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Suspended Somewhere Between: A Review

by Mark Scheel
Common Ground News Service
January 10, 2012

Praising Ambassador Akbar Ahmed’s new book of poetry, Suspended Somewhere Between: A Book of Verse, Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, opined, “Anyone wanting to understand Islam today must read Akbar Ahmed’s collection. We are given rare glimpses into the dilemmas, pain and despair but ultimately love and hope of Muslims through the verses of this true renaissance man.” In a world that all too often seems fractured along religious and cultural lines, Ahmed's work provides an important model of what can be accomplished through interfaith understanding.

At a recent tour stop at the University of Missouri-Kansas City promoting his book, Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC and former Pakistan Ambassador to the UK, explained that his life experiences, given artistic expression in this poetry collection, “reflect our situation today as we increasingly appear suspended somewhere between cultures, places, peoples, and periods in time.” One of humankind’s greatest challenges moving forward will be the quest for tolerance and mutual accommodation amongst all peoples and nations. And Ahmed reiterated his long-term commitment to that quest by promoting interfaith dialogue and bridge building among peoples of differing ethnicities and religious beliefs.

Described by the BBC as “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam,” Ahmed is also the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, DC. These positions stand as a testament to his dedication in joining with leaders of other faiths to promote cooperative efforts and ventures in religious harmony and interfaith understanding.

In his 2007 book Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization Ahmed chronicles his experiences leading a team of young Americans on a tour of the three major regions of the Muslim world: the Middle East, South Asia and East Asia. They administered detailed questionnaires to Muslims in each nation and sat through seminars, luncheons and casual conversations, engaging in candid exchanges about religious, political and cultural differences as well as discussing areas where they could potentially find common ground.

That effort led to a similar project with young Americans called Journey into America in which his team travelled to more than seventy-five cities and a hundred mosques seeking to understand the largely unexamined Muslim community in the United States. The study produced a film which has been shown at campuses and film festivals worldwide, as well as a book, Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam, published by Brookings Institution Press in 2010. As summarised on the Journey into America website, the study “explores and documents how Muslims are fitting into U.S. society, seeking to place the Muslim experience in the U.S. within the larger context of American identity. In doing so, it is a major contribution to the study of American history and culture.”

Employing different media to explore his message of peaceful coexistence, Ahmed has also ventured into drama and had his play Noor, which was described in the Washington Post as “a paean to religious tolerance”, performed on numerous stages. The story line relates the abduction of a young woman named Noor and her three brothers—a Sufi, a secular government bureaucrat, and a fundamentalist—who represent currents inside modern Muslim communities as Ahmed perceives them.

In the preface to his poetry collection Ahmed declares, “I have travelled much, seen much, suffered much and much have I enjoyed the people I met and the places I visited.” In the closing poem, titled “What is it that I seek?” we are offered a compelling summary in verse as to what leads to interfaith understanding and acceptance among those people encountered in his life’s travels:

“It is God’s greatest gift
It raises us high above
It is the bridge over the rift
It is love, love, love”

Mark Scheel is a writer and former editor based in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. He is presently writing a novel dealing with interfaith themes. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

Source: Common Ground News Service (CGNews), January 10, 2012, Copyright permission is granted for publication.

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A Brother with a Furious Mind

by Ron Jacobs
January 2, 2012

In 1981, a group of revolutionaries robbed a Brink’s armored truck near Nyack, NY. In the ensuing confusion and attempt to flee, three people died from gunfire. A couple days later, one of the revolutionaries was killed by law enforcement. 

The robbery itself was planned and carried out by members of the Black Liberation Army: a group of former Black Panthers who had chosen armed struggle, and the May 19 Communist organization, which was founded by white revolutionaries also dedicated to armed struggle. One of those members was former Weather Underground member David Gilbert. Gilbert is currently serving a sentence of seventy-five years to life in the New York State prison system. Other May 19th members arrested in relation to the robbery have been paroled or pardoned.

This month PM Press, the Oakland, CA. publisher founded by AK Press founder Ramsey Kanaan and others, is publishing Gilbert’s memoirs. The book, titled Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, the Weather Underground, and Beyond, is certain to be included in the top tier of books having to do with the period of U.S. history known as the '60s. There is no self-pity within these pages , but lots of self-reflection. In what can only be considered a refreshing approach, Gilbert takes full responsibility for the path he has chosen and explains that path in an intelligently political manner and with a decidedly leftist understanding. Love and Struggle combines objective history, personal memory, and a critical perspective into a narrative that is at once an adventuresome tale and a political guide through the past fifty years.

Gilbert begins his story by describing his youth and his developing awareness that the United States was not what he had been led to believe it was. An Eagle Scout who believed the myths inherent in American exceptionalism, he was unprepared for the cognitive dissonance he underwent while watching the attacks by law enforcement on civil rights marchers in the U.S. South. That sense of conflict deepened when he headed off to Columbia University. By 1965, angered by the U.S. war on the Vietnamese and armed with a well-researched understanding of why the United States was really involved there, Gilbert was organizing Columbia students to join antiwar protests. Like many of his contemporaries, by 1968 he was an anti-imperialist and working full-time against the war in Vietnam and racism in the United States. By 1969, he was one of the original members of Weatherman and by April 1970 he was underground.

Gilbert tells his story with a hard-learned humility. Occasionally interjecting his personal life—his loves and failures, his relationship with his family—with his political journey, it is the politics which are foremost in this memoir. A true revolutionary, every other aspect of Gilbert’s life is subsumed to the revolution.  This kind of life is not an easy one. Indeed, it arguably makes the life of an ascetic monk look easy by comparison. After all, the monk is only trying to change himself, while the committed revolutionary wants to change the world into one where justice prevails; a world that by its very structure resists such change.

Love and Struggle
carefully examines the history of the periods Gilbert has lived in. From the early days of the antiwar movement and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to the public street-fighting arrogance of early Weatherman; from Weatherman’s transition to the Weather Underground Organization (WUO) and its growing isolation from the New Left it was a part of; and from the post-Vietnam war U.S. left to the Brink robbery and its aftermath, Gilbert keeps the politics front and center in his text. In his discussion of the period between Weather’s publication of its essential work Prairie Fire and its immediate aftermath, Gilbert provides an insight into the debates inside WUO and among its supporters in the years after the peace treaty was signed with northern Vietnam. His portrayal of the differences around theory being debated in the WUO serve as a broader description of the debates raging throughout the new left as the US intervention in Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle neared its end. For those of us who were politically involved at the time, the debates ring with familiarity: national liberation over class; the interaction between race and class in the United States; the oppression of women and white male privilege. In a testimony to his writing abilities, Gilbert’s discussion of the issues makes them as alive in this book as those arguments actually were in the mid- 1970s. His keen political sense reveals the interplay between different political perspectives, understandings of history, and the always present contests of ego. The political arguments outlined by Gilbert (especially when describing the battle inside WUO) are still relevant today. Their echoes are present in the General Assemblies of the Occupy Wall Street movement and in forums more specific and less specific across the nation. Gilbert’s presentation of the essential WUO arguments that challenges the overriding role of class in the nature of oppression is not only reasoned and impassioned, it is worth studying and makes points useful to the future of anti-imperialist struggle in the United States. Furthermore, the book includes an ongoing and excellent discussion of the nature of white supremacy and white skin privilege. For anyone who has spent time involved in the Occupy movement the past few months, the relevance of this latter discussion is all too familiar.

For those looking for a sensationalist account of life as a revolutionary or a confession, they should look elsewhere.  David Gilbert’s memoir is a political account of a political life. Every action undertaken, every decision made is examined via the eye of a leftist revolutionary. This does not mean there are no page-turning moments in the book, however. Indeed, the sections describing Weather’s move underground and Gilbert’s daily life off the grid are interesting and revealing, as are those describing the attempts by WUO members to evade capture. The descriptions of Gilbert’s clandestine life and his subsequent moving back aboveground and then back under are also riveting.

Underlying the entire narrative is a current of what is best described as self-criticism; of Weather, the New Left, armed struggle and, ultimately, of Gilbert himself. As anyone who has experienced something akin to a self-criticism session can attest, such sessions can be emotionally wrenching episodes of retribution and petty anger. They can also be tremendously useful when conducted humanely. Gilbert’s written attempts at this exercise in Love and Struggle lean toward the latter expression while also proviing interesting and useful considerations to the aforementioned issues (along with issues related to those criticisms). Gilbert’s realization that his ego occasionally caused him to make decisions that weren’t based on politically sound rationales is something any radical leader should take into account.  In fact, Gilbert’s continuing struggle with his ego and it’s place in the decisions he made while free reminded me of a maxim relayed to me a couple times in my life; once by an organizer for the Revolutionary Union in Maryland and once by a friend from the Hog Farm commune. That maxim is simply: if you start believing that the revolution can’t exist without you, then it’s time to leave center stage and go back to doing grunt work where nobody knows (or cares) who you are. In other words, you are not the revolution so take your ego out of it.

In the well-considered catalog of books dealing honestly with the period of history known as the Sixties in the United States, Love and Struggle is an important addition. Borrowing his technique from memoir, confession, and objective history-telling, David Gilbert has provided the reader of history with the tale of a person and a time. Simultaneously, he has given the reader inclined to political activism a useful, interesting, and well-told example of one human’s revolutionary commitment to social change no matter what the cost.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in Counterpunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at:

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Spain: Model for Anarchist Organizing

by David Porter
The 5th Estate
Spring 2012

The Spanish anarchist movement and revolution of the late 1930s are undoubtedly the historical force and context most praised by Western anarchists.

In absolute numbers, in proportion of the overall population they were part of, and in the radical transformation they accomplished in much of Spanish society, the reputation is well deserved.

Highlighting their accomplishments, José Peirats, the author of the best history (in three volumes) of the immense Spanish anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT), states as well that, “We write for history’s sake and also for the purpose of enlightening future generations of fighters.” For this reason also, he says, “none of the mistakes made by workers should be glossed over in silence.”

It is critical that contemporary anarchists accept his advice. This recently published first volume of the English translation of his definitive work is an excellent place to begin.

This volume, translated by Paul Sharkey and Chris Ealham and extensively edited by the latter, provides exceptionally well documented insight into the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist movement’s first tumultuous decades as well as its internal ideological struggles and organizational variety.

It continues with the CNT’s initial experience in fighting Spanish fascist/Nationalist forces while simultaneously constructing the beginnings of libertarian communism in the Civil War and Revolution of the 1930s.

Several months after a Left coalition electoral victory in February 1936, Spanish military and Rightist political forces launched a violent revolt to overthrow the new government. Anarchists (and others) immediately resisted his effort in direct street clashes throughout Spain.

