In honor of his coming out as Gay, Apple CEO Tim Cook
announced Monday that he is taking over the management of Plaza 16, the
embattled redevelopment project at 16th and Mission Street in San
Francisco. Referring to a recent blog post titled, “Lets Improve
16th and Mission Without Making It Suck,” Cook unveiled a solid gold
plaque to adorn the entrance of the soon-to-be-completed development,
“TIM SUCKS COCK CENTER”.
The multiuse, multistory center will boast 200
microapartments of 140 square feet each, suitable for young techies and
available for the bargain basement price of $1.5 million. The
building will be topped by a 3D revolving movieplex, while the bottom
floor will be donated to house the Human Rights Boutique jointly operated
by HRC and Does Your Mother Know (DYMK). Apple’s sweatshop in
Shenzhen, China is taking over production of the gay kitsch and dildos to
be sold in the boutique.
“But don’t worry, we’re doing our bit to preserve
the diversity of the neighborhood,” Cook said, as police dragged
squawking members of Gay Shame and LAGAI-Queer Insurrection from the press
conference. “We are adding ten submarket units.” He
clarified that the submarket units will cost $1.2 million and will be in
the basement, underneath the marketplace.
“But the best thing of all,” said Cook, “is that
each floor will be painted a different color, so the building will look
like one of those rainbow wind socks.” The helipad on top, he
pointed out, will be ultraviolet, “So there’s even something for those
obnoxious LAGAI people.”
Happy Birthday! Chelsea Manning!
Free her now!
Wed., December 17, 2014
Speakout & Tabling
Harvey Milk Plaza (Market & Castro), San Francisco
Whistleblower Chelsea Manning turns 27 this month.
She’s sentenced to be in prison until 2045, when she’s 57!
We cannot let this happen – we have to get her out!
Other actions so far will include Berlin , Boston, Istanbul ,
Philadelphia, London , Venice . . .
For info: Queer Strike 415 626
Sign Amnesty International’s petition for her immediate release.
Chelsea Manning Support Network, http://www.chelseamanning.org/
We at LAGAI support the movement that is being
created by Black people around the country in response to the recent
police killings. There’s a
lot of good stuff being written and discussed by people of color. Below
are some brief excerpts from blogs and articles. They are worth reading in
Groggins, Dear White People:Ferguson Protests are a Wake not a Pep Rally
11/26/14)… …Can you
empathize with what it might feel like for your own nation to not think
that you are a human being? Can you imagine then, what it feels like to be
me, dealing with all of this, to have to politely ask you to
America doesn’t think I’m human. I am just
another Black man worthy of suspicion and doubt. Another looter. Another
criminal. Another statistic. The only home I’ve ever known thinks that I
do not deserve to live.
This is why I went to the White House. I was hoping
to be surrounded by my fellow Black people, to yell, to scream, to cheer,
and to sing. I wanted to gather my people around me and boldly assert my
humanity to the world. Yet that’s not what I found. This impromptu rally
was the perfect metaphor for the state of the anti-racism movement in
America. We agree on (most) the facts; white “allies” come out to
support the cause, yet struggle to feel comfortable … and subtly …
fight to control the space …chanting “all lives matter.”
This is why a woman at the Rally in Mount Vernon
Square got on the bull horn and re-affirmed that it was a Black issue,
that the call needed to be Black Lives Matter and not All Lives Matter. It
is instructive that this woman (and every Black woman who spoke at the
beginning) was interrupted by cries of “no justice, no peace.” Giving
the words an added level of unintentional irony.
It’s a subtle problem. But subtlety builds over
time. Eventually, as moments turn into movements, it stops being
subtle…By asserting that “all lives matter” you are denying us a
chance for internal solidarity, not standing in solidarity with us. This
is to not say that white people are not welcome, or needed, in this
Quite the contrary, racism is a problem
for white people to fix. This piece is just to say, that if you are
white and you find yourself at a march for racial justice surrounded by
white people: something is wrong. So to all my White friends, community
members and allies, I hear your desire to express yourself and to be a
part of the solution. Please remember that sometimes the most radical
thing an ally can do is show up and remain silent, to allow Black people
to lead. Sometimes the best way to insure that All Lives Matter is to give
Black people room to own a space, to be surrounded by (mostly) fellow
Black people, to yell, to scream, to cheer, and to sing. Give us our space
to mourn our
(Tamura Lomax, Feminist Wire 2/16/14)…why
is it so hard to understand that race, sex, sexuality, class, gender,
nation, etc., are all always present, and that these oppressions are both
structural and individual? And white America, why is it so hard to
comprehend when we respond to these oppressions with what black feminist
Audre Lorde called “righteous rage”?
(9/5/14) …The murder of 18-year old
Michael (a.k.a Mike) Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson is
only one moment that reveals the ways Black lives are ignored, dismissed,
devalued, erased, violated, and systematically destroyed. Instead, the
story of Mike Brown’s life and death is not unique. Yet violence against
Black life is irreducible to “blue on Black” crime or racial profiling
in Ferguson. Black folk are disproportionately vulnerable to deteriorating
social risks linked to race, sex and class. Ferguson serves as a microcosm
of the greater social body, which thwarts Black survival then criminalizes
Black reflexive survival tactics... White people are largely inured to the
being Black in America. As the Nation noted in recent weeks, one
reason white people don’t understand Ferguson is because white folks
largely live white lives. In other words, white people see Black Life
Matters and immediately counter with “all life matters.” In addition,
they easily admit that the situation is tragic, but fail to engage with it
as racial and racialized. This is not new, only insidious… Our black
children, brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, mothers and fathers are
being assassinated. For those who still don’t get that this is, among
other things, a feminist issue, you will never get it and are thus a part
of the problem. Relationships in the global economy are structured in
dominance. Black and women of color are especially impacted by this. I am
a black mother and a black wife. I fear for my beloved’s safety
everyday. Ain’t I feminist too? Ain’t the potential murder of my loved
ones and how that may impact me and others in my community a feminist
Cooper, Salon)… I am utterly undone: My struggle with black
rage and fear after Ferguson (Do you feel the struggle in these words? The
utter inadequacy of them? The struggle to contain and train my rage on the
proper (white) people, and not all of them? The challenge of trying to
narrate black rage, and black pain, and black fear, and black freedom
dreams deferred – again—in hopes that white folks would really
understand? The resentment at my failure? The rage at my having to do so
in the first place?)
Black, Jezabel 11/28/14) …One
particular hashtag began to pick up steam in response to the decision. #CrimingWhileWhite,
I have no doubt, began with good intentions. Still, as we apparently
constantly need to be reminded: intention is not the same as impact.
a way for white people to share stories about interactions they've had
with the police... I imagine the goal was to show the disparity between
the way black and white people are treated by the police in America,
although I'm not sure we needed that spelled out, as we were literally
watching it happen in real time.
But truly, is this
anything new? Was anyone legitimately surprised to
learn that white people are able to get away with damn near anything by
the police? They don't embolden us with knowledge or tactics that we can
use to fight the system. And they simply confirm what we already know:
white privilege is fucking amazing.
In response to #CrimingWhileWhite,
Ebony.com editor Jamilah Lemieux started
the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack for black people to share stories
of their interactions with the cops—not
while committing crimes, but just while living—where they were treated
with violence, carelessness and general inhumanity.
See, now, this is
helpful. It amplifies the voices of the exact people being
disproportionally targeted by police. Nobody
wants white allies to stop trying and stop fighting, but there are times
when it is best to just sit down and listen. I want your solace and
support and action, but perhaps take a moment and think: I know this is horrible but I still cannot begin to
imagine how you're feeling right now because I am not a black person
living in a country that continues to prove that my life is worth less
Because no matter what,
you will not feel this pain the way we feel this pain. You will not fear
the way we fear. And in times like these, your voice is not the one that
needs to be heard.
Nation, Dani McClain 8/23/14)
…But the killing of Michael Brown, like
the killing of many young black people before him, is rarely framed as a
feminist issue or as an issue of pressing importance to those who advocate
for choice, self-determination and dignity as they relate to family life.
This broader perspective
has long been that of the reproductive justice movement, whose
participants support “the
right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we
have in safe and healthy environments.”
What would it take for the organizations and commentators who beat
the drum for policies related to reproductive health and rights to use
their platforms to advocate for black parents who lose their children to
violent attacks on those young people’s lives?
We in LAGAI – Queer Insurrection, were extremely saddened to learn
of the death of Leslie Feinberg. We did political work that often
paralleled hers, and many of us met her on one of her speaking engagements
here. She was a strong, warm, and generous activist, and she was a friend
to many of our friends. We will miss Leslie, and we extend our sympathies
to all of her close comrades. The below obituary was written by Leslie and
her spouse, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and is reprinted from Workers World
newspaper, November 27, 2014.
By Minnie Bruce Pratt
Feinberg, who identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular
Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist, died on
November 15. She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne
co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa
rheumatica, after decades of illness.
She died at home in Syracuse, NY, with her partner and spouse of 22
years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, at her side. Her last words were: “Remember
me as a revolutionary communist.”
Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of
“transgender liberation,” and her work impacted popular culture,
academic research, and political organizing.
