Queer Activist Perspectives from Southern Appalachia
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.
Phone Zap for Florida Prisoners in Mandatory Toxic Evacuation Site
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.
Rik Scarce is the author of the 1990 exploration of earth liberation and defense and the folks involved, entitled “Eco-Warriors: Understanding The Radical Environmental Movement”, which is still considered required reading in understanding radical eco-defense. At one point, he served 159 days in the Spokane jail for refusing to testify about his sources in his research on the Animal Liberation movement. Leslie James Pickering, co-owner of Burning Books in Buffalo, NY, is an author, activist and is a former spokesperson for the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office. The following is a recording from November of 2017 at Burning Books of a conversation between Scarce and Pickering about property destruction, terrorism labels and the radical ecological movement. Rik and Leslie speak about definitions of violence, concerns around alienating the wider community and repercussions of militancy.
This conversation feels important to air as we stand at a crossroads here in the U.S. between the pandemic, an uprising to challenge police killings (primarily of Black and Brown bodies) and what role if any police should fill in our society, the collapse of the economy, the continued rise of political fascism, the de-platforming of racist statues, further internalization of the border and it’s logic, and global climate chaos that will likely make human life at this scale impossible. This power structure is amplifying difference and applying privileges and oppressions across that constructed spectrum as it always has, but it is in death throes and thus is made visible in all of it’s ugliness. For that reason, conversations about the serious needs to challenge basic assumptions and work through hard ideas feels important to me.
As usual, we invite listeners to check out the slightly longer podcast version online for free. To hear the questions and answers from the end of the presentation, you can check out the podcast. You can find more presentations from Burning Books plus an interview we did with Leslie a few years back about how they uncovered government surveillance at our website. You can learn more about their bookstore, including books by Pickering and Scarce at BurningBooks.com.
This week we are featuring a recording from an Anti-Repression panel that took place in Denver in October of this year. The sound quality is affected by a fan system that the venue had running, but the words are well worth hearing.
For the hour, we’ll hear words from a few perspectives of resistance in the U.S. currently. First, we hear from Danica from occupied territory of Portland about work around anti-colonial antifa resistance and self-defense in the North West. Next up, Firehawk talks about work in un-ceded Pueblo, Colorado, about working with femme, queer & trans prison rebels, Unstoppable zine and The Fire Inside project. Montana talks about autonomous relief work in Houston after Hurricane Harvey and the slow-disaster that is white supremacist capitalism in Texas. We hear from Jude talking about the J20 conspiracy cases coming out of the Inauguration, the court case moving forward and up til a few weeks ago. Finally, we hear from Jess who has been working with Water Protectors doing legal collective work up in so-called North Dakota mostly around #StandingRock with a very in-dept report-back on wider repression and specific case details.
A few updates are worth mentioning in the J20 case since Jude spoke on this panel: the first defendant convicted, Dane Powell, has been released and there is a linked support site for his post-release; two of the riot charges have been dropped down from Felony to Misdemeanor; & the first court dates have been moved forward to November 15th and info about how to help with court support can be found at Its Going Down.
As stated above, 2 of the initial 8 felony charges (‘engaging in riot’ and ‘conspiracy to riot’) have been dropped to misdemeanors, thus shaving decades from the potential sentences of the defendants. We here at The Final Straw suggest that Judge Leibovitz use a secure tor browser and visit https://dropj20.org to learn more about ending this expensive, insulting and dangerous act of political persecution that is the J20 case.
This is a podcast version of the second part of the 2016 North American Anarchist Black Cross Former Political Prisoners Panel. The first part can be found here.
In this, the question and answer portion, we hear from Sekuo Kombui, Kazi Toure, John Tucker and Daniel McGowan about their thoughts on incarceration in the U.S., steps forward in resistance, violence in struggle and sources of hope among other things. For info on these prisoners, check out the above link for short bios.
Here we present the first half of the Former Prisoner Panel of the 2016 North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference. During the hour, you’ll hear words from Sekou Kombui, Daniel McGowan, John Tucker, Kazi Toure. These speeches will be prefaced by some brief introductions, the texts of which can be found below.