In Catalonia, where the CNT was the largest force on the Left, and elsewhere in the center and east of Spain, Leftist forces prevailed. Soon thereafter, front lines were established that divided Spain down the middle and more traditional warfare began.

Ealham’s detailed historical and documentary knowledge, as well as his political understanding of the continued relevance of Peirats’ account, significantly help in comprehending and appreciating the common political issues between the historical subjects discussed and contemporary readers. Ealham’s detailed notes and commentary bring up-to-date, and greatly add, to both the book’s scholarly and political activist dimensions.

Additionally, Ealham’s rich introductory account of the genesis of the original work published in 1951 and Peirats’ immense travails to complete it in conditions of post-Civil War exile, poverty and repression, provide a sobering contrast to the relative comfort of most present-day anarchist historians.

Long-time Fifth Estate staff member, Federico Arcos, who fought against the fascists in his native Spain, provided crucial assistance for the Meltzer Press original 2001 British publication of this translation as well as extensive valuable photographic resources whose images bring the text even more to life.

In our present context of spreading popular uprisings against the tightening screws of sick and increasingly desperate and repressive capitalism, this account is most timely. How Spanish anarchists created a massive working class revolutionary organization in the midst of a capitalist society, the nature of the social transformation they envisaged, and the struggle to maintain the integrity of organizational principles and objectives in the midst of civil war and betrayal by political “allies” are all critical issues for the contemporary movement of anarchists and anti-authoritarians.

Peirats, as the documentary historian, provides rich and detailed accounts of the debates. At the same time, as the experienced revolutionary activist, he conveys the passions, ideals and perilous myths lived at the grassroots level.

Peirats’ discussion and the events in Spain raise basic questions about what is and what makes a revolution. Is it realistic to hope for a single emancipating occurrence or is it instead a long-range and never-ending process of significant anti-hierarchical ruptures that break through the established forms of dominance faced in their specificities by each generation and social context? Alternatively, as the Spanish example suggests, the very potential for a deep revolutionary transformation at any historical juncture depends on both a long series of social ruptures over previous decades as well as a propitious immediate context of external factors.

While the Left electoral victory and subsequent civil war in 1936 opened up social space in areas of anarchist preponderance for revolutionary economic and social forms, the Left government and the war itself also imposed intense hierarchical demands of their own through repressive threats, dependence on foreign support, and the nature of violence itself.

The CNT, the anarcho-syndicalist mass revolutionary labor union founded in 1910, is the focus of Peirats’ history. But Spanish anarchism was both part of and partly separate from the CNT. This ambiguity between more purist anarchists (most prominently the FAI, the Iberian Anarchist Federation, founded in 1927) and the mass anarcho-syndicalist union movement provided much of the ongoing tension within Spanish anarchism before and during the 1930s.

Creating and maintaining a mass organization, however, inspired and led by veteran anarchists, brought forth issues of practical coordination of large numbers of workers, differing revolutionary commitment levels among those with and without anarchist backgrounds, and the difficulty of wielding decisive political power in the midst of various competing political parties and a rival socialist mass union movement, the UGT, without corrupting the anti-statist nature of the anarchist ideal and practice. In Spain at that time, the CNT represented by far the largest political force of anarchist inspiration. However, its claim to privileged influence over the strategy and goals of Spanish anarchism was constantly in dispute by those critical of its decisions or those anarchists not committed to a syndicalist orientation. Because of its very size and dynamism, whatever direction the CNT took usually had important repercussions on all anarchists, whether CNT members or not.

This was an important authority issues in itself. Authority disputes also emerged between historic leaders as well as between those who did and those who did not partake in violent direct action initiatives before 1936. Aside from this was the potential for CNT institutional bureaucratization and defensive leadership styles, especially after the fateful decision in 1936 to join newly created anti-fascist unity governments at national, provincial, and local levels, despite the CNT's diligent traditional commitment to decentralist and anti-elitist organizational principles and grassroots accountability.

As French anarchist Sébastian Faure observed, the result of the CNT’s governmental collaboration was that, “the impulse no longer emanates from the base but from the upper echelon; guidelines do not emanate from the masses but from the leadership.”

From the late 1920s through the entire Spanish Civil War and Revolution, and the defeat of both in 1939 (and later postwar exile), the issue of whether and how much this anti-statist movement should collaborate (including electoral voting in 1931, 1933 and 1936) with non-anarchist political forces (left and liberal parties and unions) was constantly debated and caused fundamental splits within the movement.

The high-stakes volatility connected to this debate was all the greater in desperate contexts of potential and real massive repression from rightist forces, especially during the Civil War itself.

The dilemma was inevitable for a movement which, however strong, was only a large minority within the over- all population, which was committed against imposing its own dictatorship on others and which, nevertheless, was under violent attack by state, capitalist and aristocratic forces.

When collaboration logic was accepted, even to the point of allowing four anarchist leaders to become ministers of the wartime central government, anarchists faced additional continued problems of how much to compromise the ideal of libertarian revolutionary self-direction in the face of alliance partners (liberal Republicans, Socialists, and Communists) whose leaders were committed to power aggrandizement (and, with the Stalinists, frequently to persecution of anarchists) at every turn, even in the midst of the deadly civil war. The consequences of repression and sabotage of anarchists’ military efforts and the rural revolutionary collectives in the Aragon area by their supposedly anti-fascist allies (especially the Communists) were enormously bitter and costly, as well described in this volume.

As Peirats states, “The CNT had glided into an uninterrupted avalanche of concessions. It was hard to get off this slippery slope. It had to do battle on terrain utterly different from its own . . . The CNT, heroic and invincible in the union, the factory and the streets, was easy prey in the salons and corridors of the ministries.”

Nevertheless, at the grassroots, Spanish anarchists had succeeded in launching remarkable and unprecedented widespread egalitarian and communitarian efforts in industrial, agricultural, educational and other realms, especially in areas of their greatest strength—Catalonia, Aragon, and Valencia.

A deeper issue of collaboration in this volume is concerned with to what extent and at what price could the anarchist movement reciprocate against repression and social oppression with violent retaliation, resistance and revolution of its own. In the face of assassinations and imprisonment of anarchists and state repression of various forms of anarchist expression, the growing polarization between non-violent (such as education, publishing, strikes and demonstrations) and violent alternatives was a continuing reality of the movement in the 1920s and 1930s.

It culminated in anarchists’ determined reaction with arms to the fascist insurrection in July 1936. As influential militant Diego Abad de Santillan later stated, “We knew that victory in the revolution was not possible without victory in the war and for the war’s sake we sacrificed everything. We even sacrificed the revolution itself, not realizing that this sacrifice also implied the sacrifice of our war aims.”

As Ealham emphasizes, Peirats’ history has been an essential starting place for understanding the Spanish Civil War and Revolution, from the time of its first publication to the present. In my view, it also provides a broad introduction to essential traits, dynamics, issues, and dilemmas of the anarchist movement generally. This new North American edition gives access to a new generation and a new community of readers and well serves Peirats’ original intent. FE

David Porter is a retired SUNY professor of history and political science and the editor of Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution. He is the translator and author of Eyes to the South: French Anarchists and Algeria, a grassroots history of the past six decades of Algerian history from the perspectives of the French anarchist movement, released by AK Press in November 2011.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to José Peirats Valls Page | Back to Chris Ealhams Page




A radical distro under the name Kersplebedeb, produces agit prop materials as well as important (if underappreciated!) political books and pamphlets. Kersplebedeb is a non-sectarian project, but attempts to explore anti-patriarchal and anti-imperialist politics within an anti-capitalist framework.

1. Creating a Movement with Teeth: A Documentary History of the George Jackson Brigade — Edited by Daniel Burton-Rose
2. Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners — Edited By Matt Meyer
3. From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King — Robert Hillary King
4. The Red Army Faction: A Documented History Volume 1: Projectiles for the People — J. Smith and Andre Monocourt
5. Prison Round Trip — Klaus Viehmann
6. Daring To Struggle, Failing To Win: The Red Army Faction's 1977 Campaign Of Desperation — J. Smith and André Moncourt






Creating a Movement with Teeth: A Documentary History of the George Jackson Brigade
Edited by Daniel Burton-Rose with Preface by Ward Churchill
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-223-2
Published: September 2010
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 320
Subjects: Politics-Activism, History-US

Bursting into existence in the Pacific Northwest in 1975, the George Jackson Brigade claimed fourteen pipe bombings against corporate and state targets, as many bank robberies, and the daring rescue of a jailed member. Combining veterans of the prisoners' women’s, gay, and black liberation movements, this organization was also ideologically diverse, consisting of both communists and anarchists. Concomitant with the Brigade's extensive armed work were prolific public communications. In more than a dozen communiqués and a substantial political statement, they sought to explain their intentions to the public while defying the law enforcement agencies that pursued them.

Collected in one volume for the first time, Creating a Movement with Teeth makes available this body of propaganda and mediations on praxis. In addition, the collection assembles corporate media profiles of the organization’s members and alternative press articles in which partisans thrash out the heated debates sparked in the progressive community by the eruption of an armed group in their midst. Creating a Movement with Teeth illuminates a forgotten chapter of the radical social movements of the 1970s in which diverse interests combined forces in a potent rejection of business as usual in the United States.


"Creating a Movement with Teeth is an important contribution to the growing body of literature on armed struggle in the 1970s. It gets us closer to knowing not only how pervasive militant challenges to the system were, but also the issues and contexts that shaped such strategies. Through documents by and about the George Jackson Brigade, as well as the introduction by Daniel Burton-Rose, this book sheds light on events that have until now been far too obscured."
—Dan Berger, author of Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity; editor of The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism.

"Daniel Burton-Rose's documentary history of the George Jackson Brigade offers the reader a rare first-hand account of a militant movement's attempt to communicate and refine the intent of its actions. The volume focuses on the 1970s, when revolution seemed imminent to those engaged in 'the struggle.' It contains a marvelous array of surveillance reports, feature articles in mainstream newspapers, on-the-spot communiqués directed both to the Brigade's constituency on the Left and to the impacted public, and many print volleys between the groups on the subject of violence. Suddenly this hidden history comes alive, nuanced, open to interpretation with the actual documents in hand. Burton-Rose's helpful annotations and his thoughtful retrospective interview with several of the members of the group underscores his deep understanding of the period, the people, and the issues that remain compelling as revealed by the mix of remorse, self-criticism, as well as consistent conviction. The Brigade's use of international and historical revolutionaries as points of reference, also makes this book an valuable resource for a wide range of issue relevant to studies of the past, present, and sadly, the future."
—Candace Falk, PhD, Director of The Emma Goldman Papers, and Editor of Emma Goldman, A Documentary History of the American Years, Volume 1: Made for America, 1890-1901 and Volume 2, Making Speech Free, 1902-1909.