Her historical and theoretical writing has been widely anthologized and
taught in the U.S. and international academic circles. Her impact on mass
culture was primarily through her 1993 first novel, Stone Butch
Blues, widely considered in and outside the U.S. as a groundbreaking
work about the complexities of gender. Sold by the hundreds of thousands
of copies and also passed from hand-to-hand inside prisons, the novel has
been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Slovenian, Turkish,
and Hebrew (with her earnings from that edition going to ASWAT Palestinian
In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been
in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that
brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and
sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of
self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and
She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but
also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been
disrespectful to me with the wrong pronoun and respectful with the right
one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if
they are trying to demonstrate respect.”
Feinberg was born September 1, 1949, in Kansas City, Missouri, and
raised in Buffalo, NY, in a working-class Jewish family. At age 14, she
began supporting herself by working in the display sign shop of a local
department store, and eventually stopped going to her high school classes,
though officially she received her diploma. It was during this time that
she entered the social life of the Buffalo gay bars. She moved out of a
biological family hostile to her sexuality and gender expression, and to
the end of her life carried legal documents that made clear they were not
Discrimination against her as a transgender person made it impossible
for her to get steady work. She earned her living for most of her life
through a series of low-wage temp jobs, including working in a PVC pipe
factory and a book bindery, cleaning out ship cargo holds and washing
dishes, serving an ASL interpreter, and doing medical data inputting.
In her early twenties Feinberg met Workers World Party at a
demonstration for Palestinian land rights and self-determination. She soon
joined WWP through its founding Buffalo branch.
After moving to New York City, she participated in numerous mass
organizing campaigns by the Party over the years, including many anti-war,
pro-labor rallies. In 1983-1984 she embarked on a national tour about AIDS
as a denied epidemic. She was a key organizer in the December 1974 March
Against Racism in Boston, a campaign against white supremacist attacks on
African-American adults and schoolchildren in the city. Feinberg led a
group of ten lesbian-identified people, including several from South
Boston, on an all-night “paste up” of South Boston, covering every
visible racist epithet.
Feinberg was one of the organizers of the 1988 mobilization in Atlanta
that re-routed the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan as they tried to march
down Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., on MLK Day. When anti-abortion groups
descended on Buffalo in 1992 and again in 1998-1999 with the murder there
of Dr. Barnard Slepian, Feinberg returned to work with Buffalo United for
Choice and its Rainbow Peacekeepers, which organized community
self-defense for local LGBTQ+ bars and clubs as well as the women’s
A WW journalist since 1974, Feinberg was the editor of the Political
Prisoners page of Workers World newspaper for 15 years, and became a
managing editor in 1995. She was a member of the National Committee of the
From 2004-2008 Feinberg's writing on the links between socialism and
LGBT history, "Lavender & Red," ran as a 120-part series in
Workers World newspaper. Her most recent book, Rainbow Solidarity in
Defense of Cuba, was an edited selection of that series.
Feinberg authored two other non-fiction books, Transgender
Warriors: Making History and Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or
Blue, as well as a second novel, Drag King Dreams.
Feinberg was a member of the National Writers Union, Local 1981, and of
Pride at Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group. She received an honorary
doctorate from the Starr King School for the Ministry for her transgender
and social justice work, and was the recipient of numerous other awards,
including the Lambda Literary Award and the American Library Association
Gay and Lesbian Book Award.
During a period when diseases would not allow her to read, write, or
talk, Feinberg continued to communicate through art. Picking up a camera
for the first time, she posted thousands of pictures on Flickr, including
“The Screened-In Series,” a disability-art class-conscious documentary
of her Hawley-Green neighborhood photographed entirely from behind the
windows of her apartment.
Diagnosed with Lyme and multiple tick-borne co-infections in 2008,
Feinberg was infected first in the early 1970s when little was known about
the diseases. She had received treatment for these only within the last
six years. She said, “My experience in ILADS care offers great hope to
desperately-ill people who are in earlier stages of tick-borne
She attributed her catastrophic health crisis to “bigotry, prejudice
and lack of science”—active prejudice toward her transgender identity
that made access to health care exceedingly difficult, and lack of science
in limits placed by mainstream medical authorities on information,
treatment, and research about Lyme and its co-infections. She blogged
online about these issues in “Casualty of an Undeclared War.”
At the time of her death she was preparing a 20th anniversary edition
of Stone Butch Blues. She worked up to within a few days of her death
to prepare the edition for free access, reading, and download from
on-line. In addition to the text of the novel, the on-line edition will
contain a slideshow, “This Is What Solidarity Looks Like,” documenting
the breadth of the organizing campaign to free CeCe McDonald, a young
Minneapolis (trans)woman organizer and activist sent to prison for
defending herself against a white neo-Nazi attacker. The new edition is
dedicated to McDonald. A devoted group of friends are continuing to work
to post Feinberg’s final writing and art online at Lesliefeinberg.net.
Feinberg’s spouse, Minnie Bruce Pratt, an activist and poet, is the
author of Crime Against Nature, about loss of custody of her sons as
a lesbian mother. Feinberg and Pratt met in 1992 when Feinberg presented a
slideshow on her transgender research in Washington, D.C., sponsored by
the local Workers World branch. After a long-distance courtship, they made
their home for many years in Jersey City, NJ, where, to protect their
relationship, the couple domestic-partnered in 2004 and civil-unioned in
2006. They also married in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts and in New
York State in 2011.
Feinberg stressed that state authorities had no right to assign who
were or were not her loved ones but rather that she would define her
chosen family, citing Marx who said that the exchange value of love is —
Feinberg is survived by Pratt and an extended family of choice, as well
as many friends, activists, and comrades around the world in struggle
against oppression and for liberation.
Chinosole, a groundbreaking scholar-activist of the African Diaspora with
an emphasis on Black feminist theory and literature and autobiography, and
the prison industrial complex, died October 4 at age 72.
She was a former chair of Ethnic Studies and Women’s Studies at
San Francisco State University.
Thornton in New York July 14, 1942 (Bastille Day she always reminded her
friends), she took Chinosole, “freedom” as her only name after
spending several years in Zambia and Angola.
She first went to
Africa in the early 1960s, through an exchange program to Zimbabwe from
her mainly white college. She
described that experience as the first time she “felt what it was like
to be healthy in a society,” and the first time she tried to connect
politically with other Black people. She
became active in the civil rights movement while teaching Black literature
and English literature at Xavier University, a Black Catholic school in
New Orleans. She was fired
from Xavier after refusing to sign a contract that said she couldn’t do
any political work in the community. In
1969, she was hired by the Black Studies Department at SF State, and was
soon elected acting Dean of what would become the College of Ethnic
Studies, then called the Third World Council.
In San Francisco, she
became close with Wilmette Brown, who was organizing the Breakfast for
Children program for the Black Panthers, but was leaving the party because
of its sexism. She said, “I
knew I could never abide sexism, but I never confronted it openly and
head-on, I just ignored it and did what I wanted to do as a Black woman.
I would not have anybody, any man, ever tell me what to do.”
After one year at
State, she was again fired by then-president of the college, later
senator, s.i. hayakawa and governor, later president, ronald reagan. She
attributed this firing to her refusal to get the influence of students and
the community, especially Marcus Bookstores and the Panthers, out of the
department. She went to teach
English in Zambia, immersed herself in the socialist pan-Africanist
movements that were blossoming in Africa at that time, and ended up
falling in love with an Angolan revolutionary and going to work with the
UNITA party in Angola. She did
not know that UNITA was being covertly funded by the CIA to destablilize
the ruling MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola).
Eventually she was imprisoned by MPLA and had to leave Angola.
She said that in prison, she saw women freedom fighters taken off
to be raped, and “… while I have always been consciously feminist
since I read Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex when I was about 17 years
old, I was never explicitly feminist or overtly feminist or primarily
feminist in my politics until the experience of the Angolan Civil War,
where I saw no matter what ideological persuasion, men will rape women as
a matter of course, as a prerogative of war.”
She always dreamed of
returning to Africa for the remainder of her life. Her niece, Aleea Maye,
now in medical school, says that Chinosole instilled in her the desire to
live in Africa, to believe that only in Africa can Black people truly be
free. The Angola experience
was humbling for Chinosole, says Aleea, and caused her to listen more than
talk for the rest of her life.
Jennifer Beach, who
met Chinosole as a student in Women’s Studies at SF State and became a
close friend, says, “She was not a multiculturalist.
She was a pan-Africanist. But
she saw and appreciated what was unique and special about every person she
met.” She brought a belief
in radical democracy and feminist pedagogy to State, insisting on having
students involved in decision-making, says Jennifer, even in defiance of
Chinosole was the author of African Diaspora and
Autobiographics: Skeins of Self and Skin and the editor of Schooling
the Generations in the Politics of Prison. She wrote about and
collaborated with scholars and activists such as Audre Lorde, Assata
Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Hamdiya Cooks-Abdullah, administrative director of
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, met Chinosole through letters,
while incarcerated at the federal prison in Dublin, California.
Chinosole visited her regularly, and became her teacher and friend.
