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'Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus' Will Document The Lives Of The Young Queer Community



by James Nichols
Huffington Post
June 17th, 2014

An incredible new book is in the works that will serve as the culmination of a ten-year effort by photographer Rachelle Lee Smith to document the lives and tell the stories of queer youth.

Called Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus, the project is slated to be a photographic essay that explores a wide and diverse spectrum of experiences among youth that identify as queer. Everyone involved in the project is between 14 and 24 years of age, and their feature involves a photo that each individual further personalizes with their own handwriting and story.

"It will not only show unification within the LGBTQ community but also the commonalities across all borders regardless of age, race, gender, and sexual orientation," Smith said in a statement. "It will do so in an easily digestible for youth by youth format and shows the progress and changes over the last decade."

Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus is currently engaged in an Indiegogo campaign in order to become fully funded. A prominent LGBT organization has also agreed to back the project with an additional $10,000 if the Indiegogo campaign is met. Head here to visit the Indiegogo campaign for Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Rachelle Lee Smith Author's Page




Imagine If Crass Was Funny: ‘Dead Kennedys: Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables’

by John L Murphy
PopMatters.com
June 13th, 2014

Intended as liner notes for the 25th anniversary of this punk album, Alex Ogg's project had to wait five more years for what turns into a longer book on a 38 minute 1980 LP. Legal disputes over songwriting credits, added to the protracted resentment between singer Jello Biafra and his bandmates, notably guitarist East Bay Ray and bassist Klaus Flouride, tested the patience of the author and theDead Kennedys, past and present.

This story, told efficiently by a veteran chronicler of punk, reveals that the American underground in the late '70s could match the best of the British punks when it came to political commentary paired with feisty music. Furthermore, unlike so many righteous punks before and after the Dead Kennedys, this San Francisco outfit retained its sense of humor.

However, as an Angeleno, growing up a near-contemporary of the band, I challenge Ogg's claim that this was the peak of proto-hardcore. To me, the band's debut resembled, but did not better, the blur and buzz of the Germs' first LP. I'll admit that unlike that short-lived L.A. band, the Dead Kennedys outlasted Reagan's first term. As the subtitle shows, Ogg narrates the start of it all, but he stops very soon after the album's release and their first tour.

How the Dead Kennedys scaled the summits of the American independent label punk scene so rapidly, Ogg reminds readers, can be credited to their discipline. More on the intellectual influences informing the band members might have answered the question of how they managed so quickly to create two classic singles, "California Über Alles" and "Holiday in Cambodia". Within this punk milieu, few contemporaries dared to roam beyond a handful of approved "provocative" topics. Most punk bands preached against racism, some against sexism, many against conformity, as expected for spiky non-conformists to conform.

Biafra, raised in Boulder, Colorado, and apparently embittered from delivering pizzas to smug lefty college kids his own age (he dropped out of an equivalent institution early on, the University of California, Santa Cruz, tellingly), decided to widen his target range. He spoke for an overlooked echo-boomer generation, coming of age during Watergate, too young to be hippies, but who had to listen to those not much older ramble on over and over about how great it was then and how dismal it all turned out by 1980, as youth woke up from years of Carter's malaise on the morning after, snuggled or smothered by Reagan's revived or reviled "values".

Although now a balding, gray statesman in cahoots with the state's prison guard union, and cutting deals with corporate sponsors while managing to rule to convey a pale-Green image in keeping with his earlier gubernatorial reign, Jerry Brown represented to this band a "Zen fascism" during the '70s. Risible though this seems to this Californian critic, in retrospect if not to Ogg, who takes this semi-seriously from the mouth of Jello, this song roused "the suede denim secret police" who were bent on arresting "your uncool niece". The Dead Kennedys spinned shock value by evoking Nazi imagery, and trafficked in such regalia by certain punk colleagues with lines like, "Come quietly to the camp/ You'd look nice as a drawstring lamp". Biafra's uneasy message, within the campy medium of the jerky anthem, either strengthens or weakens its lyrical conceits. Still, the song lives on, covered often, in lots of styles.

Its follow-up, "Holiday in Cambodia", has garnered fewer cover versions and parodies. It's a darker song, as its Pol Pot theme dramatizes, and it's more disturbing. It castigates those smug Boulder or Berkeley collegians, those who curry favor with bosses, those who pretend solidarity with the masses. It contrasts this mindset with what would happen when the self-proclaimed progressives of the West go East: "Well you'll work harder with a gun in your back/ For a bowl of rice a day/ Slave for soldiers till you starve/ Then your head is skewered on a stake."

Ogg skirts extended exegesis of these two songs, assuming that readers probably know them well, but he does take pains to, in true rock journalist fashion, tell us about the vintage tube microphones used to capture this song's roar.

Without the churning, Echoplexed, surf-tinged guitar of East Bay Ray, Klaus's doom-laden bass, and drummer Ted's bashing backing, however, these songs, for all their lyrical baiting, would not have succeeded. Ogg credits Jello's voice as a "human theramin" and attributes a Kabuki-like ranting and wailing for impact. Many listeners, myself included, have found Biafra's self-consciously theatrical delivery trying, but in live shows as on record, the Dead Kennedys sought to stand out from punk yammering.

Boosted by Geza X's production of "Holiday in Cambodia", these singles remain arguably the band's best vinyl moments. Geza X (member of the L.A. band the Bags, who crafted early releases from Black Flag, Weirdos, and the Germs, as well as San Francisco's Avengers) labored to make this song wail, so it's a shame that Jello's wish for him to produce their first album was rejected by the rest of the band. To me, this decision dulls the sonic power of Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables, and it feels muffled as a result.

Recorded for $10,000, the album appeared in 1980 on the British indie label Cherry Red. Ogg reminds readers that between the Dickies signed by A+M in 1978 and Husker Du by Warner Brothers in 1985 (and by then, they were not really part of this scene anymore), no American underground band had been issued on a major label. The Dead Kennedys responded by starting the Alternative Tentacles label.

Distributors IRS had balked from releasing the album, due to a distant Kennedy acquaintance, for the barbed band name (amazingly or inevitably, preceded by a Cleveland band who then declined to go on with the same moniker) led to many double-takes and dead-on-arrival rejections by the record industry. Tracks included hints of musical influences as diverse as Duane Eddy's guitar, Buddy Holly's vocals, MC5's slogans, and Sparks' lyrics, attesting to the band's affection for their childhood idols.