"The popular image of the 70s urban guerrilla, even on the left, is that of the student radical or New Left youth activist kicking it up a couple of notches. Daniel Burton-Rose’s documentary history of the George Jackson Brigade is an important corrective in this regard. The Brigade, rooted in prison work, white and black, straights, bisexuals and dykes, was as rich a mixture of the elements making up the left as one could perhaps hope for. We all have much to learn form the Brigade’s rich and unique history." 
—André Moncourt,  Co-editor of The Red Army Faction: A Documentary History.

"A deep dig into the victories and errors of this important yet often overlooked revolutionary group. 'Information a hundred times more powerful than any bomb.'" —G. Filastine, interventionist, Infernal Noise Brigade.

About the Authors:

Daniel Burton-Rose (Editor) is the author of Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anti-capitalist Underground of the 1970s and the co-editor of Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement, and The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the U.S. Prison Industry.

Ward Churchill (Preface) is a prolific writer and lecturer, having authored, co-authored, or edited over twenty books. He is a member of the leadership council of Colorado AIM.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Daniel Burton Rose's Page


Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners
Editor: Matt Meyer
Foreword by Nobel Peace Laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel
Afterwords by Ashanti Alston and Lynne Stewart
Publisher: PM Press/Kersplebedeb
Published: September 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60486-035-1
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 912
Dimensions: 6 by 9
Subjects: Politics, Prison Abolition

Let Freedom Ring presents a two-decade sweep of essays, analyses, histories, interviews, resolutions, People’s Tribunal verdicts, and poems by and about the scores of U.S. political prisoners and the campaigns to safeguard their rights and secure their freedom. In addition to an extensive section on the campaign to free death-row journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, represented here are the radical movements that have most challenged the U.S. empire from within: Black Panthers and other Black liberation fighters, Puerto Rican independentistas, Indigenous sovereignty activists, white anti-imperialists, environmental and animal rights militants, Arab and Muslim activists, Iraq war resisters, and others. Contributors in and out of prison detail the repressive methods—from long-term isolation to sensory deprivation to politically inspired parole denial—used to attack these freedom fighters, some still caged after thirty-plus years. This invaluable resource guide offers inspiring stories of the creative, and sometimes winning, strategies to bring them home.

Contributors include:  Mumia Abu-Jamal, Dan Berger, Dhoruba Bin-Wahad, Bob Lederer, Terry Bisson, Laura Whitehorn, Safiya Bukhari, The San Francisco 8, Angela Davis, Bo Brown, Bill Dunne, Jalil Muntaqim, Susie Day, Luis Nieves Falcón, Ninotchka Rosca, Meg Starr, Assata Shakur, Jill Soffiyah Elijah, Jan Susler, Chrystos, Jose Lopez, Leonard Peltier, Marilyn Buck, Oscar López Rivera, Sundiata Acoli, Ramona Africa, Linda Thurston, Desmond Tutu, Mairead Corrigan Maguire and many more.


"Within every society there are people who, at great personal risk and sacrifice, stand up and fight for the most marginalized among us. We call these people of  courage, spirit and love, our heroes and heroines. This book is the story of the ones in our midst. It is the story of the best we are." —asha bandele, poet and author of The Prisoner's Wife

“This extraordinary volume powerfully and eloquently brings together the voices of so many U.S. political prisoners. Taken one at a time, the stories, poems, communiqués, and analyses are not only heartbreaking in the suffering, courage and indomitable fortitude they manifest, but also paint a clear and damning picture of routine U.S. repression. When read as a whole, this book can do no other than inspire a new generation of activists and revolutionaries to free these prisoners and to bring down this whole wretched system of exploitation, theft, and murder. Thank you to the editors and to the contributors, and thank you most especially to the political prisoners themselves, who are giving their lives and are teaching us by their example how to be free men and women.” —Derrick Jensen, activist and author of How Shall I Live My Life

"As a convicted felon, I have been prevented from visiting many people in prison today. But none of us should be stopped from the vital work of prison abolition and freeing the many who the U.S. holds for political reasons. Let Freedom Ring helps make their voices heard, and presents strategies to help win their release." —Daniel Berrigan SJ, former Plowshares political prisoner and member of the FBI Top Ten Most Wanted List.

About the Editor:

Matt Meyer is an educator-activist, based in New York City. Founding PJSA Co-Chair along with USF Dean Jennifer Turpin, Meyer has long worked to bring together academics and activists for lasting social change. A former public draft registration resister and chair of the War Resisters League, he continues to serve as convener of the War Resisters International Africa Working Group. With Bill Sutherland, Meyer authored Guns and Gandhi in Africa: Pan-African Insights on Nonviolence, Armed Struggle and Liberation. He has edited the Fellowship of Reconciliation's "Puerto Rico: The Cost of Colonialism;" War in Africa and an African Peace; and the forthcoming two-volume Seeds of New Hope: African Peace Studies for the 21st Century.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book Now | Matt Meyer's Page

From the Bottom of the Heap: The Autobiography of Black Panther Robert Hillary King
Author: Robert Hillary King
Introduction by Terry Kupers
Publisher: PM Press
Published: September 2008
ISBN: 978-1-60486-039-9
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 224
Dimensions: 6 by 9
Subjects: Biography, Politics, Prison Abolition

Winner of the 2008 PASS Award (Prevention for a Safer Society) from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

In 1970, a jury convicted Robert Hillary King of a crime he did not commit and sentenced him to thirty-five years in prison. He became a member of the Black Panther Party while in Angola State Penitentiary, successfully organizing prisoners to improve conditions. In return, prison authorities beat him, starved him, and gave him life without parole after framing him for a second crime. He was thrown into solitary confinement, where he remained in a six by nine foot cell for twenty-nine years as one of the Angola 3. In 2001, the state grudgingly acknowledged his innocence and set him free. This is his story.

It begins at the beginning: born black, born poor, born in Louisiana in1942, King journeyed to Chicago as a hobo at the age of fifteen. He married and had a child, and briefly pursued a semi-pro boxing career to help provide for his family. Just a teenager when he entered the Louisiana penal system for the first time, King tells of his attempts to break out of this system, and his persistent pursuit of justice where there is none.

Yet this remains a story of inspiration and courage, and the triumph of the human spirit. The conditions in Angola almost defy description, yet King never gave up his humanity, or the work towards justice for all prisoners that he continues to do today. From the Bottom of the Heap, so simply and humbly told, strips bare the economic and social injustices inherent in our society, while continuing to be a powerful literary testimony to our own strength and capacity to overcome.


"For a person to go through twenty-nine years in one of the most brutal prisons in America and still maintain his sanity and humanity, that's what makes people want to listen to Robert."
--Malik Rahim, Co-Founder of Common Ground Collective

"Friendships are forged in strange places. My friendship with Robert King and the other two  Angola 3 men Herman Wallace and  Albert Woodfox is based on respect. These men, as Robert reveals in this stunning account of his life, have fought tirelessly to redress injustice, not only for themselves, but for others. This is a battle Robert is determined to win and we are  determined to help him."
—Gordon Roddick,  activist and co-founder of The Body Shop

"When there is a train wreck, there is a public inquiry, to try to avoid it recurring. Robert King's conviction was a train wreck, and this book is perhaps the only way the world will get to understand why. There are more than 3,000 people serving life without the possibility of parole in Angola today, some as young as fourteen when they were sent there, and many of them innocent but without the lawyer to prove it. We owe it to them, and others in a similar plight around the world, to read this book."
—Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Robert Hillary King's Page 


The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History - Volume 1: Projectiles For the People
Edited by J. Smith and André Moncourt
Forewords by Russell "Maroon" Shoats and Bill Dunne
Published by PM Press and Kersplebedeb
ISBN: 978-1-60486-029-0
Pub Date February 2009
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 736 pages
Size: 6 by 9
Subjects: Politics, Armed Struggle

The first in a two-volume series, this is by far the most in-depth political history of the Red Army Faction ever made available in English.

Projectiles for the People starts its story in the days following World War II, showing how American imperialism worked hand in glove with the old pro-Nazi ruling class, shaping West Germany into an authoritarian anti-communist bulwark and launching pad for its aggression against Third World nations. The volume also recounts the opposition that emerged from intellectuals, communists, independent leftists, and then—explosively—the radical student movement and countercultural revolt of the 1960s.

It was from this revolt that the Red Army Faction emerged, an underground organization devoted to carrying out armed attacks within the Federal Republic of Germany, in the view of establishing a tradition of illegal, guerilla resistance to imperialism and state repression. Through its bombs and manifestos the RAF confronted the state with opposition at a level many activists today might find difficult to imagine.

For the first time ever in English, this volume presents all of the manifestos and communiqués issued by the RAF between 1970 and 1977, from Andreas Baader’s prison break, through the 1972 May Offensive and the 1975 hostage-taking in Stockholm, to the desperate, and tragic, events of the “German Autumn” of 1977. The RAF’s three main manifestos—The Urban Guerilla Concept, Serve the People, and Black September—are included, as are important interviews with Spiegel and le Monde Diplomatique, and a number of communiqués and court statements explaining their actions.

Providing the background information that readers will require to understand the context in which these events occurred, separate thematic sections deal with the 1976 murder of Ulrike Meinhof in prison, the 1977 Stammheim murders, the extensive use of psychological operations and false-flag attacks to discredit the guerilla, the state’s use of sensory deprivation torture and isolation wings, and the prisoners’ resistance to this, through which they inspired their own supporters and others on the left to take the plunge into revolutionary action.

Drawing on both mainstream and movement sources, this book is intended as a contribution to the comrades of today—and to the comrades of tomorrow—both as testimony to those who struggled before and as an explanation as to how they saw the world, why they made the choices they made, and the price they were made to pay for having done so.


Of all the revolutionary organizations to have been forged by the so-called sixties generation, the German Red Army Faction has been perhaps the most mythologized and maligned. Here at last is their story, told in their own words through “official” communications, comprehensively assembled and available for the first time in English translation. This is essential material for anyone wishing to know what they did, why they did it, and to draw consequent lessons from their experience. —Ward Churchill author of On the Justice of Roosting Chickens

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Prison Round Trip
Author: Klaus Viehmann Preface by Bill Dunne and Introduction by Gabriel Kuhn
Publisher: PM Press/Kersplebedeb
Published: April 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-082-5
Format: Pamphlet
Page Count: 28
Dimensions: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Prison Abolition, Activism

Bang. The door to your cell is shut. You have survived the arrest, you are mad that you weren’t more careful, you worry that they will get others too, you wonder what will happen to your group and whether a lawyer has been called yet—of course you show none of this. The weapon, the fake papers, your own clothes, all gone. The prison garb and the shoes they’ve thrown at you are too big—maybe because they want to play silly games with you, maybe because they really blow “terrorists” out of proportion in their minds—and the control over your own appearance taken out of your hands. You look around, trying to get an understanding of where you’ll spend the next few years of your life.

