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New Forms of Worker Organization in Industrial worker

by Steve Thornton
Industrial Worker
September 2014

I was discussing the recent wave of fast-food worker strikes with two friends. We had all witnessed the walkouts and joined the picket lines sparked by the one-day actions. Each of us came away with different takes on the viability of this campaign. I said it reminded me of the Justice for Janitors movement in the 1980s: a lot of flash, powerful, courageous actions by the mostly immigrant workers—actions that weren’t exactly strikes—and a strategy focused on the big money that hired the cleaning companies.

One friend had been reading recent critiques of the fast food organizing efforts. He dismissed the “paid staff” and “bureaucratic, big, centralized unions” that have run the project. My other friend replied: “Paid staff? Centralized? You could be talking about Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and the early IQQ!” That’s about how far the conversation got.

In fact, Gurley Flynn was a paid organizer and the IWW did change its structure in the face of criticism over top-down control. It wasn’t until 1915 and the creation of the Agricultural Workers Organization (AWO) in Kansas City that the IWW really built its power among farm workers in the western part of the country. The AWO also fostered the system of “roving delegates” who could sign up workers on the spot and collect dues, another change from the old practice of centering everything in Chicago.

Like my friends and I, it seems that most who complain about the current Fight for Fifteen campaign are acting like (as we used to say) armchair revolutionaries. That’s why “New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism” is such a valuable addition to the debate. Published this year by PM Press and edited by Immanuel Ness, “New Forms” provides a worldwide perspective on bottom-up organizing efforts from the past and present.

Ness argues that it won’t work to “reinvigorate” conventional unions or to reach “density” in particular industries. I was fortunate to hear him speech recently at “How Class Works,” a biennial conference held at Stony Brook University and sponsored by the school’s Center for Study of Working Class Life. At his workshop, Ness posed the question that is at the core of this book: Can we create solidarity unions within (or in spite of) current labor organizations?

“New Forms of Worker Organization” is a book of essays divided geographically between Europe and Asia, the Global South and the Global North. With contributions from 16 writers, Ness describes the struggle of autonomous workers’ organizations and their efforts to take hold. From worker-peasant coalitions in Madagascar to the IWW Jimmy John’s campaign in Minnesota, these writers provide detailed accounts of struggle by workers to build powerful, democratic and independent movements.

We learn, for example, from Steven Manicastri about the history of Italian operaismo, also known as autonomous Marxism, based on “the thinking and practice of politics” in the workplace. Independent operaist groups organized strikes and slow-downs in the 1960s, initially to force their official unions to act on workplace safety or wage issues. Such decentralized activity spilled into the community, where mass squatting, rent strikes, and refusal to pay the full price of utility bills because the practice of thoughts. Operaismo has since evolved into the creation of Confederazione die Comitati di Base (COBAS, or base committees)—independent worker groups that may include migrant workers, students, retirees and the unemployed. They have resisted education cuts, austerity and the power of banks. In a sense they are the “dual unions” that the American Left has alternately loved and hated. Described as the “Zen Buddhist of politics,” COBAS have been operating without official leaders or formal rules of discipline for over 20 years.

How did Exxon and Witness for Peace (WFP) facilitate revolutionary unionism in Columbia? Now there’s a story, and Aviva Chomsky explains it all in this book. In brief, Exxon built a giant coal mine in the 1980s that displaced indigenous communities, mostly small farmers and livestock herders. The National Union of Workers in the Coal Industry (Sintracarbon) learned about the mine’s poisoning of water and land from a WFP fact-finding delegation. The union asked WFP to bring all the parties together and the result was a negotiating demand by the mine workers that would require the coal company (now an international consortium) to recognize, negotiate with, and compensate the affected communities. In 2006 Chomsky and others formed an international solidarity group to support that process. She let the parties speak for themselves in a series of reprinted letters from Sintracarbon. It is clear that the union’s commitment to the indigenous people gee deeper as the negotiations progressed. In the end, in the face of a possible strike, the union won a small victory by forcing the boss to discuss the community issue and agreeing to participate in “social programs” offered by the company. Today Sintracarbon continues to fight alongside the community, most recently against the diversion of a major river.

A book on horizontal organizing would not be complete without Staughton Lynd. In his brief introduction, Lynd tells us of a dream he had 50 years ago. In this dream he and his wife Alice are helping neighbors are put out a forest fire. He describes the frantic work to douse the blaze, “incessant activity” as he calls it. “Then something else had taken over.” Lynd writes. “Slowly it came to me. It had begun to rain.” What is more effective than the toil of small efforts? A storm that brings a new world from the ashes of the old.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Immanuel Ness's Author Page




Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters

National Book Awards


In recognition of her transformative impact on American literature, Ursula K. Le Guin is the 2014 recipient of the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She is the Foundation’s twenty-seventh award recipient.

For more than forty years, Le Guin has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction. Among the nation’s most revered writers of science fiction and fantasy, Le Guin’s fully imagined worlds challenge readers to consider profound philosophical and existential questions about gender, race, the environment, and society. Her boldly experimental and critically acclaimed novels, short stories, and children’s books, written in elegant prose, are popular with millions of readers around the world.

“Ursula Le Guin has had an extraordinary impact on several generations of readers and, particularly, writers in the United States and around the world,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. “She has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art. Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

“Ursula Le Guin has shown how great writing will obliterate the antiquated—and never really valid—line between popular and literary art,” said Harold Augenbraum, the Foundation’s Executive Director. "Her influence will be felt for decades to come.”

Born in 1929 in Berkeley, California, and educated at Radcliffe College and Columbia University, Ursula K. Le Guin published her first novel, Rocannon’s World, in 1966. Over the course of her literary career, Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, seven books of poetry, four collections of essays, thirteen books for children, and five works of translation. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, established Le Guin’s reputation for daring experimentation and her internationally best-selling Books of Earthsea have been translated into thirty-one languages.

The recipient of numerous awards and honors, Le Guin won a National Book Award in 1973 for The Farthest Shore, and was a Finalist in 1972 for The Tombs of Atuan and in 1985 for Always Coming Home. Le Guin also has received a PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction, a Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, twenty-one Locus Awards, six Nebula Awards, five Hugo Awards, three Asimov’s Readers Awards, a Pushcart Prize, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and a Newbery Silver Medal. Le Guin’s lifetime achievement awards include the title of Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the Willamette Writers Lifetime Achievement Award, the Los Angeles Times’ Robert Kirsch Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of California-Riverside’s Eaton Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Maxine Cushing Gray Fellowship for distinguished body of work from the Washington Center for the Book.

Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Changing the world with comics

By Sreejita Biswas
Bangalore Mirror
September 12th, 2014

Known for his illustrated journal World War 3 and Spy vs Spy, American cartoonist Peter Kuper who will be in Bangalore gives us a peek into his life and work


Peter Kuper says New York City is his ultimate muse. In fact, all his works have been motivated by his love for travel. Whether it's long journeys to corners of the world or mere subway rides, travelling is his favourite way to reinvigorate his ideas. "I love the process of discovery. Visiting a foreign country almost makes me feel like a newborn. Each environment affects the way I draw. The visuals, smells and sounds all get into my fingertips and are deciphered in my sketchbook," he says with a smile.

One of the best known American cartoonists, Kuper's claim to fame is perhaps his incredible work on Spy vs Spy. Ask him and he'll give you a detailed explanation. "Spy vs Spy is a spy dressed in black with a very pointy nose, trying to kill a spy dressed in white with a very pointy nose. They kill each other in every comic in complicated ways and return to do it again and again. It was created by a Cuban artist, named Antonio Prohias, in 1961 as a comment on the Cold War. It's Ying vs. Yang, Hindus vs Muslims, War vs Peace. Futile destruction — everybody loses, but in the case of Spy vs Spy there are also laughs," he says.

