Category Archives: Gentrification

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.

Eviction Defense, Community Resiliency, and Getting Free: an interview with Durham HEDS-Up!

Eviction Defense, Community Resiliency, and Getting Free

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This week I got the chance to sit down with Olive and Yousef of the Durham NC based eviction defense group HEDS-Up! HEDS-Up! stands for Housing Eviction Defense Solidarity and is a group which formed in Durham North Carolina when COVID was first hitting the area and folks’ housing was becoming more and more unstable.

We get to talk about a lot of topics in this episode, among which are gentrification in Durham, what the NC eviction process might look like, and about the group’s handbook the Eviction Defense Handbook, vol. 1312, as well as their all points call for autonomous, abolitionist jail support, on their website https://cantpaywontpaydurm.org/.

The Eviction Defense Handbook is extensively written and researched, and was put together by HEDS-Up! for educational and empowerment purposes. It covers topics from abolition, to how one might structure an eviction defense team, pertinent information regarding COVID and evictions, how to look up information on a specific property, a step by step of what to expect in eviction court, and many more topics.

You can email HEDS Up! at hedsup@protonmail.com

Announcements

Wabanaki Community Herbal Apothecary Support

The Wabanaki Community Herbal Apothecary in so-called Maine is working to support their tribal communities during these Covid-19 outbreaks. They are asking for herbal medicines and medicine making supplies or monetary donations to support these efforts. The supplies list can be found on their fedbook page, linked in our shownotes, and monetary donations can go to their fiscal sponsor WhyHunger, via https://whyhunger.org/ewrematriation/.
You can contact livmoore16@gmail.com for coordination or more details.

Loren Reed

Loren Reed, a 26 year old Diné (Navajo) man residing in the small town of Page, AZ, is facing ten years for comments left on facebook during the nationwide protests because some dumb ass white with no scruples or sense of humor reported him to the cops. There is a breakdown of the case available at ForgiveEveryone.Com/blog . At the end of that, you can find Loren’s address and tips for writing him, as well as how to put money on his commissary, how to make donations to Tucson Anti-Repression Crew via cashapp ($TusconARC) or paypal (PayPal.Me/prisonersupport), noting “For Loren Reed” in the comments.

Santos Torres

From PhillyAntiRepression on Twitter via the website, PHLAntiCap.Noblogs.Org:

“As of last week, Santos Torres-Olan (#ML7947), a comrade of Dwayne Staats of the #Vaughn17, is on hunger strike at SCI Albion. He’s protesting the physical, psychological, and emotional abuses at Albion — the prison administration uses meals, showers, rec and mail as a form of punishment, retaliation, and psychological torture. His protest is against the prison system as a whole. Santos has also been charged with assaulting a guard, and the courts, public defender and prosecutors are trying to railroad him. He ended up having to go pro se in order to fight his case.

Help out Santos’s struggle against the prison system by calling SCI Albion at (814) 756-5778. Ask to speak to the superintendent and make sure they know people on the outside are paying attention to their torture and abuse of prisoners.

Our incarcerated comrades are struggling against prisons on a whole different level — we MUST support them from the outside when they ask us for help!”

Jay Chase

Jay Chase, the last of the defendants of the 2012 NATO3 conspiracy case, is free! Support his post-release fund to get him on his feet: https://www.gofundme.com/f/jay-chase-of-the-nato3-is-free

Jorge Cornell and Covid-19 at FCI Fort Dix

Since late October, there appears to be a spike of Covid-19 at the Federal BOP’s prison at Fort Dix, jumping from prior reported numbers of 57 infections to at least 127 cases. The BOP is exacerbating the problem by moving all of the folks with infections onto a single floor and the back to their former dormatories, increasing spread. FCI Fort Dix is also denying PPE, medical care and compassionate releases from the prison population.

Jorge Cornell, 44, has two daughters, and recently moved to Fort Dix. Jorge has high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and is obese and borderline diabetic. This, along with a previous heart attack, make him high risk. He is being held on the third floor of Building 58-51.

Jorge is a friend of many in central NC organizing communities. As an outspoken community activist, candidate for city council, and police critic, Jorge was frequently targeted by law enforcement. Despite beating dozens of bogus charges prior to his current incarceration, Jorge is currently being wrongfully held thanks to overly broad RICO laws and targeting by the FBI, leading to a trial and conviction in 2012. He maintains his innocence, but still has 15 years left on his unjust 28 year sentence. You can hear two interviews about the case from 2013 at our website by searching ALKQN.

To press FCI Dix administration to give PPE, free medical care, stop spreading the virus in the prison by shuffling people around and to give compassionate release to people like Jorge with compromised immune systems, you can contact:

  1. FCI Fort Dix, calling 609 723 1100 ext 0 between 8am and 4pm ET, asking to speak with Warden David E Ortiz or request that the operator pass on these concerns. You can email FTD-ExecAssistant@bop.gov and dortiz@bop.gov .
  2. Federal BOP Health Services Division: 202 307 3198, press 4 for “other” and then 6 for “general medical inquiries” and select any of the four available recipients, leaving a voicemail with your demands. Email BOP-IPP@bop.gov or PublicAffairs@bop.gov .
  3. BOP Northeast Regional Office can be called at 215 521 7301 where you can reach Regional Director Nicole C. English or request that the operator pass on your demands. You can email NERO-ExecAssistant@bop.gov and ncenglish@bop.gov .
  4. Senator Cory Booker in Newark (973 639 8700) ,Camden (856 338 8922) and/or DC (202 224 3224) and ask to leave a message. You can submit an email using the form at https://www.booker.senate.gov/contact/write-to-cory

Brian Caswell McCarvill

Regular listener, Jay in Aotearoa brought to our attention this week the passing of anarchist prisoner, Brian Caswell McCarvill in the so-called state of Oregon.

Brian McCarvill was a radical social prisoner who in the early 2000’s was involved in taking the Oregon Department of Corrections to court challenging their censorship and rejection of anarchist publications for prisoners with his cell mate Rob Thaxton. The ODOC was attempting to declare anarchists to be members of a Security Threat Group, sort of like a gang, based on their shared political tendency and use of language and symbols, their stances to protest unfair circumstances. By winning the court case he forced the Oregon prison system to allow anarchist materials into its prisons.

Brian had terrible problems with his health and following his victory in the court case, he was being punished by the authorities for taking a stand. He passed on his 68th birthday, September 27th 2020, causes unknown to us. Rise In Power, Brian!

. … . ..

Public domain music for this show:

90’s BOOMBAP – RAP INSTRUMENTAL / Old SChool 2017 FREE USE

 

 

RVA In The Uprising with L and Buzz

RVA In The Uprising with L and Buzz

Robert E Lee statue graffitti'd in "Marcus David Peters Circle" in Richmond, VA
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image by JosephA

This week, we’re going to hear two specials in two separate episodes, basically exploding radio edition into it’s components.

In this one you’ve clicked on, you’ll hear L, who works with the Richmond Community Bail Fund, and Buzz talk about their experiences in the streets and doing anti-repression work in Richmond, Virginia, throughout the uprising against police killings sparked by the murder of George Floyd in so-called Minneapolis. They also talk about the decades-long struggle to take down public monuments to the Confederacy, including the reclaiming of the former home of the statue of General R.E. Lee, now known as Marcus David Peters Circle. It was named for a black man murdered by the Richmond police in 2018 while having a mental health crisis.

Amazing projects the guests suggest you check out:

If you want to hear the other half of this dis-enjoined pair, you can look for the episode called ‘Omaha in the Uprising with Mel B’, where anarchist journalist Mel B talks about the city, the marches, the killing of James Scurlock on May 30th and the mass arrest of 120 people on July 25th.

Hotel Sanctuary in MPLS

Hotel Sanctuary in MPLS

modified image of the Sheraton hotel that was taken over and used as shelter in Minneapolis
Download Episode Here

This week we got to connect with Rosemary, who is an organizer in Minneapolis, about the liberation of a former Sheraton Hotel in that city and its slow but steady transformation into something that is becoming so much more than a housing cooperative. They speak about how this resocialization came to happen, some of the circumstances involved, about how this is a very deep collaboration between un-housed folks in Minneapolis and people involved in doing care work, the power of George Floyd who was profoundly involved in doing that same kind of care work with un-housed people, and many many more topics. Check out their new website up at SanctuaryHotel.org and their fundraiser at GoFundMe.com/f/SanctuaryHotel

In this episode, you’ll also hear a statement by anarchist prisoners, Comrade Malik and Sean Swain.  We invite you to stay tuned for mid-week as we release a podcast special for the June 11th day of solidarity with Marius Mason and longterm anarchist prisoners. We hope to feature the voice of a longtime supporter of Marius with updates on his case, and that of anarchist prisoner, anon hacker and Federal Grand Jury resistor, Jeremy Hammond. More about June 11th on June11.org.

