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Dallas Mom Reviews My Baby Rides the Short Bus

By Nancy Churnin
Dallas Moms blog
The Dallas Morning News
October 28, 2009

Here's one book I wish I'd had during the dark days after learning my daughter has autism.

My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities (PM Press, $20) is an anthology of first-person stories from parents about children facing an array of physical and intellectual challenges. Edited by Yantra Bertelli, Jennifer Silverman and Sarah Talbot, the book features real voices--mostly moms--about everything from the heartbreak of the diagnosis to the triumph in watching a child master a seemingly simple task to pragmatic advice like how to set up a Special Needs Trust.

At its best, the book reads like a conversation with a loyal friend. Like a confidant, My Baby Rides the Short Bus made me wince and ache with its honest take on difficult situations. You want to throw your arms around some of these moms. With others, you'll decide to borrow their playbook. Quite honestly, a few of these mothers have handled certain situations a lot better than I did.

Meet an editor and one of the contributors this Friday. On Oct. 30 at 7 p.m., Jennifer Silverman will appear with writer Robert Rummel-Hudson at Legacy Books, 7300 Dallas Parkway, Suite A120 in Plano (972-398-9888 or
For more on the book, visit

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Dismantling the Self-Constructed Barrier:

A Conversation on Anarchism and Marxism
By Max Ajl
NACLA: North American Congress on Latin America

The World Social Forum, in its near decade of existence, has popularized the slogan “Another World Is Possible.” Although many on the left may agree, and there is broad agreement about the nature of the world we live in and the shape of the one we wish to create, there is less agreement on how to create that new world. Wobblies and Zapatistas, a conversation of sorts between longtime anarchist activist Andrej Grubacic and Staughton Lynd, who for the last 40 years has been one of the iconic figures of the U.S. left, is a contribution to resolving that argument—or at least turning it into a productive discussion.

The book suggests that for too long, anarchists and Marxists have been glaring hostilely at one another over a self-constructed barrier. When professedly Marxist governments were in power, Marxism’s proponents denounced anarchism as “infantile leftism.” Now, with anarchism central to the global justice movement—“its soul” and “the source of most of what’s new and hopeful about it,” according to anthropologist David Graeber—Marxism is derided as a relic, obsessed with taking state power. Indeed, that derision has by now been turned into formal theory in John Holloway’s pithy construction, “change the world without taking power.”

The book’s authors are less aggressive, more modest. As Lynd writes, “It is clear that during the last century neither Marxism nor anarchism has been able to carry out the transformative task alone.” Their thinking is also more supple. They view Marxism as an analytical tool for understanding society and capitalism, and anarchism as a practice-based ideal for changing society and capitalism. While making this point, the book returns, again and again, to Zapatismo.

Lynd begins by recounting the three sources of Zapatismo: (1) liberation theology; (2) the desire for land following the passage of NAFTA, which attempted to undo the Mexican constitution’s guarantee for communal property in land, or ejidos; and (3) the movement’s ethic of leadership, mandar obediciendo, to rule by obeying. The influence of the third, he suggests, inoculated Zapatismo against the vanguardism that has plagued leftist movements for the past century.

In this story, Zapatismo emerged when Marxist-Leninist university professors from Mexico City went off to indigenous communities in the Lacandón jungle, intent on making revolution. A decade later, set off by the ignition point of NAFTA, they returned, mounting an armed offensive in southern Mexico.

At first, the military rebellion seemed like a spectacular success, but it quickly emerged as a failure. Politically, though, the Zapatista movement took a different course. Its communiqués, espousing a radical egalitarianism, jolted Mexican society, much of which quickly came to support the Zapatistas. Around the same time, several weeks after the military sally stalled, Subcomandante Marcos carried out an internal coup within the EZLN, and everything changed. The Zapatistas changed their rhetoric, which remained revolutionary but recalled classic anarchism—the EZLN no longer had any interest in taking state power, and it had no desire to be a vanguard of any kind. It’s easy to forget in 2009 that in 1994, this was fresh stuff.

The Zapatistas disavowed vanguardism, that siren of the Marxist-Leninist left, partly because the urban intelligentsia, having traipsed off to Lacandón, ended up learning more from the Mayans than vice versa. They came to understand local traditions of mandar obediciendo, learning to recognize that if the movement leaderships strays from the popular will, “the heart that commands should be changed for another that obeys,” as an EZLN letter from February 1994 put it.

Lynd suggests that the Zapatista uprising offers an answer to the question that had preoccupied him his entire adult life: how to make the transition from capitalism to socialism. Capitalism, he notes, arose within the “interstices of a decentralized feudal society,” as he puts it in an earlier essay, wherein an enterprising individual could “run away to a free city, print the Bible in the vernacular, drop stones from a leaning tower, or organize a corporation, all actions requiring few persons and modest amounts of capital.” How, then, could socialism arise within the interstices of capitalist society? Lynd did not find answers where he sought them, in the classics of Marxist scholarship.

But then he found in Zapatismo not the Answer, but an intriguing and suggestive “hypothesis.” According to Lynd, the socialist transition that Zapatismo seeks may yet work, but “we don’t know yet.” Later on, he suggests that leftists should work to create horizontal networks of “self-governing institutions,” to which whoever holds state power should be accountable—a gradualist vision, decentralizing effective power until the state itself withers away.

The re-reading of radical history occasioned by the synthesis of Marxism and anarchism symbolized by the Zapatistas is the idea upon which this book rests. And that re-reading, as Lynd and Grubacic continue their discussion, serves as a stupendous primer on the history of anti-capitalist struggle. It starts with the “Haymarket synthesis” of socialism and anarchism, embodied by the militant labor activists Albert and Lucy Parsons and August Spies, raconteurs in 1880s Chicago, and their attempt to build central unions as independent bodies within a new decentralized social order.