Those who have wandered beyond the popular know that his association with World War 3 is an epic in itself. An illustrated magazine that addressed political and social issues through comics, World War 3 was founded in 1979. It's made up of a number of people from various backgrounds, genders and ideologies united by the idea of telling a story through comics. "The magazine represents the kind of society we'd like to see; driven not by profit but by artistic expression towards a better understanding of our world and ourselves."

As digitisation rapidly overwhelms the print form, some believe the art form of comic journalism is dying a slow death. But Kuper is not one of those pessimists. "It is a developing art that opens the door to communicating big ideas through a series of images and text," he says. "When done properly and printed or photocopied, it can put a great deal of information into peoples' hands without expensive computers and an internet connection. It is a democratic form."

When asked how difficult it is to make a comic, he unsurprisingly admits that it is perhaps the hardest. "For an individual to create a really smart, compelling comic they have to be a writer, penciller, inker, letterer, colourist and designer. They have to know visual pacing, understand how to direct the reader's eyes, know perspective and architecture, fashion and character design and have something to say that connects with readers."

His message for his in India: "I'm looking forward to meeting comic readers and learning more about the culture and inspiration that made them get interested in this art form. I'm also interested in getting exposure to India as a country."

The author is the co-founder of StripTease the Mag, a magazine about comics and graphic novels from all over the world


The Bangalore Comic Con will be held at White Orchid Convention Centre, Nagawara from 11 am to 8 pm on September 13 and 14

Buy WW3 Illustrated now | Buy WW3 Illustrated e-Book now | Back to Peter Kuper's Author Page | Back to Seth Tobocman's Author Page




Cazzarola!: a review in The Fifth Estate

by Steve Izma
Fifth Estate
Pg 33-34
Fall/Winter 2014

Italian and Spanish anarchism have long inspired anti-authoritarian movements in the Americas.

Anarchists fleeing fascist governments in Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain during the 1920s and 30s sped up a process already underway through normal emi- gration to not just Spanish speak
ing countries in the West, but to Canada and the United States as well.

Cazzarola! [don’t say it in polite Italian company!] traces generations of resistance
to fascism and bourgeois society in Italy
Emma Goldman and other activists influenced the ideas and conditions of these anarchists, especially as part of international solidarity programs for those facing repression from totalitarian regimes.

Today, North American English-speaking anarchists have access to many classic texts dealing with the movement in Spain, especially those dealing with the Spanish Revolution of the late 1930s, but literature on the Italian movement of that era is harder to find.

In many ways, anarchism formed contiguous movements in these two southern European regions, separated by not much more than language and a few cultural details. Both were strongly rooted in trade unions but also had a significant presence among peasants and intellectuals. Despite dif- fering chronologies—the ebbing and flowing of the movements’ strengths are out of synch historically—the highs and the lows have been remarkably similar.

Italian anarchism had more room to manoeuvre in the chaos and discontent immediately following World War I, but the Italian ruling class learned how to build fascism as a successful repressive force earlier than their cohorts in Spain.

On the other hand, the Italian variety failed sooner than the Spanish regime, and that gave anarchism a chance to recover there shortly after World War II. Such space didn’t open up in Spain until the mid-seventies following the death of Franco.

Yet even with the ability to organize above ground in the 1950s, Italian anarchism stagnated, then splintered, showing little vitality. Only in the late sixties and early seventies, as a new wave of radicalism ran up against the limits of a Marxism still dominated by the old Left, did anti-authoritarian concepts and history begin to reassert themselves on the streets and in the workplaces, re-invigorated with the desire not just for a new politics, but for a new way of living.

Early on, the new anarchists discovered that even the atheism of their political predecessors hadn’t freed up the social spaces and values long controlled by the Catholic Church. As in many other places, a patriarchal ethos still dominated political organizations, and traditional anarchist habits still had as much difficulty with gender issues as capitalist society.

We biography and inspired documentary media. But the gut-level tensions and exasperations of living under modern capitalism lend themselves much more readily to narrative fiction.

A documentary can easily get bogged down in telling the compulsory “how and why,” but good fiction shows you the experience and puts you to work evaluating it in terms of your own life.

Norman Nawrocki’s novel, Cazzarola!, explores the microcosm of the Italian experience through a few generations of Italian militants from the late 1800s to recent events. It doesn’t chronicle the lives of these families as much as bring some of the episodes of their struggles to life in an almost stream-of-consciousness remembering—not as irrationality, but as the vivid and confusing, breathtaking and brutal confrontations with bourgeois society that circle round and round throughout this history.

The book’s title is a kind of expletive that often punctuates the speech of people caught up in such confrontations.

Nawrocki clearly wants to connect the experiences of family members from different historical periods, even though each has expressed their goals differently. State repression has fundamentally the same roots and remarkably similar methods throughout this history, but the experience of people fighting it comes out of different visions of the free society they are trying to achieve.

The state hardly changes in character throughout these years. It wears different clothes, but its rigid character armour underneath is instantly recognizable in the way it treats each generation of the Discordias, the family Nawracki chronicles through the years.

The most striking differences across the generations and the real flesh of Cazzarola! have to do with contradictions of gender and ethnicity. The modern-day story centres on the movement of immigrants into Italy, in particular the Roma who, persecuted more openly in their eastern European homelands, respond in the way such minorities and conquered people have for thousands of years: they quite rationally move to places appearing to provide a more secure means of survival.

Their Otherness within Europe, however, reduces the Roma to lumpenproletariat status for Italy’s worn-out industrialism, and fodder for the hate strategies of neo-fascist gangs and politicians.

A new generation of political activists, now motivated by broader social justice concerns, in defending the Roma, find themselves up against a modern thuggery recognizable through their grandparents’ memories.

Interwoven within this story, and in some ways more prominent on the surface of it, is the condition of women. On one hand, the novel presents at its centre a tragedy within a tragedy, the constant threat of violence to a young Roma woman who, despite her remarkable strength and agility, hangs on precariously in a makeshift Italian refugee camp with her widowed mother and two younger siblings.

On the other, we read about the ambiguous role of women throughout this century-long period of Italian anarchism. Typically for that era, men dominate the words and actions of the class struggle, which mostly takes place in the public sphere—in factories, in organizational meetings, in militant activities.

But in significant scenes, Nawrocki shows how women insist on being part of the struggle; that men take the domestic sphere into consideration in strategies of resistance. As well, women attacked truckloads of fascists with boiling water and other bombardments from the upper stories of their tenement buildings.

Women’s activities on the surface appeared to be merely support for their male relatives, but in fact added depth to the struggle within society and turned such tactics as factory occupations into a social crisis, not just an economic one.

However, the novel’s sketching of historical continuity through the genealogical thread of the Discordia family episodes raises the question of anarchism as a tradition. Is an anarchism handed down from parent to child qualitatively different? What distinguishes it from other inherited practices such as religion? Or, is anarchism such a good idea that it should be readily embraced no matter where it is found—the university, the factory, the family, or the street?
The novel touches on all these forms of transmission, but pays particular homage to the family.

Anarchists frequently argue that the family is a reactionary structure, always forcing on children the authoritarianism and patriarchy of the parents.

But the family structure traced in Cazzarola! bears no resemblance to the traditional nuclear family. It is emphatically an extended family with individual beliefs and strategies developing through a power structure that is more horizontal than vertical.

It puts the diverse personalities of siblings and cousins on flatter ground where love and loyalties make this a collective process. Nawrocki’s interweaving of these characters’ questionings and challenges presents a microcosm of the fundamental idea of an anarchism that nourishes the dialectic of individual liberty within a community.

The book is not without problems, however. Keeping track of the various characters, many of whom have similar names, is often difficult even with a list at the beginning of the book (which would be more effective as a chart). While subheadings help in signalling the shift in time-periods, they are confusing as markers of narrative voice changes.