Prison Round Trip was first published in German in 2003 as “Einmal Knast und zurück.” The essay’s author, Klaus Viehmann, had been released from prison ten years earlier, after completing a fifteen-year sentence for his involvement in urban guerilla activities in Germany in the 1970s. The essay was subsequently reprinted in various forums. It is a reflection on prison life and on how to keep one’s sanity and political integrity within the hostile and oppressive prison environment; “survival strategies” are its central theme.

“Einmal Knast und zurück” soon found an audience extending beyond Germany’s borders. Thanks to translations by comrades and radical distribution networks, it has since been eagerly discussed amongst political prisoners from Spain to Greece. This is the first time the text is available to a wider English-speaking audience.

 “Klaus’s take on survival strategy tells us we can not only survive thusly but can as well continue to serve the cause of liberation—which are really the same thing. We can be captured without giving in or giving up.” —From the Preface by North American political prisoner Bill Dunne

About the Author:

Klaus Viehmann spent fifteen years in West German prisons after his arrest in 1978 for various activities carried out by the anarchist 2nd of June Movement. While in prison he wrote an essay that became the centerpiece of the book Drei zu Eins (“Three to One”), published in 1991. The book introduced the concept of “triple oppression”—the interrelations between class, gender and race in oppressive social structures—to a radical German-speaking audience, and proved highly influential, especially in autonomist circles. Since his release Viehmann has been active in various left-wing projects, including solidarity campaigns for World War II forced laborers and Colombian trade unionists. He remains involved in numerous publishing activities, as an author, translator, and a graphic designer. He is also co-editor of two extensive volumes documenting the history of autonomist political poster art in Germany: Hoch die Kampf Dem (1999) and Vorwärts bis zum Nieder Mit (2001). His home is once again Berlin—today officially undivided, but, as he puts it, “a place where a lot needs to be done."

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Daring To Struggle, Failing To Win: The Red Army Faction's 1977 Campaign Of Desperation
Written by J. Smith and André Moncourt
Publisher: PM Press/Kersplebedeb
ISBN: 978-1-60486-028-3
Pub Date: July 2008
Format: PDF, ePUB, Mobi
Page Count: 44 Pages
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Politics, Armed Struggle

In 1970 a small group of West German revolutionaries decided to go underground, to set up safe houses, and learn the skills of the urban guerilla. They were the Red Army Faction.

Seven years later, almost all of the original combatants were in prison or dead, yet, through their example, they had inspired a militant and illegal support movement, comrades willing to take up arms in defense of the prisoners.

1977 was to be a year of reckoning. Through daring attacks and devastating errors, the West German guerilla brought their society to the brink, mounting one of the most desperate and incredible campaigns of asymmetrical warfare ever waged in postwar Europe. That they failed is no excuse to not learn their story, to see who they were and what they fought for—and, most tragically, to bear witness to the lengths the state would go to silence them. This pamphlet is our very modest introduction to this story.

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Reach and Teach

Reach and Teach is a peace and social justice learning company, transforming the world through teachable moments.


An inspiring company that also has a fantastic store in San Mateo, California—
The Dove & Olive Works. Even if you can't drop in, you can visit them online at

"Call it a social justice/education store/community center mashup. It's not like any other store or non-profit center around, which makes categorizing this new enterprise a little challenging—in a good way . . ." — Pam Marino,

1. Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco —Summer Brenner and Brian Bowes
2. Operation Marriage — Cynthia Chin-Lee and Lea Lyon
3. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book — Jacinta Bunnell and Nathaniel Kusinitz
4. Girls are Not Chicks Coloring Book — Jacinta Bunnell and Julie Novak
5. Abe in Arms — Pegi Deitz Shea






Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco
Author: Summer Brenner
Illustrator: Brian Bowes
Publisher: PM Press / Reach And Teach
ISBN: 978-1-60486-317-8
Published June 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 176 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Social Science (Ages 10 and up)

In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy's tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.


“Lolitas, Oliver Twists and Huckleberry Finns live on, and now, Ivy’s tale of hope lives right alongside them.” —Robin Clewly, San Francisco Chronicle

“A quirky, clever story about a young girl’s journey through the streets and homeless shelters of San Francisco . . . Ivy is fictional, but her circumstances are honest reflections of life for the many homeless children.” —San Jose Mercury News

"All the parts fit in so well that I almost forgot that I was reading a book. It was as if I was watching a movie and could hear their thoughts . . . I think this book is great for all ages. Ivy is both fun and moving."  —Anna Moss, age 12  Boston, MA

"Ivy was one of the best books I have ever read. I liked it because it taught an important lesson of faith and trust." —Rachel Hodge, age 13. Savannah, GA

About the Authors:

Summer Brenner was raised in Georgia and migrated west, first to New Mexico and eventually to northern California where she has been a long-time resident. She has published books of both poetry and fiction, for adults and children, and given scores of readings in the United States, France, and Japan. In addition to Ivy, her nine books include: Richmond Tales, I-5, and The Soft Room.

Brian Bowes is an illustrator–designer living and working in San Francisco. Brian is developing a working style in watercolor and is inspired by a range of artists, from Wyeth to Asian ink paintings. Alternately this is mixed with his long love for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and  a healthy fascination with shiny old-time machinery.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Summer Brenner's Page


Operation Marriage
Author: Cynthia Chin-Lee
Illustrations: Lea Lyon
Publisher: PM Press/Reach and Teach
ISBN: 978-1-60486-422-9
Published: October 2011
Format: Hardcover
Size: 8.5 by 11
Page count: 32 Pages
Subjects: Children's Picture Book, Family

Eight-year old Alex has a fight with her best friend, Zach, who says he can no longer be her friend. Why? Because "her parents aren't married." Set in the San Francisco Bay Area months before the passage of Proposition 8 banning gay marriage in California, this picture book looks at the heartwarming and humorous actions of Alex and her younger brother, Nicky, to convince their parents to get married.

Though content with a commitment ceremony years earlier, the childrens' stubbornness prevails and the moms get legally married before Prop. 8 takes effect. Their love as a family is contagious as their neighbors begin to accept them for what they are: a normal, affectionate family.

Based on a true story, Cynthia Chin-Lee (author of Amelia to Zora) has written a splendid and touching story about a real family, and the real implications of the struggle for equality, with beautiful and captivating illustrations by Lea Lyon (Say Something).


"Operation Marriage is an honest, insightful, and touching story illustrating the many ways that lack of marriage equality impacts kids' lives. Its messages—perseverance, trusting oneself, facing adversity and standing up to it—are universal, but its approach to the particular social challenge of marriage inequality fills a void in the children's book world. There is power in seeing a problem from a child's perspective, and much that we grown-ups can learn from looking at the world through a child's eyes. This book belongs in every school library and on every public library shelf."  —Sarah Hoffman, author of Pink Boys

"Even 3rd-graders know that commitment ceremonies are not weddings and domestic partnerships are not marriage. Operation Marriage shows how important marriage is to children and that they understand that anything less, is less than equal."  —Dr. Davina Kotulski, psychologist, and author of Why You Should Give A Damn About Gay Marriage (2004) and Love Warriors: The Rise of the Marriage Equality Movement and Why it Will Prevail (2010)

"Cynthia delights audiences, with careful consideration not to leave anyone out. Her books are winners."  —Heidi R. Kling, author of Sea

About the Authors:

Cynthia Chin-Lee is the author of A Is For Asia (Orchard Books), which Ruminator Review called one of the "Best 100 American Children's Books of the Century," and A is For the Americas (Orchard Books), which earned an award from the National Council for Social Studies and Children's Book Council (CBC/NCSS) as a Notable Children's Book in Social Studies. Her latest books are the award-winning Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World, and Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-six Men Who Changed the World. She lives in Palo Alto, California, with her husband, son, and two cats.

Lea Lyon is an award-winning children's book illustrator, painting teacher, and portrait artist based in Richmond, CA. Her books include Say Something with Peggy Moss (Tilbury House), a Notable Social Studies Book and winner of the Teachers’ Choice Award from Learning magazine; Playing War with Kathy Beck (Tilbury House), winner of the Skipping Stones Magazine Award as one of the “Best 25 Multicultural Picture Books of 2006;” Keep Your Ear on the Ball with by Genevieve Petrillo (Tilbury House), winner of the Moonbeam Award in 2008 and runner up for the ALA Schneider Family Award in 2007. Lea’s most recent book, The Miracle Jar, is a Chanukah picture book by New York Times bestselling author Audrey Penn. (Tanglewood Books).

Buy book now | Cynthia Chin-Lee's Page | Lea Lyon's Page

Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon Coloring Book
Author and Illustrator: Jacinta Bunnell and Nathaniel Kusinitz
Publisher: Reach And Teach / PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-329-1
Published: September 2010
Format: Paperback
Size: 11 by 8.5
Page count: 36
Subjects: Family-Children, Activity-Coloring Book

We have the power to change fairy tales and nursery rhymes so that these stories are more realistic. In Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon you will find anecdotes of real kids’ lives and true-to-life fairy tale characters. This book pushes us beyond rigid gender expectations while we color fantastic beasts who like pretty jewelry and princesses who build rocket ships.

Celebrate sensitive boys, tough girls, and others who do not fit into a disempowering gender categorization.

Sometimes the Spoon . . . aids the work of dismantling the Princess Industrial Complex by moving us forward with more honest representations of our children and ourselves. Color to your heart's content. Laugh along with the characters. Write your own fairy tales. Share your own truths.


"As moving and funny as Walter the Farting Dog, with pictures you can color however your heart desires, Sometimes the Spoon... is appropriate for children of all ages, especially those who grew up without it."
—Ayun Halliday, Chief Primatologist of The East Village Inky

"For some people the sky's the limit. For Jacinta Bunnell it's a place to put a rainbow. There are no limits in Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away With Another Spoon—just fun and love. Jacinta Bunnell invites you to "Step right up!" to the wonderful world of you!"
—World Famous *BOB*, Ultimate Self Confidence! Coach

About the Author:

Jacinta Bunnell is an artist and writer living in New York's Hudson Valley where she enjoys makes coloring books for a gender-defiant new world. Jacinta is a rehabilitated and reformed cheerleader who now has pep rallies for all sorts of freaks.