The narrative then moves on to the Wobblies, the “Zapatistas of yesteryear,” who have been claimed by both the socialist and anarchist traditions. Working through direct action, horizontally organized, viciously repressed by the state, barely surviving the Palmer raids of 1919–21 and the post-war repression, the International Workers of the World lived on largely as a memory, their ideals upheld over the years by the likes of Murray Bookchin and Paul Goodman until they could be reborn in the movements of the 1960s.

Long-run movement building and resistance to the Vietnam War, according to Lynd and Grubacic, formed the core around which left-wing activity in the 1960s could focus, along with the civil rights struggle. Lynd emphasizes that the simplicity of those goals prevented any need for “theory,” but that this in turn contributed to the movements’ downfall. They underestimated capitalism’s power as an enduring system and had little sense of the scale of time within which the transition from feudalism to capitalism took place. And Lynd notes that it is Marxism that provides an excellent explanation of these problems.

Lynd and Grubacic also devote considerable space to “accompaniment,” which here means offering a service to the poor, with no illusions about quickly achieving educational or social equality, but merely as an honest service offered from one person to another. This is a radical vision, which Lynd describes as something he took from the liberation theology of Nicaragua and El Salvador. It does not privilege those with education or power. It is the type of relationship that a non-hierarchical network demands, and is built upon. It clashes with vanguardism, which puts the intellectual on a pedestal, in cahoots with state-socialist bureaucrats, such as in the Marxist deviation that Lynd condemns as part of the self-constructed barrier the book takes as its goal to destroy.

As Lynd repeatedly emphasizes, the success of this model for social change is unclear. The Zapatista communities endure in Chiapas, but have not spread; the experience in Bolivia, to which Lynd favorably alludes, differs from that of Mexico in that social movements initially acted autonomously, but also brought Evo Morales to power. And, although Lynd doesn’t discuss it, the Zapatista story runs into a vigorous counter-example in the case of Bolivarian Venezuela.

One story of the scintillating Bolivarian Revolution, told in leftist circles, is a mirror-image of the one told on the right—a volubly charismatic army colonel, Hugo Chávez, storming the state, gathering power, redirecting oil spending through a developmental state, swiftly bettering social indicators, pushing Bolivarian radicalism deeper, nationalizing industries—reminding us of a decidedly 20th-century socialism. There is truth to that story.

But there’s another story—about a slow, continuous ferment of autonomous organization in the 23 de Enero barrio in Caracas, of land invasions by autonomous peasant groupings like the National Peasant Front Ezequiel Zamora, self-organization by independent radicals like the Simón Bolívar National Communal Front, and the independent mobilization of huge numbers of people who cascaded down from the Caracas foothills during the April 2002 coup d’état to return Chávez to the Miraflores presidential palace.

Many of these radicals understand that Chávez is not the revolution. But they have a remarkably unblinkered view of the Venezuelan state: as a weapon in a war. Control of that weapon can be weakened by the loss of strategic positions within the state apparatus, like the mayoralties of greater Caracas or governorships in the oil-rich state of Zulia. Their movement learned in the crucible of April 2002 that control over violence in society in part belongs to the state, and so state power must be protected so it can nurture the process of building socialism, even as it promotes the new neighborhood-based communal councils—perhaps the seeds of a future society. This is an overtly anarchist vision.

This second story about Chavismo does not collide so hard with Lynd and Grubacic’s account of Zapatismo. It merely complicates it. Left-wing groups within Bolivarian Venezuela look favorably upon the Zapatistas. Caracas hosted the fifth World Social Forum, an organ of the movement of movements of which the Zapatista uprising was a pillar, and the authors praise this.

Lynd also attaches, here and in other work—for example, his talk in 2005 at the IWW centenary—much importance to the Bolivian experience, which adds a further subtlety to the fusion that the book advocates. In Bolivia, before the election of Morales, great segments of civil society, in the Water War and in the El Alto uprisings, exercised enormous power from below. Their threat to continue doing so is part of Morales’s discourse, which is why he constantly genuflects to their potential power.

So is this so far from Bolivarian Venezuela, where the thesis of taking state power is undergoing its latest trial? I am not so sure that it is, once, along with Lynd, we move beyond a romantic fetishization of “changing the world without taking power,” as though power were unimportant, as though power could be wished away by ignoring it.

This debate, between the conquest of state power versus its immediate destruction, constructed theoretically as the anarchist-Marxist debate, lies at the core of the book. The rest of it is an excavation of radical history, much of which seems to suggest that an anarchist—or socialist—society is just beneath the surface, beneath stultifying, oppressive institutions, beneath all wars, social hierarchies, prisons.

Lynd and Grubacic’s considerations of these institutions, and their ideas for transcending the society that creates them, are excellent. Their conception of Marxism and anarchism as two hands working together, one devoted to analysis, the other to practice, is terse and elegant. In short, Wobblies and Zapatistas is a great addition to intellectual-activist literature.

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Max Ajl is a Brooklyn-based writer and activist whose work has appeared in the U.K. Guardian and The New Statesman. He writes about Latin America and the Middle East at

Alternative Action

By Stefan Christoff

Wobblies and Zapatistas recounts a radical history and connects activist political movements and generations

Global capitalism has suffered a major blow in the past year, the largest economic turmoil since the 1930s fuelling political discussions on possible alternatives to the current economic model. For those seeking alternatives to mainstream historical narratives, Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History is an important read. Spanning from the Cold War to the 1990s expansion of market-driven free-trade policies, this engaging book offers critical historical reflections on events that have shaped contemporary politics.

Based on expansive conversations between Staughton Lynd, a celebrated American activist and author, and Andrej Grubacic, a Serbian anarchist scholar currently living in the U.S., the book bridges disconnected grassroots political generations to present a discussion between the old left in North America, defined by the Civil Rights struggle and the movement against the war in Vietnam, and the young, often anarchist-inspired generation of political activists shaped by major protests against corporate globalization, such as those seen in Quebec City in 2001.