Nonetheless, the book’s multiple storylines keep you going and its dramatic tension builds immediately. An early scene clearly gives us a sense of the future—we suspect, correctly, that it is taking place after the main events in the book, but it is suffused with such tragedy that I carried with me a feeling of foreboding and anxiety through each new scene depicting the main protagonists.

This is hardly a flaw; a novel like this warns against complacency even in the glow of an anarchist history that really does move forward and a love story about which you want all obstacles overcome.

Given this, and given what we’ve learned from generations of liberators about fighting an oppressive society, we would be foolish to assume that the system we face treats us any less cruelly.

Steve Izma worked at Dumont Press Graphix, a worker- owned and controlled typesetting shop in the seventies and eighties, and continues to work in publishing. He lives in Kitchener, Ontario.

Buy Cazzarola! now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Norman Nawrocki's page




How and why I wrote: Cazzarola!: Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy: A Novel

by Norman Nawrocki
Fifth Estate pg 42-44
Fall/Winter 2014

As an anarchist writer, I’m no different from other scribes who try to be socially engaged in their work and lives. I drink beer, write, and do my best to live according to my anarchist principles. And I try to incorporate anarchist thought, experiences and visions in all my creative work.

It’s a daily, lifelong challenge.

So, when the Fifth Estate asked me to write a piece about my first novel, CAZZAROLA! Anarchy, Romani, Love, Italy, I thought maybe it could be useful for anyone interested in the arts and anarchy. Maybe some- one might be inspired to dig out a mothballed manuscript and finish it.

The five-year creative and investigative process of writing CAZZAROLA! and the same-named companion theatre piece and musical soundtrack, is one example of how and why I work
as a writer, a musician, an actor and an anarchist. It was no non-stop flow of ideas, research and writing.

Life often got in the way. As did death and ill- ness and breakups and paying the anarchist’s bills. But despite all the setbacks in my writing schedule – I wanted to have the book out in one year – it took five – and given the current rise of neo-fascism across Europe, the book is actually more relevant now than I could have ever imagined.

In the beginning

In 2007, I head to Italy to promote the Italian translation of a previous book (The Anarchist & The Devil do Cabaret, Black Rose Books, 2003, trans- lated into L’Anarchico e il Diavolo fanno cabaret, Editrice Il Sirente, 2007). My Italian publishers organize an incredible tour jam-packed with shows, interviews, appearances at the Rome Book Fair, visits to anarchist squats and endless convivial meals where tables are crammed with paninni, pizza and beer. It’s full-on red carpet treatment unlike any I have ever experienced before.

Day and night I am pum- melled with questions about the book. Meanwhile, out of the cor- ner of my eye, I catch glimpses of TV news clips – something about Roma (“Gypsy”) refugees and their camps. At the time, I can’t make sense of it. My Italian isn’t good enough and I’m busy per- forming shows and promoting the other book (it also included a musical soundtrack and a theatre piece).
The tour is a huge success and I return home to Canada vowing to churn out a collection of Italian- themed short stories. But after a few weeks of intense writing day and night, I stop. Whoa! Sure, I can fic- tionalize all my wonderful tour ex- periences, but something is nagging me. What’s actually happening to the Roma over there?


I Google-translate the Italian daily press. Jaw drop. Thousands of Roma refugees are being persecuted across Italy as a result of deliberate political policies targeting them by the neo-fascist Berlusconi government in power. There are daily attacks in the streets and violent evictions of their camps.


The attacks are intensifying. My growing collec- tion of short stories now makes less sense. Instead, previously faint images from Italian TV news clips I caught over there come into focus. I set aside the dozen or so pieces I have written and switch gears. Time for serious research into the history and poli- tics behind the attacks on the Roma. But how to tell this story? How do I make it truthful and engaging? I dig up the roots of the current neo-fascist cancer consuming Italy and provide a historical context for it’s regeneration. At the same time, I explore the multiple forms of resistance to neo-fascism and fascism from the 1920s to today.


I’m thinking: the book has to reach a broad audience. So I base it on the life of a not quite ordinary, fictional Italian family from 1880 to today – the Discordias– and the life of a contemporary fictional Roma refugee family, the Dinicu. My aim: an his- torical novel interwoven with a contemporary love story. Because what’s an anarchist novel without a love story?

I give myself a one year writing deadline. Shelve the new poetry, new albums, new shows. Priority creation: novel. Given the gravity of the situation in Italy, it has to come out ASAP, ring alarm bells and direct attention to the plight of the Roma – right now.

But a novel is a massive undertaking. It demands 24/7 feeding. In return, it can be all-consuming. After countless setbacks and revisions, this one takes five years to complete. (Meanwhile, the impatient one in me fast forwards two poetry collections and gets them published.)

I spend days and nights researching Italy and the Roma and immerse myself in the two cultures. I buy and borrow countless books, try to watch an Italian or Roma movie every night and teach myself more Italian. I borrow hundreds of music CDs from the library and listen to a century of Italian and Roma music – all genres.

I read classic and contemporary Italian novels, poetry and short stories, Roma, too. I attend lectures about Italian history, call old Italian friends, meet new Roma ones, interview Italian and Roma political activists, neighbours and friends of friends. I try to absorb everything. I live in my book, breathe in and out the idea of my book. I imagine myself in Italy and in Romania, home of my Roma family.

I dream in Italian, cook and drink only Italian, and in my mind, create and imagine the characters that will bring my book to life. It’s more of a challenge to live and dream in Roma, but sporadically, the dreams come.

In 2008, I return to Italy for another book tour and firsthand research into endless questions. What are the historical origins of Fascism? How to understand the problems of a mono-cultured, ethnocentric country like Italy, now post European Union, undergoing profound change in a globalized 21st century? Who are these neo-fascists? Who is resist- ing them? Where do the Roma fit in?

When I tour a Roma refugee camp on the edge of Rome and see the pathetic living conditions, I ask the people: “How can I help? They say: “Tell the world our story. Write your book.”

The collective editing

Meanwhile, I invite some 15 close friends, comrades and respected colleagues – academics, activists, bibliophiles, editors, authors, booksellers, and more – to read and critique the manuscript. Each has their speciality: Roma culture, Italian history, anti- fascist history, Italian culture, anarchist or anti-racist movements, editing, etc. Each has something important and useful to contribute. Each makes a difference to the book. Again, I thank them all.
As the critical feedback and fact checking notes trickle in, I begin the first of several rewrites of the manuscript. The process is both exciting and painful, slow and demanding.

At times, it feels like I’m wrestling with a great blue whale—slippery and beyond my puny grasp.

The book heads in multiple directions as I try to redirect it while making sense of it and making it make sense. I also find myself confronted with characters in my novel who have their own agendas apart from the project as a whole. Over Italian wine or Romanian beer, we have long discussions. They make compromises; I make compromises. The book makes progress.
One day, many revisions later, all the characters in the book and myself agree: done. A distinguished editor and respected comrade from PM Press, Terry Bisson, handles the final edit.

CAZZAROLA! The theatre piece


After my 2007 visit to Italy, I realized that my one year book deadline is unrealistic, but I still wanted to get the message out now. The solution: a short, dramatised version of the story. I take four characters out of the book and reconstruct them in a 30 minute solo theatre piece. The soundtrack for the performance inspires the subsequent full-length musical CD soundtrack for the novel.

With two recent tours of Italy behind me, end- less research material burying my desk and overflowing my bookshelves, and my characters having dialogue with each other and keeping me awake at night, I am primed for a show. The themes: current Euro-politics, Italian history, the backlash against immigration – specifically targeting Roma refugees – neo-fascism, and a heartbreaking love story.

I hang out with Italian and Roma friends to fine tune my fictional and historical cast. I walk the streets of Montreal in character as the 1926 would- be anarchist anti-fascist assassin, a contemporary arrogant suit-and-tie, nationalist, racist senator, a pining, naive Italian boyfriend and his street-wise Romanian Roma girlfriend who lives the refugee nightmare.