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Further resources from Rosemary:

Sharing from the Minneapolis Sanctuary Hotel FedBook page, hoping a website and crowdfunding link will be up soon so stay tuned!
Greetings community. We hope this long post finds you as safe and well as is possible during a righteous uprising. We wanted to provide you some updates and opportunities to plug in.
The Minneapolis Sanctuary Hotel is a community-led sanctuary space for over 200 displaced and homeless people who needed safety from the military occupation that occurred following the murder of George Floyd. We center values of autonomy, harm reduction, community care, mutual aid, and abolition.
1. First! This page, started as a space to boost all kinds of different work related to COVID, homelessness, and community care, is transitioning to become the Minneapolis Sanctuary Hotel Facebook page. Look for changing name and photos shortly!
2. We are overwhelmed with support. This is a good problem to have but we’ve had to rapidly scale up our infrastructure to meet the needs. Here are some ways to plug in:
> If you are media with interview or press release requests, please email: sanctuaryhotelmedia@gmail.com
> If you are a restaurant, catering company, or are interested in providing hot meals, please contact Kimberly at 612-203-2779
> If you are a new volunteer looking to get connected or are a previous volunteer with a special skill set we don’t know about, please fill out this form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScy9VNQ1Xnamf6pUC-kphgXrnI3OwakUucW4YAfYNVz7o5cBg/viewform
3. A few boundaries to set for resident safety, capacity, and COVID reasons:
> Please DO NOT show up at the sanctuary hotel if you are not signed up to work a shift.
> Please NO MORE *non-perishable food* donations.
> Please DO wear a mask when on-site
Please continue to watch this space for more updates as we continue to learn and grow in the work of building a sanctuary.

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Vigil For Fallen Comrades 6/7/2020 everywhere

From anarchist BIPOC & accomplices: Since the George Floyd rebellions began on May 26 2020, following his horrific murder by police, at least a dozen more lives have been taken by state and vigilante violence in the struggle for Black freedom. We wish to honor them by making space to say their names, commemorate their lives, and celebrate our own resistance. By acknowledging the risk we all take when we move into the streets, we remember the martyred and continue to fight for the living.

Calling for vigils everywhere, Sunday 6/7 at sundown.

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Music for this episode by:

Ratatat – Loud Pipes

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Transcription:

This week we got to connect with Rosemary, who is an organizer in Minneapolis, about the liberation of a former Sheraton hotel in that city, and it’s slow but steady transformation into something that is becoming so much more than a housing cooperative. They speak about how this re-socialization came to happen, some of the circumstances involved, about how this is a very deep collaboration between some of the un-housed folks in Minneapolis and people involved in doing care work, the power of George Floyd who was profoundly involved in doing that same kind of care work with un-housed people and many more topics.

And now some words from Comrade Malik, held by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Comrade Malik: Peace and blessings, sisters and brothers, peace and blessings. This is Comrade Malik, reporting in from behind enemy lines at the federal penitentiary in USP Pollock, Louisiana. I’m sure y’all have been observing the news. There is a war on black men in america. From Central Park Karen in New York to the mom who drowned her autistic son in Florida, who do they label the perpetrator of those crimes? Who is the usual suspect? The black man did it.

Like I said last year, it is not just bald headed white males with swastikas tattooed on their bodies who embrace these ideologies of hate. The millions of white women in america who embrace and practice these divisive and hateful white supremacist ideologies. [mocking voice] “Oh my god, this (?) man filming and stalking me! Someone call the police now.”

In 2020, we still ain’t free. I ain’t one of those house negroes y’all done bought. It’s me, Comrade Malik, a servant of the people.

Police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd, we all see it on national TV. Yet we have to plea and beg for justice. You call that free? Oh say can you see, I don’t feel like I’m free, locked down in a cell shackled from ankles to feet. Another day in the pen, you now hang from a string. The oppressors would love it if I hung it up, but I ain’t gonna do that.

Ahmad Arbery murdered by vigilantes in Brunswick, Georgia and now our brother George Floyd murdered by the police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A close friend recently said that I shouldn’t mix anger with my messages. They said that you give the oppressors power when you talk about them. I don’t agree with that line of thinking. There is something horribly wrong happening right now in America. We don’t see images of young white men being pinned to the ground by police with kneeled pressed to their necks, the young white man screaming “I can’t breathe! Help me!” We don’t see that on TV.

Why do police in America feel as if it is okay to abuse, mistreat and torture back citizens in America? This is a pervasive and systemic problem. Black men and black women have feelings of anger and hopelessness when we see these images. However, violence against the police is not going to solve our problems. It may feel good for a moment, but it will only make our situation worse. We need justice and we must demand it. And we can’t allow the victimizers to tell us what justice should look like. The Minneapolis police department fired the police who were involved in the murder of George Floyd. That ain’t enough. These police should be tried for murder, they must be tried for their crime against humanity. We should never be allowed to allow law enforcement to do this to us again. However, even if they are tried and sent to prison, that will not solve our problem which is white supremacy, racism and police brutality against black men in america.

As each day passes I am drawn closer to anarchism, and it is our belief as anarchists that we the people must abolish police departments. To some, this abolition of the police may sound like a radical ideal. But please, for one minute, look at things from my perspective. Ingrained in my memory is over twelve years of abuse and torture at the hands of the Texas Department of Criminal Injustice. Ingrained in my memory are the systematic and systemic murder and executions of literally hundreds of unarmed black men and people of color by law enforcement in America. Ingrained in my memory are the children in the state of Texas, thrown into cages by ICE and Border Patrol agents, and ingrained in my memory is the bloody stain and legacy of slavery in America.

I keep saying that we want free, and like Meek Mill, I ask, ‘what’s free?’ I can tell you now, free is not what we have right now.

This is Comrade Malik, reporting in from the federal USP penitentiary at Pollack. Dare to struggle, dare to win. All power to the people.

Announcer: At the time of this recording, Comrade Malik had not heard of Breonna Taylor, and we know that there are plenty of sisters who are being cold-bloodedly murdered all across this country. We say her name, Breonna Taylor.

More of Comrade Malik’s thoughts can be found at ComradeMalik.com

Rosemary: My name is Rosemary, I use they/she pronouns, I live in Minneapolis on occupied Dakota land and I have been part of the efforts here to make a new place to live for about 250 people now, at the former Sheraton Hotel near Lake and Chicago. This was something that was made possible because of George Floyd. He gave us the power to be able to have this building. It’s hard for me to know exactly how to characterize it because it’s so new and it feels weird because we are winning and I wasn’t expecting that to happen quite so rapidly, but all thanks to George Floyd for giving us the power to carry on his legacy of supporting people experiencing homelessness by housing so many people.

TFSR:Absolutely, thanks for that. The whole really not understanding how to interface with winning is really resonating for me right now. Would you speak about your general experiences on the ground in Minneapolis since the murder of George Floyd?

Rosemary: So, I can really only speak to things in my neighborhood. I know that there have been things happening Northside, Midway and around the Twin Cities. In south Minneapolis there’s some pretty tight knit community and there’s just been so much happening. So there’s uprising that seems to have spread really far at this point and part of that is complicated so, there’s been a lot of property destructions for miles. Miles of buildings that have been burned and business that have been looted – or whatever – and it went on for days, it’s just very widespread. The landscape right now feels really different and still evolving, it’s hard for me to process what’s going to be happening during the day. There’s just a lot of energy going into a lot of different directions right now. And so during the day people would be out with brooms and trash bags, bringing out a grocery store’s equivalent of food donations by the side of the street, and people biking and driving up and down to see what was going on, and then go out at night and do it all over again.

There’s a lot of excitement that has come with things like burning the police station –

TFSR: I can only imagine.

[laughter]

Rosemary: Yeah, and like, multiple banks and large corporate retail outlet stores. And it’s complicated, there’s a lot of consequences from that in terms of food security, and family-owned, immigrant-owned, black-owned businesses and clinics and pharmacies and lot of disruption to basic needs things for people. The fires were affecting things in a major way for residents as well, and so a lot of people had to evacuate their houses in the night. There’s a number of people who lost their homes, especially if they were living above businesses. Everything has changed. I’m just trying to think about what it’s going to look like next, to think a few steps ahead. This in an area that has already faced a lot of speculation and gentrification, it’s very possible that this could accelerate that if there isn’t some organizing to address some of the land issues that we’re facing right now.

I think that the effort with commandeering this hotel will really help with propelling that in the right direction, it’s building on other tenant’s organizing that’s been happening with being able to get tenant ownership and cooperative control of the buildings that they’ve been living in so there’re been some good victories with that. In general some very strong organizing has been happening around housing issues that’s been uniting tenant’s organizing with people that have been organizing around homelessness, and un-sheltered homelessness, harm reduction work and public housing. I’m very, very excited about the ways these different communities and movements are coming together in a way that I’ve never seen. Historically it’s been hard to have housing organizers and homelessness organizers together, and particularly in the realm of homelessness, a lot of that happens through nonprofit-type, professionalized setting, and a lot of us work in that industry and that can be a limiting factor when it comes to being able to imagine more radical changes.

Right now we’re in this moment when our imaginations are all being challenged in some really new ways. We have to build back up from the ground and there are things happening that just did not seem possible. There are things happening because of the Covid pandemic that seemed impossible. The kinds of acts that I would have thought of two weeks ago seem super mellow now so being able to push ourselves to think of a horizon that seemed farther out than I realized…it’s good to be challenged in that way.

