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Aboriginal historian, activist and leader, Gary Foley, explains the do’s and don’t’s of white activism. 100% Juice from an inspiring orator, and priceless advice for all would-be allies of Indigenous people in the struggle for justice.

Filmed during the public discussion forum: ‘Deactivating Colonialism / Decolonising Acivism’ convened by Clare Land at MAYSAR (Melbourne Aboriginal Youth, Sport and Recreation), Fitzroy: August 31st, 2010.

For more info about Foley, visit: http://www.kooriweb.org/

Really important information for white “allies”! Educate YOURSELF, then educate the people. Don’t expect us to do it for you.

The criticism of the Seattle protesters, in particular, is largely about their tactics: that they could have picked a better way to get their message across than taking the mic away from Bernie Sanders. By being so confrontational, the criticism goes, they alienated the rally attendees who would be their natural allies.

Activists get hit with this criticism whenever they engage in tactics that disrupt other people, from blocking traffic on public roads to holding “die-ins” at New York City restaurants during weekend brunch. But as they often point out, when they try to get their message out using less disruptive tactics, they’re often ignored by the same people who criticize disruption.
California Will Limit Solitary Confinement

All across the United States, people in prison have been put in solitary confinement indefinitely, resulting in severe psychological problems. Numerous human rights groups use the word “torture” to describe the way prisons across the US stick people in solitary for years. and since 2011, tens of thousands of people in prisons across California have gone on hunger strikes since 2011 to protest the state’s use of solitary.

Now, the state is finally changing its solitary confinement laws—though over 1,000 people will still be kept in solitary. 

According to the New York Times, as of Monday, 2,858 people were in solitary housing units across the state. Under the new policy, that figure could fall by as many as 1,800 inmates.

“This brings California in line with more modern national prison practices,” said Jules Lobel, the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who was the lead lawyer for inmates in their suit against the state. “People have been kept in solitary confinement for outrageously long periods of time. That’s one of the problems in the U.S. — people are warehoused in these places, and now that’s going to change.”

STOP COOPTING MY SUFFERING

Dear (predominantly white) friends,

Stop writing about how the “whole nation suffered along with” or “mourned” Katrina.

Want to know what I was told as a Katrina refugee? That I was unwanted. That my city was a place of sin and trash. That we shouldn’t have lived there in the first place. That it was our responsibility to rebuild if we wanted to pursue that fruitless endeavor, not any level of governments’. That the people of my city were lazy, rude, uncooperative, stubborn, didn’t listen to directions, stupid, thugs, and worse. That the flight of my friends, family, and fellow New Orleanians was bringing increased crime to Baton Rouge, Houston, everywhere else New Orleanians sought shelter after the storm.

Or, that I was okay, because I was different- by which they meant I was white and, by merit of immense privilege through a private school scholarship, well educated.

For years after Katrina I heard this; for years I was told to “stop talking about New Orleans.” (By some of the people writing this shit, even more ironically). Don’t you DARE tell me that the nation mourned for us, that you feel or know my pain. Worse still, don’t even pretend to understand the pain of the black New Orleanians who were marginalized, forgotten, left behind, and still are to this day. You can’t even begin to comprehend their pain. Neither can I, as deep as my own is.

The nation did not mourn for us. You do not understand or know our pain. Writing an article that puts your voice above the voices of refugees and survivors, that doesn’t contain a single footnote or interview with someone that actually knows what they’re talking about, is bullshit.

And if one more of you privileged “activists” who spend one weekend/week/month in New Orleans building a singular house in the lower ninth ward or community gardening say that New Orleans has captured your heart and soul, I will literally explode.

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Last week, more than 100 brave climate activists rallied outside of Secretary of State John Kerry’s home in Washington, D.C., for Midwest Unrest to demand that he stop Enbridge’s illegal tar sands scheme

Currently, the Canadian company is attempting to double the capacity of its Alberta Clipper tar sands pipeline (AKA Line 67), with no public notice and also by bypassing presidential permit process. This illegal expansion would significantly increase the amount of toxic, highly polluting tar sands crude being moved into the United States.

We must stop this from happening.

Shout-outs to everyone that turned up for #MidwestUnrest and for putting your bodies on the line for our water, our climate, and our communities!

The PEN Ten with Sonia Guiñansaca

Migrant justice has become a key battleground for issues of race, labor, and state power. One writer I’ve learned a lot from is the activist Sonia Guiñansaca. Born in Ecuador, arriving in the US at age five, Sonia has been a leader in the movement fighting for the rights of undocumented migrants. She participated in the second recorded civil disobedience action committed by undocumented youth, as well as one of the many highly-publicized hunger strikes for the Dream Act. We work together at CultureStrike, for which she helped build the first UndocuWriters retreat; she’s also been editing one of the first anthologies for undocumented writers. You can learn more about her thrilling, vital work at her website. Sonia’s also been curating the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s open mic, in which we’re trying to create a safe space for QTPOC emerging writers. The next one is Saturday, September 5, 2015 at 3:00pm.

When did being a writer begin to inform your sense of identity?

I was taught that writers are not migrant, that writers do not look like me, that they do not write stories and poems that reflect my life. From public school reading lists to bookstores to online literary spaces, growing up, my tiny self was only exposed to white American writers. It was not until I was in high school that my social studies teacher Mr. Murphy gave me Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets and my English teacher Ms. Greene made us read Belovedby Toni Morrison, and I was able to pause and get a glimpse of the possibility of being a writer. Discovering writers of color made it real! And so I began to write poetry; when everything around me seemed so unsure because of my immigration status, at least my poetry held my world together. Writing was a way of documenting my undocumented life. In my twenties I began to claim a writer’s identity and introduce myself as an artist and poet as a political statement.

