A Love Letter

Greetings INCITErs,

We want to thank all of you for sustaining the work of INCITE! through your organizing, vision and support. Under the guise of national security, our communities, bodies and lives are increasingly threatened with escalating state violence and surveillance that targets, blames and shames women, girls, trans and gender non-conforming people of color. With an increase of global natural disasters and the rise of economic crisis (while our social systems are being gutted), it is critical for us to lift up our analyses, voices and strategies that seek to transform conditions, confront systemic oppression and ensure our collective safety and survival. In celebration of over a decade of INCITE! and in light of a new decade having begun, we want to honor your work and vision. Together we are shaping a new collective vision for our movements and communities!

Image from INCITE!'s Stop Law Enforcement Violence Toolkit

RECENT SIGHTINGS

INCITE! Chapters and Affiliates have been busy raising our resilient voices for the safety and lives of our communities! The INCITE! LA Chapter organized youth leadership programs, film nights, campaigns against the racist legislation of Arizona SB 1070 and more.  Two INCITE! Affiliates, Young Women United (YWU) and Mamas of Color Rising, continue to build together for access to healthcare and birthing options throughout Texas and New Mexico, traveling to meet and share strategy and community around their shared work and offer free Certified Birth Companion (Doula) trainings to women of color. Women’s Health & Justice Initiative of New Orleans released a critical statement, ‘Stereotypes, Myths,  & Criminalizing Policies: Regulating the Lives of Poor Women’ and continue to organize for the health and safety of women and trans people of color in New Orleans and the global south. INCITE! Affiliate Young Women’s Empowerment Project released a truthtelling participatory action report, “Girls do what they have to do to survive: Methods used by girls in the sex trade and street economy to fight back and heal” and launched the “Street Youth Rise Up” campaign in Chicago, along with a recent march and speak-out. The INCITE! Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Chapter organized self defense community classes, and the INCITE! Denver Chapter continues to organize around community accountability and collective well-being, holding a day of workshops on wellness & resiliency as part of their chapter work and publishing a powerful statement on hate crime laws and violence against queer and trans people of color.

Allied Media Conference 2011

For the last 5 years, the INCITE! network has hosted a track at the Allied Media Conference (AMC), bringing INCITE! members, analysis and organizing models to this national movement-building space, and developing new media-based organizing practices with our allies there.

There is so much more to share, and so much more on the way. We hope you’ll share your stories and local work with the wider network through our blog and newsletter!

THE INCITE! NATIONAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

Some people have asked, “Who and what is the INCITE! National Collective?” To put it simply, we are a small collective of volunteers that does infrastructural maintenance to support the INCITE! National Network.   This includes tending to email accounts and list-servs, managing finances, producing newsletters, websites, and merchandise, and tracking book orders and sales.  We often connect and coordinate with INCITE! Chapters and Affiliates, make some decisions about national gatherings and collaborations, and occasionally work on analysis and written statements about issues and events.

Through a long-term listening process that involved surveys, in-person meet-ups and one-on-one interviews, we developed a “Working Group” structure to support collaboration across the chapters, affiliates and individual members in the INCITE! Network.  A Working Group may be infrastructural or issue-based.  Members can start issue-based Working Groups that reflect leadership from across the network; they do not need to be hosted by the National Collective but should commit to sharing info with the network through the website and blog. Any that are infrastructural should be hosted by the National Collective. Currently there are two of these infrastructural Working Groups in the network:

  • The Media and Communications Working Group is comprised of National Collective members, affiliates, chapters, and allies.  This working group is building a new website and other media tools to share and give visibility to the amazing practices, strategies and resources of our network. Members are working to decentralize and help the INCITE network become more transparent and horizontal in its communication practices.  We believe it is necessary for members of our network to build and maintain our own online communications infrastructure.  Part of this includes building a radical tech support community, teaching and learning digital skills, and creating an online space for the network to connect, all through a collaborative, cross-geographical process. The Media Working Group has met twice for in-person skillshares and plans to organize more.
  • The Grassroots Fundraising Working Group is building grassroots fundraising strategies to raise funds towards more potential gatherings of membership to cross-share skills, ideas and leadership, and to help provide material support for local Chapter and Affiliate work. We see the action of raising monies and sharing resources — from our political strategies to opening our homes to each other — as a political practice that transforms how we support each other, leverage resources and build our sustainability for the long term. Through grassroots fundraising, we seek to build our collective capacity, wealth of knowledge and resources for, by and with each other.

