadian state’s approach to immigration has always been shaped by its white supremacist foundations. And actually with the exception of the British Commonwealth countries, Canada had an official ‘whites only’ immigration policy until the ’60s. But since the 1960’s the government, like I was saying, it’s been increasingly temporizing the status of people coming here. It’s gotten to the point where now over 2/3rds of people who are granted status to live and work here each year are getting some form of temporary status.

And so the CBSA’s migrant detention and deportation apparatus was built to enforce this, it was a necessary by-product of these changes. And that system is part of maintaining the flow of wealth from the global South to the global North. Workers from the global South come here, have their labor exploited at extreme levels, put huge sums of money into the Canadian economy, and then they’re kicked out. And Canada doesn’t just benefit from this but it actively participates in impoverishing and displacing people in the global South who then end up their doorstep.

W: Definitely, I think there’s a lot to talk about there but I think you gave a really good summary. And I think that I would love to move on to some other questions which have to do with the more positive aspects of the resistance to this thing. So, we in the states are familiar with the concept of a sanctuary city, which indicates that a place limits their cooperation with the national government to follow through on deportations in many ways. But I came across the term “solidarity city” in articles on your website, would you talk about the distinction between the two, and what is meant by “solidarity city”?

NFNP: Oh sure! So this is actually a framing that comes out of the work of Solidarity Across Borders. Sanctuary city campaigns, they tend to be focused on asking the municipal government to protect people without status. But for years now, Solidarity Across Borders has put forward the analysis that we should be creating our own networks of mutual aid and solidarity. And a good example for this is the police, y’know at least here the police are one of the biggest problems that undocumented migrants face. And that problem doesn’t go away with city officials signing a sanctuary city declaration. The last mayor here actually announced that Montreal was a sanctuary city, but nothing changed. The police continued to collaborate with the CBSA to detain and deport people.

But a solidarity city is different because it’s something that’s built from the ground up, through building networks of resistance and non-cooperation with those agencies that enforce deportations and detentions, not by appealing to power.

W: Yeah, I think that building from the ground up while at the same time refusing cooperation is sparking something in my head. Thanks for talking about that!

NFNP: Yeah no problem! You can check out more at Solidarity Across Border’s website which is http://www.solidarityacrossborders.org/en/ for English.

W: So would you speak about this struggle in terms of decolonization? What are some parallels that you can locate between decolonization and a project that has a more anti-border ethic?

NFNP: Right! So the most influential border around us here in occupied Tio’tia:ke is the American border, which is very close by. And about two hours east of us here is Akwesasne (a-kwa-sas’-nay), which is Kanienkiahaka (kan-eh-ga-hag’-ay) territory, this territory additionally is recognized as a federal reserve. Tio’tia:ke is also Kanienkiahaka territory but isn’t federally recognized as such. Akwasasne itself is actually cut in two by that border, and there’s been conflict for decades there between the CBSA who attempt to enforce that border and indigenous people who refuse to acknowledge their authority on their territory.

So anyway, all this is to say that it’s very clear here the ways that the borders around us are fairly recent colonial constructions. But since we’re talking about prisons, in Canada incarceration as a practice was largely spread as part of the ongoing genocide against indigenous peoples, as a tool of assimilation. And today when you look at who’s inside Canadian prisons, indigenous people are dis-proportionally represented.

And so, the same colonial and capitalist forces that are creating war, poverty, destruction, throughout the global South are continuing to oversee the genocide and dispossession of Indigenous peoples here in the global North. Many people being displaced and arriving to this territory are indigenous to different areas on this continent and many of them are ending up in these migrant prisons.

But over the last decade or so here, different migrant justice formations have gone through processes of dialogue and discussion with indigenous groups. Which has led to some changes in messaging and outlook over time and I mean, we’ve been influenced by this too, but as settlers we have a lot more work to do on this front I think.

W: Definitely, did I understand you correctly that indigenous folks are being incarcerated in these migrant jails?

NFNP: Well, not people who are indigenous to the territories governed by the Canadian state, but people who are indigenous to like other areas on the continent who are then displaced and would not be understood or classified by the Canadian state as their indigenous identity based on the country of origin.

