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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Reflections from Detroit: Reflections On An Opening: Disability Justice and Creating Collective Access in Detroit

Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Mia Mingus reflects on the process of putting disability justice into practice at the Allied Media Conference & the US Social Forum.

Reflections On An Opening: Disability Justice and Creating Collective Access in Detroit, by Mia Mingus

This summer, Detroit was an opening for me.  And not just because it was the first time that there was a Disability Justice track at the Allied Media Conference (AMC) or because of any workshop or plenary I attended.  Detroit was an opening for me because I got to spend over a week creating collective access with a group of twenty-three disabled folks and our non-disabled comrades.  I got to spend eight days getting a glimpse into a different world and experiencing a kind of interdependency that let me loosen my shoulders; that let me breathe.

Creating Collective Access (CCA) was about re-thinking how we, as disabled and chronically ill people, engage in movement spaces.  This was about imagining something more and knowing that we had to do it for ourselves because it is so rare for movement spaces to ever consider disability and access in ways that go beyond logistics; in ways that challenge the ableist culture of our work.  This was about being very clear that we wanted to shift the individualized and independent understanding of access and queer it and color it interdependent.  This was about building crip solidarity.  We wanted to create a liberated space.  We would pool our resources: body and ability, financial, material and more.  We would not just think about disability as separate from class, age, race, queerness, family, children, gender, citizenship, violence, but we would understand it as intimately connected.  We would think, not just about “conference and workshop time,” but we would also think about social time and what social spaces were accessible and how we would make sure no one was isolated or left out.  Because in our movements much of the relationship building, socializing and bonding is done in very inaccessible ways in very inaccessible places—we know this all too well.

It all started with need.   About a month before the AMC, access was the number one thing on our minds.  What will we do?  How will we get to food and afford enough personal attendants to come with us?  Who will push wheelchairs?  How much walking will there be?  Who will help you go to the bathroom?  How will we manage the pain, the schedule, and the pace?  Where will we stay and will it be accessible (the majority of community housing just wasn’t an option)?  How much will access cost?

We were hit with the reality of having to be in another city for an extended period of time, under intense conditions; the same intense conditions that frame most conferences.  We knew it would be long days, stretching into late nights.  We knew everyone would be stretched thin and we knew that meant something totally different for us.  We knew we could make it through, by squeezing ourselves, as we’ve done before, into ableist practices of how bodies should function and perform, but we also knew what that would mean for our bodies (and our hearts) while it was happening and once it was all done.  We wanted to be able to stay in our bodies as much as possible, take care of our disabled selves, and be part of the community that was coming together for the AMC and the USSF.  We wanted to be whole and connected to ourselves, each other and other activists and organizers—was this possible?

We started to dream: how could we use this as a way to build community, put disability justice into practice and deepen our understanding and analysis of what it means to do this work together?  What if we invited other crips to do this with us—crips who were coming to the AMC and were probably agonizing over the very same things?  What if we did community care in a way that made space for many different kinds of bodies?  What if we made a commitment to each other to move together and centered our access and care around queer and trans crips of color?  What if we tried to create the kind of world we want to live in?  We do it in our disability justice work, so why not try and create it for the time we’re in Detroit?  CCA began as a hope and a dream to make what we need.  CCA is a reflection of the courage, resiliency, and creativity that disabled folks have in the face of an inaccessible and ableist world.

The bottom line was we needed each other.  Interdependency is not a choice.  We were not going to be able to get through the AMC and traveling to another city without each other.  We didn’t know what the environment would be like, how many people would be there and what kind of access needs would arise on-the-spot, as they always do.  We would be building the plane as we flew it.  The thought of thousands of social justice folks from the left converging at the USSF was an anxiety-provoking access nightmare, in and of itself.   But we knew if we had each other, we would be okay.  Together, the three of us, three queer crip women of color, got to work.

We drafted and put out a call to other disabled folks who were coming to Detroit and who wanted to be part of a community-led access effort.  We made a blog, explaining what we were trying to do and our vision.  We were clear that this was interdependent and we invited people to be part of creating this with us.  Leah worked to get scent free information out to folks and create a scent free room, while Stacey and I worked on a basic structure for access and communication. We scrambled with three weeks to go and came up with a model of pods.  We knew the disabled people who were coming would already have some type of access plan in place and we knew it would be with people they trusted and had relationships with.  Together, each grouping formed a pod and our goal was to connect the pods to each other.  We asked people to tell us about their pod’s access needs and what they could offer and contribute.  It was broad.  Some people were able to walk and get food, others were better at coordinating; some people had access to credit cards and others would need cash to be available; some people had personal attendants or able bodied friends/family members with them who could also help with getting food, driving and pushing wheel chairs.