I’ve had to be intentional, audacious, and daring to identify as a writer. Claiming a writer’s identity is so bold. It’s a big statement: “I can create, I can imagine, I have something to say,” and that is a radical thing to state, especially as a migrant Ecuadorian queer femme. When most of the white literary world and white supremacists are telling you, a writer of color, that there is no space for you or that your writing is not enough or that it doesn’t meet a certain criteria, that’s exactly when I rise and say: “Fuck you, I am a writer, watch me create and imagine.”

Whose work would you like to steal without attribution or consequences?

Toni Morrison’s and Arundhati Roy’s. They are creative geniuses.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Like a true New Yorker, my favorite places to write are trains and buses. They did not start off as my favorite places to write, rather they were what I had and could afford. Working full-time, handling family responsibilities, and doing community organizing left me with little time to write. A full household also leaves you with no writing space. Thus, I began to use my commuting time on trains and buses as my writing time. I was already spending an hour to two hours on the 1 train or M5 bus, and thus over the years they have become home for my poetry. Trains are perfect locations for inspiration. The moment when the train cars go above ground, and sun rays pierce through the windows—that is when I get the biggest creative rush.

Have you ever been arrested? Care to discuss?

The first time was in July 2010 as part of the second ever recorded act of civil disobedience by undocumented young people. To put pressure on congress, 21 of us undocumented organizers from across the country took over the Senate building in Washington, D.C. and demanded the passage of the Dream Act. Two years later I was arrested trying to infiltrate an Alabama detention center as part of the first wave of attempts to organize undocumented detainees and bring to light the inhumane conditions they were living in, their lack of medical treatment, abuse many women were facing, and helping them with legal counsel for their deportation cases.

Obsessions are influences—what are yours?

I obsess over migrant artists like Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. I love their music, style, and how unapologetic they are when calling out whiteness and misogyny. I can’t get enough of poet Warsan Shire and her tumblr. I obsess over visual artists, religiously following the work of Wangechi Mutu, Basquiat, and Amaryllis DeJesus Moleski. I also can’t get enough of instagram curvy fashion bloggers like @OshaWaiters, @TheCurvyNista, and @NadiaAboulhosn. I am a complex, complicated, brilliant, stylish, and creative person, so all these artists fuel my inspiration and spirit.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever put into words?

There are many migrant movement spaces that are centered on respectability politics, especially when it comes to migrant women of color. I was tired of the problematic “good migrant” narrative, and so I wrote a poem about masturbation called The Revolution Will Cum. Two of my favorite lines are “Si Se puede with your sex toys” and “Unapologetic about my clitoris,” which is a play on two chants: “Si se puede” and “Undocumented, Unafraid, and Unapologetic.”

Sometimes, most times, the expectation of undocumented migrants is to only talk about policy and how we can contribute to this country. This expectation dehumanizes us; itdoesn’t allow room for us to show up as whole people. Till this day, every time I perform that poem in migrant movement spaces, people get so uncomfortable, especially cis-straight men. The poem also disrupts the gaze of my sexuality in relation to men. However, my sexual needs are my priority and they belong to me. And yes, my mom has heard the poem.

What is the responsibility of the writer? While the notion of the public intellectual has fallen out of fashion, do you believe writers have a collective purpose?

The responsibility of the writer is to document current times and imagine possibilities. We hold space for people in our pages, and at least for me, I am able to jot down in poetry things that are happening in my community that are under-looked by the mainstream. As a queer femme migrant woman of color my writing is a space where I can transcribe and record resistance. Erasure happens when it comes to the history/lives/contribution/resistance/survival of people of color in America, and so with my pen I make sure that they exist and are remembered in my stanzas, in between the lines, and on every space of my paper. Writers of color deserve to take up space and record our lives and record our communities because no one else will. For writers of color, it is our responsibility to also offer possibilities and give our communities spaces of imagination. Our responsibilities as writers are to write, document, hold the ache, spark the healing. When people question our writing, we need to remember that our writing is enough and that it is a huge contribution to social justice and to the world.

My responsibility as a writer is to the young girl of color who is right now looking for herself in poetry and hoping that it does not take her years into high school to find a writer of color that speaks to her experience. My poetry writes us into existence. Our collective purpose is to humanize our marginalized communities, to disrupt the gaze, and to tell our own stories.

What book would you send to the leader of a government that imprisons writers?

I wouldn’t spend my time and resources sending any government a book. I would rather send many books to those imprisoned and in detention centers. I would send them books by NoViolet Bulawayo, Junot Diaz, Toni Morrison, Assata Shakur, Aracelis Girmay, Mumia Abu Jamal, Audre Lorde, Janet Mock, Piri Thomas, Teju Cole, and many coloring books.

Where is the line between observation and surveillance?

It depends on who is doing the observation.


Ken Chen is the executive director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop, and a founder of Arts & Letters Daily. The 2009 recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for his debut poetry collection Juvenilia, he is also a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Bread Loaf Writers conference. A graduate of Yale Law School, Ken successfully represented the asylum claim of a Guinean teenager who had been detained by the Department of Homeland Security. For the PEN Ten, Ken will be interviewing the poets and novelists of the Asian-American counterculture.

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This Artist Is Using ‘Artivism’ To Break Down Queer Stigma And Stereotypes

A Venezuelan artist is making a bold statement about queerness and art’s power to aid in the breaking down of stereotypes related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identity. The “ I’m Not A Joke” campaign from Daniel Arzola is a series of images inscribed with compelling truths about human diversity that encourages individuals to live as their authentic selves. 

See more of the stereotype breaking posters here.

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2015 - Indigenous Tembe people living in Brazil fight to protect their land and the rainforest from illegal logging operations and ranchers, either through the law or by physically removing them from the land and torching their operations if they refuse to leave. [video]