Check out previous issues of UltraViolet

In This Issue

Cook Corners Cock Center
Stop and Listen
Leslie Feinberg
Dr. Chinosole
Tom Brown
A Feminist in Squirmy Times
Welcome Home Sekou Odinga !
Transitioning the Hardway: Fearful
A Bit of Good News
Greetings All
We Can’t Breathe— Social Justice and the Environmental Movement
Shutting it down
Victory In San Benito
The MOCHA Column

 Cook Corners Cock Center

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
5-6 pm
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 4114
Sign Amnesty International’s petition for her immediate release.  Chelsea Manning Support Network, http://www.chelseamanning.org/

Stop and Listen

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 their entirety.

(Aaron 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 step back?

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 movement.

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 own deaths.

(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 consequences of 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 concern too?

 (11/25/14.Brittney 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?)

(Kara 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.

#CrimingWhileWhite was 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 than others.

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.

(The 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? 

Leslie Feinberg

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  

Leslie 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 Gay Women).

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 nations.

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 her family.

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 clinic.

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 Party.

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 diseases.”

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 — love.

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.

Dr. Chinosole

Dr. 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.

Born Patricia 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 college policy.

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 her.

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.”

--by Kate

Tom Brown

Thomas G. Brown, Jr. left this world peacefully on Oct. 24, 2014 surrounded by his family.

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.

A Feminist in Squirmy Times

by Kate

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 Oval Office.

“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.”

Meanwhile, 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 misconduct.

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 rape).

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 the ocean.

Welcome Home Sekou Odinga !

“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 Frackville, PA.

Abdullah Majid, captured in 1982; sentenced to 33 ½ 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 Grovetown, GA

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.

Sekou 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 Spirit, www.sekouodinga.com, truth-out.org, and The Bay View Times for information for this article.

Transitioning the Hardway: Fearful

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 prison guard.

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

A Bit of Good News

by Blue

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, and corporations.

Thanks to Jeffrey Collins and PLN for information for this article.

Greetings All

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 prosecutor.  Constantly 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 anymore.

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

We Can’t Breathe— Social Justice and the Environmental Movement

by Lisa

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. 

 Of 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 breathe freely.

Shutting it down

by Tory

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

So-called 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  #BlackoutBlackFriday.   The 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 more.

 

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 November.  

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 Ebola.

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 Africa.

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 workers.

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.

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 and planning.

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.

Victory In San Benito

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?

First, 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.

The environmental 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.

People were 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.

 The 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.

This anti-fracking 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, organized, 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.

Petroleum is 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.

The MOCHA Column

By Chaya and Deni

MOVIE REVIEWS 

PRIDE  This 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.

Of 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 the Young 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 it.

THE 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 that, too).

DEAR 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.

ARAB FILM FESTIVAL (review by Deni)

I saw 5 films at the Arab Film Festival in San Francisco this fall. All were good, and a couple were excellent.

TRANSIT GAME  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.

JUST PLAY  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.

IN 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.

THE 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.

THE MULBERRY HOUSE  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.

CITIZENFOUR (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.

The 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.

In 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 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 Prison

… 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 State Prison

…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

 

Check out previous issues of UltraViolet