I had done collective access before, but with three people, including myself; or for a disability justice meeting or when traveling with one other disabled comrade.  I had never done anything like this before with twenty-plus people, half of whom, I had never met before, on our way to a city that many of us had never been to, all in a container of shifting how we understood access, past just survival.  This time, we were all jumping together.  And we flew.

We called ourselves the Pod People and we worked seamlessly together with great affection and enjoyment.  It was truly a collective effort, centered around a simple value of care.  Everyone pitched in getting food, helping to serve food, audio describing, reaching, pushing, texting, calling, asking, offering.  We schemed together to get more accessible rooms opened for us in the dorms, access to a refrigerator and the accessible shower key from the dorm staff.  Everyday, we had lunch and dinner together, no one had to worry about not being able to eat because they couldn’t get into a restaurant, couldn’t get to the grocery store or couldn’t walk far enough.  And no one had to worry about being isolated while they were eating, as often happens to disabled people when they are in movement spaces.

When there were social events, we all talked about it and had two groups, the folks who wanted to go and the folks who wanted to stay in; we made sure no one was left out and checked in about access all the time.  We stayed up the first night after dinner talking about disability and race and queerness and invisible disabilities and coming out as disabled and bodies and gender and geographic location and our struggle to find community.  Some people were just starting to identify as disabled, having never called themselves “disabled” out loud before.  Others had been doing disability justice work for years and still others had been doing this work for decades.  A lot of us were trans, gender queer and gender non-conforming, most of us were women of color and almost all of us were queer.  We formed an almost all disabled space that centered all of who we were.  Amazing.

One of the most important pieces of CCA for me was a continued commitment to move together as crips and comrades.  Every time I attempt to move through the world with other disabled folks, I am always so astounded at how hard it is for disabled people to stay together, literally.  I watch how the world separates, isolates and divides us, so that we cannot move together.  I watch how it is constructed for us to move with non-disabled people, instead of each other; and how it discourages folks with different disabilities from moving together.  Trying to move with a group of disabled people with different disabilities is very hard, takes enormous amounts of problem-solving, energy and creative solutions.  To me, one of the most powerful opportunities of CCA was another chance to figure out how we can stay together and what it would take to create a world where we understand the weight of what “access” means.  So that when I say something is inaccessible, you don’t just think “there’s no ramp” or “there are no places to sit” or “there’s no close, accessible, free parking.”  Instead, you feel. You feel the weight of what inaccessibility means to us.  You understand inaccessibility to mean isolation, shame, exclusion, disappointment, loneliness, anger, privilege, sadness, loss of community and disconnection.  For eight days, it was amazing to be with people who know what “accessibility” means; who know and feel the weight of it; and who are working to transform it.

I learned so much and was rejuvenated from my time with the pod people.  Disability requires us to re-think “independence” and how we engage in movement spaces, down to how we think, move and communicate, down to our very bones.  As movements committed to social and economic justice, where are the disabled people in our communities, organizations, bases, and movements?  Are they isolated?  How are we re-imagining access in ways that include, but are not limited to disability; that encompass class, language, gender, mamas, parents and children?  What would access beyond logistics look and feel like?  Access that allows people to not just be included, but maintain their dignity and connection to their communities?  How do we care for each other in ways that allow us to stay connected to our bodies and stay connected to each other in order to build the kind of world that can care for us all?  We are learning and trying and learning and practicing and learning again.

With my deepest gratitude to the pod people: I will forever be changed.

Mia Mingus

Mia Mingus is a queer physically disabled woman of color, Korean American transracial and transnational adoptee, living in Atlanta, Georgia, raised in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and born in Korea.  Through her work on disability justice, race, reproductive justice, gender, queer liberation, transformative justice, transracial and transnational adoption, multiple oppressed identities and multi-issue politics; she recognizes the urgency and barriers for oppressed communities to work together and build alliances for liberation.  Though her work for liberation changes and evolves, her roots remain firmly planted in ending sexual violence.  Mia blogs at Leaving Evidence.