When she got out after twenty years, she says, Chinosole was there
waiting for her, took her to live at her apartment and gave up her bed to
Dr. Chinosole made prison abolition and fighting
for the release of political prisoners central to her life.
“You're also talking about a population that is educating itself
independently of the system,” she said in 1996, at the time that she
published Schooling the Generations.
“In my opinion, our best thinkers are not coming out of academia,
they're coming out of the prisons.”
G. Brown, Jr. left this world peacefully on Oct. 24, 2014 surrounded by
Tom was born in Carrizozo, New Mexico in 1929. He
spent his youth in New Mexico before coming to the Bay Area where he
remained for the rest of his life. After raising his three children and
retiring from his career as a civil engineer, Tom pursued many interests,
always with a desire to make the world a better place. His love of singing
led him to join the La Pena Chorus & the Jewish Folk Chorus.
When he was not working in his organic vegetable
garden, Tom could often be found petitioning for Single Payer health care,
feeding breakfast to the homeless, serving on the board at LifeLong Over
60 Health Center or participating at the weekly Women in Black vigil at
the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland. Throughout his life Tom possessed an
unparalleled resilient spirit embracing life with an open heart and
optimism despite experiencing a number of tragic losses. His generosity,
kindness, wisdom, beautiful singing voice, humor and tireless activism
will be sorely missed by his family and community.
Tom leaves behind his wife Jean Pauline, his
children, grandchildren, sister and a large extended family and community
of friends. Donations in his memory can be sent to US Campaign to End the
Israeli Occupation or LifeLong Over 60 Health Center.
Deni recalls, “I was in The Labor Heritage/Rockin’
Solidarity Chorus with Tom in the early 2000s. He loved being in the
chorus, and his enthusiasm was matched by his kindness, warmth, and
dedication. Whenever I saw him after I left the chorus, his warmth and
encouragement to re-join were always present.”
He will be missed by all of us.
I joined San Francisco Women Against Rape in 1984.
It was a tiny grassroots organization, collectively run by its
one-and-a-half paid staff people and core of about two dozen volunteers
out of a corner of the Women’s Foundation office.
At that time, “rape” in the u.s. imagination still mostly meant
a young (white) woman walking alone at night being grabbed by one or more
(dark-skinned) strangers with knives or guns.
It was a radical act to say that most women are raped by someone
they know, mostly of the same race and class as themselves, that most men
who rape other men don’t consider themselves gay, that one in four women
in the u.s. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and that the most
dangerous place for women in this country is the nuclear family.
We fought against the police-controlled narratives that said if you
were drunk or wore a short skirt or went out alone at night you deserved
to be raped, and if it was your word against his, you might as well shut
up. Friends a little older
than I told me about Michael Lerner, before he was a rabbi and the founder
of Tikkun, saying that women who were raped during an anti-war encampment
should lie back and enjoy it.
Around that time, there was this big ad campaign
for California eggs. The most
ubiquitous billboard was a headless woman in a bathing suit, lying on her
stomach with her butt in the air and an egg in the small of her back.
In case I had any doubt, a male friend observed that the clear
subtext was “You step on her back to crush the egg.”
The next year the big campaign was for California strawberries.
That one featured a woman’s disembodied face, a strawberry on a
fork about to penetrate her pouty red lips.
I was still volunteering with SFWAR when the fall
of 1991 brought the nationally televised trial of William Kennedy Smith,
nephew of the dead president, on the heels of the televised hearings over
soon-to-be-justice Clarence Thomas’s sexual harassment of law professor
Anita Hill. I remember reading
an account by a journalist covering the Smith trial.
She wrote about the young women who waited eagerly for Smith’s
arrival at court every day, jostling each other to be closest to him.
I heard he got hundreds of marriage proposals. A
few years later, comedians would wax hysterical about 20-year-old Monica
Lewinsky giving oral sex to 50-year-old bill clinton under his desk in the
“Rape culture” was a handy phrase to
encapsulate these constant assaults on women’s personhood, and feminists
used it widely and wisely. Few people paid any attention to us, and the
ones that did usually made fun of us or accused us of overdramatizing.
Supposed Third Wave feminists like Camille Paglia and Katie Roiphe
called us anti-sex, accused us of creating “a culture captivated by
victimization.” Naomi Wolf, who wrote about rape culture herself in The
Beauty Myth, a few years later repudiated “victim feminism” in
favor of “power feminism.”
Clinton, in between blow jobs, signed the bipartisan Violence Against
Women Act, throwing an additional $1.6 billion into “violence
prevention” and “victims’ services.”
Like most government programs, VAWA has funded some good things,
like multilingual services for immigrant women and establishment of safe
havens, but the majority of the money has gone to programs that collude
– often in unintended ways -- in the criminalization and incarceration
of poor men and men of color. Some
services are only available to women who “cooperate” with police
investigations, under the rubric of “Victim Witness Protection” or
anti-trafficking initiatives. Other
provisions of VAWA, like the recommendation for “mandatory arrest”
policies in domestic violence cases, end up criminalizing abused women.
Asked to explain why she apologized after her husband, football
player Ray Rice, beat her unconscious in an elevator, Janae Rice
responded, “I was also arrested, so I must have done something wrong.”
(The original “mandatory arrest” recommendation was changed to
“pro-arrest” in 2005 after, among other things, a Harvard University
study found that implementation of mandatory arrest policies increased
intimate partner homicides by 57%.”)
SFWAR, while accepting VAWA money as well as state
Office of Criminal Justice Planning funds, has held onto its broadly
intersectional anti-imperialist politics – at one time disastrously so.
But it has long been an outlier and has become increasingly so, as
much of the anti-violence movement has moved toward professionalism,
depoliticization and ultimately collaboration with carceral policies (that
is, advancing the agenda of mass incarceration).
In this environment, more and more focus is put on jailing rapists
and less and less on talking about “rape culture.”
So here we are in 2014, and the “epidemic” of
rape on campus is on the front pages of every newspaper and magazine in
the country. Emma Sulkowicz, a
senior visual arts major at Columbia, has captivated the nation with her
“Carry That Weight” performance art piece, lugging her mattress around
campus until her rapist is kicked out of school.
Hundreds, maybe thousands of her fellow students have stepped up to
help her, she’s formed a coalition including the national groups
Hollaback and Rhize, and they called a national day of action on October
29. Even Students for Justice
in Palestine helped carry the mattress one week.
I was happy to hear about that linkage, and am of course glad to
see so much attention focused on what we’ve long known to be a huge
problem – sexual violence and dating violence on campus.
The young women leading the movement are powerful and articulate
advocates for themselves and their right to an education.
Yet I’m troubled by the movement’s narrow
focus, and its emphasis on punishing rapists.
Carry That Weight is such a great name – it conjures so many
powerful images related to students in this country today.
The first of course is the tremendous weight of debt so many
students are carrying. Then
there is the weight of history, from the fights over affirmative action
and quotas (Emma Solkowicz, as a Japanese-Chinese-Jewish American, could
easily have found herself on the wrong end of a quota at any time in the
last century at Columbia), to the role of slaves in building the campuses
(see Craig Steven Wilder, Ebony
& Ivy). The Carry That
Weight website does have one paragraph on intersectionality: “Sexual
violence is a manifestation of systemic gender oppression, which cannot be
separated from all other forms of oppression. These include, but are
definitely not limited to, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and
ableism.” But those
connections are not reflected in any of the photos or calls to action on
the website. I thought I might
see a call out to join the demonstrations raging across New York in the
wake of the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner
cases, or at least a shout out in solidarity -- but alas, no.
I don’t mean to limit the critique to Carry That
Weight – it’s only the most visible symbol and hub of this activism.
Obama, of course, has launched another task force.
California recently became the first state to adopt a “Yes Means
Yes” standard, threatening the funding of public colleges that do not
require students “to get ‘affirmative, conscious, and voluntary
agreement to engage in sexual activity.’” I do believe sex should be
affirmatively consented to, but how’s this supposed to be policed? And I
can’t get excited about another tool for cutting off funding to our
overpriced and barely hanging on universities. For sure, young men at
elite institutions, who will soon be running the world, need to have
consequences for committing sexual abuse.
On the other hand, several friends who teach college have told
horror stories about young men of color among their students being
essentially disappeared by campus police, held in basements for days, with
no formal charges or due process rights, based on accusations of sexual
The media, including left media, has given scant
attention to anti-violence activists like Beth Richie, Mariame Kaba and
Andie Smith, who point out the folly and dangers of “carceral
feminism” and the solutions it offers.
The claims, by ex-president Jimmy Carter and feminist lawyer Gloria
Allred, based on a study by David Lisak, that a few serial rapists are
responsible for 90% of campus rapes, has gone unchallenged.
I haven’t seen Lisak challenged to reconcile his findings with
two much larger studies in which 35% of college men said they would commit
rape if they thought they could get away with it (which they can), and 43%
said they had “used coercive behavior to have sex” (i.e., committed
One of the most acclaimed movies of the year,
written by a woman, centers on a serial rape fabricator.
The writer of Gone Girl,
Gillian Flynn, says she is tired of sympathetic “rape victims.”