When Nat Kusinitz was in 6th grade he saw a painting of Frida Kahlo with all of her hair chopped off and was never the same again. He currently resides in New Orleans, where he spends his time riding the streetcar around and staring wistfully out of windows.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now 


Girls are Not Chicks Coloring Book
Authors: Jacinta Bunnell and Julie Novak
Publisher: Reach And Teach / PM Press
Published: Sept. 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-076-4
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 36
Dimensions: 8.5 by 11
Subjects: Children's Activity Book/ Feminism

Twenty-seven pages of feminist fun! This is a coloring book you will never outgrow. Girls Are Not Chicks is a subversive and playful way to examine how pervasive gender stereotypes are in every aspect of our lives. This book helps to deconstruct the homogeneity of gender expression in children's media by showing diverse pictures that reinforce positive gender roles for girls.

Color the Rapunzel for a new society. She now has power tools, a roll of duct tape, a Tina Turner album, and a bus pass!

Paint outside the lines with Miss Muffet as she tells that spider off and considers a career as an arachnologist!

Girls are not chicks. Girls are thinkers, creators, fighters, healers and superheroes.


"An ingeniously subversive coloring book." —Heather Findlay, Editor in Chief, Girlfriends magazine

"Get this cool feminist coloring book even if you don't have a kid" —Jane Pratt, Jane magazine


About the Authors:

Jacinta Bunnell is an artist and writer living in New York's Hudson Valley where she enjoys makes coloring books for a gender-defiant new world. Jacinta is a rehabilitated and reformed cheerleader who now has pep rallies for all sorts of freaks. She aspires to someday have friends like Jo Polniaczek from Facts of Life, Leroy Johnson from Fame,and Red Fraggle.

You can find her artwork at:

Julie Novak is an actor, writer, musician, and artist who is committed to teaching tolerance. She believes that the wisdom of young people can change the world. She received her BS in Graphic Design from SUNY New Paltz, and is now serving as the art director for New York House Magazine, a publication focused on green living and sustainability. She contributed her design talents to the N.O.W. Foundation's "Love Your Body Day" campaign and helped plan SUNY New Paltz's first Transforming Feminism Conference. In 2006 she released a pop-punk CD with her band Guitars & Hearts which Bitch Magazine recommended in it's "suggested listening" column. Hear a sample at: She lives in New York's Hudson Valley where she works on musical projects and improvisational theater performances.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Jacinta Bunnell's Page | Julie Novak's Page


Abe in Arms
Author: Pegi Deitz Shea
Publisher: PM Press / Reach And Teach
ISBN: 978-1-60486-198-3
Published June 2010
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 172 Pages
Size: 8.5 by 5.5
Subjects: Fiction (recommended Grade 6 and up)

A senior in high school, Abe's got a Division I track scholarship awaiting him, a hot girlfriend, and a loving and wealthy adoptive family, including a brother his age. But suddenly, horrific flashbacks and seizures rip him back five years ago to war-torn Africa, where he lost his mother, his sister, his friends, and almost his own life to torturous violence. In therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Abe uncovers even darker moments that make him question why he's still alive.

This contemporary young adult novel portrays the pressures of teens to live a normal life, let alone succeed at high levels; while facing mental illness and—in Abe's case—a past that no one could possibly understand . . . or survive.

Pegi Deitz Shea has written a suspenseful, action-filled book that will open teens' eyes and hearts to the lives of young people exposed to violence around the world.


"Pegi Shea’s book, Abe in Arms, although fictional in nature, could have been true for any number of young boys in West Africa whose lives were devastated by conscription into the rebel army through force, threats, manipulation, bribery, and drugs. As a counselor and member of a trauma team who went to Liberia to teach counseling skills to civic and religious leaders following their civil war, I found it very heart breaking to witness the long term effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome upon the young boys, often no more than 11-14 years of age. Although there is a nation-wide effort in Liberia to rehabilitate these young boys, many require extensive mental health treatment and the prognoses are often disappointing. In her book, Pegi Shea engrosses us in the horrors of war, pulls at our heartstrings as we weep for Abe, and causes us to yearn for a time when he can confront the demons that control his life. At the same time, she explores the wrenching irony of war refugees being thrust into an American youth culture that glamorizes the very violence that has caused Abe so much anguish.  Shea’s resolution, like Abe’s epiphany, is surprising, believable, and gratifying" —Eleanor Porter Pershing, PhD, West Africa Trauma Team

About the Author:

Pegi Deitz Shea is best known for exploring human rights issues in children's books. Pegi has brought the worlds of refugees, immigrants, child laborers, and historical figures into the minds of readers of all ages. Her books include The Whispering Cloth, Tangled Threads, Ten Mice for Tet, The Carpet Boy's Gift and Patience Wright. Her books have been made Notables by organizations including the International Reading Association, National Council of Teachers of English, National Council for the Social Studies, Bank Street College, Junior Library Guild and the New York Public Library. She has been teaching writing for the Institute of Children's Literature since 1996, and teaching children's literature at the University of Connecticut since 2007. Pegi has presented at more than 350 schools, libraries and conferences across the nation. Raised in New Jersey, Pegi lives in Connecticut with her family when she's not traipsing around the world.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Pegi Deitz Shea's Page

PM Warehouse Behind the Scenes

muscle menNews > Additional Stories

PM Warehouse Behind the Scenes

Meet Dan. (He's on the left). Dan Fedorenko is a shipping machine. When you need a book to stimulate you, he packs, ships and checks the invoice twice, like a more lithe and more schooled-in-thrash-metal Santa Clause. He meets your needs. 

Meet Joey. (He's the other guy.) See Joey Paxman table. Table, Joey, table. Joey is a knowledgeable and charming gentleman and tabler who you will frequently see running tables for PM all over the West Coast. When not tabling, Joey is exploring the known limits of new interests and pushing past them, whether that is farming, drawing, sailing, or fishing. 

When these two powerhouses meet and are put into the relatively small space—that is, two different PM warehouses here in the San Francisco Bay Area—it makes for loads of work and creative breaks, as well as a rather appealing photo shoot opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up.

Recently, I had the pleasure of joining these ardent and indefatigable folks for inventory. The day was akin to walking up Lombard street (a long, winding, steep road for you non-locals) backwards. Muscles I don't usually use


were pulsating with heat, which on the one hand (and at the time) I really didn't much mind considering how very cold a December night in a non-heated warehouse can be, while on the other I realized this sort of pulsing should not be felt immediately and that tomorrow I would be lucky if I were mistaken for a bow-legged cowboy while walking the dogs.



The day, besides physically trying, was pleasurable and extremely productive. Thanks to great company as well as fantastic neighbors in the warehouse space (more on this another time) we stayed alert, friendly and effective the whole ten bone-chilling hours.

wv co bike
Meet Craig. (See motorcycle stand-in). Besides the California warehouses, we of course have our West Virginia base. Sadly, Craig, who braves the winters out there and runs a tight ship of a warehouse, looks like a motorcycle in the following photograph, because honestly, that is what we would call his totem, or happy place. 

The following photographs are remnants of highlights from our day —from silly pranks, blowing off steam between long swathes of inventory, and the stimulating process of counting everything we own. 

Thanks for braving these adventures with us: we could not and would not do it without you. Cheers.



lickin the beaters torturing dan

Busboys and Poets

logoBusyboys and Poets Press is a subsidiary of Busboys and Poets, a resturarant and community resource center for artists, activists, writers, thinkers, and dreamers who believe that a better world is possible.

1. Wisdom Teeth — Derrick Weston Brown
2. Suspended Somewhere Between — Akbar Ahmed
3. The 5th Inning—E. Ethelbert Miller


Wisdom Teeth
Author: Derrick Weston Brown with a foreword by Simone Jacobson
Publisher: PM Press / Busboys and Poets
ISBN: 978-1-60486-417-5
Published April 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 7.5 by 5.5
Page count: 136 Pages
Subjects: Poetry, African American

To consider Wisdom Teeth is to acknowledge inevitable movement, shift, and sometimes pain. There’s change hidden just below the surface and, like it or not, once it breaks, everything has to make room. So goes the aptly titled debut poetry collection from poet and educator Derrick Weston Brown. Wisdom Teeth reveals the ongoing internal and external reconstruction of a poet's life and world, as told through a litany of forms and myriad of voices, some the poet’s own.

Wisdom Teeth is a questioning work, a redefining of personal relationships, masculinity, race, and history. It’s a readjustment of bite, humor, and perspective as Brown channels hip-hop, Toni Morrison, and Snagglepuss to make way for the shudder and eruption of wisdom.


"This brilliant first effort is akin to a mixtape, filled with nostalgic hip-hop references—MF Doom, A Tribe Called Quest, and J Dilla, among others—a love letter from a grown man still much enamored of the youth culture today. Found here are playful experiments with the eintou, bop, and brownku, African American forms seldom approached with such mastery."  —Simone Jacobson, managing editor for Words. Beats. Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture

“We need more songs like this young man’s right here. Truth cuts its way beneath the unspoken like new teeth on their way to light.  Son of Langston, come on through.” —Ruth Forman, author of Prayers Like Shoes

About the Author:

Derrick Weston Brown holds an MFA in creative writing, from American University. He has studied poetry under Dr. Tony Medina at Howard University and Cornelius Eady at American University. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem Summer workshop for black poets and the VONA summer workshop. His work has appeared in such literary journals as Warpland, Mythium, Ginsoko, DrumVoices, The Columbia Poetry Review, and the online journals Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Howard University’s Amistad, LocusPoint, and MiPOesias. He works as a bookseller and book buyer for a wonderful bookstore which is operated by the nonprofit Teaching for Change, and is located within the restaurant, bar, coffee shop and performance space known as Busboys and Poets.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Derrick Weston Brown's Page 

Suspended Somewhere Between: A Book of Verse
Author: Akbar Ahmed with a foreword by Daniel Futterman
Publisher: PM Press / Busboys and Poets
ISBN: 978-1-60486-485-4
Published April 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 8.25 by 5
Page count: 152 Pages
Subjects: Poetry, Islam

Akbar Ahmed’s Suspended Somewhere Between is a collection of poetry from the man the BBC calls “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam." A mosaic of Ahmed’s life, which has traversed cultural and religious barriers, this book of verse is personal with a vocal range from introspective and reflective to romantic and emotive to historical and political. The poems take the reader from the forbidding valleys and mountains of Waziristan in the tribal areas of Pakistan to the think tanks and halls of power in Washington, DC; from the rustic tranquility of Cambridge to the urban chaos of Karachi.