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Call for Submissions: This Bridge Called My Baby: Legacies of Radical Mothering

An exciting call for submissions from http://thisbridgecalledmybaby.wordpress.com/:

This Bridge Called My Baby: Legacies of Radical Mothering


“We can learn to mother ourselves.” Audre Lorde, 1983

All mothers have the potential to be revolutionary. Some mothers stand on the shoreline, are born and reborn here, inside the flux of time and space, overcoming the traumatic repetition of oppression. Our very existence is disobedience to the powers that be.

At times, in moments, we as mothers choose to stand in a zone of claimed risk and fierce transformation, the frontline. In infinite ways, both practiced and yet to be imagined,  we put our bodies between the violent repetition of the norm and the future we already deserve, exactly because our children deserve it too.  We make this choice for many reasons and in different contexts, but at the core we have this in common: we refuse to obey. We refuse to give into fear. We insist on joy no matter what and by every means necessary and possible.
In this anthology we are exploring how we are informed by and participating with those mothers, especially radical women of color, who have sought for decades, if not centuries, to create relationships to each other, transformative relationships to feminism and a transnational anti-imperialist literary, cultural and everyday practice.

“We don’t want a space where kids feel that only adults can imagine ways to strengthen our communities and protect ourselves against the Architects of Despair,” Sora said, “and we don’t want adults to feel that either. We want to create a space where all of our imaginations help each other grow; but we realize that kids might get bored from sitting still the way that adults tend to do, so we set up the play room with toys and games.” -Regeneracion Childcare Collective 2007

Sometimes for radical mamas, our mothering in radical community makes visible the huge gulfs between communities, between parents and non-parents, in class and other privileges AND most importantly the wide gulf between what we say in activist communities and what we actually do. Radical mothering is the imperative to build bridges that allow us to relate across these very real barriers. For and by radical mother of color, but also inclusive of other working class, marginalized, low income, no income radical mothers.

“Parenting and being a role model to kids in your community is important because they will be the activists of tomorrow.  And they will be our gardeners and mothers and bakers. They will question our generation, they’ll write their own history, create new forms of art and media.” -Noemi Martinez 2009

We find the idea of the “bridge” useful because we believe that  the radical practice of mothering is at once a practical and visionary relationship to the future IN the PRESENT, a bridge within time that can inspire us to relate to each other intentionally across generation and space.   We also acknowledge the not-so-radical default bridge function of marginalized mother in society.  How our children in particular get walked all over in terms of public policy that criminalizes our mothering and movement spaces that claim to be creating a transformed future without being fully accountable to parents or kids.

“I came into the Third World Women’s Caucus when it was well under way.  The women there were discussing the caucus resolution to be presented to the general conference.  There were Asian women, Latin women, Native Women and Afro-American women.  The discussion when I came in was around the controversial issue of motherhood and how the wording of the resolution could best reflect the feelings of those present.  It was especially heartening to hear other women affirm that not only should lesbian mothers be supported but that all third world women lesbians share in the responsibility for the care and nurturing of the children of individual lesbians of color…Another woman reminded us of the commitment we must take to each other when she said ‘All children (of lesbians) are ours.” -Doc in Off Our Backs 1979

We see this book as a continuation of the accountability invoking movement midwifing work of the 1981 anthology This Bridge Called My Back in that it:

a. is the work of writers who see their writing as part of a mothering practice, as not career, but calling and who believe that their writing, and their every creative practice has a strategic role in transforming the possible world.
b. contextualizes contemporary radical mama practices in relationship to socialist and lesbian mothering practices experimented with and practiced in the 1970’s by writers including Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich, Third World Lesbians conference, Salsa Soul Sisters, Sisterhood of Black Single Mothers
c. seeks to speak to those who participated in that earlier practice and who have been informed by it as a primary audience, and to connect those who have not have access to that work to it

We invite submissions including but not limited to the following possibilities:

  • Manifestas, group poems, letters, mission statements from your crew of radical mamas or an amazing group from history
  • Letters, poems, transcribed phone calls between radical mamas supporting each other*Accounts of your experience as a radical mama
  • Your experience raising children as a trans mother or parent
  • Raising children in a transphobic world
  • Your experiences as a single mother
  • Raising genderfree babies
  • Stories of resilience and oppression as welfare warriors
  • Reflections on enacting radical mamacity at different ages
  • Motivations for/obstacles in your practice of radical mothering
  • Conversations with your kids
  • Rants and rages via the eloquence of a mother-wronged
  • Your experience of radical grandmothering
  • Parenting children through radically queer and loving modes of support, community, belonging and resilience
  • Your take on reproductive justice
  • Parenting from inside prison
  • Extended family (both biological and chosen)
  • Life as a disabled parent
  • Your experience parenting as a teenager
  • Raising Boys
  • Gender socialization and Parenting
  • Raising Biracial children
  • Raising First World children
  • Self-interviews, interviews with other mamis
  • Birthing experiences
  • Ending child sexual abuse
  • Mothering as survivors (survival and mothering)
  • Mothering with and without models
  • Mothering and domination
  • Mama to-do lists
  • Mama/kid collaborations…
  • Radical fathering
  • Overcoming shame and silence in the practice of radical mothering
  • Ambivalence, paradox, emotions, vulnerability
  • Experiences of state violence/CPS
  • Balancing daily survival
  • Loss of children, not living with children, custody arrangements and issues
  • Sharing your stories from where you live
  • Everything we haven’t thought of yet! Take a deep breath and WRITE!!!!

This anthology will center the writing of mothers of color, low income mothers and marginalized mothers. If you have any further questions, feedback, suggestions feel free to contact us as well.

Please send submissions via email to:
alexispauline@gmail.com
maiamedicine@gmail.com
and china410@hotmail.com
or via snail mail to
P.O. Box 4803 Baltimore Maryland 21211

by April 1, 2011.

Word Count: 6,000 words or under

Please also send your bio (a short paragraph or whatever size you like) with the understanding you can update it if your piece is accepted in June.

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Reflections from Detroit: Standoff with StandWithUs

Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Nada Elia recounts the struggle for solidarity with Palestine at the US Social Forum.

***

Standoff with StandWithUs, by Nada Elia

In my mind, US Social Forum 2010 will always be the “Standoff with StandWithUs” conference.  How could it be otherwise, when all my energy, as well as that of dozens of Palestine activists, before and during the five-day meeting (but, thankfully, not since) was devoted to shutting down the workshop that StandWithUs (SWU), a violent racist hate group managed to get included in the program?

What follows are my own reflections — partial in that they are biased, truncated, and offer only my perspective on the standoff.  I offer them somewhat reluctantly, because I feel that it is important to record this historic moment, while fearing they may be misunderstood as an all-encompassing critique of the forum and its organizers.  As an organizer myself, I am fully aware of the work involved in organizing a conference, and I speak as someone who has organized three-day, 2000-member conferences, i.e. gatherings that pale in comparison to the 5-day, 20,000 participants USSF.  I know how much planning is needed in order to pull through an event of this magnitude, and I appreciate that USSF 2010 was overall an extremely successful gathering, whose momentum will hopefully continue to ripple through multiple progressive American communities. My reflections, then, are offered humbly as a brief retrospect of USSF’s process of addressing StandWithUs, and commentary on what this process says about the US left’s still tenuous relationship with Palestine solidarity work and Palestine activism overall.

Art by Jesus Barraza

The “buzz” about StandWithUs (SWU) presenting a workshop entitled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” at the USSF started within minutes of the Forum’s full schedule finally being posted online, a week or so before the five-day event was to open.   Palestinian activists and our allies, who had proposed a great many workshops, were super excited to see that every single one of these had been accepted.  The initial euphoria, however, was soon completely gone, dissipating into utter shock and awe as we discovered that a workshop by StandWithUs was also on the program.  StandWithUs?  Really?  How could that be?

StandWithUs is a racist hate group, an Israel apologist organization known for its history of keeping records on Palestine activists, which it then uses to disrupt their personal and professional lives.  SWU is a group that prides itself on its censorship of any discussion of Israeli excesses and its intimidation of progressive activism.  Here is a video of the hate group in action.

Of course, I know better than to assume any public forum to be a “safe space.”  And yes, the USSF is a public forum, and as such, I and my fellow Palestinian activists (and, I would assume, any seasoned activist, whatever their particular cause) knew there would be disruptions, heckling, de-railing, and all the variations on the theme of bigotry and intolerance that pervade all socio-political spaces.  Nevertheless, the USSF did present itself as a progressive left forum, its points of unity, posted on its website, specified the forum was anti-racist and non-violent, hence a group that engages in this type of action must—by the very guidelines of the USSF—be excluded.  And now, they were going to facilitate a workshop on queer Arab communities?