It ends with a throwaway cover of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman's "Viva Las Vegas", made famous by Elvis Presley. True to the LP's prickly, brooding, snarling vibe-part Travis Bickle, part Mothers of Invention-the production was credited by the band to the friendlier of engineer Oliver DiCicco's two cats, Norm. Neither Lester Bangs nor Robert Christgau welcomed the record; the latter critic disdained its "Tiny Tim vibrato". Biafra sneers throughout the entire record, true, but this "sustains" Ray's guitar tremelo; it suits the frenetic delivery Jello Biafra adopts for his stage persona.

The original band was already splintering during the making of the record, with second guitarist and oddball (even by Dead Kennedys) standards 6025 soon departed. A new drummer stepped in-later to claim some of those songwriting royalties which have earned the ire of Jello vs. Klaus and Ray, one learns if in diplomatic fashion via the long-suffering journalist Ogg, who patiently hears each side out as they argue. This underlying subplot, still rankling these early bandmates to this day, provides a telling coda to the ambitions of many in the punk era to make a career out of their passion, vs. the compromises the original lineup fended off in their attempt to remain independent of corporate tentacles and truisms.

"Yakety Yak" compiles quotes about the band and album by celebrities in and beyond the rock scene. A closing chapter by Ogg's co-author Russ Bestley (of The Art of Punk), titled "Grafical Anarchy" shows how collaborator Winston Smith (who legally changed his name to that Orwellian protagonist) conspired with Biafra to create collages inspired by Situationists.

The LP cover never got the reproduction Judith Calson's San Francisco Chronicle photo deserved. This was taken during the "White Night Riots" following the short sentence handed down to Dan White after his "Twinkie Defense" for the shooting of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone in 1979. The front cover shows three police cars on fire; the back cover shot of a hokey music combo led to lawsuits by one of its members, so this image was defaced or replaced on later pressings. This pattern would repeat during the band's career, although Ogg avoids much mention of more litigation.

The political subtext of the band gains some attention, but how the members gelled to create these singles and the album from a perspective tinted by their predecessors from the '50s and '60s, whom other punks might have disdained, needed more elaboration. Bestley gives a nod to this crucial continuity as context links what the San Franciscans were doing, with jarring détournement (literally "re-routing"): cut-up montages from ads, photos, and pamphlets arranged to shake the viewer up.

Smith's Fallout Magazine helped rally recruits to the Dead Kennedys cause, but its contents and range don't earn the coverage that could have explained how printed texts and posters widened the band's DIY appeal. Certainly Alternative Tentacle's mail order reach, and diligent product placement in indie record stores, accounted for the international audience the band garnered. Given Bestley and Ogg's knowledge of these multimedia within political punk, more coverage was needed.

Jamie Reid for the Sex Pistols and Gee Vaucher for the English anarchist collective Crass served as counterparts in this guerrilla art form of collage as cultural critique. This packaging boosted the Dead Kennedys' impact. The band and Smith wrapped its records in striking artwork and album inserts. Among punks today, their red-and-black logo endures, but Ogg and Bestley glide past how those two symbolic colors might or might not stand for the band's principled assertion of anarchy. The band's commitment to radical politics as well as pranks and poses needed more elaboration.

As Biafra (an eventual Green Party presidential campaigner, he came in fourth in a nine-way race for San Francisto mayor in the fall of 1979 to replace Moscone) reminds Ogg, Jello mused on what the Dead Kennedys might achieve: "Imagine if Crass was funny."

The Dead Kennedys were. Whether this ensured their success or failure, you are left to ponder.

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




West of Eden reviewed in Humboldt Journal of Social Relations

By Sara Matthews
Humboldt Journal of Social Relations
Issues 36, 2014

The writing of history has left the American communal and “back-to-the-land” movements of the 1960s largely brushed aside, characterized as little more than the immature petulance of self-indulgent hippies seeking to escape responsibility. The editors of West of Eden: Communes and Utopia in Northern California contend that this portrayal is tinged with political motivations and has thus far succeeded in detracting from any serious inquiry into the subject. With this book, they aim to provide a starting point from which the American communing movements can be contextualized and analyzed in a meaningful way. The editors, historians Iain Boal and Cal Winslow, anthropologist Janferie Stone, and geographer Michael Watts, offer West of Eden to highlight the work of their larger “Communes Project,” a collaboration of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the Mendocino Institute. In doing so, they weave together an eclectic collection of essays written by 14 contributing authors (including the four editors) ranging from extensively researched histories to colloquial, first-hand narratives of the commune experience. Taken together, this collection succeeds in familiarizing the reader with the history, political motivations, and nature of the communal movement as it played out in northern California, while also initiating an inquiry into its lasting social and political impacts in contemporary America.

The uniting thread among these essays is a focus on the burgeoning ventures in communal living that took place in the 1960s and 1970s, specifically in northern California. However, beyond this unifying theme, the essays vary greatly in content and style. The extensively researched and well organized exposition and argumentation found in many of the essays such as Jeff Lustig’s “The Counterculture as Commons” or Felicity Scott’s “Bulldozers in Utopia: Open Land, Outlaw Territory, and the Code Wars” can be contrasted, for example, with an excerpt from one of the many personal narratives that Cal Winslow aggregated in his contribution, “The Albion Nation”:

At that time, the SLA [Symbionese Liberation Army], that whole thing was going on. Things were really fractionalizing in the movement. I guess it was when Nixon was in power. I think people were a little disillusioned. The antiwar movement was falling apart. So that’s another piece of it. (p. 162)

The hodgepodge of writing styles and differing levels of biases at times leaves the reader scrambling to choose the correct lens through which to analyze the text. This occasionally results in a confusing read; however, it also one of the book’s strengths.

Because its base-level purpose is to provide a foundation for potential students of the subject, this volume makes good use of the wide range of sources by providing not only history, context, and suggestions on how one might think about the communal projects, but also by providing a window into the primary research from which these conclusions were reached. This results in no t only an engaging read, but also makes the book a convenient starting point for both secondary and primary research.

Another strength of West of Eden is the attention given to the role of differing conceptualizations of space. Multiple essays throughout the book engage with ideas of the reclaiming of space and the spatial relationships between the communing movements. In his recounting of the history of communing movements, Timothy Miller portrays the back-to-the-land movements in the early 1900s as being “solitary spaces” (p. 5). As groups of people relocated to the rural hinterlands, the goal of these movements was to fully support themselves on a plot of land, separate from the urban core.