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd defends the film, saying,
“Given my choice between allowing portrayals of women who are sexually
manipulative, erotically aggressive, fearless in a deranged kind of way
… or the alternative — wallowing in feminist propaganda and succumbing
to the niceness plague — I’ll take the former.”
As if on cue, the biggest rape story of the year,
the University of Virginia’s shameful record of tolerating sexual abuse
by fraternities, is retracted by Rolling
Stone when its central narrative is discredited.
A wound rubbed raw is doused with salt water.
Bill Cosby, America’s favorite dad, is revealed
to be a serial rapist and dumped by everyone from NBC to Temple
University. The accusations
were known for years, but ignored because, in the words of Rebecca
Traister, he made white America feel good about race.
Most of the women who’ve come forward seem to have been white.
True or not true, the incident evokes every horrific racist trope,
coming oddly at a time when we are waking up to the current iteration of
lynching ‑ police killings of Black men and boys.
Black feminists point out that no one fired or disavowed Cosby when
he castigated Black women for having too many children with too many
different fathers – i.e., for having too much sex.
“Rape culture” is suddenly on everyone’s
lips, but few are talking about what it really means.
We’ve known since the first Gulf War that women in the military
are at least twice as likely to be sexually assaulted as civilian women.
In the last two years, after some high profile accusations of
assault against the men who were supposed to be investigating and
preventing it, the Pentagon has finally acknowledged the problem.
But of course neither they, nor senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has
made sexual assault in the military her signature issue, have anything to
say about the relationship between militarism and sexual violence.
Without talking about women as spoils of war, rape as a weapon of
state terror, and the way masculinity is constructed in a permanent war
society, it’s useless to talk about rape kits and sensitivity training.
I can’t be out in the streets saying “Fuck the
police,” “Tear down the prison walls/Free the prisoners, free them
all,” and at the same time be calling for rapists to be prosecuted,
locked up. We need to have a conversation about rape, but it’s got to be
a different conversation than the one we’re having.
I am not trying to dilute the focus on sexual
violence. Dilute means to
weaken a solution. Becoming
aware of the context in which sexual violence occurs will actually
strengthen the solution. You can’t understand the sea without looking at
“I believe Sekou is going to come home. The
alternative is just not worth considering,” Dequi Kioni-Sadiki told
Susie Day in an interview in February 2014. In
November, Odinga was released
on parole after spending 33 years in US prisons.
Sekou Odinga was captured in October of 1981 and
charged with six counts of attempted murder of police and nine predicate
acts of RICO indictment. He was convicted in federal court of two counts
of the RICO indictment that included the liberation of Assata Shakur and
expropriation of an armored truck. The state of New York found him guilty
of attempted murder of 6 police. Sentenced to 40 years by the feds and 25
years to life by the state, the judge recommended that he never be given
parole. In 2009 he was paroled by the feds but continued to serve his
state sentence until last month.
Sekou Okinga was born in Queens, NY in 1944 to a
large family. As a young man he was inspired by the revolutionary
teachings of Malcolm X. He joined the Organization of Afro-American Unity
(OAAU) and later the Black Panther Party. In 1969 after Black Panthers,
Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were murdered in LA (victims of the
COINTELPRO conspiracy) and Joan Bird was arrested and brutalized by
police, Odinga went underground. For the next decade he continued his work
here and in Algeria until his capture in 1981.
“Sekou was not in prison for individual or
criminal circumstances. He was part of a Black freedom movement that was
targeted in a secret war by the u.s. government. FBI
Director J. Edgar Hoover issued directives governing COINTELPRO, ordering
FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, neutralize or
otherwise eliminate" the activities of the Black freedom movement
(and others) and their leaders.” There
are 15 Black Panther women and men still in u.s. prisons. Current list as
of June, 2014:
Romaine 'Chip' Fitzgerald captured in 1969;
sentenced to life. When CA Supreme Court declared death penalty
unconstitutional, his sentence got commuted to Life; eligible for parole
since 1975. He is at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, CA
Mondo we Langa & Ed Poindexter (co-defendants)
captured in 1970; sentenced to life. Mondo and Poindexter are at Nebraska
State Pen. in Lincoln, NE.
Jalil Muntaqim (A.Bottom) captured in 1971:
sentenced to 25 years to life. He is at Attica Prison in New York.
Russell 'Maroon' Shoatz, captured in 1972 (30 yrs
in solitary confinement). Russell is at SCI Graterford in Pennsylvania.
Sundiata Acoli, captured in 1973; sentenced to
life+ 30 years. Sundiata is in FCI Cumberland in Maryland.
Herman Bell, captured in 1973; sentenced to 25
years to life. Herman Bell is in prison in New York State.
Veronza Bowers, captured in 1973; sentenced to life
– paroled in 2005, rescinded by u.s. Attorney General and labeled a
'domestic terrorist'. Veronza
Bowers is in FCI in Atlanta, Georgia.
Robert 'Seth' Hayes, captured in 1973; sentenced to
25 years. Hayes is at Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsberg, NY
Mumia Abu-Jamal, captured in1982 (30 yrs on death
row); sentenced to death, overturned with a new sentence of Life without
parole & in general population. Mumia is at Mahanoy State Pen in
Abdullah Majid, captured in 1982; sentenced to 33
˝ years to life. Majid is at Five Points in Romulus, NY.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur, captured 26 yrs ago; sentenced
to 60 years. Mutulu is in Victorville State Prison in California.
Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (aka H. Rap Brown),
captured 12 yrs ago (in solitary confinement); sentenced to life without
parole. Jamil is in Canaan USP in Waymart, PA.
Kamau Sadiki (Freddie Hilton), captured 10 yrs ago;
sentenced Life+ 10 years. Kamau is at Augusta State Medical Prison in
Assata Shakur- While being arrested, she was shot
at numerous times despite her hands being in the air. She was tortured in
prison, including being forced to give birth while shackled. She escaped
prison and now lives in exile. Despite her laudatory community work,
teaching, positive worldwide popularity and beloved status in Cuba, the
u.s. government has a $2 million bounty for her capture in the sovereign
nation of Cuba.
Odinga’s supporters and comrades continue to do legal work to end his
parole. Donations can be sent to Sekou Odinga Defense Committee, PO Box
380-122, Brooklyn, NY 11238 or at www.sekouodinga.com.
Thanks to Freedom Archives, Can’t Jail the
truth-out.org, and The Bay View Times for information for this article.
Hello all, it’s Lennea, and I would like to write
this month about being scared, the fear of change, acceptance, success. As
I reflect back on my journey as a transgender person during the late
70’s, 80’s and 90’s, I remember how scary of a time this was. Not
only for a 17 year old person such as myself coming out in 1979, but also
the abuses directed at my sisters as well. It was a time that was
challenging, society did not accept us, even groups within the LGB
community didn’t accept us or support us, we were alone, just the few
that found each other in rooms that held 5 to 10 people for a support
group but yet only 2 or 3 actually being there. It was a different time.
The time is different but yet the fear remains,
“will I be accepted?”, “can I pass?”, “will I find love?”.
Even with myself, I stand up against the overwhelming odds of fighting for
Transgender rights against the united states government with no fear but
yet as I now see the light at the end of the tunnel (I release in November
2015) I find myself scared. I am scared!!! Will I be passible
again? Will society accept me not only as a transwoman, but also a
convicted felon? Will I become homeless and fall to the side of humanity?
I fear all of these, then I received inspiration from the place I would
never have looked…..a prison correctional officer. I remind you, not a
therapist, not pastor, but a
He asked how I was doing and it just all spilled
out of me, tears and all. He listened, nodded, then said to me, ”Do you
know what I see? I see you getting to wherever you are going when you get
out, buying a fabulous dress, mag shoes, doing your hair and makeup, then
stepping in front of the mirror and saying ‘look at me, let’s rock
this!!’” I looked at him like he had a second head on his shoulders
and he smiled and said “I am a heterosexual and I am secure with who I
am, you need to be secure with your womanhood and don’t let any person
judge or deny you of your true self.”
I have thought a lot about this and you know what?
I must stand fearless and be me, for my fear is truly not of others but of
myself. Be strong, my sisters and brothers, the world belongs to everyone,
including us, but we must make sure that ‘we’ belong to ourselves
first. Be fearless!
As always, pleas feel free to write, I answer all
mail personally. I love hearing the successes as well as the hardships and
always love getting pictures of my sisters out there. Be safe, be sure and
most of all, be you.
Lennea Elizabeth Stevens (Lewis Stevens)
#16786-078, Federal C.I. PO Box 7007, Marianna FL 32447
UltraViolet is published 4 to 5 times a year. Each issue is
mailed to about 1500 prisoners. Of those around 50 to 75 are returned
because the prisoner moved to a new prison, got out or is in the hole and
can’t receive mail. And maybe 1 to 2 every issue are rejected because of
arbitrary censorship rules imposed by the facility.
Recently Deeg has been doing some follow up to determine why prisons in
Tennessee and Kentucky are returning UltraViolet. The Tennessee ACLU in
Nashville is looking into these 1st amendment violations in the prison
operated by the Correctional Corporation of America. Last month Jeffrey
Collins, an inmate at Soledad, sent us articles from Prison Legal News (PLN)
about several lawsuits against prisons for first amendment violations.