CAZZAROLA!, the theatrical show, premieres at the May 2008 Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival. The bill includes the first Montreal visit of New York’s phenomenal anarchocultural institution, The Living Theatre, with Judith Malina.

Four hundred people attend. Post-show, audience members approach me, incredulous.

“This isn’t happening in Italy today, is it? It’s from the 1930s, right? It’s fiction, yes?”
As I performed the piece, I was unaware that on the same night across the Atlantic, gangs of neo-fascists and local citizens were physically attacking and driving out hundreds of Roma from two Napoli refugee camps which they burned to the ground. I read the report in the morning news. It was a horrific incident, worse than what I was portraying on stage. The situation had deteriorated. I return to Italy that summer for more research.

In the Fall, I tour Canada with the theatre piece. The story resonates. Everyone wants to read the book and get the soundtrack. They’ll have to wait a bit longer.

CAZZAROLA! the CD, by me & amici
I’m a writer but also a musician/composer who can’t resist the temptation to create and release a companion musi- cal soundtrack for the book. Hence, CAZZAROLA! the CD. I imagined a musical invitation to read the book. Another entry point into the novel that would complement the story with real period soundscapes and songs reflecting, based on and inspired by the novel. I wanted an album, too, that could stand on its own as an audio document, a brief musical survey of Italy from the last 130 years covering key historical events in song from an anti-fascist and anarchist perspective.

I consult ethnomusicologist friends, Italian musician friends and others for suggestions, and issue an open invitation on Facebook for collaborators. I also again do endless research online and in person, more interviews and scour the Montreal library’s Italian music collection.

In the end, I choose some traditional period songs, compose new ones and ask for contributions from Italian friends. I visit Italy a few times to do field recordings and meet and work with local musicians. Amazing collaborations follow.

Driving through the mountains of Abruzzo for example, in search of any shepherd and his herd, we find one in a vast meadow dotted with brilliant alpine flowers. With his permission – and that of his seven sheep dogs – I walk through the grazing herd recording them live.
Musician friends in Italy introduce me to other musicians. I run into people in the street and invite them to play on the album, recording them after their workday in an enclosed town square. One day it’s a spontaneous recording in a 15th century Italian abbey. One night, it’s a marching band in a mountain village with local fireworks. I record everything on the spot with a portable H2 Zoom recorder.

In another village, I accidently hear random pings from a metal sculpture dedicated to emigrants who died in search of work. I record the sounds and give them to musician friends with a request to compose a piece based on these precise notes. I am incredibly fortunate to meet generous, creative, talented musicians all over Italy and deeply grateful for their contributions.

In the end, the 100 minute long album offers music that ranges from traditional Italian folk – kind of world beat – but updated – to contemporary Italian-themed compositions of my own that are folkloric, ambient, electro-acoustic and somewhat indie. The songs, arranged chronologically follow- ing the story in the book, span 130 years of Italian history from 1880 to today. There are waltzes, folk dances, love ballads, prisoner songs, and different soundscapes, from a 1920 auto factory about to go on strike, to Rome street music today.

The Book Tour

I realized I was competing with a gazillion other books circulating on and offline if I want to get word out about this book. So I offer a cross-promotional packaged tour event.

Each book launch includes a roundtable discussion with local community Roma/refugee/immigrant and migrant worker/human rights advocates – where available – to open the evening, followed by the solo theatre piece (with soundtrack and visuals), and a live music show based on the CD (solo violin) with a sing-along of new skool Italian anarchist songs. This is a free offer! “Who wants it?,” I ask.

I devote the summer of 2013 to organize events in 25 cities, Québec City to Denman Island, B.C., with some 30 different presentations in church basements, bookstores, cafés, bars, theatres, community centres, universities and bookstores.

There are youthful, now university educated sons and daughters of Latino immigrants who worked in hog slaughter houses testifying about the racism and discrimination their parents and they faced once having arrived in Canada. There are Hungarian Roma refugees talking about their fight against the current wave of Canadian deportations. This country has shut the door on Roma refugees.

There are reps from migrant farm workers groups describ- ing the massive injustices these overworked, underpaid labourers confront on a daily basis. It’s like labour conditions the IWW fought 100 years ago. All across Canada, I think I count fewer than 10 Italians or descendents of Italians who attend the launches. The ultra-conservative, old school Italian community is just not interested.

For this tour, I do a massive social media campaign, enter dozens of online chat-rooms, and aim for major media exposure. Local comrades poster, flyer and write articles for their community press. The media hype works for the west of Canada, but, apart from a 120 person plus book launch extravaganza in Montreal, kind of pans out for the east.

No explanation. Books or music, it’s the rock ‘n roll truism of touring.

Norman Nawrocki is a Montreal cabaret artist, violinist, actor and educator. He has written a dozen books, several theatre musicals and cabarets and recorded over 50 music albums, solo and with his diverse bands. He tours the world performing music, theatre, poet- ry, anti-sexist ‘sex’ comedy shows, and giving ‘Creative Resistance’ workshops about using the arts for radical social change. nothing- ness.org/music/rhythm

Buy Cazzarola! now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Norman Nawrocki's page




Dead Kennedy's Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables in Musings

Musings on music, books and life
August 26th, 2014

This is not a book about the Dead Kennedys career. It is more a tale of how they got together, recorded and released one of the iconic punk rock albums. The story of such a now fractured band requires a lot more discussion

Fresh fruit was different to so many other records at the time as there was no major record label providing financial supports. This was a band that were taking the shock aspect of punk and putting a positive message forward. The book charts the formation of the band as their early singles were released. The first two being “California über alles” and “Holiday in Cambodia”, both having raging guitar hooks, intelligent lyrics and breakneck rhythm. The story behind the controversy of the artwork and Biafra’s onstage antics is given great detail. How the album came about and the involvement of cherry red and subsequent setting up of alternative tentacles is included. All necessary components to the make up of the dks

Most of us now that the band did not finish on a good note or certainly the trajectory since their finish has not been a mutually happy event for the members. However it is good to see that not getting too much exposure here as that can be the sequel. For now we can read about one of the greatest albums of all time by one of the most innovative bands ever. We can get an idea of America at the time, the punk scene and the socio economic environment.

It is quite obvious, reading between the lines, that vocalist Jelllo Biafra, has a completely different outlook then guitarist east bay ray on pretty much all matters Dead Kennedys relating. It is hard to see what tale is fiction and what one isn’t but the fact is the record came out with those songs and we have been able to listen to them for years. The dead Kennedys had such a huge influence on music and this is summed up by the many quotes at the end from people like actor Elijah wood or slash from guns and roses or dave grohl from foo fighter/nirvana. The effect this album has had is phenomenal and is most worthy of the written word too

Another thing the book offers is a reminder of how great the artwork of Winston Smith is. It is reproduced here as are many of the fliers and posters of the day. Considering the author was involved in the art of punk book that came out over a year ago it is no surprise now has teamed up with once again with russ bestley to ensure that the words are accompanied with the relevant graphics and it’s all packaged very well

If you have ever listened to a punk roots and enjoyed it ten you should have a read of this
niallhope

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Alex Ogg's Author Page | Back to Winston Smith's Illustrator Page | Back to Ruby Ray's Artist Page




Queer Youth Challenge Society's Attempt to Define Them in Revealing Photography Project

By Marcie Bianco
Mic.com
September 29th, 2014
queer, youth, challenge, society's, attempt, to, define, them, in, revealing, photography, project,

A new photography project is giving voices to queer youth, one snapshot at a time.

Rachelle Lee Smith's Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, recently published as a book, highlights the individuality and diversity of a community that has long felt devalued, underestimated and silenced. Queer youth in particular are in need of support and opportunities: According to the Williams Institute, LGBT youth comprise an estimated 40% of the homeless youth population.