Uniting these generations is a tall challenge, especially as many '60s radicals in North America now walk the halls of power, but Wobblies and Zapatistas steps away from doctrine or dogma to focus on human stories of struggle and communication through conversation.

The U.S. civil rights struggle is presented here through Lynd's fascinating reflections on his involvement in the grassroots efforts that reshaped race relations. Lynd, a living contemporary of Martin Luther King, directed the Mississippi Freedom Schools, and was integrally involved in the anti-Vietnam War effort in the U.S., speaking at the first March on Washington in 1965 and travelling to Hanoi that same year for a fact-finding mission in defiance of U.S. travel restrictions.

Equally fascinating is the conversation on solidarity movements and networks that emerged in the U.S. during the Cold War as U.S. President Ronald Regan funnelled billions of dollars into proxy wars in Central America that resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives lost in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Parallels are drawn in Wobblies and Zapatistas between the solidarity delegations to Central America in the '80s and present-day activists participating in visits to the West Bank through networks such as the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) or delivering aid to the besieged population in Gaza.

A radical publication in substance and format, Wobblies and Zapatistas presents an alternative history of social movements in North America that makes historical events come alive on the page and connect to today's activist efforts for change.

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Books We Like

Cook Food by Lisa Jervis
By Mark
Organic Nation

Salt early and taste for adjustments along the way. Use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Cut vegetables evenly so they cook evenly. These instructions could probably be found in the Culinary Institute of America standard-issue textbook The Professional Chef, but I pulled them from a different source, Lisa Jervis’ Cook Food: A Manualfesto for easy, healthy, local eating. The skinny, 130-page “manualfesto” is a training manual for beginning home cooks with an an organic and activist bent.

I worked as a line cook during college, and although I know my way around the kitchen pretty comfortably, I found Cook Food to be a good refresher on some useful techniques (deglazing pans, pressing tofu), and it also has some great recipes.

Jervis starts by listing all of the necessary kitchen-building tools and ingredients, from the pantry to the spice rack, offering tips for the thrifty shopper on what pans and tools should and shouldn’t be bought used. Along the way, she offers some useful tips on technique, including some basic instructions on how to cook grains, the various ways to cook vegetables, and some tips on seasoning. Veteran cooks can ignore much of this, but for rookies, most of Jervis' explanations will be invaluable. The back end of the book includes 20 of Jervis’ original recipes, and a handful of “nonrecipe recipes” (tips for snacks and other easy-to-make foods).

Jervis isn’t a chef by trade; she’s a prominent feminist who founded BITCH magazine. Her activist side shines through occasionally in Cook Food, when she writes about food politics, advocating for organic, unprocessed foods, but she steers clear of proselytizing. The book is most useful when Jervis addresses some of the more pragmatic issues facing home cooks, like how to eat organic, ethically-produced food on a tight budget.

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Dr. Cowan on the Vegetarian Myth

The Vegetarian Myth
Dr. Thomas Cowan
Holistic Family Medicine

Very occasionally powerful, life-changing books are written that give one the palpable sense that “if people would only listen” the world might be a different place. The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith is one such book. In this book Lierre essentially tells two intertwined stories. One is the story of the deterioration of her own health as a direct result of adopting a vegan diet. The second is the related tale of the destruction of our planet essentially as a result of the widespread adoption of agriculture, specifically agriculture based on the growing of grains. Her central premise is that, unlike what we are all led to believe, the absolute worst thing that could ever befall humans or the earth is if we all adopted a vegetarian or, worse yet, a vegan diet. To many, this is such an unbelievable head spinner that they simply will not even be able to entertain the ideas that are presented by Lierre. The ideas, the argument she presents to make her case are powerful, coherent and irrefutable – grains and in fact a grain-based (i.e. vegetarian) diet are literally killing us all.

First, the ecological argument. We are told that the biggest users of fresh water and the most wasteful, ecologically speaking, food we can eat is meat. We are told that if instead of feeding grains to cows to get meat, which is anyway poison for us to eat, we should feed that grain to people thereby feeding at least 30 people with a grain-based diet for every one person we can feed on a meat-based diet. We are told to eat low on the food chain to conserve resources and be ecologically friendly. And, finally and crucially we hear people proudly announce they don’t eat anything with faces as a sign that they are living out their deeply held convictions about social justice. The facts actually tell a completely different story.

Imagine the Middle East 10,000 years ago when the only people living in what we now call Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, etc., were nomadic hunter-gatherer types. This area was referred to as a paradise; it was lush, fecund; Lebanon was the land of the cedar forests. The area between the Tigris and Euphrates was literally paradise on earth. Then came agriculture, specifically the growing of grains. As happens where grains are grown and irrigation is used, the soil began to lose its vitality, the humous layer was lost. The irrigation and the converting of perennial grasses and the animals that live on these grasses to annual crops is akin to mining the nutrients and the fertility out of the soil. Without sufficient animal manure and animal bodies to put nutrients back into the soil, without the annual flooding of the plains that is stopped when irrigation systems are used, the land loses its nutrients, the soil becomes more salty and, as evidenced in the Middle East, eventually, inevitably the land becomes a desert. Lierre describes this process in intimate detail so the reader is left with no doubt that in human history, whenever the transition from perennial grass-based land – alongside naturally flowing lakes and rivers, co-existing with verdant forests – is converted into grain based agriculture, the inevitable result is everything dies. Everything – the plants, the insects, the wild animals and eventually the people.