In May, 2014 a preliminary injunction was granted barring Ventura
County jail system (CA) from prohibiting prisoners from receiving mail in
envelopes. The “postcard only” policy violates 1st Amendment rights of
prisoners and those who write to them, according to the US District Court
for Central District of California. The district court held the county had
not proved a rational basis for its postcard-only policy. Regular mail had
been allowed at the prison until 2011 when the prison cited security
concerns to justify this policy. All letters, publications and postcards
are inspected for contraband and mail in envelopes has not been shown to
compromise security in most other prison facilities.
Also in May a jail in Kenosha County, Wisconsin agreed to a settlement
requiring it to pay damages and lawyer’s fees and to change its policy
on publications sent to prisoners. PLN had filed a complaint in June, 2013
after 29 prisoners at the jail did not receive their monthly copies of
Prison Legal News or informational brochures and soft-cover books mailed
by PLN. Kenosha County agreed not to implement blanket bans on books,
magazines, newspapers or other publications sent directly to prisoners
from publishers. Both prisoners and publishers must receive written
notice, as well as information on how to appeal censorship decisions. The
county must also post any new policy on its website.
In Nevada, PLN has been involved in a lawsuit since 1999 when the
Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) banned all copies of PLN, claiming
the publication constituted “inmate correspondence.” A preliminary
injunction was granted to reverse this policy and the prison agreed to
permit prisoners to subscribe to publications of their choice. However,
PLN magazine and books continued to be censored and in June, 2013 PLN
filed another lawsuit against this unconstitutional censorship. A counter
suit was filed by NDOC a year later to dismiss PLN’s suit claiming the
old mail policy had been revised and that resolved any constitutional
issues. A jury trial is scheduled for January, 2015. Nevada readers and
prisoners can contact PLN regarding any censorship of mail and books at
NDOC facilities. Write to Prison Legal News, Attn: NVDOC Suit, PO Box
1151, Lake Worth, FL 33460.
PLN has long advocated that prisoners and detainees have the same 1st
and 14th amendment rights as other citizens to receive written materials,
subject to legitimate security concerns, and PLN has filed and won
numerous lawsuits to protect those rights.
Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center
(HRDC), is an independent monthly magazine that has a national (U.S.)
focus on both state and federal prison issues, with some international
coverage. PLN provides information that enables prisoners and other
concerned individuals and organizations to gain a better understanding of
a broad range of criminal justice topics, including issues related to the
protection and enforcement of prisoners' rights. HRDC's litigation project
focuses on bringing cases that will have lasting effects on the lives of
prisoners. HRDC's attorneys bring First Amendment cases against
prison and jail officials who use illegal mail policies to censor Prison
Legal News or other literature mailed to prisoners by Prison Legal
News such as PLN's books and letters.
To subscribe to PLN: Write to Prison Legal News, P.O. Box 1151, Lake
Worth, FL 33460. Subscriptions cost $30/yr for prisoners, $35/yr for
non-incarcerated individuals, and $90/yr for lawyers, government agencies,
Jeffrey Collins and PLN for information for this article.
I’m 48 Y/O queer/GNC (MTF). I was out (to most)
in the community, but entering NYS DOCCS [NY State prison system] with 25
to life bid, forced my cowardly butt back into the closet. Doing 13 years
straight in notoriously brutal and oppressively homo/trans-phobic Attica
state prison contributed greatly to my fears.
But I write today with fabulous news. After 20
years of closeted and miserable prison life, I have once again emerged
from [the] restraining closet. Geri Q is out to all and sundry! I feel
wonderful! And also, oddly, of
being ‘exonerated’. Sadly realizing that I was long my own defacto
self-monitoring my movements, my walk, my voice – my words. Lest the
homophobic masses catch on to who I truly am. Ironically, I’ve had to
actually make an effort to effect this ‘rebranding’, as (outside of
Attica) most general population prisoners really don’t care much
We all have our own decisions to make on if and
when to transition, but for me, now, it has been like being born again.
Out and proud! Geri Q (Garry Erwin) #95B0644, A.C.F. PO Box 618,
Auburn, NY 13024
The current wave of protests under the banner of
“we can’t breathe” to honor the death of Eric Garner at the hands of
police who walked free, brought me back to the question of how various
“progressive” movements work together or do not. While the massive
climate march in NYC was lauded in the press, the recent protests have
been reviled in much of the media and blogs.
For decades there has been a split in the
environmental movement between those working to preserve “wild nature”
and those working on air and water pollution issues which
disproportionately impact low income and so-called minority communities
(both rural and urban). These
latter have often been considered separate “environmental justice”
issues, even though they affect everyone as well as the plants and
wildlife in these areas. In
many areas these are literally places like Richmond California and
Imperial County where local’s “can’t breathe” – areas with high
levels of asthma and other respiratory related diseases.
It is of course true that Native American and other indigenous
environmental issues have always defied this dualism and, perhaps because
of that, often been marginalized in the environmental movement.
course there have always been some non-white, non-straight folks in the
wildness side of the environmental movement (like yours truly), and some
straight white folks working to improve the environment in underserved
communities—but overall, in the U.S. the mainstream “green” movement
has predominantly been very straight and white with mostly men on
top—missionary position and all that nonsense.
I was glad to see Sierra Club posted a statement in
solidarity with the recent protests:
“The Sierra Club stands with the public good. We
believe in a society that is first and foremost just, fair and rational -
one that abhors brutality and favors equality. Whether it's the planet
itself or the people who inhabit it, we hold the ideals of respect and
reverence in the highest regard. For these reasons, we stand in solidarity
with the organizations who are protesting and demanding justice in the
deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and every other victim of injustice. #blacklivesmatter”
Some people seemed surprised the Sierra Club would
speak out on social justice at all. It
made me ponder how what we consider the
“environment” shapes whether inhabited landscapes and the people in
them matter. I have always
questioned the value of focusing solely on preserving isolated wilderness
areas in a landscape of industrial growth and development—virtual
islands of nature.
Carolyn Finney, assistant professor in the
Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management (who is in a
battle for tenure), delves into these questions in her new book “Black
Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to
the Great Outdoors.” In a
recent radio interview she explained that how we frame what constitutes
the “environment” as a focus for preservation also shapes who is
considered to be part of the “environmental movement”.
(You can download the interview at http://www.kpfa.org/archive/id/108317)
For example, rural black farmers in the south have preserved
critical habitats and watersheds for decades, but this is often
unrecognized by “green” groups that consider “unspoiled nature”
the highest value. She has
also done some very interesting work on how the climate change debate and
media excludes the voices of different communities.
As another example of how the framing of
environmental issues excludes other communities, as mentioned before in
this column, the whole concept of the “American wilderness” without
human interaction is a largely an invention of the Europeans who came to
this continent. Pre-contact,
Native Americans worked with the landscapes they inhabited and preserved
plants, wildlife and ecosystem intact for centuries and many still strive
to do so today. (A great book on this issue is “Tending the Wild: Native
American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources”
by M. Kat Anderson.)
Onward in solidarity to clean air we all can
When the spurious grand jury decision not to indict darren wilson, the
white cop who murdered Mike Brown was announced on Tuesday November 24th,
militant demonstrations erupted throughout the us.
Angry distraught people poured into the streets in huge
demonstrations that have lasted for days.
These demos ranged from carefully constructed very disruptive small
direct actions, to huge street protests, to furious people fighting with
the police and burning dumpsters and buildings.
We are fed up with a racist system that directs cops to kill black
and brown people with impunity, at the will of a profiteering corporation
driven society. Many of us in LAGAI have rushed through the streets adding
our outrage and feeling the staggering intensity of the wave of rebellion.
The scope of the demonstrations is impressive.
In Oakland for three nights after the Ferguson announcement people
took to the streets. Interstate
580 was shutdown in two directions. On subsequent nights other freeways
were also shutdown. Dumpsters
were lit on fire and windows of businesses (mostly big corporations) were
smashed. Thousands of
people participated, with the movement only building momentum as each
night more protesters arrived and marches refused to back down in the face
of an increasingly militarized police force.
The multiracial, if fairly young and able bodied, crowds moved
through the streets at a furious pace chanting:
SHUT IT DOW FOR MIKE BROWN
HANDS UP DON'T SHOOT
NO BUSINESS AS USUAL
BLACK LIVES MATTER
FUCK THE POLICE
Black Friday, the megacapitalist shopping day, brought more militant
protests in San Francisco. People
disrupted shopping in the upscale union square. Windows
again were broken, objects were thrown at the police.
A spectacular direct action by mostly Black queer and women
activists shut down the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system, to disrupt
shopping as usual. The
activists, all dressed in t-shirts reading #BLACK
LIVES MATTER, locked
themselves down with PVC pipes stretched out from a station bench to
inside a BART car at West Oakland, preventing trains from running in or
out of San Francisco for hours. The
protest was part of a nationwide protest called
West Oakland action folks was planned to stop BART for 4 hours and 28
minutes: four hours for the time Mike Brown was left dead on the ground,
28 minutes representing the statistic that a black person is killed by
police every 28 hours in amerikkka. There
were die-ins and actions all over the country in walmarts, as part of the
no shopping business as usual day.