Immediately after seeing the SWU workshop listed in the program, queer Arab activists in the US contacted our Arab sisters, and four queer Arab activist organizations issued a letter entitled “Arab Queers Say No To Pinkwashing,” exposing the truth about SWU and calling upon the USSF to cancel the workshop, which would have totally misrepresented our circumstances for the purposes of painting Israel as a gay haven in the Middle East.  Here is an excerpt:

StandWithUs has no connection with the LGBT movement in the Middle East apart from ties to Zionist Israeli LGBT organizations, yet it claims to speak for and about our movements. It has no credibility in our region, and as organizations working in and from the Middle East, we condemn its attempt to use us, our struggles, our lives, and our experiences as a platform for pro-Israeli propaganda.

The “pinkwashing of apartheid” is a relatively new development in Israel’s PR campaign, yet one that numerous observers of the Middle East have noted.  Jasbir Puar explains:

Israeli pinkwashing is a potent method through which the terms of Israeli occupation of Palestine are reiterated – Israel is civilised, Palestinians are barbaric, homophobic, uncivilised, suicide-bombing fanatics. It produces Israel as the only gay-friendly country in an otherwise hostile region. This has manifold effects: it denies Israeli homophobic oppression of its own gays and lesbians, of which there is plenty, and it recruits, often unwittingly, gays and lesbians of other countries into a collusion with Israeli violence towards Palestine.

In reproducing orientalist tropes of Palestinian sexual backwardness, it also denies the impact of colonial occupation on the degradation and containment of Palestinian cultural norms and values. Pinkwashing harnesses global gays as a new source of affiliation, recruiting liberal gays into a dirty bargaining of their own safety against the continued oppression of Palestinians, now perforce rebranded as “gay unfriendly”. This strategy then also works to elide the presence of numerous Palestinian gay and lesbian organisations, for example Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (PQBDS).

Was the USSF going to be complicit?  Having submitted the Queer Arab groups’ statement, and forwarded a number of links about SWU, including one to the group’s own website, we assumed the issue would soon be resolved. It seemed like a pretty straight forward matter: the National Planning Committee of the USSF explained to us that, for lack of people power, they had not screened any of the proposals, and accepted every single one.  That is how the SWU proposal was accepted.  However, now they knew better.  The communities whom SWU was supposed to represent objected to this workshop in an eloquent letter. As a group, SWU violates the profound spirit and vision of USSF.   Upon being asked, Brett Cohen, the contact person for the workshop admitted there were no Arab queer facilitators of the SWU workshop, and that he would not be willing to consider having such a co-facilitator.  We also reminded the USSF organizers of the problem that had occurred three years earlier, at the Atlanta USSF, when an Israeli speaker had misrepresented Palestinians, and how the USSF planners had made a commitment not to let that happen again.  Each of these reasons alone was sufficient to have the USSF cancel the SWU workshop.

Thus it was beyond shocking to hear the USSF National Planning Committee (NPC) tell us that they would not make that decision.  They could not.  It just wasn’t feasible.  It was best for everyone if the workshop went ahead, what’s one SWU workshop, when we had so many Palestinian ones…

What??? We were in utter disbelief.  We explained to them that they would never allow the KKK to present “just one workshop” about anything (let alone “black sexuality,” for example), even if there were 50 workshops about various aspects of communities of color on the program.  We reminded them of their commitment not to allow misrepresentation of Palestinian issues by Zionist speakers.  We argued that of course the USSF is a political space—this after we were told that some members of the NPC did not feel the USSF should be political.

To add insult to injury, we kept being told that the reason the SWU workshop would not be cancelled was because there could potentially be costly consequences to other presenters at the Forum, as SWU might pull strings to influence foundations to withhold funding to groups facilitating workshops at the USSF, if the USSF gave in to our request that their workshop be cancelled.  This reasoning is a mille-feuille of layers of problematic expediency. Queer Arab rights can be thrown under the bus by some of the organizers of the USSF, out of fear that NGO funding may be withheld?

Art by Cristy C. Road

The Arab, Palestinian, and pro-Palestine Queer communities were reeling from this, but we were determined.  This was important.  This was a make or break test. Considering the long history of misrepresentation of Palestinian issues in the US, as well as Arab sexuality issues generally, the inclusion of this workshop was not acceptable.  Too much was at stake.    StandWithUs must not be allowed to exploit the homophobia our communities endure, so as to present Israel as “the only gay-friendly country in the region.”