In Speaking OUT, Smith brings together myriad queer youth, ages 14 to 24, and presents their portraits "without judgment or stereotype, by eliminating environmental influence with [the use of] a stark white backdrop," she writes on her recently funded Indiegogo. [T]his backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject's personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. [...E]ach individual is given the spotlight and a chance to have a voice, but also the strength of the group as a whole."

In an interview with Mic, Smith revealed that she was inspired to create Speaking OUT because of her own relative ease coming out. "I had a remarkably positive experience, and my friends and family were accepting and supportive," she said. "I knew that was rare and I was very lucky, but I did not realize the depth of my fortune until I went to college and met people that had dramatically difference experiences from me and that shared some horrific stories."

In particular, Smith recalls the story of a friend being "chased down the street by frat guys yelling slurs and throwing beer bottles at her." Identifying the story as "a defining moment," Smith told Mic she knew she "needed to do something with the only tool I had — my camera."  

Smith began by photographing friends, but word spread. Soon it was "friends of friends, then word of mouth, and then I reached out to local schools, youth centers and community centers," primarily in and around Philadelphia. 
"I did not 'seek diversity,'" Smith said. "It just happened, and I did not turn anyone away who wanted to be in the project. Unfortunately, I have dozens of unfinished prints from people that are not in the book."
Growing up an "extremely shy kid," Smith found comfort and solace in photography. "My camera was my mask that I could hide behind and do good in the world," she said. "It allowed me the confidence to get up close and personal and ask a lot of questions in any situation."
The use of a white backdrop, allowing the subjects complete purview over their representation, was critical for Smith. "It was important to me to let the subjects speak," she said. "Instead of letting the photo tell the entire story, I capture the person, but then let them fill in their experiences with their handwritten text directly on top of the photograph." 
So far, the project has recieved a resounding amount of support. Besides raising its full $15,000 target on Indiegogo, the series has been shown at the HRC headquarters in Washington, D.C., and featured at World Pride in Toronto. "I feel so fortunate to be able to get these stories out there and have this book as not only a nice coffee table book, but more so an easily digestible and fun educational guide to growing up queer," Smith said.

A lot has changed for LGBT advocacy and awareness in America, with the past 10 a watershed decade for the movement. Smith said she has met a number of gay rights activists, including Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny, who recounted their stories of growing up gay. Now, she explains, people "wear LGBTQ-related T-shirts that they can buy at the mall. It's an incredible shift, but one that I hope the younger generations do not take for granted, because our struggles have been long and hard, but they are paying off!"
"I have seen the themes of what people in this project have written move from themes of fear, shame and anxiety to themes of pride, ownership and unabashed joy," she said. "And I think it will only continue in that direction."
Image Credit (all): Rachelle Lee Smith

Dr. Marcie Bianco is a columnist and contributing writer at AfterEllen and Lambda Literary, as well as an adjunct associate professor at John Jay College at Hunter College. She has also contributed to Curve Magazine, Feministing, The Feminist Wire, ...

Buy Speaking OUT | Buy Speaking OUT e-Book | Back to Rachelle Lee Smith's Author Page




David Hartsough's Waging Peace Fall Book Tour Dates

FALL 2014 BOOK TOUR PUBLIC EVENTS

Buy Waging Peace | Buy Waging Peace e-Book | David Hartsough's Author Page

Any questions or comments can be directed to Jan Hartsough at: janhartso@gmail.com


Washington, DC

November 18 Tuesday
11am-12:30pm Montgomery Community College, Science Center 152 in Rockville, MD.

7-8:30pm University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Beyond the Classroom program, 1102 South Campus Commons, Bldg One.

November 19 Wednesday
7pm Florida Avenue Friends Meeting, 2111 Florida Avenue NW, Washington DC

November 20 Thursday
5-6:45pm American University - Creative Peace Initiative in Ward Circl Building Room 1 - 4400 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC

Philadelphia Area

November 24 Monday

10am talk at Foulkeways, in the Jenkins Parlor at 1120 Meetinghouse Road in Gwynedd, PA.

7pm Medford Leas talk in Theatre, 661 Medford Leas, Medford, NJ

November 25 Tuesday
12:30-1:30pm talk at Friends Center, 15th and Cherry St in Philadelphia, PA

November 26 Wednesday
1:30pm  Crosslands talk, William Penn Room at 16 Kendal Drive in Kennett Square, PA

4 pm Kendal talk in Activity Central, 16 Kendal Drive, Kennett Square, PA

November 30 Sunday
12:45 pm Central Philadelpia Quaker Meeting, 15th & Cherry St in Philadelphia, PA

December 1 Monday
7 pm Talk at Pendle Hill,
in the Barn at 338 Plush Mill Road, Wallingford, PA

December 2 Tuesday
2pm assembly at the theatre of Westtown School in Westtown, PA

December 3 Wednesday
4:30-6pm Public book talk at Haverford College in Chase Auditorium for students and others (followed by dinner at 7pm with Kay Edwards and Walter Hjelt-Sullivan)

December 4 Thursday
5pm book talk at Swarthmore College, Bond Hall at 500 College Ave

December 7 Sunday
1:30pm Germantown Monthly Meeting in Phila at 47 West Coulter Street in Philadelphia, Social Room.

New York City

December 8 Monday

7-8:30pm at Manhattan Quaker Meetinghouse at 15 Rutherford Place (15th Street). Topic: Peacebuilding and Nonviolent Movements

December 9 Tuesday

8-9:30pm talk at Manhattan Catholic Worker’s Mary House, 55 Third Street.   Topic: "The Long Road to Justice from Montgomery to Ferguson”

California

December 16 Tuesday
Santa Rosa  7:15pm  Friends House, 684 Benicia Drive in Santa Rosa, CA

December 18 Thursday
Sacramento 7pm-9pm: The Marxist school of Sacramento – Sierra 2 Center, 2791 – 24th Street, Classroom 9 (between Castro Way and 4th Avenue)

Any questions or comments can be directed to Jan Hartsough at: janhartso@gmail.com

Buy Waging Peace | Buy Waging Peace e-Book | Back to David Hartsough's Author Page

 

Previous Waging Peace Tour Dates:

OCTOBER 1-14th: NEW ENGLAND STATES


Oct. 2 Thursday
7pm Cambridge Friends Meeting, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA   Contact Skip Schiel     
 
October 3 Friday  
7:00pm WAGING PEACE book talk and discussion at First Universalist Church, 59 Main Street in Essex, MA.  Co-sponsored by North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice, Merrimack Valley People for Peace, Amesbury Peace Center, Samantha Smith Chapter Veterans for Peace. 

October 5 Sunday            
11am   New England Peace Pagoda,100 Cave Hill Road, Leverett ,MA (just N. of Amherst)     25th Anniversary celebration with David offering keynote address.  Ceremony, Interfaith Prayers, Lunch, Cultural Program.

October 6  Monday   
Noon-1pm  Hampshire College in Amherst, MA  talk sponsored by Office on Sustainability and Spiritual Life Hampshire

4-5:30pm  World Eye Bookstore, 156 Main St. in Greenfield,MA sponsored by Traprock Peace Center. 