Think of our own Great Plains. A brief 300 years ago this was a vast territory of perennial grass-based prairie, supporting millions of diverse forms of animals, plants and people for thousands of years. In fact over those thousands of years, the soil, the land that is our only home, was getting healthier and healthier. Estimates show that the topsoil layer of the unspoiled Great Plains was in some places more than 12 feet deep, a vast reservoir of fertility, of health of possibility for seemingly endless life on earth for a multitude of plants and animal beings. Along came grains and their “evil” cousin soya beans (the vegan diet and food processors’ darling). By this time agriculture had become more sophisticated, no more planting grains with sticks and burying fish in the soil, the green revolution. A blink of an eye later in terms of earth time, the Great Plains have become a literal wasteland. The only tall grass prairie left is confined to a few museums, the topsoil is in many places just a few inches thick; the animal and plant species extinctions are estimated between 20 to 40 percent. The human community is impoverished, the rivers are poisoned and the food is not worth eating. A few years of drought and we have a literal dustbowl as the few inches of topsoil left blows out towards California. Some would say this unspeakable tragedy is a result of commercial (chemical) agriculture and that what we need is a return to organics. They are wrong. In fact the first great dustbowl on the plains happened before there even was such a thing as chemical agriculture. No, as Lierre shows, this is the inevitable result of grain-based agriculture. It happens in every circumstance, at different speeds for sure, but in every instance where perennial grasses are converted to annual food crops, particularly grains.

If this wasn’t reason enough for conscientious people to shun a grain-based diet, Lierre spends the second half of the book detailing the negative health repercussions from adopting a grain-based, vegetarian or vegan diet. For those familiar with the work of the Weston A. Price foundation or The Four Fold Path to Healing, this will come as no surprise. What will be eye-opening for many is a detailed chart that compares the physiology of meat eaters with that of herbivores. If you still have any doubts that humans are literally physiologically required to live on mostly an animal food diet, I recommend checking out this enlightening chart. Lierre has done her homework. She references many studies that have been done in the last 100 years documenting the superior health outcomes, the absence of chronic disease, and the total absence of cancer and heart disease in people who eat the food that comes naturally out of a perennially based grass and forest system. What do these people eat? What is the “human” diet, the diet that works back to heal the land? Conveniently it is one diet, called the GAPS diet. As probably more than a hundred of my patients can attest, those who have literally regained their health as a result of the GAPS diet, it is no surprise that the very diet that can heal so many sick people is the very diet that,when applied to agriculture, can heal a “sick” earth.

Get this book, read it, pass it to your friends, especially your vegetarian friends, for as Lierre often says in our current situation, it is not enough any more to just have good intentions. You also have to be informed about what it is you are fighting for.

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Torturing Women Prisoners

An interview with Victoria Law
By Angola 3 News

Victoria Law is a longtime prison activist and the author of the new book, Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women (PM Press), which was recently reviewed at Alternet. "This book is the result of seven and a half years of reading, writing, listening, and supporting women in prison," Law says about Resistance Behind Bars, noting that each chapter in her book "focuses on an issue that women themselves have identified as important." The chapters include topics as diverse as health care, the relationship between mothers and daughters, sexual abuse, education, and resistance among women in immigration detention. Resistance Behind Bars paints a picture of women prisoners resisting a deeply flawed prison system, which Law hopes will help to empower both the women held in cages and those on the outside working to support them.

In this interview, Law talks specifically about how women are affected by solitary confinement and other forms of torture in US prisons, and what women are doing to fight back. Exposing solitary confinement as torture has been the focus of recent campaigns in Maine, Pennsylvania, and around the US. This is also a central issue in the campaign to free the Angola 3, who are a trio of Black Panther political prisoners: Robert King, Albert Woodfox, and Herman Wallace. King was released in 2001 after 29 years in continuous solitary confinement. Woodfox and Wallace remain imprisoned and have spent over 36 years in solitary confinement, where they remain today.

Angola 3 News: What do you think of the case of the Angola 3?

Victoria Law: The case of the Angola 3 is one of the most visible (and damning) indictments of the U.S. prison system.

As broadcasted by NBC Nightly News, the widow of slain prison guard Brent Miller has even stated that she wants justice and that, if Woodfox and Wallace did not kill her husband (and there is so much evidence that they did not), they should be freed. It’s interesting to note how the voices of victims and their family are used to whip up pro-imprisonment hysteria, but when they speak out against railroading people, they are ignored. For example, the widow of Daniel Faulkner publicly condemns Mumia and urges people not to let out her husband’s alleged killer. The media loves this and uses her to play on public opinion against freeing Mumia. However, when Brent Miller’s widow Leontine Verrett says, “If these two men did not do this, I think they need to be out,” her words are ignored.

Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace should be released. The fact that they have not been released clearly demonstrates the racism that is rife in the prison system and how “justice” isn’t really a factor in who goes to prison and why.

A3N: Do you consider the use of solitary confinement in US prisons to be torture?

VL: I most definitely consider solitary confinement a form of torture. Solitary confinement is used not only to break the woman (or person) who is resisting, but also to scare others around them into not only complying but ostracizing the person who is challenging prison rules or conditions. And, unfortunately, it often does.

A3N: What other practices in US prisons would you consider to be torture?

VL: I consider the whole prison system to be torture. But to narrow it down to actual practices: I would consider the use of strip status, in which all of a person’s clothes and belongings are removed from the cell, as a form of torture. You have to remember that over half of incarcerated women have suffered past abuse and trauma. To strip them of all of their clothing and place them in a bare cell with guards watching them retraumatizes them. I recently reread an account from Lisa Savage, a woman who was placed on strip status for talking to the other women on her unit about the psychological reprogramming of the Close Management unit (a unit where women are held in their separate cells 23 ½ hours a day). Being on strip status meant that everything was taken from her—clothes, toothbrush, bedding, and sanitary napkins. She wrote, “As bad luck would have it, I just started my monthly. Now, I must beg for a pad for hours before receiving it.”

Other practices that I would consider to be torture are:

• The use of male guards in female prisons
• The shackling of pregnant women while they are in labor
• Loss of access and custody to their children simply because they are incarcerated
• The denial of health care and the life-threatening slow health care in prisons

A3N: How is solitary confinement used against women prisoners? How does it effect women in ways that are different from male prisoners?