TFSR: That’s really amazing and I think that this is something that this country has not seen probably in more than a hundred years, so feeling your way forward, building up from the ground – I feel very resonant with that as well, thank you for going into that. Could you talk about how this liberation of the hotel happened, what is some context for this event; what do you see as some catalyzing moment or moments?

Rosemary: George Floyd was the catalyst. I don’t know how widely this is known but George Floyd worked at the largest homeless shelter in town for years, so there’s a lot of people that are living in the former hotel that knew him. This wouldn’t have been possible without him. He didn’t sign up to advocate like this and I don’t know how to characterize this in the right way at this point, there’s no way this would have been possible without the power that he’s given to all of us. There’s a lot of things that have happened spontaneously and I want to embrace that. This is something that we had been thinking about, and looking at, and dreaming about and thinking it would be kind of too hard to pull off for a while now. So it became possible this week and so we’re doing it, we’re just doing it and it keeps working out, I keep being surprised by all the things that are falling into place. All that’s a bit vague, I’m happy to get more into specifics if you like.

TFSR: Yeah, what I’m hearing you say is the groundwork for this thing that is unfolding before our eyes with the former Sheraton is that organizing had been laid brick by brick slowly over the years and then the catalyzing moment was George Floyd and his work and his like, people wanting to honor his memory and honor his life in this way. I’m wondering about the initial moments of the hotel takeover, are you willing to speak about that at all? I’d be really interested to hear how it happened blow by blow.

Rosemary: Yeah, and it’s weird, ‘cause there were no blows, too. I do want to make sure that it’s understood that it’s something that we’ve been organizing toward for a while and that organizing work was based on really deep relationships that people have with people that are experiencing un-sheltered homelessness in particular. And the relationships between particularly care workers and people who are experiencing un-sheltered homelessness, so people who work in the industry and have a radical analysis, people who are part of (?) Harm Reduction or other rad harm reduction outreach efforts, responses in the past to encampments in the area, native organizers since in un-sheltered homelessness here there’s just massive racial disparities – that just has to be very named and clear. So these were deep relationships that were made and expanded upon through the mutual aid organizing efforts that people have been doing all over the place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There’s this really, really smart groundwork laid where we use mutual aid efforts as a deliberate response to be outside of state control, to provide sort of a wedge to force public sector, nonprofit sector to pay attention to un-sheltered experiences. So with a stay at home order closing transit, libraries and public spaces, the shelters are full, there’s nowhere to go, people’s hustles dried up, money’s tight and by sort of really strategically mobilizing the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding the base of who is involved to be more than industry workers made this possible. It created conditions for people to have true, real relationships with our neighbors. I’m saying our…I don’t know exactly how to talk about these different kind of relationships right now, it’s complicated and I’m going to mess it up as I’m talking about because the reality is there are class and race and other divides between people who are doing care work and showing up in support of housed neighbors and people who are un-sheltered.

So those relationships were worked on really deliberately and around the country there’s been efforts. There’s empty hotels because the industry is failing due to the pandemic but there are people who don’t have a place to live. In Minnesota there are 82,000 hotel rooms and 20,000 people who are homeless – it’s obvious there’s no resource scarcity problem when you do the math, it’s an issue of distribution and choice and will and what we’re willing to do. And so around the country that’s an obvious thing and there’s been a lot of effort to reduce the concentration of crowded shelters, to reduce the spread of COVID. There have been a lot of institutional responses and it was never enough, it was systematically discriminating against people who were un-sheltered and weren’t part of a coordinated, formalized entry system. Like a poverty management model, this technocracy of how we deal with this problem of homelessness. So that’s the model that we’ve all been trying to challenge and that we’re also socialized into working and thinking in. The mutual aid work not only allowed for more people to have real relationships with unhoused neighbors, it also allowed those of us who have been working in the industry for a long time to shift the way we think about things and expand the imagination.

I want to make that clear, it’s not like these things just happened. You gotta do the groundwork, you gotta have relationships with people. You need to have actual relationships with people. That being said, the play-by-play of how we pulled this off was we tried to be really deliberate about exhausting all of our options and then moving someone in here and refusing to leave. It was exactly the right moment because the need was really obvious. The first night we had someone come in here the community paid for the room, above board. It was really necessary, the curfew had just been instituted, the national guard was invading the city as we were moving them the guard was approaching with a massive platoon of hundreds of guardsmen and armored vehicles, it was super surreal, we were very close to the third precinct and then just moving a mile down the way near Chicago and Lake to the former Sheraton hotel.

That night that intersection got real burnt, like hellscape burnt. There really were no other guests in the hotel other than journalists at that point, but there had been some families here because there’s a hospital nearby, who were here staying in the hotel because they had sick loved ones nearby. We had been looking at this site as a target for a while and were reluctant to do anything because we didn’t want to displace anyone who was staying here because they had sick family members. You know, do no harm. Then the hotel manager realized it was unsafe to be in the building with everything that was going on around, and planned to evacuate all the hotel guests out. So once we realized we wouldn’t be displacing anybody, we just went for it and crossed our fingers to see if it would work.

So we divided up roles in a way that would suit people’s talents. I got to be the talent of stubborn and just stay in the room, while other people who were more talented at negotiating with the owner did a very good job of that. The approach was just that we were trying to get another block of rooms for people who were still left behind and un-sheltered and displaced, and really just inform him that we were going to be here now. And then the owner said “Yeah”.

I mean, it took a lot of convincing and some of that convincing was having like ten of fifteen people, not even that many, who were waiting outside ready to come sit in the lobby when needed. He was inspired to say yes, and he’s still saying yes, and we now have an entire hotel, we have master keys to all the rooms, he trained volunteers in the system to make the keys so he can go home and sleep. It’s been a really interesting sort of relationship to have with the property owner. He is a motivated seller, the industry is tanked and in now the neighborhood around us the property values have tanked. We’ve essentially shamed the system into having to do something about un-sheltered homelessness in a better way and showing them what a better way is, and it’s worked.

We have a lot of support offered though county, state and city and different foundations. It’s complicated because those things can come with strings attached so we’re in a really powerful position right now and we know it. We’re taking our time and are really adamant the residents will be the ones who decide how this land will be held, and are letting things take the time that it needs to do that. It’s been a lesson in stepping into power and it’s still sinking in. People are here and are still worried about getting kicked out or this and that, and it’s sinking in now. At resident meetings (it’s majority native and black residents) people are saying things like “I used to be homeless.” There’s a woman who was saying the other day “We got our land back.” It’s not about having rooms, at really deep and fundamental level housing people is how we can redistribute land, housing is land, and we’re in need of some massive land and resource redistribution and this is one way of putting into pragmatic practice land repatriation. I’m hoping we’re able to shore up support in a way that lets that be the analysis that comes to fruition and doesn’t get sidetracked. We’re all conditioned to have constrained imaginations around this, it’s just a very unique thing.

TFSR: Thank you so much for going into that. Is there anything more you wanted to say on that topic?

Rosemary: I think we’ve been inspired by other work and I hope to learn more about what other people have been working on that we don’t know about but we’ve been inspired by Moms for Housing and the Homefulness community in Oakland who sent us a message of solidarity and support, that was really rad. There have been some actions with COVID organizing around commandeering hotels that have been limited to taking a room for a day and having some tight symbolic action with that, like some of the stuff Street (?) in LA has done, that has been cool. But like, we got an entire hotel and I think we might get another one, we got a long waiting list, and I just want that to spread.

TFSR:Absolutely. Just hearing you talk about it, I feel so activated and inspired in a good way, about what you all are doing and definitely sparking ideas on this end. We also live in an extremely hotel and tourist driven economy is that is pretty much going down the toilet right now and I’m just wondering about parallels we can draw.

Rosemary: Housing people keeps us healthy and safe. COVID has forced people to think about the impact of and connection between them because they’re afraid of getting sick from like the masses, and this is a different way of thinking about it. It has taken the awareness that I am affected by you and you are affected by me and our neighbors, and that housing people is a way of boosting people’s health and community health. This is a way of providing for health and safety in our community, not just for now but for the long term, we need to be thinking really carefully how we are responding, not just to COVID and not just to the aftermath of riots or the uprising but to this global economic depression we’re entering. How are we going to mobilize a community? If the economy in your area is failing, what are the resources and assets in the community and how can you make those community assets versus a privately held entity.

The other thing I’m exited about now is the union workers who used to work in the hotel here when it was a Sheraton, they’d been laid off I think about a month ago. And today the union workers came. The relationship between how we use our labor, how we’re grounded on the land that we’re on, all these things – it just feels really deep right now. We have the power right now, things just keep coming together.

TFSR: That’s really amazing. So the union workers came back to work at the hotel?

Rosemary: The union workers came back to see what we’re doing here, and see how they can offer support for what’s happening. I’m hopeful there can be an ongoing relationship about how organized labor and the workers who work here can be working together with the ongoing efforts here. Just as a connection point, too, shelter workers like George Floyd – it’s not like a high income job. One of the shelters in town, the starting wage is like $12/hr. Meanwhile just spitting distance from here, is a building that was not burned, a new condo building with these tiny rooms with murphy beds for like $1400 a month. So shelter workers can’t afford housing, so the connection between unionized work in a place that is now housing and what is happening in the homeless service industry is an important one to be making and is inspired by the disparate movements and communities that are coming together to learn from each other. I am learning so much right now, I feel silly being the person talking about this because there are so many people who are really solid strong organizers who have laid the groundwork work this or have been integral in making this happening. People are working their butts off to keep this going, it’s not easy, there’s a crisis around every corner but it’s happening.