The collection spans half a century of writing and gives the reader a front row seat to the drama of a world in turmoil. Can there be more drama than Ahmed’s first memories as a boy of four on a train through the killing fields of North India during the partition of the subcontinent in 1947? Or the breakup of Pakistan into two counties amidst mass violence in 1971? Yet, in the midst of change and uncertainty, there is the optimism and faith of a man with confidence in his fellow man and in the future, despite the knowledge that perhaps the problems and challenges of the changing world would prove to be too great.
Ahmed’s poetry was a constant source of solace and renewal to which he escaped for inspiration and sanity. He loved poetry of every kind whether English, Urdu or Persian. Ahmed was as fascinated by Keats and Coleridge as he was by Rumi and Ghalib. For us, he serves as a guide to the inner recesses of the Muslim world showing us its very heart. Through the poems, the reader gets fresh insights into the Muslim world and its struggles. Above all, they carry the eternal message of hope and compassion.


"Anyone wanting to understand Islam today must read Akbar Ahmed's collection. We are given rare glimpses into the dilemmas, pain, and despair but ultimately love and hope of Muslims through the verses of this true renaissance man."
—Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea

"Akbar Ahmed is a national treasure. Allow him to lead you through his tumultuous, thrilling life in this gorgeous collection of poems, written across five decades and three continents—a life of loss, despair, child-like wonder, and love."
—Daniel Futterman, actor (A Mighty Heart, as Daniel Pearl, 2007) and Oscar-nominated screenwriter (Capote, 2005)

About the Author:

Akbar Ahmed is the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University in Washington DC, the First Distinguished Chair of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He has taught at Princeton, Harvard, and Cambridge Universities and is considered “the world’s leading authority on contemporary Islam” by the BBC.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Akbar Ahmed's page


The 5th Inning
Author: E. Ethelbert Miller
Publisher: PM Press/Busboys and Poets
Published: March 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60486-062-7
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 160
Dimensions: 5 by 8
Subjects: Memoir, Politics

The 5th Inning is poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller's second memoir. Coming after Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer (published in 2000), this book finds Miller returning to baseball, the game of his youth, in order to find the metaphor that will provide the measurement of his life. Almost 60, he ponders whether his life can now be entered into the official record books as a success or failure.

The 5th Inning is one man's examination of personal relationships, depression, love and loss. This is a story of the individual alone on the pitching mound or in the batters box. It's a box score filled with remembrance. It's a combination of baseball and the blues.


“Traditionally, it's viewed as a female occupation, to strip away the layers and examine the experience of relationships with a partner, with children, within one's own interior emotional life.  Here comes a strong, real male voice, exploring the terrifying territory of growing older--in a marriage, in a family, in one's body.  Ethelbert Miller writes with naked honesty and courage about what it is to be a man no longer young.  Youth may have left him.  Passion has not.” --Joyce Maynard, author of At Home in the World

"The 5th Inning is a poetic meditation as much as a memoir. Ethelbert brings his poet's eye to the game of baseball and transforms it into a metaphor for a life that knows strikes, groundouts, and errors as well as the beauty of a ball sailing straight across homeplate." --Josephine Reed, WPFW

About the Author:

E. Ethelbert Miller is a literary activist. He is board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). He is also a board member of The Writer's Center and editor of Poet Lore magazine. The author of several collections of poems, his last book How We Sleep On The Nights We Don't Make Love (Curbstone Press, 2004) was an Independent Publisher Award Finalist. Miller received the 1995 O.B. Hardison Jr. Poetry Prize. He was awarded in 1996 an honorary doctorate of literature from Emory & Henry College. In 2003 his memoir Fathering Words: The Making of An African American Writer (St. Martin's Press, 2000) was selected by the DC WE READ for its one book, one city program sponsored by the D.C. Public Libraries. In 2004 Miller was awarded a Fulbright to visit Israel. Poets & Writers presented him with the 2007 Barnes & Noble/Writers for Writers Award. Mr. Miller is often heard on National Public Radio (NPR).

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Arissa Media Group

logo Arissa Media Group focuses on producing literary works that promote political and social justice, human rights, and environmental and animal protection. We have a limited stock of AMG titles available on our webstore.

1. The Logic of Political Violence: Lessons in Reform and RevolutionCraig Rosebraugh
2. Social Crisis and Social Demoralization: The Dynamics of Status in American Race Relations —Ronald A. Kuykendall
3. Mad Bomber MelvilleLeslie James Pickering
4. We Are Our Own Liberators: Selected Prison Writings  —Jalil Muntaqim
5. This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USAEdited by Craig Rosebraugh
6. Earth Liberation Front 1997-2002—Leslie James Pickering
7. Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism: The Collective Autobiography of the RNC 8 —Leslie James Pickering


The Logic of Political Violence: Lessons in Reform and Revolution
Author: Craig Rosebraugh
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-841-3
Published: March 2004
Format: Paperback
Size: 6 by 9
Page count: 288
Subjects: Politics-Activism

Within westernized societies, particularly the United States, there has been a near universal acceptance that nonviolent action has been the foundation on which the progress and/or success of political and social justice movements has been built. Yet, contrary to popular beliefs held by many in the United States, political violence has played a crucial role in advancing historical justice struggles.

In this breakthrough study, Rosebraugh examines the historical roles that both nonviolence and political violence have played in social and political movements both in the United States and internationally. His profound and well-researched conclusions advocate for the necessity of a political and social revolution in the United States—using any means necessary.

The Logic of Political Violence is an excellent resource for those contemplating political and social change in the United States. It is a must read for everyone involved in U.S. political and social movements, especially for those wondering why single issue pursuits rarely, if ever, are ultimately successful. Challenging the predominant societal norms on the political and social change process in the United States, Rosebraugh has made an important contribution to the struggle that may very well become the new American Revolution.

About the Author:

Craig Rosenbraugh has been a political activist since the early 1990s. He is the former national spokesperson for the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, as well as a cofounder of the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office (NAELFPO). He has written articles for the Earth First! Journal and No Compromise magazine, contributed to Toward Freedom, and is the author of Burning Rage of a Dying Planet. He lives in Tempe, Arizona

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Social Crisis and Social Demoralization: The Dynamics of Status in American Race Relations
Author: Ronald A. Kuykendall
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-843-7
Published: June 2005
Format: Paperback
Size: 5.5 by 8.5
Page count: 128
Subjects: Political Science, African American Studies

This alternative perspective on the problem of American race relations takes sharp aim at issues of status, power, and political class. In his insightful exploration, political scientist Ronald Kuykendall argues that the racial problem is a political class conflict that must be resolved through revolutionary political class struggle. He adeptly unravels the complex interrelationships of status, political repression, and social stratification involved in American race issues. As the social crisis of race relations threatens to boil over in 21st century America, the content of this book is critical. Looking at the roots of the "race problem" as a power dynamic, what solutions—if any—seem possible? Can this crisis be resolved?

About the Author:

Ronald A. Kuykendall teaches political science at Greenville Technical College in South Carolina. A graduate of Southern University at New Orleans and Purdue University, he has published in the area of African American studies in the Journal of Black Studies and the Western Journal of Black Studies.


"Social Crisis and Social Demoralization is undoubtedly one of the better-informed examinations of the subject of so-called race relations written in recent years." —Black Star News


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Mad Bomber Melville
Edited by Leslie James Pickering
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-844-4
Published: June 2007
Format: PDF
Size: 5.5 by 8.5
Page count: 176
Subjects: Politics-Activism, Biography

Mad Bomber Melville is the long overdue biography of Samuel Melville, a white, working class revolutionary, whose guerrilla bombings set in motion a flood of armed revolutionary actions in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Once imprisoned, Melville became a key organizer and a crucial element of the notorious Attica Prison rebellion, uniting prisoners across racial barriers and making the ultimate sacrifice for revolutionary change. Mad Bomber Melville traces Sam Melville's short life and rapid political development, highlighting a much-needed example of an undying and uncompromising struggle for justice and liberation.

About the Author:

Leslie James Pickering is a founder and former spokesperson for the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office and has written articles for Earth First! Journal and is the author of The Earth Liberation Front 1997–2002. He lives in Buffalo, New York.


“This study reclaims an important, but largely unheralded, piece of radical history, with valuable lessons about initiative, shortcomings and growth in striving to be fully on the side of the oppressed.”
—David Gilbert, US political prisoner, member of the  Weather Underground Organization, author of Love and Struggle (PM Press)

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We Are Our Own Liberators: Selected Prison Writings
Author: Jalil Muntaqim
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-846-8
Published: June 2010
Format: Paperback
Size: 5.5 by 8.5
Page count: 304
Subjects: Politics-Activism, Prisons

This second edition of We Are Our Own Liberators consists of the prison writings of Jalil Muntaqim, which have spanned over the nearly forty years of his imprisonment. This valuable collection of writings represents some of the significant contributions Muntaqim has made to the Black Liberation and New Afrikan independence movements.

Muntaqim writes, "Ultimately, the U.S will eventually find itself at war with itself, as the ideology of a free democratic society will be found to be a big lie. This is especially disconcerting as greater restrictions on civil and human rights are made into law eroding First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S constitution."

About the Author:

Jalil Muntaqim is one of the longest held political prisoners in the world, having been incarcerated since 1971. A former member of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, he has been a critical influence in the development of revolutionary consciousness in the United States. For a full bio and ways to help free Jalil, go to

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This Country Must Change: Essays on the Necessity of Revolution in the USA
Edited by Craig Rosebraugh
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-847-5
Published: June 2009
Format: Paperback
Size: 5.5 by 8.5
Page count: 240
Subjects: Politics-Activism

This Country Must Change is an effort to further the discussion of the necessity of a fundamental political and social revolution in the United States. This book contains essays by twelve activists and authors, all who have demonstrated a lifelong commitment to revolutionary change. It is as inspiring as it is educational and a must read for anyone involved with or considering advocating for political or social change within the U.S. Arguing that reformist measures cannot be relied upon to correct the fundamental problems caused by the corporate elite and political structure in the United States, the contributing authors in this book are unified in their call for a significant revolutionary change in the United States of America

Contributors include: Craig Rosebraugh, Jalil Muntaqim, Jonathan Paul, Jeff Luers, Jake Conroy, Ronald Kuykendall, Bill Dunne, Peter Young, Jaan Laaman, Rob Los Ricos, Ramona Africa, and Leslie Pickering.