And then it came again on December 3rd, impossibly
but oh so predictably, the announcement that daniel panteleo, the pig who
choked Eric Garner, in New York would not be indicted, in spite of a video
of Garner being choked to death under a heap of police,
as he repeated over and over “I can’t breathe”.
More huge demonstrations ensued in Oakland,
Berkeley and San Francisco. Market
Street in SF was shut down by dying-in demonstrators, windows were broken
on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. People
repeated shouted “I can’t breathe.”
It was hard not to weep and to be furious.
Brooklyn Bridge and West Side Highway were blocked in New York,
night after night, hour after hour, at rush hour and in the middle of the
day and in the middle of the night.
There have been literally hundreds of demos all
over the country, demanding an end to this racist society, no business as
usual, calling out corporate amerikka.
Die-ins in Grand Central Station in New York, major freeways all
over the country shut down, from LA to New York.
Just when all hope for a revolution, a transformation, is lost,
movements spring to life because the injustice, the agony is so profound.
They build on all who have gone before, reaching back through
history, the occupy/decolonize movement, Idle No More, the Zapatistas,
Tahrir Square, the demonstrations about the killing of Oscar Grant, the
Intifadas, ACT UP, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the
Black Panthers, the Young Lords, the occupation of Alcatraz, the labor
movement ,the Russian revolution, the Chinese revolution ... and so many
ITS RIGHT TO REBEL
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Act Up, Fight Back! Fight Ebola
As pretty much everyone who has an internet
connection, watches TV or even the diminishing number of people who read
newspapers know, in March 2014, Doctors Without Borders, aka Medecins Sans
Frontieres (MSF), reported that several people had died from Ebola virus
diseases (EVD) in a village near Gueckedou Guinea. By the end of March,
cases had been reported in Liberia and Sierra Leone. There have also been
short outbreaks in Nigeria and Senegal, limited transmission in Spain and
the U.S, and several recent cases in Mali. As
of the beginning of December, there have been 17, 290 reported cases, with
6202 reported deaths, and the outbreak is now traced back to initial cases
in Guinea in December of 2013. An apparently unrelated outbreak in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo claimed 49 lives between August and
Ebola is a scary virus in the family Filoviridae,
which causes multiple organ failure, and is called a hemorrhagic fever
because people in advanced stages bleed internally and externally. It is
spread through contact of the mucous membranes, eyes, and skin, and
through needlesticks, with many different infectious bodily fluids, and
those fluids may be aerosols that are inhaled, or may be sprays, drops,
puddles, or buckets full of liquid. But Ebola is also a disease, like HIV,
which exposes the failures of the medical-industrial complex to protect
health care workers, and how colonialism (imperialism) and racism foster
infectious disease in Africa,
EVD is not a new disease. In 1976, outbreaks of two
distinct Ebola virus strains resulted in 602 reported cases, with over 430
deaths in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then officially
the Republic of Zaire). A
laboratory worker in England contracted the disease through a contaminated
needlestick and survived. Between 1977 and 2013, there have been several
other outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon,
Uganda, and Sudan, which killed tens to hundreds of people, and were
typically localized in rural areas of Africa.
As with many other infectious diseases found in
Africa, Asia, and Latin America, there has been little research or vaccine
or drug development due to a lack of projected return on investment. Over
half the people in Africa don’t have access to what the world health
organization (WHO) calls “improved” sanitation which includes safe
drinking water and some form of sewage disposal that prevents sewage from
entering the drinking water source, so what kind of market it that? The
limited medical resources in the affected country, with the support of MSF
and a few other NGO’s and WHO organized the only responses to the
outbreaks, which were somewhat self-limited due to the isolation of the
affected communities. Even now, with the attention of the u.s. and europe,
Sierra Leone, for example, has 517 beds in Ebola Treatment Centers, when
WHO estimates that 1460 beds are required due to widespread transmission
in all areas of the country.
And so it was going this year with Ebola in Africa,
until two white American missionaries got sick, and were transported to
high-containment facilities in the u.s. for treatment. Similarly, spain
accepted the first Ebola patients in Europe – two Spanish missionaries
who died in the hospital there. This
raised concerns, which, to be fair had been raised by people like Laurie
Garrett (The Coming Plague) for decades, that Ebola or any other pathogen
would not be contained forever to local poor areas. We watched on TV as
“moonsuited” healthcare workers accompanied the patients who had been
provided private air and ground transport.
Then Joseph Eric Duncan, a traveler from Liberia,
went to Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas on September 25 sick with
symptoms consistent with Ebola. He told the health care workers that he
had been to west Africa, and was sent home, possibly related to a lack
insurance (the most deadly condition of all). Three days later he returned
by ambulance, and on October 8, died. Two nurses who treated Duncan, Nina
Pham and Amber Vinson, later developed Ebola and were transported to high
containment units at the National Institutes of Health and Emory
University. They have both since recovered, and declared to be free of
Ebola infection. At the
end of September, Teresa Romero Ramos, a Spanish nurse who had treated the
Spanish missionaries, contracted Ebola. She was the nurse whose dog
Excalibur, was killed by order of spain’s health minister, despite the
fact that it is not even known whether dog’s can harbor or transmit
Nina Pham, Amber Vinson, and Teresa Romero Ramos,
were all following the precautions set out by WHO and the u.s. centers for
disease control and prevention (cdc). As of November 30, a total of 605
health care workers have been infected in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra
Leone. 339 of them died. In the past week, three more health care workers
were reported to have died in Sierra Leone.
National Nurses United, the national organization
that includes the California Nurses Association, has been conducting an
international campaign to improve protection for health care workers
against Ebola, the “nurse killer.” They have demanded that health care
workers providing care for patients who are considered suspected or
confirmed cases of Ebola be protected by powered air purifying respirators
(PAPRs) and head-to-toe fluid resistant coveralls and foot coverings. The
PAPR should have a complete hood that covers the head to the shoulders.
Although OSHA and cdc have issued less protective requirements, Cal/OSHA
and the California Department of Public Health have supported the NNU recommendations,
including the placement of Ebola patients (suspected and confirmed) in the
type of negative pressure isolation rooms used for TB.
The hospitals have responded that they do not have
this type of protective equipment. Further, it turns out that surgical
gowns and other “fluid resistant” garments are not tested to ensure
that the garments are really impenetrable to fluids and viruses. There are
test methods (ASTM F1670 and F1671) that test materials for their ability
to withstand penetration by synthetic blood and a surrogate virus, when
under 2 psi pressure, although even that may not be sufficient. More
importantly, “surgical gowns” labeled as “impervious” (level 4)
only use tested materials on a portion of the front of the gowns and the
sleeves. Other sections may use materials as low as Level 1, which is only
resistant to a small splash.
When the cdc issued specific guidance for
protecting workers, it called for the use of airborne infection isolation,
including N95 respirators, only for “aerosol generating” procedures,
such as intubation. However, they also said that since there may be an
unexpected need for such procedures at any time, employees should use
respirators. N95 respirators are the lowest level of respiratory
protection that is certified by the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health (NIOSH), and look like a face mask, but they are capable
of making a tight fit to cover the mouth and nose. To protect against
Ebola, a health care worker provided with an N95 respirator would also
need to use a faceshield, a head and neck covering, and goggles. A PAPR as
described by NNU provides all of that in one piece, as well as a higher
level of protection, and mechanical assistance in getting air into the
facepiece, reducing the stress of using personal protective equipment.
The NNU made their point forcefully in a two-day
action, including a strike against Kaiser hospitals in California on
November 11, and a national day of action for Ebola awareness on November
12. Hundreds of people attended a rally in Oakland, where nurses threw
their N95 masks into a box to mail to Obama. NNU has also expressed global
solidarity by sending 1000 fluid impermeable coveralls to nurses in
Other unions, including the Service Employees
International Union locals, have also called for better protection for
health care workers and for other affected workers, such as those who
clean airplanes or apartments that may have been contaminated by Ebola.
Unions have generally not been included in discussions with hospitals and
other “experts” on protection for health care workers, and were not,
for example, part of the cdc visits to certify the hospitals cdc is now
recognizing as able to care for confirmed Ebola cases.
The hospital preparedness program (HPP) within the
department of homeland security was started in 2002. It has given over
$350 million a year to states and territories which is distributed to
hospitals to purchase equipment, develop systems etc. Unfortunately,
“responder safety” is next to last on HHP’s list of priorities.