TFSR: Since we only have a few minutes left I would love to ask how people, our listeners can best support y’all and are there ways folks can help get your back and send support and resources if that’s desired?

Rosemary: Yeah, the number one way would be to organize in your own community. Getting those messages of solidarity and support from other places is really really hopeful and hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can do the same for other communities as well. We’re pretty overwhelmed right now with trying to build everything up from the ground, so we’re still trying to get the infrastructure in place to handle an influx of volunteers and donations, and how to have a good system for responsibly taking in donations. I’m happy to pass on more information because I think it’ll be coming together soon here.

TFSR: Yeah, I would love to include that in the show notes. Just finally thank you so much for your time and your willingness to speak to us.

Rosemary: Yeah, thanks so much for sharing this story and I look forward to seeing what other people are doing.

The Ovas Speak on Living and Fighting in L.A.; La Concha, the Psyco Brigade, Feminism, and Anti-Racisms

The Ovas Speak on Living and Fighting in L.A.; La Concha, the Psyco Brigade, Feminism, and Anti-Racisms

Download Episode Here

This week I had the chance to interview three people who organize with La Concha, which is an anarchist space in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles that does many projects such as prisoner solidarity, legal and popular education, reading groups, bike brigades, and lots else. We talk about their work, and how the three came to be doing what they are doing right now, and also about the incursions that they’ve been experiencing from authoritarian Communists in the area. I felt great getting to have this conversation with them and really energized to build where I’m at, but also to help build more bridges between places all over so we as anarchists can enrich and nuance each other’s thinking and praxis.

Big thanks to the folks at Firestorm for putting TFSR in touch with La Concha! Here’s to many more colabs and for a furtherance of anarchist, Indigenous, and decolonial spaces.

To learn more about La Concha and the Psycos, you can follow them on all their social medias:

-On Instagram for @la_conxa, @ovarian_psycos, and @psycobrigade

-FedBook is at https://www.facebook.com/ovarian.psycos/

To see all their merch, which is how they raise funds for rent on their space, you can go to ovarian-psycos.zibbet.com

For a website to visit to see some of their initial writings and blog posts, you can go to ovarianpsycos.com

You can learn more about the Institute for Advanced Troublemaking you can go to their website at https://advancedtroublemaking.wordpress.com/

To read the zine they were mentioning called AlwaysAgainstTheTanks, follow the link!

Also if you come across a documentary about the Ovas and are curious to watch it, get in touch with them for a copy! For this inquiry and all others, say if you have something to contribute to the zine they were talking about, you can email them at ovarian.psycos@gmail.com

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Music for this show is by:

Xela de la X – Red Star (musical break)

Clapback – La Marea Vuelve (outro)

“We either organize or we die, our lives depend on this!” – Reflections on Anarchism in Borikén (Puerto Rico) after Hurricane Maria and #RickyRenuncia

Anarchist Perspectives in Puerto Rico

Download Episode Here

This week we have the opportunity to share a talk by Coco (they/them pronouns), who is a queer, Black, Puerto Rican anarchist about the recent 17 days of direct action against no-longer-governor Ricardo Rosselló and organizing as an anarchist after Hurricane Maria.

They talk about some of the lead up to these revolts – about the fascist campaign and term of office of Ricardo Rosselló -, the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, decolonization and fighting US imperialism as it relates to PR, queer people and femmes on the front lines of the protests about Ricardo Rosselló, the active warping of this situation by media outlets, and many many more topics!

Coco originally presented this talk at the Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair 2019 on Saturday August 24th.

I wanna give voice to something that came up in the Q&A after the talk, which was not recorded, in which Coco made space for an open conversation about revolt in Puerto Rico. They asked of the audience what we thought when #RickyRenuncia was trending on Twitter, and people were saying stuff like “we need to look to PR and learn from people there in order to figure out what to do where we’re at”. And a really good conversation wound out about disaster/riot tourism that has always been a problematic current on the far left, especially where the struggles of non-white folks are concerned. It was located in that conversation that the support of people interfacing with struggle that isn’t theirs is very conditional and fragile, and it was stated by participants of the conversation that there needs to be another way of looking at struggle that doesn’t involve an attitude of entertainment style consumption but rather comes from a place of real solidarity and real support.

As Coco stated, the media has really been messing with the narrative of what has been going on in PR, painting it either as super pacifist or like people are “out of control hooligans” or other such nonesense. For better sources of information, you can visit our blog at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org where we will post links to people and accounts you can follow who are on the ground or have a perspective that isn’t beholden to the larger capitalist media outlets.

Those links are:

https://twitter.com/_DESinformate

https://twitter.com/TodasPR

https://twitter.com/ClaridadPR

https://twitter.com/80grados

Here is an announcement on behalf of the upcoming Queer Conference at UNC Asheville:

Communities? Will a rainbow flag on a police car protect queer folks from a culture built around (trans)misogyny / misogynoir and sexual assault?

We are constantly reminded that our culture is still built on anti-black, anti-queer violence by the all too frequent murders of black transwomen, the further criminalization of queer sex workers, and the erasure of rural LGBTQ+ identities experiencing the pains of addiction, joblessness, and lack of resources. Today, we are at another fork in the road, where there is nominal acceptance of certain gay and lesbian identities (namely white, educated, middle-class families), while a wide range of experiences of people under the LGBTQ+ umbrella get forgotten. As queerness becomes hip and queer subcultural styles are being bought and sold, we must ask how the culture, lives, and sexuality behind the looks can survive and thrive. With the rise of global fascism, the impending doom of large-scale environmental collapse, and the inevitable next crash of capitalism, can we still envision a queerness that seeks liberation rather than admission to the status quo and benefits of a vastly unequal US society? How can we balance these visions with protecting the precarious lives most threatened by the current sociopolitical landscape?

To submit a proposal, follow the link at https://queercon.wp.unca.edu/

For any questions you can email qsconf@unca.edu

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Music by:

Princess Nokia – Brujas (instrumental loop by William)

Ruby Ibarra – Us off of Circa 91

Calle 13 – Afilando los Cuchillos, or Sharpening the Knives, which is all about the revolts against Ricardo Rosselló.

BAD News: March 2019 (#20)

March 2019

Welcome to BAD News, Angry Voices From Around The World for March, 2019. This podcast is a produce of the A-Radio Network, a network of anarchist and anti-authoritarian podcasts, radio shows and radio stations from around Europe, North and South America.

Download the file or play the archive.

If you are a part of a project that would like to participate in this unique and growing network, please email us at a-radio-network@riseup.net, or via any of the participating projects.

This month, we’re excited to share with you the following Angry Voices:

  • Dissident Island Radio from London, UK, will be sharing a roundup of this last months news of interest to anarchists from around the UK;
  • Comrades from the self-organized, independent radio station 105FM of Mytilene, the capital of Lesvos Island will be updating on struggles and actions in the Aegean Sea region of Greece;
  • A-Radio Berlin shares an interview Michael Prutz of the initiative Deutsche Wohnen un Co. enteignen, which translates roughtly as “Expropriate housing corporations”and semi-socializing the difficult Berlin housing market;
  • Crna Luknja who interviewed self-organized anarchist women in Turkey affiliated with DAF.

(total length: 30min 56sec)

“They Can Take Our Lives, But They Can’t Take Our Will to Defend Them”: Supporting the Valle Garita Squat in Boriqué

Download Episode Here

This week I had the chance to speak to Ricchi, who is a Puerto Rican anarchist, about an autonomous squatted community center in Borique called Valle Garita. In this episode, we talk about the squatted space and the intentions of the organizers, plus the cultural context of squatting, reactions of the police, landlord, and bank, and some concrete asks for solidarity and support from non locals. We end the show with a brief report back and analysis of what went down on May Day in San Juan and all over Puerto Rico, so stay tuned for that!

To connect with this project you can go to their website at https://www.urbeapie.com/ , and to write them you can email urbeapie@gmail.com

On the social media, you can follow the Valle Garita squat by following @vallegarita or following that same hashtag, you can also search for them on Facebook. You can also follow Urbe Apie on Instagram @urbeapie.

For sending cards and letters of support you can address envelopes to:

Urbe Apie
Paseo Gautier Bénitez #16 
Caguas Puerto Rico 00725

Letters can be written in Spanish, English, or any other language!

A brief correction from our last show where I interviewed Nutty about the monopod blockade at the Hellbender Autonomous Zone, I stated that the MVP was overseen by Dominion Resources and Duke Energy, and that is not the case, I was thinking of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The MVP is in fact owned by EQT Midstream Partners and NextEra Energy, Inc. EQT has a history of fracking and is now trying to get into transport. Thanks to all the people who set me right on that! If you have any questions or corrections, don’t hesitate to email us at thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net

Shoutout to Nutty, Red, and Minor, and all those who are protecting and defending the land and water from predatory corporate pipelines!