In addition, throughout the next year you can expect these things from the National Collective: more brilliance and collaboration on the blog; a new interactive website; an INCITE! Membership Guide; a new INCITE! Values Statement; a Resource & Resiliency Toolkit including fundraising ideas and tools; and a Structure Handbook to help explain how INCITE! as a network is organized. We will also be reaching out to you to build more collaborative leadership & skills-sharing within the INCITE! network and are in the last stages of producing an INCITE! chapter & affiliate toolkit, which is a compilation of all the most useful tools for starting and sustaining INCITE! organizing from across our network.

Thank you for being INCITE! and for trusting us and yourselves with this work. This is a love letter of liberation to all of you.  As the National Collective, we are here to support you, the Chapters, Affiliates, and other allies who are the heart of what INCITE! does. We want to lift you up and give you deepest gratitude and appreciation for the vital work you are doing for our collective survival.

In Vision & Legacy,

Jenny, Cara, Emi, Karla, and Kiri

incite.natl@gmail.com
www.incite-national.org
http://inciteblog.wordpress.com

The INCITE! Network

Justice for Palestine: A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Please distribute widely

Justice for Palestine
A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.—was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.

We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.

We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.

We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*

Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA

Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*

Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz*

G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*

Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL

Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA

Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY

Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*

Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*

*For identification purposes only

For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation@gmail.com.

***

INCITE! also endorses the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction for Palestine.
For more info & resources, please visit:

http://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/global-bds-day-of-action/
http://www.bdsmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

INCITE! Needs Your Help Getting to Detroit!

A member of the INCITE Media Working Group in a workshop.

Hello INCITE Supporters!

The Allied Media Conference is around the corner, and the INCITE Track is presenting an incredible bunch of workshops this year. Our work grows stronger each year through this time spent in Detroit, sharing skills, deepening relationships, and developing strategy for year-round media-based organizing. But we need your help to get there! Can you donate to help INCITE Track participants get to the conference?

Who are we?

We are women, trans* and genderqueer people of color. We are bloggers, mamas, media makers, teachers, healers, artists, sex workers, organizers, dancers, among many other things. And we need support in order to make it to Detroit for the 4th Annual INCITE! Track at the Allied Media Conference.

What will your donation help us do?

Your donation will help some of our amazing presenters get to the conference to continue building a network of media-makers and organizers through the INCITE Track at the AMC. For the past four years, the INCITE Track has been a crucial space where women and trans* people of color from all over can come together to share skills and experience for participatory media-based organizing strategies.

We’re excited about this year’s AMC! Check out some of the INCITE Track sessions:

Shawty Got Skillz Skillshare
Spread Magazine: Creating a Race Issue
The Black Girl Project: Film & Discussion
Delivering Justice Through Birthing Rights: Mamas of Color Bring it Home
Street Youth Rise Up! Collective Media-Making for Healing and Action
INCITE Media Working Group Convening

Your support will help us with food, transportation, lodging, registration, and childcare costs for presenters and participants.

Donate Now!

Please give what you can to help us get one step closer the AMC! Anything you give will go directly towards childcare, food, housing or registration for a track presenter! Via PayPal, please send to incite.natl@gmail.com and write AMC in the notes. For check donations, mail to INCITE!, 2416 W Victory Blvd #108
, Burbank, CA 91506-1229. All donations are tax-deductible.

More on the INCITE! Track:

The INCITE! Track at the AMC is a place to build a shared approach to ending violence against women, trans*, and genderqueer people of color through diverse media – from blogging and graphic design to zine-making. We will continue to highlight the transformative media strategies that will help broaden the understanding of racial & gender justice and integrating this politic into our work. We will continue to build solidarity between movements, organizations and individuals that are headed by and supported by women, gender non-conforming, and transpeople of color and will initiate collaborative projects that use different forms of media to help build community and provide tools to build sustainable ways of organizing and healing.