As time went by, and we kept asking the USSF planners to cancel the workshop, only to be given answers such as “it’s only one workshop, you have dozens,” or “just tell people not to go there,” and “It’s not such a simple decision to make, we have to look at how others may potentially be impacted,” it became clear to me the USSF had no intention of canceling.   While I continued to be in “behind-the-scenes” communication with a number of NPC organizers, some of whom were sympathetic, I was also very vocal in public, social media discussions, where yes, I did openly call the BS I felt we were being fed by the USSF.  As we were told of some NPC members’ fears of repercussions, should they cancel, I lashed out, telling them solidarity requires making difficult decisions, taking a stand with the oppressed communities, rather than attempting not to rattle the powerful.  I screamed (in all caps) that the delay in giving us an official answer was unacceptable, we needed to know, so we would plan accordingly.

I know there was some concern about my anger, my outspokenness, my “hell no I ain’t gonna take this crap” attitude, but I do believe the public pressure played a major role in finally getting the USSF to change their mind.  I received personal messages from people who have not identified themselves to this day, telling me to STFU, someone I still only know as the “list moderator” accused me of being disruptive, and duplicitous, since I was working on two fronts:  behind the scenes, with personal communication with the NPC, as well as in public spaces such as Facebook.  I responded that if there were a third or fourth front, I’d join those too, because this was too important not to pursue all the way, and in every way.

I also received expressions of concern from members of the Palestinian community, who told me my attitude may be burning bridges with the USSF NPC that they had worked hard for the past two years to build.  While networking and alliance building are of the utmost importance to me, I have to admit that I did not think burning those particular bridges would constitute a great loss, as I saw how frail they were in the first place, if now that we had a conflict, which required that the USSF take sides, we were basically being asked to “put up with SWU,” and organize your own protest if you want, as the USSF wasn’t going to cancel the workshop.

And yes, there were also messages of support, of gratitude for my persistence, my insistence that one racist workshop by a group known to advocate violence was one such workshop too many, at a progressive anti-racist anti-violence gathering.

The USSF was starting, I packed my suitcase, and headed to Detroit with a heavy heart:  we had not won the battle.  Not yet.

Apparently, however, our efforts were beginning to pay off.  Clearly, the long years of “educating” American progressives about Palestine had not been in vain, as the USPCN and the USSF NPC continued the difficult conversation, pushing, pushing…. In Detroit itself, members of various pro-Palestine groups met again with the NPC, into the wee morning hours, arguing our case.

Finally, on Monday, June 21st, one day before the USSF officially began, the NPC released a statement about the debate.  Here’s an excerpt:

We agree [Stand With Us] does not belong at the Forum, and should not have made it into our program. Also, the deliberate masking of the true nature of the workshop behind movement language goes against the transparency and accountability we expect from those participating in the Forum.

This is unacceptable to the National Planning Committee (NPC), and we deeply regret the oversight and sincerely apologize for the delay in our response. Our dilemma has been how to protect the integrity of the Forum as a movement convergence space without playing into this very underhanded, well-known, and potentially divisive tactic. We do not want to give Stand With Us a platform it does not deserve. We are aware of its history in using claims of censorship against those who defend Palestinian rights. We are engaged in a very real strategic debate about how to move forward.

And indeed, even after the NPC statement was issued, even after the USSF officially started, the debate went on.

And then, one day into the USSF, and after hours and hours of additional meetings, the decision we had worked so hard to obtain was finally announced:  the USSF was canceling the SWU workshop, a workshop it should never had accepted in the first place, and which it should have simply cancelled within minutes of discovering how dishonest it was.  With very little fanfare, this announcement was posted to USSF’s Facebook status on Wednesday morning, June 23:

The workshop “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” (Thursday June 24 10am – 12pm) has been canceled for violating the submission procedure and transparency requirements for all workshops, and for being in violation of the anti-racist principles central to the US Social Forum.

The US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), representing Palestinian communities at the USSF, released a statement on the decision to cancel the workshop.  Here is an excerpt:

In a historic accomplishment, the leadership of the US Social Forum voted this morning to cancel a workshop proposed by “Stand With US”, a Zionist organization <http://www.standwithus.com/> that sought to represent Israel as a safe haven for LGBTQI communities and undermine the broadening support for the cause of justice in/for Palestine. …  This is a victory for our struggle and indeed the struggle for justice for all. This victory makes it clear that the struggle for justice in/for Palestine is an integral part of the worldwide movement for freedom, dignity, justice and peace.