For regular listeners of The Final Straw, the sound quality might not be what you are used to from us. We are continuing to experiment with our audio set ups, please bear with us through these experiments!

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Josh Gerdts Memorial Fund

In some very sad news, Josh Gerdts, an anti-racist skinhead, was murdered two days ago in Chesterfield County just south of Richmond VA. He leaves behind a family, including a very young child. The family has set up a gofundme to help pay for the funeral and to help raise the child, which you can find at http://www.gofundme.com/joshgerdts

Rest in power, Josh. You will be missed.

Vendenga Rojava: a New Radio Show out of Rojava, Mesopotamia

VEDENGA ROJAVA – ECHOES OF THE RESISTANCE An internationalists radio project bringing an inside look into Afrin resistance. Revolutionaries from different parts of the world organized in different collectives and organizations in Rojava found and importance to come together and launch an audio project focused on the peoples resistance against an invasion of Afrin canton carried by the fascist state of Turkey and its jihadist proxies. Our aim is to spread an awareness of this historical event and inspire English speaking folks all over the globe by ongoing struggle and revolutionary organizing in Afrin, Rojava and beyond. Listen and share our reports, updates, analysis, interviews, stories about life of fallen comrades, music and more. This radio show is a limited project and will have only three issues. For more tune us up on May 16th on soundcloud.com/vedengarojava.”

No More Deaths

From nomoredeaths.org: “On January 17, Scott Warren – a humanitarian aid provider from the group No More Deaths – and two individuals receiving humanitarian aid were arrested by US Border Patrol. Scott was preliminarily charged with felony harboring and could face five years in prison.

The arrests took place just 8 hours after No More Deaths released a video of Border Patrol agents destroying water gallons and aid supplies, and a report which concludes that Border Patrol plays a significant role in the destruction of humanitarian aid.

We need your support to fight these charges and resist the dangerous, divisive claim that sharing food and water with undocumented immigrants is a criminal offense.”

If you would like to donate to this group, which does excellent solidarity work with people crossing the southern border between Mexico and the US, you can visit this particular page at http://forms.nomoredeaths.org/defend-volunteers-facing-federal-charges/

This is coming on the heels of ramped up repression by border patrol against No More Deaths, for an article about this issue you can visit https://theintercept.com/2018/04/30/were-gonna-take-everyone-border-patrol-targets-prominent-humanitarian-group-as-criminal-organization/

ACAB2018

We are well into our preparation for the next Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair, happening June 22nd-24th, and we want to invite you to participate in shaping the themes and helping gear up for this exciting weekend!

We are holding an interest meeting to ask for volunteers and discuss possible contributions folks can make:

Monday May 7 at 7pm Firestorm Books 610 Haywood Road

Our main items where we need help are:

Street Team Promotion, Online/Social Media Promotion, Arranging Housing for Out of Towners, Fundraising, Cook Food, DAY OF (biggest Need)
If you have other ideas, we welcome your input!

If you can’t make the meeting, we’ve made an online signup sheet which you can find here.

<A3 = ACAB 2018 Crew

http://acab2018.noblogs.org, acab2018@riseup.net, and Instagram: @ACAB.2018
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Playlist here.

Anarchy in Portugal w/ Sylvia and Mário

Due to concerns of the ability of the interviewees to speak on behalf of BOESG & Disgraça Collective, we’re pulling this audio to remove the portions speaking on behalf of those projects. We may repost an edited version in the near future and we hope to have a discussion with members of the collective soon to hear their side of things. Thanks -Bursts

In this episode of The Final Straw, we’re playing a conversation recorded at the Paris Anarchist Book Faire about a month ago. I spoke with Sylvia and Mário, two anarchists from Lisbon, Portugal. Sylvia and Mário give a history of anarchism since the fascist dictatorship in 1926 under Antonio Salazar through 1974, when the government fell, and since. Sylvia and Mário are involved in a workers library founded during the dictatorship that was taken over by anarchists in the 1990’s and has continued, called B.O.E.S.G., or the Library and Obstacle Course Of the Global Society. B.O.E.S.G. also shares space with a bookstore and social center called Tortuga and sits atop a D.I.Y. music venue.

For the hour, Sylvie and Mário talk about their experience of the social anarchist scene in Portugal, history, other spaces and movements around right now, publishing projects, gentrification of the city, the continuing economic crisis, institutional left political parties.

The portions we cut from this broadcast conversation touch on Mário and Sylvias perspectives on sexism in the anarchist scene in Portugal, gender pronouns and on feminist organizing. The discussion shows a difference of cultural perspective and experience between languages as well as the personalities of those involved, but also the mental wrangling people do when methods of resistance are transplanted to new soil. Hopefully at some point in the future we can have a more in depth conversation on this topic. The reason we cut them from broadcast was constraints mostly on length of the time we have on the airwaves, but we’ve included it in the podcast version. I believe it’s through conversations like this that we can come to better understandings of where other peeps are coming from.

Here’s a link for Map Journal that Sylvia talks about.

Announcements

A Few Upcoming Things in Asheville
May 17th in Asheville, peeps are organizing a People’s Council to propose
alternative usage for the $1million dollars per year that Asheville Police Chief Tammy Hooper is proposing from the city budget. 5-7pm @ Pack Memorial Library .

On May 19th, Firestorm will be presenting back to back showings of documentaries about anarchist urban guerrilla groups in the UK in the 60’s and 70’s. Starting at 6:30pm with “The Angry Brigade” and followed by “Persons Unknown” and narrated by Stuart Christie.

Sunday May 24th at Firestorm, the Queer Linux Users Group, or QLUG, will host a discussion on device security at 3:30pm. Bring your device along.

June 11th
Annually on June 11th, people get together and offer solidarity to long term anarchist and ecological prisoners. I’d like to take a moment to mention a few. Marius Mason is scheduled to be in prison until 2030 for involvement in activities of the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front which hurt no animals or people but did $4 million dollars in damage through sabotage and arson. Marius is a trans man who came out inside of prison and uses his voice and renown to shed light on the plights of prisoners, including queer and trans prisoners. Other prisoners being organized around include Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who brought to light right wing spying on unions and back room deals around Dupont worming its way out of responsibility for the Bhopal Tragedy that still gives cancer to thousands in India. Also, Sean Swain, who’s segments you hear on this show. Then there’s the comrades suppressed in the Italian government’s Operation Scripta Manent, Alfredo, Nicola, Danilo, Valentina, Anna, Marco and Sandrone still being held in high security and with much mail censorship. Or Pola Roupa and Konstantina Athanasopoulou, members of Revolutionary Struggle in Greece, who have themselves and their families faced repression from the state and still staged solidarity with others in the fight.

Solidarity can take many forms, from continuing the struggles comrades are ostensibly behind bars for, or sharing the information about the prisoners cases and organizing inside. It can be organizing your own discussions or groups to push against the carceral state or to send books to prisoners.

On Sunday, June 11 at 6pm here in Asheville, the Odditorium at 1045 Haywood Rd, will be hosting an afternoon cookout sponsored by Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross, Smokey Mountain Eco Defense and Tranzmission Prison Project. Vegan and Gluten-Free options will be present, but bring food to share! There’ll be discussions on trans and queer prisoner realities, tons of free lit on political prisoners, chats about the upcoming national prisoner work strike on August 19th, info on ecological organizing against the prison industrial complex and more!

Starting at 9pm, there’ll be a benefit concert, bands to be announced. Check out http://brabc.blackblogs.org soon for details as they come.

If you’re not in Asheville, keep an eye on http://june11.noblogs.org/events for things in your area to plug into. Don’t see anything near you, set something up and let the good folks at june11 organizing committee about it!

IWW call-out to push back against Neo-Confederates
An announcement from the Triangle IWW here in North Carolina: Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, a neo-confederate hate group, is holding a rally at noon at the Alamance County Courthouse in Graham, NC. IWW has been working with Alamance County locals since November 2016 to keep this group out of the streets and public squares of *all* our communities. Thanks to the efforts of some of these amazing Alamance community members, ACTBAC has now been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” The Triangle IWW is calling for people to join them on Saturday, May 20, as we rally to shut ACTBAC’s event down at 102 N. Maple St in Graham, NC at 11am.

Certain Days Calendar submissions

There is also a call for art and article submissions on Awakening Resistance for the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar.

Deadline extended to May 21, 2017

The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar collective is releasing its 17th calendar this coming fall. The theme for 2018 is ‘Awakening Resistance,’ reflecting on organizing in the current political climate.

They are looking for 12 works of art and 12 short articles to feature in the calendar, which hangs in more than 2,500 homes, workplaces, prison cells, and community spaces around the world.