More on the Allied Media Conference:

The Allied Media Conference cultivates strategies for a more just and creative world. We come together to share tools and tactics for transforming our communities through media-based organizing. Check out a full schedule of sessions here.

Learn more and register for the Allied Media Conference:

Support the Allied Media Conference & Shawty Got Skillz

Stacey & Mia from To The Other Side Of Dreaming break down why it’s critical to support the Allied Media Conference (June 23-26, 2011, Detroit), a movement building space for radical women of color/people of color organizing, disability justice, queer young people, and more!  They urge everyone to support Shawty Got Skillz, a crew of 18 media makers of color, get to AMC this summer and share vital media skills for justice.  Check it out:

To donate and learn more about Shawty Got Skillz workshops, please visit: http://shawtygotskillz.tumblr.com/

Register for the Allied Media Conference:

Imperial Feminism, Islamophobia, and the Egyptian Revolution

Imperial Feminism, Islamophobia, and the Egyptian Revolution
by Nadine Naber

Originally published at www.jadaliyya.com, republished with permission.

“. . . I’m making this video to give you one simply message: We want to go down to Tahrir Square on January 25. If we still have honor and want to live with dignity on this land, we have to go down on January 25. We’ll go down and demand our rights, our fundamental human rights…The entire government is corrupt—a corrupt president and a corrupt security force…If you stay home, you deserve what will happen to you…and you’ll be guilty, before your nation and your people…Go down to the street, send SMS’s, post it post it on the ‘net. Make people aware…you know your own social circle, your building, your family, your friends, tell them to come with us. Bring 5 people, or 10 people; if each of us manages to bring 5 or 10 people to Tahrir Square…talk to people and tell them, this is enough! It will make a difference, a big difference…never say there’s no hope…so long you come down with us, there will be hope…don’t think you can be safe any more! None of us are! Come down with us and demand your rights my rights, you family’ rights. I am going down on January 25th and I will say ‘no’ to corruption, ‘no’ to this regime.”


These are the words of Asmaa Mahfouz, a 26 year old woman whose Jan. 18 vlog is said to have helped mobilize the million that turned up in Cairo and the thousands in other cities on Jan 25. Asmaa’s vlog, like the stories of many Egyptian women of this revolution offer up a challenge to two key questions framing U.S. discourse on the Jan. 25 Egyptian revolution:

1) Where are the women?

2) and…”but what if Islamic extremists take over?”

Often ignored in U.S. discussions on Egypt is how protests led by labor unions—many women-based labor unions in the manufacturing cities of Egypt—have catalyzed the Egyptian revolution (Paul Amar, 02-05-11).[ii] The women now holding down Tahrir Square as we speak—are of all ages and social groups and their struggle cannot be explained through Orientalist tropes that reduce Arab women to passive victims of culture or religion or Islam. They are active participants in a grassroots people-based struggle against poverty and state corruption, rigged elections, repression, torture, and police brutality. They are leading marches; attending the wounded, and participating in identity checks of state supported thugs. They have helped create human shields to protect Egyptian Antiquities Museum, the Arab League Headquarters, and one another. They have helped organize neighborhood watch groups and committees nationwide in order to protect private and public property. They are fighting against dictatorship among millions of people-not guided by any one sect or political party—united under one slogan: we want and end to this regime. Master Mimz—protest rapper in the UK best represents my point in the lyrics to her song: Back Down Mubarak…where she states:

“First give me a job—then lets talk about my hijab[iii]

For anyone wondering about the oppression of Arab women, the women of this revolution have indeed suffered—Professor Noha Radwan was attacked by beaten half to death by Mubarak thugs who ripped her shirt open and had stitches in her head.[iv] Several women—and men are now martyrs (they are now over 300).  Amira -killed by a police officer; Liza Mohamed Hasan, hit by a police car; Sally Zahran—hit by a Mubarak thug in the back of the head with a bat, went home to sleep and never woke up.[v]