7:30pm  Putney Friend’s Meeting talk and discussion in Putney, VT 
 
October 7 Tuesday
7pm  Broadside Bookshop, 247 Main Street in Northampton, MA

October 9 Thursday 
7pm  Burlington Friends Meeting, 173 North Prospect, Burlington, VT 

October 12 Sunday 
10:30am  Acadia Friends Meeting, Neighborhood House on Main Street in Northeast Harbor, Maine

4pm  College of the Atlantic student gathering at COA McCormick Lecture Hall in Bar Harbor, Maine

OCTOBER 14-27: PACIFIC NORTHWEST


October 15 Wednesday

7:30pm  Annual Peace Lecture in Salem, OR at Hudson Recital Hall, Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center, Willamette University, 900 State Street 

October 16 Thursday
7pm  Eugene Friends Meetinghouse, 2274 Onyx Street, Eugene, OR

October 18 Saturday
2-4pm  Discussion at Salem Friends Meetinghouse, 490 19th Street in Salem, OR

7:30pm Multnomah Friends Meeting, 4312 South East Stark, Portland, OR  

October 20 Monday

6 pm Portland State Univ. Students United for Nonviolence (SUN) discussion in Rm. 333, Smith Memorial Student Union Building in Portland, OR

October 21 Tuesday
7:30am – 8:30 AM  Portland Pearl Rotary Club at 721 NW 9th Ave in Portland, OR

7:30 pm Olympia Friends Meetinghouse, 3201 Boston Harbor Road N.E. in Olympia, WA

October 22 Wednesday

7pm University Temple United Methodist Church, 1415 N.E. 43rd St, Seattle, WA  sponsored by University Bookstore

October 23 Thursday
7pm Port Townsend talk at Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Avenue, PT, co-sponsored with local Quakers in Port Townsend, WA

October 24 Friday
1pm radio phone interview in Port Townsend, WA

7pm Whidbey Island gathering with Tom Ewell

October 26 Sunday
12:20pm Book signing at University Friends Meeting at 4001 9th Ave NE,  Seattle, WA

November 2 Sunday   
San Francisco 1pm   SF Friends Meetinghouse, 65 9th Street in San Francisco, CA

November 5 Wednesday
Chico  7pm  Chico State University & Chico Peace Center

November 9 Sunday
Berkeley  7pm  Berkeley Unitarian Fellowship at Cedar and Bonita in Berkeley, CA

 

 




Little Rock & Fayetteville Collective Liberation Together

By Arkansas ElderX
Fayetteville Free Zone
9/1/2014

In Lak' ech

In Lak’ech:
Tú eres mi otro yo.
You are my other me.
Si te hago daño a ti,
If I do harm to you,
Me hago daño a mi mismo.
I do harm to myself.
Si te amo y respeto,
If I love and respect you,
Me amo y respeto yo.
I love and respect myself.
- Luis Valdez, “Pensamiento Serpentino”

The Background:

Let’s blame it all on Chris Crass. He’s a good starting place, though the roots of all this go much further back. Back for centuries actually. Still, Crass makes a reasonable starting place for this particular discussion. You see, the man wrote a book, Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-Racist Organizing, Feminist Praxis, and Movement Building Strategy.

“A white guy writing about racism? Why would I want to read that?” Some people may not understand her reaction, but those who have experienced mansplaining and/or white-’splaining understand her instinctive response all too well.

Then she heard that it was a book about racism written by a white guy for other white folks. Interesting. Then Meredith Martin Moats heard that several of  her activist friends of color thought highly of the book. So, she figured, it was perhaps time to give it a read. Right there, that’s the start of this part of the story.

She read the book. No, she devoured the book. She got so excited that she called some of her friends together and they collectively devoured the book. They all got so excited that they worked out how to bring the author to Arkansas to speak in both Little Rock, their home town, and in Fayetteville.

The Little Rock Collective Liberation group was so excited about the book though, that they couldn’t wait until Chris Crass got here. So they came up to Fayetteville on Sunday to talk with local activists here about our collective liberation.

Collective Liberation 01 Mdm

The Book:

So just what is all this excitement about? For one thing, in his introduction to the book, Chris Dixon, a long time anarchist organizer, firmly grounds the book and us in a long, long tradition of resistance and grassroots activism. From the last few decades to the last couple of centuries, Dixon gives us back our herstory and history that mainstream culture has tried to suppress. He places the book and us firmly in the centuries long struggle for transformation. He gives us back our ancestors and our traditions.

For another thing, the book is grounded in practical, grassroots organizing across the lines of gender, race, class, age, and ability. It sidesteps the academic and ideological language that too often chokes the life out of such work for those who don’t share the jargon.

The real power of the book though, is in its vision of a transformative movement that includes us all. And in the practical realities of building such a  movement. Diversity and inclusion are easy words to say but they are much harder to do when we are all tripping over our own cultural baggage as well as the wounds which have been inflicted on each of us. Crass talks about how we can actually build a transformative movement across those old lines of division.

The People:

This is not just a book review though. Something much more significant than that happened at the OMNI Center yesterday afternoon, when the Little Rock and Fayetteville activists sat down to talk with each other.

We talked about what collective liberation means to each of us and why we thought it was important enough to spend a Sunday afternoon discussing it. We talked about the activist work going on in Little Rock and about what was happening here locally. We talked about ways that we can network and stay engaged with each other, supporting each other’s work on an ongoing basis.

The Arkansas Food Network, the Cisneros Project, oral histories and the McElroy House, Boiled Down Juice, LEAFF, men against patriarchy, solidarity economies and worker owned co-ops, the work of the OMNI Center and even that of the Fayetteville Free Zone, all were discussed. There is a lot going on in both towns and there are a lot of ways we can support each other.

Collective Liberation 02 Mdm

Building An Ongoing Network:

Two concrete ways for the activists in Little Rock and in Fayetteville to continue engaging with each other were suggested. The first was for offline, face to face contact. People in both cities are very interested in the Arkansas Truthful Tuesday Coalition.  Fayetteville folks are talking about going down to Little Rock at least once a month for Truthful Tuesday. When they do, they will meet with the Little Rock Collective Liberation group for coffee to continue talking with each other.

The second suggestion for ongoing engagement was online- to use social media to keep everyone abreast of what was going on in their respective cities. Both the Boiled Down Juice and the Fayetteville Free Zone can be used as platforms for sharing information, as can the Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for the assorted groups. Here’s the links for those who want to plug into the various networks and information flows.

To quote an  old, old story about love and resistance in the face of oncoming evil, Sunday afternoon’s meeting between Little Rock and Fayetteville activists was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Our feature photo is by ADKphoto, used with permission, all rights reserved. The other two photos are by the FFZ collective.

Author, educator and organizer Chris Crass is often at the forefront of multiracial and feminist movements. Crass sat down with the Review this week to talk about his experience as an activist and his thoughts on antiracist organizing.

 The topic of your talk, “Anti-Racist Organizing in White Communities,” is something that our college has been struggling with, both as an institution and as a student body. Could you begin by talking about the difference between racist and anti-racist organizing?

It’s a really common experience for white people who are socially conscious and who are coming to awareness about issues of race, particularly with the campus having the Day of Solidarity. There’s going to be a lot of folks — white folks in particular — being like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t thought about this before,’ or, ‘I didn’t think it was this bad,’ or, ‘I thought this was something that was in the past,’ or ‘I don’t want to be part of the problem,’ and then one of the first next steps [ for those groups] is often the question of how to diversify. I’ve had a lot of experience being a part of mostly or all-white social justice progressive efforts where [that drive to diversify often comes first]. But the question that’s often more helpful is, ‘How can we be a part of challenging racism? How can we be a part of ending institutional white supremacy? What are positive steps, as a white environmental group, we could take to support environmental justice efforts by students of color?’ One of the ways that white supremacy really impacts white people is to invisible-ize the work that’s happening in communities of color, the leadership that’s happening in communities of color, the voices, the perspectives — sometimes you’ll have white activists come to consciousness about race and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get people of color to join our group,’ and then there’ll be activists of color who will be like, ‘Well, we’ve been working on these issues for a really long time, so rather than coming to us and asking us to diversify your group, it’s more of how could you, as a mostly white group, support the work that students of color are already involved in and build partnership and trust.’

 

What are some positive steps that Oberlin can take toward anti-racist organizing?