These solitary-spatial projects, however, quickly found themselves to be unsustainable. Perhaps taking a note from history, the communing movements of the 1960s are found to be much less about discrete spatialization, with much collaboration between the rural and the urban. In introducing the major themes of the book, Boal describes the interaction between the spaces of city and country to be complex and unfit for any sort of dichotomous comparison (p.xiv).

Meanwhile, Lustig’s exploration of the physical and imagined “commons” speaks to the “political scaffolding” left by earlier movements as well as the roles of the open spaces of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and UC Berkeley’s campus (p. 35). He argues that the geography of these existing conditions played a critical role in the incubation of collective activity. Scott conceptualizes space in a different way, understanding the creation of communes as “an exodus from official systems of managing land and the built environment—from property rights and trespass laws to building codes as well as health and safety regulation” (p. 58). Through an examination of the legal battles of the “code wars,” Scott illustrates how the reactionary claiming of space was used as an explicit means of challenging the codes of capital’s spatial order. The claiming and reordering of space as means of achieving a political agenda is a reoccurring theme that is handled well throughout the book.

The final essay in West of Eden is a discussion by Watts in which he examines the
collection of communal movements in relation to the broader upheaval of world events in the 1960s. He sees these communing and back-to-the-land movements as being one of many paths that were taken during this time period in an attempt to construct an alternative world. While these movements were, by name and nature, communal, Watts argues that they were also highly individualistic and, in some senses, libertarian. Out of this, he contends, came of the emergence of not only the New Left normally associated with the American communing movement, but also the development of neoconservatives and the New Right.

While the communing movements did not last beyond the 1970s, their legacies are still felt in contemporary America. Today, we still see this “desire to control one’s own life” manifesting in discourse and political contentions across the nation (p.238). As we once again approach what some would call the “crisis of legitimacy for the institutions of capitalist modernity,” the scrutiny of these past communing movements becomes all the more relevant (p. xxiv).

West of Eden accomplishes the task of beginning the excavation of the American communing movements and provides an integral perspective, useful in any attempt to understand the complex political and social culture of northern California, southern Oregon,and, indeed, much of broader contemporary America.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Cal Winslow's Page | Back to Iain Boal's Page




Interview: Peter Kuper and The System and World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014

by Henry Chamberlain
Comics Grinder
June 23rd, 2014

Peter Kuper is passionate about comics, New York City, and activism. He has established himself as a leading authority on all three subjects in a remarkable career that continues to explore and to grow. Where to begin? Well, many readers will know Mr. Kuper for his continuous work on “Spy vs. Spy” in MAD Magazine, since 1997. In that same year, his landmark graphic novel, “The System” was published. And it all begins with a love for underground comics and pushing the limits. This would lead to “World War 3 Illustrated,” started by Kuper and his childhood friend, Seth Tobocman. All sorts of subversive ideas were percolating between these two cartoonists while growing up in Cleveland. We discuss a key moment that brought things to a boil.Page 70 from

Page 70 from “The System” by Peter Kuper

In this interview, we focus on “The System” and “World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014,” both published by PM Press and out this July. During the course of our interview, we get a look into the process behind Kuper’s stencil work, a distinctive style evoking graffiti. It is a heroic style and one that is now part of the past. It was an authentic graffiti style, using actual spray paint aerosol cans. Of course, the time came to move on, for the sake of the environment and one’s own health.

Page 70 rough from

Page 70 rough from “The System”

Red Stencil from page 70,

Red Stencil, Page 70, “The System”

Red Spray Layer, Page 70,

Red Spray Layer, Page 70, “The System”

Peter Kuper proves to be an excellent interview. I think that is because he loves to share information. He is both a great artist and a great teacher. We cap off our interview with a look at his course on graphic novels at Harvard. But, first off, we begin with a look back at the first time that Peter Kuper met R. Crumb, as a boy. I hope you enjoy the interview. Just click the link HERE and scroll half way down the page to listen:

And be sure to visit PM Press right here. And Peter Kuper’s website right here.

You can find “World War 3 Illustrated 1979-2014″ right here. You can find the new deluxe edition of “The System” right here.

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




World War 3 Illustrated on Brodner's Bicycle

Drawger
by Steve Brodner
Brodner’s Bicycle
June 19th, 2014

  
Great props to Peter Kuper, Seth Tobocman and the gang at WW 3 Illustrated for this beautiful volume (published today!) documenting and celebrating the glorious 35 year journey under the flag of this brave comic. All artists with hearts, souls, brains, who feel their most important client is their own conscience. I respect and admire every one of these firends and colleagues. Tonight you can catch them and grab a book at Blue Stockings  here in NY. In any case get this book. Honored to be along for the first 35. Signed on for the next!
Keep 'em flyin'!
Sabrina Jones
Kuper's Oaxaca journals are excerpted here.
Eric Drooker
Tobocman
Kuper again.
Mac McGill
Meself.
Sue Coe

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




On ‘reasonability’ in activism and demanding the impossible

Free City Radio
June 22nd, 2014

Over recent days in Montréal, after joining multiple activist discussions (including those at the Montréal Student Movement Convention), revolving around possible frameworks for asserting political demands in opposition to austerity economics and neoliberalism, my mind is racing with critical reflections.
One key problematic point that rests in my thoughts, is rooted in addressing the limiting reality that most activist-driven campaigns today in Québec and Canada assert goals or campaigns within pre-established conservative frameworks for political possibility. Even if the consensus vision at heart of the organizing, that is driving people emotionally and collectively, is anti-capitalist and revolutionary, our collective demands most often don’t reflect broader transformative visions.

Clearly campaigning on real and tangible issues, rooted in popular realities is at the heart of any meaningful organizing work (as seen during the Québec student strike), but why limit our political dimensions to a reality that is deeply destructive and oppressive? Can our political campaigns speak both to real issues and also express our broader dreams for true liberation?

How can our campaigning both address concrete realities, while also expressing an inspiring ideas and questions that travel way beyond the constricting discourse of spiritually dead politicians that cynically preach ‘reasonable' frameworks, that in reality are shaped by colonial, capitalist violence. Let’s stop being ‘reasonable' to systems that literally refuses to acknowledge our full humanity, or respect the sanctity of Mother Earth.

These questions are visited further, asserted beautifully within an essay included in What Would It Mean To Win? a collection of texts via the Turbulence collective, published by PM Press.

The text by Stephen Duncombe, entitled Politics in an Age of Fantasy, touches on the horrific violence of the Iraq war and reflects critically on progressive activists attempting to make demands, or build campaigns, against the war within political frameworks fixed by the very powers involved in orchestrating the war.

below is an excerpt from the excellent essay from What Would It Mean To Win? thanks for reading, take care, Stefan.