W: Yeah for sure! The border is a colonial construct, and the indigenous territories obviously vastly predate that colonial construct.

So, how can people support the group that you are speaking from, Ni Frontiers Ni Prison, and could you also brainstorm modes of support that folks can enact who, for whatever reason, are not in a position to do confrontational or legally risky direct action?

NFNP: Oh yeah for sure! So this month we actually have a call in campaign, where we’re encouraging folks to either call, email, or fax the companies who are currently bidding for the contract to build this new prison. So we highly encourage anyone who would like to to do this, you can go on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nifrontieresniprisons/, and you’ll see the information about the call in campaign there.

But in terms of non risky ways to participate in struggle like this, the group I’m a part of we do public actions, and the demonstrations we’ve organized so far have been very low risk, very family friendly to quote maybe an outdated activist parlance. We have been helping organize

information sessions in neighborhoods across the city in partnership with different groups, artists have contributed a series of posters which people have been helping put up across the city, people have made videos about the struggle against the prison, or written articles, there’s a lot of ways that people have contributed and continue to and to participate in this that isn’t particularly high risk. Particularly right now we could actually use some help spreading word about the struggle and why we’re in opposition to the prison.

W: I wonder if you have any words about the importance of the call in campaign, cause I think that many anarchists, at least many anarchists that I know are a little bit hesitant to do call in campaigns, would you talk about the importance of that tactic?

NFNP: Oh sure! I mean, I can talk about it in context to our strategy here, we decided to focus on the call in campaign after an action that happened disrupting a site visit that the CBSA organized to talk with the people interested in bidding on the contract to build the prison. And so people went there and disrupted it, and there were a lot of conversations with workers from the companies who had been sent there to talk with the CBSA about the contract. And some of those conversations went really well! What we’re trying to do in this phase before the general contractor is chosen to build the prison, is to let all the companies know who are considering doing this work that there will be resistance if they decide to take that contract. To let them know that it may be in their financial best interest to walk away from this project. And that strategy will continue depending on what company is chosen, but obviously the tactics will shift.

W: I’m also really interested in hearing any words that you have about like the nature of the tactic of a call in campaign. Maybe this is a bit of a circular or esoteric question but I’m wanting to like provide people with some sort of way to mentally grasp on to what is being achieved here and what is being proposed, and what the goals are generally of something like that?

Is it just annoyance or–

NFNP: Well there are multiple reasons for it, like on one side of it there is the effect of heightening the contradictions that actually already exist within some of these companies in relationship to projects like this. Of creating a sense of wariness on the part of these companies about embarking, but it also gives a way for organizations and for individuals to engage with the struggle at the faze that it’s at right now. So you don’t have to go if you can’t go to a public demonstration.

W: It makes sense cause it is a “safer” way to participate in showing dissent.

NFNP: Yeah! And also we can’t rely on mainstream corporate media to relay a message to these companies that there is widespread opposition to the practice of incarcerating migrants, like we need to do that ourselves! And what that looks like is actually going and disrupting their events and their meetings, and showing up at their workplaces. But it also means calling them incessantly and sending them endless faxes with lots of black ink. To let them know that this is the wrong move for them, and if they make it things like this will probably increase, and that’s generally the thinking behind it.

W: Excellent, thank you so much! So those are all the questions that I had! Is there anything you’d like to add or words you’d leave listeners with?

NFNP: The only thing I haven’t mentioned is that at the end of this month, the government is scheduled to make a decision about which company they’re gonna give the contract to to build the new prison. And depending on who that is I’m sure there will be actions coming up! So if you wanna keep up on what’s happening with the struggle you can go to stopponslaprison.info, it’s a clearing house for information about the construction of the prison as well as resistance against it. Or you can follow us on Facebook and you can send us an email at nifrontiersniprison@riseup.net if you wanna get involved.

W: Is there anything that we missed that you wanted to give more voice to or present here?

NFNP: No I think we covered it! Thanks so much for the time and for taking an interest in this struggle!

W: Yeah! I think that the world has always been moving toward something like this and shit like this has happened before, and thank you for the work that you do and your time in coming onto the radio.