Sekou is a former political prisoner who survived 47 years of incarceration. Throughout the 1960’s, Sekou participated in the Civil Rights movement, organizing youth for participating in demonstrations and marches across Alabama, and providing security for meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Sekou became affiliated with the Black Panther Party in 1967 in Chicago and New York. While in Detroit, he became a member of the Republic of New Afrika, before returning to Birmingham. Back in Alabama, Sekou coordinated community organization activity with the Alabama Black Liberation Front, the Inmates for Action (IFA) Defense Committee and the Afro-American People’s Party in the mid 1970’s. Sekou was also a soldier in the Black Liberation Army (BLA) during these years before his capture.
In 1975, Sekou was falsely arrested and charged with the murder of two white men: a KKK official from Tuscaloosa and a multimillionaire oil man from Birmingham. There was absolutely no evidence against him, only coerced testimony from individuals who subsequently recanted their statements. The judge refused to allow the recanted statements to be stricken from Sekou’s record. Sekou continued the fight throughout his time in Prison. On June 30th, 2014, Sekou was released on parole.
Daniel is an environmental and social justice activist from New York City. He was charged in Federal court on counts of arson, property destruction and conspiracy, all relating to two actions in Oregon in 2001, claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). McGowan was facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted when he accepted a non-cooperation plea agreement. His arrest is part of what the US government dubbed Operation Backfire; a coordinated, multi-state sweep of over 15 activists by the federal government who have charged the individuals with practically every earth and animal liberation action in the Pacific Northwest left unsolved. Many have considered this round up indicative of the government’s ‘Green Scare’ focus which has activists being arrested and threatened with life in prison. Many of the charges, including Daniel’s, were for crimes whose statute of limitations were about to expire. Daniel was released from prison on December 11, 2012.
John was one of five anti-fascists arrested in May 2012, after an altercation between white supremacists and antifascists in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park that left ten injured fascists, three of which needed hospitalization. The case of the Tinley Park 5 received an overwhelming amount of public support. Despite the fact that the meeting was organized by violent white supremacist organizations including the National Socialist Movement, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Ku Klux Klan, the state showed their cozy relationship with white supremacy by refusing the accused antifascist activist bail or a plea deal comparable to any other criminal defendant in Cook County. In January 2013 the Tinley Park Five accepted a non-cooperating plea deal. John Tucker was released in February 2014. As of September 2014, all of the TP5 are released.This audio will air soon as a radio episode.
As a member of the United Freedom Front (UFF), Kazi was imprisoned for his role in 20 bombings combating Apartheid in South Africa and United States Imperialism in Central America. The UFF has been called “undoubtedly the most successful of the leftist [guerrilla groups] of the 1970s and ’80s” and struck powerful blows to South African Airways, Mobil, IBM, Union Carbide, & various courthouses and US Military targets. Toure was convicted on federal charges of possession of firearms, and Seditious Conspiracy—conspiring to overthrow, put down, destroy by force and violence the US government. He is one of few, if any, New Afrikans to be charged of this act.
This week we’ll feature a recording produced by our friends at Anarchistisches Radio Berlin of a debate that took place at the Congress of the International Of Anarchist Federations (IFA). The debate concerned the No Border camp that activists from different places had participated in in the area of Thessaloniki, Greece in July of 2016. The No Border camp was a site of active solidarity with people travelling into Europe across the Mediterranean Sea and against reacitonary and state attempts to block their freedom to move across borders. The debate about the No Border camp that took place at the IFA Congress included 2 participants from the Greek Anarchist Political Organization, Federation of Collectives, 2 participants from the Slovenian Federation of Anarchist Organizations (FAO) and one from Federation of German-speaking Anarchists. More audio from A-Radio Berlin can be found at http://aradio.blogsport.de and the site for the No Border Camp can be found at http://noborder2016.espivblogs.net/
IFA request for solidarity with DAF in Turkey
Here’s an announcement from the International of Anarchist Federations (IFA) as regards solidarity for the DAF, an anarchist formation affiliated with IFA based in Turkey. The Final Straw featured 2 interviews with members of the DAF in past months that can be found at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org. This can be taken in context, not only of the attempted Coup and following repression of all who might question the AKP and Erdogan government, but also in the context Turkey committing troops and armor across the border into Syria where Kurdish militia have been fighting I.S. and, more recently, the Assad regime’s troops. This stands as a concern as the Rojava Democratic Confederalist project with which many anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists have aligned themselves is considered related to forms of struggle in the Kurdish regions around Bakur in Turkey which the Erdogan government has resumed repression and tensions are escalating. Here’s the IFA announcement:
Since the coup in Turkey and the imposition of the state of emergency, we have seen increased repression of many groups and movements operating there. This is not only aimed at the organisers of the coup, but a wide repression of democratic, socialist, kurdish groups and including our anarchist comrades of the DAF (Devrimci Anarsist Faaliyet / Revolutionary Anarchist Action). —- On two occasions, in 2010 and 2012, DAF has already been investigated by the state as a terror organisation but these cases were dropped. Now, because of the state of emergency, the ability of DAF to organise is even more difficult.