VL: Solitary confinement makes women more vulnerable to staff sexual assault since no one can see what is happening. In my book, I write about the experience of Christina Madrazo, a transsexual immigrant who was placed in INS detention. Originally, the INS (now called ICE) did not know what to do with her since her assigned gender at birth was male, but she identified (and was seeking asylum status) as a transgendered female. Madrazo was placed in solitary confinement where she was raped twice by a prison guard.

Even when they are not being physically assaulted, the women have no privacy—toilets are in full view of the cell door windows, guards can look through those windows at any time and, in many prisons, male guards can watch the women in the showers, on the toilet or when they are trying to dress or undress.

In addition, solitary confinement is used to punish women who have either reported being sexually assaulted by staff, or who have been discovered to have “consensual relationships” with staff members. I put “consensual” in quotation marks because, given the power dynamics in prison, especially the ability of guards and staff members to withhold services and/or provide small amenities, the relationship can never truly be consensual. I recently received a letter from a woman incarcerated in Colorado whose cellmate was accused of having a “consensual” relationship with a staff member. While the accusation was being investigated, the staff member was allowed to continue working in the prison. The woman was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the investigation and only released once the charge was found to be unwarranted.

Also, with women, there’s the prevailing notion that women need to be “good girls” and “to behave.” Thus, women are punished for behaviors that violate gender norms, behaviors such as spitting or cursing or not following orders, behaviors that men are not punished for. This is also why women are sent to segregation when they report sexual misconduct or engage in sexual activity; they’re violating what we, as a society, see as “good girl behavior.”

A3N: Do you believe activist prisoners are disproportionately targeted with solitary confinement?

VL: Yes! This is obvious in the case of the Angola 3. This has also been true among women who have been challenging prison conditions. Most female facilities have some form of solitary confinement. At California’s Valley State Prison for Women, the Special Housing Unit consists of eight-foot by six-foot cells with blacked-out windows where women are confined for 23 hours a day. Even in their cells, the women have no privacy — toilets are in full view of the cell door windows, guards can look through those windows at any time and male guards often watch the women in the showers. If the women complain, the guards turn off the water.

In 1986, the Bureau of Prisons opened a control unit specifically for women political prisoners in the federal prison at Lexington, Kentucky. It was built underground and entirely white. Women were prohibited from hanging anything on the white walls, cauisng them to begin hallucinating black spots and strings on the walls and floors. Their sole contact with prison staff came in the form of voices addressing them over loudspeakers. The unit was shut down in 1988 following an outside campaign and a court decision that determined their placement unconstitutional, but the solitary confinement is still used to punish and silence jailhouse lawyers and other incarcerated activists (of all genders, I should add).

A3N: How have women prisoners resisted the use of solitary confinement?

VL: In 1974, a woman incarcerated in Bedford Hills (the maximum-security prison for women in New York) filed a lawsuit challenging the practice of placing women in solitary confinement without 24 hours notice and a hearing (basically any sort of due process). She won a court injunction prohibiting this practice. In response, she was beaten by male guards and placed in solitary confinement (again with no due process). Other women in the prison protested by rioting.

More recent ways in which women have resisted solitary confinement aren’t as visible. While she was in the Close Management unit in Florida, Lisa Savage joined the StopMax campaign and became part of the Steering Committee. Her participation added gender to the way that people were viewing (and organizing around) the use of solitary confinement. She also wrote a long (16 pages!) piece about the Close Management unit for Tenacious, the zine that I publish of women prisoners’ art and writings. Writing about that reality is, in and of itself, a form of resistance, but she also included ways in which she, as an individual woman being held in the Close Management unit, was resisting:

I’ve finally gained a firm sense of self by holding fast to my beliefs in equality, liberty and life without threats or coercion. Each accomplishment, may it be emotional, psychological, or mental “growth,” is a form of resistance.

Every time I teach someone geometry or basic reading or tell them of their own intrinsic ability to be autonomous and secure with themselves, I resist the mentacide, and hopefully arm the women with ways to combat their own mental slow death sentence here in CM SHU…

Every time I get mail from you or Anthony of the South Chicago ABC Zine Distro or Abigail of Burning River or the meeting notes from StopMax (I am on the Steering Committee for the National Campaign to End Solitary Confinement and Torture in U.S. prisons), it confirms that I am part of this resistance movement.

As I conclude this piece, I have been informed of an increase in my custody to CM Level I. I know this is only a label, not who I truly am. DOC may have condemned me for my actions, but I know in my heart that for the past 7 months, I have taken the measures necessary to ensure my beliefs and integrity remain intact within a corrupt system. I have done my best to stand up for my CM sisters and myself. Yes, I have been DR’ed [issued disciplinary reports”] and “gave up” my privileges to take up for women who would spit on me if given a chance. I’ve asked nothing from them, I’ve only tried to show them that they must fight for their beliefs and happiness. I’ve wanted to show them that they do not have to be the label placed upon them—dumb ho, loser, etc—that they can achieve positive healthy goals even while locked in a cell 24/7. I wanted them to have a piece of my courage until they could find their own. Yes, I shouted about the unjustifiable psychological abuse they suffer—I shouted so that they could at least whisper of their own hurts in their own hearts…For this I have no regrets, and I will not apologize.

These aren’t ways that are clearly visible to those on the outside looking for instances of prisoner resistance. Still, her actions are forms of resistance to solitary confinement.

--Angola 3 News is a new project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. Our website is where we provide the latest news about the Angola 3. We are also creating our own media projects, like this interview with Victoria Law, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and more. Our online video series has now released interviews with author J. Patrick O’Connor titled “Kevin Cooper: Will California Execute An Innocent Man,” author Dan Berger titled “Political Prisoners in the United States,” and Colonel Nyati Bolt titled “The Assassination of George Jackson.”