Surviving and Re-thinking Our World Without the Government; Comunidad Colectiva on ICE in NC

Download Episode Here

This week we had the chance to interview Lelia, who is a community activist and a part of the group Comunidad Colectiva, an immigrant rights group based in Charlotte NC. We got to talk about a lot of things in this interview, the work that they and other groups do with immigrant and undocumented communities, about the February ICE raids that got national attention, what effective rapid response can look like, and the challenging tension associated with both being anti state and being in the position of having to negotiate with police and sheriffs for safety reasons, plus many more topics.

We wanted to mention something called 287(g) and give a bit of information for listeners who may not have heard of this before. 287(g) was a contract between local officials and ICE which essentially made police forces extensions of ICE, and also instituted deportation proceedings as part of run of the mill arrests. More is explained about this contract later on in the interview, but it gets mentioned fairly heavily before that time.

You can keep updated on this group’s work by hitting them up on Facebook and if you have a few dollars you’d like to throw them to recoup the costs associated with their rapid response network, their Venmo is @comunidad-colectiva.

Next week on The Final Straw, stay tuned for an interview with a member of the Montreal based group Ni Frontiers Ni Prison (which is No Borders, No Prison) about fighting a proposed new migrant prison, decolonization, the rise of far right sentiment in so called Canada, and many associated topics, plus a possible other interview.

Update on Kinetic Justice

In a brief update to last week’s interview on the hunger strike by Kinetic Justice of the Free Alabama Movement, we’d like to share the following news. On March 20th, Kinetic Justice Amun (aka Robert Earl Council) resumed his hunger strike as he was transferred briefly to segregation housing at Limestone prison, but ended his hunger strike within a few days and was transferred to general population at that prison. He can be written at the following address:

Robert Earl Council #181418

28779 Nick Davis Rd
Harvest, AL 35749

Consequently, 8 of the prisoners transferred with Kinetic in the middle of the night, began engaging in a hunger strike in response to their own incarceration in solitary. In response to the hunger strike, administration cut off water to the cells they were held in, giving them bottled water.

The 8 prisoners ended their hunger strike on March 22nd, and administration claims they’ll be transferred to general population in the Alabama prison system as they’re not under investigation currently.

Their names are as follows:

Kotoni Tellis (#223155)

Marcus Lee (#175056)

Mario Avila (#259514)

Corey Burroughs (#207639)

Earl Taylor 3rd (#168616)

Tyree Cochroan (#172306)

Earl Manassa (#175099)

Antonio Jackson (#246560)

and they can be written at:

Holman “Correctional” Facitily

1240 Ross Rd.
Atmore, AL 36502

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Playlist here.

Rural Organizing In Appalachia

Rural Organizing And Resilience (ROAR)

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This week on The Final Straw Radio, we’re sharing an interview with two members of Rural Organizing And Resilience, or ROAR, an anti-racist and mutual aid organization that’s based in Madison County, North Carolina. Madison County is just north of Asheville and VERY Appalachian, with a small population that’s sparsely populated in remote hollers and small towns. For the hour, Matt & Janet talk about anti-racist organizing, community efforts, misconceptions about rural people and Appalachians in particular, radical history, harm reduction and material outreach efforts ongoing in Western North Carolina. You can find out more about their project and contact them via their website, https://ruralorganizing.wordpress.com

Announcements

Blue Ridge ABC

BRABC will have it’s monthly prisoner letter writing tonight, Sunday 12/2, at 5pm after the show. Come down to Firestorm to join in, materials and addresses provided.

Also, BRABC’s monthly showing of the Trouble mini-doc continues this Friday 12/7 with an episode on radical approaches to mental wellness. This’ll also happen at Firestorm books and Coffee, 610 Haywood Rd. You can check out all of the Troubles up at https://sub.media. This is the last episode of the season and they put out a special request for support, so check out the other stuff on their site while you’re there.

Asheville Service Workers Assembly Night Out

9pm, Monday, December 17 at the Crow and Quill bar, the Asheville Service Workers Assembly will host a Service Worker’s Night w/ The Carolina Catskins!
Come on out and meet your fellow service workers!