Hospitals are considered to be “first
receivers” of victims who arrive at a hospital from a different site
where there has been a release of chemical or biological agents. In 2005,
federal OSHA recommended a protective ensemble for those first receivers
who will do decontamination of the victims, which included chemical
resistant clothing and PAPRs such as those recommended by NNU. Hospitals
were given money to buy this equipment. Unfortunately, nine years later,
hospitals state that they do not have this equipment, batteries for PAPRs
have failed, and they cannot obtain the appropriate equipment because of
manufacturer shortages. Similar problems have been raised in every public
health event in the past 15 years, from SARS to H1N1 to MERS, and nothing
is done to ensure adequate supplies and protection for health care
In a recent New
Yorker, Richard Preston describes the political basis on which
decisions were made regarding use of the experimental and rare drug ZMAPP
on three Ebola patients in Africa. ZMAPP is a combination of three
antibodies that is grown in, and extracted from, tobacco plants. In July
of this year, there were three doses of this drug at the Kenema hospital
in Sierra Leone. Dr. Sheik
Humarr Khan, the chief physician at the Kenema Hospital Lassa Fever
program, was exposed to an Ebola patient at the end of May. He became
seriously ill in July. A decision was made not to give him this drug, and
instead, doses were given to the American missionaries from Samaritan’s
Purse, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, who were then evacuated to the
u.s. and recovered. ZMAPP may not be effective, or may not be effective in
late stages of the disease, since two other Ebola patients (a surgeon and
a priest) who have since received the drug have died.
The right wing has clamored for a virtual or
physical fence around the affected African countries. This type of
quarantine, as was implemented in San Francisco Chinatown in the late
1800s and early 1900s due to fear of diseases such as smallpox and the
plague, is exactly the wrong response, as was the barbed wire fencing
erected around an area of Monrovia, Liberia earlier this year. In 1986 we
in LAGAI were part of the Stand Together Coalition, opposing the larouche
AIDS quarantine initiative and the English-Only initiative. Quarantines
expose uninfected people to increased risk, deny people basic human
rights, and the means of existence, such as food, and prevent effective
early identification and treatment of disease.
At the end of October Kaci Hickox, a nurse who had
just returned from Sierra Leone where she worked with MSF to treat Ebola
patients, was forcibly detained in New Jersey, authorities claimed because
a remote thermometer detected that she had a fever, which was never
proved. They tried to hold her incommunicado, but fortunately she held
onto her cell phone, and soon contacted the media, explaining that this
type of punitive quarantine would discourage people from helping with the
epidemic. Despite her risky adventures once she got discharged and went
home to Maine, including bicycling, she never developed infection or
Disease is always political. What diseases are
researched, what treatments are developed, what patients are treated. AIDS
activists turned Reagan’s refusal to mention AIDS into a campaign for
drug development and treatment for all. Similarly, health care workers are
trying to use Ebola to draw attention to the inadequate protection
currently provided, and to demand that they be included in decision making
The fact that Ebola was allowed to develop in
Africa virtually unopposed for 40 years, because the “developed
countries” weren’t directly affected is as appalling as Reagan’s
decision to ignore AIDS because it “only” affected queers and
Haitians. Health care is a right. Everywhere.
Voters in San Benito
County banned fracking despite the oil companies spending $2 million to
defeat the initiative. I spent
the month before the November election in Hollister to help
with organizing. What helped make this victory possible?
it was a truly grass roots movement organized by
people who had lived in San Benito County most of their lives. The
county is predominantly Latino as was the steering committee. The Latino
community supported the fracking ban at least by 80%.
There were lots of volunteers knocking
on doors, making phone calls, demonstrating on street corners, leafleting
at farmer’s markets and churches, speaking at senior centers. On
election day we had over 70 volunteers getting our voters to the polls.
There were a lot of teachers involved whose decades of work gave them
broad roots and credibility in the community. The high school and
community college students organized. Many of the adult voters were
educated by their own children. San
Benito is home to many organic farmers and ranchers; they were very
involved in the campaign. San
Benito is home to Teatro Campesino and Luis Valdez who were strong
supporters. Delores Huerta was a supporter.
A group of Latinos against fracking (LUAF) had their first
statewide meeting in San Benito County during the campaign and helped
strategize and canvass. Help
came from environmental groups including the Center for Biological
Diversity. We had help from
people living outside the county who would phone bank from the Bay Area
and Santa Cruz and sometimes come to Hollister to help canvass.
racism in Kern County where
Latinos are exposed to the toxic health effects caused by fracking next to
schools, polluting the water and the air was a nearby example of what
people did not want in San Benito County. Photos of
the Bakersfield oil
fields showed people what their county could look like. This helped
counter the oil companies’ many lies
including that there would be
a huge job loss if the measure passed.
passionate about protecting San Benito from the oil industry. Many people
worked beyond exhaustion but we also had a lot of fun and took care of
each other. Of course, there was infighting and political disagreements
but enough solidarity to push on.
The oil industry had
multiple ads on the TV daily, including during the world series, as well
as on the radio, full-page ads in the local newspaper, and ads on the
internet whenever you went on line. They had multiple frequent mailers and
door hangers that kept getting bigger and bigger. They advertised for
canvassers paying more and more and getting people from further away as
the election got closer and their recruitment was failing. Some of their
canvassers told us they supported the anti-fracking measure but needed a
job. When the pro-fracking campaign couldn’t get people to put signs up
in their yards they started putting signs anywhere and everywhere
including on one of the steering member’s yard.
Meanwhile, our signs which were all over were torn down and dumped,
painted over, and destroyed.
initiative produced an extremely heated debate throughout the county.
Nearly every person heard about fracking. More voters in San Benito County
voted on the
fracking initiative than voted
for governor. The measure
passed by 59% and 59% of the voters turned out. That
is compared to California where 21%
of eligible voters turned out
and nationwide it was 34% of
eligible voters. To quote one of my favorite bumper stickers, “if god
wanted us to vote, she would have given us candidates”…or initiatives
that matter to us.
initiative started with one woman who convinced her husband, then a few
others. They found lawyers willing to help write the initiative so it
would stand up to the inevitable law suits. The group grew and organized,
In the last months,
I have learned a lot about the damage that fracking has caused locally in
California , throughout the US, as well as globally. I am more committed
than ever to the fight to preserve our ability to continue living on this
planet by protecting our water and fighting to preserve our beautiful
mother earth from becoming a “national sacrifice area” to extract
every last bit of petroleum.
becoming increasingly difficult to access. Increasingly expensive and
dangerous techniques are being used to extract the vast remaining
reserves. These methods including tar sand extraction, and fracking destroy
our health, water, and
ecosystems while disastrously impacting climate change. Poor
people and people of color are on the front line in having their health
and communities destroyed but no one will be safe. The contamination of
the aquifers in the Central Valley of California with
arsenic, thallium, and nitrites is first affecting the predominantly
Latino communities that live there, but that water also
irrigates the huge percentage of the nation’s and world’s food that is
grown in the area. And as the water flows , so does the contamination.
With the oil
companies making billions of dollars in profits yearly, they can easily
influence and control the legislature, courts, regulatory commissions.
California failed to pass a state moratorium on fracking this year. There
is fracking happening off the coast of southern California with billions
of gallons of contaminated water dumped into the ocean.
And yet, the
Richmond Progressive Alliance won despite Chevron spending $3 million to
defeat them. Voters in San Benito County , Denton, Texas, and Ohio voted
against fracking. People are out in the streets all over this country
demanding an end to the police murder of young black and brown people.
There ain’t no power like the power of
the people, and the power of the people don’t stop.
Chaya and Deni
film is based on the true story of Lesbians
and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a London-based group of queer
activists who raised tens
of thousands of pounds to support mineworkers and their families in
the 1984 UK National Union of Mineworkers strike. After being rebuffed by
the Union office due to homophobia, LGSM decided to take the money
directly to a mining village in Wales. The alliance between the queers and
the mineworkers was a bit shaky to start, but – just like you knew was
going to happen – eventually warmed up despite some homophobe holdouts.
And both groups shared a hatred of British Prime Minister Margaret
Thatcher’s government, which was willing to be an equal-opportunity
discriminator against the miners and the lesbian/gay community in those
early days of the AIDS epidemic. Thatcher did succeed in breaking the
union. But several years later, the
Labour party conference passed a motion to support equal rights for gay
men and lesbians due to the block votes of the National Union of
Mineworkers and its allies. The vote isn’t in the movie, but there is a
feel-good scene where LGSM is joined at a Pride march by busloads of
miners and their families.
course, being us, we had a few quibbles. We wished there had been more
backstory about the miner’s strike and Thatcher, for those who didn’t
live through it. And how about more than 1 or 2 lines in Welsh? There
wasn’t much backstory about the queers, either. Some of that was
deliberate, it turns out, because Mark Ashton, the charismatic
“leader” of the queers, was a Northern Irish communist and member of
Communist League. Oops, American audiences just aren’t ready for those
politics! But the cast, led by Bill
Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West (from The Wire), and Paddy Considine,
was excellent. In the tradition of Billy Elliott, Made in Dagenham
and the Full Monty, Pride is uplifting and fun, and
a 6-hanky movie for sure. It’s still in some theatres so try to catch
HUNGER GAMES - MOCKINGJAY PART 1
For us, this was the worst of the three Hunger Games movies so far.
The acting talents of Jennifer Lawrence and Woody Harrelson were wasted.
It was both wonderful and sad to see Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was also
fun and interesting to see Elizabeth Banks’ character change her
appearance and personality because she was with the rebels. The writing
was horrendous. A lot of the dialog was very stiff, not how people really
talk. Because they split the third book of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy into
two movies, they left most of the action out of this movie. Mockingjay
Part 1 was boring. In the first movie, our heroine Katniss (played by
Jennifer Lawrence), was a very strong, independent, decisive young woman.
