Oct 6 2015

Upcoming Event: “Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South” book tour coming to StL

Tear gas shot at protestors

From the Convict Lease to the Prison Plantation: Race, Gender, and Revolt Against the Carceral State

This past year we have witnessed an explosion of activity in response to the ceaseless violence against Black and Brown people by the hands of the police, white vigilantes, and the prison system. We are living the legacy of hundreds of years of colonialism and slavery, but also are part of an inspiring counter-history of revolt against these forces. This will be a provocative presentation and discussion on several histories of rebellion against prison and forced labor, and how those histories connect with our own period of anti-police riots and prison struggle.

Authors Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford will be reading from their new book *Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South*, focusing on a cross-racial miners’ and prisoners’ rebellion against Tennessee’s early convict lease system, and a 1975 revolt at a women’s prison in Raleigh, North Carolina.

***

Neal Shirley grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and now lives in Durham, NC, where he is involved in several anti-prison initiatives and runs a small publishing project called the North Carolina Piece Corps.

Saralee Stafford was born in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Her recent political work has focused on connecting the struggles of street organizations with those of anarchists in the area. She teaches gender-related health in Durham, North Carolina.

***

RSVP & more information available here: https://www.facebook.com/events/518117595004851/

You can purchase the book, Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South, here at AK Press: http://www.akpress.org/dixie-be-damned.html


Sep 15 2015

Announcing: “To Change Everything, the promise of anarchism”, a public panel at UMSL

12002985_1005310042832755_8948234858064487791_n

To Change Everything: Struggle and Solidarity

If you are Roma in the Balkans, bars will refuse you service. You will give birth in a special room for Roma women. Medical personnel will disinfect the waiting room after you have been there. Your children will be forcefully showered at school, or sent to schools for children with special needs because they can’t read in the majority language. If you have a heart attack, the ambulance may refuse to drive into your settlement.

In the summer of 2015, mass protests took place every two days in the Czech Republic, against migrants from Africa and the Middle East who had almost died crossing the Mediterranean and were to be resettled in Europe. Protesters said that their culture was under attack.

From January to March, 2015, police killed 185 people in Sao Paulo, Brazil—most of them young black men.

***

Everywhere in the world, we are witnessing the most repressed and marginalized populations rising against the conditions of their oppression. What can we learn from these struggles? What does it mean to act in solidarity with them? Does solidarity mean setting aside our own interests, or understanding them differently?

Join us for a lively discussion on race, gender, identity, and legitimacy with participants in grassroots movements from Latin America, North America, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, as they share their experience of struggles in their contexts. All of the presenters are contributors to a recent dialogue project, To Change Everything, which appeared earlier this year in over twenty languages: tochangeeverything.com

***

More information available at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1465254723781096/

A list of additional tour dates & stops available here: http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2015/09/08/to-change-everything-us-tour-dates/


Aug 1 2015

Black Roses for Mike Brown: An Interview with A’isha Fatima Sharifa

index

Back in August 2014, outside the burnt-out husk of the QT on W. Florissant Ave. in Ferguson, MO we ran into some white people and old folks pissed off over having witnessed younger people tagging anti-Police messages on the concrete barriers facing W. Florrisant Ave. These oldheads’ respectability politics rhetoric made us wonder if someone who pissed them off so much might have something in common with us, so we made a pilgrimage to the now-fenced in QT to check out “the writing on the wall” and asked around.

As it turned out, we learned that we had a few friends in common with one the artists responsible for the graffiti slogans, and after a lengthy correspondence and a few false starts, in the spring of 2015 one of the taggers, StL-area street artist “A’isha Fatima Sharifa”, agreed to give us an interview.

We talked about Ferguson, Mike Brown, the Police and the uprisings in the streets in the StL-area and now popping off all around the US, and much, much more! Some names and locations have been changed to protect friends & accomplices.

Since everything went down in Ferguson, it really is amazing how often you meet someone like-minded & it turns out you have A LOT of mutual friends. Small world, huh?

Small town. Saint Louis is a small town that likes to imagine it’s a big city. Chicago is a big city. LA, NYC, those are BIG cities. Relatively, Saint Louis is a small town and I think it really does have a sort of rustbelt small town feel. Everyone seems to know everyone here, or know “someone who knows someone”, y’know? Think about one of the most common icebreaker questions folks ask in Saint Louis: “Where did you go to highschool?” I feel like most people in Saint Louis, and in small towns, generally, have a lot of like-minded mutual friends. It’s a little easier for people to find each other that way, right.