"In the autumn of 2004, shortly before the U.S. presidential election and in the middle of a typically bloody month in Iraq, the New York Times Magazine ran a feature article on the casualty of truth in the Bush administration. Like most Times articles, it was well written, well researched, and thoroughly predictable. That George W. Bush is ill informed, doesn’t listen to dissenting opinion, and acts upon whatever nonsense he happens to believe is hardly news.

(Even the fact that he once insisted that Sweden did not have an army and none of his cabinet dared contradict him was not all that surprising.) There was, however, one valuable insight. In a soon-to-be-infamous passage, the writer, Ron Suskind, recounted a conversation between himself and an unnamed senior adviser to the president:

The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about Enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued.

“We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create reality. And while you are studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

It was clear how the Times felt about this peek into the political mind of the presidency. The editors of the Gray Lady pulled out the passage and floated it over the article in oversized, multi-colored type. This was ideological gold: the Bush administration openly and arrogantly admitting that they didn’t care about reality. One could almost feel the palpable excitement generated among the Times’ liberal readership, an enthusiasm mirrored and amplified all down the left side of the political spectrum on computer listservs, call-in radio shows, and print editorials over the next few weeks. This proud assertion of naked disregard for reality and unbounded faith in fantasy was the most damning evidence of Bush insanity yet. He must surely lose the election now.

What worried me then, and still worries me today, is that my reaction was radically different. My politics have long been diametrically opposed to those of the Bush administration, and I’ve had a long career as a left-leaning academic and a progressive political activist. Yet I read the same words that generated so much animosity among liberals and the left and felt something else: excited, inspired … and jealous. Whereas the common sense view held that Bush’s candid disregard for reality was evidence of the madness of his administration, I perceived it as a much more disturbing sign of its brilliance. I knew then that Bush, in spite of making a mess of nearly everything he had undertaken in his first presidential term, would be reelected.

How could my reaction be so different from that of so many of my colleagues and comrades? Maybe I was becoming a neocon, another addition to the long list of defectors whose progressive God had failed. Would I follow the path of Christopher Hitchens? A truly depressing thought. But what if, just maybe, the problem was not with me but with the main currents of progressive thinking in this country? More precisely, maybe there was something about progressive politics that had become increasingly problematic. The problem, as I see it, comes down to reality. Progressives believe in it, Bush’s people believe in creating it. The left and right have switched roles – the right taking on the mantle of radicalism and progressives waving the flag of conservatism. The political progeny of the protestors who proclaimed, “Take your desires for reality” in May of 1968, were now counseling the reversal: take reality for your desires. Republicans were the ones proclaiming, “I have a dream.”

Progressive dreams, and the spectacles that give them tangible form, will look different than those conjured up by the Bush administration or the commercial directors of what critic Neil Gabler calls Life, the Movie. Different not only in content – this should be obvious – but in form. Given the progressive ideals of egalitarianism and a politics that values the input of everyone, our dreamscapes will not be created by media-savvy experts of the left and then handed down to the rest of us to watch, consume, and believe. Instead, our spectacles will be participatory: dreams the public can mold and shape themselves. They will be active: spectacles that work only if people help create them. They will be open-ended: setting stages to ask questions and leaving silences to formulate answers. And they will be transparent: dreams that one knows are dreams but which still have power to attract and inspire. And, finally, the spectacles we create will not cover over or replace reality and truth but perform and amplify it. Illusion may be a necessary part of political life, but delusion need not be.

Perhaps the most important reason for progressives to make their peace with the politics of dreaming has little to do with the immediate task of winning consent or creating dissent, but has instead to do with long-term vision. Without dreams we will never be able to imagine the new world we want to build. From the 1930s until the 1980s political conservatives in this country were lost: out of power and out of touch. Recalling those days, Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s senior political adviser, says: “We were relegated to the desert.” While many a pragmatic Republican moved to the center, a critical core kept wandering in that desert, hallucinating a political world considered fantastic by postwar standards: a preemptive military, radical tax cuts, eroding the line between church and state, ending welfare, and privatizing Social Security. Look where their dreams are today.

accompanying art work via Zach Matthes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, via cutandpaint.org

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Our Economy Wants You to Be In Debt-5 Things You Can Do to Take Charge

by Liz Pleasant
YES! Magazine
May 21st, 2014

We pored through a debt-resistance manual created by former Occupiers to bring you these practical tips.

Last month PM Press published the Debt Resisters' Operations Manual -also known as "the DROM." But don't let that menacing-sounding acronym fool you: this is a book written in plain English and filled with tips and tactics for dealing with debt.

The book has been available online since September 2012, but this publishing marks the first time the manual has been printed, bound, and sold. Don't worry, you can still find a free copy online. But, hopefully, getting this book into stores will help its message reach more people-however ironic it might seem to buy one with a credit card.

"Everyone is a debtor so there's no limit to the audience" said Andrew Ross, a member of the Occupy Wall Street offshoot called Strike Debt, in an interview with Guernica Magazine. Although Ross has gone public, most of the authors of the Debt Resister's Operations Manual have chosen to remain anonymous.

The book explains how creditors, big banks, and other lenders operate and how debtors can navigate both in and outside of the system.

"From a young age, we are conditioned to feel that being in debt is shameful and worthy of punishment," the manual's anonymous authors explain.

Debtors shouldn't feel that way, the DROM argues, because the situation is largely unfair and out of their control. "The reason you have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills is that we don't provide medical care to everyone," the authors write. "The reason you have tens of thousands of dollars of student loans is because the government, banks, and university administrators [are] driving college costs through the roof."

All that debt adds up. About 75 percent of Americans are in debt right now and owe a total of more than $11.5 trillion, according to Forbes magazine. That's about three times the amount of spending the Obama Administration requested in its 2015 federal budget.

And it's not necessarily spent on expensive handbags, sports cars, and vacations. A 2012 study published by the left-leaning thinktank Demos found that 40 percent of American households in debt use their credit cards to pay for living costs like rent, food, and utility bills. Additionally, about half of household debt comes from medical bills.

While the authors clearly worked hard to make the manual's language accessible, that doesn't mean it's a quick read. If you lack time or patience to sit down and wrap your head around how FICO credit scores are generated, here are five tips from the DROM that you can start using today.