Some key ones are learning about work that’s already happen[ed] historically in communities of color, learning about issues. So if you’re in a social justice or progressive student group that’s mostly white, what are issues that students of color are working on, and what are some ways that your group can help support that work? A way that racism often operates is [by determining] whose voices are prioritized. Who’s been told all of their life, ‘You have an important story to tell. You should tell the world about what you think.’ And then there’s a lot of folks — women, queer folks, trans* folks, working class, folks of color — who are regularly told, ‘You have nothing useful to contribute. These aren’t spaces that you even belong in, let alone that you should be working in.’ [It’s about] working to recognize those kind of barriers and having open conversations with activists, leaders of color on campus about the struggles that [you’re] facing and how to think about it together. It’s not going to folks of color and [asking them] to solve all the problems but having genuine conversations about how to overcome these obstacles.

 

How would you explain the reality of institutional racism to someone who might not be familiar with its historical and cultural background?

No one was born with it all figured out. First of all, the way that racism operates is that it socializes and rewards white people to be completely ignorant of racism. The fact that there are so many white people who feel attacked, or who think that it’s racist to even talk about racism, is evidence of how powerful racism operates. Because in communities of color, historically and today, the impacts of racism are so stark. Often white people today look back at white people in the past — whether it’s the white people who were participating, supporting, oblivious [to] or on the sidelines of slavery, or white people who were supportive or on the sidelines of Jim Crow and apartheid in the sixties — and say, ‘How could they have just done nothing?’ [They think] it’s so obvious. People 30 years from now will look back on us today and say, ‘How could white people have not been aware of the mass incarceration, of the mass poverty, of the incredible disparities and not done something?’ As students, [we need to] recognize that we are historical actors, and just as we look on the past and think it was so clear, people will look back on our day and think that it’s so clear. Because in the past, people often said that it was too confusing, that there was  no issue, that it was cultural. [We have to] recognize that we need to make a choice [about] what side of history we want to stand on. It can be a hard journey, but it’s one that ultimately connects us back to our deepest humanity. [We need to get] away from fear, away from ignorance, away from hate and toward a deeper love for ourselves and the people in our community. [People say,] ‘Well, the reason there’s so many black and brown people in prison is because of these reasons,’ and there’s all this justification in the way that the media portrays it, and throughout history that’s always been true. It wasn’t just this super clear cut obvious right and obvious wrong. So we need to take responsibility to investigate and learn and also to open ourselves up to really learning.

 

I’m sure, as a white male talking about feminism and racism, you have been told that you have no right to speak about these issues. Can you talk about your thoughts on who can legitimately contribute to these conversations?

We’re organizing students of color around ethnic studies, around anti-prison issues, around the over-policing of our communities and the underresourcing of our communities, but there’s so much resistance from so many white people who either refuse to believe that this is a reality or accept that it’s wrong but that there’s nothing that they can do about it. We need white people to organize other white people who can relate their own experience about coming to consciousness around these issues, to try to move and support more and more white people to join in multiracial efforts and take on injustice. For me, it’s always [about] trying to remember that it’s absolutely important to amplify and support the voices and leadership of folks of color. This is not about trying to get a bunch of white people to fix the problem for everybody else. Racism is really a cancer in white communities, killing white communities. [It] raises people to racially profile others, to hate or be completely ignorant of other people’s lives and experiences. For me, it’s less about taking [people of colors’] stories and bringing them to white people, and more about connecting with other people as a white person around: How can we come to consciousness about racism, how can we overcome some of the barriers that hold us back from becoming involved, and how can we make really powerful contributions to working toward social justice and structural equality?

- See more at: http://oberlinreview.org/5225/uncategorized/off-the-cuff-chris-crass-author-activist-and-anti-racist-organizer/#sthash.5w2pEyva.dpuf

Author, educator and organizer Chris Crass is often at the forefront of multiracial and feminist movements. Crass sat down with the Review this week to talk about his experience as an activist and his thoughts on antiracist organizing.

 The topic of your talk, “Anti-Racist Organizing in White Communities,” is something that our college has been struggling with, both as an institution and as a student body. Could you begin by talking about the difference between racist and anti-racist organizing?

It’s a really common experience for white people who are socially conscious and who are coming to awareness about issues of race, particularly with the campus having the Day of Solidarity. There’s going to be a lot of folks — white folks in particular — being like, ‘Oh my God, I haven’t thought about this before,’ or, ‘I didn’t think it was this bad,’ or, ‘I thought this was something that was in the past,’ or ‘I don’t want to be part of the problem,’ and then one of the first next steps [ for those groups] is often the question of how to diversify. I’ve had a lot of experience being a part of mostly or all-white social justice progressive efforts where [that drive to diversify often comes first]. But the question that’s often more helpful is, ‘How can we be a part of challenging racism? How can we be a part of ending institutional white supremacy? What are positive steps, as a white environmental group, we could take to support environmental justice efforts by students of color?’ One of the ways that white supremacy really impacts white people is to invisible-ize the work that’s happening in communities of color, the leadership that’s happening in communities of color, the voices, the perspectives — sometimes you’ll have white activists come to consciousness about race and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to get people of color to join our group,’ and then there’ll be activists of color who will be like, ‘Well, we’ve been working on these issues for a really long time, so rather than coming to us and asking us to diversify your group, it’s more of how could you, as a mostly white group, support the work that students of color are already involved in and build partnership and trust.’

 

What are some positive steps that Oberlin can take toward anti-racist organizing?

Some key ones are learning about work that’s already happen[ed] historically in communities of color, learning about issues. So if you’re in a social justice or progressive student group that’s mostly white, what are issues that students of color are working on, and what are some ways that your group can help support that work? A way that racism often operates is [by determining] whose voices are prioritized. Who’s been told all of their life, ‘You have an important story to tell. You should tell the world about what you think.’ And then there’s a lot of folks — women, queer folks, trans* folks, working class, folks of color — who are regularly told, ‘You have nothing useful to contribute. These aren’t spaces that you even belong in, let alone that you should be working in.’ [It’s about] working to recognize those kind of barriers and having open conversations with activists, leaders of color on campus about the struggles that [you’re] facing and how to think about it together. It’s not going to folks of color and [asking them] to solve all the problems but having genuine conversations about how to overcome these obstacles.

 

How would you explain the reality of institutional racism to someone who might not be familiar with its historical and cultural background?

No one was born with it all figured out. First of all, the way that racism operates is that it socializes and rewards white people to be completely ignorant of racism. The fact that there are so many white people who feel attacked, or who think that it’s racist to even talk about racism, is evidence of how powerful racism operates. Because in communities of color, historically and today, the impacts of racism are so stark. Often white people today look back at white people in the past — whether it’s the white people who were participating, supporting, oblivious [to] or on the sidelines of slavery, or white people who were supportive or on the sidelines of Jim Crow and apartheid in the sixties — and say, ‘How could they have just done nothing?’ [They think] it’s so obvious. People 30 years from now will look back on us today and say, ‘How could white people have not been aware of the mass incarceration, of the mass poverty, of the incredible disparities and not done something?’ As students, [we need to] recognize that we are historical actors, and just as we look on the past and think it was so clear, people will look back on our day and think that it’s so clear. Because in the past, people often said that it was too confusing, that there was  no issue, that it was cultural. [We have to] recognize that we need to make a choice [about] what side of history we want to stand on. It can be a hard journey, but it’s one that ultimately connects us back to our deepest humanity. [We need to get] away from fear, away from ignorance, away from hate and toward a deeper love for ourselves and the people in our community. [People say,] ‘Well, the reason there’s so many black and brown people in prison is because of these reasons,’ and there’s all this justification in the way that the media portrays it, and throughout history that’s always been true. It wasn’t just this super clear cut obvious right and obvious wrong. So we need to take responsibility to investigate and learn and also to open ourselves up to really learning.

 

I’m sure, as a white male talking about feminism and racism, you have been told that you have no right to speak about these issues. Can you talk about your thoughts on who can legitimately contribute to these conversations?