You’re from StL?

I’m from all-over, but somehow I keep landing back here. I moved back and forth a lot, between my father’s family in Chicago and my mom here in Saint Louis. Mostly mom and I lived around the Baden neighborhood on the North Side of Saint Louis. I spent a lot of time dropping out and re-registering at different schools in college, moving from state to state with friends, couch-surfing, seeing a whole lot of North America on the cheap.

That’s the best way to see anywhere, really.

It’s the only way to really experience it, or any place. I don’t think you can really get a feel for a place, for the people there, unless you’re living it on the cheap, at street-level, in the dives, laundramats and alleyways.

You’re partial to alleyways?

Very. Tourists and gentrifiers, academics and preachers, politicians and law enforcement talk about the “seedy underbelly” of society, but that’s just a way of shit-talking the crumbling infrastructure that holds their whitewashed “squeaky-clean” theme park world of suburbs and trendy redevelopment neighborhoods together. The rest of us, most of us, live on the cheap, in the alleys and dives and hole-in-the-wall bars where life is desperately, precariously, and passionately lived; really lived.

B3VT6z3IQAArQut

That word you just used? “Precariously”? Tell us about that.

You sure about that? Whenever I get into these sort of discussions, especially interview type things, I tend to get super-nervous and talk too much. Not that I’ve ever really done a lotta interviews, you understand?

No, it’s fine. Interviews intimidate me, too. So, about that word…

Well, it’s the way the world today is forcing more and more of us to live. Intellectuals talk about it like it’s something new, but I feel like that’s disingenuous. The very poor and marginalized, the oppressed and other-ed and the most exploited in many past societies lived lives on the edge. It’s about desperation, and we can talk all day about personal responsibility, but personal responsibility is really only really relevant insomuch as we have control over our own lives. Precarity is about the theft of control & choices over our own lives, theft from those below by those above. Precarity is the real-life everyday lived-experience of generation fucked. Maybe social safety nets or unions used to ensure that only the most-marginalized really experienced precarity in the West, but I feel like we can look at the world today and see precarity is being extended to more and more of society, even in the so-called “first world” countries.

Thank you for explaining that. We’re finding that idea of “precarity” is becoming a buzzword among liberals and activists.

Of course, you gotta include academics and “socially conscious” self-styled intellectuals in that, as well. Precarity is a very trendy buzzword in their sorta circles. I can’t tell you how many professors in college who thought they were so “radical” tried to “subversively” teach us that our generation is living something “new” called “precarity” and how significant that is. As though women’s lives, Black lives, LGBTQ lives, immigrant lives, poor lives or the lives of anyone deemed Other in these fucked up systems we’re under have ever been anything other than precarious! It’s real sad, really.

Which “systems are you referring to?

The systems which rob us of the choices over how to live our own lives. Authority. Hierarchy. What we hear about more often in terms of patriarchy, white supremacy/racism, homophobia or hetero/cis-normativity/supremacy, capitalism, the state. All the ways those in authority, those who’ve taken power over our lives, keep themselves on top and keep the rest of us desperate. And it’s all inter-connected. I feel like we really can’t talk about any of this without talking about all of it, if we want to be serious.

It’s what we’re seeing in Ferguson right now, those systems inflict so much trauma and suffering on so many people, and every now and then some of us who’ve known suffering and trauma do something desperate; because we don’t see things changing for the better otherwise. The oppressive systems put this desperation on us, and we strike back and those in authority seem shocked by that, that we’d do something desperate, but desperation is all some of us have ever known.

1621781_10152815359804242_6916819015543826886_n

So that’s what brought you out to Ferguson?

No, the police murder of an 18 year old young Black man named Michael Brown is what brought me out to Ferguson. The murder of a young person who had just graduated highschool and was looking forward to college just a couple miles from where I grew up at hit me like a god-smack, and I don’t mean the crappy band, either. I felt so… I don’t know. Everything. Angry, sad, outraged, depressed, scared, everything except surprised; and I think that’s what emboldened me, and a lot of other people. Was anyone really surprised by what the police did in Canfield, that day? Was anyone really surprised by the officials’ response?

Going back to what you said before about desperation, it’s ironic how REALLY surprised the Pigs & politicians seemed by people’s response in the streets.