Since the demonstrations pushed the police out of the center of Cairo, several women have made statements such as this: “It’s the first time that I have never been harassed in Cairo”—Egyptian police are notorious for sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

Some Egyptian women are also on the frontlines of the war over ideas—fighting the Egyptian state TV and exposing the contradictions between U.S. discourses on democracy and U.S. practices. As Mubarak’s regime pays thugs to run over peaceful demonstrators, stab them and kill them, many women have expressed outraged over Obama and Clinton’s advice that: “both sides need to refrain from violence.”

Aida Seif Al Dawla is a leading human rights activist with Nadeem Center for psychological rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture. By extention, her work, like the work of many Egyptian feminists and human rights activists fighting against state violence, involves confronting U.S. imperial relations with the Mubarak regime.[vi] Today, the people of the revolution are outraged over the U.S.’ unanswered loyalty to Mubarak as well as Obama’s backing of vice president Omar Suleiman and the lack of discussion about Suleiman’s role in Egyptian torture and his important role in the US rendition-to-torture program. U.S. leaders have called Suleiman a distinguished and respected man. They use these words to describe the coordinator of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, an extrajudicial procedure in which suspected terrorists are transferred illegally to countries like Egypt that are known to use torture during interrogation. Consider, for instance, the case of the Pakistani man Habib—in which the CIA passed Habib to Omar Suleiman in Egypt. Habib was then repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks. After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where his testimony became the basis of his eventual imprisonment at Guantanamo.U.S. policy helps sustain the structures of torture and violence in Egypt. As Egyptian American media pundit Mona Tehawy puts it: U.S.’ “stability” comes at the expense of freedom and dignity of the people of my or any country.”

Of course a democratic Egypt would benefit women. The government recently passed a law restricting the work of civil society organizations, many of them led by women. The current regime is responsible for widespread human rights violations, including intense forms of harassment and violence against women, which many organizations such as Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, have well-documented.[vii]

So rather than asking, “where are the women,” we might ask:

Why does much of U.S. public discourse frame the revolution through Islamophobia logics and why has the corporate media focused mostly on images of Egyptian men?

Islamophobia fuels popular U.S. discourses on Egypt and drives the question: what if Islamic fundamentalists take over Egypt? And it this very discourse that legitimizes the U.S. administration’s complicity in Mubarak’s violent efforts to quell the revolution. This explains why my public expressions of hope for the success of the revolution and for democratization in Egypt are often been met with a sense of grave concern: “but what if Islamic fundamentalists take over?” These questions must be understood in terms of an imperial psyche, a state of consciousness that is driven by panic over Islamic fundamentalism and that works as a blocking operation, or a rationale against supporting the Egyptian revolution. These questions must be located in the historical trajectory of the post-Cold War era in which particular strands of U.S. liberal feminism and U.S. imperialism have worked in tandem. Both rely upon a humanitarian logic that justifies military intervention, occupation, and bloodshed as strategies for promoting “democracy and women’s rights.” This humanitarian logic disavows U.S.-state violence against people of the Arab and Muslim regions rendering it acceptable and even, liberatory, particularly for women. Islamophobic panic over the future of Egypt similarly de-centers the U.S.-backed Mubarak regime’s past and present repression. It denies historical conditions such as the demographic realities in Egypt, the complex, multidimensional place of the Muslim Brotherhood in the revolution,[viii] and the predominance of secular visions for the future of Egypt. Islamophobia thus legitimizes complicity with dictatorship and U.S. empire, producing this message for the Egyptian people: “Its best that you continue to live under tyranny.” Gender fuels Islamophobia, requiring “the Arab woman” to be nothing more than an abject being, an invisible sisters, wife, or mother of “the real revolutionaries.” Islamophobia legitimizes itself through the disappearance of Egyptian women as active agents in the revolution.

I do not intend to be overly celebratory. We have learned from history that following the revolution, women are often pushed back to the sidelines, away from center stage.