1. Avoid payday loan services and other "fringe" finance.

Stay away from paycheck loans, pawnshops, prepaid cards, nonbank check cashing, and rent-to-own agreements. These alternative financial services-known in the industry as AFSs-may appeal to those who don't want or can't have a checking account, but these institutions often prey on their customers through hidden fees and high interest rates.

The scale of the problem is huge: According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2009, about 9 million American adults have no bank account, and 66 percent of these unbanked Americans say they use alternative financial services.

And just how bad are those services? According to Gary Rivlin, author of Broke USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc., the average family with an annual income of $30,000 or less pays $2,500 in fees and interests to the AFS industry every year.

If you need money in a pinch, consider more community-based short-term loans. Ask a friend or a family member, or check to see if your employer can extend an advance. Credit unions often offer short-term loans at better rates than companies in the AFS sector. Another option is selling your unwanted stuff (either online or at thrift stores) to make some quick cash.

2. Make them an offer.

If you're part of the 75 percent of working Americans who say they live "paycheck-to-paycheck" (defined as not having enough in savings to cover six months of expenses), then it's not an option to pay past-due credit card, medical, or student debt with savings. But there may be an appealing alternative to the racking up endless interest and fees: Tell whomever you owe that you can't afford to pay in full-and then make them an offer.

"Remember," the DROM says, "even if we offer them ten cents on the dollar, that's more than they would be getting if they sold [the debt] to a collection agency."

This process of renegotiating debt is called debt settlement, and can begin with something as simple as a frank phone call with your credit card company. Be aware that there are many scams out there in this sector, according to the DROM, so it's a good idea to avoid companies or lawyers who claim to be able to achieve a debt settlement for you. Instead, consider applying for a debt settlement yourself.

The same process can be transferred to medical debt, and even the IRS has a program that can cut down your tax debt based on your income. It'll cost you $150 to apply, but if you owe a lot the risk might be worth it. Additional information on how to pursue your own debt settlement can be found here.

3. Know your rights and be prepared to defend them.

The Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, passed in 1977, includes a long list of rules that collection agents must follow. Examples of illegal behaviors include using a fake company name, lying when trying to collect debt, or saying that you will be arrested if you don't pay your debt. The act also lets you put an end to insistent phone calls from "unknown numbers" by making a formal request that collectors contact you only during certain hours. Calling outside of the requested time is a violation of the FDCPA.

Review all the rules listed in the act so you'll be able to recognize any mishandling of your account. Keep copies of all correspondence between you and any credit collection agencies. If collectors break these rules and you decide to report it, you must take action within one year of the violation. You can report violations to multiple places, including: your state's Attorney General's office, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The collection agency can be fined if it's found to have violated regulations, but it won't change how much you owe.

If you want to try to get your debt reduced or erased, you'll have to sue the collection agency. But Rozie Hughes, a financial advisor who helped develop the Financial Integrity Instructors Guide, said that complaints to the FDCPA are unlikely to reduce debts. "The road to such an end would actually be Š lengthy and laborious through the civil court system."

If you feel you have a strong case against a collector, and the time and resources for a lawsuit, reducing your debt in a courtroom is a possibility. On the other hand, simply reporting violations is an action every debtor can take to put an end to intimidation and hold collectors accountable for misconduct.

4. Consider alternatives to a credit check.

Credit checks are one way that debt can affect more than just your bank account. Landlords regularly use poor credit score ratings to deny rental applications, and employers are increasingly using credit checks to screen potential employees as well.

If your credit score is a problem, offer to bring in a personal portfolio instead. Include references from current landlords and employers, as well as bank statements and paycheck stubs. Putting in the effort to create a portfolio can show you are a responsible and trustworthy person and may prove to be more important than a number on a credit report.

5. Shift your values.

Some of the things the DROM suggests you do to survive with little to no money are pretty radical. These include wearing only free clothes, getting food from shelters, and squatting in abandoned buildings.

But if those options are too hard-core for you, don't worry. There are some other options too. The DROM suggests you look into bartering networks and gift economies in your area. These alternatives are great because they allow you to trade your extra items, time, or skills for things you need without the exchange of cash. Large-scale examples of this include websites like Swap Right, Trash Bank, and the "free" section of your local Craigslist.

And when you need services rather than objects, consider joining your local time bank-a service that allows you to trade your own time for a carpenter's, plumber's, or whoever's time you need.

It's important to acknowledge the cultural change that's involved in moving away from the cash economy and toward swapping, bartering, and other alternatives.

"Finding ways to live outside of [our current debt cycle] is an absolute necessity for many, but can also be rewarding and give you a glimpse of what life might be like in a world without debt," the authors of the DROM explain. "It will require cultivating personal values and taking actions that often stand in stark contrast to the ones our consumers culture promotes so aggressively."

Liz Pleasant wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Liz is a graduate of the University of Washington's program in Anthropology, and an online editorial intern at YES! Follow her on Twitter @lizpleasant.

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

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Towards Collective Liberation in Nora McKay

by Nora McKay
Noramckay.weebly.com
May 8th, 2014

Towards Collective Liberation: Anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and movement strategy is what I would call an activist’s handbook. Through a series of essays, interviews, and personal accounts, Chris Crass shares with the reader the passionate, gritty, inspiring, and practical aspects of creating, continuing, and expanding a movement. Using examples of movements from the Civil Rights Movement to Food Not Bombs, Crass sheds light on the numerous struggles involved in activism, discussing everything from finding the time and space for activism, to confronting issues of privilege within groups of activists, to getting arrested. What is so unique (and wonderful) about the book is the very fact that it is not at all framed as what it is: a how-to book. Crass simply discusses every gritty detail of success and failure experienced within the movements and thus gives the reader a comprehensive overview of the components of a successful movement.

What made such a significant impact on me was the realization that the leaders of any and every movement make a lot of mistakes. They are confused. There are times when they don’t know what the next step is. That I didn’t realize this before sounds naïve to the point of ridiculousness, but it’s true. I always had the vague conception that the leaders of activist movements were people who knew all the facts and could work the system and had a plan for every step of the way. I have never had all (any?) of those things, and for that reason I excluded myself from the possibility of ever being anything but a follower in activism. Hearing about the failings of some of these movements actually inspired me! It gave me a sense of solidarity, a recognition that the leaders of these movements were and are really no different from me.