Contributors are encouraged to submit both new and existing artwork. They are also seeking submissions from prisoners – so please forward this suggestion on to any prison-based artists and writers. More info can be found at www.certaindays.org

Jaan Laman in the hole
Jaan Laman is currently serving a 53 year prison sentence for his role in the bombings of United States government buildings while a member of the United Freedom Front, an American leftist group which robbed banks, bombed buildings, and attacked law enforcement officers in the 1980s.
Jaan K. Laaman is currently solitary confinement (“the hole”). Jaan has been in solitary confinement since his birthday on March 21, 2017 simply for issuing two political statements, a clear violation of free speech and human rights. The first statement was in support of the March 8th 2017 International Women’s Day and was in support of the Day Without A Woman Strike and was published by NYC Anarchist Black Cross. The second statement was his “Farewell Thoughts to My Friend, Lynn Stewart”, thoughts on the radical activist American leftist lawyer who died this year. The farewell thoughts were recorded by Jaan and broadcast via the Prison Radio project with Noelle Hanrahan.

Jaan has no access to news and almost no access to phone calls. It’s important we send him some letters right now. Send him articles, so that he gets some world news.

Jaan Karl Laaman #10372-016
USP Tucson
P.O. Box 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734

Write and call the Warden and ask him to end the repression against Jaan.

Please write and call the Warden at USP Tucson and ask that Jaan be released from solitary confinement and that he not be punished for expressing his support for women’s rights and for writing a statement mourning the passing of his friend, Lynne Stewart. Remind the Warden that Jaan is an elder prisoner, and you’re concerned about his health in solitary confinement and you would be concerned about his safety if he is moved to another prison.

Warden
United States Penitentiary – Tucson
9300 South Wilmot Road
Tucson, AZ 85756
Email: TCP/ExecAssistant@bop.gov

Phone: 520-663-5000
Fax: 520-663-5024

You can also contact:
Mary M. Mitchell, Regional Director
BOP Regional Office
7338 Shoreline Dr
Stockton, CA 95219
Regional email: wxro/execassistant@bop.gov

Thomas R. Kane, Director
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Central Office HQ
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Support Janye Waller + Anarchist Thoughts on Tactics at Standing Rock

Support Janye Waller + Anarchist Thoughts on Tactics at Standing Rock

Download This Episode

This episodes features two portions: an interview with Noelle about Black revolutionary, Janye Waller, incarcerated in Oakland; then, an interview with Noah about anarchist tactics in the NoDAPL struggle at Standing Rock.

Janye Waller
In the first segment we talk to Noelle about the case of Janye Waller. Janye is a young Black revolutionary from Oakland, California, who was the only person convicted of property destruction after the 2014 demonstrations in the Bay following the non-acquittal of pigs the murders of Michael Brown & Freddie Gray. Noelle is a supporter of Janye Waller and believes that Janye’s conviction was a clear case of railroading and racial profiling against a community activist. Janye is now finishing up a 2 year sentence with one year off for good behavior. The interview was held in February of 2017, and Janye is set to be released in coming months, then he’s out on parole. You can find out more about his case and donate to his post-release fund at https://rally.org/supportjanye and updates can be found on his support fedbook page and to find out more about some projects Janye was involved with in Oakland, check out the site for El Qilombo

You can write to Janye in the near future by addressing letters to:

Janye Waller #ba2719
A Facility,
P.O. Box 2500,
Susanville, CA 96127-2500

Anarchist Observations of the Struggle at Standing Rock

In the second segment William speaks with Noah, who is a well established movement medic, anarchist, and participant in #NoDAPL at Standing Rock, about his experiences there and analyses of how this resistance was organized and how it developed. This interview was recorded days before media saw the images of the Sacred Stone Camp burning and having been disbanded, so many of the modes and tenses that we employ are not what we might given the current position of the camps. We talk about a wide ranging set of topics, from what worked in the camps to what the failings were, and how resistance to extraction industries could look moving forward.

Thanks to 1312 Press for transcription and zine layout (found on Instagram & also email):

For links on how to support the efforts at Standing Rock – which are ongoing and support is needed both for folk’s legal and medical expenses – check out:

Water Protector Legal Collective
Sacred Stone Camp
Medic and Healer Council

Announcements

ACAB2017 End of Submissions

Shortly there’ll be a posted end to a call for submissions for presenters, workshops and bands at the first annual Asheville Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfaire up on the website, but we announce it here. Submission deadline is April 1st, 2017. Spots are filling up fast. Check out the website for updates and we hope to see you there!

TROUBLE showing at Firestorm, March 24th @ 7pm

That about says it. First episode of TROUBLE, which was chatted about in our last episode as the new video series by subMedia will be showing at Firestorm Books & Coffee at 7pm on Friday the 24th of March!

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Episode Playlist

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Transcription

TFSR: So we’re here to talk about Standing Rock and I’m sure that folks have heard about it if they have been keeping at least half an eye on the news, but for those who haven’t, would you mind giving a brief overview of what the struggle is and what has been happening there?

NOAH: So the Dakota Access Pipeline is a large pipeline that would carry heavy crude oil to refineries in Illinois before getting sent out of the country for foreign consumption. The pipeline is routed to pass just upstream from the Standing Rock Reservation’s water intake, which is part of their concern, as well as the pipeline route
as gone through a number of sacred sites causing the desecration of burial sites and other old religious sites. Back in August (2016) when construction got close to the Missouri River crossing by the Standing Rock reservation, the Sacred Stone Camp, which had been in existence since April, had made a bigger call for support in which many folks responded and that’s when the first arrests took place, lead largely by women and youth from Standing Rock and other Indigenous women and youth. Here you saw some very strong images of women running out onto the Cannon Ball Ranch to block construction equipment which was some of the first real civil disobedience, as well as the Horse Nations coming to just be presented to the law enforcement that was there, but the law enforcement ended up being scared by the presentation of the Horse Nations and so they kinda backed off and fled. That was some very strong imaging right off the bat there.

I arrived not long after that and helped provide medical support for some of the non-violent civil disobedience and just in camp at large, based out of the Red Warrior Camp. Red Warrior Camp was one of the few organizations that really took a strong lead in actual civil disobedience that stopped pipeline construction and were it not for the Red Warrior Camp, Indigenous People’s Power Project, some of the crews, some of the other bands of the Lakota Nations
really stepping up and taking that direct action to the pipeline construction, that pipeline would be said and done by now. And we certainly wouldn’t have cost Dakota Access the millions upon 2millions of dollars we’ve cost them in lost time, delayed contracts and stock price as well as the divestments from the banks which with Seattle and some Native reservations have totaled well over $3 billion worth of money withdrawn from Wells Fargo and punitive response from people. So the divestment is going to leave a lasting mark on these banks’ psyches and their shareholders’ psyches when they think about funding more of these projects.

TFSR: Absolutely, and it seems like along with the actions that have been taken at the various camps, the relationships between the various camps has been also very important to have outreach via social media and awareness being spread in a grassroots way, because mainstream media was very slow seemingly to pick up on
struggles going on at Standing Rock. Do you have anything to say about media blackouts there or anything like that? What has the process been for getting word out?

N: Well certainly it’s been led by some grassroots media projects that have been around since the start of the Sacred Stone Camp. Folks with Unicorn Riot have been there throughout the course of much of this which certainly is where I first started getting my media from
as they did intermittent updates on the Sacred Stone Camp from it’s start and through several stages of it well before Standing Rock or NoDAPL became a more common phrase. I think it was also very important for the largest camp at the Oceti Sakowin camp, the Seven Fire Council Camp, which was kind of just an overflow camp.

TFSR: Was that the youth camp?

N: The International Youth Council had a tipi in that camp for a while, but they were also holding space at Sacred Stone Camp and the Rose Bud Camp. The camps can be confusing when you’re there, and have been confusing. I’m sure it’s particularly hard to keep track of when you’re watching from afar. Sacred Stone Camp is Ladonna Bravebull Allard and her family’s land, which was started
by Ladonna and some other matriarchs from the area and the youth runners back in the start of April. And it was the Dakota Youth Runners who started getting a lot of attention from the long-distance runs they did.

It also needs to be pressed that there have been folks in that region who have been organizing in anticipation of the Keystone XL pipeline coming through Lakota territory that allowed for some of the groups within this larger mass to come together quickly and in an organized manner and show greater levels of discipline and training because we had been training together. We were under the leadership
of Lakota matriarchs and other Lakota elders who understood from the get-go that as these pipelines were coming through, we needed to be able to have a common language around how we fight and how we resist with non-violent civil disobedience. And so folks are familiar, folks understand that there are different roles. If your role is
media for the day, or medic, or police liason, that’s your role for that day and you need to stick to it and if that’s not your role, then you need to not try and make that your role.

So that’s why when the camp was significantly smaller than when it was 12,000 people between the camps, when there were only a few hundred folks in camp there was more effective direct action to stop the pipeline than when there were all these folks who came to stand with Standing Rock but there were no plans to use that mass of people effectively or an unwillingness to utilize any of those plans on the parts of some.

TFSR: Is that just because the camp got so unruly with the size, or do you feel that people were kind of not respecting any directives that were being told to them?