We might also then ask, if Egypt enters a democratization period, will the voices of the women of Tahrir remain center stage? And what are the possibilities for a democratization of rights in Egypt– all civic rights—in which women’s participation, the rights of women, family law, and the right to organize, protest, and express freedom of speech remain central? And what are the possibilities for international solidarity with Egyptian women and Egyptian people—amidst a war of ideas that often obstructs the possibility to see Arab or Muslim women and as human– and as rightful agents of their own discourses, governments, and destinies? It has become increasingly clear that this revolution is much greater than a conflict between Egyptian state and non-state actors. Egyptian women’s rights, like the rights of all Egyptians are entangled in the global, imperial relation between the U.S., Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and other repressive regimes of the region and beyond. Only when we can take these local and imperial forces seriously can we begin to understand the oppression millions of Egyptian people are determined to end. The people of Tahrir and all the demonstrators of Egypt have spoken and said, we will not betray the blood of our martyrs–we will not give up until Mubarak steps down. It remains to be seen what the transitional period will look like but one thing is clear: it must be led by the people of Egypt. And as the Egyptian movement for freedom and democracy continues, will U.S. social movements—whether feminist, anti-war, or beyond—forget the imperial past and the blood of the Egyptian martyrs or commit to holding the U.S. and Israel accountable for complicity with dictatorship and thirty-plus years of repression in Egypt?


[viii] See Paul Amar, here at Jadaliyya

Nadine Naber is an Assistant Professor in the Program in American Culture, Arab American Studies, and the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is co-editor of Race and Arab Americans (Syracuse, 2007); Arab and Arab American Feminist Perspectives (Syracuse, 2011); and The Color of Violence (South End Press, 2007). She is author of Articulating Arabness: Gender and Cultural Politics in the Diaspora (NYU, 2011).  Nadine is also a former member of the INCITE! National Collective and a co-founder of Arab Movement for Women Arising for Justice.  She prepared this piece as a public speech for a public event at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Feb. 7, 2011.

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Revolution in Egypt: Learn More!

Are you excited about the grassroots revolution happening in Egypt?  Do you want to learn more about the background of what’s happening and what the movement is organizing for?  Here are some resources:

First, a recent video of a protester in Tahir Square in Cairo.  She explains the political goals and strategies of the movement.  Video from Zero Silence.

Plus, the Crunk Feminist Collective breaks it down below.  This primer was compiled by CF Aisha and posted at CFC by CF Susiemaye.  Reposted with permission.

The Revolution Televised: A Brief Primer on Egypt

Cai Yang/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com

Egypt has been all over the news lately, as Egyptians have lifted their voices in condemnation of despotic president, Hosni Mubarak. There are some key things to keep in mind as the events unfold:

1.     Don’t get it twisted:  this is a revolution.

It has been called chaos, upheaval, civil unrest, an uprising, a challenge, a twitter revolution, a youth movement, and class warfare. Each category reduces the power of the people to come together to build a popular revolution, which requires coalition building to fight for connected interests and a common goal. Call it what it is: a revolution.

2.      Women are a part of the revolution.  Women are on the front lines protesting, organizing, and agitating for justice. This is a feminist issue.

AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

As 8-year-old crunk-feminist-in-training Juju contends:

3.      The USA has historically supported oppressive political regimes if they serve American military and economic interests. (See Haiti and the Dominican Republic for some examples close to home. See also Iraq and Afghanistan).

On their website, the U.S. Dept of State’s entry on Egypt states: “The United States and Egypt enjoy a strong and friendly relationship based on shared mutual interest in Middle East peace and stability, revitalizing the Egyptian economy and strengthening trade relations, and promoting regional security…U.S. military cooperation has helped Egypt modernize its armed forces and strengthen regional security and stability.”