Of course, there are moments when I felt like Crass knew that the book was serving the purpose of a how-to guide even though he didn’t frame it in that way. The last chapter in the book for instance is called, “We Can Do This: key Lessons for More Effective and Healthy Liberation Praxis”. In it he includes eight tips for successful activism. Some of them are more practical like, “Cultivate a developmental organizing approach. Continually look for patterns, stages, and common dynamics that help move individuals, relationships, and efforts towards their goals, as well as what hinders them.” (274) Others have that distinctly hopeful, ethereal tone that I associate with whole-hearted activists, particularly: “Embrace the beauty and joy in the world. It is important that, even as we have a keen eye  for injustice and a passion to end it, we also open ourselves up to the beauty and joy of the world around us.” (282) This last one is my favorite; a reminder that being hard-core, passionate activists doesn’t mean we have to feel guilty about appreciating all of the good stuff and the beautiful stuff that’s happening in the world as well. Because there is always something.

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




Towards Collective Liberation in Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture and Action

by Adam Lewis
Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture and Action

May 2014

Anarchism has long prided itself on being one of the few perspectives and movements that is committed to resisting all forms of oppression and domination. Anarchists have participated in many movements that themselves might not be defined as anarchist, and anarchists continue to add their critique of the state, capital, and all forms of oppression to whatever context that they find themselves working in.

Despite this wide commitment to root out all forms of oppression and domination, anarchists still have a long way to go to make their theory match practice. Anarchist movements in settler colonial ‘North America’ and Europe continue to be mainly white dominated, sexism still permeates anarchist movements, and the intersectional nature of anarchist politics is constantly in need of renewal. People of colour, Indigenous communities, and queer and trans* folks, to name but a few, have continued to work with and within anarchism to make anarchist theory meet up with anarchist practice to renew and expand the commitment to resist all forms of oppression and domination.

A key resource in this continuing struggle is Chris Crass’ book. Crass has worked within a wide range of social movement contexts from explicitly anarchist groups, to Food Not Bombs chapters, Challenging White Supremacy Workshops, the Catalyst Project, and Colours of Resistance. Many of these projects and groups continue to have a lasting imprint on social movements, groups, and individuals in settler colonial ‘North America’. They also continue to serve as further resources for those just entering into political consciousness and for long- time organizers. It is evident that these experiences are what have led to the writing of this book as both a set of reflections on his own movement experiences and also a powerful set of lessons and possibilities for others who are also interested in intersectional struggles for liberation. In this sense Towards Collective Liberation is partly a memoir, partly a challenge to current social movements to do better, and a sort of promise that something better is indeed being built.

Crass has assembled a key resource for anarchists and all those who are committed to, or realizing their commitment to, movements of ‘collective liberation’. His work brings anti-racist and feminist struggles front and centre with an eye to building long-term, resilient, and effective movements of resistance and change for all people. His own positioning as a “white, mostly straight, man” means that there are key lessons in this book for those who might share a similar identity. He is candid and speaks from the heart about his own struggles and experiences of coming to consciousness in a world that is rife with oppression and domination and where those with privilege are often able to take the easy way out of ignoring continuing realities of oppression. Crass is clear that his own struggles have not been just his individually but that there have always been a strong number of mentors ready to challenge his own perspectives and help push his own understandings forward.

The main aim of this book is to argue for continued and expanding commitments to building movements for ‘collective liberation’ based in praxis. Crass defines ‘collective liberation’, drawing from bell hooks, as the need for movements to develop an intersectional understanding of oppression and domination, otherwise they will continue to manifest oppression themselves and undermine the work they are trying to push forward. Such movements also need to link theory and practice into sustained commitments for change. Most directly, Crass argues: ‘If systems of dominance are interconnected, then systems of liberation are also interconnected’ (18). This fundamental orientation, though quite simple, is what underlines Crass’ book and social movement work, and what is in need of constant renewal within all social movements that are moving towards a free society.

In many ways Towards Collective Liberation is a challenge to take resistance to racism, sexism, homophobia, hierarchy and domination seriously within all movements and not leave these realities on the back burner or to be dealt with after victories have been won. Crass argues for this commitment to collective liberation here and now, as a means to creating a better, and more just, society. It requires learning from and being accountable to communities that are at the forefront of struggle and recognizing that it is those who are often the most marginalized by systems of oppression that are the most radical about societal transformation and also the most realistic (160), rather than always those who are most outwardly radical. This observation is a key reminder that movements need to take people where they are at but that they also need to be ready and willing to listen to those they are claiming to support.

A number of points in the book would serve as key lessons for anarchists in particular. Most generally, and similar to the work of the late Joel Olson (2009), Crass argues that anarchists need to look carefully at current and historic struggles for civil rights and against racism and white supremacy. Racism is a fundamental aspect of historical and continued power relations in the white supremacist and settler colonial ‘U.S.’ and yet many anarchists do not have an anti-racist praxis at the core of their politics. In particular, Crass argues that anarchists need to look to women of colour-led movements to challenge their own politics and begin to develop a more nuanced and sustained anti-racist orientation.

One of the lessons from women of colour-led movements that Crass highlights is the value of leadership. He specifically points to the work of Ella Baker as one example for how effective forms of leadership might be developed. He suggests that the anarchist rejection of leadership carries with it the possibility of opening up potentially more hazardous informal hierarchies within groups. Leadership, he argues, is not something to be feared, but something that might be used to empower members of groups to take on the hard work of developing as organizers. It is also something that we must be attentive to, or else we run the constant risk of informal leadership arising along with informal hierarchies.

An additional point that Crass stresses is that anarchism (and movements for liberation more generally) need to be more ‘flexible and constantly evolving’ – including participating in reformist and electoral campaigns but also reaching out and becoming more relevant to the contexts and experiences of those that fall outside the typical white middle class milieu.

Anarchism, Crass argues, needs to engage with other groups and movements beyond just their ‘stated intentions’ and see how further relationships of solidarity and support might be built. Electoral and reformist participation are often thorny issues in anarchist circles. Anarchists certainly have tended to steer away from such types of social movement or political work. I think, however, that Crass has an important point.

Often the ideological or principled rigidity of anarchism leads to dismissing possible fruitful points of collaboration or exchange or leads to anarchists downplaying their anarchism in such spaces. Given the examples that Crass draws from organizing led by women of colour, anti-racist movements, and movements for gender justice, many of which are often not explicitly anarchist, there is clearly room for some increased engagement. Anarchist participation, of course, carries the potential to bring non-hierarchical forms of organizing and praxis into such spaces, but there is also the potential for anarchism to be continually challenged to live up to its purported intersectionality. Electoral campaigns, on the other hand, might be better seen as strategic or tactical engagements based on their usefulness for attaining other more specific goals or for the purposes of movement building. There is no doubt that reformist campaigns, and changes that happen through the exercise of political power, do affect the lives of many less privileged people in significant ways. Anarchists cannot lose sight of this reality, especially when seeking to build diverse and intersectional movements of resistance.