Their newspaper Meydan has been closed down and three new investigations have been started. This has also had serious economic impact for DAF.
In recent years DAF has been involved in many struggles including Gezi Park and supporting the kurdish revolutionary process in Rojava and Bakur including refugee support. They are involved in workers’ and youth movement activities, ecological actions and anti-militarism, opposing patriarchy and supporting the LGBTI movement, and have been developing practices of collective living and economy and self-organisation.
IFA has already been involved in the solidarity movement with Rojava in many respects and in close cooperation with DAF. Now, due to the changed situation in Turkey, we must expand our support to DAF in more concrete ways. We also have to be vigilant of the real possibility of increased repression of DAF and the wider anarchist movement in the region and to be able to respond rapidly with strong solidarity actions. IFA is committed to this and we call on all friendly organisations to join us and also provide financial solidarity to DAF.
The Hammerskin Nation, a long-running white supremacist organization, has announced that their major “Hammerfest” national gathering will be held in Georgia this October 1st. Hammerskin organizers plan to bring several bonehead (racist “skinhead”) musical acts into Georgia, including one band travelling from Finland to play the event. White supremacist speakers are also scheduled — one of these speakers being a prominent up-and-coming leader in the white power movement. The early October event will draw Hammerskin Nation members and supporters from across the country, as well as militants from other parts of the white power movement.
As Hammerfest approaches, Atlanta Antifascist Notes will be one source for updates and reporting. For briefer time-sensitive updates, keep your eyes on twitter.com/afainatl
For more information on this event and the Hammerskins in general, you can look up this article on Atlanta AntiFascist notes at https://afainatl.wordpress.com/2016/08/24/neo-nazi-hammerfest-gathering-planned-for-georgia-october-1st/ or on their Twitter, mentioned above.
Please also be advised to use caution if you are planning a counter event, the Hammerskins are known for being crazy messed up violent boneheads, so stay safe out there and have each others backs.
Asheville September 9th updates
And don’t forget, if you’re in the Asheville area that on Friday, September 2nd, 2016 at 7pm there will be a discussion at Firestorm Books and Coffee of the upcoming September 9th National Prisoner Work Strike and how folks on the outside can offer solidarity. More info on the strike can be found at http://supportprisonerresistance.noblogs.org
Relatedly, there is a march scheduled to start at 5pm on Friday September 9th here in Asheville from Aston Park in downtown to the jail. Bring sign-making goods and friends.
Music In This Episode
We finish up with a track from CONTRA//HISTORIA with Ataca from their 2016 album. “Caminando sobre las ruinas de la naturaleza”. Contra Historia is from Xalapa, in the state of Veracruz in Mexico.
The Final Straw radio is still soliciting artwork to put onto t-shirts, stickers, and more things. If you have an idea or an image, send a link to our email. Also, our show is free to stream and download. If there’s a pirate broadcast or community radio station in your area that you’d like to hear us playing on, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can look into helping to get us on your local airwaves.
This week, we are happy to share an interview contributed by an audio militant associated with The Final Straw. This conversation took place after one of the presentations of the Crimethinc tour associated with the publishing and distribution of To Change Everything zine, a recent and widely translated introduction and invitation to anarchy. This interview was conducted shortly after one of the 3 panel discussions that took place last month in the Bay Area and includes two members of the tour. Sascha is an anarchist from Prague in the Czech Republic and Ramona is an anarchist from Slovenia.