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Geek Mafia shout out from Anarchist

Technology and Anarchism
Anarchist News dot com

This article is inspired by the Geek Mafia series, thanks for giving us hope. It is dedicated to the anarchist hackers who have faced or will face the cold steel bars.

A few years ago a simple book came out by the name of "Recipes for Disaster" came out. It had everything in it from how to paint billboards to sexual consent and more. By the end you felt you had a new tool belt to combat the forces of capitalism and the state.

But not once in the hundreds of pages did it seriously consider technology and its impacts on the anarchist movement. and how could they? no good anarchist tactics text has. it seems that anarchists as a whole have a great grasp of how to riot but when it comes to technology and electronics we are as silly as a baby with a fork near a socket.

This is more than security culture

The modern anarchist movement has highly benefited from technology and the Internet, being able to disseminate information and has also the privileged of not facing strong oppression from the state in the medium, but i fear that this time is coming to an end. For too long the anarchist movement and related movements have enjoyed a freedom normally reserved for mainstream computer users, especially in western nations. Freedom of Speech as the states call it, but we see a common thread from the state following from more repressive nations of confiscation of technological devices such as cell phones, laptops and storage media. Once this information is in the eyes of the state, it is copied and used against us.

what this means for modern anarchists

If anarchists are to stay a fighting force within the political spectrum a serious consideration of technology and it's impacts on our movement. This writing hopes to start the conversation.

A serious Security Audit: Defensive Technology

Businesses do this all the time, they hire outside firms to analyze their networks for weak spots. As an observer and a participant i have taken it upon myself to preform this audit on the anarchist movement. You can boil down technological faults to 3 things. we will call them the 3Es:

Email: The most commonly used form of communication on the Internet, including anarchists. Email lists predate many of the "social networking" we know now and is still a main use of organizing. Yet email is weak because of it's nature. Email is a postcard, not secure in anyway from prying eyes.

Encryption: Encryption is the only way of safety when using technology, although not an end all be all (it takes the National Security Agency 2 weeks to crack strong encryption), it can help us. Everything of importance should be encrypted from emails and chat logs to full hard drive encryption. If we encrypt everything, even the stuff that doesn't matter we make it that much harder for them to access any of our information.

Erasure: It is very important to know how to get rid of information. Many people think that dragging a file to your trash bin means bye bye, but this is simply not true. The only true way of getting information off of a media is destroying it. This also should be considered when posting things online, as logs are kept for a really long time. Are you sure you want to post about that action on facebook? once you delete it you can be guaranteed that someone will have a copy of it.

By using these 3 faults, you can analyze how your organization is (or is not) using them. By making your communications secure, you can put up a more defensive wall against the state. But what if we want to go further.

Getting Serious: Considering Offensive Technology

For what is out there, Defense is the card most anarchists play when considering technology. When you have a good grasp of defensive technology, it's time to play offense. What does this mean? it means a lot more than reading 2600 and watching "Live Free or Die Hard" and masturbating about how "cool" it would be to bring down the system through hacking. Offensive technology is not only about hacking the gibson, it's about skills building and practice. Do you know how to build a transmitter? Can you write code? Do you know which wire to clip, the red or white? Do you know the concepts behind EMP? what's a diode? what is "rooting a box"? packet injection? cold boot attacks? logic gates?

If most of that you could understand, great! if not, then why not? The state is doing it's part in learning and building all kinds of new technologies, why aren't you? The government has teams of the best hackers on earth to protect itself, when there is a insurrection, it will be important to find their weak spots and use them. We can't expect underground hackers to help us when the time is right. We need to learn these skills now, before the robot armies takes over. I challenge you this weekend to learn a technological skill that you always wanted to.

What this means for us

It means we have a lot of work to do. Education is the first step, those among us must throw energy to get less techie anarchists on the same page about the importance of technology in the anarchist movement. It also requires a great deal of time to skills sharing and building. A technology conference that involves questioning the state is long over due. The feds have Defcon, we need Anarchycon!

An increase in the use and utilization of technology does not come without it's faults. In 2009 Elliot Madison, who used twitter during the g20, was arrested and his house raided for reporting police movements. In 2006 Jeremy Hammond was charged with hacking the conservative site "Protest Warrior" and served a little under 2 years in jail. We will see these raids and arrests becoming more common in the years to come. It's important to learn from the mistakes of others and realize their contributions.

To a Technological Conscious Insurrection!

Cyberpunks Rise Against Civilization!

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E. Ethelbert Miller Featured Artist

of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities

Literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller is DCCAH’s featured artist of the week. Miller is a renowned poet that has practiced in DC for almost 40 years. Since 1974 he has served as the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University. During that time, he has chaired the Humanities Council of Washington, DC, hosted a weekly radio program on WPFW and served on the boards of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA), and the Edmund Burke school. He currently sits on the board for the Capitol Letters Writing Center and serves as an editor for the African American Review. Read more about his credentials on his website.

In 1979, Marion Barry declared September 28 “E. Ethelbert Miller Day.” He has also been awarded the Mayor’s Art Award for literature in 1982, the Public Humanities Award of  the DC Humanities Council in 1988, and the Columbia Merit Awardfrom the literary community of Washington in 1993.

Divine Love is one of Miller’s most renowned works. Read more poems on his website or on Poetry Quarterly.


Divine Love (For Alexs & SooJin)

I wish I had loved you many years ago

I would have loved you like Ellington loved Jazz and Bearden loved scissors.

I would have loved you like Langston loved Harlem and the Blues loved Muddy Waters.

I would have loved you like Douglass loved to read and Garvey loved parades.

I would have loved you like Zora loved stories and DuBois loved suits.

I would have loved you like Lewis boxing and Mahalia loved to sing.

I would have loved you like Carver loved peanuts and Wheatley loved poems.

I would have loved you like Jimmy loved Lorraine and Ossie loved Ruby…

I would have loved you like King loved Jesus and Malcolm loved Allah

–E.Ethelbert Miller

Photo courtesy of Tom Terrell Photography.