Buy book now | Download e-Book nowCraig Rosebraugh's Page


elfEarth Liberation Front 1997-2002
Author: Leslie James Pickering
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-0-97428-840-6
Published: June 2007
Format: Paperback
Size: 6 by 9
Page count: 256
Subjects: Politics-Activism, Current Events

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) has been active in the United States officially since 1997, causing more than $100 million in damages to various entities. As the organization continues to grow and expand its range of targets, ELF has taken an extreme position against individuals, corporations, and governments that, in the organization's view, places monetary gain ahead of the natural environment. Rejecting state sanctioned means of legal protest, ELF uses economic sabotage to inflict financial suffereing on those deemed objectionable.

In February 2002, the FBI listed the ELF as the largest and most active US-based terrorist group. Although no one has died in any of these operations, ELF's campaign against loggers, SUV dealerships, and others it considers threats to the planet have galvanized and polarized the environmental movement.

Former ELF spokesperson Leslie James Pickering traces the first five years of ELF activity through communiques, underground newspapers, interviews and news media releases.

The first book to be published on the ELF, Earth Liberation Front 1997-2002 is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the radical environmental movement in the United States and the birth of a clandestine, underground organization acting in defense of the planet.

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The JookConspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism: The Collective Autobiography of the RNC 8
Edited by Leslie James Pickering with foreword by Tom Hayden
Publisher: Arissa Media Group/PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-93690-018-3
Published: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 5.5 by 8.5
Page count: 416
Subjects: Politics-Activism, Current Events

Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism is the collective autobiography of several members of the RNC 8. Charged with violations of the Minnesota Patriot Act for organizing logistics for protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, authors reveal their upbringings, early political involvements, the “RNC Welcoming Committee,” infiltration, arrests, legal defense and outcomes of the case.

Authored by RNC 8 defendants, Luce Guillén-Givins, Max Specktor, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald, and edited and introduced by Leslie James Pickering, Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism offers lessons and a glimpse into the contemporary reality of dissent in America.


“Part memoir, part recent history, part manifesto, Conspiracy to Riot is a collection of stories by a group of ordinary folks who awoke to a world in flames, and the extraordinary and courageous choices they made in response. In straight-forward language and direct prose each engages the central questions of our time: Who am I, and what is my responsibility to myself and others? What does the known demand? What does it mean to be human in the 21st Century? And where are we on the clock of the world? An eye-opening and provocative book, CTR is also an invitation to revolution in a time of peril and possibility.” —Bill Ayers, author of Fugitive Days.

“These narratives of the RNC 8 spotlight the underbelly of political repression: surveillance, preemptive arrests, intimidation, cruel and unfair punishment, and inflammatory accusations of terrorism. This important, passionate, and courageous book is a necessary read for everyone who stands on the frontlines of social change.” —Dr. Jason Del Gandio, author of Radical for Radicals: A Handbook for 21st Century Activists

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Founding Common Ground

by Blair Parsons
Texas Observer
September 16, 2011

Black Flags & Windmills: Hope, Anarchy & the Common Ground Collective by Scott Crow

Ann Richards folded clothes in the corner. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina thousand of evacuees arrived at the Austin Convention Center. Volunteers arrived as well, running a makeshift cafeteria, constructing shower facilities, and sorting donations. From my workstation I watched Ann Richards fold clothes on the other side of a large pile. Her work conveyed an affirmation of dignity. She seemed to recognize that no one who has lost so much should have to pick clothes from a pile. He should be afforded the dignity to select from folded clothes.

A man who spoke with enough authority to claim it told me we needed Governor Richard’s table for another project. I was told to get it from her. I approached her and let her know what was needed. She smiled, held up a tiny pair of pants, and said, “you find a man that can fit in these jeans and this table is yours.”  Awestruck and incapable of deciding whether to laugh or bow, I mumbled a thank you and took the table. Her humor reaffirmed dignity.

Like many folks after Katrina hit I wondered about the best way to help. After briefly considering going to New Orleans, I decided to stay in Austin. Katrina closed the gap between the two cities and thousands of evacuees needed assistance in Austin. Fair or not, I felt I would end up in the way in New Orleans. Others decided to go.

Scott Crow went and recounts his experiences and work in Black Flags & Windmills: Hope, Anarchy & the Common Ground Collective. He initially went to rescue a friend incommunicado since the storm hit. Once there Crow quickly realized the vastness of devastation coupled with the inefficiencies of the nascent relief mission that would hamstring the region. Crow, a seasoned organizer, harvested old connections and established new ones to begin relief work in Algiers, Louisiana. This initial work developed into the Common Ground Collective, a horizontally-aligned, community-run collective responsible for assisting thousands of people through food distribution, medical assistance, mold remediation, and security which was vital as the power vacuum became unstably vacant in Katrina’s aftermath.

While Common Ground took shape the vacuum began to fill with a volatile cocktail of greed, racism, and fear. Some members of Common Ground took up arms to protect themselves and their community, knowing their work could not flourish without security. I have never brandished a weapon, but neither have I had one pointed at me. Right or wrong, Common Ground decided guns were a necessary response. Throughout this tenuous time, Common Ground’s commitment and work remained unshaken. Undaunted by constant security threats, the collective remained steadfast. Crow writes “we would not let Power deny dignity and self-determination to anyone.”

Like any great experiment, the collective experienced conflicting egos and philosophies. A united organization operating often in defiance of federal officials would have a difficult enough time. Introduce varied political prisms and the situation becomes arguably untenable. Common Ground melded Black Panther theory, anarchism, and other assorted influences, but the melding was not seamless. Concerning the ability to convey foundational principles throughout the collective, Crow writes “It was easier to communicate these ideas and values when our numbers were smaller.” As the collective grew exclusion developed.

For the folks who received relief from Common Ground, the political makeup of the organization mattered little. What mattered is that aid came. Crow’s selflessness enabled almost around-the-clock work, but his rigidity led to condemnation of those outside his framework. Drawing too many lines in the sand leads to isolation. He writes frequently about analysis. His is black and white. With us or against us. Crow uses divisive statements like “they had no principles” and “they were comfortable with the status quo.”

He writes, “the military were not there to protect and serve; they were there to do whatever they wanted with impunity…they had followed orders all their lives. When their command structure broke down, they had a chance to do something different, to side with the people. They chose intimidation and brute force.” This situation undoubtedly happened in cases, but to deliver such a broad condemnation is an overreaching generalization. As evident from the book, Crow had terrible experiences with military personnel, but that does not mean all military personnel became lawless rogues. Despite his rigid analysis, Crow does marvel at the myriad folks involved with Common Ground and the greater New Orleans region.

Perhaps Katrina required black and white, because only a zealot can keep going with the odds so firmly stacked against him. Crow’s dogged persistence helped establish and run an organization that aided thousands despite bureaucratic red tape and limited resources. Common Ground did not build Shangri-La, but it accomplished something extraordinary. It brought relief, picked pride up from the ground, and ensured a community would weather the storm. Common Ground empowered volunteers and residents. Crow encapsulates the spirit of Common Ground, writing, “Our revolution challenged the standard pessimism about people’s limited agency in their lives.”

Katrina was a galvanizer. We watched horrific images of a region underwater and struggled with what we could do. After the initial shock and confusion, folks got busy doing what they could. Some donated money. Some folded clothes.  Some hopped in trucks and left for New Orleans. The relief effort’s enormity demanded any kind of aid, so a strange beauty arose from the empowerment of each individual response, but only a physical presence can convey supreme solidarity.

Crow remains an advocate of solidarity over charity. In differentiating the two approaches he writes “Solidarity, on the other hand, is the view that service work is a support to those directly affected by injustice, aiding them in taking charge of their lives. Solidarity aims to solve the deep-rooted issues. Solidarity links us together across geography, economics, culture and power.  It is more than dressing a wound; it allows all involved to be participants.” Scott Crow and Common Ground were there with their hearts, bodies, and ideas hell-bent on making a little place in need a better place.

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How a Radical Leftist Became the FBI's BFF

by Josh Harkinson
Mother Jones
September/October 2011

To many on the left, Brandon Darby was a hero. To federal agents consumed with busting anarchist terror cells, he was the perfect snitch.

For a few days in September 2008, as the Republican Party kicked off its national convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, the Twin Cities were a microcosm of a deeply divided nation. The atmosphere around town was tense, with local and federal police facing off against activists who had descended upon the city. Convinced that anarchists were plotting violent acts, they sought to bust the protesters' hangouts, sometimes bursting into apartments and houses brandishing assault rifles. Inside the cavernous Xcel Energy convention center, meanwhile, an out-of-nowhere vice presidential nominee named Sarah Palin assured tens of thousands of ecstatic Republicans that her running mate, John McCain, was "a leader who's not looking for a fight, but sure isn't afraid of one either."

The same thing might have been said of David McKay and Bradley Crowder, a pair of greenhorn activists from George W. Bush's Texas hometown who had driven up for the protests.

Wide-eyed guys in their early 20s, they'd come of age hanging out in sleepy downtown Midland, commiserating about the Iraq War and the administration's assault on civil liberties.St. Paul was their first large-scale protest, and when they arrived they were taken aback: Rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, tumbling tear-gas canisters—to McKay and Crowder, it seemed like an all-out war on democracy. They wanted to fight back, even going so far as to mix up a batch of Molotov cocktails. Just before dawn on the day of Palin's big coming out, a SWAT team working with federal agents raided their crash pad, seized the Molotovs, and arrested McKay, alleging that he intended to torch a parking lot full of police cars.Since only a few people knew about the firebombs, fellow activists speculated that someone close to McKay and Crowder must have tipped off the feds. Back in Texas, flyers soon began appearing at coffeehouses urging leftists to beware of Brandon Darby, an "FBI informant rat loose in Austin."

The allegation came as a shocker; Darby was a known and trusted member of the left-wing protest crowd. "If Brandon was conning me, and many others, it would be the biggest lie of my life since I found out the truth about Santa Claus," wrote Scott Crow, one of many activists who rushed to defend him at first. Two months later, Darby came clean. "The simple truth," he wrote on, "is that I have chosen to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

Darby's entanglement with the feds is part of a quiet resurgence of FBI interest in left-wingers.

From the Red Scare days of the 1950s into the '70s, the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program, a.k.a. COINTELPRO, monitored and sabotaged communist and civil rights organizations.

Nowadays, in what critics have dubbed the Green Scare, the bureau is targeting the global-justice movement and radical environmentalists. In 2005, John Lewis, then the FBI official in charge of domestic terrorism, ranked groups like the Earth Liberation Front ahead of jihadists as America's top domestic terror threat.

FBI stings involving informants have been key to convicting 14 ELF members since 2006 for a string of high-profile arsons, and to sentencing a man to 20 years in prison for conspiring to destroy several targets, including cell phone towers. During the St. Paul protests, at least two additional informants infiltrated and helped indict a group of activists known as the RNC Eight for conspiring to riot and damage property.