They’re hoping to create a space where folks can hangout and discuss shared struggle in a service work dependent economy, in a town that exploits us.

Charlottesville, VA: The Trial of James Alex Fields

James Alex Fields, the neo-nazi who drove into a crowd, injuring many and killing Heather Heyer on August 12th, 2017 in Charlottesville, VA, is currently facing trial.  If you’re in the area, show up and offer support to the survivors of his attack. Also, you can keep up on the trial by following @socialistdogmom on twitter or listen to their very compact podcast on the subject.

Jeremy Hammond Needs Support

Jeremy Hammond, anarchist hacker behind bars for the Stratfor Hack has been placed in solitary confinement and is facing transfer for a supposed altercation with a guard.  Now he’s missing his college classes inside, classes that would allow him to be housed at a lower security level, and is facing a possible punitive transfer which would further disconnect him from that college degree he’s working towards. His supporters are asking folks to write him letters and cards to check in with him, not to send in magazines or books and not to write to the Warden.

You can write Jeremy at

Jeremy Hammond, #18729-424
FCI Milan
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160

Jason Renard Walker Beaten For His Writing

Jason Renard Walker, has continued to face harassment by prison guards at the Ellis Unit in response to an article he penned about harassment he was facing from guards at the Ellis Unit for the November issue of the SF Bay View Newspaper.  He was beaten by one guard as others stood by and watched. He’s been facing repression since at least 2016 when he voiced support for the Nationwide Prison Strike and has vocally resisted repressive measures by his captors in Texas. He’s seeking attention and legal support from the outside.  We’re linking to his writeup of his experience published on the SF Bay View website.

Direct attention to authorities at Ellis Unit:

Ellis Unit warden Kelly Strong:
936-295-5756 (**010) or kelly.strong@tdcj.texas.gov
Regional Director Wayne Brewer:
Ombudsman:

ombudsman@tdcj.texas.gov and 936-437-4927

A suggested script is posted in our notes:

“Hello,
I am contacting you as I have seen reports that inmate Jason Renard Walker, #1532092, has been attacked by staff at the Ellis Unit, and that he is now being threatened with a false disciplinary charge to try and distort the facts of the issue. I demand that there is a full independent review of all relevant surveillance footage, including any CCTV recordings from the cafeteria on the morning of November 23rd 2018 and the portable camera that was used to record Mr. Walker being escorted to his cell following the incident. Mr. Walker and all the members of staff involved, especially officers Pollock and Williford, should be given polygraph tests to determine whose version of events is more truthful, and all relevant witnesses should be interviewed. Mr. Walker reports that an inmate known as Fishtrap, along with another inmate who lives in B4, witnessed the entire scene.
Please be aware that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice may be held legally responsible for any harm that comes to Mr. Walker while he is in TDCJ’s custody.
Yours,”

 

Write to Jason at:

Jason Renard Walker
#1532092
Ellis Unit
1697 FM 980
Huntsville, TX, 77343

TFSR Webstore Open

Finally, we just wanted to mention that The Final Straw has opened a webstore for our merch. So, if you don’t feel like sustaining us on a regular via our patreon but want to grab up some of our stickers, buttons, tshirts and more from us, check out https://thefinalstrawradio.bigcartel.com

We are also in the midst of an effort to pick up more radio stations that’ll air us, slogging through contacts state by state and reaching out to as many community radios as we can to offer our show for free and reach more remote areas with the voices we share on these broadcasts. If you have a suggestion, reach out to us via social media or find our contact at our website. The best method is for community radio stations to hear from a community member that we are wanted on their airwaves, so consider reaching out to your local station and passing on our broadcasting link, with all of the pertinent information for how to get ahold of our weekly, anarchist radio show!

Actually Finally Finally

We’d like to point listeners to an awesome piece of swag.  With all of this craze around a certain NHL mascot and all of the deep critiques swirling upon their meaning and who owns them, some friends have designed a pretty sweet Gritty antifascist shirt.  We usually wouldn’t shill anarcho-consumerism so hard, but it really is the season, no?

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