We’re organizing students of color around ethnic studies, around anti-prison issues, around the over-policing of our communities and the underresourcing of our communities, but there’s so much resistance from so many white people who either refuse to believe that this is a reality or accept that it’s wrong but that there’s nothing that they can do about it. We need white people to organize other white people who can relate their own experience about coming to consciousness around these issues, to try to move and support more and more white people to join in multiracial efforts and take on injustice. For me, it’s always [about] trying to remember that it’s absolutely important to amplify and support the voices and leadership of folks of color. This is not about trying to get a bunch of white people to fix the problem for everybody else. Racism is really a cancer in white communities, killing white communities. [It] raises people to racially profile others, to hate or be completely ignorant of other people’s lives and experiences. For me, it’s less about taking [people of colors’] stories and bringing them to white people, and more about connecting with other people as a white person around: How can we come to consciousness about racism, how can we overcome some of the barriers that hold us back from becoming involved, and how can we make really powerful contributions to working toward social justice and structural equality?

- See more at: http://oberlinreview.org/5225/uncategorized/off-the-cuff-chris-crass-author-activist-and-anti-racist-organizer/#sthash.5w2pEyva.dpuf

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Chris Crass's Author Page




Karen Joy Fowler's The Science of Herself: An Ambling Along the Aqueduct Review

By Timmi Duchamp
Ambling Along the Aqueduct
August 24th, 2014

Have you read Karen Joy Fowler's The Science of Herself, a new volume in PM Press's Outspoken Authors series? The publication date is 2013, but I only recently read it. This series, if you don't know of it, includes, among other slim volumes the size of Conversation Pieces, Nalo Hopkinson's Report from Planet Midnight and Ursula K. Le Guin's The Wild Girls. The Science of Herself contains a brand new story, "The Science of Herself," two reprinted stories (the searing "The Pelican Bar" and "The Further Adventures of the Invisible Man"), "More Exuberant Than Is Strictly Tasteful," a characteristically snappy interview conducted by Terry Bisson, and "The Motherhood Statement," an essay combining fire and irony.

By the time I finished reading the second page of "The Science of Herself," which opens the volume, I'd fallen hard for it. The seaside village of Lyme Regis in the first decades of the nineteenth century? How could any voracious reader not think first of Anne Elliot watching Captain Wentworth as he fails to catch Louisa Musgrove when she willfully throws herself off the stairs, in Jane Austen's last novel, Persuasion? Fowler takes Anne Elliot's visit to Lyme Regis as her point of departure, leading to imagining Austen herself walking that beach and not seeing (yes, yes , not seeing) a young girl who was often to be found on that beach. "Strangely deressed, lower class, odd in affect, and desperately poor, she was not really the kind of girl who wanders into an Austen novel." (2) But then Fowler quickly goes on to note that Austen's visit to Lyme Regis had actually been made to see this girl's father, Richard Anning, a cabinetmaker. The connection between the unnoticed young girl and Jane Austen, though virtually invisible to the casual eye, is actual.

Anning, besides being a cabinetmaker, was also a fossil hunter; more interestingly, his daughter Mary proved to be not only a more redoubtable fossil hunter than he, the person who recovered the first complete ichthysaurus ever to be found, but also a sharp paleontologist whose contributions to the field were only belatedly awarded public acknowledgment when the British Royal Society named her on their list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. "The Science of Herself" tells a story about Mary Anning's life that "wouldn't have made sense [in Austen's novel] with her bits of gothic history, her lightning, her science, her creatures. She wouldn't make sense in any story until the story changed." (25)

 I've long been interested in the problem-- one that Fowler has been mining for some time-- of stories that don't fit "the story" that is the template for how stories are told. It's a problem faced by writers wishing to write stories that don't fit the limits or language or assumptions of the current conventions, and a problem for readers longing for such stories and virtually unable to find them anywhere (and so often resort to ingenious methods for reading what is there slant). That template is, fortunately, always shifting. "The Science of Herself" is as much an exploration of how the stories that could be told about Mary during her lifetime were constrained and limited--how her life overflowed those constraints. The form Fowler uses to tell the story is what? It's prose, certainly. But is it fiction or nonfiction?

I'm particularly interested in the question of the form Fowler uses to tell Mary Anning's story because I've been sporadically working on a story about Emilie, the Marquise du Chatelet, for years now, struggling against the form it seems determined to take. The only form in which I seem able to cast the story of Emilie bears no resemblance to the forms in which stories about historical women are usually told. And I've been fighting that form because it resembles the form taken by "The Science of Herself," aware as I am that many readers would reject it as not really fiction (much less science fiction). I don't want to write an essay about Emilie. I want to imagine and explore aspects of her life as a woman of science in the same way in which I imagine and explore aspects of the lives of the characters I invent. In this sense, "The Science of Herself" is not an essay. Or is it? I'm thrilled that Fowler put this story out there, defying the demands that the writer choose one or the other. I think it will embolden me to finish the story. And I will say, for myself, that I'm increasingly uncertain about whether any clear distinctions can be drawn in every case between fiction and nonfiction. Obviously, some fictions are clearly, unequivocally fictional. But as someone trained in history, I've long been aware that because history is composed of narratives, it must always partake of the uncertainties (and distortions) of representation and won't ever be certain. Though based on "facts," imagination is the glue that makes those facts meaningful. In the end, we come down to story, and what stories can be told under this or that set of circumstances.

"The Science of Herself" plus "The Pelican Bar" alone would make this a bold book for a volume so slim, but "The Motherhood Statement" pushes it into the red zone. The book's second entry, "The Motherhood Statement," takes as its point of departure "The Motherhood Statement" in the Turkey City Lexicon (which Fowler describes as "a primer for science fiction workshops." "Motherhood" in this statement, like "apple pie," exemplifies "conventional social and humanistic pieties." Fowler, as anyone familiar with her work knows, is all about challenging comfortable conventions and "pieties."In principle, she's in agreement with the statement. But.
It's the specifics that give me pause. Apple pie, okay, fine, whatever. But motherhood? Nothing, absolutely nothing, appears to me more contested in our political and social and private lives than motherhood. Any woman who has ever had children can tell you it is no picnic of affirmation. Any woman who has not had children can tell you that that, too, is a controversial place to be. Neither is much admired. (28)

Fowler reminds us of something most science fiction (particularly that written by men) has not, until very recently, taken note of: "Motherhood is a concept that changes from culture to culture and over time. Sometimes it's set in opposition to mothering--motherhood, in this schematic, is the sacred duty of women, an artificial construct which underlies the whole system of patriarchy."(28)

Of course tarring "motherhood" with the brush of conventional social pieties has been a longstanding woman-bashing tradition for fiction written by US men in the twentieth century. It was a part of a concerted (highly successful) program for ejecting fiction by women from the upper echelons of literature in the US.* Fowler doesn't go into that, though, but focuses more closely on attitudes toward women vis-a-vis childraising, before paying tribute to the explorations made by feminist sf in the 1970s and then concluding with attending to the ferocious, on-going twenty-first-century attack on women's reproductive rights and how the free exercise of such rights has become a story many people and venues approach (if at all) with timidity at best and repulsion and censorship at worst. "I can remember no other time in which the attacks on women's freedom have been so widespread, so sustained, and so successful," Fowler writes. "Or half so scary... An argument that begins by positing women valuable only as mothers will end by suggesting that, even as mothers, women are not valuable at all." (32-33)  

Fowler ends the essay by returning to "The Motherhood Statement": "The easy assumption that motherhood constitutes some easy assumption is neither accurate nor serving us well. " (34)

She has a lot of good lines in her interview, but I'll offer you one here: "I believe that the learning in workshops happens to the critiquer not the critiqued." (72) Now go read this sharp little book yourself, if you haven't already.

Buy The Science of Herself now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Karen Joy Fowler's Author Page



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