All the same there does need to be a strong caution or critique that comes from anarchism as to the limitations of such participation or the possibilities for cooptation. Anarchists do critique and reject the state and party politics for a reason, after all; however, at the same time, anarchists cannot lose sight of the improvements of daily realities that such participation might bring. The point here, I think, is to be pragmatic about such engagements and their benefits rather than dismissing electoral or reformist politics wholesale. I think the pragmatism and flexibility that these sorts of possibilities invite are exactly what Crass is arguing for in terms of creating and expanding movements for collective liberation. At certain points we need to meet people where they are at, but also stoke the fires to expand the commitment to collective liberation.

There is one aspect of Crass’s work that I do think could be further developed. He traces important links between anti-racist and civil rights struggles in the US and their importance for informing broader movements for collective liberation. A great deal of this work focuses on migrant communities and African-American struggles, and there is no question that these struggles need more attention, especially from white-dominated anarchist movements. However, the one area that seems somewhat absent, or only minimally discussed, is the struggles of Indigenous peoples in the context of the settler colonialism.

First off, I do not think this is an intentional lack of focus. Crass is speaking from his own experiences and the movements/groups/organizations that he has participated in. He speaks from the heart and the value of this book and its lessons cannot be overstated. At the same time, there is little engagement with how the continued realities of colonization continue to influence movements for collective liberation. What are some of the lessons that might be drawn from Indigenous struggles or settler-Indigenous interactions along the similar lines of white-black interactions that Crass discusses? Indigenous struggles, especially recently, have often been at the forefront of resistance movements against environmental destruction and against legacies of colonial violence. They have also been significant in challenging the settler privileges that come to all those who have immigrated to the lands of settler colonial ‘North America’. Just as movements need to continue to develop sustained and committed anti-racist and feminist consciousness and action, there needs to be a similar and connected call to develop anti-colonial and decolonizing consciousness and action. The need for this commitment seems incredibly prudent given that movements of resistance and liberation continue to engage in their struggles on land that has most often been stolen from Indigenous nations. The continued realities of colonization, and emerging movements such as Idle No More, resistance to tar sands development and fracking, and land reclamation and rehabilitation efforts, indicate that it is imperative for settlers to begin to engage in a self-reflexive and self-critical process of decolonization within ourselves and within our movements.

Anarchism has been involved in many solidarity efforts in support of Indigenous struggles and yet there has been little specific and critical discussion of theory, practice and praxis in relation to anti-colonialism and decolonization. Indigenous communities have challenged left social movements to take Indigenous thought and action seriously and work towards critically interrogating colonial privilege. Further, Indigenous feminists like Andrea Smith (2005) have argued for a similar intersectional focus within social movements that looks at the interplay of colonialism, capitalism, the state, white supremacy and heteropatriarchy and the need to build movements that take on all of these realities of oppression and domination. These conversations are starting and ever-expanding but there is some need for a more specific concentration on the realities of colonization, colonial privilege, and colonialism’s ties, intersections and overlaps with other forms of oppression and domination. Although Crass alludes to several colonial dimensions of collective liberation, these could have come through more forcefully and explicitly in his work. As a result, a number of questions are left unanswered: Have there been specific instances where he has been challenged on this front?

Are there mentors and experiences that have been influential in moving towards anti-colonial consciousness? Are there lessons from Indigenous movements or their challenges to other movements and struggles? What are the connections between anti-colonialism, decolonization, anti-racism and feminism? What are the connections between Indigenous and black liberation struggles and resisting white supremacy? These are some of the questions that we need to begin to ask carefully and more explicitly in all of our work for collective liberation.

Overall, Chris Crass has put together a thoughtful and insightful book that will be a key reference point for building anti-racist, feminist and anti-authoritarian movements for collective liberation in years to come. It speaks especially to white, cis-gendered men and the work we all have to do to reflect carefully and critically on the privileges that we continue to receive from systems of oppression and domination. It challenges anarchist movements to continue to develop more sustained anti-racist and feminist commitments, a more nuanced understanding of leadership and organizing, and connections to people of colour-led movements. Although the realities of colonization and Indigenous struggle, and challenging settler and colonial privilege in anarchism and social movements, could have come to the fore more forcefully in this book, Crass’ work on collective liberation provides tools for engaging with such struggles. Debates over leadership, self-critique, mentorship, strategy and tactics, as well as more sustained efforts to further develop anti-racist and feminist consciousness are critical for all movements.

This book presents a wealth of resources and practical examples, especially from the interviews at the end of the book, of how we might continue to struggle for liberation movements for all, in a wide variety of contexts. The task at hand, then, is to begin to do this work, here and now –to build movements and expand struggles, and take theory and put it into practice – in communities, in the streets and within ourselves.

Adam Lewis, “Reaffirming Our Anti-Racist and Feminist Commitments: A Review of Towards Collective Liberation.” Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action, Volume 8, Number 1, Summer 2014, pp. 101-106.

References
Olson, Joel, 2009. “The Problem with Infoshops and Insurrection: US anarchism, movement building, and the racial order.” In Contemporary Anarchist Studies: An Introductory Anthology of Anarchism in the Academy, edited by Randall Amster, Abraham DeLeon, Luis A. Fernandez, Anthony J. Nocella II, and Deric Shannon, 35-45. London and New York: Routledge.
Smith, Andrea, 2005. Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

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




The Angry Brigade's John Barker, 40 years on: 'I feel angrier than I ever felt then'

by Duncan Campbell
The Guardian UK

June 3rd, 2014

In 1972 John Barker was one of four Angry Brigade members sentenced to 10 years in prison for a series of bombings. And although his newly published novel is a crime story rather than a political tract, there's still plenty to feel outraged about
 John Barker. Photograph: Graeme Robertson
'These are horrible times' … John Barker. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian

Just over 40 years ago, John Barker appeared in the dock at the Old Bailey charged, as a member of the Angry Brigade, with conspiracy to cause explosions. He was jailed for 10 years at the end of what was then Britain's longest trial. Now he has written a novel, Futures, a tale about crime, the financial markets and cocaine dealing, set in 1987 amid the first signs of the City mayhem that would bring such chaos in its wake.