The Crimethinc To Change Everything tour will be hitting up Firestorm Books and Coffee in Asheville, North Carolina on Wednesday, November 11th at 5pm. If you like the insights you hear in this conversation and want to engage these guests plus more, show up to this free event.
Next week we’ll be bringing an interview between our own William Goodenuff and members of the No New Animal Labs initiative attempting to organize against the planned building of an expanded, public-private animal testing facility on the University of Washington campus. William and the guest will talk about their recent nation-wide tour and the wider scope of the No New Animal Lab project in creating a more robust animal rights movement on Turtle Island.
If you appreciate community radio here in Asheville and/or this show, please consider contributing to our week-long on-air fundrive. Any amount helps, a dollar or $100. If you do choose to tax deductible donate, mention The Final Straw and we will get fame and power and feel good about ourselves. http://www.ashevillefm.org/support
But first a couple of announcements…:
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From the youcaring.com fundraising page for our friend, Steph:
“On October 19, while attempting to help a man whose dog had been hit by a car, Stephanie Wilson was run over by an SUV. The accident left her with life threatening injuries and claimed the life of the dog she was attempting to help (the man she was with was also injured, though
less severely). For anyone who knows Steph, they know that her being injured while attempting to help others is an emblematic example of her unceasing willingness to put the lives of others before herself. Over the years, Steph has rescued countless animals, often traveling to disaster areas to volunteer as a relief worker, and has never hesitated to help someone in need. Just last week she was rescuing animals from the flooding in South Carolina. But now this ceaseless champion of others needs your help.”
Continuing from the youcaring.com site:
“as Steph spends her life doing animal rescue (which as anyone involved knows is a passion project more than a stable career), she is without insurance. What is more, the individual driving the SUV that hit her was driving an uninsured vehicle on a suspended license. Therefore
it is expected that the medical costs for a sustained hospital stay are likely to be astronomically high and likely will fall all on Steph herself. This is where you come in.”
According to the updates on her youcaring.com page, Steph’s condition has improved since the accident, but she’s still not out of the woods. Her brain swelling has not increased, and there’s hope that soon she’ll be stable and swelling will decrease to the point that doctors can begin to operate on the blood clot that’s been found.
Again from the fundraising page:
“We are asking you to help her manage this unexpected burden. Please consider donating to help get Steph back on her feet and support the animals currently under her care. If you can’t personally afford to donate, please pass this campaign along to your friends. All money raised will go towards Steph’s long-term recovery, rehabilitation and immediate costs of animal care for the animals currently in her rescue.”
Unstoppable is specifically by and for incarcerated folks who identify as women, gender-variant, and/or trans. This anti-authoritarian publication seeks to blend radical political analyses with personal experiences and observations. We want to elevate the voices on the inside that are often excluded from political dialogues, while also asking people on the outside to convey their social and political realities to people on the inside. Unstoppable aims to build bridges across prison walls and beyond them by facilitating dialogue and engagement between those who are incarcerated and those who are not.
Unstoppable is asking for contributions in the form of artwork, poetry, writings, social commentaries, field notes from the prison yard or the streets, critical views of power structures and more. Unstoppable is particularly interested in focusing on gendered issues and systems of social control in the U.S. context, but we invite a wide array of topics. Such topics might include: organizing against police terror; personal triumphs in overcoming past or ongoing trauma; community-based responses to gendered violence and abuse; self-care in high stress environments; the consequences of deprivation in the U.S. prison system; environmental liberation; forms of resistance in women’s prisons; do-it-yourself ethics; astrology and planetary transits; etcetera!
Or you can write us at unstoppable, po box 11032, pueblo, co 81001 to contribute or to get a free subscription if you are currently incarcerated! Please spread the word to folks on the inside and out; we want this distributed broadly!
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From the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, or IWOC’s website, the group that we interviewed in June of this year about the drugging of prisoners in Missouri:
Imprisoned social justice activist Kenneth Bell is being targeted by the administration at Potosi Prison in Missouri. From a letter dated 10-24-15… “Until a couple of days ago I was the prison law clerk, “Jailhouse Lawyer”, but I was fired for filing grievances and for assisting others who are incapable of doing it themselves. . . . Please form a network of people who will call and confront officials about my firing. If I am to continue to help them here in PCC I need to be back in my position. . . . By firing me, prison officials hope to intimidate other prisoners and thereby discourage anyone who would be inclined to complain about conditions here, or who would try to help another prisoner do so.”