N: No, as I’ve seen it put on the internet, that there was a problem with “peace-chiefs” trying to lead during a war situation. And so there were folks who, in the language I would use, didn’t respect others’ diversity of tactics. And so there were folks who would interfere with Warriors and Water Protectors on the frontline and cause division and even go so far as to utilize spiritual abuse and manipulation to interrupt actions that were happening, or not allow actions to happen or prevent them from happening in very vague ways, like getting outside folks to try and scream at people that “Elders said no!” And what they meant was Dave Archambault and the tribal council might not be happy with what’s going on. But there are a number of different elders in the camp because there
are many different tribes and nations in the camp, but not everyone listens to the same elders. Folks are taught to listen to their elders. The Lakota are not a monolithic group, they disagree with each other. Sometimes the grandmas and aunties would be there telling folks to hold the line while others would be telling them to go back to
camp and pray. To some extent because the camp grew so fast and there wasn’t space made for an all-nations council of any sort, these rifts and problems became rather challenging at times because there was so much to do just in camp life and preparing for the change of the seasons and to try and train and utilize huge numbers of people who were rolling over every few days as well as deal with mountains of supplies coming in.

It all became very challenging, and then you have a real separation of leadership of folks who are contracted by the tribe to help, or were from larger non-profits who largely operated out of the casino rather than the camp. So you have that disconnect of folks who weren’t involved in the camps but were considered leadership for one reason or another, which made things very challenging all in all. When the information about what’s happening in camp gets through games of telephone, you end up with a lot of rumor and heresy added in, or misinformation, and that can be seen by how often facebook says the camp is being raided when we’re not.

TFSR: As an anarchist, I feel almost single-mindedly fixated on this idea of what you were talking about in regards to a non-respect of a diversity of tactics and trying to parse out where a rhetoric of non- violence is coming from. We talk a lot about how liberals have sort of co-opted the idea of non-violence to weaponize it against radical struggle basically, or to weaponize it as a way to take the wind out of sails of radical struggle. I would imagine that this rhetoric of non-violence is a bit different given the layers of colonization and disenfranchisement that people are experiencing. Do you have any words about that?

N: There’s certainly a real challenge for anyone who’s not Lakota or Native to understand the nuance and the history between the Indian Re-Organization Act, Tribal Councils versus the Traditional Treaty Councils. It’s important especially for outsiders to err on the side of listening to the folks who are directly hosting them in these situations and not be overtly disrespectful to local communities. Now that doesn’t mean that local communities are unified in their response, and that’s not really our place as outsiders to really dive right into the middle of it and stir it up. I have been working with some folks who were out there for several years so those were the folks I took my lead from because they are traditional Lakota and Dakota Matriarchs. So with that, there was a division of folks who believed in the courts and believed in that being the primary route and would at times spread disinformation about how the action of folks locking down to equipment or shutting down work sites was going to negatively impact these civil court proceedings. If anything they gave these civil court proceedings the time they needed to get denied, but there hasn’t been a win from the courts in this battle that I’m aware of. So if we were relying solely on those means, the pipeline would have been built by now.

The spark of inspiration that that has come out of Standing Rock would not have been if it weren’t for folks who understand that prayers have to be met half-way. We can’t just pray and expect things to stop, and similarly we have to understand robust histories. You hear this ongoing colonized myth that First Nations Peoples were completely passive or pacifistic when that’s simply not true. It’s well known that many Nations and many people were almost
always armed and prepared to defend their homelands and their territory and their way of life from settler-colonial populations. Part of this myth comes from those boarding schools; it comes from this western narrative that says “It was the white folks that freed the slaves!” and “It was the white folks who were benevolent enough to give these Natives the reservations!” rather than things like, the
6Lakota slaughtered a whole division of the cavalry at the battle of Greasy Grass and killed Custer and took that flag, and that was part of writing the treaty. Red Cloud’s wars and the Big Powder Bluff were the reasons for those treaties, the Northern Cheyenne; the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota’s fierce resistance to the U.S. incursions
and these settler/colonial incursions are what created these treaties. It’s also what provoked the U.S. into using genocidal tactics such as slaughtering all the buffalo and stripping Natives from their culture to send them to boarding school, so they could re-write those narratives
and send those kids back to those cultures with this wrong narrative.

And so with that you have this Christian idea of forgiveness that is pressed, or of understanding, and I personally hope that those cops and law enforcement come to some dawning of understanding that their ways are bad. But until that happens I have no sympathy for them or no forgiveness for their behaviors until they seek it. And so it’s something that personally baffles me, especially coming from a medic’s perspective and seeing the grievous injuries that we’ve seen out there. That folks want to negotiate with these people or work with them to get into that system. It’s one of those things, some folks who don’t want the (Water) Protectors to continue resisting are legitimately scared that those cops are going to kill one of us. And that’s a very real possibility but it also disrespects a lot of those folks’ agency, who understand that they may die in this struggle. And that if the state is going to go through such measures and allow their law enforcement to utilize these munitions, these so-called less-than-lethal munitions in reckless ways, then yeah they may end up killing someone but you know if they kill a Water Protector whose got their hands up and are in prayer, isn’t that that non-violent Ghandian King-esque nonviolence that they’re talking about? Let them harm us to the point that the moral imperative becomes so overwhelmingly against them that they have to give up? That they don’t have the will to beat you any longer?

TFSR: Also in a time when we have this new president now who is actively seeking to criminalize so-called peaceful protesters? Seeking any kind of legitimacy from the state doesn’t make a whole hell of a lot of sense, but what also makes a lot of sense is taking leadership from people who are most effected and also keeping in mind that that’s a non-homogenous group of people. It’s a very complicated situation, it seems like it’s very difficult to know where to draw the line while also maintaining your own political integrity in all of this as well, to be a whole human being. You mention that you are a movement medic, and you have spoken about your experiences at Standing Rock, but I was wondering if there was anything that you wanted to add about your involvement at the camp?

N: My involvement at the camp has largely been as a medic in support of the Water Protectors, so I’ve both worked to help increase the medic capacity and continue to work to try and help us stay coordinated and functioning in a way that allows us to provide the best level of care that we can. I have also gone out on a number of the direct actions to support Water Protectors and have dealt with some injuries and elements and the volumes, which were pretty staggering at times. November 20th when they just kept using water cannons on folks, both speaks to the heart and willingness of the water protectors but from the medic’s perspective we saw over 300 patients that night.

Several folks were severely injured; Sophia Wilansky nearly lost her arm that night, and other folks have lost permanent vision from that night, and the level of PTSD that has been inflicted on folks in these situations or the potential for it.

Similarly when the Sacred Ground Camp on the Easement was raided on October 27th, they literally just lined up and whooped on folks all day. We’re seeing the Miami Model play out in rural settings. Sheriff Laney from Cass County and Sheriff Meyer from Morton County I’m sure will retire real soon and go on the law enforcement and security speaking tour, to pop up at every pipeline and give advice
on how to deal with these “damn eco-terrorist protestor types.”

TFSR: And there has been a whole lot of law enforcement there from day one it seems, right?

N: Not from day one, I mean Morton County I think employs 33 or 39 sheriffs total. (*laughter*) And the North Dakota State Police and Highway Patrol could only muster so many folks, but now law enforcement from nine other states, federal agencies like the ATF and Border Patrol have been deployed out there. There is I believe just more than 500 North Dakota National Guardsmen who are activated presently. There is now quite the policing apparatus as was on display when the Last Child Camp was raided and shut down. They had over six armored vehicles out that day.

TFSR: It feels important to analyze police responses to struggles like this in order to get a psychological hold on to what the hell is going on, and we’ve been seeing a lot of media recently about the struggle, and many different approaches from total erasure to pretty heartfelt support. I’m wondering what your opinions are about how you see
this struggle informing future struggles and how you see this one particularly continuing, or if it’s too early to say?

N: I think at the very least what has happened out there in the treaty territories has brought a new level of what it looks like to be brave in the face of the state for folks. And it’s behaviors it can be pointed to as strong definitive attempts at non-violent action that we’ve already seen. At the Piñon Pipeline, there was one action out there and they cancelled it. At the Trans-Pecos Pipeline, there have been a couple of actions already and they’ve shut down work. Mississippi Stand went after other sections of the Dakota Access Pipeline down in Iowa, we’re seeing folks starting to really resist the Sabal Pipeline, Spectra Pipeline, Lancaster PA is starting to openly build camps and openly express how we aren’t paid outside agitators, here’s the local teacher. These are local folks who are stepping up and saying “Oh heck no, can we do this here?” I think it’s important as we do this that we need to understand that there is a space for specifically prayerful things, and there is a space specifically for the prayer war, and there is a space for the more confrontational direct action tactics, but these are not the same space.

And I think it needs to be stressed that the Water Protectors and Warriors never went back to the camp and were like “Ya’ll are praying wrong! Ya’ll need to go pray over there! Ya’ll need to pray like this!” That is what some of the folks who use spirituality like Christians do, they use it as a manipulation tactic. They use spirituality much like
Christians say “You have to pray like we pray here.” Even to otherLakota, who were taught differently. That caused some real tensions, and there’s some real beef that I can’t claim to fully understand that I know. There’s family members who don’t like each other over that stuff, because folks called and asked for Warriors to come and those same folks, when they saw what Warriors did and what Water Protectors do to actually stop pipelines, they got scared. Either pressure got put on them through back-channels, or they realized that they would not be able to
control the narrative. So they pass a number of rules or any number of authorities on folks to say “You can’t do that this way!” Which certainly rubbed a number of folks the wrong way, when no one could really say where these decisions were coming from.