Right! They murdered a young man who was walking with a friend to go see family. He was killed for being Black while doing something as common as walking to go visit family, and this happens all the time. In the past we did the petitioning and the voter registration and the ballot initiative stuff and the marching politely with signs and a permit, I mean, I did all that; plenty of my friends and family and a lot of people I’ve known have passed through that at some point. Some are still stuck on it, like a needle stuck in a groove. I think a lotta folks have moved past that, now. You see enough out here in these streets, and you start to realize none of that shit works.

Think about it. How many times a year do you hear about police shooting someone, whether or not they were armed or doing anything “wrong”? How many times a year do you hear about the police beating someone up? How many of those videos of police beating up activists & protesters who are shouting “nonviolence” and “peaceful” back at the police while they’re getting brutalized by the cops? How many ballot initiatives and petitions are we asked to sign each year? How many times are we going to vote for the black or the democrat or the liberal candidate because some activist says they’ll totally be different this time than the last guy was?

We’ve seen it all before. None of it works. And the system keeps turning up the heat on our communities. When they push us so close to the edge, they shouldn’t be surprised what’s happens when we strike back.

10559660_1444037259211319_3137184912848373283_n

Do you mean what happened to the QT on W. Florrisant Ave.?

And the rest of that shit, yeah. The evening Michael Brown was gunned down, the police came into Canfield with shotguns and machine gun-looking things and snarling dogs and teargas. They brought clubs and armor to a candlelight vigil. They had riot-shields and armor the next morning at the police station. They brought out an armored truck and more military equipment the night that gas station got burned down. I’m not certain what else they were expecting.

What about people who say we’re just hurting ourselves, hurting our own communities?

Fuck that. Fuck that! How was that outpost of the Quick Trip corporation ever a part of “our community”? How are any of those places, corporate or privately owned, that sell our people poisons, keep us sick and weak and intoxicated, broke and distracted, part of “our community”? That shit was as much a valid target as the cop who chose to point his gun and pull the trigger, over and over again. That shit is as much a valid target as the institutions and the individuals who’ve got us all like this, that are benefitting from our suffering.

It appalls me how certain people refuse to recognize the context and inter-connected histories of oppression, of exploitation, and genocide. It’s been built into the system from day-one. It’s not “broken” at all, and that’s what I feel like we’re seeing more and more people understanding and feeling. The system is not broken, it’s working exactly how it was always meant to work.

In that context, what happened on West Florissant was what the military calls “blowback”. It was a moment of rage in which people who have been pushed closer and closer to the edge all our lives finally struck back and exercised our own power. That being said, fuck the naysayers who criticize us for burning down “our own communities”. I wonder what “community” they’re talking about. I wonder if those naysayers have to deal with racial profiling, stop and frisk, weekend checkpoints, constant surveillance and summary executions carried out by police on their streets; because that’s what we have been dealing with for a very long time.

But what they’re worried about is some broken windows, some paint on the walls, and a burned down gas station; not an ongoing genocide.

It really is every day.

It is, yes. Now we’ve got these “allies” out here, so “outraged” that history appears to be “repeating itself”. But it never stopped. It never got better. It never went away. It’s still here. It’s gotten worse.

But a burned down gas station, looted merchandise, smashed windows, that’s what the news and the politicians and the pundits want to focus on.

Do you think the media would have given this the coverage it has if it weren’t for the violence?

Let’s be clear on one thing first, I’m not going to talk about “violence” on the part of protesters, because the way I see it that’s self-defense. When you live under siege like we do, when you and your parents and great-great grandparents were all born under siege, what isn’t self-defense? It’s all self-defense. All of it. We need to remember that.

There’s a slogan I saw spray painted up on the walls walking around Ferguson the day after QT burned down. It said “remembering means fighting back!”, and gotta say that I feel that, hard. The fight needs to be taken beyond the streets and to our oppressor’s own doorsteps. All this whooping and wailing and cryin’ doesn’t mean shit if we don’t act on our rage, hook-up and crook-up, and take the fight to our enemies. All of them.

16-e1417829171864

When we first got in touch, it was because we’d seen these little black roses tagged all around the burnt-out QT with some pretty militant call-to-action slogans attached to them, and we heard from a mutual friend that those roses were meant as memorials. Can you tell us about that?