While the article makes passing mention of the “significant restrictions on the political process and freedom of expression for non-governmental organizations,” it largely praises the infamously rigged 2005 election, stating: “Progress was seen in the September 2005 presidential elections when parties were allowed to field candidates against President Mubarak and his National Democratic Party. In early 2005, President Mubarak proposed amending the constitution to allow, for the first time in Egypt’s history, competitive, multi-candidate elections. An amendment was drafted by parliament and approved by public referendum in late May 2005. In September 2005, President Mubarak was reelected, according to official results, with 88% of the vote. His two principal challengers, Ayman Nour and No’man Gom’a, took 7% and 3% of the vote respectively.”

To make a long story short, it has been a vested interest for the U.S. government to look the other way while Mubarak and his cronies ran an oppressive regime.

This vested interest continues as Egyptians far and wide are standing up in revolt. A recent article from the BBC News notes:

The United States is trying to steer Egypt away from revolution towards evolution. It is seeking a middle, managed course towards change. It does not want simply to dump an ally of 30 years, one who has stood by the treaty with Israel which is of great importance to US Middle East policy. But it is now signalling that President Hosni Mubarak’s departure – if not now, then later – has to be part of that change.

You can see this in a shift of American language.

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Egyptian government was ‘stable and looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.’

But by Sunday, she was calling for ‘an orderly transition to a democratic government.’”

Side eye.

4.      Despite popular belief, Egypt and Tunisia are real places in northern Africa.

In his speech January 28, President Obama talked about freedom movements in Asia, Europe, the United States – yes only the United States constitutes the Americas–Africa and the Arab world. Terms such as “the Arab World,” ” the Islamic states,” and “the Middle East” work to oversimplify complex societies with diverse cultures and distinct histories, and these terms work to collapse countries into a totalizing US-versus-them binary that is unproductive for thinking about people’s movements taking place across northern Africa. For example, there are elections taking place in Sudan and protests taking place in Algeria right now and knowing this can help us to contextualize, understand, and support the liberation movements happening in the region.

5.      References to the Muslim Brotherhood, looters and thugs, and anarchy by Western news media reproduce orientalism and racism and discredit the revolution as a political movement. Paying attention to diction and rhetoric is not about splitting hairs or being “politically correct,” lest we forget the “refugees” of Hurricane Katrina.

For more on Egypt, check out these resources:

Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/30/egypt-revolution-2011_n_8160…

Al Jazeera: http://blogs.aljazeera.net/middle-east/2011/01/29/live-blog-291-egypt…

Democracy Now!: http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/1/29/sharif_kouddous_reporting_…

Shout out to CF Aisha for compiling the data for this post!

Update 1: Get involved!  Thank you to Clarissa who added the following info in the comments:

International Day of Solidarity with the Egyptian People, Feb. 5th 12-2pm

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=196363573712802

Join the Virtual March of Millions in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestsers!
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=126197157451259

Update 2: Check out this link from Global Voices Online that gathers reports and analyses of women in the movement:
http://globalvoicesonline.org/2011/02/01/protesting-women-celebrated-online/

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Women’s Movement Building and Creating Community in Haiti

Women’s Movement Building and Creating Community in Haiti
by Sokari Ekine
originally published at Pambazuka News and Black Looks; republished with permission

Students at SOPUDEP school; photo by Sokari Ekine

Thousands of words have been written about Haiti in the past 12 months, covering everything from the NGOisation of the country, the politics of humanitarian aid, endless questions and discussion on what happened to the millions of dollars donated by individuals and countries, the horrendous conditions in the camps where some 1.2 million IDPs (internally displaced persons) are forced to live, and in particular, women and children, hundreds of whom have been raped, trafficked to the Dominican Republic and forced into prostitution to survive. In addition to the earthquake, Haitians have had to live through another devastating hurricane and now cholera, which as of today [Dec 9, 2010] has affected 30,000 people. And to add to the frustration and anger, we can add an election, which by all independent accounts was fraudulent and farcical. As I write, protests calling for the annulment of the elections are planned this afternoon. If one is to judge from the many radio phone-ins, people are angry and concerned that the much-hated René Préval will announce his preferred candidate, Jude Celestine, as the new leader, despite the fact that so far the majority of votes appear to be for ‘Micky’ Matterly and Madam Manigat – but all of this can change in a moment.