Futures by John Barker

The Angry Brigade carried out a series of bomb attacks in the early 70s, aimed at the embassies of far-right regimes, the homes of cabinet ministers in Edward Heath's Conservative government, the army, the police, property speculators, the Miss World competition. Each attack was followed by a communique written on a John Bull printing set in which the motivation was explained, whether it was internment in Northern Ireland, the Vietnam war, the government's industrial-relations policies or sexism.

The explosions led to the formation of the bomb squad – now the anti-terrorist branch – and the eventual arrest of a dozen leftwing activists, of whom Barker, then aged 23, was one. He stood trial in 1972 with seven others: the Stoke Newington Eight, as they were called, because of the location of their flat.

Four of the defendants were acquitted but Barker, along with Hilary Creek, Anna Mendelssohn and Jim Greenfield, were convicted on majority verdicts. While some of the evidence against them was dubious, Barker acknowledges that "they framed a guilty man". The jury asked the judge for leniency and Mr Justice James, having told the defendants that they suffered from "a warped understanding of sociology", duly gave them 10 years rather than a possible 15.

Barker defended himself in the trial. "At least one person in a political trial should always do so," he says when we meet in his small flat, not far from where he was arrested all those years ago.

Some of the lawyers in court said he could have made a successful barrister and the Observer likened his closing speech to that of "a Non-Conformist minister trying to put over the Message".

Futures was written more than 20 years ago and its publication by the radical imprint PM Press later this month (via Kickstarter) follows earlier editions in France and Germany. It tells the story of Carol, a young single mother and drug dealer, Gordon, a "tasty", self-regarding old-school London gangster, and two coke-snorting financial analysts, Phil and Jack, who entertain a fantasy of a cocaine futures market. Their internal lives are described in a richly original, cliche-free style and the book is remarkably prescient. "It's a kind of crime novel – in no way a political tract," says Barker. "Will Carol or won't she do this one big deal that will get her out of the drug world? I feel very sympathetic to her – she is representative of a very ordinary person who has to make this decision. I wanted the gangster character to be totally unromanticised – nasty but boring."

The son of a sub-editor on the sports desk of the Evening Standard, Barker grew up in Willesden, north-west London, and was attending CND demonstrations at the age of 15. He read English at Clare College, Cambridge, where he met Greenfield, later a co-defendant. In what was called the Campaign Against Assessment, he and a group of like-minded students tore up their final exam papers. "We went to the front of the exam room and said 'Down with elitism', or something like that. The university was very annoyed. It was quite a sustained campaign – we did it because the British education system is basically one of exclusion, repressing any kind of critical thinking for most people."

An Angry Brigade march in north-west London in 1972.    An Angry Brigade march in north-west London in 1972. Photograph: Hulton Archive

Initially, he made a living with a weekend book stall in Petticoat Lane market in east London, and building work. His increasing involvement with politics, in Notting Hill via the Claimants' Union – which campaigned to get people the benefits to which they were entitled – and other groups led him eventually into the world of the Angry Brigade. Their aim was to damage property rather than people and no one was killed or seriously injured by their actions.

"Looking back, the kind of things the Angry Brigade did would be far more relevant now," he says. "We thought, 'Oh yes, we're going to win, society is going to be transformed in a socialistic direction.' But I feel angrier than I ever felt then. The way in which the crisis of 2007 got flipped, so that suddenly it's not bankers but people living on welfare who are the problem, was extraordinary. These are horrible times.

"At one level, it's not all defeat," he says, citing gay rights, the women's movement and race as areas where things have at least improved in the last 40 years. "Everyone asks why people are so passive, but my experience is that they aren't, it's just that a lot of the fights now are defensive – keeping nurseries or libraries open."

He wrote about his jail time in Bending the Bars, published in 2006, recounting that when he arrived at Brixton prison on remand he found himself beside a giant of a fellow prisoner who asked if he was "one of them bombers". "Alleged," Barker replied. "That's the style, son, you stick to that," said the giant. He adapted to life inside, reading, listening to the radio – "John Peel never let me down" – and playing the flute and harmonica; he still plays sax with a band in Greece, where he now spends much of his time.

Barker found himself back behind bars in 1990. "I ended up on on this conspiracy rap for importing cannabis and was amazed at how different things were. In a sense, prisons in the 70s must have been the golden days because in a lot of ways the cons were on top. When I went back, so many things we had fought for had been lost. I was shocked by the lack of solidarity and also there was an awful lot of heroin."

Of the eight defendants, only one has written at length about the case: Stuart Christie, who was acquitted, recounted his own experiences in his memoir, Granny Made Me An Anarchist, and described Barker's advocacy in court as "worthy of Tom Paine". Those convicted never went into print about it.

"There was no vow of silence but I don't think anyone wanted to trade on it in any way," says Barker. "After we came out, we all got involved in politics in different ways and none of us wanted to discredit whatever we were in – 'Oh, these dreadful people who were in the Angry Brigade'. To be honest, I don't think it's that interesting. I'm not saying this out of false modesty but our support group was more interesting than us."

Not that there has been any shortage of novels – from Hari Kunzru's My Revolutions to Jake Arnott's Johnny Come Home, or screenplays (Our Friends in the North) loosely based on them. There have also been non-fiction books: Anarchy in the UK, by Tom Vague, published in 1997, was reviewed thus by Barker for Mute magazine: "It's a grisly business being given a book about your own past. There's this vaguely iconic photo of one's younger self and the feeling that you're trapped in a sheaf of yellowing news clippings."

On release from his second stretch inside, "by luck, I got a job at an overnight news-clipping agency that wasn't interested in my past, which I did for two years. Then an old comrade kindly showed me a few tricks about book-indexing, so that's been my main bread-and-butter ever since." As literary inspirations, he cites James Kelman and Madison Smartt Bell, Kafka and William Faulkner. Kunzru has praised Barker's novel as a "portrait of a cynical money-hungry culture" that "skewers a moment in history".

He has two other novels in the pipeline, one about the media, called Radio Signals, the other, a love story, set in Greece in 1981, at the time of a brief political optimism there.

His current political involvement is with a project entitled Loomshuttles, with Austrian artist Ines Doujak, about "textiles and colonialism", which will take him shortly to Sao Paulo, where it will feature in exhibition form at the Biennale. "Textiles was the first mass tradable commodity, so I've been investigating the globalised trade over the last thousand years." He is also involved with compiling a series of anti-dictionaries called Terms and Conditions that define such key current words and phrases as "not fit for purpose", "empowerment" and "mission statement", the publication of which should not lead to a visit from Special Branch. At least, not yet.

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