You wanna talk about those roses? Well I won’t say much about this, because it’s kinda personal, y’know? But yeah, they’re partially memorials. I borrowed the black rose tag from a much older friend in Mexico City who taught me all about the history of anarchist symbolism. When I moved to Chicago I started throwing them up in spots where police brutalized or killed someone. Out in LA I started stenciling the rose at my haunts around town, just places that had some meaning to me.

I got involved in this relationship with one of those mutual friends of ours that you mentioned earlier, a few years ago when they moved out to LA for a while to get away from StL, and when I later returned to Saint Louis a year or so after they had, I found that they’d borrowed my tag and slapped it up in significant spots all over the city. There’s still a few faded black roses scattered all over StL, actually, if you know where to look. But when Ferguson PD murdered Mike Brown and shit went down, and I saw that slogan up on the wall it inspired me to revive the black rose tag in the spirit that I first used it; as a memorial and as a call to action.

So there’s multiple meanings to the rose tag, depending on who’s using it?

Yeah, just like anything else anyone ever writes, right? Or, the difference between whatever meaning someone intends when they write, and the meaning understood by the reader. Or even the difference between how the writer relates to their own writing the next day, a week later, a year or a decade-on.

The roses started out for me as little memorials to the outrages and tragedies we endure every day. Later on, in another setting they became like memorials to beautiful moments I experienced in certain spaces, and nowadays they’re like these memorials to outrages or tragedies, but also they’re like a call-to-action and a message to our oppressors that we’re not takin’ shit no more.

Didn’t the mafia use gifts of black roses as a sort of threat?

I think that might be apocryphal, y’know? Like something out from The Godfather flics. But honestly I really don’t know anything about all that, or the history of the mafia or the other symbolic uses of black roses. I do like that, though, the idea of using the rose as a threat. That’s cute! Actually, I really feel that.

50-e1417829146561

Sorry, not to get you off-subject…

No, that’s cool actually. Yeah, I mean I gotta get to work soon, anyway. But that’s what I suppose I’d like to end with, is this notion of not takin’ shit anymore, y’know what I mean? Taking the fight to the man, to the source, not just to the individuals but to the institutions and all the norms and conventions and ideas they uphold. There was another slogan up on the walls the morning after QT burned, another slogan that got my attention. It said “Solidarity means attack!”, and that’s where I think I’m at personally, at the moment. So if someone sees some wall art that resonates with their experience in their day-to-day life, and it inspires them to action, that’s the best I could hope for.

Talk is good, and necessary, and has its place in time, but we got to learn to take action. We gotta learn how to fight back and go on the offensive and fuckin’ win, because this shit’s got to go. We’re not going to get there following the leader down the same old deadend paths, and we’re not gonna get there praying or marching on the sidewalks or sitting on our hands drugged-up, disillusioned and bitter.

So yeah, to me solidarity totally does mean attack, and remembering really does mean fighting back. And the people I’m interested in meeting and getting with are the folks who feel similarly, whether they’ve come to that place just recently or suspected & felt this way for a long time, already. That’s pretty much what it’s all about!

Thank you so very much, A’isha, for your time and for what you’re doing. Be safe out there!

No, you gotta say “Stay dangerous, out there!” We gotta learn to get dangerous and stay dangerous together.

Stay dangerous out there.

You too!


Nov 15 2014

On Ferguson

0

The cold blooded murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson Pig Darren Wilson, witnessed by dozens of residents and visitors to Canfield Green apartments on August 9th, 2014, has ignited a longstanding powderkeg of racial and class tensions in the greater Saint Louis region.

Since the anti-police riots the evening of Aug 9th, sparked by the murder of Mike Brown and disrespect shown to his body by Ferguson Police and the subsequent rage vented on local monied interests by this long-brutalized and marginalized community, the whole world has learned the name “Ferguson”.  It has become a dirty name, a name associated with systemic structural/institutional racist and classist violence, with a community forgotten and brutalized by militarized police who more and more blatantly look like the occupying army they’ve always been.  Ferguson has become a symbol for a generation whose future was looted long before any of us were born.

While Ferguson has become a Mecca of sorts for pilgrimages of radicals and activists from all around the world, as well as heartwarming messages of solidarity from Palestine to Egypt, the streets of Chile to the highways of Hong Kong, to the Liberal/Progressive politicos, Ferguson has become the locus for a new civil rights movement.  National “Social Justice” ambulance chasers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and local Democratic Party shills like Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) and the multitudinous front groups associated with them have spun an absurd and outdated narrative of nonviolent movement demanding a mythic and equally unlikely “justice”; justice, of course, within the context of an inherently unjust system of social organization.  All the old, tired movement “organizing”, nonviolent civil disobedience training, get out the vote campaigns, divide & conquer narrative management (“violent outside agitators“, anyone?) and photo ops have left a bad taste in the mouths of a whole new generation of pissed off youth.