How to Cook Food

By Jessica Wesiberg
The New Yorker blog

For those of us who want to eat locally, but maybe don’t have the time to grow our own vegetables, nor the salaries to buy everything at the farmers’ market, Lisa Jervis’s “Cook Food” is a fantastic how-to guide. Jervis, the founder of Bitch magazine, dubs this tiny volume a “manualfesto.” The “festo” part comes at the beginning, when Jervis briefly parses some of the political and environmental issues that face us at the dinner table: how far most ingredients travel, the petroleum and chemicals used in food processing, the mistreatment of animals.

Jervis’s writing has an off-the-cuff quality: she never spells out the word “because” (she prefers “ ’cause”) and sometimes substitutes apostrophes for “g”s (“talkin’ ”). But because she’s inconsistent about it, it registers as laziness rather than kitsch, which I thought only added to the book’s charm. Her whole point is that eating well—in the fullest sense of the term—isn’t all that hard to do. The second part of the book is a kitchen guide and twenty easy, affordable vegetarian recipes. She also has some useful tips on how to save money and effort (for tomato paste: buy the type that comes in a tube; the type in a can goes bad too quickly) and for enhancing flavor (salt early!). PM press, a new publisher based in Oakland, is charging only ten dollars for the book, and it’s well worth it. I’m going to test out her “spicy brownies” recipe tonight, which calls for silken tofu in place of eggs. I imagine it must be quite good: otherwise, I don’t think Jervis would have bothered to write it down.

Buy book now | Download PDF now   

Vikki Law Portfolio

Articles & writing
Zines edited and produced

Articles & Writing 

“ABC No Rio:  Twenty-Three Years of Art and Culture.” Clamor 24 (2004).

“Barriers to Basic Care.” Clamor 21 (2003).  

“Breaking the Silence: Incarcerated Women Speak Out.” Punk Planet 72 (2006).

"Bringing the Next Generation Into the Struggle: The Children's Social Forum." Left Turn (2007). 

“Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice: Voices from El Barrio.” Review of Chicana Lives and Criminal Justice, by Juanita Diaz-Cotto. make/shift 3 (2008).

“Enter the Nineties: Punks, Poets, Politics at ABC No Rio.” Maximum Rock n’ Roll 275-276 (2006).

“Erase the Borders.” HipMama 36 (2006).

“Everyday Actions.” make/shift 1 (2007). 

“Explaining Are Prisons Obsolete? to a 7-Year-Old.” make/shift 4 (2008). 

“I Was a Teenage Armed Robber.” Kiss Machine 6 (2003).

"Incarcerated Women Create Their Own Media." off our backs (2007).

“Invisible Rebellions: A Short (and Incomplete) History of Women’s Prison Revolts.” Kiss Machine 18 (2008).

“Mamapalooza NYC.” HipMama 34 (2005).

“Mamapalooza.” off our backs 35.7/8 (2005).

“Prisoner Unions.” In Encyclopedia of Prisons and Correctional Facilities, ed. Mary Bosworth. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications., 2004.

“Take Your Kid to the Allied Media Conferece.” HipMama 40 (2008).

“The Art in Zines.” In Zine Yearbook 9, edited by Joe Biel, Steven Stothard, Sparky Taylor, Dillon Vrana, and Brittney Willis. Bloomington, IN: Microcosm Publishing, 2009. 

“The First Encuentro of Indigenous Zapatista Women with Women from Around the World.” Hip Mama 39 (2008).

“The Invisibility of Women Prisoners’ Resistance.” Turning the Tide 16.3 (2003). 

“Two Ways of Seeing: A Mother and Daughter Take on Protest Photography.” Kiss Machine 12 (2006).

“Two Ways of Seeing (a mother-daughter photo essay).” In Mamaphonic, ed. Bee Lavender and Maia Rossini. New York: Soft Skull Press, 2004. 

“Unlikely Communities.” Clamor 29 (2004).

"Women in the Struggle: Reportback from the First Encuentro of Indigenous Zapatista Women with Women From Around the World." The Red Pill (2008).

“Workin’ for the Man.” Clamor 26 (2004). 


Exhibitions curated at ABC No Rio, NYC:

Homecoming, October 2008.
American-born artists explore issues of ancestry, migration and returning to their parents’ homeland.

The Ides of March, March 2008.
Building-wide exhibition showcasing projects by more than 30 artist collectives and collaborations.

The Art in Zines, October 2007.
An exhibition exploring the art and design in the 10,000+ zines housed in ABC No Rio's zine library.    

Remembering What Care Forgot, Fall 2006.
An exhibition in two parts, celebrating the culture of New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and the city's post-disaster revival.

Reflections from the Joint: Art and Correspondence by Prisoners, November 2003.
An exhibition of art by prisoners who request literature from Books Through Bars—NYC.

The Chiapas Show, April 2000 
Exhibition of photography and other documentary work about the life and struggles of the autonomous Zapatista communities. 

Art From Inside: Out, January 1998 
Exhibition of art by men and women incarcerated throughout the United States.

Squatting on the Lower East Side, May 1997 
Exhibition of photos documenting the squatted buildings in Manhattan's Lower East Side..

After the Crane, March 1997 
Exhibition about the lives of the residents of the Fifth Street Squat, which was razed by the City in February 1997.

Exhibitions participated in:

Postcards from the Edge. James Cohan Gallery, NYC (2007); Babylon Lexicon. NOCCA Riverfront

Riverview Gallery, New Orleans (2007).

Inauguracion. Casa Hilvana, Mexico City (2007).

Reapertura. La Quinonera, Mexico City (2007).

The Clothesline Show. Postcards from the Edge. Brent Sikeima Gallery, NYC (2006).

Babylon Lexicon. Barrister’s Gallery, New Orleans (2006).