Many of you may remember the horrendous conditions that we described at Potosi last winter and the torture endured by prisoners who went on hunger strike after being retaliated against for complaining then.
For a list of phone numbers to call, scripts, instructions and updates, check out http://iwoc.noblogs.org
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Due to time constraints, we were unable to announce Khmer playing at the Odditorium on Friday the 6th of November on our regular broadcast, but do so in the podcast version of the show along with a track from that band. That version also features a tiny bit more dialogue and a track from Gattaca, a sludgy hardcore band from Prague that Sascha from the interview requested.
In the first segment of the episode, William spoke with Anne Peterman of the Global Justice Ecology Project, following up on the GE Trees Action Camp which took place in late September outside of Asheville. To hear the previous interview you can go to http://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org and search GE Trees, and to learn more about GJEP and to donate to Anne and Ruddy’s legal defense, you can go to http://nogetrees.org
The bulk of the hour we’ll hear the second half of the Former Prisoner Panel proceeding the North American Anarchist Black Cross conference in Denver, 2015.
Firstly, you’ll hear from Jerry Koch, an anarchist who was incarcerated over 9 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury (for a second time) in New York, as he talks about his incarceration and his release. Following this, a question and answer period in which you’ll hear responses from Jerry Koch, Eric McDavid, Kazi Toure, Lynn Stewart, Mark Cook & Jihad Abdulmamut.
Eric McDavid is a green anarchist who served 10 years of a 20 year sentence before release in January of 2015.
Lynn Stewart is a movement who served 2.5 years of a 10 year sentence, released due on compassionate grounds due to terminal cancer.
Kazi Toure is a formerly incarcerated member of the marxist guerrilla group United Freedom Fighters/Ohio 7.
Jihad Abdulmumit is national chairperson for the Jericho Movement and spent 23 years in prison for involvement in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army.
Mark Cook was a social prisoner who founded a Panther Chapter in prison and became involved in the George Jackson Brigade.
In this presentation, the panelists speak about experiences of re-entry, trauma of incarceration, support they’ve received, experiences behind the bars and critiques of how prisoners are supported. This event was hosted by Denver Anarchist Black Cross (http://denverabc.wordpress.com)
We lacked time to announce this benefit for Stephanie Wilson, a dear friend who was struck by a car while attempting to render care to a dog who’d been previously hit by another vehicle. The benefit is to raise medical funds for Stephanie. More info here: https://www.youcaring.com/stephanie-wilson-454345
This week’s episode features a presentation by members of Tranzmission Prison Project, an Asheville-based group. TPP is described on their tumblr as “Prison abolitionists against Queer & Trans* incarceration “. This is a recording of group members presenting their LGBTQQIA Prisoner Realities workshop recently at Warren Wilson College.
Trigger warning: This episode discusses sexual assault, solitary confinement and other torturous punishments.
NC Rising 2 was a weekend of shows, workshops and panel discussions that brought folks from around the United States to Warren Wilson College, outside of Asheville, North Carolina. Below is the second half of the first panel discussion, on a Friday in 2010.
Repression and Counter-Repression brought together people from all over who had recently been coping with repression to discuss its current framework. Panelists spoke from a variety of perspectives from within “ecological,” “animal liberation,” and “anti-capitalist” struggles. The contributions of each will help broaden our understandings of how repression acts against revolutionary projects and how a practice of revolutionary solidarity can reduce some of the effects of repression and help us to construct an environment of counter-repression.
* What is the framework of repression under which we are operating?
* What is “Revolutionary Solidarity”? What is its function? What are its means?
* How, in such a paralyzing condition of surveillance and political condition of weakness, can we move towards a practice of revolutionary solidarity?
Hugh, who just survived a long legal battle over I-69-related charges;
Katherine, of the Friends and Family Of Daniel McGowan;
Neil, a member of Internationalist Prison Books Collective and a supporter of the Asheville 11, defendants recently accused of 112 misdemeanors and 34 felonies;
Talia, a survivor of Minnehaha Free State repression, member of the Coldsnap Legal collective, worker for the NLG, and member of the Conspiracy Tour.
This panel was moderated by an editor of Rolling Thunder magazine.