One of the stories least reported has been the one about Haitians organising for themselves, particularly stories presented within a framework of feminist organising and movement building. This is one woman’s story of how she, her family and the people in the various communities in which she works came together collectively to care for each other’s needs and how that struggle has become the foundation of a new movement of the poor for change in education and the material lives of women and men – a struggle for dignity. Their personal and collective humanitarian response was completely off the radar of NGOs, international institutions and the Haitian government. Even Save the Children, whose office is located right next to the school, did nothing to help SOPUDEP. However, ultimately this was an aside for Rea. What was important was that those who needed help of whatever kind received it and, beyond that, the struggle for dignity and self-determination for the poor people of Haiti.

A mere five minutes passed between the death of one of the schoolteachers and the life given to Rea and her teenage daughter – one of three children.

I was in the school when it happened and I cannot describe the horror around me. The school was empty and did not fall, but the neighbourhood collapsed. Five people were crushed to death just meters from me when one of the outer walls of the school grounds collapsed. My first responsibility was to my family, so I had to get home, but the streets were chaotic. People were panicking and screaming. I had to run home ten kilometers through those streets to find my family. The phones weren’t working. It was horrible.’

Once it was established that Rea’s family were all safe – a house just five minutes walk from Rea’s own home collapsed – she set about caring for the many in her community and whereever she was needed. Everyone was in shock, but there was no time to think about what had happened as people were injured. Many people – students, families knowing about her community work – flocked to Rea’s home and at one point there were some 60 people in her home. People feared to sleep indoors so they removed all the mattresses, blankets, pillows – whatever they could find – and spread them outside. It was January and freezing cold during the night but anything was preferable to being inside. Rea said it took her months before she stopped waking up with nightmares of being crushed. Even now one wakes up and gives thanks that you made it through the night. I too find myself staring at the ceiling every night and wondering which part would collapse first and how I would get out.

A student at SOPUDEP who was buried under rubble for two days after the earthquake; photo by Sokari Ekine

The first day after the quake, Rea went to the shop were she usually bought the school supplies and asked if they would give her credit as she needed to buy food. They told her to take whatever she needed and not to worry. As much food as possible was collected and everyone in the house – the children, students, guests and neighbours – set about making food packs. They worked all night making the packs, which they then distributed to anyone on the streets during the day. As donations from friends of SOPUDEP and organisations such as the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund (HERF), the Haiti Action Committee, Sawatzky Family Foundation (SFF) began to arrive, Rea was able to buy more food and medical supplies and continue the distribution. Food which was only being given to women and mostly bags of rice were available for those prepared to queue for up to 4 hours. Rea said she did not have the time to queue for 25lbs of rice and preferred to go and buy it with whatever money she had to hand. Besides, fights often broke out with people tired and hungry and everyone trying to push their way forward. The military would then beat the women and children. In total, food and water were distributed to 31 centres by Rea’s team.

Women collecting supplies; photo by Rea Dol

In addition to financial donations, SOPUDEP received a lot of medical supplies, which were taken to the various mobile clinics which had been set up in camps and other locations. Though the number of recipients decreased over time, the food collection and distribution lasted for three months. At a point in time Rea realised this dependency created out of a crisis could not continue. They would forever be in a state of oppression and remain in the clutches of NGOs, beggars in their own land.

No one ever knew when money would arrive, which meant any kind of systematic planning was impossible. It was like waiting for the tooth fairy to arrive and besides what humanitarian aid was being distributed was not reaching Rea’s community. It was all too ad hoc to be sustainable.

The next money she received was a sum of US$3,000, and she began to think of another way. Instead of buying food she would deposit the money in the bank and start a small micro-credit saving programme. It took courage and was a huge risk because people were hungry, but, determined to create some degree of sustainability and stability, in a moment she made up her mind. A meeting was called and the idea put to the 21 women with whom she had been working over the past months, and though there were doubts they trusted Rea. The micro-credit scheme Fanm SOPUDEP AN AKSYON (SOPUDEP Women in Action) began with US$3,000 and 21 women.