Traditions: Connections to the Diaspora. Tomorrows Artist and Dancers Gallery, NYC (2006).

New York Eviction Blues II. Manhattan Borough President’s office, NYC (2006), ABC No Rio, NYC (2006).

Remembering What Care Forgot. ABC No Rio, NYC (2006).

The Ides of March, ABC No Rio, NYC (2006).

Todos Somos Juarez. Galeria Puerta del Viento, Durango, Mexico (2005).

Art Slam. Asian American Arts Center, NYC (2005).

Creative Release. Sev Shoon Gallery, Seattle, WA. (2005).

Representing Ourselves. Visions in Feminism conference, MD (2005).

Eviction Blues. ABC No Rio, NYC (2005).

Cram Sessions. Baltimore Museum of Art, MD (2004).

Wall to Wall. Norfolk, VA (2004).

The Clothesline Show. ABC No Rio, NYC (2004).

The Ides of March. ABC No Rio, NYC (2004).

Lower East Side Photographers Photographing the Lower East Side. ABC No Rio, NYC (2004).

ELS-LES, LESX. NYC. (2003).

The Art of Revolution. Lawrence, KS (2003).

COPS. ABC No Rio, NYC (2003).

The Ides of March. ABC No Rio, NYC (2002).

The Racism Show. ABC No Rio, NYC (2001).

The Chiapas Show. ABC No Rio, NYC (2000).

The Ides of March. ABC No Rio, NYC (2000).

Light Leaks. ABC No Rio, NYC (1998).

The Art of Exile. ABC No Rio, NYC (1998).

The Ides of March. ABC No Rio, NYC (1998).

Squatting on the Lower East Side. ABC No Rio, NYC (1997).

After the Crane. ABC No Rio, NYC (1997)


“Abolishing the Prison-Industrial Complex” SUNY Social Justice Conferenece, Binghamton, New York. 8 November 2008.

“Women, Incarceration and Resistance” SUNY Social Justice Conferenece, Binghamton, New York. 8 November 2008.

“Media Access for Prisoners” Critical Resistance 10, Oakland, California. 27 September 2008.

“‘AIN'T GONNA LET NOBODY TURN US AROUND’: the development of a national movement of women prisoners, women released from prison, and their allies” Critical Resistance 10, Oakland, California. 27 September 2008.

“Spotlight on Incarcerated Women: Conditions, Profiteering and Resistance” Bluestockings Bookstore, New York. 17 September 2008.

“Women in Prison” Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, New York. 16 September 2008.

“Media Access for Prisoners” Allied Media Conference, Detroit, Michigan. June 2008.

“Revolutionary Parenting” Allied Media Conference, Detroit, Michigan. 21 June 2008.

“Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind” Ladyfest, Baltimore, Maryland. 13 April 2008.
Presentation on supporting parents and children in anarchist movements and discussion on concrete ways that childless activists can do so.

“Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind” First annual NYC Anarchist Bookfair. 14 April 2007.

“Xerrada Presxs als EEUU” (Prisoners in the United States) Ruina Amalia, Barcelona, Spain. 10 January 2007.
Presentation about the issues and resistance among women in prison in the United States.

“Leave No One Behind: Community Parenting.” Second annual Providence Anarchist Bookfair, Providence, RI. 15 July 2006.
Presentation about the necessity of supporting parents and children in radical movements.

“The Future Generation: Anarchist Parenting and Community.” Seventh annual Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, Montreal, Canada. 20 May 2006.
Discussion around the question: Why is it necessary to support parents and children in the anarchist movement? Discussion about concrete ways those in the movement can support families in their midst.

“Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind: Supporting Mothers and Children.” La Rivolta! Boston, MA. 4 March 2006.
Presentation on how supporting mothers and children fits into an anarchist-feminist theoretical framework and discussion on concrete ways childless activists can do so.

“Women and Power.” Visions in Feminism, College Park, MD. 7 May 2005.
Panel discussion about the ideas of power and the images of women, mothers and activism.

“Beyond Online Activism.” Mamagathering, Minneapolis, MN. 18 July 2004.
Discussion about organizing parents to go act politically beyond cyberspace.

“Mothers in Prison.”  Mamagathering, Minneapolis, MN.  18 July 2004.
Workshop about the issues facing incarcerated mothers and how feminist and radical communities can support them.

“The Art of the Conscious Mother.” Barnard College, New York, NY.  8 November 2003.
Roundtable discussion about motherhood, work and art.

“Building a Radical Parenting Support Network.” John Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.  11 October 2003.
Discussion about the needs of parents and their experiences in activist communities.

“Invisibility of Women Prisoners’ Resistance.” University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.  10 August 2003.
Workshop and discussion about the silence of incarcerated women, their issues and their resistance.

“Issues for Women Prisoners.” American University, Washington, DC.  26 January 2003.
Workshop and discussion about the issues facing incarcerated women.

“Economics Inside and Out.”  SUNY Binghamton, Binghamton, New York.  16 March 2002.
Panel discussion on the history of penal labor in the United States and past and present prisoner organizing around the issue.

“Museum Education Programs: Quantity or Quality?” National Graduate Seminar, American Photography Institute. New York. 10 June 2000.
Panel discussion about the priority of foundations, their expectations and     the reality of art programs for youth in New York City.

“Sounding Off: Art and Activism in the 1990s.”  New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, New York. 10 September 1998.
Panel discussion about the role of the arts in activism and political organizing.

Zines Edited and Produced

Tenacious: Art and Writings by Women in Prison (Spring 2003 to present)

Nefarious Doings in Revisionist Tourist Attractions: A Mother-Daughter Photo Zine (2007)

Enter the Nineties: Punks and Poets at ABC No Rio (2005)

Tell Me About the First Time You Came to ABC No Rio (2005)

Family Values: A Family Approach to the Republican National Convention (2004)

8 Days in August: A Mother and Toddler Take on the RNC (2004)

Mama Sez No War (2003)


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