Brandon Darby. Courtesy Loteria FilmsBut it's Darby's snitching that has provided the most intriguing tale. It's the focus of a radio magazine piece, two documentary films, and a book in the making. By far the most damning portrayal is Better This World, an award-winning doc that garnered rave reviews on the festival circuit and is slated to air on PBS on September 6. The product of two years of work by San Francisco Bay Area filmmakers Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega, it dredges up a wealth of FBI documents and court transcripts related to Darby's interactions with his fellow activists to suggest that Darby acted as an agitator as much as an informant. (Watch the trailer and read our interview with the filmmakers here.)

The film makes a compelling case that Darby, with the FBI's blessing, used his charisma and street credibility to goad Crowder and McKay into pursuing the sort of actions that would later land them in prison. Darby flatly denies it, and he recently sued the New York Times over a story with similar implications. (The Times corrected the disputed detail.) "I feel very morally justified to do the things that I've done," he told me. "I don't know if I could have handled it much differently."

Darby "gets in people's minds and can pull you in," one activist warned me. "He's a master. And you are going to feel all kinds of sympathy for him."

Brandon Michael Darby is a muscular, golden-skinned 34-year-old with Hollywood looks and puppy-dog eyes. Once notorious for sleeping around the activist scene, he now often sleeps with a gun by his bed in response to death threats. His former associates call him unhinged, a megalomaniac, a manipulator. "He gets in people's minds and can pull you in," Lisa Fithian, a veteran labor, environmental, and anti-war organizer, warned me before I set out to interview him. "He's a master. And you are going to feel all kinds of sympathy for him."

The son of a refinery welder, Darby grew up in Pasadena, a dingy Texas oil town. His parents divorced when he was 12, and soon after he ran away to Houston, where he lived in and out of group homes. By 2002, Darby had found his way to Austin's slacker scene, where one day he helped his friend, medical-marijuana activist Tracey Hayes, scale Zilker Park's 165-foot moonlight tower (of Dazed and Confused fame) and unfurl a giant banner painted with pot leaves that read "Medicine." They later "hooked up," Hayes says, and eventually moved in together. She introduced him to her activist friends, and he started reading Howard Zinn and histories of the Black Panthers.

Some local activists wouldn't work with Darby (he liked to taunt the cops during protests, getting them all riled up). But that changed after Hurricane Katrina, when he learned that Robert King Wilkerson, one of the Angola Three—former Black Panthers who endured decades of solitary confinement at Louisiana's Angola Prison—was trapped in New Orleans. Darby and Crow drove 10 hours from Austin towing a jon boat. When they couldn't get it into the city, Darby somehow harangued some Coast Guard personnel into rescuing Wilkerson. The story became part of the foundation myth for an in-your-face New Orleans relief organization called the Common Ground Collective.

It would eventually grow into a national group with a million-dollar budget. But at first Common Ground was just a bunch of pissed-off anarchists working out of the house of Malik Rahim, another former Panther. Rahim asked Darby to set up an outpost in the devastated Ninth Ward, where not even the Red Cross was allowed at first. Darby brought in a group of volunteers who fed people and cleared debris from houses while being harassed by police, right along with the locals who had refused to evacuate. "If I'd had an appropriate weapon, I would have attacked my government for what they were doing to people," he declared in a clip featured in Better This World. He said he'd since bought an AK-47 and was willing to use it:

"There are residents here who have said that you will not take my home from me over my dead body, and we have made a commitment to be in solidarity with those residents."

But Common Ground's approach soon began to grate on Darby. He bristled at its consensus-based decision making, its interminable debates over things like whether serving meat to locals was serving oppression. He idolized rugged, iconoclastic populists like Che Guevara—so, in early 2006, he jumped at a chance to go to Venezuela to solicit money for Katrina victims.

Darby was deeply impressed with what he saw, until a state oil exec asked him to go to Colombia and meet with FARC, the communist guerrilla group. "They said they wanted to help me start a guerrilla movement in the swamps of Louisiana," he told "This American Life" reporter Michael May. "And I was like, 'I don't think so.'" It turned out armed revolution wasn't really his thing.David McKay. Courtesy Loteria Films

Darby's former friends dispute the Venezuela story as they dispute much that he says. They accuse him of grandstanding, being combative, and even spying on his rivals. In his short-lived tenure as Common Ground's interim director, Darby drove out 30 volunteer coordinators and replaced them with a small band of loyalists. "He could only see what's in it for him," Crow told me. For example, Darby preempted a planned police-harassment hot line by making flyers asking victims to call his personal phone number.

The flyers led to a meeting between Darby and Major John Bryson, the New Orleans cop in charge of the Ninth Ward. In time, Bryson became a supporter of Common Ground, and Darby believed that they shared a common dream of rebuilding the city. But he was less and less sure about his peers. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, I've replicated every system that I fought against,'" he recalls. "It was fucking bizarre."

By mid-2007, Darby had left the group and become preoccupied with the conflict in Lebanon. Before long, Darby says, he was approached in Austin by a Lebanese-born schoolteacher, Riad Hamad, for help with a vague plan to launder money into the Palestinian territories. Hamad also spoke about smuggling bombs into Israel, he claims.

Darby says he discouraged Hamad at first, and then tipped off Bryson, who put him in touch with the FBI. "I talked," he told me. "And it was the fucking weirdest thing." He knew his friends would hate him for what he'd done. (The FBI raided Hamad's home, and discovered nothing incriminating; he was found dead in Austin's Lady Bird Lake two months later—an apparent suicide.)

McKay and Crowder first encountered Darby in March 2008 at Austin's Monkey Wrench Books during a recruitment drive for the St. Paul protests. Later, in a scene re-created in Better This World, they met at a café to talk strategy. "I stated that I wasn't interested in being a part of a group if we were going to sit and talk too much," Darby emailed his FBI handlers. "I stated that I was gonna shut that fucker down."

"My biggest impression from that meeting was that Brandon really dominated it," fellow activist James Clark told the filmmakers. Darby's FBI email continued: "I stated that they all looked like they ate too much tofu and that they should eat beef so that they could put on muscle mass. I stated that they weren't going to be able to fight anybody until they did so." At one point Darby took everyone out to a parking lot and threw Clark to the ground. Clark interpreted it as Darby sending the message: "Look at me, I'm badass. You can be just like me." (Darby insists that this never happened.)

"The reality is, when we woke up the next day, neither one of us wanted to use" the Molotovs, Crowder told me.

When the Austin activists arrived in St. Paul, police, acting on a Darby tip, broke open the group's trailer and confiscated the sawed-off traffic barrels they'd planned to use as shields against riot police. They soon learned of similar raids all over town. "It started to feel like Darby hadn't amped these things up, and it really was as crazy and intense as he had told us it was going to be," Crowder says. Feeling that Darby's tough talk should be "in some ways, a guide of behavior," they went to Walmart to buy Molotov supplies.

"The reality is, when we woke up the next day, neither one of us wanted to use them," Crowder told me. They stored the firebombs in a basement and left for the convention center, where Crowder was swept up in a mass arrest. Darby and McKay later talked about possibly lobbing the Molotovs on a police parking lot early the next morning, though by 2:30 a.m. McKay was having serious doubts. "I'm just not feeling the vibe on the street," he texted Darby.

"You butt head," Darby shot back. "Text me when you can." He texted his friend repeatedly over the next hour, until well after McKay had turned in. At 5 a.m., police broke into McKay's room and found him in bed. He was scheduled to fly home to Austin two hours later.

Bradley Crowder. Courtesy Loteria FilmsThe feds ultimately convicted the pair for making the Molotov cocktails, but they didn't have enough evidence of intent to use them. Crowder, who pleaded guilty rather than risk trial, and a heavier sentence, got two years. McKay, who was offered seven years if he pleaded guilty, opted for a trial, arguing on the stand that Darby told him to make the Molotovs, a claim he recanted after learning that Crowder had given a conflicting account. McKay is now serving out the last of his four years in federal prison.

At South Austin's Strange Brew coffeehouse, Darby shows up to meet me on a chromed-out Yamaha with flames on the side. We sit out back, where he can chain-smoke his American Spirits. Darby is through being a leftist radical. Indeed, he's now an enthusiastic small-government conservative. He loves Sarah Palin. He opposes welfare and national health care. "The majority of things could be handled by people and by communities," he explains. Climate change is "a bandwagon" and the EPA should be "strongly limited." Abortion shouldn't be a federal issue.

He sounds a bit like his new friend, Andrew Breitbart, who made his name producing sting videos targeting NPR, ACORN, Planned Parenthood, and others. About a year after McKay and Crowder went to jail, Breitbart called Darby wanting to know why he wasn't defending himself against the left's misrepresentations. "They don't print what I say," Darby said. Breitbart offered him a regular forum on his website, Darby now socializes with Breitbart at his Los Angeles home and is among his staunchest defenders. (Breitbart's takedown of ACORN, he says, was "completely fucking fair.")

"No matter what I say, most people on the left are going to believe what reinforces their own narrative," Darby says. "And I've quit giving a shit."

Entrapment? Darby scoffs at the suggestion. He pulls up his shirt, showing me his chest hair and tattoos, as though his macho physique had somehow seduced Crowder and McKay into mixing their firebombs. "No matter what I say, most people on the left are going to believe what reinforces their own narrative," he says. "And I've quit giving a shit."

The fact is, Darby says, McKay and Crowder considered him a has-been. His tofu comment, he adds, was a jocular response after one of them had ribbed him for being fat. "I constantly felt the need to show that I was still worthy of being in their presence," he tells me. "They are complete fucking liars." As for those late-night texts to McKay, Darby insists he was just trying to dissuade him from using the Molotovs.

He still meets with FBI agents, he says, to eat barbecue and discuss his ideas for new investigations. But then, it's hard to know how much of what Darby says is true. For one, the FBI file of his former friend Scott Crow, which Crow obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request last year, suggests that Darby was talking with the FBI more than a year before he claims Bryson first put him in touch. Meanwhile, Crow and another activist, Karly Dixon, separately told me that Darby asked them, in the fall of 2006, to help him burn down an Austin bookstore affiliated with right-wing radio host Alex Jones. (Hayes, Darby's ex, says he told her of the idea too.) "The guy was trying to put me in prison," Crow says.

Such allegations, Darby claims, are simply part of a conspiracy to besmirch him and the FBI: "They get together, and they just figure out ways to attack." Believe whomever you want to believe, he says. "Either way, they walk away with scars—and so do I."

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