I was surprised when I heard Rea had started a micro-credit scheme as there were so many negative reports on such schemes, which rather than enhance and empower women end up impoverishing them even more. So I was interested to find out more about the SOPUDEP scheme, whether it was working and why it worked and I will write about this later after meeting with the various women’s group.

Rea’s philosophy is that each individual has to take responsibility for themselves and the notion of something for free is neither healthy nor sustainable. Both the school and the women’s project are framed within the idea of personal and collective responsibility. Education in Haiti must be available for all and everyone encouraged to attend, and no one is turned away from SOPUDEP because they cannot pay. However, everyone is asked to try to contribute something when they can, even if it is 5 gouds or helping in the school somehow (US$1 equals approximately 40 gouds). The school operates two sessions – the main one in the morning and an afternoon session for those who have never attended schools, both older children and adults.

The elections are a distraction. Leaders have the power to bring change but no one believes any leader will do anything for the poor. Everyone I asked about Jean-Bertrand Aristide wanted him back because they believed he was one leader who could change their lives for the better. Right now the only way is for communities to reach out to each other and create alliances, which is what SOPUDEP is beginning to do. Rea’s vision is one I share. We cannot fix Haiti, but we can fix our community and help others fix theirs. Eventually as all these communities build alliances among themselves, they will become strong and then maybe begin to fix Haiti.

Since the earthquake there has been an increase in the awareness that communities have to help each other and work together. People are not only more determined to improve their lives and that of their community; they truly believe it is possible. Two more schools for the poor have come under the umbrella of SOPUDEP – one in Bobin with 250 students, children and adults, and one in Boucan Lapli with about 60 children. The main school, which started in 2002 with 182 children from Petion-Ville, presently has 486 students.

Rea Dol and SOPUDEP student; photo by Sokari Ekine

I have spent two days at the school with the freedom to roam. I came across a class whose teacher was absent and I ended up teaching English for 45 minutes followed by the students giving me a lesson in Kreyol. Now I have been asked by them to teach the same class for the next couple of weeks till they break up for holidays. The school is truly like family. Since the micro-credit scheme, parents and school staff have all been encouraged to open savings accounts. The children are continuously greeting and kissing Madam Rea. Her office, which she shares with the accountant and office manager Billy Bataille, is a constant hive of activity with women coming to deposit their repayments, students wanting things fixed or asking advice from Madam Rea or Billy. Outside the office, women clean beans and rice in preparation for tomorrow’s food – the door is always open. Yesterday Rea opened a suitcase of books she had bought with donations from a partner school in the US. She now has some 15,000 books (mostly in French, so more Kreyol and English books are needed), which have to be indexed and will form the school library. A volunteer teacher from the US has promised to take on the task.

SOPUDEP nevertheless faces many challenges. The building survived the earthquake but remains in disrepair. All the external walls of the compound collapsed, along with most of the surrounding buildings, with the exception of the Save the Children building. The building housing the school dates back to the Duvallier days and was always structurally superior to others in the neighbourhood. All the classrooms are open to the elements as there are no windows. There is no water and since the earthquake, no electricity. Recently a group of NGOs met to discuss how to control the spread of cholera within the country’s 22,000 schools. The idea is to hold training sessions for district heads and some school directors on precautions to take. Many schools are already doing this, but a more coordinated effort would improve the situation. However, as Rea pointed out, we can do all we can in the schools but what happens when the children return to their homes where they are reliant on standpipes and no sanitary facilities? The majority of people are unemployed, yet there are masses of rubbish and rubble to clear – the solution seems quite simple really.

 

photo by Sokari Ekine

Through donations, SOPUDEP has purchased a piece of land in Delmas 83 and has so far managed to build the fencing wall. It will take six months to build but all that depends on how quickly they can raise the money needed to complete the project. I find it sad that an organisation like SOPUDEP, which is real and which has a history, has to rely on small donations from international friends and parents to survive. If they are not deserving of more sustained support then I wonder who is.

Sokari Ekine is the author of the award-winning Black Looks blog.

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