She got wimpier by the end of the second movie, and spent most of this
movie standing around looking upset. We are hoping for (but not counting
on) a complete recovery for Katniss in Mockingjay Part 2. Other issues we
have with author Suzanne Collins: she does include some people of color in
her futuristic vision (which she describes in the books as “having dark
skin”), but their roles tend to be minor, they get killed off, or are
part of the faceless crowd. They certainly don’t have power equal to the
white people. The debate rages online whether Collins is racist or
reflective of present day US. Of course we want to see the rebellion fight
the power and win. But we really don’t care that much at this point. As
an alternative you might look on youtube for Mockingjay satires (or skip
WHITE PEOPLE (review by Deni)
Well worth seeing, this satire by writer-director Justin Simien is
an insightful, provocative, funny, and well-acted critique of race
relations today. The characters highlight the contradictions of being
black in the dominant white society, which are illuminated by their
personal and political struggles and scathing observations. The
contradictions affect the choices people make with the circumscribed
options available, and how they break through those options to creatively
challenge the status quo. One of the main characters is a gay man, well
played by Tyler James Williams (whom I really liked on TV’s Everybody
Hates Chris). Filmmaker Justin Simien himself came out as gay at the 2014
Sundance Film Festival premier of Dear White People. Another excellently
performed role is Coco (Teyonah Parris), a black woman trying to hide her
south side of Chicago ghetto roots. However despite all the great things
about this film, I found its impact somewhat lessened by the number of
topics and plot lines it included. This led to a lack of depth in
character development, which was too bad – the characters were
interesting enough that you wanted to see and know more about them in
deeper ways. See the movie though, and definitely keep watching this
director as his career progresses.
FILM FESTIVAL (review by Deni)
saw 5 films at the Arab Film Festival in San Francisco this fall. All were
good, and a couple were excellent.
An 18 minute deeply affecting film by Anna Fahr about two children
in the northern mountains of Lebanon won Best Short Film. The story of the
refugee children’s friendship and their hard lives unfolds as they try
to sell newspapers along a somewhat deserted roadway. A Syrian refugee
drives up, runs out of gas, and seeks help from the kids, and his story
briefly intersects with theirs. The landscape and roadways function as a
touching metaphor for the connections and separations in refugee lives.
The acting is remarkable and the story is poignantly told with humor and
beautiful cinematography. Co-producer Niam Itani was at the film showing
for Q & A and said these were the young actors’ first speaking
roles. Remarkable. Check out the trailer online at Sepasi Films.
An interesting though somewhat disjointed film about a group
working with Al Kamandjati, a Palestinian Cultural Association that
conducts a program of music education in the West Bank. The film raises
questions about the role of music as a means of pursuing liberation, and
examines group dynamics and tactical decisions that have to be made as the
performers try to play under occupation.
MY MOTHER’S ARMS A
deeply moving though devastating 2011 documentary film by Atia and Mohamed
Jabarah Al-Daradji about an Iraqi orphanage in a dangerous Baghdad
neighborhood. Husham, who is in charge of the two-bedroom-house orphanage,
works unceasingly - with no state support - to protect and shelter the 32
boys who live there. Many of the boys, who have heart-rending challenges
in their young lives, are in dire straits. Then the orphanage building’s
owner tells Husham he must sell the building and they will be evicted.
Despite the film’s relentless portrayal of the devastating challenges
all are facing, there are scenes of the caring and support that Husham,
his colleagues, and the boys show for each other, and personal and
collective victories in the boys’ lives. According to Al Jazeera, “The
children who are Sunni, Shia, Kurdish and Turkuman are representative
faces of contemporary Iraq, and their lives sum up one of the deepest
issues facing Iraqi society today. The boys are just a handful of the five
million children, who according to Iraqi government figures have been left
parentless in successive waves of violence since 2003.” This film brings
the travesty of US actions in Iraq to another level, and I heard one
activist mention after the show that the situation there is even worse
now. An important film – see it if you can.
DARK OUTSIDE In
her short award-winning 2012 film, Jordanian director Darin Sallam
features twelve-year-old Nina who lives in a strict society. Her greatest
fear in life is darkness. One day at school, a series of events allow her
to experience friendship and imagination as sources of light. A short, yet
moving film that shows girls breaking rules and forming bonds as they
creatively challenge the world in which they live.
This 2013 documentary was made in 2011 by Yemeni/Scottish filmmaker
Sara Ishaq. It’s the story of her return to Yemen from Scotland after 10
years away. The social, personal, and cultural contradictions she faces
are framed by the ongoing popular uprising against President Ali Abdullah
Saleh’s authoritarian rule and the country’s poverty, unemployment,
and corruption. As Ishaq and her family become involved in the movement,
her filming of events outside and inside her home illuminate social and
personal changes. In an article she wrote in Al Jazeera, Ishaq said “I
realised that my struggle to assert my own independence with the
authoritarian figures in my family was being mirrored by the struggle of
the entire country.” Ishaq also spoke about the hope for change in 2011
Yemen, and subsequent disappointments as the Yemeni leadership remained
largely the same, aided by “unofficial” help from the US and CIA.
(review by Deni)
In January 2013, filmmaker Laura Poitras began receiving emails
from CitizenFour, Edward Snowden’s code name. The documentary she made
from filming her meetings with him and Glenn Greenwald is an excellent
piece of filmmaking: taut, informative yet personal, and the back-story of
the history we’ve been living through. This whistle-blowing expose of
NSA and government spying is a pretty gripping real-life thriller. Yet
despite the film’s outrage about civil liberties’ violations and
governmental infringements and illegal acts, there was something oddly
apolitical about the film. As I watched, I kept thinking “cointelpro,
cointelpro” but it was never mentioned or alluded to. [COINTELPRO is the
acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram, a 1956 – 1971 covert and
illegal FBI program that surveyed, infiltrated, discredited, and disrupted
domestic political organizations, particularly targeting groups like the
Black Panthers and the Young Lords.] The FBI’s stated motivation in
using COINTELPRO was “protecting national security, preventing violence,
and maintaining the existing social and political order.” With
historical language like that, how could the political connection not be
made to the vastly increased program of government spying exposed by
Snowden in this film.
spying exposed by Snowden isn’t bad because it happens even to
“regular people” just texting and facebooking. At one point in the
movie, there’s an implication that some illegal surveillance is needed
to fight “terrorism,” but that it shouldn’t go so out of bounds as
to affect regular people who aren’t “guilty.” But since the film
isn’t placed in the larger political framework of US imperialism and
domination, there are important pieces missing from the story that would
make it clear that even if the US stopped spying tomorrow, it would still
be a government we need to transform and revolutionize.
his article in consortiumnews.com “Filling the Blanks in Snowden’s
Citizenfour,” James DiEugenio gives a great deal of the missing history
and context, opening his article with references to the civil rights
movement, the Black Panthers, and COINTELPRO. (Political disclaimer:
apparently DiEugenio really liked JFK and thought he was a good guy and
that US foreign policy went awry after JFK’s assassination, but let’s
ignore those politics for the moment). Toward the beginning of CitizenFour,
filmmaker Poitras cuts to a briefing by an Occupy Wall Street technology
leader who tells a room of Occupy activists how the government and the NSA
can trace their calls through their cell phones and financial
transactions. I thought the film’s connection to Occupy would thread
through the rest of the film to the government’s prime purpose of its
massive spying operation in destroying opposition to the global rule of
the 1%, but it didn’t. If you don’t come to the film with a critique
of US global capitalism and all its adjunct horrors, you may come away
believing that “this US government has gotten out of control with its
spying and we need to rope it in so we citizens can be safe from
spying,” rather than developing the much more fundamental critique of
the basic role of the government in serving and maintaining ruling class
power, and developing a necessary suspicion of the government’s divisive
use of fear to attack “suspicious characters.” See this film (which
just won the International Documentary Association’s award for best
feature) but keep in mind the places it doesn’t go.
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
Comments about UltraViolet
from People Inside
…Previous to running across
your publication I had been wondering how I can keep my feminism on the
hush and find a family of the same as me or a partner and (Down)Low and
behold this just fell into my hands. I take this as a blessing. Writing
this letter liberates me and makes me feel So Queenly. E.J. TX State
… I don’t know how you all
got my address to start writing me I ain’t on this funny bunny shit as I
would appreciate it if you stop sending me this homo shit. W.J. FL
…I am in receipt of my first
copy of UltraViolet. I am impressed (-: The format is concise and the
articles, while well written are informative. I can hardly wait for future
issues. M.T. FL State Prison
…I want to thank you for
sending me UltraViolet. I stayed up to read it and was happy I did. Then I
shared it with some other family members…I’m happy to see more
resources for transgender people. They have it the worst in prison…I
grew up in this white-supremacist, patriarchal, gender-variant hating,
imperialist nation so some of its shit has rubbed off on me. I’m black
and gay so it’s often easier for me to see racism and homophobia but not
sexism, patriarchy and classism. What do you suggest? I’m interested in
learning. S.W. PA State Prison