TFSR: Before I ask the next question I want to be really explicit about what you mean by prayer. This is non-Christian explicitly?

N: Yeah, this is explicitly Lakota spirituality, whose homelands we were on, Lakota treaty territory, Lakota and Dakota lands, and there were some basic modicums that were asked of folks to respect, things like don’t take pictures of the sacred fires, or put stuff in the sacred fires unless you’ve gotten permission. If you have a uterus and you’re on your moon, then to stay away from ceremony, stay out of the kitchen, just some cultural norms there. Up at big camp, there were folks from many nations operating in many different ways. There was some kind of manipulation of that that happened that was used as a point of leverage to dishearten and disrupt some of the youth and some of the frontline folks. Part of that is intergenerational difference, part of that is that older folks were raised in a time when native youth were being snatched and taken to boarding camps. A certain amount of hiding was the safest way to do things, which some of the folks with the International Youth Council and some of the other youth that have been leading this understand. They love and respect their elders but they also recognize that it is a different day and that these adults who are coming in to leadership roles who have listened to their elders and gone and gotten those educations and have been getting told for years that they need to step up and lead. When this happened in camp, there were folks that came up and criticized them. There were other elders that wouldn’t chastise folks in public, would openly support folks for not trying to take a lead role but were there as an elder to both support and be a resource.

There was a lot of issues around white folks telling Lakotas to stay in a prayerful way. There are Warriors that I know who are Pipe-Carriers, they don’t carry their pipes to the frontline, they are very spiritual and prayerful people, and for people to accuse them of not being in a prayerful way while they’re going to risk their freedom and personal wellbeing for the future generations, for the water, for the air, for the commons like that, for all of us, to challenge those folks’ spiritual intentions and spiritual actions, especially if you don’t even understand their spiritual practice, is both disrespectful and the added attitude of an agent-moderator. That’s some stuff that could be portrayed by folks intentionally trying to upset affective action.

TFSR: Do you feel like this is an analysis that is spreading? I have seen a little bit of analysis of what you’re talking about right now being disseminated over news channels and social media and whatnot, but do you see this spread of, for the lack of a better word on my part, this discussion of a diversity of tactics being disseminated to other anti-extraction struggles?

N: You know it’s hard to say, I’ve largely stayed put in North Dakota for the past several months. But a lot of folks from different struggles came through and I can’t speak for them because they saw what they saw with their own eyes, depending on when and where they were in those camps they could have seen drastically different things and been told drastically different stories as to what was happening at that moment, what had happened up until that moment and where things were going to go. But I do think folks are waking up and I think the intersectionality of struggles that is becoming more present is what will allow this discussion of diversity of tactics to really come more to the forefront. I don’t think it needs to be a discussion, I think it just needs to be a respect that happens. And with different groups that aren’t in a position to lose privilege from where they’re at, have that freedom of nothing left to lose, whereas privileged folks, largely a lot of white folks, but settler-colonialist folks who have more access to stuff, pull their punches. They have a real tendency to pull their punches in these situations, or paid-organizers pull their punches because finishing off a campaign definitively leaves them without work or without the control of an organization that they had. Whereas, folks whose hearts are true, who really are committed to that land, that water and that future, and getting everyone free as soon as we can now, they’re gonna be more willing to not view a broken window or some damaged bulldozers as violence when they see people starving, people going hungry, people being incarcerated, unarmed protestors, etc. We have people who are facing decades (in prison time) for a lockdown. We have this aggressive set of policing tactics that are being deployed against us that, like it or not, folks
need to create that big crowd for some more direct action to happen out of so that it can be done safely and non-violently, or the options that will be left will be groups that don’t come out in public and only see violence as an option and not getting caught, if non-violently praying and getting arrested can get someone 10-20 years (in prison). It’s going to push folks in that hardcore direction, and it’s more a question of if we can do the outreach and the education that the bulk of the dissidents of society come with us, rather than cling to law and order as the main goal of society rather than evolution or something like that.

TFSR: You mentioned the intersectionality of struggle a little while ago, and one of the last questions that I have is that is struggle an inappropriate word? Just to go off script for a moment…

N: It definitely is a struggle. We’re all tired and hurt and sore. It’s a damn struggle, convincing folks to support, folks having to win that support through footage of them standing in prayer getting the crap beat out of them by multi-state law enforcement, that’s a struggle, that’s a fight.

TFSR: For real! Then this struggle has generated a lot of momentum it seems, at least within anarchism, around anti-extraction industries and there was a lot of momentum prior to this, but this feels somewhat different. Also one thing that I find really exciting is that it has generated a lot of discussion about meshing these two discussions of anti-extraction struggle with an explicit anti-colonialist discussion as well. Would you talk about whether you see this as being something new, and a bit about the importance of intertwining these two analyses?

N: I think the intersectionality starts becoming to be real obvious when you look at things like the current immigration raids versus the fact that Flint still isn’t a priority of our federal government, to get them clean drinking water. The fact that the state of North
Dakota has spent $23 million and counting on policing costs to get a pipeline put in that’s not going to create much revenue or jobs or anything for that state. There’s a need to kind of recognize the continual looting of this land by financial interests of various sorts, that is the base injustice. Folks who want to tweak or modify the system, I feel are failing to appreciate the toxicity of what this American system was built on, that it is built on stolen land, that it is built with stolen hands, and much of this profit. I’ve done a lot of work in labor and class stuff, and there’s a temptation to say “Oh this is a class thing” and “the value of our labor is being taken from us” but even the labor that we’re taking on is being stolen from the land
of folks who were the first inhabitants here. None of that is possible, a lot of the anarchist and revolutionaries will fight for everyone and forget the Native people, and so I think that it is crucial that how we start thinking about these struggles brings into the anti-colonial decolonizing mindset and the support and leadership of folks who are still strong in their indigeneity, to avoid tokenizing folks because “Hey you’re Native, we’re gonna put you in charge” even if someone was raised Christian and they don’t know much about where they come from. The importance of that indigeneity, those are the folks that have that understanding of living with the land and living as part of an eco-system, and they have that appreciation of the land and the creatures that all vie for us.

And so when we talk about the pollution and damage done by these extreme industries, we need to look at that damage done and that cultural genocide that’s been done against folks who just want, like many Indigenous cultures around the world who lived as part of the land they were on, and were thankful for that land, for providing for them, as opposed to the Christian concept of dominion over the
land, which is an interesting interpretation of being good stewards. I think that the need for those intersections, the need for Black Lives Matter and how powerful it was to have folks like Chairman Fred Hampton Jr come out with folks and all the 300+ Nations that came out and showed their solidarity and numerous white folks from different organizations that came and showed solidarity, saw in a lot of ways how that camp was operating in a good humble way, and there was no need for money for most things. If you’re doing work, there’s kitchens that will feed you, and a lot of folks took that shit like it was Burning Man and just came and took and were culture-vultures on the whole thing and were fetishizing Natives in resistance and were just working on their photo or art project or wanting to come up and tell the tale. Are you Native? You probably shouldn’t be telling that tale, you should help and empower these Native youth who are trying to tell their tales right now.

And I think that’s some of the importance of intersectionality is these recognitions that there are going to be folks who just know how to do it better because they were raised that way. It’s like the damn tipis that didn’t budge in the windstorms, and everyone’s tents that gotten flattened out. There’s some stuff that local folks will just know, and when we’re talking about these rural places and when we’re talking about taking Indigenous leadership or local leadership in place, is we have to recognize that just because you may be educated, or a permaculture demi-god to folks out there, that doesn’t actually translate to that bio-region, and if that doesn’t translate to pragmatic things that folks can do, if you’re just gonna come and say you should do it all in this way, it’s that same problem. It’s not looking at the intersections, it’s presenting “this is the way it should be done. This is the model we have, this is how we’ve been doing. We fail most of the time, but this is the model of how we do this.”

TFSR: That also calls into question really challenging people to actually fully examine why they’re doing something. Are you going to Standing Rock because you want to work on your photo project? Are you going to be updating your instagram about it? or are you going to actually have as real solidarity with people and struggle as
you can have?

N: And there’s the question there about a lot of conditional allies out there. I’ve seen their facebook comments about how getting beat up or saying mean things to law enforcement doesn’t keep with our message and loses support for us. And I challenge anyone that if your support is so easily lost, did you ever really give it in an earnest and heartfelt way? There are some grandmas out there who just about make me cry with the support they show their youth, and how proud they are of these young folks. I’ve seen these young folks get to the top of the hill, where there’s footage of folks getting brutalized at the bottom, they’ll touch a cop, not in a harmful way, just touch ‘em.

Showing their bravery, demystifying and showing that they could do more but not having to. Seeing these different ways of doing things, seeing these powerful moments of praise that folks get, knowing that these young folks are earning real prestige in their culture by doing these things while others are both trying to shame them while other grandmas are holding them up. It’s a lot.

TFSR: That’s incredible, and for me such an amazing concept and very inspiring thing to hear about. Those are all the questions that I had, do you have anything else that you wanna add?

N: Just that there isn’t a region in this country that’s free from pipeline expansions right now. Get trained, get rowdy, let’s kill this stuff. Let’s kill some black snakes.