Why did it take so long for the USSF NPC to do what’s right?  The delay, I believe, is sadly representative of the state of the US left when it comes to dealing with Palestine.  Despite the US left’s commitment to denouncing (and, hopefully, ending) colonialism, racism, militarism, state violence, occupation, sexism, homophobia, and the various interrelated evils of hetero-patriarchy, this “camp” is still home to large communities who fail to understand that our struggles are one and the same.  As Noura Erakat put it in her incisive analysis:

Yet despite this yearning to nurture American solidarity, there is a vast divide between the aspiration and the understanding required for its realization — that Palestinians, other nations, and millions of marginalized Americans contend with the same structural impediments standing between them and the full realization of their human dignity. The understanding of a common enemy and the affirmation of a common humanity is the linchpin of genuine solidarity.

And yet, as the USPCN statement points out, the US Left is finally coming around.    The long years of work, of “educating” American leftists about the moral righteousness of our cause, the seemingly endless task of disentangling the deliberate Zionist twinning of critiques of Israel with anti-Semitism, were beginning to bear fruit.  Not only was the StandWithUs workshop cancelled, but in the closing plenary, when the various People’s Movement Assemblies came together to announce the resolutions they had drafted after five days of meetings, a number of groups expressed not just solidarity with Palestine, but an actual commitment to engage in actions for Palestine.  The support we felt in that gigantic and potentially intimidating room was empowering and thoroughly comforting.  Yes, we were coming together, the bridges had carried us over from one shore to another, and they could withhold traffic, including solidarity work.

It is a long time coming.  It has not been an easy road, nor will it necessarily be easy now, even as we can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But then again, such is the minefield of Palestine solidarity.  It wouldn’t be called a struggle if it were easy.

And that makes the victory so much sweeter.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a former member of the INCITE! national collective, where she co-chaired the taskforce on Militarism and Law Enforcement Violence.  She is currently organizing with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.usacbi.org

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Reflections from Detroit: 12th Annual Allied Media Conference Report Back

For the next few weeks, the INCITE! blog will feature guest posts from women of color and trans people of color sharing their reflections from amazing movement-building events in Detroit this past June, the Allied Media Conference and the US Social Forum.  Contributors will share connections they made, critical learnings, and ideas about next steps in radical feminist of color organizing. If you are interested in contributing a post for this feature, please contact the blog editors at incite.news@gmail.com.

12th Annual Allied Media Conference Report Back
by Moya Bailey
reposted from The Crunk Feminist Collective, with permission

This weekend I attended my favorite conference, The Allied Media Conference in Detroit. This year was way more subdued than the last two years I’ve attended. There were less people of color present, I didn’t go to very many sessions, I was on my period, feeling real low energy and it was still amazing, transformative, and once again reminded me of what I’m here to do in this world. Even with its challenges, the AMC is the kind of conference that has me checking the calendar to make sure I’ve got it on deck for next year.

The most powerful part of the conference for me was being connected to the Creating Collective Access folks, organized in less than a month by some of the fiercest people I know. I was reminded how conferences themselves create a non-sustainable way of folks relating to each other, to themselves and their own needs. On some days the conference schedule was filled from 8am- 2am. Being connected to the collective access folks allowed me to give myself permission to chill, to not push through exhaustion and inattentiveness to be at every session, to not sacrifice a really good slow conversation to make it to a panel presentation on listening. I felt more in my body, more aware of my needs.

Creating Collective Access also had me questioning what collective space looks like and what to do when access may be so different for different people. I went to one of the sessions that was part of the Indigenous Media and Technology track and the presenters were using smoke as a tool in the workshop. I was thinking about folks with disabilities that need scent free spaces and how you hold those things together or if you can’t, what do you do? Are we willing to do what it takes to create or use tools to share across real boundaries?

I was amazed by Adrienne Maree Brown’s Octavia Butler Symposium, people’s overwhelming interest as well as her awesome awesome facilitation skills. Adrienne is so fierce she had the notes up later that day! Check them out here! I was once again struck by folks reluctance and perhaps inability to talk about trauma in our movement and how we heal or don’t from all these –isms that impact our lives.

I feel softer now and sharper at the same time. Refined and focused, recommitted to kindness with direction and more prepared to speak up as an ally for the disability justice movement and the rights of indigenous peoples. I’m full and content and feel myself coming into a new era of myself. I’m hopeful and it feels really good.

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