The opportunistic Socialist Left, including all the old socialists, Black Nationalists, Marxist/Leninist/Maoists – even batshit-crazy “Chairman Bob” Avakian‘s Revolutionary Communist Party – have seized on the opportunity to write new statements no one will read, print more papers no one wants to read, and attempt to recruit a new generation of indignant youth into the ranks of this or that vanguard party.  Each faction hopes to capitalize on the explosion of righteous indignation in the streets of Ferguson and Saint Louis and harness that energy for whatever brand of revolution they hope to lead, at some arbitrary date in a future fantastical world where anyone gives a fuck about reading their poorly xeroxed socialist rag sheets.

For the far-right, Ferguson has been an opportunity to openly declare their support for law enforcement – a cultural trope of The State masking the racist, sexist/misogynist/patriarchal, classist organized violence meant to maintain the day-to-day order of the prevailing social, economic and political hierarchies.  The Ku Klux Klan, an organization with deep historic ties to organized police forces (just like fascist organizations all around the world), have threatened violence against Ferguson protesters, raised funds on behalf of Ferguson Pig Darren Wilson, and benefited from an uptick in membership and interest from increasingly polarized whites panicking for fear of losing the security of their historic positions of privilege in the social hierarchy of racism in Amerikkkaa.

It really is amazing how social/class consciousness manifests in the most abhorrent and monstrous manner among the privileged, whenever they feel their privilege is even remotely threatened…

Gun sales to business and property owners have reached record local highs, demonstrating the extent to which the privileged are more concerned with the integrity of “their” things and protecting “their” property than they are with the lives of racialized & marginalized persons.  News has emerged that Darren Wilson will return to work when the grand jury announces its non-indictment.  Meanwhile, black militants have announced they are stockpiling ammunition and arms as well, to deal with the violence threatened by the KKK and militarized police and National Guard units promised by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.  The hacker collective Anonymous has launched a campaign to expose local KKK members, and have exposed corporate donations to the joint efforts of local, state and national law enforcement agencies, proving that the police “serve and protect” the interests of The $tate and the un-interrupted flow of corporate profit$.

Anyone who works in retail, a school, a hospital, who takes public transit or works with the public in any capacity by now has witnessed the absurd mania of whites scared out of their minds of the boogieman they are convinced is coming for them, their kids, their neighborhoods and their property.  Local broadcast and print media, as well as the mainstream online media and cable news have encouraged this, and retailers are cashing in BIG on the racist paranoia as scared bigots stock up on everything they have the privilege to afford to hoard.

Clergy and liberal leadership are calling for “de-escalation”, “dialogue” and “healing” between police, government, and “the community” (whose community?) when the anticipated non-indictment ruling is passed down by the grand jury in the next few days.  Meanwhile the indignant youth, offered no future by the perpetuation of the status quo and trajectory of Empire, racism, class and social stratification are left to wonder, what is there to talk about?

Why should WE keep “healing” the wounds inflicted upon our community by the armed gang of murderers, rapists, thieves, bullies and racists known as the police?

Why should WE dialogue with the system they serve?

Why should WE be held responsible for de-escalation, when THEY are the ones who bring guns, clubs, tazers, zipties and handcuffs, body armor & tanks and sound cannons to candlelight vigils and protests?

Regardless of whatever tomorrow or the next day or the day after that brings to the streets of Saint Louis and Ferguson, one thing is for sure: For many of us, the time for talk ended the moment Darren Wilson made a decision, a choice, to gun down MikeMike.  WE, generation fucked, the youth are the ones who have inherited this fucked up world from the generations before us who fucked it all up.  In this context, the strict nonviolence that accomplished jack shit for the generation before ours has absolutely ZERO relevance, and the champions of pacifism and calm look like fools at best (collaborators and snitches, at worst) in the face of the extreme violence inflicted upon our daily lives at work, at home, and out on the streets.

It is uncertain whether or not the youth who take to the streets in the days to come will bring the reckoning white racists have been dreading, and this racist city deserves.  Let’s hope so.